A watery origin or sight of tree stumps, what inspired Pottakuzhy?

Weekly column on the history of place names.
A watery origin or sight of tree stumps, what inspired Pottakuzhy?

KOCHI: Pottakuzhy, nestled between Elamakkara and Kaloor, is primarily a residential neighbourhood which, despite its proximity to the heart of Kochi city, boasts very little development. Part of what constrains the region’s potential, according to many, is poor urban planning. The lack of vision and political will to widen the Pottakuzhy road has been a concern for years.

That said, the area is not without its gems. The Little Flower Church on Pottakuzhy road is the first church in Asia in the name of St Therese of Lisieux, popularly known as Little Flower. The church’s grand architecture belies the fact that it is an oasis of tranquillity amid the clamour of the city.

How Pottakuzhy came to don its name is a mystery. Some believe the place derived its name from a natural phenomenon occurring in the nearby Perandoor canal, the lifeline of Kochi. This 10.5-kilometre canal, which begins near Perandoor in Vaduthala and ends at Thevara, is responsible for controlling waterlogging in the city. Not long ago, it was even used by people in the region for navigation, transportation of goods, irrigation and even fishing.

“The phenomenon happens during the monsoon. The canal, as you know, twists and turns as it snakes its way down south — to Thevara. During heavy rainfall, the bends force the water into a swirl, causing a pit-like appearance in the middle of the river. The place was previously called ‘Ottachuzhi’, meaning a single swirl. Over time, it came to be known as Pottakuzhi,” says George Pottakuzhi, a retired sub-court superintendent and resident of the neighbourhood.

Another theory deals with the construction of roads here. Earlier, Pottakuzhy was not a well-developed area. Wooden bridges were installed along the canal for people to cross to the other side. “When the construction of the roads began, many trees in the region had to be cut. Its stumps, jutting out of the ground, were indeed an odd sight. The Malayalam word for tree stump is ‘potta’. Pottakuzhy likely derives its name from this,” says Johnson, a parishioner of Little Flower Church.

While Adv M K Saseendran, who is enthusiastic about studying the history of places, agrees that ‘potta’ is indeed the word for a tree stump, he expressed his doubts as to whether the name Pottakuzhy is derived from this alone. “I cannot confirm that the place’s name has to do with something like that,” he says.

Whatever the case, the destiny of Pottakuzhy is interlinked with the canal and the state of its roads. Unless the city authorities take heed of this fact and take constructive steps to maintain them, the neighbourhood will always remain second best to other locations.

An isolated corner

Unlike Kadavanthra, which enjoys the connectivity and convenience of multiple arterial roads, such as the MG road, the SA road, and the national highway, Pottakuzhy is tucked away in a forgotten corner of Kochi. The only way to reach this low-lying locality is through a narrow and crowded lane that branches off from the Kaloor junction. A dead end flanks Pottakuzhy on the other end, with no access to the main road. This forces residents to rely on pocket roads, most of which are in poor condition prone to traffic snarls, further isolating Pottakuzhy from the city

What’s in a name

Weekly column on the history of place names. Got any suggestions? Write to cityexpresskoc@newindianexpress.com

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