History & Culture

The dubashes of Chintadripet

Aaedikesava Perumal Temple in Chintadripet   | Photo Credit: AVINASH CHANDRASHEKAR

There certainly were: A former Chief Merchant, Sunku Rama, also known as Sunku Venkatachalam; Audiappa Narayana Chetty, and Linghi Chetty are names that come to mind.

Sunku Rama Chetty fell foul of the Company and was dismissed in 1731 from a post he had held from 1711. In 1717, he rented the five ‘New Villages’ — Tiruvottriyur, Sathangadu, Kathiwakkam (Ennore), Vyasarpadi and Nungambakkam — from the Company for 12 years at an annual rent of 1,200 pagodas. Such a figure of authority was he in those days that he was permitted by the Company to own a house in Fort St George, which he used as a cloth godown and which enabled him to enter and move freely about White Town.

His attitude to the Company’s European merchants was seen by them as arrogance and his downfall was inevitable given the times. The next blow to his pride was when Governor Morton Pitt took over a garden of his in the curves of the Cooum to establish under its shade trees a weavers’ village to manufacture calico, then in much demand. Sunku Rama’s garden, 840 yards by 500 yards, was to develop as what became known as Chintadripet. The garden had been granted to him by Governor Collett in 1719; it was Collett who founded the first weavers’ village outside the Black Town area, a village that became known as Colletpettah and that is now known as Kaladipet.

Chintadripet was developed on what had been Sunku Rama’s land by another Company dubash, Audiappa Narayana Chetty, whom the Company helped with generous loans. Audiappa Narayana Chetty was partnered by a Chinnatambi in this venture of attracting weavers to the village with cash and loans for moving and building expenses. In return, the textiles manufactured were supplied to them for a song, which, they in turn, sold to the Company at a tidy profit.

Audiappa (Vennala) Narayana Chetty built the Audikesava Perumal Temple in Chintadripet, a twin shrine not unlike the ‘Town Temple’ of Manali Muthukrishna Mudali in what became the Flower Bazaar area. He also built a mosque in the area.

In 1742, Governor Richard Benyon got permission from the local powers to mint Arcot rupees and pagodas. He set up a mint for this in Chintadripet and the contract for running it was given to another Company dubash, Linghi Chetty. In later years, Pachaiyappa Mudaliar, was a dubash who lived in Chintadripet.

What I wonder, though, is whether Pachaiyappa Mudaliar was the only one who lived in Chintadripet; the other three have streets named after them in George Town. I wonder whether any reader has an answer to that.

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Printable version | May 9, 2021 8:38:00 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/history-and-culture/The-dubashes-of-Chintadripet/article16874956.ece

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