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Chintadripet: Its Connection To The Weaving Trade

The Chintadripet locality in Chennai is of historical importance for the handloom trade.

Chintadripet, a neighbourhood in Chennai, was created in 1734 by the then British governor George Morton Pitt with the settlement of over 230 weaver families to produce cotton for export. It was called “Chinna Thari Pettai”, which in Tamil means ‘village of small looms’. Chintadripet, located on the southern bank of the Cooum River, is surrounded by Chepauk, Island Grounds, Pudupet, Egmore, Park Town, Vepery and Anna Salai.  

The Justice E. Padmanabhan Committee Report declared the intent: “None but spinners, weavers, painters, washers and dyers, with priests and attendants for the temple will be admitted to the new village, to be called Chintadre Pettah.”

Towards the end of the 17th century, British East India Company was fully established within the territory of India, with British primarily focusing on the trade and economic activities. However, as time passed, the company felt the need to have a permanent trading station. This led to building Fort St.George, the first British fortress in India, in 1640 at the coastal city of Madras. George Morton Pitt (1693–1756) served as its president from 1730 to 1735. During this time, the dubashes and chief merchants of the Company who engaged in the supply of cotton goods to the Company rose to great prosperity, power and influence.

Sunku Rama, a chief merchant of Fort St.George, received a piece of land nestled at the bend of the Cooum river from Governor Joseph Collet in 1719. In the years that followed, Sunku Rama became arrogant to the Company's European merchants. This led to his dismissal from his post in 1731. In 1734, the Company took over his land with the intent of creating a settlement for weavers.

Bemala Audiappa Narayana Chetty, a chief merchant of the Company, helped in the populating the village, which grew to accommodate nearly two hundred and fifty families within two years after its foundation.

Prior to independence, Chintadripet was identified with small looms as each of the fifteen streets in the neighbourhood had at least a dozen weavers. With decline in cotton production and rise of power looms, weavers migrated elsewhere.

Many spinners and weavers are found in Chintadripet even today. You still get to see many old and beautiful houses, thriving markets, forgotten schools, historic temples, surely from the turn of the 20th century. The swarming Chintadripet market accommodates both age-old trades and 21st-century demands.

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