Madras Unlimited – Vengeeswaram, Puliyur and Kodambakkam

The Pallavas, ruling from Kanceepuram, built in this little neck of the woods (their hinterland, really) a few temples that have, somehow, managed to live on and even grow. One such temple is the Vengeeswaram (வேங்கீஸ்வரம்) in Kodambakkam. The temple derives its name from Vengeeswarar (வேங்கீஸ்வரர்) – The lord of the tigers. As most temples in those days were, this too had the Sivalingam as its presiding deity.

As is my habit, I never bother about the gods in a temple, as much as I do the historian. In most cases, one of the priests of the temple will be told part of the history of the temple, and make up the rest. Dates get bandied about freely (3000 year old temples exist in Chennai, when most people (experts) put the oldest temple in India at 4th Century BC), small time kings are given ream after ream of newsprint (or copper plate print) and magical powers ascribed to the god.
in other words, take most of the history you see with a pinch of salt.

Yet, I asked the priest about the history of the Vengeeswaram temple. Built by a king who paid the Pallavas tribute, this temple celebrates the god Siva who graced and blessed a devotee of his, a sage by the name Vengai munivar (வேங்கை முனிவர்). Now, Vengai (வேங்கை) in Tamil is the Tiger.
The historian went on to explain that the ancient name for this part of the town was – depending on who you asked – either Puliyur (புலியூர்) – Or the village of the tiger, or Kodambakkam – from Koda malai (கோட+பகை).

This, then, is Kodambakkam. A name now sullied and noun-ified by the film industry here. My father recalls the days when there used to be 23 big studios (and by big, he means gigantic – with their own miniature forests, rivers and the like) in Kodambakkam – AVM, Shyamala, Majestic, Sharadha, Karpagam, Arunachalam, Vijaya, Vauhini and Bharani being the more famous of them. As films got better, and outdoor shooting more popular, the cost of the real estate these studios were sitting on hit them – and one by one, the biggies and the small fry started parcelling out their land holdings. Yet, Kodamabakkam is still where the film industry operates.

Post independence, the big area of Kodambakkam was split up – the western edge of it became Vadapalani (வடபழணி – or Northern Palani – பழணி is a famous temple town in South-Western Tamilnadu), referring to the famous temple dedicated to Murugan here.

Wait up for more on Madras Unlimited.

4 Comments so far

  1. SLN (unregistered) on September 12th, 2006 @ 12:50 am

    Interesting info about the temple. I read (Mr Muthiah’s book probably), that Kodambakkam came from Ghoda-Bagh, the horse stable of Nawab of Arcot.


  2. Chandrachoodan Gopalakrishnan (unregistered) on September 12th, 2006 @ 10:33 am

    Hi SLN,
    Possibly Ghoda Bagh became Kodambakkam. Not sure which version to believe in

  3. Balaji M (unregistered) on September 12th, 2006 @ 3:33 pm

    Very interesting.

  4. observer (unregistered) on September 16th, 2006 @ 8:29 pm

    Nice article, but spelling of “vadapazhani” is wrong. It’s வடபழநி.

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