Before you read today's post further,take a look at the map below (click on it to see a bigger image)
This is a map of Madras in 1909. A closer look at the map would reveal a startling fact, the absence of an area without which Madras that is Chennai today cannot be imagined- T.Nagar.
This post is about the formation of T.Nagar.
The area where today T.Nagar stands was a vast expanse of water called the Long Tank. The earliest reference I could find of the existence of this water body was in the 1770s, though am quite sure it would have been in existence much earlier.The Long Tank was a big enough water body to form the western frontier of the city,also determining the limits of jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of Madras Judicature.
The "Sportsman's Book of India", on the subject of the Madras Boat Club has the following mention about the Long Tank:
"The club-house is permanently situated on the river Adyar, about five miles out of the city of Madras ; but during the cold weather, when the principal regatta is held,a large tank, called the " Long Tank," opposite the Cathedral of Madras, fills and gives a stretch of water 3 miles by 2 miles. A temporary boathouse is erected there while the water lasts, and the big regatta is generally held in this tank.The roads leading to the club are shaded by magnificent avenues, the drive being one of the best in Madras".
What a wonderful sight it must have been!!!
(The Cathedral in the above account refers to the St.George's Cathedral, which gives an idea about the expanse of the water body when seen in today's context).
Madras was undergoing a population explosion in the early 1900s and the Government was seriously thinking of expansion to facilitate the increasing housing needs.It hit upon an idea of going on a huge takeover drive, buying out several large parts of land and the huge garden bungalows. A proposal was also mooted to takeover 115 acres of land on Greenways Road,most of which was owned by the P.Venkatachellum family,a family famed for its pickles and condiments business.
An idea was then suggested by V.S.Ranganatham Pillai, the son of a former Dewan of Cochin and the owner of one of the garden bungalows on Greenways road, that the Long Tank could be taken up for development. The Government too thought of it as a good idea and this spelt the death knell for the huge water body.
In one of the earliest instances of draining out a water body for real estate purposes (Chennai was to see a lot more of it especially in the early/mid 2000s, when the real estate boom was at its peak), the Long Tank was drained in 1919 and filled up to create housing facilities.Thus came up Theyagaroya Nagar in 1925,or T.Nagar to call it by its more familiar name. It was named in honour of Sir Pitty Theyagaroya Chetty,one of the founders of the Justice Party and for long the President of the Corporation of Madras.
1.CHAMPIONING ENTERPRISE (2011): A COFFEE TABLE BOOK COMMEMORATING 175 YEARS OF THE MADRAS CHAMBER OF COMMERCE, authored by Mr.V.Sriram