Colletpet – Tiger’s lair

Colletpet, or Kaladipettai, its present name, is a neglected suburb of Chennai. It is a small but historically significant settlement that is located between Tondiarpet and Tiruvottriyur. To reach it, you drive down from Rajaji Salai on to Royapuram. From Royapuram you take Tiruvottriyur High Road and drive past Tondiarpet. One of the numerous cuttings on the left is Sannidhi Street and if you take that, you reach the Kalyana Varadarajaswami shrine, once the heart of this locality. In the world of Carnatic music, it acquires significance as it was the birthplace of Tiger Varadachariar and (presumably that of his) musically-talented brothers, K.V. Srinivasa Iyengar and ‘Puliyodarai’ Krishnamachariar.

Historically, Colletpet owes its existence to two men, Joseph Collet who was Governor of Madras from 1717 to 1719 and Veeraraghava, a Brahmin who was rather unfortunately referred to as Virago Brahminy in the East India Company records. Veeraraghava was the son of Venkatapathy, the agent or ‘Egyb’ of the East India Company at the court of the Nawabs of Golconda. In 1675, Venkatapathy died and his son succeeded him to the post. But he was shortly thereafter dismissed for being ‘unduly close’ to Podala Lingappa, the Governor of Poonamallee who was inimical to British interests. Later Veeraraghava was reinstated and by 1717 or so held the high post of Brahman Writer at the East India Colletpet – Tiger’s lair Sriram V Company in Madras. He had to interact frequently with Collet and the two formed a close relationship.