Know Chennai Pettais and their Century Old Unique Identities as Special Trade Zones


Radio jockeys and scribes are seeking celebrities for quotes on why Madras is special. They also depend on historians for facts and figures related to erstwhile Madrassapattinam. But one part of Madras is neither reported nor documented. Kosapettai, Pudhupettai, Chindatripettai, Vannarapettai, Saidapettai, Kanamapettai, Krishnampettai and Tondiarpettai are often forgotten though these pettais have unique identities and for centuries have been hubs for specialised trades. These are the places that really allowed cultural and ethnic diversity to spread when the coastal town expanded as city.

Getting a rented house in these areas won’t be a problem and your caste or religion will not hinder your stay in these congested pettais, particularly at Royapettai.

Kosapettai has been a hub specialising in pottery and figurines, while Pudhupettai emerged as a hub for automobile spare parts.

Chindadripettai is known for its auto rickshaw repairs and wholesale market for sea foods. Vannarapettai and Tondiapettai, meanwhile, continue to be famous for their manja kites and government-run free hospitals. Washermanpet is known for its dhobi khanna.

Ancient Tamil books have references about pettai and the word has three different usages, said Professor N. Deivasundaram, former HoD of Tamil language department, University of Madras. “The Tamil word pettai means “the town outside the fort” and pettai is also referred to a territory maintained by a group of people and is familiar with ruffians those days. “Pettai basically refers to an area from where a person comes from. Besides there are also rail pettais and thozir pettais and these areas have always been an integral part of the city’s history,” he adds.

“Saidapettai is unique and it has been a training ground for city-based politicians.

Local heavy weights in Saidapet who cleared the first few rounds of politics later emerge as Councillors, party district secretaries, mayors and ministers. And even our leader M.K. Karunanidhi is nostalgic about Saidapettai, ”said former Mayor M. Subramanian.

“Kannamapettai and Krishnampettai are famous for their age-old funeral rituals and Saavu Kuthu dance. Even today bereaving family members who cremate their dead in Kannamapettai and Krishnampettai do not cut short their rituals like in Beasant Nagar and Anna Nagar crematoriums,” said Mr C. Nagarajan, a caretaker who attends to cremations in Otteri and Krishnampettai burial grounds.

Last but not least, the rich and congested Sowcarpettai, with the maximum number of unauthorised constructions, is different from other pettais. However, thanks to Sowcarpettai, Chennai witnesses a high decibel and colourful Deepavali.

Posted on August 24, 2012, in Heritage of Chennai and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. there is one nazarath pettai too in the outskirts of chennai situated on way to porur junction.

  2. Nice to read and I am a proud chennai Vasi.One thing missing. The author missed famous Betthu naicken pettai
    Where the harbour and central station
    Exists. The mannadi and the famous
    Old drama hall otthavadai theatre where
    MKT bagavatar sang Rattha kannir

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: