October 24, 2016

How Mambalam became Maraimalai Adigal?

Site Name: Maraimalai Adigal Bridge
Site Type: Monument
Location: Saidapet, Chennai city, Tamil Nadu state, India 
Highlights: Historical importance
Nearest Railway Station: Chennai - well connected from the cities/towns all over India
Nearest Airport: Chennai has both national and international airports
How to reach: Easily reachable by road, train, and flight
Hotel: Many star hotels, luxury hotels/resorts, and budget hotels are available in Chennai
Restaurants: All options - vegetarian, non-vegetarian, Chinese, South Indian, Gujarati, North Indian, Punjabi,....- you can find everything in Chennai city

How many of you know that the bridge across the Adyar river that connects Guindy and Saidapet areas of Chennai city has some historical background? This article focuses on that bridge, which is called as Maraimalai Adigal Bridge.

It seems the Britishers in India could not pronounce any Indian name properly. They changed Tiruvallikkeni to Triplicane, Tiruvanathapuram to Trivandrum and so on. Similarly, they could not pronounce (or even write) the name of a village called Mambalam. They used to call it as Marmalong, Marmalon or Mamelon, but never used the word Mambalam. Before proceeding further, let me give some background details about Mambalam.

If you get down at Mambalam sub-urban station today, you would enter into the highly crowded and costly T.Nagar area. This is one of the hot areas of Chennai city today. But, originally it was part of Mambalam village. The current T. Nagar area and West Mambalam area were together called as Mambalam village in those days. Mambalam was an important village which had a big lake called Mambalam lake. (Today, there is no lake but we have Lake View Road, which is a different sad story.) 

The first bridge that was constructed over the river Adyar was named as Marmalong Bridge, after this village. Technically, this bridge was located not in Mambalam village, but in the nearby Saidapet village. I don't know why this bridge was named after the neighboring village and not on its own village.

The bridge was not constructed by the British Government, but by a rich merchant. Coja Petrus Uscan was a rich person who belonged to the Armenian community. He was very loyal to the Britishers and was considered as the leader of Armenians in Madras.  In 1723 CE, he migrated to Madras. In 1726 CE, he constructed Marmalong Bridge at the cost of Rupees One Lakh. 

In those days, the river was called as Mylapore River by the British people. This bridge, which was constructed across the river Mylapore, was 365 meters in length and had 29 arches of various sizes. 

Today, this original bridge does not exist. Only a marble plaque stands as a proof for the construction of this bridge. The plaque has inscriptions in three different languages, Persian, Latin and Armenian.

The original bridge was replaced by a new one in 1966 CE. Interestingly, it was named as Maraimalai Adigal Bridge, after an eminent Tamil writer. (But the plaque near the bridge dated 1966 CE still refers the bridge as Marmalong Bridge.)

A lot of people think that the Britishers misspelled Maraimalai as Marmalong. But, it is the other way round. Marmalong has become Maraimalai.

Happy travelling. 

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