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Pallavaram is one of the major residential locality of modern Chennai. It is also one of the ancient Tamil towns inhabited since 7th century or before. The name originated from its root name “Pallavar-puram” which means “region of Pallavas”. The Tamil word Pallavar refers to the rulers of Pallava dynasty. It was one of the major dynasties which ruled parts of present day Tamil Nadu.
Several artefacts belonging to the Pallava era were unearthed in this region and hence the Archeologists are keen upon this area to dig more. Though this process disrupts the residential public of Pallavaram, they are still eagerly looking forward to find more from the earth under Pallavaram.
During the year 1863, the famous British archaeologist Robert Bruce Foote discovered a stone tool belonging to paleolithic age. It was used as a hand axe by prehistoric humans. Alexander Rea who was the first superintendent of the Archeological Survey of India discovered a huge sarcophagus in the region. It is a coffin with around 12 points like legs at the bottom. Later a similar discovery was also made in 2017 which confirmed the existence of prehistoric civilized population around pallavaram.
The Pallava dynasty and its Rulers
The pallava dynasty ruled northern parts of Tamil Nadu from 3rd to 9th century AD. They were succeeded by Chozhas, due to which both Pallava and Chozha influence can be seen around the borders of Chennai especially in Kanchipuram district.
The Pallava dynasty was well established during the rule of Mahendra Varman I, son of Simhavishnu. From here on, the Pallava rulers got a strong hold around Kanchipuram and further north. Mahendra Varman I is known for his love for literature and architecture. He is associated with the cave temple of Pallavaram and rock temples of Mamallapuram. His son Narasimha Varman I completed the temples of Mamallapuram. After a sequence of Pallava rulers, extending their territory southwards up to river Kaveri, they were defeated by Chozhas. Last Pallava ruler was found to be Aparajita Varman.
Signature of Pallava rulers at Pallavaram
The cave temple built by Mahendra Varman I is one of the great Pallava remnants speaking history. The famous Mahendra Varman I, known for his unique style in rock-cut temples, has also built similar cave temples at Mamallapuram, Trichy etc. But unlike other structures, this Pallavaram cave temple has not gained much attention. Due to negligence, it is damaged beyond recovery.
The original structure had 5 cells for each 5 Hindu deities. Three major Hindu deities occupied central positions where as unknown other 2 occupied the corners. It is believed that the Pallava rulers have left inscriptions in old scripts detailing their names or titles. It is also called panja pandavar malai and similar works can also been seen in other pallava cave temples.
Archeological findings at Pallavaram
The artefacts from Pallavaram proves the presence of human settlements since paleolithic age. This includes a number of stone age tools and burial containers. This makes Pallavaram as one of the oldest areas of Chennai. As civilization evolved around the area – also known as “Thondai mandalam”, it formed a seat for various south Indian rulers including Kalabra, Pallava, Chozha and Vijayanagara empires. Coins and inscriptions belonging to the Pallava dynasty denotes the rule of Pallavas here, hence giving a reason to the name Pallavar-puram or Pallavaram.
Though cities expand and urbanize, there are certain points which deserve to be preserved. The names of localities in Chennai itself speak more about its glorious past. Pallavaram is one such example. Let us hope that archaeologists will find more about this place and enlighten the world with their results.