As with other traders who headed South to escape the volatile climate of invasions and change of rule in 1600, Gujaratis chose the region to set up their business. Some of the earliest migrants also played a significant role with their business spreading across several trades that included diamonds merchandising, besides textiles and hardware. Karthik Bhatt shares an interesting story on the early migration that preceded even the setting up of the East India Company. “A Gujarati book had the information on the earliest settlers and traced it to the early 1600s when a Khedawal family moved to Thanjavur, where many of their kin had already settled. Fort St George dates back to 1639, so it is only fair to make such an assumption,” he says, explaining how early the migration began.
The earlier families included Tawkers and the Gocooladoss Jumnadoss family that have made a valuable contribution to the field of education with institutions like schools and colleges.
The Tawkers (diamond merchants), built the famous Kashi Vishwanath temple in Ayanavaram. Listed among the 400 heritage sites notified by the Padmanabhan Committee the temple is said to have been the idea of two sisters from the Tawker family.
After a pilgrimage to Varanasi, one of the shiva lingams that they brought with from the visit was duly consecrated in the land they owned in Ayanavaram.
The temple is a huge landmark and stands sandwiched between the Ayanavaram bus stand and Medavakkam Tank Road.
Bhatt’s a treasure trove of information, when he talks about his community. His series in Madras Musings highlights the contribution by other big names that left an indelible mark in the city’s history. These include jewellers like the Mehta family, Surajmal Lallubhai, Bapalal jewellers, N Gopaldas and Co and the Veecumsees.
The Lodds were a family of philanthropists who ran flourishing businesses. Sivasankara Pandya and Kulapathi Balakrishna Joshi played a vital role as educationists.
Gifted with business acumen and the will to work hard, it is, however, not surprising that the community has made a mark in every possible trade.
Though in the beginning they settled in the Park Town area, with several settlements coming up, Gujaratis can be found in every part of the city today.