Chirala, which has earned a unique place in the history of the freedom struggle, completes 400 years on April 27, 2004, corresponding with the Telugu calendar `Visakha Sudha Saptami.'

The foundation for present-day Chirala was laid in 1604 AD by two Yadavas, Minchala Papaiah and Minchala Peraiah. The town was carved out of Sudhanagaram, original name of Patha Chirala, that was granted to Chirala Anantharaju by Goparaju Ramanna, Minister of the Kakatiya king, Ganapati Deva, during Saka 1067 (1145 AD) as mentioned in the records obtained from the Madras Oriental Library. His descendant, Chirala Venkata Krishnudu, leased out the present Chirala area to the Yadavas for raising a new township. Thus, present-day Chirala was born on Visakha Sudha Saptami of Viswavasu Vatsaram, corresponding to 1604 AD.

In the new township, a Venugopalaswamy temple was constructed in 1619 and that of Malleswaraswamy in 1620, while that of Gangamma was built a little later. As the temples did not have any chariots, Chirala Ramanna Panthulu built two chariots for the two temples towards the middle of the 19th century. Now a lot of temples have come up.

With the advent of a railway station on the Madras-Calcutta-New Delhi main line, Chirala developed commercially with its population reaching a little over one lakh, while Patha Chirala, which once traded through the ancient port of Motupalli, shrunk to become an obscure village with a population of just 5,000.

Anuguraju of the Hyheya dynasty, who ruled over Palnadu, visited Patha Chirala along with his entourage that included the famous socio-religious reformer, Brahma Naidu, during the twelfth century and left behind the idol of Chennakesava Swamy, his family deity with his consorts and weapons, used by Palnadu warriors. The ancient Adikesavaswamy temple, originally built by the Cholas during the eleventh century, and now in a dilapidated condition, is being rebuilt by Sri Arulananda Swamy, head of Sri Lalithananda Ashram of Vodarevu, near here.

Chirala, which was regarded as a health resort by Britishers, got a medical facility as early as in 1906 with the opening of the Edward VII Coronation Memorial Hospital. Dr. Baer, an American, also opened the Dr. Baer Missionary Hospital in 1912 when Chirala and its neighbouring villages did not have medical facilities except at Guntur.

The Europeans also started a tobacco curing factory of the ITC in 1923, opening job opportunities to labourers. More than 6,000 labourers used to work till the operations were mechanised. Known as the hub of the handloom industry, Chirala provides employment at least to 25,000 to 30,000 artisans. There is export market for the special quality of handloom cloth produced in this area. A co-operative spinning mill also was started in 1959.

Courtesy: By Ch. Rama Rao, The Hindu

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