September 13, 2016

Cupola in Fort St. George

Site Name: Cornwallis Cupola
Site Type: Monument
Location: Fort St. George, Chennai city, Tamil Nadu state, India 
Highlights: Historical importance
Nearest Railway Station: Chennai - well connected from the cities/towns all over India
Nearest Airport: Chennai has both national and international airports
How to reach: Easily reachable by road, train, and flight
Hotel: Many star hotels, luxury hotels/resorts, and budget hotels are available in Chennai
Restaurants: All options - vegetarian, non-vegetarian, Chinese, South Indian, Gujarati, North Indian, Punjabi,....- you can find everything in Chennai city

Have you been to Chennai? If yes, have you visited the historical Fort St. George? If you have visited the fort, you would have noticed a Cupola without any statue as the first thing. This article is an attempt to throw some light on that monument called as Cornwallis Cupola. There is nothing much to talk about the features of this monumental piece. However, there is lot to write on the history related to this monument. Let me start with the basics and I will cover everything very briefly.

Fort St. George

Madras is one of the earliest settlements of the Britishers. The foundation of the city was laid back in 1639 CE. The English decided to construct a fort, which could provide the impetus for further settlements and trading activities for them. The Britishers constructed the fort on 23rd April 1640 CE on the St. George's Day. Hence, it is believed that the fort was named as Fort St. George. It is one of the oldest British structures in India. 

The fort houses the assembly of Tamil Nadu Government, a lot of heritage buildings, an ancient church, few British period streets and a museum. The cupola, which is the focus of this article, is also located in this fort premises.

Why do we have this cupola? To know that, we have to talk about Anglo Mysore Wars, Tipu Sultan and Cornwallis.

Anglo Mysore Wars

The series of wars that was fought between the Mysore Kingdom and the British East India Company represented by the Madras Presidency towards the second half of the 18th century CE are called as the Anglo Mysore Wars.

Let us focus only about the Third Anglo Mysore War in this article, as the other three battles in this series are not directly related to our subject. The Third Anglo Mysore War was fought for two years between 1790 CE and 1792 CE. Tipu Sultan, the ruler of Mysore, invaded the nearby state of Travancore in 1789 CE. Travancore was a British ally. This act of Tipu had resulted in the war that was fought for two years.

The war ended not in favor of Tipu. He was defeated by Lord Cornwallis, who was the Governor General and who had led the British army. Tipu had to negotiate with Cornwallis and enter into a treaty which is termed as "Treaty of Srirangapatnam". As per the agreement, Tipu had to give away one half of his territory to the allies of British. In addition, he was imposed an indemnity of INR Six crores. Tipu had to hand over his two sons as hostages for the due performance of the terms.

On 26th February 1792 CE, Tipu's two sons were handed over to Cornwallis. 

Statue of Cornwallis

Winning Tipu in the battle was definitely not an ordinary task. Hence, the European inhabitants of Madras started raising fund to erect a statue for their hero, Cornwallis. Accordingly, the statue depicting the surrender of two boys to Cornwallis got completed in England and was brought to Madras in 1800 CE. 

The statue was placed under this same cupola, about which this article is written. The cupola along with the statue was located in the Parade Square area of the Fort. 

In 1805 CE, Cornwallis died. After his death, a Cenotaph was erected in Teynampet area and they had planned to shift the statue there. However, for the reasons unknown although the Cenotaph was erected, the statue was not moved there. 

Before the statue could be moved, the Cenotaph itself was moved to a new place, the first line beach. It happened sometime in the 1880s. In 1925 CE, the statue and the cupola were separated. The statue moved to the Cenotaph and then it was moved to Connemara Library in 1928 CE. In 1950 CE, it was moved to the Fort Museum and we can find that statue in the same place till now.

The cupola, which was separated from the statue of Cornwallis, never got an opportunity to meet its leader again. The cupola without any statue remained in the same site (Parade Square) for about ten years till 1935 CE. Then, it was shifted to the current location and it remains here for the past 80+ years.

This is the story of the Cupola in Fort St. George.

Happy travelling.

September 1, 2016

Queensland - Chennai

Site Name: Queensland
Site Type: Amusement Park
Location:  Palanjur, Near Chembarampakkam, Near Chennai, Tamil Nadu state, India
Highlights: One of the amusement parks in Chennai
Nearest Railway Station: Chennai
Nearest Airport: Chennai
How to reach: Well connected by road from Chennai
Timing: 10:00 AM to 6:30 PM IST
Entrance Fee: INR 550 for adult; INR 450 for child
Hotel: Varieties of options in Chennai
Restaurants: Varieties of options in Chennai; there is no good food court within the theme park - be prepared to have food outside

In South India, there was a time that anyone thinks of amusement park would go to VGP Golden Beach in Chennai. In the last 15-20 years (this blog is written in 2016 CE), so many amusement and theme parks were started in many towns and cities of South India. Even in Chennai, there are so many amusement parks today. Queensland is one of those parks located near Chennai. 

Queensland is not that popular when compared to VGP Golden Beach, MGM or Kishkinta (yea, that's how it's spelled - not my mistake ;-)). May be the location also plays an important role in that. It is located in the outskirts of Chennai, somewhere near Chembarampakkam. 

If maintained well, Queensland could become very popular park in the entire South India. It is spread across a huge area of around 70 acres. Sadly, this amusement park has one of the worst maintenance. It is really hard to believe that it is a private commercial organization. Although Chennai does not have really amazing amusement park, they all serve the purpose to some extent. But, anyone who visits this park would feel sorry for visiting this. Among all amusement parks in and around Chennai, this is the one maintained extremely bad.

All popular rides such as Free Fall Tower, Bumper Car, Roller Coaster, Boating, Himalayan Water Ride, Go Cart, etc. are available in this park. The staff do not appear to be well trained or professional. The equipments look very old and rotten. 

The park remained closed temporarily in 2008 due to an accident which resulted in the death of a girl child here.

The cable car in this park is supposed to be the longest in entire India. Had it been maintained well, this would have become a pride of this country. Unfortunately, one could expect nothing but worst experience by riding in the cable car. The front side viewing glasses would have full of scratches and you could literally see nothing in this 30 minutes ride. In addition, the rotten bars and the screeching sound that gets generated make us fear for our lives.

Happy travelling.

August 17, 2016

The Gujaratis of Chennai and their Temple

The Gujarati community of Chennai has its own history and tradition. Kheda is a district near Ahmedabad city in Gujarat state. The Brahmin community from Kheda are called as Khedawal Gujaratis. A group of Khedawal Gujaratis from Kheda district migrated to Tamil Nadu state in the beginning of the 18th century CE. The reason for their migration or the exact year of their migration is not known, though there are different versions and different theories about their migration.

It should be noted that Thanjavur was ruled by the Marathas from the late 17th century CE. Probably, during the Marathas period, apart from the Marathis and Saurashtras, even the Gujaratis decided to migrate to Tamil Nadu. Interestingly, the Khedawal Gujaratis first settled down in Thanjavur. Hence, they are also referred as Thanjavur Gujaratis. Later, they migrated to other cities of Tamil Nadu such as Trichy, Tirunelveli and Chennai.

Two women, Ramkor Bai and Ratna Bai by name, from a wealthy Tawker family of Gujarati community from Chennai, went for pilgrimage to Varanasi in the beginning of the 19th century CE. They brought two Shiv Lingas from Varanasi and installed them in a temple in Ayanavaram and in Motta Uttara in Sowcarpet.

Motta Uttara is also called as Sri Niketan. It is a community center for Khedawal Gujratis, located in Mint street opposite to Ekambareswar temple. In Uttara, there is a small shrine which enshrines this 200 years old Shiv Linga from Varanasi. As this was originally brought from Varnasi, the Linga is called as Kasi Vishwanath.

There is another highlight about this shrine. In the sanctum, the idols representing five out of six Dharmas of Hinduism are found. They are Vishwanatha Linga of Shaivism, Vishalakshi of Shaktism, Surya of Sauram, Ganesh of Ganapathyam and Vishnu of Vaishnavism. Apart from Shiv Linga, all other idols are later additions. The sanctum faces the west direction and not the usual east direction.

The wall around the sanctum has the Koshta idols of Dakshinamurti, Vishnu and Durga.

There is a sub-shrine which enshrines some Utsav (mobile) idols. The adjoining Pooja room has some very old photographs of various deities.

Happy travelling.