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Vol. XXVII No. 16, December 1-15, 2017

Archives: Vol. XXVII No. 16, December 1-15, 2017


So indifferent to heritage

By The Editor

Who will save the Madrasa-e-Azam?


The Madrasa-e-Azam today (above) and (below) as it was in the 1980s. (Today’s photo: Shantanu Krishnan

Falaknuma Palace in Hyderabad is a splendidly restored heritage structure. Its most distinctive feature is its stairway – a pair of curving steps in front which, aerially, gave the building the look of a scorpion. Our city too had one and a much older building at that – the building presently known as the Madrasa-e-Azam and once Umdah Bagh, a property of the Nawabs of Arcot. If the Government has its way, the building will soon make way for a wedding hall.

Located on Mount Road, this is a historic property. In 1816, Colah Singanna Chetty, a dubash, owned it. The Armenian millionaire Edward Samuel Moorat later bought it. Ghulam Ghouse Khan, the last of the titular nawabs, who died in 1855, subsequently acquired it. From him it passed on to Her Highness Azim Un Nissa Begum, nikah wife of the Nawab. Though owned by her, the house was rented by the principal wife of the Nawab, Khair Un Nissa Begum and became the social epicentre of the Muslim aristocracy in Madras. This was where luminaries such as Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, founder of the Aligarh Muslim University, and His Exalted Highness Mir Mahbub Ali Khan Bahadur, the Nizam of Hyderabad, stayed when they visited Madras. The curving steps of Falaknuma could well have been inspired by Umdah Bagh, for the Prime Minister of Hyderabad, Sir Vicar Ul Umrah, who built the palace, was also part of the Nizam’s entourage.

In the late 19th Century, the property came to be owned by the Gujarati business family of Lodd Krishnadoss Balamukunddoss. In 1901, the All India Muslim Educational Conference was held in Madras and a request was made that the Madrasa-e-Azam, founded in 1849 and functioning till then at Chepauk, be given the property. The Government acquired Umdah Bagh from the Lodd family, who were kind enough to sell it at less than market rates on coming to know that it was to be used for an educational institution.


Social progress in TN needs speed-up

by A Special Correspondent

The Institute for Social Competitiveness, India, has published a Social Progress Index for individual States and for the country. Tamil Nadu, with an overall score of 65.34 for Social Progress has done much better than the country score of 54.90. India itself ranks 98 out of 133 listed countries, which is not something to crow about.
Social Progress is divided in the Study into three dimensions. The first dimension is Basic Human Needs comprising nutrition, water, sanitation, shelter and personal safety. The second is Well Being Needs under which are included basic education, access to information and communication, health and pollution-free environment. The third dimension is Opportunity comprising personal rights, freedom of choice and inclusiveness.

From the scores for 2016, it is seen that, generally, smaller States have done well, recording good scores although their GDP size is smaller. Their scores are as follows – Goa 63.39, Himachal 65.39, Kerala 68.09, Mizoram 62.89 and Uttarakhand 64.23. Contrast these with traditionally well administered bigger States like Maharashtra at 57.88, Karnataka at 59.72 and Tamil Nadu at 65.34.


Shrinking wetlands, felling trees

Putting Chennai at risk


The Pallikaranai marsh in the southern part of the city with streams draining into it. (Photo by S. Gopikrishna Warrier)

Chennai has lost much of its climate resilience due to the shrinking of its wetlands and forest patches, which has drastically reduced the city’s ability to soak up excess rainwater writes S. Gopikrishna Warrier.

It is the network of blue and green that provides climate resilience to Chennai city – blue of its wetlands and green of its patches of vegetation. However, this combination that had been protecting the city in the past is today under stress. The shrinking of blue and green has drastically reduced Chennai’s ability to deal with extreme weather events.

Just 15 months after a massive flood in November-December 2015 battered the city, the residents suffered a serious drought during the summer of 2017.



- Sriram V.

The Ellis Florence Nightingale influenced

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R.S. Ellis, MCS.

Who is Ellis Road off Mount Road named after? The competition is between two individuals – Francis Whyte Ellis of the Madras School of Orientalism fame and Robert Staunton Ellis who had a long and distinguished career in the Madras Civil Services. Given his love for Tamil, I sincerely hope it is the former, but then R.S. Ellis could well be the man.


Doubting Thomas

66a copy copy

The beautiful stained glass backdrop to the altar in San Thomé Basilica tells the story of the Apostle of India, the Thomas who had doubted and found belief

December 21st is the traditional date of Thomas’s martyrdom. SIMEON MASCAREN HAS, who has spent time in the Portuguese Archives, reviews the story of the Thomas who became the Apostle of India.