The two hour heritage tour around Pazhaverrkadu (Pulicat) near Chennai brought to light an old Chola city.

Pulicat or Pazhaverrkadu is known for its lagoon spread over 450sq km. A Chola city, Pulicat's history can be traced back to 10th century AD when it was a major port city. The Samayeshwar temple and another Shaivaite temple built by Rajendra Chola bear testimony to the Chola presence here. However, in 1422 AD Devaraja II renamed Pulicat as Anandarayan Pattinam after his Governor Anandaraya. But 100 years later it regained its original name under the reign of Krishnadevaraya. In 1502 the Portuguese landed. They were followed by the Dutch in 1605. It was one of the first cities to have its own Mint and gum powder making factory in the 17th Century.

Fort Gelrida

Built in 1613 AD, the fort served as a seat of power during the Dutch regime. Though no evidence of it remains now, the presence of a vast land near the port speaks of the havoc wrought in 1806. However, the moat around this tall structure stands testimony to this. There is evidence that gun powder and gold coins were made here. The fort originally built by the Vijaynagar Empire was leased out to the Portuguese. The Portugese lost the war the fort was taken over by the Dutch.

Kottaikuppam

Our next stop was at the “Lady of Glory” Church. Here you cannot miss the stone that bears the date on which the Portuguese landed here in 1505. The Church was built in the form of the Christian cross. You'll find old Portuguese inscriptions on the sides. Built by the Portuguese after they came here, it was demolished in 2007 for development purposes. In fact it was the first Catholic church on the Coramandal coast.

Store house

Very few Dutch buildings remain. The building that was used by the Dutch as a church, later became the Post office (during the latter part of the British rule). Over the years the building lost its significance and is now a storage house for the church. Approximately 400 years old, it is a tall building with a sloping roof and verandah, with typical circular columns found in Dutch architecture.

St Antony's shrine

Built in the 15th century by the Portuguese, the only Christian structure that remains here.

The lake

Once famous for Pulicat prawns, red crabs, endemic species, the lake faces a major problem after the Government banned oyster shell extraction. Hardly four feet in depth, it's now reduced to two, it has fallen prey to modern interventions. This lake was significant as the Buckingham canal runs from Vijayawada to Pondicherry through this.

Dutch Cemetery

Built in 1639, the cemetery was used both by the Dutch and the Portuguese. The tombstones here have beautifully carved stone, and the epitaph gives interesting details of the people buried. In fact in one of the tombstones the map of Pulicat has been carved on it.

Other heritage stops

The Governor's House: It was mainly used to document the ships entering. It was used from the 1630's and 1640's. Built by the Dutch, the building served as a Customs House to register traders.

Lighthouse: Built in 1859 by John Washington, the design suggests that it was built during the time of the British. It also indicates trade and a route that connected Pulicat with Chennai.

Must not miss: The huge urns. Now used to store rain water, these 2000-year-old urns were earlier used to store food stuff.

Periya palli vasal: It is one of the biggest mosques around this region and the absence of a dome differentiates it from the Arab Muslim mosques.

Adi Naarayana temple: Built in the 13th century, the material used here is laterite blocks. As the temple faces the sea one can conclude that this is a temple for traders who worshipped here before setting off on their journey.

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Archana SubramanianJune 28, 2012