Madras to Chennai: The wave that got us here..

Chennai always had this strange appeal to me. Not just because it hosts my grandparents’ place or it was my summer vacation city, but also because it brought my textbooks to life. For instance, if we read about the oldest banyan tree in our school books, we got to see that in Adyar on our next visit for holidays. Or if you read about Mr. Cuddapah Rangaiah in history class, on your way to the railway station you casually see a Cuddapah Rangaiah Street to your left. The more you explore the city, the more it surprises you.

Chennai, as a city, started at the foundation stone laid by the British, near Parry’s corner, and rose to prominence engulfing the surrounding land. From being a colonial city to holding an important place in the Indian Independence movement, Chennai is a historical treasure trove. The Red & White buildings that we frequently see around have such important stories to tell. And it gives you a high in every instance you are around them.photo6188077739664320494

The pre city area of Chennai, broadly speaking, the land between Nellore & Cuddalore, was ruled as one kingdom with Kanchipuram as its capital. The temples standing tall even today, last as a testament to the culture and heritage of those times. The uncovering of the spice route, in the age of discovery, changed the face of this land.

The Portuguese, who first landed in Calicut in the 15th Century, eventually found their way to Mylapore in the Coromandel coast by the next Century. They built a port here, marking it for all the future explorers. The SanThome Church & the Luz Church built in this age were one of the first colonial structures in the city, but not necessarily in the same form that we see them today.

With the SanThome as the guiding center, towards the 17th century, almost all the major European powers established their presence in the Tamil Land. The Dutch East India Company that followed the Portuguese built forts to the north of Mylapore near Pulicat, and later to the south near Sadras. Further south of Cuddalore, near Tharagambadi (Tranquebar), the Danish Company built a fort Dansborg. And the French chose a place between these two near Pondicherry to build their fort, but all of them eventually lost their colonies to the British.

In the intervening period, the English East India Company, in the 17th century, after careful exploration, chose a sandy strip at Madraspattinam, the land between Pulicat and Portuguese settlements as the most favorable place to build a fort for trade; thus laying the stone for the City of Chennai & giving us our very first White building St. George Fort of the British Chennai. All these forts put on the map form the borders to the land between Nellore and Cuddalore neatly encompassing the city.


With St. George Fort as the nucleus, the city rebuilt itself many times, each time expanding the city limits. The red hues from the Central Station or the High court and the white light from the Rippon building or the Higginbothams touch us from time to time when we are up and around the city. The colonial influences don’t just end here. It can be a street name or a school you see in the passing, that triggers something or makes you curious to know the stories behind it. The Lady Andal VenkataSubba Rao Matriculation School & the Ellen Sharma Memorial School are two names that get to me every time.

Towards the 18th century, British India formed the Madras Presidency which changed the lives of many people including my grandfather’s. In the early 20th century, as a young man when he needed to migrate from his birthplace Cocanada lands, in search of his livelihood, he chose the capital (Madras) and shifted to the city. For years, he worked at the Parry Company and made a home at the Luz Church Road-Mylapore. So I guess, it’s only natural for me to trace back the lines.


ఇప్పుడు ఏ ఇద్దరు  తెలుగు వాళ్ళు  కనిపించినా  శాతకర్ణి గురించే చర్చ.  ఇంతకీ  ఎవరు  ఈ శాతకర్ణి? శాతకర్ణి  గురించి  తెలుసుకోవాలంటే క్రీస్తు పూర్వం  చరిత్ర లోకి  వెళ్లవలసిందే!

శాతవాహన  అనే  బ్రాహ్మణ  వంశం రాజ్యాధికారం  చేపట్టి  వీరత్వం తో తెలుగు నేల  తో పాటు కర్ణాటక, తమిళ,మహారాష్ట్ర  మొదలుకుని  మధ్యప్రదేశ్, బీహార్, గుజరాత్  దాదాపుగా  భారత దేశాన్ని పరిపాలించిన గొప్ప చక్రవర్తులు. ఆ వంశం లోని రాజులే  శాతకర్ణి అనే పేరుతో  ప్రసిద్ధి  పొందారు .  ఒకటి నుంచి మూడో శతాబ్దం లో వీరి పరిపాలన సాగింది, దాదాపుగా 300 వందల ఏళ్ళ  నుంచి 450 ఏళ్ళు వీళ్ళ  పరిపాలన కొనసాగింది. 18 నుంచి 30 మంది శాతవాహన చక్రవర్తులు  పరిపాలన కొనసాగించినట్టు  చరిత్ర చెప్తుంది. Continue reading

Notes (and Thoughts) From the Museum Of Jewish Heritage

I went in to the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York City all excited, expecting a fantastic history lesson filled with hitherto unknown facts. What I got was not a mindblowing experience, but was interesting nevertheless.

To start off, the security to get into this museum is one notch more detailed than at the Met. It kind of heightens the solemnity of the experience. Continue reading

Romancing History – Florence


Click here for first part in this series 

Take 200 years of art and history. Cram it in a city roughly the size of Rajamundry. That is Florence for you. Tucked away in the Tuscany region of northern Italy, this town grew into the cultural nerve center of Europe from 14th to 16thcentury. During those centuries, either by providence or by design, Florence birthed and nurtured towering figures of science and arts. This is the town Da vinci began his career as artist. This is the place Dante had a love-hate relationship with. These are the streets Michaelangelo walked through.  And it is the final resting place of Galileo. Florence is a giant open air museum, with every street brimming with history, every square offering a story, if you are willing to listen.  Continue reading

Romancing History – A Travelogue Of Paris

As anybody remotely familiar with me can attest, I am not an active, ‘take life by its throat and suck its essence’ kind of guy. Like Dhoni on Day 4 of a test match on a dull pitch, I let things drift away too often. So when a quarter-life crisis hit me and made me realize I am wasting away my time watching stupid comedy news shows on Youtube, I surprised myself by taking a decision to do something more. And even more bamboozling was the fact that for once, I actually followed up on that decision.

The view of the tower at dusk is out of this world.

The view of the tower at dusk is out of this world.

I decided to travel to the places I have always wanted to see. Places of great historical importance. And since I am Grinch, who detests any form of human interaction in the physical world, I have to do it alone.

Thus began my preparation for my solo trip to Paris, Florence and Rome.

Continue reading

Andhra Mahabharatamu Part 3 : How The Epic Reached Completion

This is the last post in my three-piece series about Andhra Mahabharatamu and the three poets who contributed to this epic project that spanned almost to 3 centuries. The first two posts were on the contributions of Adikavi Nannayya and Tikkanna Somayaji.

With Tikkanna Somayaji’s marathon contribution, the Andhreekarana of Mahabharata was almost complete, except for the second half of the Aranya Parva left incomplete by Adi Kavi Nannayya.  Some scholars opine that a superstition was the reason that Tikkanna stayed away from this part. Others opine that the difference between the styles of both, made him put off writing the remnant chapter. For all we know, it might be the lack of inspiration! Knowing the reformer and the political mind Tikkanna is, it is highly unlikely that he would have given in to a superstition and left out the small part. About fifty years after Tikkanna, the remaining half of the Aranya Parva was taken up by Yerrapragada, or Yerrana. Continue reading

Andhra Mahabharatamu Part 2: How It Was Resumed After 200 Years

This is in continuation to my last post on Andhra Mahabharatamu. This post will dwell on Kavibrahma Tikkanna Somayaji, who continued the Andhreekarana of Mahabharata, which was left incomplete with the death of Adikavi Nannayya.

Tikkanna Somayaji


Picture source: Internet

Tikkanna Somayaji lived in the thirteenth century CE during the Kakatiya period. The socio-political conditions in which Nannayya and Tikkanna lived were totally different. Nannayya’s aim was to give an intellectual response, rooted in Vedic philosophy, to the Jain supremacist arguments put up by earlier poets.  However, Tikkana’s inspiration sprung from the divisions in society arising due to extremist elements of different faiths. Continue reading

Andhra Mahabharatamu Part 1: How It Laid The Foundation For Telugu Literature

(Read Part 2 of this series here.)

Whenever the Vedic legacy faces a crisis, the fifth Veda, which is the Mahabharata, takes a new shape to redefine Dharma.

This is a loose translation of a statement made in the preface to the Andhra Mahabharatamu edition by Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD). The conditions that led to the composition of Andhra Mahabharatamu validate the quote. The Telugu version of the epic Mahabharata has a unique distinction of being composed by not one, but three poets belonging to three different generations. It took close to 300 years for this book to reach completion. These three poets are collectively called as Kavitrayam (“Poet Trinity”) among the Telugu literary sphere. The scope of this post is to observe the conditions that inspired each of the poets to take up this work. Continue reading