For the concluding part on village clusters of yore, Anusha Parthasarathy flips through the pages of history and travels back to a time when Pallavaram was Pallavapuram and Tambaram was Tampuram

When the Kurumbas ruled Tondaimandalam, it was divided into 24 areas — Puzhal Kottam, Puliyur Kottam, Velur Kottam, Paduvur Kottam and so on. The region that is today Madras came under the Puzhal and Puliyur Kottam. Thiruvotriyur, Puzhal, Ayanapuram were in the former while Mayilarpil, Ezhumur, Poondamalli, Pallavaram and Tamparam were in the latter.


Thiruvotriyur, situated five miles north of Madras is mentioned in all three Thevarams as being an area surrounded by sea, writes K.V. Raman in Early History of the Madras Region. It was then known at Otriyur, which means, ‘mortgage-village’. Nandita Krishna’s Madras — Chennai, History and Environment mentions that the Adipurishvarar temple was first built by the Pallavas and the inscriptions are found on the floor of the temple. Rajendra Chola I rebuilt it in the 11th Century and the Vijayanagara kings expanded it.

Raman mentions that the history of the town is recorded in detail because of the many well-known personalities in religion and literature who visited and sang about it. There is some account of the festivals and customs of the people who lived in this town. They celebrated Paduyedu, a festival of harvest, in the temple. Thiruvotriyur seems to have had good streets and there was even a narpattennayirapperunderu where the sculptors and artisans lived. Raman’s book mentions Tribhuvanasamudrapperunderu, which had the shepherds of the village and Panippendugal Teru, where the temple-servants lived. Other streets were Vadakku Tiruvidi, Jayasingakulakalaperunderu, Surasulamanipperunderu and Rajarajanpperunderu. The town also had provisions for water to be distributed to the pedestrians on roads and matha in the temple for feeding the public.


Pallavaram was originally Pallavapuram, writes Nandita Krishna in Madras – Chennai, History and Environment, named after the dynasty. Mahendravarman Pallava, who ruled from 600 to 630 CE listed out his titles in a rock-cut temple at Pallavaram. Pallavaram had another name, Vanavanmadevichaturvedimangalam, named after Rajendra I’s queen.

This is why, like Mahabalipuram, the Pallavaram cave has a façade cut into pillars. It is cubicle on the top and bottom but hexagonal in the middle. Niches inside denote that they were used as shrines, which might have contained lingas. The cave now functions as a dargah. Painter of Ancient India by C. Sivaramamurti, says that Mahendravarman Pallava was learned in music, painting, sculpture, literature and engineering. He was called chitrakarappuli or tiger among artists, and this title, in Grantha script, is etched in the ancient temple. The cave temple is considered the earliest of its kind ever attempted by a Pallava king in South India, writes Raman.

Among the villages that constituted Pallavaram was Vanavanmadevichaturvedimangalam, writes Raman. The word Chaturvedimangalam denotes a village inhabited by those who professed the four Vedas.


Poonamalli is said to have been a flourishing town as far back as 1133 A.D., during the period of Kulottunga II. It was then called Pundamalli or Puvirundamallinagaram and was situated in Mangadunadu, a sub-division of Puliyur Kottam, says Raman. It other names as well, Uyyakondam-Cholapuram and Serapandya Chaturvedimangalam, a name given that was given because of its conquest, first by the Pandyas and then by the Cheras. Raman notes the remarkable existence of a Neduncheliavinnagar in a place as north as Poonamalli, named after Nedunchelian, a Pandya king of the Sangam times. The temples in Poonamalli had periodic festivals that were celebrated and a record shows that people from different sections of society took it upon themselves to celebrate a smaller festival on each day of the annual festival.

Other places

Egmore is mentioned in the inscriptions of Kulottunga I, the Chola king as Elumur and was the headquarters of Elumur-nadu.

Nungambakkam makes a mention as Nungampakkam in a copper-plate inscription belonging to the time of Rajendra Chola I.

Tambaram was Tampuram, mentioned in a 13th Century inscription. It was located in a place called Surattur nadu, a sub-division of Puliyur Kottam.

Chetpet is called Setruppedu in an inscription belonging to the rule of Rashtrakuta king, Krishna III.