Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91
Vol. XXXII No. 1, April 16-30, 2022
The proposed letter from the building committee of the High Court of Madras to the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), asking the latter to consider shifting Hynmers’ Obelisk from its present location (see Heritage Watch), has brought into sharp focus the role of the ASI when it comes to protecting monuments that are under its control. Will it stand up to its mandate or simply give in is the question. We sincerely hope it will be the former option.
As per the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act of 1958, it is forbidden to take up any construction activity within 100 meters in all directions of the limits of a protected monument or site. Given the congestion in most of our metros, historic monuments are fighting a losing battle. The blue board of the ASI offers very little protection. Most ancient monuments have been encroached upon, often with new constructions even sharing a wall or two with them. Entire colonies have come up in historic precincts and the ASI has been toothless in implementing its 100 m law. It has most often taken cover under the excuse that the violations have been in place even prior to 1958, which again is not true. At the Hynmers’ Obelisk, even though the High Court is formally seeking removal of the structure owing to the 100m law, it must be pointed out that the hostels of the erstwhile Law College premises practically hem the monument from three sides. And these are not pre-1958 constructions.
The Corporation has identified 905 vending zones and 4,700 non-vending zones in Chennai city. “We have begun enforcing the rules,” said Commissioner Gagandeep Singh Bedi in a quote to the media and true enough, reports have come in of several shops that have been evicted from the designated non-vending zones in areas such as NSC Bose Road in Parrys and Rajamannar Salai in KK Nagar.
Who would imagine that the Yale Monument, so long associated with this city would now be declared as standing in the way of development? And yet that is true. Hynmers’ Obelisk, to give its correct name dates back to the 1680s. It marks the burial spot of Joseph Hynmers, second-in-council, Fort St. George, who died in May 1680. He was buried under this giant piece of masonry, at what was the Guava Garden cemetery of the British (for a more detailed account of this place, refer Madras Musings XXV, No 13, Oct 16-31, 2015
Madras Musings and Chennai Heritage mourn the passing of Mr. N. Sankar, who ensured corporate support for this publication and was its well wisher and patron. Full length tributes will appear in the May 1st issue.
Much of this article is a repeat of what I wrote in Madras Musings Vol XXV, No 13,