Sunday, August 10, 2014
In the earliest days of the city of Madras - essentially the Fort St George - the main exit from the city would probably have been through the Walajah gate, heading out west to the seat of the Nayaks at Poonamallee. There would have been less reason to go south; the twin rivers in that direction would have made it even less attractive. But by the early 18th century, the journey to the Mount was a reason for the residents of the Fort to cross two rivers. Bridges were required. The Elambore River was probably the easier to ford; there is a record from 1714 about a "Water-Gate Bridge" between the Fort and the Island. The second bridge, over the Cooum took another two years to be built.
Called the Triplicane Bridge, it appears to have been a rather ill-fated bridge. In 1721, it was damaged by floods. Though it was repaired, repeated floods brought it down. As if nature wasn't enough, la Bourdonnais also brought it down. Between man and nature, the bridge kept falling down and rising up, until the new century came up. In 1805, a new bridge was built. The earlier one(s) never had any formal name(s) - Triplicane Bridge and Island Bridge were variously used, with startling originality.
The same originality continued into the new century, with the new bridge. Or maybe it was just superstition or sentimentality, for the bridge was named after the patron saint of England. Not just that. It was called the New St George's Bridge, for, in the intervening period, the Water-Gate Bridge had been replaced by St George's Bridge about fifty years earlier. That name continued to be in use for well over a hundred and fifty years. It was only in the late 70s that it was renamed after EVK Ramasamy Naicker, and it is by his name that it continues to be known today - Periyar Bridge!