How Burma Sold us the Bazaar.

I recently met with a chennai veteran who told me this interesting backdrop to the Burma Bazaar of Chennai, which accounts for most of our media hightlights, that I thought I’d share it with y’all.

So, here’s how the story apparently goes. Back in the days, around the time when we had just gotten our independence, there were quite a few people from the region who were working in plantations in Burma. There was a sizeable working population that was from India, and life went on. When a new emperor/king took over Burma, as a means of doing what Srilanka started off to do as well, the government wanted to increase the chances of locals getting employed, so kicked out all the non-burmese population out of the country. Quite a few countries interfered and so did India, especially TamilNadu.

Out of humanitarian concern, the govt of tamilnadu setup a strip of land, where the refugees could sell whatever posessions they had – most of them were plantation equipment, so that with that money they could start a living. This was around 1962. The selling still goes on :)

How much of this is true, I am not sure, but it certainly rings true from whatever research I’ve done. Have you heard any other story? Can someone add to this, if they do more?

This city has such a rich heritage of the past. Would love to dig up more stories like this.

Photo Credit: The Hindu.

8 Comments so far

  1. Anand (mdeii) on May 4th, 2008 @ 5:51 pm

    I certainly can say what is true… Burma did not have an Emperor/King in the 1960s nor in fact a ‘Burmese’ Emperor in the 1940s! What forced the refugees out was first the Japanese invasion and the war, and later on as you say, local politics.

  2. denser on May 5th, 2008 @ 8:08 am

    Sounds like a story exchanged over a quick cutting in a tasmac!

  3. ptcbus on May 6th, 2008 @ 10:10 am

    How did Burma Bazaar become the smuggled goods head quarters of Chennai? Was it because of its proximity to its port or some other reason?

  4. thad on May 8th, 2008 @ 3:04 am

    My neighbour of my previous house had lived in Burma, where his family owned substantial lands and were wealthy.

    The Japanese chased him out. As is often the case with refugees, they left on foot, with almost nothing.

    He began life again in India, eventually setting up a Tamil publishing house. He is now in his 80s.

  5. bengalurujayaram on May 13th, 2008 @ 9:55 pm

    Hi, it is nice to know about Burma Bazzar, I was told by my friend something to similar to this. I strongly feel the the story behind the place is something else. One request I have please try to publish similar stories about the Chennai Temples with the histry. Being an outsider it will help me and others to know more about the city.

  6. medisen on May 25th, 2008 @ 6:37 pm

    Burma bazaar details were good.
    can you write about the yachting club in our port of chennai

  7. rajanchokkadsey on May 26th, 2008 @ 2:44 pm

    The same way Rattan Bazaar and Zam bazar also came in to existence in the pre independence days i think. Rattan or "Pai" kadai as known now deals only with grass mats and cane utilities.

  8. Kirtfd (unregistered) on November 14th, 2010 @ 10:34 am

    where is the burma bazaar exactly in chennai?

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