The city of Vizag forms a significant part of Indian history. From the time of Maharajahs to the British era, Vizag has seen it all. On the way, it has held many names like Ishakapatnam and Vizagapatam. John Castellas, presently based in Australia, shares a connection with Vizag from the Colonial days, a connection that is well-reflected in his collection of historical facts and photographs. Here are 12 historical facts about Vizag, from the information provided by him, that you wouldn’t have known:
12 interesting historical facts about Vizag:
#1 The earliest map of Vizag, from the mid-1800s, shows four carriage tracks providing access to Vizag.
#2 Employees of East Coast State Railway Company settled at Waltair in 1883. Later in 1907, Madras Railway Company took over the Waltair to Madras railway services while Bengal Nagpur Railway operated the services from Waltair to Calcutta.
#3 In 1883, European officers, of the East Coast State Railway Company, established themselves in Waltair. The Madras Railway Company took over the railway services, of the East Coast Railway, from Madras to Waltair in 1907. The Bengal Nagpur Railway then took over the Waltair to Calcutta services.
#4 Due to the rise of exports in Waltair, a demand for harbour rose up and Bengal Nagpur Railway was entrusted with building the new harbour, the construction work for which was started in 1910 and which was finally opened in 1933.
#5 Scandal Point, which happens to be a popular rendezvous point for residents of Vizag, was called so due to the popular legend that gossip circulated with extraordinary speed from this area.
#6 Waltair, one of the old areas in Vizag, has held many names over the years- Valteru, Walteero and Wattair. The locals called it ‘Chalavalu’ due to the excellent bleaching properties of the water.
#7 Located near the Lighthouse, a cinema made of palmyrah columns and tin roofs called Lighthouse/Tin-shed talkies stood as the city’s source of entertainment. Tickets ranged from 4 Annas (front seat) to Rs. 1 (back seat) while it is said that those who couldn’t afford the tickets would disrupt the movies by throwing stones.
#8 The Collector of the city held a fete in the Collector’s office grounds in Vizag on 8 March 1941 to raise funds for World War 2.
#9 The city eventually had three aircraft named after it, flying under the Madras Presidency RAF 234 Squadron, which was a Hurrican fighter named ‘Vizagapatam’ and two spitfires named ‘Vizigapatum II’ and ‘Vizagapatam III’. In late 1941, a twin-bomber was added to the Madras Presidency No. 99 Bomber Squadron.
#10 In a bid to prepare the city for raids during Second World War, a practice air raid was organized in March 1942 which caused panic among the city’s population with shops as well as Government offices being closed.
#11 On 6 April 1942, 5 Japanese aircraft carried out air raids in two rounds of 13:00-13:45 hrs and 17:25-17:45 hrs with the main targets being the newly-built harbour and Scindia Shipyard.
#12 Vizag’s population in 1942 was close to 70,000.
All the above-mentioned facts about Vizag have been provided by John Castellas whose family has belonged to Visakhapatnam for 5 generations. Educated at St Aloysius, he migrated to Melbourne, Australia in 1966, where he worked as General Manager Engineering at Boeing & Qantas Airways. Now retired, he conducts lectures in Aviation Management at Swinburne University and keeps his love for the city alive through a collection of rare photographs and paintings.