Understanding Heritage – RAYARPURAM

Understanding Heritage…

Series – Two of 2019


(** – Preface – in many of these initial railway lines, only the first commercial passenger runs are recorded, and that leaves out the initial trial runs of the train – so if any records give an earlier date, they are talking about the trial runs and not the first commercial run. Even for the famous Bombay – Thane run on 14,April 1853, there were a few trial runs earlier)

Various traditions and cultures have influenced the the origin of the name Royapuram. Originally it was Rayar puram – Now, the word Rayar has interesting connotations. Remember Krishna Deva Raya? Well, there was/is a community by that name – Rayar ( these days the only Rayars the average Madrasi will know is the famous Rayar mess in Mylapore) who hail basically from the Agriculture and Business community, who were landlords and Zamindars of the past, and who migrated to various parts. The most famous among the Rayar kings who ruled between 6th century AD to 9th Century AD was Muthuraiyar who is said to have ruled Trichy, Tanjore, and Pudukottai. Interestingly, there is also a Rayarpuram in Tuticorin.

Another more popular, and anglicised version of Rayarpuram comes from the fact that the initial Britishers and later, Anglo Indians who settled in the place were known as “Rayars” – the church of St Peter, dating back to the 18th century, is known as “Rayappar” church (meaning Peter in Tamil). Interestingly, a Bishop is known as “Aayar” ( ஆயர்) in Tamil and Arch Bishop is known as “Peraayar” (பேராயர் )

“Aayar” ( ஆயர் ) in pure Tamil means, “those who tend to cattle – cowherd” (Ah! The complexity and brevity of Tamil language!) denotes Cow – (which is why you have AAVINஆவின் – meaning from the cow – as the State run Milk federation organisation).

Anyway, Rayar puram later became a fashionable “ROYapuram” and it was here, that in 1853, that the Madras and Southern Mahratta Railway started building the Royapuram Railway Station and the first train operations started sometime in June 1856 with the Royapuram – Walajah Road inaugural run** This beautiful structure remained the headquarters of Madras and Southern Mahratta Railway till 1922 and is still one of the oldest, undisturbed original structures ever on Indian Railway (thanks to the erstwhile MoS Railways Shri R.Velu who in 2005 did a restoration project for the station)

( Series to be continued)

Understanding Heritage…

Series – One of 2019

Let’s have a look at Chennai’s rich cultural heritage through its history. Starting with names of places. ( Am writing this in English more for my non Tamil friends – but in Tamil, the word பாரம்பரியம் has more relevance) Hailing from the village of Chennapattinam

 (called Chennapatna by the British) the village chieftain by name Maadarasan ( மாடரசன்) gifted some cattle to the visiting dorai ( Britishers were called Dorais by the Tamizh ) and look at the irony here – in a foreign land, occupying a foreign place by force or by design, Robert Clive (no offence meant to the great adventurer that he was and one can’t certainly judge a person after 300 years) declared that this place will be called, “Maadarasanpet” after the village chieftain, Maadarasan! That is how, Madras ( Maadarasanpet later became Madras) got its name!

( Series to be continued )