Friday, April 24, 2009

Start of the Road

There was a time, until even about 70 years or so ago, when this used to be called 'The Mount Road'. That name came from the British era, but the throughfare existed much before that, passing along the sides of the villages of Chengalpattu, Pallavapuram, Mylapore, Egmore and all the way on to Tiruvottiyur. By the 17th century, this throughfare had also become the path for the Europeans - remember, the Portugese were here much before the British established themselves - to get to the site of St Thomas' martyrdom.

The British viewed the space around St Thomas' Mount as an ideal area for rest and recreation. That it had spiritual connections was an added advantage. The Council at Fort St George purchased a garden house at St Thomas' Mount as early as 1685 and it was put to use for sick and disabled soldiers to recuperate in. With that 'remote' outpost established, traffic from the Fort increased and 'The Road to the Mount' became an important one, leading out from the southwestern gate of the Fort.

Today, that gate is no longer in use. Mount Road comes in, rushing through the commercial areas, opening out just after Pallavan Salai to give the traveller a good view of Sir Thomas Munro seated, saddle-less, and then rushes over the Cooum before stopping abruptly at this point. And then turns away, suddenly losing itself into Muthuswamy Road (to its left) and Flagstaff Road!

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