Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91
Vol. XXVII No. 10, September 1-15, 2017
After years of studiously avoiding the subject, the Government of Tamil Nadu appears to be waking up to the possibility of joining Madras Day celebrations. That is, if a recent pronouncement is to be believed. If this is true, it is indeed a welcome development and we sincerely hope that the statement will translate into action.
As officialdom has a tendency to forget its statements when convenient, we are publishing an extract from The Hindu dated August 11, 2017 wherein the following question was posed to the Commissioner, Corporation of Greater Chennai, and he replied as quoted thereafter:
“With the Foundation Day for Madras falling on August 22, this month is considered a heritage month. Does the Corporation have any plans to celebrate the Foundation Day?”
“Not this year. Because the initial phase of Chennai Metro Rail opposite Ripon Buildings is expected to be completed by the end of this year. Only after its completion will the restoration of Victoria Hall be taken up. We are planning to organise a series of events, including a heritage walk between Ripon Buildings and Victoria Hall, photo exhibitions and a heritage talk, to mark the Foundation Day of the city next year (2018).”
If this is indeed going to happen, it signifies a change in the stance of the Government. It was only in 2014 when asked the same question that an official had famously declared that the Government will not be involved in the celebration of anything colonial and would only seek to promote ancient Tamil heritage. To this our counter was that Chennai too boasts of much ancient Tamil heritage and the Government would do well to highlight that, if it felt that was the best way to celebrate Madras Week.
Madras Week as a concept may be a decade and a half old now but for the past few years, its prime movers have repeatedly emphasised that this is not a commemoration of just the founding of modern Madras but a celebration of everything the city stands for and what it has contributed to modern India. It is therefore rather unfortunate that a certain section persists in repeatedly branding this event as colonial and elitist. But, fortunately, that voice has been rather muted in recent years. In this context it is noteworthy that a parallel series of events has been held for the past two years during Madras Week under the auspices of the Chennai 2000 Plus Trust which aims to celebrate only the ancient history and glory of Tondaimandalam. The body also hotly contests the belief that the city was founded only in 1639. We welcome such a divergent view for it is only by debate and multiple views that a civic society can develop. And we also note here that the body has chosen to express its views through a celebration. May it get the support it warrants.
The biggest feather in the cap for Madras Week would be when the Government chooses to join in. That would result in tourism receiving a great boost. Commercial interests – shops and hotels – will also feel emboldened to become involved and the entire commemoration could be developed on the lines of the Dubai Festival. The city can only benefit from such a move, as has been suggested in the past.
Madras Week began in a small way, promoted by a few journalists who are heritage enthusiasts, a group perhaps educationally elitist. That is the way any progressive move begins. It then can sustain itself only when it becomes a mass movement with different expressions and views. Madras Week has now reached that level; it now appears to have a life of its own. Its next major thrust will happen when the Government shows its willingness to join in the celebrations. 2018 may be a game changer after all.
Cycling Yogis’ sixth edition of the Madras Day Heritage Ride along the Adyar River saw 71 cyclists, including 18 support staff/volunteers, start-off at 5 a.m. from San Thome Inn and follow the river as much as possible. The Manimangalam Dharmeswarer Temple, near the starting point of the river, was the U-turn point of the ride. A brief interactive session about the river took place here while breakfast was served. Participants took the Swachh Bharat Pledge. ASI Chennai Circle CA, Saravanan gave away the medal/badges to the cyclists. The return leg was to the starting point. Here, the Cycling Yogis pose after the picnic breakfast at the temple.
Work still on at Kalas Mahal
It’s good news that the Public Works Department of Tamil Nadu, through its specially formed division, the Building Centre and Conservation Division (BCCD), will be embarking on a major project across the State to conserve heritage buildings that have been in a condition of neglect for several years. It is reported that about 200 such structures have been identified for deeper study of the individual needs of each.
The announcement is a reassurance that the Government is alive to the consequences of continued relegation of conservation to a low priority status. We are assured that the evaluation would be completed in six months. This seems adequate in normal circumstances, but ambitious considering the speed at which public agencies move.
A positive implication of the report also is that the conservation programme is
The temple at Ayyanarpatan Sholai, which seems to be a megalithic dolmen
The villagers at Veeraganurpatti in Selurnad of Kolli Hills did not permit us to visit the Kongliamman temple in a forest patch (locally called shola) on the ridge that drops on its western side into the Namakkal plains. The old priest at the temple, whose son performs the worship at present, had died that morning.
K. Saravanan, a village senior, explained that the villagers follow the traditional practice that does not permit people to pass through a mourning village into a sacred grove. The villagers believe that Kongliamman, the reigning deity of the temple, has come from the plains near Erode. She followed a farmer from the village who had gone to sell his produce in the market at Erode, and then sat down in the shola. “From then on, our village had a samy shola (sacred grove),” he observed.
Maharajah Mirza Pusapati Sir Vijayarama III Gajapathi Raju Bahadur had a long tenure as the Zamindar of Vizianagaram, from 1845 to 1879. He was born in 1826 and technically a minor when he ascended the throne in 1845, when his father Raja Pusapati Narayana Babu Gajapathi Bahadur died in Benares, leaving an impoverished estate. The East India Company promptly moved in, taking charge of the zamindari while the new ruler was a minor. It was only in 1852 that he was given complete control of the financially rejuvenated estate.