Pantheon Road, Connamera Hotel, Fort St George, Frazer Road… an endless list of buildings and roads remind us of Chennai’s British history. Chennai, unline other India cities does not have any pre-british historic significance. Like other british port cities (Mumbai, Kolkatta, Colombo), Chennai was established for the port with a fort at its center. Fort St. George was that anchor for Chennai. Two centuries later immigrants helped expand the city to its current shape. Like Kolkata, Chennai too has a sizeable population of trader communities like the Marwaris. Owing to its location, it also had an influx of traders from Andra. The city was a big part of the British regime in India. No wonder the first Governer of Madras was Elihu Yale, after whom Yale University is named. The City expanded beyond the Fort over year.
Here’s how it looked in 1921 – with the Fort at center of expansion.
The city later expanded to take its current form.
But an interesting part of Chennai goes by the name “Burma Bazar”. While Burma has some British history, the Bazar is in Chennai for a different reason. Apparently when the Japs attacked Burma during WWII, many PIOs in Burma wanted to come back… mostly PTOs (tamil origin). The then GOI allowed them to seek refuge in Chennai where they could sell random stuff from Burma till they make decent money to start other businesses or get employed elsewhere.
Post independence, political landscape in Burma forced many PIOs to seek refuge in Chennai and Burma Bazar grew. The Bazar, which is a series of small shops along the road near beach station, is still buzzing with activity. The shops mainly sell grey market electronic goods, maybe due to its close proximity to the port. So while it is named Burma Bazar, there is nothing Burma-like.