George Town in Chennai
George Town, initially known as “Black Town”, occupies a remarkable position both in the past and the present. It is a historical neighborhood of Fort Saint George in Chennai.
History of George Town:
During 1600s, The British Powers initially adopted the locality as their base. In 1911, the name 'Black Town' was renamed as George Town to honor King George V when he was crowned as the emperor of India. Later, in 1640 the first British fortress in India “St. George's Fort” was constructed. The locality, along with its adjacent areas, grew as a major urban centre and then gradually as a naval base. It occupies a central place in Chennai's history of civilization, since most of the developments eventually spread out from here. It has contributed much to the growth of the city.
Important Areas in George Town:
This eventful area, being the heart of major business activities has a huge market area known as the Kothawal Chavadi. Vegetables from various places in and around the city are brought to this huge market area .It is the most opted place for purchasing vegetables for occasions such as marriages and other functions . In fact the business is so intense here that wholesaler rented the shops on an hourly basis.
One of the main access road in this commercial center, is called Netaji Subash Chandra Bose Road (previously known as China Bazaar Road). This road begins from Rajaji Salai in the East and connects Wall Tax road. It provides connectivity to thickly populated residential localities and streets. Several Government Offices both State and Central Governments and also Andaman & Nicobar Island Government's administrative offices of Shipping and Tourism Departments are placed in Rajaji Salai.
Also the most attractive Burma Bazaar which is noted for selling electronic goods and other items at cheaper rates and which was once wholly run by Burma refugees is also on this Road. The streets are generally small and narrow with several lanes branching out of them.
George Town is linked to the outer edge by railways. Chennai Central, the principal railway station lies within close proximity of George Town. The Chennai Airport, about 16 kilometers away from the George Town is the closest airport to it.
Moving over to the jewellery sector, the George Town was broken up by jewellers and diamond merchants. In 1938, “The Madras Jewelers & Diamond Merchants’ Association” was established It was initially housed on China Bazaar Road and later shifted to Car Street in Sowcarpet and again moved back to its previous premises which is on Badria Garden Lane, off to the NSC Bose Road.
George Town at Present:
George Town is at present a leading commercial area in the city. It is abundantly gifted with many historical and commercial attractions, the most notable of these being the Fort St. George complex. Apart from the reputed British military establishment that currently contains important Government offices, the complex also has a lighthouse, a gallery of old British officials, the Chennai High Court and some foreign offices.
The twin temples of Sri Chennakesava Perumal and Sri Chennamalleeswarar temple on NSC Bose Road, the Sri Sivasubramania Swamy Temple near the famous Elephant Gate and two big Jain temples on Mint Street reflects the heritage and culture of the place and people living here for generations.
Every street there runs its own set of separate business. For example, Devaraja Mudali Street, which is quite close to the Chenna Kesavaperumal temple, is famous for preparation of turmeric and kumkum powder. The shopkeepers, who have opted for their family business, prepare these powders exclusively on their own.
Badrian Street, opposite the Flower Bazaar, is the place for the retail flower trade in the city. The wholesale flower trade has been shifted to Koyambedu, but there are still some authentic shops on Badrian Street selling different varieties of flowers.
Other Highlights of George Town:
Dr. Ambedkar Law College, initially known as Madras Law College, Government Stanley Medical College and Hospital, The Government Dental College and Hospital Bharathi Women's College is located in the northern side of the neighborhood are the most popular colleges in this area. St. Mary's Anglo-Indian Higher Secondary School and St. Francis Xavier and Dominic Savio School are some of the premier institutions located here.
Although George Town is the origin of the modern city of Chennai and remained the chief commercial hub of the city till the early 20th century, the city's central business district progressively moved towards the south since the mid-20th century, and presently Gemini Circle on Anna Salai earns this name. This resulted as whole of the northern region of Chennai is qualified as the neglected backward region while south Chennai earned all the credits in growth. However, some specific regions like Sowcarpet of George Town, where the prosperous Marwari community exist in, still remains as one of the important commercial hub of the city.
Adding to the above mentioned facilities , the Broadway bus stand, Kuralagam, Flower Market and Kothawal Chavadi and temples located on the lanes are the binding force for the people, who have been living in these localities for more than three or four generations.