Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91
Vol. XXXIII No. 7, July 16-31, 2023
The High Court of Madras in its order earlier this month has ordered the relocation of the Hynmer Obelisk. The monument in question, dating back to the 1670s, is the last remnant of the Guava Garden cemetery, where the British buried their dead till the 1750s. The High Court and the Law College came up on the site in the late 19th century, long after all tombstones barring the Hynmer Obelisk and the Powney Vault, had been removed to St. Mary’s Church in Fort St. George. Of the two survivors, the Powney Vault, which had the tombs of several members of that family, vanished rather mysteriously when work began on the Metrorail. The Hynmer Obelisk is now in the news. This enormous piece of masonry was originally constructed to house the remains of Joseph Hynmer, second in command at Fort St. George. His wife then married Elihu Yale in 1680, and when that couple’s son David died, he was buried under the same obelisk. Owing to Yale’s greater prominence in history, it has since been known as the Yale Monument.
Why has the shift been necessitated? With the High Court needing greater space to deal with its congestion, it has since been decided that the Law College building, now empty and undergoing restoration, will be used for that purpose. The presence of the Yale Monument, which being protected falls under the law that prevents construction within 100 metres of it, has proved a hindrance. The Court is eyeing the space for parking. It is in consequence of this that the shift has been ordered.
There are many aspects of the judgement that demand close scrutiny and study, for their long-term impact on built heritage. The first is the order stipulating the shifting and not demolition of the obelisk.
The last couple of months have been hard on consumers, for the city has been seeing a surge in the price of produce owing to a stock crunch. First, it was the heatwave that restricted the supply of vegetables; then, the recent spate of heavy rainfall in southern states dampened availability. “I cannot remember a time when I bought green chilli for Rs. 200 a kilo at the wholesale market,” exclaims Vijaya, gesturing towards her vegetable cart. “And ginger? A kilo of that costs Rs. 320. I am not able to sell more than half the goods I buy at Koyambedu.” The state meets a significant portion of its demand for produce from neighbouring states, but the supply has thinned. It is said that TN’s own tomato crop, in particular, was badly affected by the downpours.
Like it or hate it, you cannot deny that the Hynmer Obelisk, better known as the Yale Monument, has been a part of our city’s heritage for over three centuries. It, and the neighbouring Powney Vault, which vanished mysteriously around the time the Metrorail began work in the vicinity, were the only remnants of what was once the Golgotha or place of skulls for Madras. Referred to rather euphemistically as the Guava Garden, it was where the British buried their dead at least till the 1750s. For more details on the same, please see Madras Musings Vol. 25, No 13, Oct 16-31, 2015.
“I don’t want to study Thamizh. I will learn Hindi” wailed Chelvan, whose full name was Thamizhchelvan. The name meant that he was the child of Thamizh. He was in his third standard and had got single digit marks upon hundred in his Thamizh exam. He had barely passed his other subjects. But had failed in Thamizh. He had got above sixty in Hindi. He was born to Thamizh parents who knew no other language. He too spoke the
There was a time when the cycle rickshaw was ubiquitous in our city. Now it has become a rarity, with the auto-rickshaw having more or less taken over. The mechanised or cycle rickshaw came to our city in the 1960s. Prior to that, we had the hand-pulled rickshaw. And then, fifty years ago, on June 3, 1973 to be precise, the State Government in a revolutionary step,