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How Velachery came to be

A view of the MRTS station at Velachery . Photo: M. Karunakaran   | Photo Credit: M_Karunakaran

The past

Velachery was a planned nagaram a thousand years ago, says Pradeep Chakravarthy of mysticalpalmyra.com. The Cholas started laying out villages methodically. Land was apportioned on the basis of occupation. Tax was collected and divided among various groups.

The existence of Nattar Street tells us of the Nattars, members of an administrative unit in the Chola/Pandya/Pallava kingdoms. They oversaw local and temple affairs, managed water conservation/distribution. The “Cheri” in the name, during those times, meant a human settlement.

Before the boom

In 2000, Veda and Ramu moved to Velachery from Adyar for “clean air and quiet surroundings”, much to the shock of their friends. “There were no buses – just autos and our scooter; no diagnostic centre; no pizza/ice-cream parlours; no fancy stores,” they recall. But, the land cost less, electricity supply was trouble-free, there was a bypass road, and grocery shops were within reach. In four years, Metro Water became available. Buses too. Small companies such as Allsec and Phone Doctor, and multi-media coaching centres trickled in. Apartment blocks were built. In the next 10 years, the commerce juggernaut rolled in — tech giants, hospitals, lifestyle stores, branded jewellery/sari shops and, finally, Phoenix MarkeCity and Grand Mall.

Temples

Three unusual features are proof of Velachery’s prominence in the past. The Saptamatrika temple is one of the only three such temples in Tamil Nadu. The seven devis — Vaishnavi, Varahi, Brahmi, Kaumari, Maheshvari, Lochani and Chamundi — were mother goddesses responsible for guarding natural resources such as water and forests. On the upper outside wall of the Siva sanctum of Dandeeswara temple is an interesting panel of carvings — boothaganas in a playful mood. Peer into the garbagraha of the Narasimha temple to sight a beautiful two-foot bronze of Vedanarayanan, which is extremely rare, according to Pradeep.

The lake

As built-up areas expanded, the lake shrunk, and the water turned filthy. “Velachery sits on a lake,” say flood victims bitterly. It’s true that the lake was spread over 265 acres not too long ago. The 55 acres that have survived retain a good amount of water through the year.

There’s a clamour for walking/fishing/boating facilities, but that will have to wait till the lake’s contaminated water is cleaned.

There are plans to remove encroachments in Gandhi Nagar and Ambedkar Nagar, arrest sewage flow, eradicate the water-hyacinth carpet, fence the lake, lay walkers’ paths, and green the shores with grass and plants and construct a fishing/boating jetty.

Connectivity

The MRTS station opened in 2007. The Velachery Main Road connected the South Chennai suburbs to Guindy and Anna Salai.

The 100-ft bypass road connected the locality to Guindy in the Northwest, the Five Furlong Road to GST Road and Guindy, and Taramani Link Road to OMR. The Thoraipakkam-Pallavaram radial road and the Inner Ring Road passing along the MRTS line brought in software professionals and students looking for accommodation. Now, IT parks and colleges are within a radius of just 10-15 km. Food chains opened shop and staked claim for footfalls. And, residents did not have to travel to shop for branded clothing, lifestyle products and jewellery.

Paradise lost?

“We had piped water and well-made drains, better than those in many areas,” recalls Veda. But with the exploding head count, civic amenities crumbled. The opening of the Velachery-Taramani Road let loose traffic hell. “We are the victims of unchecked ‘development’,” she mourns. “The air became unbreathable, the noise unbearable. We had to jump over cars to cross the road!” In 2015, she packed her bags for Guduvancheri


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Printable version | Oct 16, 2021 2:11:22 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/How-Velachery-came-to-be/article14560463.ece

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