October 2, 2018

The Historic Madras Harbour

In 2006 CE, the Chennai Port Trust celebrated its 125th year of formation. But the history of Madras harbour is much older.

The maritime trade started way back in 1639 CE along with the foundation of the city. However there was no natural or artificial harbour. The ships could not come anywhere within two miles of the coast. They had to stop at Madras Roads (yes, that's how it was called then) and off load all the materials. The transportation to the city would be through the catamarans and the masula boats.

In 1770 CE, there was a plan to build a pier into the sea, but that was dropped when Warren Hastings was appointed as the Governor and Bengal and transferred to Kolkata. Almost after 90 years, probably as the result of high loss of cargo while transporting through the boats, the initial piers were built in 1861 CE. The storms of 1868 and 1872 destroyed them. On 15th December 1875, the foundation stone for the commencement of Madras Harbour Works was laid by Edward VII, the Prince of Wales. (He was the eldest son of Queen Victoria). The foundation stone is still found in the harbour campus. The operation of this artificial harbour started in 1881.

The port was vulnerable to cyclones and accretion of sand inside the basin, as it was a man made harbour. In 1904, Sir Francis Spring, was appointed to oversee the better development of the harbour. He was made as the Chairman of the newly formed Madras Port Trust in 1905. He drew a long term plan to overcome the natural challenges. He shifted the entrance of the port from eastern side to the North eastern side. He left the port trust in 1919; however, his futuristic plans ensured that the traffic was handled well till 1950s. The bungalow where Francis Spring lived is still there. The Road where this bungalow stands is named as Spring Havens Road.

The Black Town of Madras was renamed as George Town, after King George V visited India in 1911. When he was still a Prince, he had visited the Madras Harbour. There is a stone in the port which remembers and records his visit on 24th January 1906 CE.

Not many would know that the Port runs its own railway operations. The railway lines run upto 41 kms inside the harbour. They are for handling wide range of cargo.

The great Mathematician, Srinivasa Ramanujan, was an employee of Madras Harbour. He worked as an accounting clerk for about one year from 1912 CE. His boss, Sir Francis Spring and his colleague, Narayana Iyer, encouraged him in his mathematical pursuits. To remember him, his bust was installed inside the harbour in 1990.

There is a building built in the early 1900s in art deco style of architecture, which has heritage value. It resembles the building in Connemara hotel.

 The HPH sub-station runs in the oldest structure of the harbour. The building is found in the below image.

INS Vagli is a submarine, which was de-commissioned from the Indian Navy in 2010, was brought here to make it into a Submarine Museum. Due to some reason, the initiative was not materialized. Some people have recently painted its name as "Kadal Pura", which is the title of the famous historical novel penned by Sandilyan.  

The Royal Madras Yacht Club is another historic place located within the port. It was founded by Sir Francis Spring, the then Chairman of the Madras Port Trust in 1911 as the Madras Sailing Club. After many shifts, the Club was ultimately relocated to its original place (the Timber Pond). The Club building has a lot of old medals, artifacts and photographs. Some of the photo frames which were damaged during the bombardment by the German cruiser Emden in 1914 are displayed in the club. 

Note: As I intended to cover only the sites of historical significance and heritage value in this article, I have not covered some of the generic information and other details related to the harbour.

The information covered in this article are based on my observations during my visit, the details from the official website of the port and the information gathered from the speech of Mr. Narasiah, the historian.

Happy travelling.   

August 20, 2018

Seafarer's Club - Chennai

The lesser known club for the seafarer's community and their family members is located in Rajaji Road, right opposite to the Reserve Bank of India, in Chennai. Towards the end of the Second World War (in 1945 CE), the Seafarer's Club was constituted with the initial grant by the Joint War Charity Committee.

The Club, which was functioning in a rented building in The First Line Beach, shifted to the current building in 1962 CE. The Chennai Port Trust carried out the construction of this building.

The club provides rooms for accommodation along with many recreation facilities for the Seafarer's community. The hall is let out for the events even for the outsiders.

Some of the noteworthy features of this site include the statues of Seaman and Seamen's family (a mother with two kids). These statues were unveiled by Mr. G.K.Vasan in 2011 CE, when he was serving as the Minister of Shipping. The Seaman's statue is named as "The Unknown Sailor".

In order to honour Sri V.O.Chidambaranar, who ran the first native shipping company, his statue was unveiled in 2012 in the premises.

Happy travelling.

August 11, 2018

VR Chennai

VR Chennai - it's a new shopping mall in Chennai. It's a massive mall sprawling over an area of aorund 9,88,000 sq. feet and is located in Anna Nagar locality.

There are around 250+ international and national brands, which include some of the famous and familiar ones like Adidas, Allen Solly, Arrow, Bata, Calonge, Color Plus, Dell, HP, Lenovo, Life Style, Max, Pantaloons, Peter England, Raymond, Reliance Trends and Westside.

The parking area is vast and well organized. On the top most floor, the dining area is spacious with a lot of options. In addition, there are many options for dining in the other floors too such as Amaravatihi, Domino's, KFC, Sangeetha's and Krishna Sweets. For kids, there are entertainment options such as video games. A 10 screen multi plex from PVR is coming up in this mall which has a cultural theme.

Happy travelling.