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Ancient Chennai Walk Through Temples

Kapaleeshwarar Temple at Chennai

Walk through ancient Chennai with Pradeep Chakravarthy. The author of “Thanjavur: A Cultural History”, Pradeep Chakravarthy has written multiple books which impart life lessons from Indian History and Philosophy. In this podcast, Pradeep Chakravarthy gives a walkthrough of ancient Chennai. Temples, legends and lores about Chennai are unforgettable and simply surreal!

Etymology of Chennai

Chennai was the land of traders. It attracted Telugu speaking cotton traders to the ancient Pallava Port. This land was known as Chennapatna, which meant “Beautiful” in Telugu. Although there are many theories, there is no concrete evidence of the origin of the name “Madras”.

It is said that the Nawab of Arkaut was in need of a monetary sum to support the expenditure of his kingdom. In order to raise funds, he started selling pieces of land to the British. Soon the British collected all the villages and rose the Port city of Madras or Chennai.

Ancient History of Chennai

The earliest signs of habitation was found in the Pallavaram region of Chennai. Robert Bruce Foote, found Paleolithic stone tools in this region in the early 20th century. These tools date back to 4000 or more years and gives an interesting insight to the continuous inhabitation of Chennai.

Another site of archeology is the ancient river of Tamraparni. Mentioned in the Puranas, Mahabharat and Ramayan, South India’s oldest Bronze image of a goddess was found in this river. 

The Medieval Ages

In the days of the Pallava and Chola rule, a temple was the centre of activity. The presiding deity was worshipped as the King and the Temple was a palace. This instilled a sense of community amongst the people of a village. For example, The Kodambakkam Shiva Temple was the district headquarters during the Chola Period.

The oldest existing temple of Chennai is the Velachery Saptamatrika temple, dating back to 5th century CE.

Sadly, other than temples, there aren’t any existing monuments built by the Pallavas, Cholas or Pandyas. Kings in those days preferred to stay in temporary wooden palaces. Only written records, such as on the walls of the Mylapore temple that go back a 1000 years exist. One of the them mentions trade guilds taking place in Chennai during the Chola period. 

The Colonial Period

Chennai has seen all three colonisers –…

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