Tuesday, November 3, 2009


My first post is about a Madras landmark near my home...A bridge behind the Citi Center on Radhakrishnan Salai(or Edward Elliots Road as it was called).
I once hired an auto from Royapettah to my place and by way of direction,I told the auto wallah he had to go straight after crossing Hamilton Bridge.He gave me a puzzled "What-on-earth-are-you-talking-about"look,obviously having never heard of such a place.Then it struck me to try the name "Ambattan Varavathy" as the bridge is now called in local parlance..I did and he readily understood where I wanted to go.

The popular theory of the corruption of the name Hamilton into Ambattan is that the native population was finding it tough to pronounce the word Hamilton and in due course the name changed from Hamilton to Ummutton to Ambattan.But first,how old is the bridge?

Well,no one seems to be sure as to how old it is actually.But a record of this can be found in H.D.Love's Vestiges of Old Madras(1913) where he speaks of a mention during the French occupation of Santhome (in the 1670s)of a bridge that was probably built by the Portugese.

The corruption from Hamilton to Ummutton seems to have occurred as early as the mid 1800s.While browsing some old records of the London Gazette on the web, I happened to stumble upon a 1867 record of a poor soul living at No.12,Ummutton Varavathy Street,Mylapore who was declared insolvent.From Ummutton Varavathy,it seems to have changed to Barber's Bridge as a bunch of records dealing with reports of administration of Madras Municipality from the 1870s show.In fact,a 1893 map of Madras shows this place marked as Barber's Bridge.

Whatever be the stories behind its name, one needs to be extremely careful while traversing this stretch on walk, especially in the mornings when one is never a yard too far away from a pile of freshly laid manure( courtesy both the two legged and four legged species!!!).

P.S:I am quite sure Shakespeare wouldn't be too happy if he knew I have used his famous words to title a post which talks of bridge notorious for its stench...he used the words in a far more sweet smelling context!!!


  1. but karthik, isn't the corruption a myth or we are after all right in believig what we were believing for the last 25 odd years....are there any other story for the origin of the name AV?

  2. The theory I have put forward is what I could think could have been the possible corruption to the present form having come across the London Gazette Records and the municipality administration reports.Whether it was Hamilton Bridge in the first place is still a matter of debate...Ambattan, as you would know refers to Barber...But the only reference to a Barber I could come across was a Barber's Street in Black Town from an an extract of a 1858 street directory of Madras...
    So it could have been a corruption from Hamilton..