Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Yatha ahu vairyo ... A brief look at the history of the Zoroastrian religion

As India's Parsis celebrate the Udvada festival between December 23 and 25, I thought of writing an article on the Parsi faith and its history. The post's title  Yatha ahu vairyo is derived from from the most sacred Zoroastrian prayer the Ahuna Vairya or Ahunwar which is as important to Zoroastrianism as the shahadah  or declaration of faith to the Muslims, Om mani padme hum to the Buddhists and the Gayatri Manthra to the Brahmans.

The text of the Ahuna Vairya reads

Yatha ahu vairyo, atha rathush
ashad kit hakha
Vangheush dazdha manangho
skhyothnanem angeush mazdai
Kshatremcha ahurai a
Yim dregubyo dadad vastarem

The shloka has been translated with different meanings by different scholars who have till  now not been able to arrive at a common consensus. but the most authoritative interpretation was given by Martin Haug

As a heavenly lord is to be chosen
So is an earthly master.
for the sake of righteousness, 
to be a giver of the good thoughts of the actions of life towards Mazda; 
and the dominion is for the lord (Ahura)
 whom he (Mazda) has given as a protector for the poor

Note the striking resemblance to the shlokas of the Gita. This is because these hymns are written in a language called Avestan, an Indo-European language that was used in Iran, two thousand and five hundred to three thousand years ago corresponding to the Sanskrit of the Hindus. Like Sanskrit, Avestan was never used for inscriptions or charters, the edicts of Achaemenid kings being written in a more simpler spoken language called Old Persian in a cuneiform script written left-to-right and probably adapted from Akkadian,  just like how kings like Ashoka used the different Prakrits and those of later kings, the Parthians and Sassanians inscribed in Middle Persian in a right-to-left script called Pahlavi derived from the Semitic Aramaic. The Avestan is named so because it is the language used in the Avesta, the holiest  book of Zoroastrianism, which is often mistakenly referred to as the Zend-Avesta. In fact, the true name of the book is Avesta and the Zend only denotes the commentary (usually written in Pahlavi, a Middle Persian language used from the 3rd to the 10th century AD) that accompanies the Avestan hymns. These commentaries brought the Avesta within the ambit of the common man to whom, the Avestan language was unintelligible. But various irregularities existed even in these commentaries due to the prevalent custom of using outdated Aramaic logograms for corresponding Middle Persian words. For example, the Persian would write malkan malka in Pahlavi script but read the same as shahenshah, its exact Persian equivalent meaning "king of kings".  

Born and brought up in a proud and orthodox South Indian city which had, but a sprinkling of Parsis tucked away in solemn prayer in an old, decaying quarter content with their cultural anonymity in an overwhelmingly alien society, I first heard of this religion from the television as a boy of eight or nine. That was when the famous pop singer Alisha Chinai revealed in an interview that she belonged to the faith and I soon caught a fascination for the noun. But this little nugget of learning was soon confined to the recesses and had to wait for years to be rediscovered. Actually I knew next-to-nothing about the Parsi dogma till early 2001, when I stumbled on the basics of the religion in an internet article called "Antiquity and Continuity of Indian history" by one Prasad Gokhale.  While Gokhale's article was remarkable for its lack of objectivity and dismissed outright by academics as revisionist Hindu right-wing propaganda nevertheless, there were still a few claims about Zoroastrianism and its historical relationship with Hinduism which intrigued me back then. For example, Gokhale writes that a Zoroastrian work called the Vendidad lists seventeen lands that were created by the Parsi God Ahura Mazda and that the sixteenth of the seventeen lands was India which was mentioned as Hapta-Hindu (which I found from neutral sources to be true). Excited, as if I had stumbled upon some little-known civilization, I waited till the end of my Matriculation board exams and then, downloaded the whole of the Vendidad from the internet followed shortly later, by the rest of the Avesta. Fortunately, my college had an excellent library and I spent all my time acclimatizing with Iranian history and discovering strange, pre-Islamic kings with names that you now typically associate with Islam (I later learnt that they were called the Sassanians) from the Encyclopaedia Britannica, when I should actually be reading programming languages and electronics. A few years later, social networking sites like Orkut cropped up and I was able to interact with expatriate Iranians living in the UK, US, and elsewhere, some of them, acclaimed scholars. So, that's how my interest in Zoroastrianism grew and it has been almost seventeen years since I had begun this fascinating and thoroughly satisfying journey.

Now, Zoroastrianism is a monotheistic faith which stresses upon the importance of harboring good thoughts, speaking good words and indulging in good deed (Humata, Huktha and Huvarashta, in the sacred tongue of the Zoroastrians, the prefix hu- meaning good and mata meaning thought being cognate with the I-E word mann or mind and Pendar-i-nek, Goftar-i-nek and Kardar-i-nek in modern Persian. These are the three principal tenets of Zoroastrianism and hence, central to the faith). But Zoroastrianism itself has not for long been a monotheistic religion; in fact, it started as a polytheistic religion like Hinduism  before the teachings of Zoroaster or Zardusht reformed the faith removing the intermediation of the Kavis or saint-seers (who like the great bards of Celtic Britain) and thus recasting it in a dualistic mould. (There are even many who question the suitability of the name "Zoroastrianism" instead suggesting that the religion should actually be named Mazdayasnism or "worship (yasna being cognate with the Sanskrit yagna) of Mazda"). Thus, Zoroastrianism was revived and not founded by Zoroaster, who played a role akin to Jesus and Muhammad by opposing the powerful clergy of the land. But unlike Jesus and Muhammad, the religion Zoroaster founded did not vanquish the prevalent pagan faith instead absorbing it completely. (Ironically, Zoroastrianism which was purpotedly founded  as a protestant faith would also fall prey to a powerful clergy within a generation of Zoroaster's death and superstitions that were condemned by him would make their reappearance in a different form. Strangely, the part played by religion and the clergy in Iranian politics is nothing new and has been in vogue for upwards of two thousand years). Among the many deities of the pagan faith that were adopted by Zoroastrianism was Mithra who became an angel or yazata (Mod. Pers. yazd). Mithra travelled westwards as part of the cultural exchange that accompanied the expansion of the Roman Empire and spearheaded a fast-growing cult which rivalled that of the Egyptian god Isis in its heyday that lasted four centuries.

Let us trace the antecedents of this great land and its unique religion back in history. Ironically, the origins of a people whose self-designation means "the Aryan" in English could be traced back to a 5,000 year old civilization which is believed by scholars to have spoken a Dravidian tongue.  The Elamite second person singular ni, and second person plural num resemble the Dravidian ni-. The oldest known form of the Elamite language has come down to us from the Behistun inscription of Darius the Great. Given the fact that the Elamite civilization thrived in exactly the same region where the Persians lived a thousand years later, I find no reason why the Persians should not be their lineal descendants though they did use an Indo-European language in their inscriptions and edicts. To support my claim, I would like to quote the example of the Medes of North-western Iran who founded the first historically-attested Iranian kingdom by wresting control of the eastern provinces of the Assyrian Empire in 612 BC.   The post of Zoroastrian high-priest maubad or magus  has always been hereditary and drawn exclusively from this tribe thereby indicating that they were the original heirs to Zoroaster and that the people of Persia proper had a status not much superior than that of a conquered people. Traditions  identify the birthplace of Zoroaster in the vast thinly-populated region between Media and the Afghan city of Balkh (where a Buddhist temple and a Zoroastrian fire altar survived side-by-side till the 9th century AD; the importance given to Balkh in Zoroastrian religion texts is so high that it could have very well been the "Mecca" of the Parsi faith); legends also assert that the Iranians emerged millenia ago from a sacred homeland Airyanem Vaejo (which became Iran-Vej in Middle Persian consequently giving rise to the name of the country Iran) which the holy books usually located in  Northern Iran-Southern Turkestan., Mede hegemony, however, did not last long and like the non-Aryan natives of India who began asserting themselves a few centuries later, the sea-dwelling Persians overthrew Median rule under their king Cyrus the Great (Kamil V. Zvelebil, the renowned linguist, made a controversial suggestion that the ancestors of present-day Dravidians, too, might have  emerged from the mountains thereby contradicting the established view held by historians and archaeologists like Iravatham Mahadevan, who have repeatedly argued in favour of a coastal origin based on the aru-min legend depicted in the Indus seals. He cites the example of the Brahuis and observes that many prominent Dravidian linguistics groups had the self-designation "mountain-people" even deriving the Persian word for mountain koh with the Dravidian root kunru.)

There have been disputes over the date of Zoroaster with many even asserting that he was a purely mythological character who  never existed.  The dates given range from 1700 BC to 500 BC but scholarly consensus leans towards the latter date, which, I too feel is the most likely making him a near contemporary of the Buddha and the Mahavira. An apocryphal tale describes how an Indian sage named Changrachanchah journeyed his way to Iran to have a theological disputation with Zoroaster and conceding defeat embraced the new faith. It is not known who this Changrachanchah was but fanciful theories link him to the Shankaracharya as both the names sound strikingly similar. The chronological lists of the Kanchi mutt too place Adi Shankara in the 5th century BC. In any case, the tale of Changrachanchah is likely an innovation of a much later date and the Kanchi mutt's chronology has been discredited by historians.

The most sacred book of Zoroastrianism is the Avesta. The Avesta is not a revealed book but a compilation prepared over a long period of time though much of it is indeed made up of the revelations from Ahura Mazda, the Supreme God to Prophet Zoroaster.   But a significant portion of the Avesta is also made up of hymns in the sense that though Zoroastrianism is often  treated in the same vein as Abrahamic religions like Islam and Christianity, the book is in fact more closer to Hindu holy texts like the Mahabharata. Consider for example the case of Vendidad. Vendidad is the only one amongst the 21 Nosks making up the Avesta that has survived in its entirety. In its structure, the Vendidad most closely resembles the Atharva Veda. Much of the text is made of charms, spells and incantations and a small though significant portion on the wills and whims of Ahura Mazda. As the various hymns of the Avesta vary in nature and style, they also vary in age. It has been universally accepted amongst scholars that the portion of the Avesta that is called the Gathas is trhe oldest with some liberal estimates dating these verses based on their language, to the 15th century BC. Do these verses belong to a time anterior to that of Zoroaster? Cannot say for sure! But they, indeed, depict the earliest form of the Zoroastrian religion. The core of the Avesta, on the other hand, belongs roughly to the 6th or 5th centuries BC when the two of the greatest monarchs in the world, Cyrus II and Darius the Great were ruling over Iran.  Proof! No, I don';t have any! But it is just an assumption based on the fact that the most complete book of the Avesta - the Vendidad lists Hapta-Hindu or the Punjab among the sixteen nations created by Ahura Mazda. This is not quite possible unless North-West India itself was a part of Iranosphere while these were being written and only Persian Emperor in the millenia before Christ to stamp his authority over these parts was Darius the Great.

Some parts of the Avesta could be far younger; there are allusions even in the Vendidad to the solemn, self-mortifying cult of the Mazdakids who recommended regular fasting in stark contrast to Zoroastrianism that prescribed  for its adherents a happy, joyous and bountiful life and according to whom, austerity was taboo  According to these hymns, "the ungodly Ashaemaogha who does not eat" was an ally of Angra Mainyu , the Zoroastrian Satan (who is known as Ahriman today). The Mazdakite cult was founded by a godman named Mazdak and reached its apogee in the beginning of the 6th century AD when the Sassanian king Qobad I became Mazdak's disciple and embraced the new cult. But its dominance lasted only a generation. At the end of Qobad I's reign, his son Khusro (Yeah, the same Khusro Noushirvan, the most famous king of the Sassanian Dynasty and in whose court, the Panchatantra was translated into Persia and chess adopted and adapted from India. Noushirvan or Anushirvan finds some space in Nehru's Discovery of India and was even the subject of a tribute from Prophet Muhammad who considered himself fortunate to have been born in the reign of such a just king), then a young prince, got Mazdak murdered and brutally suppressed the nascent religion.  But, Mazdakism is only the second of the major heresies of the Sassanian period. There was the Christian-Zoroastrian syncretist Mani of the 3rd century AD who suffered the same fate. No direct references to him are found in the Avesta but veiled attacks and curses found here and there and Mani is generally considered the intended recipient. One mobed  or high-priest named Kertir went a step further and authored an inscription boasting of the killing of Buddhists (the Persian word for idols buth probably derives from the Buddha), Christians, Manichaeans and Hindus in the kingdom under the patronage Sassanian Emperor Bahram II. His predecessor Bahram I was also a devout follower of Kertir and it was probably at Kertir's insistence that Mani was flayed alive and his skin displayed on the gates of the palace at Ctesiphon. (But Manichaeism displayed amazing resilience and adaptability and survived the death of its founder by many centuries. It remained a minority religion in Iran often confused by the authorities with Nestorian Christianity till the Islamic invasions drove it eastward towards Central Asia and China. By the 13th century, Manichaeism was finally believed to be dead but it again resurfaced in the eastern China in the 16th century AD where it was again confused for a sect of Nestorian Christianity. Manichaeism is regarded to be well and truly dead now but doubts still remain). And again, the allusions themselves are not unambiguous! What if the Ashaeomaogha hymns were actually a reference to the Jain practise of sallekhana. Certainly not improbable! There has been a strong Persian influence in north-western India from the time Darius the Great conquered the region and many Sassanian kings led expeditions into Punjab and the Sindh.   But some of the worst curses are reserved for Iskandar or Alexander the Great who is described as the "accursed" and "ally of the evil one".  Alexander sadistically persecuted Zoroastrian priests, burnt their scriptures and destroyed their fire-temples probably because the tenets of monotheistic Zoroastrianism were dead opposed to Greek polytheism of which Alexander was an adherent. But on the whole, Alexander's treatment of the non-religious Iranian and the landed gentry were generally liberal and there were many intermarriages of Greek soldiers into Iranian aristocratic families. But unfortunately, Zoroastrian scriptures only remember Alexander as an oppressor.

The Zoroastrian religion was almost wiped out of existence by the persecutions of Alexander the Great and it  recovered only in the middle of the Parthian period. Vologasses I (Valkhash) who reigned from 51 to 78 AD commissioned the first compilation of the Avesta laying the seeds for a Zoroastrian revival. We know that this monarch had a brother (Tiridates) who was a mobed or Zoroastrian high-priest. Priests now began a frantic search for books and fragments that had escaped Alexander's orgy of destruction. The work took centuries to complete and the sequence of events eventually culminated in the rise of Ardeshir I who founded the Sassanian Empire in 226 and declared Zoroastrianism as the state religion of Iran. Ardeshir's inscriptions proclaimed him to be a champion of Zoroastrianism and portrayed the Parthians, ironically, as the villains.   Under Ardeshir and his immediate successors an orgy of intolerance and persecution was let out on religious minorities - probably a spontaneous self-defence approach adopted by a still insecure Zoroastrianism. But once Zorostrianism had scuttled all rivalry and silenced opposition, it entered its most glorious phase. This was when the legendary mobed Adarbad Mahraspandan lived. According to legends, his faith was tested with molten bronze being poured upon  his chest and the mobed emerged unscathed and instantly became a celebrity.  According to pseudo-prophetic Zoroastrian hymns called Yashts, the faith was overthrown thrice and restored thrice - first by Alexander the Great and restored by Ardeshir I, the founder of the Sassanian Dynasty, then by the prophet Mani before being restored by Adarbad Mahraspandan and lastly, by the Arabs, it will be restored  by Saoshyant who shall come at the end of time just like the Kalki Avatar of the Hindus and the Buddhists.

Much of what we know about  Zoroastrianism has come to us from the period following the Islamic invasions. The oldest surviving copies of Zoroastrian religious texts date from the 4th to the 10th century AD and are written in the Pahlavi script. The oldest complete hagiography of Zoroaster the Zardusht-Namak dates from the 12th or 13th century AD when Iran was under Mongol rule and Zoroastrianism was almost extinct. Of some works, the oldest extant copies that we know of are Gujarati manuscripts from 15th century India. By then, the numbers of adherents was already dwindling due to jizya and other taxes. There was a national and cultural revival when Firdausi wrote his magnum opus Shah-nameh  in the 10th century AD but by then, the damage had been done and it was impractical to expect Zoroastrianism to oust Islam considering that apostasy in an Islamic country was punishable by death. Still, while Iran could not revert to Zoroastrianism, it celebrated Zoroastrian heroes like Rustam and Jamshed as its national symbols. There were rebellions both by Zoroastrian as well as Muslim Iranians who hated Arab domination. The three and half centuries from the time of Arab conquest to the rise of Mahmud  Ghazni saw a great deal of cultural interchange between the Semitic and the Indo-Iranian world. Soon after the conquest, Zoroastrianism was proscribed and Iranians were disparagingly referred to as "Ajam" meaning "babblers", a reference to the error-ridden Arabic that the new coverts from Zoroastrianism spoke. But when the Umayyadas were displaced by the Abbasids conditions improved. The Abbasids captured power with the help of an Iranian convert named Abu Muslim, shifted the capital from Damascus to the former Sassanian citadel of Baghdad (Baghdad or Bagdat, in Persian meant "given (datha) by the gods (Bagha)"; Bagha  here is cognate with the Sanskrit Bhagavan  and survived into Modern Persian in the form of the masculine title Baig or Beg (Lord) and the feminine title Begum and the Turkish Bey) and even invited the Barmak (pramukh??) of the Buddhist monastery of Navavihara near Kabul who converted to Islam and became the Prime Minister of the state under the name Khalid. It was during this period that chess and Indian numerals made their way from Iran into Arabia and many important Persian texts were translated to Arabic. By the 9th century, however, the Caliphate was on the decline and local Iranian dynasties started to assert their independence. A Turkic dynasty established itself at Ghazni in eastern Afghanistan, conquered the whole of the Iranian plateau to the west and took Islam eastwards into India through seventeen bloody invasions. But while Mahmud Ghaznavi, the greatest king of this dynasty is reviled in India, attitudes in Iran differ. He is hailed as a champion of Iranian culture and a fervent patron of Persian literature. Firdausi dedicated his Shahnameh to him thereby evoking comparisons with the legendary Rustam, the hero of the epic.  In fact, a cult of Rustam seems to have thrived during this period, he being variously identified with Rostam Farrokhzad and the Sassanian general who made a valiant stand against the Muslims and died fighting, the 1st-century Parthian general Surena who inflicted a crushing defeat on the Romans at the Battle of Carrhae and eventually succumbed at the height of his power to palace intrigue. The etymology of Rustam and other heroes from the later parts of the Shahnameh are all foreign to Iran proper and could be traced to tribal legends of Sistan and Afghanistan thereby indicating a shift in  popularity towards an eastern epic cycle as opposed to the western epic cycle of Darius I.This would be Zoroastrianism's last stand before it would be delivered a death blow by Ilkhan and Mongol invasions and centuries of anarchy that would only end with the rise of the Safavids.  But Zoroastrian concepts and Persian folklore managed to sneak in into Persian poetry composed by the Sufis just before the Mongols ushered in a period of gloom. And the dominance of Eastern Iran was not limited to the epics and folklore alone. As Islamic sultanates expanded eastwards into Central Asia, Afghanistan and India, they took with them their languages - usually Persian with a smattering of Arabic and Turkic and a variety of Persian mixed with local prakrits established itself as the lingua france of the Muslims of Northern India (including present-day Pakistan) about the 13th century. This was the dialect spoken in Khorasan - the vast arid desert that extended from Media almost upto the hills of central Afghanistan. Both Dari, the official language of Afghanistan and the Urdu spoken across Pakistan and Northern India use the Khorasani diction.

Today, Zoroastrianism has few adherents in India and Pakistan apart from migrant communities in the UK, USA, Australia, Europe, South-East Asia and Africa. In  Iran, it is almost dead and even among the few who are officially counted as Zoroastrian, various tenets of the faith remain forgotten due to intense institutionalized persecution. But in reality, pre-Islamic beliefs have retained a tangible presence underneath the veneer of  Islam and we can say that not just Iranians but Muslims across Central Asia, Turkey, Afghanistan and even Pakistan, actually practicize a Zoroastrianized variety of Islam. That this underlying influence is a living reality can be highlighted by the fact that words used by most Muslims today for matters so intimately connected with faith such as religion (Deen), God (Khoda) and prayer (Namaz) are all of Zoroastrian origin (The word Namaz is derived from Old Persian Nemase which is found in a Zoroastrian prayer Hoshbam; the word is cognate with the Indic Namaste). 

1) (Tr.) Darmesteter, James (1880). The Zend Avesta, Part I: The Vendidad, The Sacred Books of the East, Volume 4. Oxford University Press  
2) Cumont, Franz (1903). The Mysteries of Mithra. Open Court, Chicago
3) Rawlinson, George. The Seven Great Monarchies of the Ancient Near-East  (1876). Longmans, Green and Co.
4) Zimmern, Helen (1883). The Epic of Kings - Stories Retold From Firdusi. T. Fisher Unwin.
5) Greenlees, Duncan (1951) [2003]. The Gospel of Zarathushtra. The Theosophical Publishing House, Adyar
6) Herzfeld, Ernst (1928) [1998]. Memoirs of the Archeological Survey of India: A New inscription of Darius from Hamadan. Archaeological Survey of India.
7) Zvelebil, Kamil (June 1972). "The Descent of Dravidians". International Journal of Dravidian Linguistics. 1(2).
8) Brunner, C. J. (1974) “The Middle Persian Inscription of the Priest Kirdēr at Naqš-i Rustam,” in Near Eastern Numismatics, Iconography, Epigraphy and History: Studies in Honor of George C. Miles. American University of Beirut
9) (Tr.) Mehta, Siloo. Hoshbam: The Dawn (of Consciousness) by K. N. Dastoor (in Gujarati).

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Men who wrote Hobson-Jobson

Portrait of Henry Yule from the 1903 edition of The Book of Ser Marco Polo, edited by Henri Cordier

The Hobson-Jobson was a dictionary of Indoisms compiled at the end of the 19th century. It probably anticipated the curry invasion and the social acceptance of strange, foreign accented creoles in the United Kingdom by about a century. Back then, however, scarcely any Indian who wasn’t of the well-bred princely sort or couldn’t speak impeccable English made it to the United Kingdom and the prime carriers of such Indian-infused creole were either  Eurasian  (Anglo-Indian) or Britons who had spent their careers and possibly their lifetimes in the subcontinent  and now sought out a quiet retirement  in a blighty they had not seen for decades.    

The authors of the Hobson-Jobson were two very interesting gentlemen – Sir Henry Yule and Arthur Coke Burnell. Yule is well known for his translation of Marco Polo’s travels that became a bestseller. He came to India as an officer in Bengal Engineers and travelled extensively in Central Asia and North-East India apart from playing an active part in the Sikh Wars.  In 1855, Yule was part of an Indian diplomatic mission to the Burmese Empire and wrote an account of his visit. Retiring from active service after the 1857 mutiny, Yule spent the rest of his life in Italy and United Kingdom, visiting libraries and writing travel and history books.   In 1871, he translated Marco Polo’s travelogue into English and published it in two volumes with the title The Book of Ser Marco Polo the Venetian Concerning the Kingdoms and Marvels of the East. He dedicated  this work which many consider his magnum opus to his royal patron Margherita, the princess of Piedmont and included a huge list of credits thanking among others, Sir Alexander Cunningham, Rev Robert Caldwell, Sir Bartle Frere and Hugh Cleghorn.  When Yule died in 1889 at the age of sixty-nine, he left  behind a chequered career and a mountain of travelogues, geography and history books.

"Doorway of Marco Polo's house". Frontispiece  of The Book of Ser Marco Polo the Venetian (1871)

While Yule’s life was certainly colourful,  his inquiries were rarely accompanied by the depth of research that was the prime feature of the works of the other gentleman - the ICS officer from down south . Burnell was a polyglot (he knew a dozen languages) and a polymath who authored a seminal work on South Indian epigraphy, in which he traces the evolution of South Indian scripts from its earliest forms known back then  - the grantha copper plates of the Pallavas from the 4th century AD - to those that survived into the 17th century AD.    Serving for over two decades in the Madras Presidency, he was one of a coterie of British civil servants such as Fleet, Pargiter , Sewell and Cammiade who dabbled in Indian archaeology. In 1873, he wrote On Some Pahlavi inscriptions in South India in which he published translations of the Pahlavi inscriptions found in the St. Thomas crosses of South India.  Though Burnell betrays an anti-Hindu bias in his work, his opinions on the antiquity of the Pahlavi inscriptions are quite honest and reliable. He dated the Pahlavi inscriptions to the 8th century AD and expressed doubts over the possibility of the Apostle St. Thomas (who, according to tradition, lived in the 1st century AD) having arrived in India or preached here.   Burnell also took a keen interest in manuscriptology and prepared a catalog of manuscripts found in the Saraswathi Mahal Library in Tanjore.  His career was cut short by an early death at the age of 42; in fact, Burnell had never been in tolerable health during his twenty two year long stay in India and a promising career thus came to a abrupt, premature end.

Table depicting origin of South Indian scripts, Elements of South-Indian Palaeography, "South Indian Alphabets and their Development", pp 14.

The first edition of Hobson-Jobson was published in 1886; Burnell having died in 1882 was posthumously credited as co-author of the work.  In fact, Yule, probably teary-eyed, recounts in the preface how Burnell had written to him in 1872 suggesting such an idea though the two had met only once before. Yule says that it triggered a ten-year  long association that lasted until Burnell’s death. The list of credits is much smaller compared to the Travels of Marco Polo and the personages listed here are not so well-known as Cunningham or Frere.    The 870-page work that includes a supplement which had been left out in the main body is dedicated by Henry Yule to his older brother, Sir George Udny Yule who had passed away earlier that same year.   

Cover of the first edition of Hobson-Jobson (1886)

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Pallavas and the Pahlavas

In an article titled “India’s Parthian Colony” published in The Iranian on May 14, 2003, Dr. Samar Abbas wrote that the Pallavas of South India had descended from  the Pahlavas of Iran  and attributed  their persistent conflicts with their neighbours the  Chalukyas to an obscure, far-fetched theory that the Chalukyas  were descendants of the Seleucids, whom the Pahlavas overthrew to capture power in Iran. Though Abbas’  unscientific  paper deserves little more than cursory mention, the theory itself cannot be brushed aside as a farce simply because it had also been suggested by the famous South Indian epigraphist and Pallava expert V. Venkayya  who had worked with Hultzsch in deciphering the Mamallapuram inscriptions.  

Who were the Pahlavas! According to sources that date from the time of the Achaemenids, like the Turks and Mongols who came later, the Pahlavas or Parthians were a tribe of horsemen who inhabited the wild country called Chorasmia (now  forming  a part of the former Soviet republic of Turkmenistan and portion of north-eastern Iran) situated on the north-eastern frontiers of the Persian Empire. They became very powerful in the middle of the 3rd century BC under their chief Arsaces (Arshaka) who founded an independent Parthian kingdom just as the Seleucid Empire ruled by the descendants of Alexander the Great’s general Selucus Nikator started to decline.  In 150 BC, the Parthian king Mithridates I (Mithra-datha)  captured Seleucia, the capital of the Persian Empire putting an end to the Greek dynasty and  instituting almost three centuries of Parthian hegemony over Iran, a period characterized by incessant wars with the Roman Empire. In  224 AD, the last Parthian ruler Artabanus V (Ardavan) was defeated and slain in battle by his son-in-law Ardeshir who  founded the Sassanian dynasty. With it ended the Parthian Empire of Iran.  The lives of the powerful Parthian aristocratic families at the court, however, continued unhindered and many of them held onto their fiefs long after the Islamic invasions. An Indo-Parthian kingdom which ruled over the Indus river valley and surrounding areas outlived Persia’s Parthian kingdom by a few years.

Eight centuries later when Ferdowsi wrote the famous Persian epic Shah-nameh, the word Pehliva  had acquired the meaning  “captain” or “commander” (Just like the Tamil Thalapathi or Senapathi) – Ferdowsi frequently uses the word as an epithet of Rustam or Rostam, the hero of the epic, a semi-legendary character based, incidentally, on the general Surena who led the Parthian forces in the famous victory over the Roman army in the Battle of Carrhae (53 BC). A Pahlavi dynasty ruled Iran between 1925 and 1979, its founder Reza Khan adopting the surname “Pahlavi” as a measure to claim legitimacy through the Pahlava name.

 The Pallavas of South India, meanwhile, were a dynasty of kings who claimed to be Brahma-kshatriyas. Their first records date from the middle of the 3rd century AD and till the 6th century AD, all that we know about the Pallavas are from copper plate grants which barring the earliest (which is in Prakrit) , are all in Sanskrit. They used the florid Pallava or Vengi character, a derivative of Brahmi, which they introduced in the islands of Java and Borneo. In later years, however,  we find a marked increase in rock inscriptions mostly from the vast number of temples they built. There was also a perceptible shift in favour of Tamil as the medium of communication.  Thus, at the time of Nandivarman II who ruled at the end of the 8th century AD, the stage was already set for a cultural renaissance which witnessed its full bloom under the Cholas.

The origins of the South Indian Pallavas have always been a mystery. We know nothing of them prior to 275  AD  when the first copper plates were inscribed. These plates trace their ancestry back to a legendary hero called Bappa Bhatta.  Later regnal lists claimed a descent from Drona’s son Aswatthama.  But legend and mythology aside, the earliest known antecedents of the Pallavas ruled as petty kings in the territory between the Godavari and Palar rivers, probably as vassals of the last Satavahanas.  Over the centuries, the Pallavas gradually moved southwards championing Hinduism and hastening the pace of Aryanization in the Tamil country and  in exchange,  adopting the Tamil language and culture. (Their advent in Tamil Nadu could simply be the continuation of a southward migratory trend. In fact, K. A. Nilakanta Sastri, among all  historians, attributes a North Indian origin to the Pallavas) The importance of Pallavas to Tamil history, I feel, has frequently been understated. Both Saivism and Vaishnavism owe their early rise to Pallava patronage as much as that of the Pandyas and the Tamil script acquired its present form during the Later Pallavas.    

From the statues and sculptures of Mahabalipuram, we understand that the Pallavas kings had impressive physiques. Many were acclaimed wrestlers. Narasimhavarman I, for example, held the title Maha-malla  or great wrestler, Mahendravarman I Shatru-malla “opponent wrestler” and Paramesvaravarman I, Eka-malla or sole wrestler. Here the similarities with the Pahlavas of Iran are more telling. Wrestling is the national sport of Iran and  zur-khanehs or gymnasiums are found all over the country.  Many of their traditional heroes such as Rostam were fabled wrestlers. In fact, the Persian word for wrestler Pehelwan derives from Pahlava, hinting at the possibility of the Pahlavas having introduced wrestling as a traditional sporting routine in the country.

Like the Pallavas of South India, the Pahlavas of Iran were also fine builders. A noted feature of Pallava monuments is the  widespread use of lion motifs. The lion, it must be mentioned here, was an essential feature of Achaemenid architecture though it wasn’t as popular in Parthian times. Nevertheless, “the Lion and Sun” remained  Iran's national symbol until quite recently.  In India, the lion is  conspicuous in Pallava monuments to an extent found nowhere apart from the lion capitals of Ashoka the Great. However, another speciality of Parthian architecture the iwan is not found in any of the Pallava works.

The Parthians were a tribe of nomadic horsemen who adopted a settled life and the finer aspects of Persian civilization. Similarly, many theories claim that the Pallavas were of Naga descent. Who these Nagas were no one knows, for the appellation Naga was used at different periods of time to denote people of diverse ethnicities such as the well-known Nagas of Nagaland, the Nayars of Malabar, the Veddas of Sri Lanka and even certain hill tribes that live in Pakistan's Khyber-Pakthunwa. It could also be the Kurumbars of Tondaimandalam who held Tondai Naidu before the rise of the Pallavas. And then, why not the Parthians themselves! These are questions that demand answer!Another puzzle that needs a satisfactory reply is the fate of the Pallavas after the death of Aparajitha. Though there are many caste groups that claim descent from the Pallavas, none of their claims are convincing enough.


1) Rawlinson, George. The Seven Great Monarchies of the Ancient Near-East: Vol VI: The Parthian Empire (1873) and Vol VII: The Sassanian or The New Persian Empire (1876). Longmans, Green and Co.

 2) Sastri, K. A. Nilakanta (1955) [1975]. A History of South India: From Prehistoric Times to the Fall of Vijayanagar. Oxford University Press.

3) Zimmern, Helen (1883). The Epic of Kings - Stories Retold From Firdusi. T. Fisher Unwin.

3) Epigraphia Indica for copper-plate inscriptions of the Early Pallavas.

4) Pillay, K. K. (1963). South India and Ceylon. University of Madras.


Friday, October 28, 2016

The Seven Villages

  • Etymology
  • A brief history
  • Vepery - The northern frontiers
  • St. Andrew's Church
  • Government College of Fine Arts
  • Lang's Garden Road
  • The Station and the Redoubt
  • The Tamil Nadu Archives
  • Police Commissioner Office Road
  • Hall's Road
  • Egmore High Road
  • Gengu Reddy Road and Spur Tank Road
  • Casamajor Road
  • The Pantheon
  • Commander-in-chief Road (Ethiraj Salai)
  • Montieth Road
  • Marshall's Road (Rukmini Lakshmipathi Salai)
  • Harris' Road (Adhithanar Salai)
  • Greams Road - The southern frontiers
  • The temples of Egmore


It is well known to the Tamil-speaking populace that the name Egmore (also mentioned in early Company records as Elambore, Eghumur, Eghambur, Elumbur, Yeagamour and Egomoroo) is a corruption of the Tamil word Elumbur. The most popular theory is that Elumbur derives from the Tamil Elu (seven) and oor (village). The 'seven villages' are listed by The Madras Tercentenary Commemoration Volume as Elumbur proper, Chintadripet, Komaleeswaranpet, Narayan-gaud Paracheri, Sami Reddi Paracheri, Sitapet and Surammalpet. Whether this derivation is genuine or not, this list does not hold true because one of the villages atleast (Chintadripet) did not exist until the early years of the 18th century and was therefore unknown when the earliest known inscriptions bearing the name Elumur were inscribed in the 11th century. Same is the case with Komaleeswaranpet, which is but a century older than Chintadripet. Sami Reddi Paracheri, I read, existed somewhere near Hall's Road in the 19th century but I cannot trace its history any further back.  Of the rest, I've no idea when they were founded nor are their locations traceable in maps. Perhaps, the inventor of this list must have a very fertile imagination.

Other derivations, too, exist. According to the temple legends behind the Srinivasa Perumal Temple on Gengu Reddy Road, the oldest temple in Egmore, Elumur gets its name from the seven celestial Hindu sages (Saptharishis) -  Kausika, Athiri, Viswamithra, Gauthama, Bharadwaja, Vasishta and Kasyapa who are believed to have worshipped Srinivasa Perumal at the temple here.

A far less popular theory is that Elumbur derives from 'Ezhum oor' or the 'place of awakening'. According to the sthala purana of the Ardhanariswarar Temple   which is more than three hundred years old, Egmore was so baptised by the great saint Thirunavukkarasar himself.

A Brief history

The earliest reference to Egmore is found in an inscription of the Chola king Kulothunga I (reigned 1070 - 1122 AD). It was the headquarters of a nadu (Elumur Nadu) in Puliyur Kottam  in the province of Jayamkondachola Mandalam of the Chola Empire. Later, when sub-provincial boundaries were redrawn, Elumur Nadu was transferred from Puliyur Kottam to Puzhal Kottam. According to The Madras Tercentenary Commemoration Volume, an inscription of the Nellore Chola Vijayaganda Gopal at the Thiruvottiyur temple dated September 2, 1264 relates that a certain piece of land was endowed to a matha at Thiruvottriyur by a merchant who had purchased it from a native of Kattupakkam in Elumur-Tudarmunni Nadu of Puzhal Kottam. A Pandya epigraph of Maravarman Kulasekhara I (reigned 1268 - 1308) from the Parthasarathi Temple, Triplicane mentions the temple of Telliyasinga Nayanar in Egmore.

Little is known of Egmore during the Vijayanagar period. The villages of Egmore and Pudupet could've ve been settled as garrison towns about this time as many streets in Egmore and most in Pudupet are named after Naickens or Naidus, Telugu chieftains who served the Vijayanagar Empire. Around 1594,the viceroy (nayak) of the Vijayanagar Empire allowed the Portuguese of Sao Thome de Meliapore to collect an annual tribute of 300 pardaus from agricultural lands in Egmore.  Nothing else is known of the political situation of Egmore at this time as there is a complete paucity of records from the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries.

In 1692, Elihu Yale, the then President of Fort St George applied to the Mughal Emperor Aurangazeb for a free grant of the villages of Egmore, Purasawalkam and Tondiarpet mentioned in East India Company records as the  "The Three Old Villages". Subsequently, on February 10, 1693, a perwanna was handed over to Company representative Sir John Goldsborough by Asad Khan, the Mughal faujdar of the Carnatic granting the villages of 'Tandur, Persewacca and Yegmore' to 'President Higginson, the English Governour of Chinapatam'. But as Zulfikar Ali Khan Nusrat Jung, the son of Asad Khan had earlier issued a parallel grant to Velayuda Arasama Nayak for two of the three villages (Egmore and Purasawalkam), the Company could not take possession of the villages until the issue of a second grant now by Zulfikar Khan in March 1693 overriding the grant made to  Arasama Nayak. The grant was the outcome of a letter by President Nathaniel Higginson to Asad Khan reminding him of the unflinching loyalty of the Company and the services rendered by them to the Mughal Emperor.

Egmore in 1693  was composed mostly of paddy fields. The Company's acquisition of Egmore was the culmination of protracted negotiations for "a home farm" that had lasted well over half a century.  The Council of Fort St. George, almost immediately, decided to repair the tank and cultivate toddy and cashew. In 1703, the British constructed the Redoubt - a fortified arsenal which was practically their seat of military power in the new enclave holding a small garrison which communicated with Fort St. George.  According to records, a choultry had previously stood at the place where the Redoubt was later constructed and the choultry was eventually absorbed into the new construction. The Redoubt played a significant role in defending Egmore and the western suburbs of Madras city through the numerous wars and battles of the 18th century as the factors and army commandants of the East India Company through sheer perseverance built what would in the end be, one of the largest and most powerful empires on earth. By the end of the 18th century, the wars had ceased and the Company had no formidable enemies to challenge their domination. The Redoubt was handed over in 1800, to the Madras Civil Orphans Asylum which operated a printing press in the fort and was in 1908, eventually, selected for the construction of the terminus of the South Indian Railway Company.

The villages of Egmore, Purasawalkam and Tondiarpet and the cultivated land within their limits were first leased out to Chikka Serappa, the Company's chief dubash for a period of three years. When the lease expired in 1704, the lands were transferred to Ketti Narayan, a prominent East India Company merchant and the builder of Lorrain's Pagoda in Black Town for a rent of 1,300 pagodas per annum. When Ketti Narayan relinquished his lease on 30 June 1708, the farms were handed over on a joint lease to Kalavai Chetty who built Kachaleswarar Temple in Georgetown and one Venkata Chetty for a period of twelve years. A few years later, the three villages were rented out to Ponkala Krishna, another leading merchant at 1,450 pagodas per annum. In 1716, facing heavy losses, Ponkala Krishna's farms had to be leased out to two other merchants.  But the lease had to be cancelled when there were complaints of exploitation of local traders by the two co-renters.

 East India Company servants began setting up residences in Egmore soon after its acquisition by the British. In 1700, the Egmore bridge was constructed across the Coovum river linking Egmore with Periamet and thus providing a vital communication link with Fort St. George. The first garden houses in Egmore were built by one Richard Horden in 1715. He was followed by a Thomas Theobalds. They had obtained their land on lease of more than 20 years, but in 1721, both sold their houses before the expiration of the lease to a Joseph Walsh and a Joshua Draper respectively. The Spur Tank is mentioned in a grant of 1740 and Ottershaw probably the oldest garden house on the Pantheon Road appears in a map of 1733 as the property of George Torriano of the civil service. The Spur Tank garden was granted to merchant Matthew Empson Jr. who also rented Three Brothers' Garden near Kachaleswarar pagoda. In 1766, while in a dilapidated condition, the Spur Tank property was purchased by a Major Elly. Europeans were colonizing Egmore with garden houses at such a rapid rate that in 1720, the Renters of Egmore complained to the Council over the loss of revenue resulting from the destruction of agricultural lands for the purpose of garden house grants. The Fort St George Council, however, dismissed the accusation as completely baseless.

The early years of the new acquisitions were turbulent. Subsequent to the plundering of the Mughal ship Ganj-i-Sawai  by British pirate Henry Every, Madras was blockaded by the Mughal Emperor Aurangazeb along with other Company possessions from 6th to the 15th of February 1702.  Egmore was attacked on the February 7, 1702 forcing many inhabitants to flee. Finally the blockade was lifted  when the British agreed to pay an indemnity of 25,000 rupees. In 1703, Zulfikar Khan was promoted to the governorship of the Deccan and Daud Khan succeeded him as  foujdar of the Canratic. Daud Khan was succeeded in 1710 by Saadatullah Khan I.  As a war of succession broke out in the Mughal Empire after the death of Aurangazeb, the President had to send soldiers to occupy the Mughal lands that lay between the fort and their new acquisitions to protect the communication routes. In  May 1710, Saadatullah Khan demanded the return of the "Three Old Villages" prompting President William Fraser to write a long letter to his superior Zulfikar Khan explaning to him that the villages were granted to the English in recognition of the assistance rendered by them to Aurangazeb in the conquest of Jinji. When Zulfikar Khan was executed by Mughal Emperor Farrukh Siyar in 1713, Nizam-ul-Mulk succeeded him as the Mughal governor of the Deccan. Immediately, Saadatullah Khan I renewed his demand for the restitution of Egmore, Purasawalkam and Tondiarpet to the Mughals. The President this time, Edward Harrison, finding negotiations futile, decided to give battle. But a compromise was reached with the efforts of the chief dubash, Sunkurama Chetty.

On February 19, 1720, an unfortunate incident took place in the Metto (Medu???) near Egmore resulting in the death of a Havildar (the first recorded murder in Egmore). The  Havildar  in question had stopped some oxcarts  heading for British territory laden with bricks and straw  and imprisoned their drivers. The news reached the Company Paymaster who complained to the President Francis Hastings. Hastings immediately  dispatched the Chief Dubash to remonstrate with the Havildar.  But the Havildar refused to comply with demands of redressal and sent back a defiant reply.  The President responded by sending the Chief Peon along with a few sepoys to  cow him into submission.  By the time the Chief Peon reached Egmore along with his sepoys, he found that the Havildar had adopted a belligerent attitude and gathered an army of about 50 locals to confront him. When the Chief Peon came forward to deliver the President's letter, the Havildar attacked him with his scimitar prompting him to fire his pistol in self defence killing the Havildar and two of his followers.   The others fled in fright and order was restored. The Chief Peon was commended by the President for his bravery and honoured by the Fort St George Council.

Hastings was succeeded in 1720 by Nathaniel Elwick  who was followed by  James Macrae, George Morton Pitt, Richard Benyon and Nicholas Morse who served as Governor till the French invasion of 1745 when he was captured and imprisoned by the invading army. Egmore does not find any place in records dating from 1730 to 1745. During the tenure of George Morton Pitt,  a cousin of the infamous Thomas Pitt of Pitt's Diamond, the weavers' town of Chintadripet was founded on the other side of the Coovum from Egmore. The site had previously been the garden house of the chief dubash Sunkurama Chetty who had fallen from grace around about 1734. During the tenure of Richard Benyon (1739), the Company acquired the villages of Vepery in the north and Pudupakkam to the south-east from the Nayak of Poonamallee.

The first Carnatic War broke out in 1745 and in September 1746, a strong French force under Bertrand-François Mahé de La Bourdonnais invaded Madras from the south.  On September 6, 1746, they beseiged the western walls of Fort St George and successful took it when Nicholas Morse, the President of Fort St George surrendered on the 14th of September 1746. La Bordonnais stationed a garrison at Fort St George under M. Barthelemy and left the place. The Nawab of Carnatic who had joined the French under the promise of being handed over Madras and had consequently felt cheated when they stubbornly refused to do so now saw his chance. In October 1746, he sent  his son Mahfuz Khan from San Thome to attack the fort.  Mahfuz Khan followed the same route the French had taken  a month earlier and besieged Fort St George from the west but was repulsed on the 22nd of October and fell back on Egmore and finding Egmore also unsafe retreated further to San Thome. On October 24, 1746, the Nawab suffered a shattering defeat from the French at the Battle of Adyar and quit the scene. The French held Madras for three years before subsequently returning it to the British in 1749 as per the terms of the Treaty of Aix-la-Chappelle. The British could negotiate the return of Madras only because they still held Fort St David, a hundred miles to the south - had they lost Fort St David to the French they would have been dislodged from India completely and left without any chance of regaining them.

Egmore was taken for a second time by Comte de Lally when he invaded Madras in December 1758 with a force of close to three thousand men - over one thousand being European and an equal number of native sepoys. On December 12, 1758, a detachment of French soldiers occupied the Redoubt and blew off its powder mill. The French flag was hoisted at the top. On December 14, Lally advanced through Vepery and attacked Fort St George. But the British soldiers under Colonel Draper made a heroic defence lasting 33 days and Lally was forced to beat retreat. The British eventually regrouped and sent an army under Sir Eyre Coote that took Pondicherry. The war ended in defeat for the French. This would be the last time that an invading force actually captured the Redoubt.

In the 1770s, Egmore experienced a real estate boom thanks to the period of peace and prosperity that followed the Anglo-French wars. The grant of 1693 was confirmed by the Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II through a Firman dated 12th of August 1765 by which Egmore was gifted in perpetuity to the British as inam land. During the year 1774, the Council of Fort St George made 30 grants of land for garden houses in Madras city of which seven were in Egmore.

1) William Petrie - eleven acres for a rent of 4 pagodas between the south-west side of Munro's garden and the river.

2) Joseph Smith - fifteen acres for a rent of 7 pagodas "Eastward of Mr. Dark's"

3) Eyles Irwin - eleven acres for a rent of 5 pagodas "Near the village of Erembore to the eastward of the garden belonging to Mr. Charles Darke".

4) Richard Matthews - eleven acres for a rent of 4 pagodas. "To the south-east of Mr. Troutback's garden near the River."

5) Charles Bromley - six acres for a rent of one pagoda."Near the road leading from Madras to Ellembore, between the garden house of Col. Jno Wood and Egmore Fort".

6) James Call - six acres for a rent of one pagoda. "Contiguous to Col. Wood's garden on the north side".

7) George Smith - eleven acres for a rent of 5 pagodas.

The earliest references to Pantheon Road are made in a grant of August 27, 1778 according to which 43 acres of property bound by the Pantheon Road, Casamajor Road, Hall's Road and Police Commissioner Office Road were given to one Hall Plumer who was in the Company's service. At the heart of the property was a newly-constructed hall which  in 1793 entertained two of Tipu Sultan's sons who were acquired as hostages by the British after the Third Anglo-Mysore War.  A ball was held at the very same hall to celebrate Tipu's defeat and death at Seringapatam in 1799 in the Fourth Mysore War.

Speaking of Tipu Sultan, the official history of St. Paul’s Higher Secondary School, Vepery, which was allegedly founded in 1716 recounts that the school grounds were attacked by Tipu Sultan during a battle with Robert Clive. But while an invasion by Tipu Sultan wasn't certainly improbable as the Tiger of Mysore is known to have besieged Fort St George atleast twice during the course of the Anglo-Mysore Wars,  Robert Clive had already died in 1774 long before the last three of the four-war series were fought and  there isn't any record that he played a role in the first having by then already returned to England to nurse his wounds and legally defend his actions in India. The school buildings had earlier been demolished by the French during the First Carnatic War in 1747 and subsequently rebuilt

At the turn of the 19th century, the Armenian merchants Aga Samuel Moorat and his son Edward Samuel Moorat were the biggest landowners in Egmore. Their property spanned the whole of the trans-Coovum tract - an expanse of land called the Moorat Gardens (that consequently became Moore's Gardens) which also included Doveton House. On this side of the Coovum, E. S. Moorat acquired the Pantheon in 1821 and sold it back to the government in 1830.  Another big landowner was Basil Cochrane, the engineer who constructed the Cochrane Canal. Though it would take another half a century for his canal project to reach completion, it certainly made him rich beyond imagination for he owned three garden houses, two along Pantheon Road, all of which he sold to General Hamilton Hall, another big name in Egmore. Most roads in  Egmore are named after these luminaries, some ex-servicemen some Company servants all of  whom lived in garden houses here between 1790 and 1875. The most sought-after pieces of land were obviously the ones that lay on the banks of the Coovum river. The most powerful inhabitant of Egmore was the Commander-in-chief of the Madras Army, the second-most important man in the Madras Presidency, who lived in a house facing the Coovum.

By the middle of the nineteenth century, the 'garden house' generation had passed away and many of the erstwhile garden houses were either sold to the government or to Christian missionaries who set up institutions, schools, colleges and hospitals.    The ones that survived intact made their way to Indian hands.The army officers and company servants had disappeared and lawyers, politicians and social reformers took their place. Most of Egmore's public utility buildings came up during this time - the Museum (1854), the Presidency School (1870), the Women and Children's Hospital (1882), the Ophthalmic Hospital (1888), the Connemara Public Library (1891), the Railway Station (1908) and the Post Office (1912). Some still remained in European hands such as the eponymous Egmore House  owned by the businessman Sir William Arthur Beardsell, proprietor of the firm Messrs. W. A. Beardsell & Co. But whether this Egmore House  was the same as the one owned successively by Cochrane and General Hall is not known for sure.

The first all-India census of 1871 recorded a population of  397,552 for Madras city, of whom, according to an official estimate published as a part of the census report, 4392 or 1.2 percent lived in the 'village' of Egmore, 3774 or 0.9 percent in that of Poodoopettah and 7544 or 1.8 percent in Comaleeswaram. The total for the whole division of the Corporation   which included Choolay, Pursewaulkum, Pereamoot or New Town and Vepery was 65491 or 16.5 percent of the total population of Madras city. When the third session of the Indian National Congress was held at MacKaye's Garden, three - C. Iyasawmy Pillai, Rajoo Pathur and S. Pulney Andy - were chosen to represent Egmore at a public meeting held at Pudupet on December 5. Others included N. Bazely representing the Eurasian and Anglo-Indian Association of South India and P. Rangaiah Naidu, P. Anandacharlu,W. S. Venkatramanjulu Naidu and C. Sankaran Nair representing the Madras Mahajana Sabha. The Encyclopaedia Britannica 1911 gives an interesting picture of Egmore at the turn of the century. It says that Pudupet was peopled largely by Eurasians (Anglo-Indians) while the suburb of Egmore was adorned 'with handsome European mansions and their spacious compounds or parks'.

But even as the encyclopaedia was being written, the character of Egmore had changed and a new elite was emerging. They were an assortment of rich lawyers, businessmen and professionals and some of the biggest names to live in Egmore were P. Rangaiah Naidu, P. Anandacharlu, Sir C. Sankaran Nair, Dr. T. M. Nair, T. Varadarajulu Naidu, W. S. Venkatramanjulu Naidu and T. Rangachari. This elite made up the Egmore clique which fought a neck-to-neck battle with the Mylapore clique. One of the important fallouts of this conflict was the 1916 formation of the South Indian Liberal Federation, popularly known as Justice Party, with its headquarters at Marshall's Road. Keeping in tune with the times, Egmore and neighbouring Pudupet  would play an enduring part in the Justice movement as well as the co-operative movement. If at all there was still an European element in Egmore's population, India's independence in 1947 and the exodus to the United Kingdom that followed brought an end to that. Once and for all, Egmore had turned almost wholly Indian.

When the British were hobnobbing with the Mughals for the purchase of Egmore in 1693, the Komaleeswaran and Mannareswarar temples in neighbouring Pudupet, both probably built at the same time as Fort St. George, were already five decades old. In the following century, Indian elites settled there building large mansions and worshipping daily at the temple after a holy bath in the Coovum. The most famous of Pudupet's inhabitants was Pachaiyappa Mudaliar who made a generous bequest of Rs. 8 lakh to the Komaleeswaran temple. Starting from the 1940s, both Harris' Road as well as the parallel-running Lang's Garden Road have been emerged as a market for spare motor parts and the surrounding Indian neighbourhood has since degenerated into one big slum. Though Egmore, unlike Pudupet,  still remains a fashionable residential quarter, the heart of the evergrowing city has moved elsewhere and Egmore, situated on the yonder side of the Coovum, only serves as the gateway to the dirty, decaying north.

Vepery - The northern frontiers

Upon entering Egmore from the north, that is, the Poonamallee High Road, our first destination is the posh residential neighbourhood of Vepery which lies between Egmore in the south and Purasawalkam in the north and covers a considerable portion of what is known as Egmore North.

The village of Vepery was acquired by the East India Company from the Mughal Empire in 1739, 46 years after Egmore, and immediately incorporated into Madras city. But the village is considerably older than Fort St George. Originally called Vepperi, it first finds mention in an inscription of the Vijayanagar king, Sadasiva Raya (1542-1570).

During the early part of the 20th century, Vepery became the Madras home of the S. Rm. M. family of Kanadukathan who bought up much of the area. Its patriarch Rajah Sir Annamalai Chettiar lived in a posh bungalow called Natana Vilas at Police Commissioner Office Road, Vepery till the mid-thirties until Chettinad House was built on banks of the Adyar and the family shifted there leaving only the Annamalai Chettiar name which survives in Rajah Annamalai Road and their cousins the M Ct. M branch members of whom still live here. Well, in fact, to say that they live here would be an understatement for Vepery is to the M. Ct. M. family what R. A. Puram is to the S. Rm. M. family. Apart from the palatial early 1900s home of Sir M. Ct. Muthiah Chettiar, the first member of the family and verily the first Nattukkottai Chettiar to be knighted, there are far too many vestiges of the family to be ignored. Opposite to Sir M. Ct. M.'s home is the Sir M. Ct. M. Higher Secondary School, a testament to the family's vast array of philantropic activities. A few blocks away stands Natana Vilas which is now owned by the Krishna Sweets group who run a  hotel Rasam  here. Thanks to Sri Krishna Sweets, the house is one of the better maintained heritage buildings in the city. And a few streets away in Orme's Road, Kilpauk, you have the Sir M. Ct. Muthiah Memorial Higher Secondary School,  another institution bearing the M. Ct. M. name.

 Vepery is also associated with another prominent business magnate and philantropist from the Nattukkottai Chettiar community, Sir Rm. Alagappa Chettiar who lived at 'Krishna Vilas' in Vepery. The Ramanujan Institute, founded by Alagappa Chettiar, functioned from this house from 1951 to 1972. A Ladies hostel founded by Alagappa Chettiar and generously endowed by him also functions from Vepery.

The Nehru Park established by Rajaji's administration of 1937-39 to the south of Poonamallee High Road straddles the boundary between Egmore and Chetpet. Here, a movie pioneer, A. Narayanan founded the 'Srinivasa Cinetone' and 'Sound City', South India's first sound studios in 1934, a few years before the park was created.

Take the Poonamallee High Road towards Periamet and you reach the home of U. Krishna Rao, the famous doctor from South Canara who was mayor of Madras city when India attained independence. His father U. Rama Rao was also a medicine man with diverse interests. Apart from co-founding the medical journal Antiseptic with fellow medical practitioner and political rival Dr. T. M. Nair, Rama Rao also served as a Councillor of the Madras Corporation and member of the Madras Legislative Council from the India National Congress

Krishna Rao's residence is situated a few blocks from one of the finest churches in Madras city. Constructed between 1903 and 1905, the Wesley church is one of the best specimens of Gothic Revival architecture in the city. Compared to the silken grace of St. Andrew's Church on the other side of Poonamallee High Road, Wesley church possesses a tough masculinity that is typical of most British-era monuments in Madras. Even the material used - red brick is always the choice of the snobbish British officialdom. The church belongs to Wesleyan mission and is named after Rev. John Wesley (1703-1791), the founder of the mission.

Further on towards Periamet are the offices of Dina Thanthi .The Egmore station is situated to the east and behind the station are the quarters for the employees of Indian Railways. The houses are probably built on the same spot where the Redoubt once stood. On the opposite side of Poonamallee High Road is the Traffic Police Commissioner's Office were driving licenses were issued. This was earlier the property of P. Venkatachellum of P. Venkatachellum & Co.

 St. Andrew's Church

St. Andrew's Church or The Kirk, described as 'the most splendid church in Madras', 'the finest 19th century church in India' and one of 'the finest examples of Georgian church architecture in India' is an architectural marvel that was built as a shrine for the  Church of Scotland. The foundation stone was laid on April 6, 1818 and the church was completed two years later at the cost of 20,000 pounds. It was consecrated in April 1821. The principal architect was Major Thomas Fiott de Havilland, the builder of St. George's church (now cathedral)  who modelled it upon the St. Martin's-in-the-Fields in London. It was based on a modified design of one Lt. Grant.  Prior to 1821, the Masonic Hall existed at this spot.

 The church has a masonic dome resting on Ionic pillars.  This domed enclosure is fronted by a portico of four columns with a tower and a spire. The inside of the dome was painted blue to depict the Scottish night sky with stars in it. At its western entrance, were two clumsily-carved lions standing opposite each other, their menacing eyes staring at the occasional visitor. Below were inscribed in Latin, the words "Auspicio Regis Et Senatus Angliae" which meant "Under the auspicies of the kingdom and Parliament of England". The church is remarkable for its substitution of masonry for timber, which in hot Indian climes, would've been eaten up by white ants. The whole edifice rests on a foundation made up of a series of wells - a purely Indian innovation for which references have been found in ancient Indian texts..

Major Thomas Fiott de Havilland describes in detail the process of sinking these wells

"If of brick, the bricks are made purposely for them, and of a shape to fit each other in  their breadth in circular layers, like the voussoirs of an arch, of the usual thickness, and about seven inches long; a little longer as the diameter of the well increases. Before these bricks are laid, a ring of wicker work, of the diameter of the intended well and as broad as the bricks are long, is placved on the surface, and on it the bricks are carefully laid in horizontal layers, witha  little clay mortar very liquid between them.  A cylindrical wall is thus raised to a convenient height; or if known,  as high above the surface as may be required to sink the wells below it. The cylinder thus formed is firmly bound together outwardly with hay or stray ropes or twists, wound round it from the bottom to the top; this done, the well-sinker gets into the cylinder with a basket, and with his hands chiefly, when the mud is soft, sometimes with a short-handled hoe and other fit tools, he excavates the soil from the bottom and fills the basket, which is then hauled up by other workmen on scaffolding above, and handed out of the way. In this operation great care must be taken to excavate evenly all round under the wicker-ring,  that the cylinder may preserve its perpendicularity. The process is thus continued, until the cylinder disappears beneath the soil, or until the bottom is found to be of sufficient consistency for the object in view. If the cylinder be not long enough to reach to such a soil, it is raised again and bound round as before, and the well sinker continues his work till the object, a good soil, or rock, is attained. The well is then filled with brickbats, sand, shingle, small stones or any other substances which will not dissolve or alter in their volume in water, and will admit of being rammed down in a solid consistency.

" The wells being places as near to each other as practicable, the interstices between them are very limited; but these interstices are also to be filled up and rammed down with the same kind of materials as the wells themselves; the whole space is then levelled to an uniform surface, perfectly firm and impenetrable, on which the masonry of foundation is established.

" The pottery wells are fitted up and sunk like the others, but the cylinders are formed of baked rings, formed in frames, two to three inches thick, and five to six in height, in lieu of bricks. These, however, are seldom used for wells much more than three feet deep; while, on the contrary, wells even from twelve to fifteen feet in diameter, are often sunk with brick in the way described above, and to a very great depth."

Sunken wells were  used widely to built the foundation in  later age works, perhaps the most well-known example of a 20th century construction using well foundation being that of the Ripon Building.

Major Havilland further states that 'the wells were sunk about nine feet, the foundations being raised about thirteen feet and a quarter above that, and a basement of four feet more, made the whole depth below the pavement about twenty-six feet and a quarter'.

Major Havilland also records that there was a special caste of well-sinkers' who did the work. He gives a brief sketch of their customs and habits in his paper An Account of St. Andrew's Church which is reproduced by Captain Hector Straith in his 1833 treatise on fortification.

The church gets its characteristic white colour from the Madras stucco or chunam that has been liberally applied to its interiors. The steeple rises to height of 166.5 feet making it one of the tallest in Madras. According to a legend, the St. Andrew' church was built by Major Fiott de Havilland after having been commissioned to repair the St. Matthias' church in Vepery he found it completely unsuitable for the purpose. The major even argued forcefully that the steeple of St. Matthias' could be used by invading armies to mount their guns and fire at Fort St. George. As a result, the steeples of St. Matthias' church was destroyed thereby leaving St. Andrew's without any competition.

Rev. Heber, who visited the church remarks that though the acoustics of the church were unsuited for a large audience, the edifice on the whole has a stately appearance.

Government College of Fine Arts

The Government College of Fine Arts was started by Alexander Hunter as the Madras School of Industrial Arts in Popham's Broadway (George Town of present) in 1850. It was a private, self-funding institution getting its income from the sale of drawing, engravings and other art work.  But due to lack of teaching staff and technical difficulties, it was taken over in 1852 by the government which subsequently renamed it the Government School of Industrial Arts. The school moved to the present building on Poonamallee High Road in 1855 and Dr. Hunter was appointed its first Principal and a syllabus was adopted. Among the first subjects that Hunter included in the syllabus was the study of photography.

The best years of the college were undoubtedly the years between 1884 and 1896 when the legendary art historian E. B. Havell was the Superintendent.  Havell encouraged his students to take up Indian art techniques and soon weaving and block printing were taught in the college. Havell also brought in a metal worker from Kumbakonam and a goldsmith from Vizagapatam. Another legend who honed his skills at the college was the father of Indo-Saracenic architecture, Robert F. Chisholm. But after Havell had left, a downward trend began. It was proposed to start a manufacturing unit for the Indian Aluminium Company founded by the celebrated lawyer Eardley Norton. The college witnessed a second renaissance during thwe years 1927 to 1957 when D. P. Roy Chowdhury was Principal. Roy Chowdhury introduced modernism to Madras and constructed the Triumph of Labour statue and its neighbour the one of Mahatma Gandhi. His successor K. C. S. Paniker created the Cholamandal Artists Village near Mahabalipuram.

 Lang's Garden Road

Lang's Garden Road which extends from Harris Road to the West Riverside Road is the longest road in Egmore and one of the few  named after a Briton that still retains its original name in official correspondences. It is also the only road in Egmore named after a garden house rather than the individual who constructed it. Here we enter the slums of Pudupet that are notorious for shops selling stolen motor parts and sporadic communal outbursts. The road however is respectably named after General Ross Lang of the Madras Army who must've owned a garden house here. The first we hear of Lang is in the year 1775 when he was a Colonel at Vellore. He fought in the Anglo-Mysore wars with distinction and was in 1777, appointed  to command the army. Though he subsequently resumed his former role as Lieutenant-General, he was appointed Commander-in-chief for a second term in 1783 and served till retirement in 1785. Though Ross Lang's son General Ross Lang Jr. too served in the Madras Army, the road is apparently named after the father. Today, there are no traces that Lang's garden house ever existed here and I suppose no one here remembers Lang anymore. But the Corporation of Chennai has unwittingly ensured that the its garden house origins are remembered by constructing a park along this road abutting the Coovum River  though I wonder whether the park will serve any useful purpose considering the foul stench that is emitted by the Coovum.

Lang's Garden Road once skirted the native potter's villages of Pudupet and Komaleeswaranpet. One of the city's four sewage pumping stations was set up on Lang's Garden Road in the 19th century.Today, the road filled with endless rows of modern shops and twentieth century constructions holds nothing of interest to the heritage enthusiast  its heritage buildings if any done away with.

The narrow  bylanes have a long chequered history of their own. One of them Ayyasami Street is named after after C. Iyyasami Pillai who was a powerful mirasdar  in the area. Pillai was a delegate to the third session of the Indian National Congress held in 1887 in MacKaye's garden.

Beyond its junction with Harris' Road, Lang's Garden Road continues as the South Coovum River Road which eventually runs into Marshall's Road just after Rajarathnam Stadium.

The Station and the Redoubt

The Chennai Egmore station constructed  in 1908 as the terminus of the South Indian Railway stands on the spot where in the 18th and 19th centuries there was  a fort called the Egmore Redoubt. And before the Redoubt was constructed in   1703, there was a choultry here. The redoubt had been the mastermind of a Madras Governor Thomas Pitt whose was sharp enough to realize the importance of fortifying their new setlemnt.  The efforts came in handy when the forces of the Nawab of Golconda camped at Periamet in 1710 with the intention of invading and capturing Egmore.From the signalling tower they could observe and alert Fort St George and a detachment of  soldiers arrived to strengthen the garrison forcing Golconda's forces to retreat. At that time, the whole stretch of  station road was called Redoubt Road before being christened Gandhi-Irwin Road in the 1930s.

The Redoubt property was obtained by the goverment from one Dr. Pulney Andy who was initially reluctant to sell. The station was  constructed by T. Samynada Pillai of Bangalore with Henry Irwin as the architect at a cost of Rs. 17 lakhs. The whole edifice took three years to complete (1905 to 1908)

Gandhi-Irwin Road extends for about half a kilometres from Langs Garden Road to the Police Commissioner Office Road.  Whannels Road and Kenneth Lane are the roads that branch out from Gandhi-Irwin Road.

The first building from the eastern end of Gandhi-Irwin Road as one enters from North Egmore by the railway over bridge is the high-rise that houses the offices of the CMDA. A prominent landmark and the first thing to capture one's eye from across the bridge,the Thalamuthu-Natarasan Maaligai and it's neighbour Hotel Ramada are located atop where once stood David C. White Memorial Hall and the offices of the Anglo-Indian Association of South India. The Anglo-Indian Association of South India was founded in 1892 by White after whom the memorial hall was named. White also gave his name to the suburb of Whitefield in Bangalore.

A few hundred metres to the north-east of the station just before the junction with Whannel's Road is Hotel Imperial which occupies Waverley House the brief last residence of dashing lawyer and Justice Party politician O. Thanikachalam Chetti till he succumbed to diabetes in July 1929. Also on Whannels Road is Albert Theatre. Whannels roads runs southwards from Gandhi-Irwin Road connecting it with Pantheon Road and proceeding further southward as Subban Street and forming a junction with Langs Garden Road. It also probably extended northwards of Gandhi-Irwin Road to the Poonamallee High Road.

On Whannel's road next to Albert Theatre, are the ageing remnants of  the 200-year old Edinburgh House. It was in this building that the first seeds of the Madras University were sown when the Presidency Preparatory School, a predecessor of the Presidency College was inaugurated on October 15, 1840. When the collegiate department was inaugurated in 1852 and the school departments eventually closed down one by one, the house passed on to private ownership and served as the residence of the Unger family who owned the Crystal Ice Factory (later rechristened South Indian Royal Ice Factory (SIRF)) nearby. Next door where the Albert Theatre now stands, were located the cooling towers of the factory.

On Kenneth Lane which runs opposite to the station are the Madras headquarters of the Sri Lankan Mahabodhi Society nestled between restaurants, lodges and bars. The Mahabodhi Society was founded in British Ceylon in the year 1891 by Anagarika Dharmapala, a Sinhalese Buddhist monk who made it his life mission to retrieve the Buddhist holy site of Bodh Gaya from the clutches of proud and decadent Hindu priests and regarded the founding of the Mahabodhi Society as a step towards that goal. The Madras branch was established by one Prof M. Lakshmi Narasu along with  M. Singaravelu, a founding-father of the Madras Labour Union,  in 1900 with the consent of Anagarika Dharmapala. The temple has a tall standing statue of the Buddha and free pilgrim literature which can be had upon making a small, voluntary donation. It also runs a hostel for Buddhist monks and Sinhalese refugees. Another religious shrine on Kenneth Lane is a mosque constructed for Malayali Muslims by the Malabar Muslim Association (MMA). The mosque dates to 1961 and could accomodate 2,000 people at a time.

While Whannel Road is named after Major Peter Whannel an army officer in the service of the East India Company who died at Madras in 1854 aged 76, Kenneth Lane or more correctly, Kennet Lane was named after Charles Kennet who served as a clerk in the Treasury Office and acquired fame as Secretary of the Civil Orphans Asylum. His son Rev. Charles Egbert Kennet was a Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (SPG) missionary who served as Principal of the Theological College, Sullivan's Gardens from 1878 to 1884. Whether it is the father or the son the road is named after, one might have a doubt, but a London Gazette notification from the year 1850 listing a petition for insolvency by a John Huddleston Nowill and a Henry Howard Wiggins of Kennet's Road, Egmore clinches it.  1850 was way too early for C. E. Kennet - the reverend was still a young, comparatively unknown deacon in the early stages of his illustrious career. All doubts cleared - it is the father and not the son the road is named after.

Whannel's Road seems to have come into existence sometime between 1798 and 1816. As for  Kennet Lane, the records are very scanty and none older than 1850. Major Peter Whannel seems to have  resided at the northern end of Whannel's Road close to the junction with Poonamallee High Road; of the Kennet family residence, we don't have the slightest idea.

The Tamil Nadu Archives

The Tamil Nadu Archives is the largest in South Asia and one of the oldest in the world. It was formally established in Fort St George as the Madras Record Office by Governor William Bentinck on November 18,1805 by an act of the government though efforts to preserve Company records have been made as early as 1672 during the tenure of William Langhorne. In 1909, due to a space crunch, the archives moved out of Fort St George into a garden-house called Grassmere on the Station Road (now Gandhi-Irwin Road) where, barring the turbulent years of World War II when it was moved to and stored inward at Nellore for safety, it has remained till date.

Grassmere has been variously described as a cemetery and a garden-house prior to its acquisition by the government. According to Love, a house owned by Major Thomas Fiott de Havilland, the architect of St. Andrew's Church, once stood here.  The Tamil Nadu Archives has records from 1670 and the oldest book in its collection dates from 1633.  It also has electoral rolls from 1960 onwards.

The Radhakrrishnan Stadium next door stands on what was once a sewage farm. Presently it is the city's main hockey stadium and only astroturf. Constructed in 1996, it commemorates M. Radhakrishnan Pillai (1911-1974) who was mayor of Madras city in 1944-45.

The first automated traffic signal in Madras city was inaugurated in 1953 at the junction of Station Road with Police Commissioner Office Road and Hall's Road. Though the traffic signal is no longer where it once stood and a policeman substituted in its place, the Hall's Road junction remains one of the busiest road junctions in Madras city barely possible for the pedestrian to walk through.

Police Commissioner Office Road

Opposite to the famed Egmore signal, stands an aparment complex SS Residency. Here, at 29, Police Commissioner's Office Road was once Ranga Vilas, the home of eminent lawyer and one of the earliest leaders of the freedom movement in the Madras Presidency, P. Rangaiah Naidu. Naidu was the founder-President of the Madras Mahajana Sabha (estd 1884) and one of the72 men (22 from the Presidency and eight from Madras city alone) who participated in the first session of the Indian National Congress held at Bombay in December 1885. Perhaps, it can be said that Naidu unofficially led the Madras delegation.

Naidu was the towering non-Brahmin leader of the early years of the freedom movement  and a progenitor of what came to be known as the Egmore clique as opposed to another group that evolved in the early 1900s and was headed by the Brahmins of Mylapore. But the terms Egmore non-Brahmin and Mylapore Brahmin were used strictly in a ideological sense  and do not convey the caste or residential affiliations of its members and there were many exceptions to this rule, especially in the Egmore group which counted many non-resident Brahmins like S. Kasturi Ranga Iyengar, the editor of The Hindu. The Egmore clique stood for radical social reform and consisted of reactionary elements while the Mylapore clique was made of moderates who were socially conservative. Egmore, though not as much as Mylapore, was peopled by lawyers and there was intense rivalry between the two groups as they frequently lobbyied the governor against the other. The Mylapore group for example was made up of lawyers who were long-entrenched in the Madras legal circles and who were decisively opposed to pleaders from the moffusil who were now  rapidly infiltrating their ranks and who comprised the rank and file of the Egmore faction. The Egmore clique was generally, though not predominantly, associated with the Justice Party whose office was situated in Marshall's Road from where the organ Justice was also printed while the Mylapore clique was predominantly, Congress or Liberal.  In its heyday, the Mylapore clique was led by V. Krishnaswami Iyer while the Egmore clique was led by Dr. T. M. Nair. The Mylapore clique dominated the politics of Madras till 1916, when it ousted by S. Kasturi Ranga Iyengar.

 The Egmore clique also counted many Congress stalwarts like Sir C. Sankaran Nair who lived in this road. Another resident was his equally famous son-in-law Sir C. Madhavan Nair who lived at "Temple House" before moving to Nungambakkam. The houses of Sir Sankaran Nair and Madhavan Nair I have not been able to identify

Egmore has always retained a strong affiliation to the Justice Party for close by is the house of Dr. T. M. Nair and as closer, is the Spur Tank on whose banks, he along with O. Kandasami Chetti addressed that  historic meeting of depressed classes (Dalits) on October 7, 1917, urging  them to demand parity in treatment with caste Hindus and instructing them not to pay obeisance to them. It was characteristic of Nair and of Egmore which has always stood for social reform.

The stretch from Station Road to Harris' Road on the opposite side from Ranga Vilas belongs to the Tamil Nadu police and once housed the offices of the Commissioner of Police from whom the road gets its name. At  the heart of the property is a heritage building part of which now houses the photographer's wing of the Commissioner's office, the rest forming the police hospital. Constructed by the celebrated pioneer of Indo-Saracenic architecture Robert F. Chisholm , in 1882, this building served as the first office of the Commissioner of police for Madras city before the Commissioner moved elsewhere and the building still in police hands was put to other uses. In 2008, the Padmanabhan Committee listed it as a grade IIA heritage structure
Hall's Road

Hall's Road that extends from Police Commissioner Office Road to Casamajor Road is an old and important thoroughfare in Egmore and dates back to the early 18th century when Egmore was little more than a newly acquired village.

It is named for General Hamilton Hall who enlisted in the Madras Army in 1781 and rose to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel in 1807. He died in 1827 in Trichy at the age of 66 while still in active service as commander of the Southern Division and his grave is located in St. John's Church Cemetery, Trichy. Hall owned two garden houses in Montieth road - Ottershaw and College Bridge House and an Egmore House whose location remains uncertain. As two of his three houses are situated on Montieth Road, it is unclear what association Hamilton Hall had towards this road apart from the stray possibility of Egmore House having existed here.

In the early 1920s, a prehistoric sarcophagus and some pottery were discovered in the gardens of an Anglo-Indian gentleman E. R. Prudhomme by civil servant and amateur archaeologist L. A. Cammiade thereby suggesting the possiblity that a Stone Age habitation might have existed in Hall's Road.  But there are not one but two Hall's Road in Madras, the other located in Kilpauk. While Prof K. V. Raman (1957) and Nirmala Lakshman (2013) favour the candidacy of Hall's Road, Egmore, Dr. S. Suresh of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) forcefully argues in favour of Hall's Road, Kilpauk, a stand I feel inclined to support. In fact, there appears to be a Prudhomme Vidudhi in Hall's Road, Kilpauk where a home for the destitute and the abandoned is run by the Society of the Salesian Missionaries of Mary Immaculate.

The first noticeable landmark on Hall's Road is Matsya, the restaurant unit of Hotel Udipi Home situated close to the railway station signal. A short distance away Hall's Road branches into two - the grander northern wing the Egmore High Road  acquiring the character of a busy, noisy and dirty business district while the southern wing retaining the name as well as the charm of a quiet and laidback residential area.

At the junction with Egmore High road, lies Sindhu Sadan (with an idol of Jhulelal, an incarnation of Vishnu according to local folklore, at the gates), the home of the Sindhi Hindu Mandal Association since its inception in the 1950s. The Sindhis are people from Sindh in present-day Pakistan and most Sindhis in Chennai are Hindus who migrated during the post-Partition riots of 1947-48.  Though they migrated to places all over India, they also settled in large numbers in Tamil Nadu (unlike, for example, the Punjabis). The sadhan serves as a meeting place for Sindhis all over the city and is put to occasional use as a marriage hall for the community. What strikes the outsider is the reverrence given to Sikh, Muslim and even Christian religious figures apart from Hindu ones. Outside the building, a food vendor sells Sindhi delicacies like papad.

Next to Sindhu Sadan stand buildings of the women and children's hospital, part of an extensive campus that virtually occupies all of the old Pantheon property of Moorat other than the Museum. Here stood Arni House, a garden house belonging to the Marathi zamindars of Arni in the present-day Vellore district. Arni, a hereditary jagir, covered 211 sq. miles and included 192 villages.  Like Ramnad, the zamindar was managed by the Court of Wards for most of its lifespan.

Perhaps one of the most celebrated among the medical practitioners of the Women and Children's Hospital, Dr. Lucia Navamanie Virasinghe-Chinnappa, lived near Arni House. Her residence - "Sri Ranga Vilas" is not so easily identifiable. Born in Ceylon as Lucia Virasinghe in a Sinhalese Christian family on December 30, 1892, Lucia studied at St. Margaret Girls High School, Colombo and the Madras Medical College. In 1917, she was appointed Superintendent of the Child Welfare Scheme of the Corporation of Madras. She was awarded the Kaiser-i-Hind medal Second Class in 1920 and First Class in 1937. She reached the pinnacle of her career in the 1940s when she held the post of Assistant Director in the Department of Health, Madras Presidency. She married James Chelvanayakam Chinnappa, a Sri Lankan Christian of Tamil origin, who served as Deputy Director of Health in the Madras Presidency. This son Dr. James Chandrasekharan Virasinghe-Chinnappa (1923-2007) was a professor of Mechanical Engineering at James Cook University, Australia.

A short distance away lies Tamil Valarchi Valagam, home since 2003 of the Tamil Nadu Archaeology Department. The Tamil Nadu Archaeology Department founded in 1964 initially functioned from a  rented house in Mandaveli before moving to its own premises in Taramani in 1992 and then to its present office at Hall's Road. Under the legendary R. Nagaswamy, the longest to head the department, it acquired a reputation as one of the best-run state archaeology departments in India.

A few metres away, Sait Colony 2nd Street, a posh residential area  converges into Hall's Road and  the augmented Hall's Road meets Casamajor Road opposite Jaret's Lane.

Sait Colony is in old records referred to by its unabbreviated name Ebrahim Sait Colony and is doubtless named after an Ebrahim Sait, whom S. Muthiah reckons to be a gramophone dealer in Evening Bazaar Road in the 1920s. Sait Colony was one of the first modern residential colonies in Egmore (after Victoria Crescent) and consists of an unique medley of majestic old houses, some of them decaying and posh new bungalows and flats. But here, the past does not go beyond the thirties and the oldest surviving building is probably the one that houses the Minerva Tutorial College. Lakshmi Vilas constructed between 1933 and 1934, is the second oldest. This simple  elegant residence with beautiful geometric designs at its entrance and upon the balcony railings and insides decorated with cow and antelope mounts symbolizes a different era together. A few blocks away lies the home and clinic of the Late Dr. T. Gopal Rao who who is mentioned in an All India medical directory and who's who for the year 1949. Currently, the clinic is still going strong with the third generation of the family into medicine .

The Minerva Tutorial College and Publishing House was founded by A. N. Parasuram in 1936 in a building known as Auckland House which had once been a hotel. The building was part of a larger property that had come into Parasuram's possession in the 1930s. The family till then based in Triplicane first lived in the dorms of the tutorial during the turbulent years of the Second World War, eventually, moving permanently to an adjoining bungalow in 1954 and naming their residence Aparajitha. A series of court cases on copyright violation and income tax evasion had since battered the firm which is now run by the second or third generation. Minerva was particularly famous for its school and college guides and abridged retellings of Shakespeare.

The two streets of Sait Colony converge near Lakshmi Vilas and the colony eventually runs into the Gengu Reddy (originally Gangu Reddy) Road where it forms a three-pronged junction with what is now known as "Diwan Bahadur Street". Now this Diwan Bahadur Street has a history of its own for in older records it is referred to as Diwan Bahadur Rangachari Street. Was this the location of T. Rangachari's "Veda Vilas"?

On the other side of Gangu Reddy Road opposite to the junction stands another testament to the importance of Egmore in the history of Madras. Here stands the third public building from the 19th century after the Museum and the Archives  - the Presidency  Secondary and Training School,for Girls popularly known as the P. T. School whose sprawling campus is a well-known landmark in the area. The P. T.  school originally conducted teaching courses for child widows and doyens of women upliftment such as Sister R. S. Subbulakshmi were trained here. The school began life as the Government Female Normal School along with five other "normal schools" established in major towns of the Presidency in  the December month of 1870 from a rented house named "Egmore Comfort" with seven stipendiary students and was among Lord Napier's crowning achievements as Governor of Madras. After screening through a list of eligible candidates thjat included the legendary social reformer and suffragist Mary Carpenter, the Madras government zeroed in on a Miss I. Bain, a graduate of Queen's College, London  for its choice as headmistress. Miss Bain had to quit in 1875 when she married but returned as headmistress when she was widowed five years later. The early days of the school were fraught with difficulties as it was found impossible to procure well-qualified female teachers.   In 1886-87, the school was transferred to the Department of Public Instruction and its name was changed to Presidency Secondary and Training School,for Mistresses. The school continued under the name even after the training department was abolished in 1938.

Egmore High Road  

According to an article by Prof V. Rangacharya written for the Madras Tercentenary Commemoration Volume, "high"roads got their names from the high ridges that once existed at the places where roads were later constructed.  This was the only possible way of providing a strong foundation for roads in a locality like Egmore much of which was then composed of wet, low-lying paddy fields.

From its etymology it is evident that this road must have existed in some form or the other (as a cart track) since remote antiquity antedating British rule.  From  'Tallboys Wheeler's map of 1733', it is evident that the area roughly around Egmore High Road must have been the nucelus around with the present-day neighbourhood grew. The earliest written records of Egmore High Road, however, date only from 1884.

The first noted resident at Egmore High Road was the celebrated historian, anthropologist and compiler of The Indian Biographical Dictionary, Rao Bahadur C. Hayavadana Rao who lived at door number 28 at the turn of the 20th century. Dr. Santhosham who owned a clinic in a rented house in Egmore High Road founded the first private TB sanatorium on ten acres of land purchased at Selaiyur near Tambaram in 1946. Dr. Santosham's clinic thrives to the present day  and stands majestically at the mouth of Egmore High Road.

According to a biography of Mrs. Y. G. P., the esteemed educationist and founder of the Padma Seshadri  group of institutions, Veda Vilas, the residence of her maternal grandfather and celebrated freedom-fighter, Diwan Bahadur T, Rangachari was located in Egmore High Road. Originally a lawyer, Rangachari served as councillor of the Corpoiration of Madras and was elected to the Imperial Legislative Council of India. At one point of time, Rangachari headed a committee on censorship, the Rangachari Committee.

The Jagannatha Bhaktha Jana Sabha, one of the earliest sabhas in the city that offered Carnatic music concerts, was started at Veda Vilas by Muthanna alias Venkatachari, a son of T. Rangachari and maternal uncle of Mrs. Y. G. P.  in the early years of the 20th century. The sabha published the krithis of Swati Thirunal in 1934.

Gengu Reddy Road and Spur Tank Road

Gengu Reddy or Gangu Reddy or Gengu Reddi is another ancient thoroughfare that connects Spur Tank Road with Poonamallee High Road. It starts from Santosham Hospital junction on Egmore High Road and crosses the railroad by an overbridge. The overbridge is a recent construction and replaces a level crossing  that had been in existence for a long time.

Gengu Reddi Road regularly features on Madras  Presidency administrative reports of the late 19th century. Some of the historic homes in this road include Sri Vilas, the residence of Rao Sahib P. Ranganayukulu Naidu who was Deputy Chief Engineer, PWD and Under-Secretary to the government. But the most famous resident of Gengu Reddi Road was Rao Saheb Kanjivakkam Rangachariar who helped Sir Frederick Price edit dubash  Ananda Ranga Pillai's diary. Rangachariar who was then a clerk in  the Chief Secretariat was appointed Superintendent of the Madras Record Office in recognition for his services in editing Ananda Ranga Pillai's diary and honoured with title "Rao Saheb" at the Delhi Durbar of 1911. A Who's who  published on the occasion lists his address as "32, Poosala Gengu Reddi Street".

The Egmore Dramatic Society was established at 43, Gengu Reddi Street in the early years of the 20th century.

The short stretch from north of  the railway overbridge to Poonamallee High Road has a couple of attractive old mansions, one of which functions as police quarters. An adjoining lane which runs almost parallel to the railway track is Aravamudhan Garden Street, originally Dhanala Aravamudhu Naidu Garden Street, where the legendary danseuse T. Balasaraswathi, hailed as the "Queen of abhinaya", lived from April 1936 to the end of 1941. At the edge of this lane is the Ardhanariswarar Temple believed to have been sung about in the Thevaram.

The Spur Tank Road, now named Mayor Ramanathan Salai after V. R. Ramanatha Iyer who was mayor of Madras city in 1955-56, is first mentioned in land records of one Major Elly from 1766. In 1771, the Nawab of Carnatic owned a house 'near the Spur' that is now known as the Wallajah Bagh. Ramanatha Iyer who founded Ramakrishna Lunch Home on China Bazaar Road owned property on Spur Tank Road known as Muktha Gardens.

The Spur Tank Road was so named because it abutted the Spur Tank or Elumur eri (Egmore Tank), which was once irrigated 49 hectares of cultivable land.  The tank was in fact  so replete with fish that the Madras Anglers' Club even maintained a club house on the Poonamallee High Road.  In 1902, a dhobi khana  was set up on its banks. There was even a proposal to utilize the Spur Tank as a source of drinking water

The celebrated Madras judge and philanthropist Sir M. Venkatasubba Rao owned a series of houses on Spur Tank Road known as the Spur Tank Houses.  The Kandathil family of Alappuzha that owned The Week and Malayala Manorama had a residence Ashley  on Spur Tank Road. Another century-old residence called “Kingsley” was recently renovated and put to use as a boutique hotel.

The anonymous American author of  an article titled “Madras in Pictures”  from the Harper’s Magazine issue dated 1857-58 identifies the “grounds and garden” of a Nawab on the opposite side of th Coovum River from Spur Tank Road.

One of the adjoining lanes is named Dr. T. V. Nair a leading Ayurveda doctor associated with the Kotakkal Arya Vaidya Sala.

The Spur Tank Road joins McNichol's Road at the entrance to Chetpet proper just north of the Coovum bridge.

Casa Major Road

The Casa Major Road originally extended from Pantheon Road to the banks of the Spur Tank. It is named after James Henry Casa Major who joined East India Company's service as a writer in 1762 and by 1810, was fourth in the Fort St George council and Chief Judge of the Sudder and Foujdari Adawlut. Casa Major, whom the Tercentenary Commemorative volume names as Cosa Major, died in England in 1815. His daughter Amelia was married in 1809 to John Elliot the son of the Viceroy Lord Minto.  But strangely J. H. Casa Major had no connection whatsoever with the road that bears his name. Neither did he own a residence here nor was the road linked to any notable event in his life.

Till the beginning of the 20th century, the road flanked the southern fringes of the vast Pantheon Gardens. As individual plots were chiseled out of the Pantheon property, many new gardens and garden houses were created. Probably the only one which bordered Casa Major Road was the Holloways Garden. The garden might have occupied a portion of the space between the Casa Major Road and the Coovum and probably extended to the other side of the road as well. Important among the lanes that branch out from Casa Major Road are the Sulaiman Zackaria Avenue and Jaret's Lane. The Sulaiman Zackaria Avenue is probably of recent development as neither H. D. Love's Vestiges of Old Madras nor The Madras Tercentenary Commemorative Volume makes any mention of it. Jaret's Lane, it appears from an Imperial Gazetter of India 1909 map, abutted a Coovum-bank-property known as Jarret's Garden whose origins Love's book dates to the early 19th century. Thomas Jarret was a Company servant of the Bencoolen establishment who was transferred to Madras in 1806 and lived in the garden house here from 1806 to 1823.

The Madras School of Social Work lies close to Casa Major Road's junction with Spur Tank Road. The school was inaugurated in 1952 by Padma Shri Mary Clubwala Jadhav a doyen of the dwindling Parsi community of Madras. The fourth of its kind in India and the first in the south, the school offers diploma, graduate, post graduate and even doctoral courses in social work, human resources, psychology and counselling. The story goes that  before she started her school, Ms. Jadhav visited schools of social work in the USA toget a better idea of their functioning.

The Don Bosco Matriculation Higher Secondary School was founded in Casa Major Road on July 1, 1958 by Salesian Sisters with 140 students and 8 staff members and has since grown to include 2,775 students, 85 teaching staff and 40 non-teaching staff.The school affiliated to the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) is one of the premier institutions of Madras city.

The Pantheon

On August 21, 1778, the Pantheon was acquired by one Hall Plummer (not the Hall of Hall's Road), a civil servant and contractor who assigned it to a committee of 24 gentlemen in 1793 to manage the property.   Starting from the early years of the nineteenth century, the committee starting selling bits and pieces to individuals buyers. The lion's share was acquired by the Armenian merchant E. S. Moorat who was the heir to the Moorat Gardens at Nungambakkam on the other side of the Coovum. Moorat sold the land to the Government in March 1830 for Rs. 28,000. After putting the building to various uses including a "Collector's Cutcherry", in 1854, the authorities finally handed over the building to Edward Balfour for use as a museum. Over the years, huge plots of land from the  the Pantheon property were sold off to individual buyers who built garden houses upon them. Two prominent garden houses that once formed a part of the Pantheon property were - Holloway's Gardens and Haliburton's Gardens.

John Haliburton was a civil servant who entered the Company's service in 1736 at the age of nineteen. He served as Resident in Madapollam and lead the negotaitions with Mahe de la Borurdannois during the Anglo-French Wars. John was killed in 1748 by a mutinous sepoy and buried in a cemetry in Sonaga Street. Cuddalore. His grandson, David Haliburton after whom the Haliburton Gardens are named, joined the Company service as a Writer in 1770 and later, as Persian Translator and member of the Committee of Assigned Revenue.

Haliburton Gardens probably occupied the portion of Pantheon where the Women and Childern's Hospital is now located. Love in his Vestiges  says that a Madras map of 1822 also included in Haliburton a large area located further eastward between Pantheon Road and Marshall's Road (occupied presently by Hotel Ashoka).

Holloway's Garden is probably named after Justice William Holloway, who had an exceptional career starting as a civil servant and culminating as a judge of the Madras High Court in 1863. Holloway served with distinction as a judge of the Madras High Court from 1863 to 1877 retiring in the latter year. Among the highlights of his judicial service are his celebrated battles with J. B. Norton, the father of esteemed Madras barrister Eardley Norton, over the merits of the British legal system over that of the traditional Indian system.   Holloway spoke in favour of the existing judicial system arguing that “... a rule of English Law is not a rule for us unless it is a correct rule, and it is quite possible that a rule excellent there, may be wholly inapplicable here.” Once when asked for his three nominations for the judgeship of the Sadr court, Holloway wrote down the name of T. Muthuswamy Iyer upon a sheet of paper thrice thereby implying that Muthuswami's was the only suitable name he could think of. It is not known if Holloway ever resided in Holloway's Gardens but one obituary notes that Holloway died at his residence "Egmore" at Westgate-on-Sea thereby implying that he cherished loving memories  of where he once resided.

It was in Holloway's Garden that the first radio service in the city was inaugurated on July 31,1924 by C. V. Krishnaswami Chetty, President of the Madras Presidency Radio Club. The site is now the playground of the Don Bosco Matriculation Higher Secondary School. When the club closed down in December 1927, the transmitter was acquired by the Madras Corporation which started a regular service on April 1, 1930 from the Ripon Building premises which functioned till  1938, when radio service in India was nationalized and the All India Radio was born. The Madras station of the All India Radio functioned a few streets away at Marshalls Road from 1938 to 1954 before moving to Marina Beach.

The Madras branch of the National Indian Association, an organization of European and Indian ladies, was based in Holloway's Garden.  The National Indian Association was founded in Bristol in September 1870 by British educationist and social reformer Mary Carpenter (1807-1877) in order to educate Indian women and improve their condition. Its Madras branch was founded almost soon afterwards. The association campaigned vigorously to improve female literacy and was the driving force behind the P. T. school which was initially founded to educate young Hindu widows.

Also in Holloway's Garden was the home of Sir A. P. Patro. Anneppu Parasuramdas Patro was born in Berhampur (now Brahmapur) in the northernmost Ganjam district of the Madras Presidency (now part of Odisha) in 1875 or 1876. He came to Madras to study and eventually settled here. Graduating from the Madras Christian College and later studying law, Patro became a pleader and then politician, first of the Indian National Congress and then Justice Party. Patro was in fact one of the founding-members of the South Indian Liberal Federation (as the Justice Party was officially known). Elected to the Madras Legislative Council in the 1920 election (the first under the new Montagu-Chelmsford reforms), Patro served as Minister for Education from 1921 to 1926 in the government of the Raja of Panagal. Some of the important events of his tenure include the founding of Andhra University by the Andhra University Act of 1925 and the inauguration of Loyola College the same year. Patro later spearheaded the Oriya Movement demanding a separate Orissa province for Oriya speakers. When Patro's efforts bore fruit in 1935, he resigned his membership of the Madras Legislative Council and returned to Ganjam. Patro was elected member of the Orissa Legislative Assembly  and served as Speaker for a short duration till his death in 1946.

Next to Patro's residence are situated the  headquarters of the Tamil Nadu Handloom Weavers' Cooperative Society (Co-Optex) with their attractive showroom and a little museum. Founded in 1935 as the Madras Handloom Weavers' Cooperative Society, its formation was a milestone in the history of the cooperative movement in Madras.

Holloway's Garden abutts the Coovum River which is crossed over by the College Bridge or the Anderson Bridge which was first constructed in 1829 and must have been subsequently rebuilt.

Ideas for a museum had been floated since 1828 when the Madras Literary Society started a campaign to start a museum of economic geology. The campaign intensified in the 1840s and a plan was made to start district museums all over the Presidency with a central museum in Madras city. But finding a suitable location locatin proved a major hurdle. The case for the Madras University and Amir Mahal, a property of the Nawab of the Carnatic were considered and rejected. The Museum was eventually opened on April 29, 1851 at the College of Fort St George which now houses the DPI campus. Edward Balfour was the first Superintendent. However, the museum suffewred from space constraints right from the very beginning and applied to the government for more spacious premises. The application was accepted and the Pantheon Buildings were handed over to the museum. The museum started functioning from its new premises in 1854.

In the very same year i.e. 1854, a zoological gardens was also started in the museum premises. Balfour exhibited a caged tiger and cheetah which were the main attractions for a long time. By the first half of 1856, the zoo had over 360 animals drawing in visitors in large numbers. Notifications were also issued asking for donations of animals from the public. An albino elephant exhibited in December 1858 was one of its chief curiosities. While Balfour incurred heavy expenditure in acquiring animals, it was a trifle compared with what the London museum was spending. Moreover, the success of the whole affair and the huge profits it made compensated for it. Balfour would later boast that the Madras Museum attracted more visitors than the British museum and yet their annual expenditure was only 1,000 pounds While the British Museum spent 85,000 pounds every year.  However, the museum premises were found to be unhealthy and mortality was very high. In 1863, the Madras municipality took over the administration of the zoo and moved it to People's Park.

The Connemara Library was inaugurated in Pantheon on December 5, 1896. The Victoria Technical Institute building which later became the National Art Gallery and the Museum Theatre were also inaugurated in the museum premises the very same year.A library block and a lecture hall were constructed between 1873 and 1875 and inaugurated in 1876. The library block later served as the Centenary Exhibition Hall during the museum centenary celebrations in 1951.

The Silver Jubilee statue of George V by Rao Bahadur M. S. Nagappa at the War memorial that dates from 1935 and the coronation statue of Edward VII sculpted by the British sculptor George Wade in 1901 that stood outspide the Omandurar Government Estate have both been moved to the museum campus and constitute major attractions in the campus.

Having previously been  a garden house and then put to use as a mulberry plantation and zoo, the museum campus has acres of greenery still left. Much of it consists of exotic plant and animal species especially introduced during the  time of Surgeon General George Bidie, the Superintendent from 1872 to 1885,  who also grew a number of medicinal plants in the campus. The baobab tree in the Museum campus is among the oldest trees in the city and records confirm that it was already there in 1851, full-grown when the museum was being constructed.

Next to the Museum are the premises of the Women and Children's Hospital which was founded as the Lying-In Hospital in May 1844 and functioned from a building adjoining the Egmore station. It moved to its present site in 1882.

The Women's India Association (WIA) was founded in Pantheon Gardens on May 8, 1917 by Margaret Cousins and Annie Besant presumably at what must have been the home of Mrs. Cousins. Pantheon Gardens was the headquarters of the association till it moved to a new building on Greenways Road in the mid-sixties. Under Muthulakshmi Reddy, the association would make rapid strides. The most splendid of the association's achievements was the founding of the Adyar Cancer Institute (1954).  The details of WIA's associations with Pantheon Road have blurred from memory - no one including the staff at WIA are aware of its exact location.

Situated almost exactly opposite to the Museum is Fountain Plaza, the city's first modern shopping mall (though the Spencer's name is older, in its newer avatar as shopping  mall, it is a good two decades younger than Fountain Plaza) constructed in the 1970s.  Today, Fountain Plaza remains where it is though  outmoded and edged out of the competition by bigger and more trendier shopping malls that have soince cropped all over the city.

The roads and lanes that branch out from Pantheon Road are  Whannels Road, Harris Road, Kenneth Lane, Middleton Street, Srirangam Colony, Montieth Road and the Commander-in-Chief Road.

Outside the DHL Service Centre on Pantheon Road as an anachronistic piece of jumble stands a memorial to a man whom a brief but passionate eulogy credits with the founding of Srirangam colony which, now in 2016, is a small community of about a dozen houses that could be entered through a gate next to the shop. The bust belongs to V. S. Ranganatham Pillai, the "strothriemdar" (which is but a kind of zamindar) of Uthukadu and the son of V. Subramaniam Pillai, a former Diwan of Cochin. As Ranganatham Pillai had passed away in January 1938, the colony must be older than that date.

Middleton Street, to the north-east of Srirangam Colony, is probably named after Thomas Middleton, the first Anglican Bishop of Calcutta who inaugurated St. George's Cathedral in 1816.

A few blocks away on this lesser-known side of the Pantheon is Hotel Ashoka which stands upon the spacious gardens that once belonged to the zamindar of the Munagala estate. This estate has an interesting history. It was politically a part of the Madras Presidency but was situated completely within the Nizam's Dominions and surrounded on all sides by it. When the Nizam of Hyderabad entered into a subsidiary alliance with the East India Company in the 18th century, he ceded the revenue rights of 23 villages in his territory to the British. But when the British requested him to hand over the interlying Paritala pargana he flatly refused as the pargana was rich in diamonds. The Company appointed a zamindar to administer these lands and collect revenues thereby creating what was later known as the Munagala estate.  When Telengana was formed in 2014, it was initially proposed to retain Munagala as an enclave of Andhra Pradesh within Telangana. But following strong protests from its population who cited disadvantages of such an arrangement, Munagala was included in the new state and made a part of Nalgonda district.

At the Pudupet end of Pantheon Road is situated De Monte House - an 18th century garden house that belonged to the business magnate John De Monte of De Monte Colony fame.  Here  the Presidency High School was inaugurated on April 13, 1841.While the institution was elevated to a college in 1852, the high school continued to function here till it was closed in 1884. The house later became a part of the Presidency Magistrate Court complex (now the Metropolitan Magistrate Court)

A short distance from the court complex, on the Komaleeswaranpet side,  stands The Sacred Heart Church constructed, according to its official history, on the 15th of June 1848. The sacred relics of The Five Wounds of Jesus Christ were brought from Italy by Fr. Mangiarotti in 1932 and have been preserved within the precincts of the church since. Special prayers every Friday for these sacred relics were started in 1935 and since then conducted regularly. The Sacred Heart Church has been designated a holy shrine of the Madras-Mylapore archdiocese  by Dr. A. M. Chinnappa on September 8, 2005. The church and its surroundings formed a part of the native village of Komaleeswaranpet. On the opposite side, in the gap between Pantheon Road and Kenneth Lane, stands St John the Baptist Church, constructed eight years earlier. According to a Tamil inscription found within the walls of the church, the shrine was built by one Arulappa (1804-1858) of Tranquebar in 1848.

The earliest references to this place are found in a December 1793 grant of Pantheon Gardens which refer to the property as McKaye's Gardens.  Even before McKaye gardens, the neighbourhoods of Pudupet and Komaleeswaranpet wedged between the Commander-in-Chief Road, Pantheon Road and the Coovum River were prosperous villages of weavers and the Komaleeswaran Temple here is believed to predate Fort St George.

 Close to where Commander-in-chief Road branches off was Canberra House which belonged to T. Rangachari. Rangachari had represented the Government of India at the Commonwealth Conference held in Australia's new capital Canberra.   Probably impressed with the beauty and elegance of the new Australian capital, he came back and renamed one of his residences Canberra House. The house passed after a lengthy litigation to Rangachari's grandson the Tamil film actor K. Balaji.

Another famous personality who lived on Pantheon Road was the educationist Miss Dorothy de la Hey who founded Queen Mary's College (QMC) in 1914. Miss de la Hey who lived in Pantheon Road in the 1940s was a sister of Clement de la Hey, the notorious principal of the Newington College of the Court of Wards who was killed in 1919 by alleged paramours of his  wife.This shocking murder resulted in the notorious de la Hey scandal of 1919. Dorothy, a spinster, however, lived a life free from scandal and crime. She remained in Madras city till independence or even beyond.

Commander-in-chief Road (Ethiraj Salai)

 The Commander-in-Chief Road gets its name from the fact that the Commander-in-Chief of the Madras Army used to reside in a garden house here (which later became the "Victoria Hotel") during the late 1700s.

There is a complete paucity of records referring to  Commander-in-Chief Road till 1798 when a map marks out the house that was the 0residence of the Commander-in-Chief. By 1822, the house had passed in ownership to Mr. L. De Fries. In a map of 1837, the house is captioned as 'Mr. Angelo or Co.-in-chief'.

The first major landmark once comes upon in this road when entering from the Pantheon Road side is the Egmore Post Office which was constructed in 1912 as a military hospital. The building now functions as a postal audit office for the entire state of Tamil Nadu. Next to the post office are the buildings of the telecom department. Both these buildings are probably built over one of Hamilton Hall's garden houses.

On the opposite side to the post office runs Chesney Lane where the Freemason's Hall is situated. The Freemasons Hall is the home of the District Grand Lodge of Madras which originally functioned from a building in Mount Road. But as the Moutn Road prroperty wasn't spacious enough it was sold off for Rs. 1,35,000 and the Freemasonic Lodge began searching for an alternate home. In April 1917, the property at Chesney Lane was purchased for Rs. 35,750. But as the Freemasonic Lodge required time to construct a new building, it functioned tempoirarily from a nearby mansion called Chesney Hall (which probably gives its name to the road itself). Now, this Chesney Hall was none other than the Branch Elphinstone Hotel mentioned in 19th century guidebooks. The foundation stone for the new building was laid by the Governor of Madras, Lord Willingdon on February 26, 1923 and the building was inaugurated by his successor, Lord Goschen at a grand function on February 27, 1925.  Some notable officeholders of Masonic Lodge presented to the Governor at the ceremony were: Sir Arthur Knapp, member of the Governor's Council; Diwan Bahadur V. Thirumalai Pillai, President of the Corporation and J. W. Madeley, another President of the Corporation. The district grandmaster was A. Y. G. Campbell, a member of the Governor's Council.

"Lakshmi Villa" belonging to Sir Perungavur Rajagopalachari, the first Speaker of the Madras legislature is situated at Victoria Crescent , a small lane adjoining Commander-in-chief Road.  This lane is probably named so because it leads to the Victoria Hotel on the Coovum which was once the residence of the Commander-in-chief. The name Victoria Crescent has since been changed to Dr. V. Cherian Crescent and the Commander-in-chief road itself to Ethiraj Salai as part of the birth centenary celebrations of barrister V. L. Ethiraj whose benefaction - the Ethiraj College for Women is located on this road. Into modern times, Victoria Crescent continues to thrive a posh residential area.

Other prominent residences in Victoria Crescent are those of P. V. Rajamannar and V. L. Ethiraj. Rajamannar lived at No 9 or 16 Victoria Crescent. Another notable individual who resided in Victoria Crescent was the mathematician E. W. Middlemast who taught at the Presidency College and was one of those who championed the cause of Srinivasa Ramanujan.

The Ethiraj College of Women is probably the most well-known landmark on Commander-in-Chief Road. Constructed in 1948 by a generous bequest of Rs. 10 lakhs from the barrister V. L. Ethiraj who apart from serving as Crown Prosecutor earned praise and glory for his  successful defense of M. K. Thyagaraja Bhagavathar and N. S. Krishnan in the Lakshmikanthan Murder Case and for securing their release which was by now seeming improbable, the college is a manifestation of his commitment to women's empowerment. An auditorium (one of the best) was constructed in the 1950s and a PG block was built between 1968 and 1978

The Presidency Club was founded in June 1929 by M. A. Candeth and M. Rathnaswamy who called for "really clubbable people" to join a centre of social life free from prejudice and immune against fads". Originally founded in a building in Spur Tank Road, the club moved to Commander-in-chief Road only in 1937 when it acquired the property which was then known as Fairlawns from P. Subbarayan, the zamindar of Kumaramangalam and Premier of Madras from 1926 to 1930. In 1967, a portion of the property was sold off to MICO.

The Commander-in-Chief Road runs upto the Coovum and cross the river by the Commander-in-chief's bridge which was constructed in 1825 replacing a causeway.

Montieth Road

Montieth Road is named after William Montieth of the Madras Engineers who constructed a garden house here in 1820. But the throughfare has been in existence since 1800 and clearly predates William Montieth. Today, the Montieth Road extends from Pantheon Road to Marshall's Road and includes a mall apart from a couple of star hotels.

However, in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, this area was famed for its garden houses and atleast two of them besides  Montieth House stood between  Montieth road and Commander-in-Chief Road road. These were College Bridge House and Ottershaw. (Later historians like Love and Srinivasachari are probably wrong in this respect. The actual 1733 map wrongly captioned Wheeler's map locates Ottershaw further east where Rajah Muthiah Hall and Rani Seethai Hall stand now. This would position the garden house right on the banks of the Coovum which seems quite logical for the Coovum floodplain comprised one of the most sought-after piece of real estate back then.) Both College Bridge House and Ottershaw were owned by Basil Cochrane, the excavator  of Cochrane Canal who sold them to General Hamilton Hall of Halls Road fame. These houses were separated by a small lane where Montieth  constructed his house at a later year. This house could be seen in  a map of 1837 where it is marked "Col. Montieth".

The existence of all three blocks of College Bridge House have been noted since 1798. The house was acquired by Basil Cochrane in 1816 and sold to Hamilton Hall in 1822. Ottershaw is considerably older than College Bridge House and is shown in a map of 1733 as belonging to one "Mr. Torriano". The residence was eventually purchased by Basil Cochrane and sold to Hamilton Hall. In 1822, the property was owned by Mrs. Gen. Hall.

Alsa Mall built in the year 1988 is one of the oldest malls in the city its presence indicative of the newly dawning age of liberalization.

Montieth Road is today  completely filled with malls, star hotels and restaurants - modern high rises of little architectural value that it now seems very difficult to believe that there was any habitation in this busy commercial  area prior to the 1950s.  The only exception is the headquarters of the Tamil Nadu branch of the Indian Red Cross Society - the Red Cross Buildings which are first mentioned in an Indian nurses' journal from 1936.  The Namberumal Chetty Day Hospital within the Red Cross Society campus constructed in 1998  was named in honour of building contractor T. Namberumal Chetty and endowed with a generous donation from the Rajamannar Trust founded by Chetty's son T. Rajamannar.

Marshall's Road (Rukmini Lakshmipathi Salai)

Marshall's Road is one of the longest roads in Egmore and extends from Harris Road to Commander-in-Chief's Road. It is named after General Josiah Marshall who entered the Madras Army in 1790 and became a Major-General in 1837. He owned a garden house on this road known as "East Nook". 

By far, the most interesting building in Marshall's Road is Justice House which was the headquarters of the South Indian Liberal Federation (popularly known as the Justice Party). Also on this road was the press where the party's organ Justice was printed.

 An interesting garden  house on Marshall's Road  was "Little Nook" (What was its relation to the  other Nook, I'm not sure) from where the Madras station of the All India Radio functioned from 1938 to 1954   before moving to its present location on the Marine beach. The building is no longer in existence but old-timers recall that Little Nook was one of the most elegant vintage houses in the Madras of yore.

St. Anthony's Church on Marshall's Road is the headquarters of the Catholic parish of Pudupet which was created in 1873 though a church had been existing at this site since 1846. The foundation stone for the present church was laid on January 5, 1921 by Reverend Peter Pisani, the Vatican's delegate for the East Indies in the presence of Reverend John Aelen, the archbishop of Madras.  The church was completed and consecrated on September 14, 1927 in honour of St Anthony of Padua. The simple, beautiful church employs typical Gothic architecture with pointed spires.

The Government Ophthalmic Hospital in Marshall's Road is 127 years old and founded by one Dr. E.F. Drake Brockman who moved here in 1888 from what is now Kannappar Thidal when there wasn't enough space for the sole doctor the eye surgeon R. Richardson and his patients. The hospital was significantly expanded in the forthcoming years and a school of ophthamology - ‘The Elliott School of Ophthalmology’ was opened on February 17, 1920. Shawfield Gardens across the college were acquired in 1960 and a nurses' quarters and a school of optometry were built here. The last major expansion was in 1969 when a Outpatients Block and an Administration Block building was built in the Shawfield Gardens complex.

Also on Marshall's Road is  Rajarathinam Police Stadium which was inaugurated by the Governor of Madras in December 1956. But the grounds the stadium enclosed had been a venue for major athletic events even before the stadium was constructed. It is mentioned as Pudupet Maidan and the earliest references date back to the start of the 20th century. As early as 1919, the Police Department which owned the grounds proposed to build a pavilion. But these plans had to wait till independence to come to fructition. The stadium was completely rebuilt and modernized in 2013.

The Rajarathinam Police Stadium is named after V. R. Rajarathinam, IPS, who suceeded A. V. Patro in 1948 as independent India's second Commissioner of Police for Madras city and the third Indian to hold the post. Born in 1902, Rajarathinam graduated in arts before entering the Madras Police Service in 1926. As a police officer, his record was exemplary. He was a recipient of the Coronation Medal (1937), Indian Independence medal (1947) and the Indian Police Medal. From 1948 to 1950, he served as Commissioner of Police for Madras city.  He later rose to become Inspector General for Madras State serving from 1954 to 1957. He even served as a member of the Madras Public Service Commission.

Also on Marshall's Road is the head office of A. V. Thomas & Co., the tea giant.  Founded by Alfred Vedam Thomas Nadar from southern Tamil Nadu who created history in 1925 by buying a tea plantation in the Western Ghats and running it - one of the first native Indians to penetrate what was an exclusive white preserve, the group has since diversified into leather products, logistics and consumer goods. The company was registered in Madras city in 1941 and a head office opened in Marshall's Road.

Far from the Government Ophthalmic Hospital and shortly after its junction with Montieth Road is situated the Lady Willingdon Ladies' Recreation Club and close to it, the study centre of Annamalai University. The Annamalai University founded at Chidambaram in 1929 by the S. Rm. M. family is the first private university in the Madras Presidency. It started offering distance education courses from 1979. A short distance away are the Raja Muthiah Hall and Rani Meyyammai Hall used for public functions.

The Lady Willingdon Ladies' Recreation Club, Annamalai University's study centre and the Raja Muthiah and Rani Meyyammai halls were all portions of a single property that was originally bought for the Lady Willingdon Ladies' Recreation Club in 1920 with the help of a Rs. two lakh donation from S. Rm. M. Annamalai Chettiar. The club, originally started as the Ladies' Recreation Club in 1911, was the first ladies' club in India and the Marshalls' Road property its first permanent home.

On the opposite side abutting the Coovum River bank lies the Corporation's expansive park named after Sundara Rao Naidu. T. Sundara Rao Naidu (1891-1949), belonging to a rich Telugu landlord family,  was a lawyer and Justice Party politician who served mayor of  Madras city from 1946 to 1947, the last under British administraton. After serving as a member of the Madras Legislative Council, SundaraRao Naidu served a stint as Secretary to the Premier of Madras before accepting an appointment as mayor of the city's corporation.

  Harris' Road (Adhithanar Salai)

Harris Road, recently rechristened Adhithanar Salai, runs from Hotel Ashoka and is one of the most important roads in Egmore. It is named after Lord Harris, the controversial Governor of Madras who during a term that lasted from 1856 to 1859, created the state's police force as it exists today. The road cannot be more aptly named for it is in Harris Road that the government-allotted residential quarters' for state police officers are situated. Moreover along Harris Road stand the headquarters of the state's mounted police. Harris' short term also witnessed many other firsts - the first railway journey in South India between Madras (Royapuram) and Arcot on June 1, 1856 and the inauguration of the University of Madras, the first government-run university in the Madras Presidency, in 1857. But Harris Road itself did not originate in the 19th century; the road could be identified in maps from the late 18th century onward, almost a hundred years before Harris under the name "Pagoda Street". Harris Road and Lang's Garden Road form the two main arterial roads of Pudupet and it was on one of the lanes between Harris' Road and Lang's Garden Road that Pachaiyappa Mudaliar, the famous dubash of the 18th century lived.  

Upon entering Harris' Road from Lang's Garden Road, the first interesting thing that catches one's eye is the plaque with a large medallion dedicated to Dr. W.S. Samy Naick (1760-1839), a neighbour and contemporary of the ubiqituous dubash Pachaiyappa Mudaliar.  Dr, Woodayagiri Singadivakkam Samy Naick was a legendary phyisican and vaccinator who retired as Chief Medical Practitioner ion the Department of Vaccination in 1829. By the time of his death in 1839 or 1841, he had amassed enough enough fortune to acquire the village of Uthukadu in Chingleput District as shrothriem land. The plaque, set up by High Court lawyer, W. S. Krishnaswami Nayudu, a descendant of Samy Naick and unveiled by Governor of Kerala (later to be President of India) V.V. Giri, in a function presided over by G. Kuchelar, the mayor of Madras in the presence of K. S. Sampathu, the Councillor for the ward which Pudupet came under on the 9th of April 1963 is situated within Samy Naick Park built on land donated by Samy Naick's family to the corporation for providing fresh water to the city's residents. Today's Samy Naick is remembered in a lane that juts off from Harris' Road and crosses the Coovum by the Harris Bridge. The lane runs the whole length of Chintadripet before ending in a junction with Arunachalam Street.

Krishnaswami Nayudu's grandfather W. S. Venkatramanjulu Naidu, himself, was a prominent personality in 19th century Madras who served as a councillor of the Madras Corporation and participated in some early Indian National Congress sessions.

The Samy Naick Park and the commemorative plaque stand upon what was once Swamy Naick's home in 25, Pagoda Street. Next door (No. 26, Pagoda Street) lived the legendary Pachaiyappa Mudaliar (1754-1794) who was once the richest Indian in Madras and held more power and influence that Mohammed Ali Khan Wallajah, the Nawab of the Carnatic. Hailing from humble origins in Tanjore district, Mudaliar left a bequest of Rs. 12 lakhs to the cause of native education upon his death in 1794. The money, however, remained un-utilized until the formation of Pachaiyappa Charities and the Pachaiyappa's High School in 1842, nearly 50 years after his death. Down the  road lived K. Srinivasa Pillai (1804-1859), one of the first trustees of the Pachaiyappa Charities who also wrote the only reliable biography of Pachaiyappa Mudaliar.

Here facing the Coovum once stood Wood's Gardens - property of the Nawab of Carnatic where the Military Female Orphans' Asylum was founded in around 1787 by Lady Archibald Campbell, the wife of the Governor of Madras and a German missionary Gericke before moving in 1838 to Conway's Gardens on Poonamallee Highb Road. A Srinivasa Pillai Vernacular Female School named after the famous biographer of Pachaiyappa Mudaliar was started in October 1866 and functioned as a part of Pachaiyappa Charities.

A short distance away is the 300-year Komaleeswaran Temple which was, according to legend, frequented by Pachaiyappa Mudaliar. This is probably the pagoda  from which Pagoda Street gets its name. It also gives its name to the surrounding neighbourhood of Komaleeswaranpet.   Situated opposite to the temple are headquarters of Tamil Nadu's mounted police.

A short distance from the temple is the Gothic archway that leads to a little-known market named after Lord Connemara.  The Connemara Market probably never took off for even in 1934 it was in steady decline.

The Andhra Sahitya Parishad was established at 39, Harris' Road in 1911 by Jayanthi Ramaiah Panthulu with the patronage of the Maharaja of Pithapuram. The Parishad functioned from Harris' Road for a decade before shifting its base to Pithapuram in 1921.

Harris' Road along with the parallel-running Lang's Garden Road form the main thoroughfares of the lower-middle class area known as Pudupet that extended beyond the borders of Egmore and the Coovum as the slum of Chintadripet. This area is notorious as a flea market for stolen goods. Here, you can get cheap vehicle parts as well as re-engineered cars and motor bikes. The narrow, squalid lanes are a byword for crime and this area is extremely prone to caste as well as communal riots. Here, in tune with Egmore's reputation for social reform, the Arundhathiyar Mahajana Sabha was founded by L. C. Guruswami in 1920 as the voice of petty Dalit pedlars against the powerful caste Hindu merchants and shopkeepers. (The location was probably Guruswami's own house at 1/15 Velayutha Chari Street. Guruswami was a member of the Madras Legislative Council and proprietor of Cotappah & Sons.)  The Komaleeswaranpet Progressive Union founded by Rajah Sir S. Ramamswami Mudaliar was another prominent organization. But in Pudupet, which boasted many big mosques and Muslim magnates, communal rivalry was far more stronger than caste prejudices.   The most serious riot took place in 1931 when a Vinayaka procession during Vinayaka Chathurthi was stoned by a group of Muslims.

But in other times, the situation has always been one of uneasy calm if not complete peace and Hindus and Muslims occasionally visit each other's places of worships and prominent Muslims served in the trusts of Hindu temples.

At the end of Harris' Road where it meets Pantheon Road, majestically and most conspicuously stands the most beautiful and well-kept building in the whole stretch.  The name plate reads"Stone House" and it belongs to a Madhusudan Rao. According to journalist Sudha Umashanker, this Madhusudan Rao is a descendant of former mayor of Madras, T. Sundara Rao Naidu, and Stone House is their family home. The house probably dating to the early 1900s is perhaps one of the finest examples of residential architecture in the city; its Moorish arches would indeed transport one to the fairytale world of Al-Andalus.

T. Sundara Rao Naidu's father, Diwan Bahadur T. Varadarajulu Nayudu (1863-1930) was a district and sessions judge who served as corporator, Vice-President and later, Secretary of the Madras Social Service League as well as All-India Social Service League. He was one of the founders of the Justice Party and wrote one of the earliest histories of the Justice movement, The Justice Movement  in 1917. His contribution along with that of L. C. Guruswami towards upliftment of the condition of Adi-Dravidas in Pudupet remains phenomenal.

Many small lanes branch out from Harris' Road, nearly all named after people who resided here or somewhere nearby.  None of them might be known outside Pudupet and even in Pudupet, their memories stand blurred. In most cases, we can only make guesses. Was Thiruvengada Naicken Street probably named after the pial school master who taught W. S. Krishnaswami Nayudu while a child. And who are Driver Street and Transport Lane named for! A big question mark remains. But we know for sure that Syf-ul-Mulk Street, a small lane that protrudes from Riverside Road gets its name from   Syf-ul-Mulk or Saif-ul-Mulk Sahib, the Nawab Muhammad Anwar Khan Bahadur (1750-1804) who was the fourth son of Mohammed Ali Khan Wallajah. The Nawab was one of the principal claimants to the throne when Wallajah's older son and successor Umdat-ul-Umara died in 1801 after a reign of eight years. The British, however, distrusted him and gave the throne instead to Umdat-ul-Umara's nephew  Azim ud-Doula  who was then a  prisoner of the British receiving in return the control of the state  by the Carnatic Treaty of 1801 which effectively reduced the position of Nawab to a mere ceremonial. Syf-ul-Mulk was pacified with a pension and settled in Pudupet with his family.   But evidence suggests that Syf-ul-Mulk was not fully reconciled to his present condition. He wrote pitiful letters of supplication to Edward Clive the then Governor of Madras entreating him to increase his monthly allowance from 1,200 pagodas to 2,000 pagodas. In a moving note, Syf-ul-Mulk reminds the Governor how his father, the late Robert Clive always addressed the young prince as "my son" and appeals to the Governor to favourably consider the pleas of his "brother". It is not know if Syf-ul-Mulk's pleas were successful but his family continued to prefer living in Pudupet.  The Indian Biographical Dictionary (1915) lists a great-grandson of Syf-ul-Mulk, Khan Sahib Muhammad Munir, a civil servant as living at 'Nawab House, Pudupet'.

Greams Road - The southern frontiers

Greams Road is the only major road in Egmore's trans-Coovum tract. It forms a triangle with the southward-running Moore's Road, with Anderson's Road forming the other side.

According to the India Office List and Burma Office List for the year 1881, one R. R. Gream served as Assistant Surgeon in the Madras service from 1830 to 1836. But Greams Road is not named after a Gream but a Graeme - Henry Sullivan Graeme who acted as Governor of Madras in 1827. Graeme owned a garden house upon this road - the Mansion House which probably existed at the spot where the Commercial Tax buildings stand now.

A short distance away is the Lalit Kala Akademi. The Lalit Kala Akademi was founded in Delhi in August 1954 as India's National Academy of Art. Its Chennai centre opened in 1978 and serves as the academy's regional headquarters for the states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Goa and Maharashtra and the Union territories of Pondicherry and Lakshadweep. The academy hosts exhibitions of art and photographs and occasionally conducts courses and workshops.

At the intersection with Anderson's Road is Cochin House, the Madras residence of the Maharajahs of Cochin. The property now houses the Asan Memorial Higher Secondary School though the original building is no longer in existence. Cochin  House dates to the early 1800s and was home of Colonel Alexander Tulloch in 1837 and named after him as Tulloch's Gardens.

The vast expansive campus of the Asan Memorial Higher Secondary School covers much of Gream's Road and Anderson's Road covering probably the whole of what must've once been the Maharajah of Cochin's property.

Moore's Road gets its name from the neighbouring Moore's Gardens which was originally named after the Armenian  notable E. S Moorat as Moorat's Gardens and constituted a part of his vast property. When the name Moorat got corrupted to Moore is not known but the road definitely does not commemorate the Moors or Muslims though there are considerable numbers of Muslims in the area who do have a mosque of their own curiously named Mana Muna Mosque where sermons are given both in Tamil and Urdu.

One of the leading later occupants of Moore's Road was the Justice Party big-wig Sir Kurma Venkata Reddy Naidu who served in the Madras cabinet and a short term as Premier in 1936-37.

But the most conspicuous name plate in Moore's Road is that of the legendary policeman and former Inspector-General of Madras State, V. R. Rajarathinam who lived in  a house next to Mana Muna Mosque.  But though there are still guards set at his house the original residence itself appears to have been done away with.

South and south-east of Anderson's Road lies the historic village of Pudupak first attested in the records of the Vijayanagar Empire. Acquired by the British in 1742 as inam land along with Vepery and Perambur, the name Pudupak is no longer in use and the area is now more popularly known as Thousand Lights' after its famous mosque.Here is the famous Ritchie Street and Apollo Hospitals. A short distance north, the Binny Road spans the Coovum by the bridge and joins Mount Road at the intersection where General Neill's statue once stood. In this short stretch that in Binny's Road are the Indo-Saracenic buildings of the Quaid-e-Milleth college which for almost twenty years hosted the annual Madras Book Fair. Opposite in the oldest surviving star hotel in the city. Though the hotel itself is more than a hundred years old, the present art-deco building dates from 1935. Still north is Blackers' Street with the famous Casino theatre.

Westwards from the Commercial Tax Office buildings on Gream's Road runs College Road with the DPI buildings that  was once the College of Fort St George and its Indo-Saracenic Madras Literary Society, the Meteorological Obervatory that dates from the 1700s and where legends like Chinthamani Ragoonathachary honed their skills not to mention the famous Ramanan of our times and the Women's Christian College. College Road runs for more than a mile and as we reach its other end, we might notice that the address has changed from 'Egmore' to 'Nungambakkam'.

The Hindu temples of Egmore

Apart from the roadside Vinayaka shrines of Pudupet, Egmore has very few temples that are in active use. Unlike those of Mylapore or Triplicane that are sung about in devotional hymns, none of these shrines are of any ecclesiastical importance and in the absence of inscriptions, occupy only secondary position as monuments of historical interest. The only temples in Egmore that have any history or legend about them are the Srinivasa Perumal Temple or Lakshmi Narasimha Perumal Temple situated in a small lane adjoining Egmore High Road, the Komaleeswaran Temple in Pudupet and the Ardhanareeswarar Temple in Aravamudhan Garden near Poonamallee High Road.

The Srinivasa Perumal Temple situated in a small lane (the LNP Street or Lakshmi Narasimha Perumal Street named after the presiding deity of the temple) adjoining the Egmore High Road is perhaps the oldest temple in Egmore. While the temple is believed to be the same as  the Tellyasinga Nayanar or Thulasinga Nayanar  mentioned in the 13th century AD Pandya epigraph of Maravarman Kulasekhara I from the Parthasarathi Temple, Triplicane, the official history of the temple itself claims that the shrine is not more than 600 years old. Perhaps, the actual Thulasinga Nayanar temple was located somewhere in Pudupet where a Thulasingam Avenue has survived to date.

From Tallboys Wheeler's map of 1733, we find that the Srinivasa Perumal temple is situated right at the heart of the native village of Elumur. The temple was brought under the control of the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments department of the Government of Tamil Nadu on August 1, 1963 and has since been administered by an Executive Officer.

According to the temple's hereditary priest Mr. Sudhakar, whose family have been  officiating at the shrine for the past ten generations, the temple was situated at the centre of a colony of cowherds which explains the goshala or cow shed associated with the shrine. The oldest part of the temple seems to have originally consisted of the shrine of Padmavathi Ammal and others seem to have been later additions. The main entrance (gopura) is about 30 feet high and typical of Nayak architecture. The present shrine of Srinivasa Perumal was constructed in 1952.

 Despite its hoary antiquity, the temple has not been sung about in the devotional hymns of the Vaishnavite saints or Alwars. The Brahmavotsavam and the Sri Padmavathi Thaayar Panchami Theertha Utsavam are conducted on the same day as the Venkateswara Temple in Tirupathi.

The Komaleeswaran Temple in Pudupet is the largest and most prominent Hindu temple in Egmore, so famous in fact, that this part of Pudupet is occasionally called Komaleeswaranpet. The temple is dedicated to Shiva who is worshipped in the form of a linga. The presiding deity is known as Komaleeswaran and his consort is the goddess Komalambigai. The sthala vruksha is vilva.

According to its official history, the Komaleeswaran Temple is around 400 years old and was originally built by the Rajas of Chandragiri.The legends associated with temple relate how a cow grazing on the banks of the holy Coovum river suddenly began lactating over an ant-hill. On investigating the phenomenon, a shivalinga  was reportedly found buried underneath the ant-hill and the Komaleeswaran Temple was subsequently constructed around the shivalinga..  But though the temple is believed to date almost exactly from the time of the East India Company's factory at Fort St. George, no contemporary historical references are available.  There is also no inscription within the walls that is more than a hundred years old.

The temple follows the practice of earlier Chola temples in having a main shrine dedicated to Komaleeswaran and comprising the garba-griha with small auxiliary shrines to Vishnu, Brahma and Durga carved into niches in the walls of the main shrine. There are separate sub-shrine dedicated to Nagas. Unlike the  cramped Srinivasa Perumal Temple, Komaleeswaran Temple is large and empty  and its spaciousness gives an illusion of grandiosity.   The temple is famed for its association with the legendary 18th century dubash Pachaiyappa Mudaliar who lived nearby and who used to visit the temple after a bath in the "holy" waters of the Coovum. In fact, Adithanar Salai was known as Pagoda Street before being renamed Harris' Road in memory of a former Governor of Madras.

The nearby Pachaiamman Temple has a shrine dedicated to Mannar Eswarar where Shiva is worshipped in human form and not as a linga. The Sadayathamman Temple on Egmore High Road is almost as old as the Komaleeswarar Temple. Another ancient shrine is the Thirisadai Amman Temple in Pudupet whose deity is believed to possess the power of curing blindness.


Newspaper/magazine articles

1)    Narayanan, Vivek.  (11 October 2016) “From paddy fields to colonial houses”. The Hindu
2)  Frederick, Prince. (3 April 2003) “Catholic in outlook”. The Hindu Metro Plus Chennai
3)  Sriram, V. (7 August 2012) "Hidden Histories: Ice, made in Madras". The Hindu.
4) Narayanan, Rohit (21 July 2012) Egmore or Less. Traipestry - A Woven tale of Family Travel available at https://traipestry.wordpress.com/2012/07/21/egmore-or-less/
5) Kale, Riddhi (29 June 2016) "This designer transformed a dilapidated 100-year-old bungalow in Chennai; see it to believe it". India Today  
6)   Muthiah, S. (18 July 2015) “Madras Miscellany: Two justices for justice”. The Hindu.
7)   “Munagala’s merger with Seemandhra opposed”. The Hindu. 18 November 2013. 
8)   Srinivasan, Prassana. (3 July 2002) “Commander-in-chief Road: Vestiges of the Raj”. The Hindu.
9)   Lakshmi, K. (6 August 2014). “When the days began and ended with radio shows”. The Hindu  
10)   Muthiah, S. (25 August 2008). “A memorial to the vaccinator”. The Hindu 
11)   Sriram, V. (17 April 2012). “Memorial to a vaccinator”. The Hindu.
12)   Sriram, V. (9 September 2016). “Hidden Histories: A fallen Governor’s forgotten market”. The Hindu.
13) Sankar, K. N. Murali (3 December 2011). “Rare manuscripts of Andhra Sahitya Parishad under threat”. The Hindu


1)  (Ed.) Srinivasachari, C. S. (1939) The Madras Tercentenary Commemoration Volume. The Madras Tercentenary Celebration Committee.
2)  Love, Henry Davidson (1913). Vestiges of Old Madras 1640-1800. John Murray
3) Muthiah,S. (2004) Madras Rediscovered. East-West Books
4)  Madras Government Museum Centenary Souvenir 1851-1951. Government Museum, Madras. 1951.
5) Muthiah,S. (2011) A Madras Miscellany: A Decade of People, Places & Potpourri. East-West Books
6) Raman, K. V. (1959) The Early history of the Madras Region. Amudha Nilayam
7) Census of the  town of Madras. Fort St George Gazette Press.  1873

8) Morris, John; Wincester, Simon. (2005) Stones of Empire: The Buildings of the Raj. Oxford University Press 
9)  The Mechanics' Magazine, Museum, Register, Journal, and Gazette. 29. 143. London. 1833
10) A Handbook for India; being an account of the Three Presidencies Part I - Madras. John Murray. 1859.
11) Felton, Monica (2003). A Child Widow's Story. Katha
12) Parthasarathy, Mrs. Y. G. (2004). Excellence Beyond the Classroom: A Memoir of YGP. Frank Bros. & Co.
13) Report on Public Instruction in the Madras Presidency for 1870-71. Government Press, Madras. 1871.
14) Journal of Education and School World. 39. W. Stewart and Co. 1907
15)  Venkataramaiah, K. M. (1996) A Handbook of Tamil Nadu. International School of Dravidian Linguistics.
16) Guy, Randor (2008). The Madras Seva Sadan Saga. The Madras Seva Sadan.
17) Mathew, K. M. (2015) The Eighth Ring: An Autobiography. Penguin UK. ISBN 9352140443, ISBN 9789352140442. 
18) Luthra, H. R.(1986). Indian Broadcasting.Publications Division,Government of India. 
 19)  "In memoriam: Charles Egbert Kennet". Mission Field: A Monthly Record of the Proceedings of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts 30. 49-52. G. Bell & Sons. 1885
20) "Rao Bahadur A. P. Patro".The Who's who in Madras: A Pictorial Who's who of Distinguished Personages, Princes, Zemindars and Noblemen in the Madras Presidency. 9. 163. Pearl Press. 1937.
21) The Madras Catholic Directory and General Annual Register for the Year of Our Lord 1870. Examiner Press. 1869.
22) The Catholic Directory of India. St. Paul Publications. 1972.
23) The India List Civil and Military. W. H. Allen & Co. 1881
24) Carpenter, Joseph Estlin (1879) The Life and Work of Mary Carpenter. Macmillan & Co.
25) Nursing Journal of India,Volumes 25&26. Trained Nurses' Association of India. 1934
26) Arnold, David (1986) Police power and colonial rule, Madras, 1859-1947. Oxford University Press 
27) Report on the administration of the police of the Madras Presidency 1919. Madras Presidency Police. 1919
28) Madras State Administration Report 1956-57 Part II. Government of Madras State. 1958. 
29) Basu, Raj Shekhar (2011). Nandanar's Children: The Paraiyan's Tryst with Destiny, Tamil Nadu 1850-1956. SAGE Publications
30) George, K. M. "The National Academies". The March of India. 9. Publications Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India. 1957
31) Papers Presented to the House of Commons Concerning the Late Nabob of the Carnatic.  East India Company. 1802.
32) Arulmigu Srinivasa Perumal Thirukoil Thala Varalarru Surukkam (in Tamil). Tamil Nadu State Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Board