Road Names in Chennai

Edward Elliotts Road, Mowbrays Road, First Line Beach Road – remember them? These are the old names of what are now Dr. Radhakrishnan Salai, TTK Road and Rajaji Salai. Chaning the street names from British Raj to Indian names is a regular hobby of the Chennai Corporation authorities. Nothing wrong with that.

However, there are names that refuse to go away, even though the officials have changed it. The famous example is of course Mount Road that is Anna Salai officially. Even though the name was changed from Mount Road to Anna Salai long back, the road is still Mount Road to many people.

Similarly, Nungambakkam High Road was changed to Uthamar Gandhi Salai, a name that never caught on. I think if they had changed it Mahatma Gandhi Road, it might have been accepted. Lattice Bridge Road in Adyar (LB Road) is now Kalki Krishnamoorthy Road, again a name change that failed. Chamiers Road to Pasumpon Muthuramalinga Thevar Salai can be added to the list.

The Government had decided to abolish caste names from all street names and hence most of the roads became curiously mutilated. Dr. Renga(chari?) Road, Beemanna (Mudali) Garden, Vellayan(Chettiar) Road and so on. Of course there is a road in T Nagar called Dr. Nair Road which was left as it is, since Dr. Road will be confusing. However Pasumpon Muthuramalinga Thevar Salai proudly carries the caste name, probably due to the ruling party at that time. This abolition of caste in street names was not implemented in North Madras though. The streets are still called Linghi Chetty Street, Thambu Chetty Street, Errabalu Chetty Street and so on.

And then there are road names that are shortened to their initials like G.N. Chetty Road (Gopathy Narayana Chetty Road?), with almost no one remembering the expanded version.

14 Comments so far

  1. suppamani (unregistered) on July 14th, 2006 @ 1:18 pm

    While abollishing the caste name, the Kutty Pillai Street in Nungambakkam is called Kutty Street and T.T.Krishnamachary Road behind Taj Hotel is known KRISHAMMA ROAD. Not so even in North Madras the caste names in the streets are removed and in some places Linghichetty Street is written a LINGHA street and like this the THAMBU Street also . Here is auestion to your know about the Roads of Chennai – Can any body guess where the BINNY Road is located

  2. Chenthil (unregistered) on July 14th, 2006 @ 1:32 pm

    Mani, that is a fairly straight forward question. Binny Road is the road adjacent to Stella Mary’s College, leading to Poes Garden

  3. suppamani (unregistered) on July 14th, 2006 @ 1:56 pm

    Thank you, Chenthil;

  4. vinod (unregistered) on July 14th, 2006 @ 1:58 pm

    couple of roads that comes to my mind are warren road, turnbulls road, patullous road, smith road, general patters road…these haven’t changed yet i guess…

    also royapettah high road has been changed to slai… i don’t know why this was done…

    i thought the britsh names had an old-world charm to it and should have been retained..

  5. Ravi (unregistered) on July 14th, 2006 @ 2:09 pm

    Chenthil, a nice post. I fully agree with Vinod. Names have some history and nostalgy attached with them and therefore changing names citing ‘Indianess’ and ‘Caste’ reason is nothing but stupidity. Not that these names were changes from some Indian name – that’s how they were right from the beginning when Chennai from a remote, less habitated fishing hamlet. I wish if someone can rollback the original names – including that of MADRAS!

  6. david (unregistered) on July 14th, 2006 @ 3:33 pm

    Great post Chenthil. Hearing some names for the first time! For example, I didn’t know the current name of Lattice Bridge Road. And have you heard about Barber’s Bridge in North Chennai? Originally Hamilton’s Bridge, it was brought down to ‘Ambattan’s bridge by the local populace, so much so its now referred to as ‘barbers’ bridge in English! Or so I’ve heard. can anybody verify?

  7. Chenthil (unregistered) on July 14th, 2006 @ 5:13 pm

    Vinod, didn’t know about Royapettah High Road. British names had old world charm true, but as they say பழையன கழிதலும் புதியன புகுதலுமே வாழ்க்கை. Ring out the old, Ring in the new.

    Ravi, roll backs are not going to occur :-).

    David, that story about Hamilton Bridge is true.

  8. Ravi (unregistered) on July 14th, 2006 @ 5:19 pm

    Why not start an MB signature petition campaign to bring back names for at least the 4 metros – Chennai to Madras, Bengalooru to ….. you get the idea?
    (Another one?!) ;)

  9. Chenthil (unregistered) on July 14th, 2006 @ 5:27 pm

    Ravi, with all due respect to blogging and bloggers, we are a miniscule part of minority in the country’s decision making system. And within bloggers and online activists itself there will be n+1 opinions. So the signature petition will remain as yet another piece of useless pixel in the floating matrix of the world.

  10. Nonymus (unregistered) on July 14th, 2006 @ 8:42 pm

    Reminds me of S. Muthiah who, when ‘Madras’ was renamed as Chennai, got very emotional and ranted in The Hindu or some magazine that it was in Madras that Robert Clive got married and not in Chennai, and so on. Pathetic guy.

  11. nandhu (unregistered) on July 15th, 2006 @ 3:29 am

    Mr. Muthiah is certainly not pathetic. he is a fund of information and a madras picture book. have u ever heard him lecture? i was a convert after that.

  12. nonymus (unregistered) on July 15th, 2006 @ 4:33 am

    Fund of information he certainly is. But he’s into this “Raj” thing and probably regrets that the Brits quit India. His Madras-isn’t-Chennai rant was quite famous when the city was renamed.

  13. Nancy (unregistered) on July 15th, 2006 @ 10:55 am

    Muthiah also said that if you must rename Madras, at least call it Mylapore, which was an important port in its time, long before Chennapattinam ever existed.

    I would never call him pathetic, even if officialdom doesn’t listen to him. He has single-handedly published so much of the city’s history, which hardly anyone gives a damn about.

  14. Chenthil (unregistered) on July 15th, 2006 @ 1:31 pm

    Nonymous, I am an admirer of Mr. Muthiah. He is sort of Dronacharya to my Ekalayva (hope you get the meaning). I am aware of his slant towards British Nostalgia, but take that as part of the man. Calling his pathetic is stupid to say the least.

    Nancy, Mylapore carries with it Brahmin connotations that will not be accepted by the current political scenario in TN. That idea of Mr. Muthiah’s was a non starter.

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