Machilipatnam was a major port for international trade in the 17th century.

Valandapalem to English Palem history behind place names in MachilipatnamImageCredit_NitinB
Features History Tuesday, September 14, 2021 - 17:50

Machilipatnam in Andhra Pradesh is one of the oldest seaports in the world. By the 17th century, it was a major port for international trade and people from many countries entering India went through this sea route. Though hundreds of years have passed since then, the places of names in this town still bear testimony to this history. There were Dutch, French, English and Portugese traders who came to Machilipatnam and left their footprints, exporting textiles for several decades. 

Here's the history of these names.

Valandapalem

In the year 1602, the Dutch first entered Machilipatnam via the sea route. These traders mostly came from Holland, the capital of the Netherlands and settled in Machavaram, which is towards the periphery of the town. That place is now Valandapalem. Wonder why?

The traders who came from Holland were called Hollandeeyulu or Hollandeeya which turned into 'Vollandeeya', and the settlement of the 'Vollandeeya' people was termed as Vollandeyapalem. Over the years, the name became Valandapalem, as it is used now.

The Dutch used to make Kalamkari cloth and they also exported it. People from the local Rajaka community would help the Dutch in cleaning and drying the Kalamkari printed cloth. 

The Rajaka people are also called Thuraka Chaakali and they follow a mix of Hindu and Muslim traditions. The community still exists till date and has a separate mosque. 

There is also a Dutch cemetery in Valandapalem which is being maintained by the ASI (Archeological Survey of India). 

Parasupeta

French traders came to Machilipatnam from their capital city Paris in the year 1756, and have settled here for several decades. The people who came from France were called Faraasulu or Paraasulu and their settlement was called Parasupeta or the French Peta. 

Back then, the French people's factories, godowns, and residences were spread across 71 acres of area called Parasupeta. In the revenue records and power bills, the place name is still called French Peta. There are two cultural centres in this area, the Cosmopolitan Club and the Balabhavan Center, which were once the main cultural hubs for the Europeans.

The French also had a place where they used to hoist their flag, which was called Jenda Dibba. Though there is no flag now, the place is still referred to as the Jenda Center (flag center) as a landmark. The flag was placed after the French won over local rulers in Bandar Kota and Divi Talukas in the year 1750.

English Palem

The British entered Machilipatnam in the year 1611 and settled there for hundreds of years. They indulged in exporting and importing textiles, particularly Kalamkari, with the help of the East India Company.

The Britishers mainly lived in Rangrez palem, where there were Rangrezulu (people who used to dye clothes). The Muslim population called it 'Angrezulu' and with the entry of the British over time, it came to be called as English Palem. This name exists till date, though there are no British people living here now.

Sarkaar Thota

This area was once called 'Wild Forest Road,' as it was a kind of reserve forest. It was left as a community open space and there was thick flora found in this area. However, though there is neither a forest nor open space now, the name 'thota' or 'garden' has stuck. As of now, there are industrial estate lands, parade grounds, a government swimming pool and other residential spaces in the area.

Butchupeta

A local man named Butch Panthulu used to be a food contractor for the British in the year 1648. As a result, he was given 20 to 30 acres of land as a grant. The area was named after him as Butchpeta. 

There is a famous Venkateshwara temple in the area. Around 1775, European officers used to record witness statements from the locals after they took an oath in this temple. The temple is now called Butchupeta Venkateshwara Swamy temple.

Robertsonpeta

In the year 1816, a European man called Robertson served as the Collector of Krishna district (then it was a combination of the present Guntur, East and West Godavari and Krishna districts). He was the one who constructed a huge market in this area.

Before Robertson became the Collector, he served as an Assistant Collector for the same region which was notorious for robberies. According to Machilipatnam Charitra, Chitta Balakrishna Shastri’s book, a person called Parvathi killed a woman named Parvathamma in the forest area because the latter did not clear her debt or the interest amount. After this murder, Collector Robertson cleared the entire forest area, covered all the uneven pits, and converted the bushy land into a segregated market place for all kinds of traders, from fruit to fish sellers. 

There were separate lanes for each product and the segregated market exists till date. However, at the time, such a kind of market segregation was unique, says historian Mohammad Silar. The place has been named after him. 

Note: All references taken from Machilipatnam Sarvasvam by Mohammad Silar, Retired Deputy Collector and INTACH Convenor for Machilipatnam Chapter, unless mentioned otherwise specifically. 

Read: This Andhra town came together to save a hundred-year-old tree after it fell

 

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