October 23, 2016

Kolu Tradition of Gujaratis

Durga Pooja, which is celebrated as part of Navaratri celebrations, is very popular in Bengal; similarly in Tamil Nadu state of India, Navaratri is celebrated in grand manner with the display of dolls assembled and arranged on the steps. The assembly of dolls of various sizes and materials in the houses or temples is called as 'Kolu'. (People often mispronounce this word as 'Golu'). Even in the states of Andhra and Karnataka, Navaratri is celebrated with the display of Kolu dolls. The dolls that are displayed in Kolu may include the idols of deities, animals, humans and depiction of few scenes. Some people even arrange the dolls in innovative story telling concepts.

The other parts of India do celebrate Navaratri in different manner but not by displaying Kolu idols. Of course, in Gujarat state, people celebrate Navaratri in grand manner by performing poojas to the Mother Goddess. But, they do not have the tradition of displaying dolls during Navaratri. However, there is a group of Gujaratis who follow this tradition of South Indians. This article is to focus on this subject.

The Gujarati community of Tamil Nadu 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.

Hundreds of families that belong to Khedawal Gujarati community still live in various parts of Tamil Nadu. Although they speak Gujarati at home (of course, in a very different accent), they mostly learn Tamil as their second language in the schools. Their food, dressing sense, rituals and other traditions mixed up with that of South Indians, as they have been living in the south for about three centuries.

Khedawal Gujaratis, who were attracted by the Kolu tradition of the Tamils, started decorating their houses, made artificial steps and arranged dolls on those steps. All this was done with one major difference. Instead of displaying the dolls during the Navaratri days, they started the new tradition of having Kolu during Krishna Jayanti. (The Khedawal Gujaratis neither adapt to new tradition completely or forget their old tradition; they just mix up both. :-) )

All communities of Gujaratis (in and outside Gujarat) traditionally celebrate Janmashtami (Krishna Jayanti) in grand manner. They would dress up the idols of Krishna beautifully and decorate the divine cradle. The Khedawals extended this tradition by assembling more dolls and made it like the South Indian Kolu.

Even today, this tradition of displaying Kolu dolls during the Krishna Jayanti is being following by very few families of the Khedawals. The others from this community either migrated to the Kolu tradition of Navaratri or completely stopped this tradition.

Happy travelling.

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.