Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Name origin

One of the reasons why the city got its (earlier) name, Madras, is attributed to Portuguese origins. How true that story is, is anybody's guess; but it is a nice story to spin, and to add to the mystique around this city. In San Thome of the 16th century CE flourished the Madeiros family. At least, they came to be called Madeiros in the late 16th century, for the family name before that seems to have been spelt Madera. They seem to have been very prominent among the Portuguese of San Thome, and continued that eminence into Fort St George, with Cosmo Lourenco Madera holding a militia command for the Fort during the late 1600s. 

The Madeiros themselves trace the origin of their name back to the simple Portuguese phrase "Madre de Dios", or "Mother of God". A church of that name in the area is said to have been built in in the late 1570s. It is said that the Madera family had a hand in its beginnings and were instrumental in the church being a significant shrine. Whether from the family name or from the name of the shrine, the name Madras hauls too close to either for folks to make the connection, even if it is tenuous.

The Church of Madre de Dios was rebuilt in 1928. It doesn't look like an imposing building, but is more a single storey dhyana mandapam. Inside is this panel with the Madonna - probably the only survivor of the riches of the 16th century installation!

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