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Throwing light on the saga of names

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Spotlight: Chennai Chapter Convenor of INTACH, S. Suresh, briefs students about a model of the Ripon Building in Chennai on Friday. — Photo: S.R. Raghunathan
Spotlight: Chennai Chapter Convenor of INTACH, S. Suresh, briefs students about a model of the Ripon Building in Chennai on Friday. — Photo: S.R. Raghunathan

Staff Reporter

CHENNAI: Did you know that Mambalam was the last village to join the city of Madras?

The city started from Fort St. George after which villages were acquired, either as gift or by force, and Thiruvallikeni, Santhome, Mylapore and Nungambakkam joined in that order, according to S. Suresh, Chennai Chapter Convenor of INTACH.

Delivering a lecture on the story of place names of Madras at the Asan Memorial School as part of the ‘Madras Week’ celebrations, he said the school stood on the property of the erstwhile king of Cochin.

“As Madras was a very important commercial centre, many kings had built palaces here so as to stay while on a visit to the city. The Ramalayam Palace at Adyar belongs to the Travancore King. The huge palace garden, which was sold to realtors, became Padmanaba Nagar.

Saidapet got its name from Sayeed Shah’s Petta – the Shah being a local chieftain. Saidapet used to have a big Muslim population and some of the streets have Muslim names, including one after Noor Jahan, he explained.

Talking about the two arterial roads in the city, he said the Poonamallee High Road got its name from the village to where it leads – Poonamallee. Though it is one of the many village there, the road got its name as the local Naik (chieftain) was the one who signed the deed of transfer with the British on August 22, 1639.

On localities in south Chennai, Dr. Suresh explained that the Dandeeswarar temple in Velachery was the place where Lord Shiva is said to have restored the staff (stick or ‘dandam’) to Lord Yama, according to mythology.

Pallavaram got its name from Pallava Puram, a settlement of Pallavas who ruled the area.

A rock-cut temple built by Mahendra Varman on the Pancha Pandavar Malai, stands testimony. Pallavaram is also important as it was here that India’s first stone age tool, an axe, was discovered.

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