December 31, 2017

Mambakkam Temple Tank (Waterbodies of Chennai - 3)

It's beautiful  pond surrounded by shady trees with an ancient temple on its banks. The villagers have been using this pond for many years for drinking and bathing purposes. Alas! The expansion of the city and the aftermath urbanization lead the trees to vanish and to have high rise buildings in their place. Now, the pond is no more a scenic beauty as it used to be 10-15 years ago. The villagers rarely use this pond nowadays. We can only hope that the real estate gang would not take control of this pond too and destroy the remaining beauty of the village.

This pond belongs to Muruganatheeswara temple. It's a later Pandya period temple in Mambakkam village.  Mambakkam is a quite village located at a distance of 20 kms from Tambaram in the southern outskirts of Chennai city.

Happy travelling.

Note: As per a report, there were about 650+ waterbodies in Chennai region till 1980s. Today, only a fraction of them exist. And, most of those surviving waterbodies hardly have water and even some of them that  have water had been shrunk badly. In Chennai, there are tank roads without tanks nearby and lake view roads without any lake in the vicinity. There is a high possibility that even the few waterbodies that we have today might vanish in the near future. I thought of visiting the currently surviving waterbodies of Chennai and its suburbs and write about them in my blog as a series.

December 28, 2017

An unknown lake that is vanishing faster (Waterbodies of Chennai - 2)

Ponmar is a village, which is located at a distance of around 15 kms from Tambaram, the southern sub-urb of Chennai. It was quiet and remote village till the first decade of 21st century. It is no more a quiet village, thanks to the expansion of the city's borders. The village which had hillocks, paddy fields, water bodies and ancient temples are dotted with educational institutes and high rise buildings today.

There is a lake in this village, which is vanishing very fast. Even many of the residents of the village are not aware of this lake. Of course, the migrated population has outnumbered the original villagers. The lake lies hidden behind a college and few residential flats. There is no proper access to the lake and it contains water only during the rainy season.

The lake is clearly encroached by few educational institutes and the real estate companies. I am sure this lake must have been a beautiful place and many migratory birds would have regularly visited the lake few years ago. Now, unfortunately the urbanization has badly impacted the lake and it has become a neglected site. It's shrinking day by day and I am afraid that it would die soon.

Happy travelling.

Note: As per a report, there were about 650+ waterbodies in Chennai region till 1980s. Today, only a fraction of them exist. And, most of those surviving waterbodies hardly have water and even some of them that  have water had been shrunk badly. In Chennai, there are tank roads without tanks nearby and lake view roads without any lake in the vicinity. There is a high possibility that even the few waterbodies that we have today might vanish in the near future. I thought of visiting the currently surviving waterbodies of Chennai and its suburbs and write about them in my blog as a series.

December 27, 2017

Mambakkam Kulam (Waterbodies of Chennai - 1)

As per a report, there were about 650+ waterbodies in Chennai region till 1980s. Today, only a fraction of them exist. And, most of those surviving waterbodies hardly have water and even some of them that  have water had been shrunk badly. In Chennai, there are tank roads without tanks nearby and lake view roads without any lake in the vicinity. There is a high possibility that even the few waterbodies that we have today might vanish in the near future. I thought of visiting the currently surviving waterbodies of Chennai and its suburbs and write about them in my blog as a series.

Mambakkam is a small village located at a distance of around 14 kms from Tambaram. Till 2010 or so, this was a quite and remote village with limited access from the city. The village was surrounded by paddy fields and waterbodies. Thanks to the urbanization, the village has already lost its paddy fields which are replaced by high rise buildings, flats and educational institutes.

Kulam, a wide and vast tank, that is located at the junction of Mambakkam and Ponmar villages, was a major landmark of the village till few years ago. Anyone who would have visited the village would recall about this beautiful tank even after many years. Although the neighborhood of this tank has been converted into flats and residential plots, this tank has not yet been touched upon so far.  This tank has no name particularly. People refer this tank as Kulam (in Tamil "Kulam" means tank). The tank surrounded by trees on all sides, gives a typical village feel. Fortunately, the tank has water throughout the year.

Happy travelling.

December 25, 2017

Tondai Mandalam Tuluva Velalar's School - George Town, Chennai

The Tondai Mandalam Tuluva Velalar's Higher Secondary School is one of the oldest surviving schools of Madras (Chennai) city. It is located in Mint Street in George Town locality.

It was started in 1854 CE. The famous Tamil scholar Maha Vidwan Tiru Mylai Shanmugam Pillai, who was the first to publish "Manimegalai" was a teacher of this school.

As per the historian Mr. V. Sriram, the Bhagavat Katha Prasanga Sabha used to meet regularly in this school and hence it was also called as Tondai Mandalam Sabha. Its secretary C. Muniswami Naidu was the first to attempt selling the tickets for concerts. He sold tickets for a concert in the late 1880s  in this school, which was not very successful though.

Happy travelling.

December 24, 2017

Sri Govindu Naicker Bhajanai Koodam

In Madras, there were many Bhajanai Koodams (a.k.a. Bhajanai Kovils) where the Bhajan sessions were conducted regularly till the 1960s. Some Bhajan temples even had theses regular sessions till 1970s. These temples were not typical temples that have the sanctum enshrining the presiding deity, sub-shrines, sculptures and other regular features. They were meant for conducting the Bhajans and hence they would have one hall with few images/paintings of deities such as Ram or Krishna. The bhajans would be conducted infront of those pictures in the hall. There are few exceptions where the idols of Krishna-Radha-Rukmini are found along with the paintings.

The tradition of bhajans being conducted in these temples are almost lost in Madras. Even not all those old temples still exist. Some exist in the outskirts of South Chennai and few in North Chennai areas. Two such Bhajanai temples are found in George Town locality. One Bhajanai temple was converted into a proper Ram temple in the 20th century itself. There is another Bhajanai temple which still survives, but is not known even to the localities nowadays. This article focuses on that particular Bhajanai temple.

Sri Govindu Naicker Ramar Bhajanai Koodam is the name of this small Bhajan hall. It is located in Mint Street near the Thatha Muthiappan Street junction. The temple is surrounded by small garden. The compound is enclosed by high walls and the grille gate is always found locked.

Arneri Govindu Naicker, who served as a Dubash for Parry & Co., appointed the Pachaiyappa Trust to take care of his estate. He directed the trustees that the income from his estate should be devoted to the maintenance of certain educational and religious endownments. The Trustees have been taking care of these charities. In 1865 CE, out of this trust funds, a separate Primary School was opened, which still continues to function. This Bhajanai Koodam was also one of those religious endownments which was entrusted to the Pachaiyappa's Trust.

Happy travelling.

December 23, 2017

The Historic Hindu Theological School of Chennai

Madras, (or Chennai, as it is officially called nowadays) has expanded multi-fold in the past 350+ years. Today, there are so many schools and colleges in every nook and corner of the city. Obviously, not many of the citizens of the current generation would have the opportunity to know about this historic school called The Hindu Theological School, which is located in the "original" Madras. This article focuses on this forgotten school, which was visited by Swami Vivekananda and Mahatma Gandhi.

The Hindu Theological School is located in Mint Street in Sowcarpet locality. The school was founded by Sivasankara Pandyaji on 14th January 1889 CE. The objective was to educate the students on Indian culture.

Sivasankar Pandyaji
Shri Sivasankara Pandyaji belonged to Gujarati Khedawal Brahmin community, which had migrated to Tamil Nadu few centuries ago. He graduated from Pachaiappan college and briefly worked as a professor in the same college. Then, he pursued his higher studies in legal field and briefly practiced as a lawyer in Tanjore. Later, he returned to Madras and worked as a teacher in Pachaiappa's High School.

While working in the school, he got an opportunity to notice that the Indian students were influenced towards the western culture. He resolved to dedicate his life to the revival of Hindu ideas. In 1882 CE, he started special weekly moral and religious classes. He continued these classes regularly till 1888 CE. It is said that around 2,000 students used to attend his lectures regularly and his lectures were very popular in the city during this time. The series of lectures were called as "The Castle of Diligence" and they were held in Pachaiappa's College.

Pandyaji founded the Arya Dharma Vidyasala in 1886 CE with the aim of bringing the religious awakening among the Hindu youths. In the meantime, he continued to conduct his religious discourses in English, Tamil, Gujarati and Telugu.

Pandyaji felt that the Christian missionaries' anti-Hindu propaganda had a negative impact on Hindu youngsters. He set up a counter movement by establishing the Hindu Tract Society in 1887 CE.

An incident in The Madras Christian College hurt the sentiments of the Hindu students. Pandyaji learnt about this and felt the urgency to establish a Hindu Religious Institution. As a first step, he sold his house to raise funds. He travelled all over the presidency to collect the donations. Baskara Vijaya Sethupathi, the Raja of Ramnad, donated a huge sum of Rs. 15,000. Several other people generously donated for the cause. Thus, The Hindu Theological School was founded on 14th January 1889 CE.

Pandyaji was the president of the board of management and the first head master of the school. He served the school till 1899 CE. The school, within few years of its founding, became a center for spreading Indian culture.

On 26th October 1896 CE, Mahatma Gandhi visited this school. He made the following statement about the school.

"I had the honour to visit this excellent institution. I was highly delighted with it. Being a Gujarati Hindu myself I feel proud to know that this institution was started by a Gujarati gentleman. Wish the institutions will crop up all over India, and be the means of preserving an Aryan Religion in its purity."

On 12th February 1897 CE, Swami Vivekananda visited the school and addressed the students.

As per the historian V. Sriram, who has researched and wrote about C. Saraswathi Bai, she conducted the first Hari Katha ever done by a woman, in this school. It was organized by Sri Parthasarathy Swami Sabha on 22nd February 1909.

Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, the former President of India, was a member of the education committee of this school in 1913 CE. Sri C.P. Ramaswamy Iyer was another notable member of the education committee.

Kulapathy Joshi
Kulapathy Sri. S. Balakrishna Joshi, who was a popular educationist in South India during his times, served as the headmaster for about 26 years between 1944 CE and 1970 CE. During his tenure, the school became very successful and popular.

Even today, the senior citizens of Madras, who lived in George Town/Sowcarpet in those days, would fondly remember Joshiji.

The school had an iconic building which would look majestic. That was demolished and the school now functions from the same site but in a newly built structure.

Happy travelling.

Photo Courtesy - The photographs of Sri Sivasankar Pandyaji and Kulapathy Joshi are linked directly from the website of The Hindu Theological School. Thanks to them for these photographs.

December 21, 2017

Marwari Hospital - Sowcarpet

"Free Ayurvedic treatment for all irrespective of their caste and creed" - that's what the 90 years old Sree Venkatesa Oushadalaya announces in its name board.

This Ayurvedic hospital is one of the oldest Ayurvedic dispensaries in the entire Chennai city. It was founded in 1926 CE. The structure where the hospital runs today was constructed in 1935 CE. For the past 90 years, this hospital provides free medical service to the people irrespective of their race. The hospital was founded and run by the Marwari Chariatable Trust.

It is located in Mint Street in Sowcarpet area in Chennai. It is known as Marwari hospital in this locality. Till late 1980s the poor people of this locality were mainly dependent on this hospital.

Happy travelling.

Nava Shakti Vinayak Temple

Nava Shakti Vinayak Temple is a popular temple in Mylapore locality of Chennai city. Although it is not a very old temple, it attracts a lot of devotees, thanks to its location (Luz corner, the most happening place within Mylapore).

The temple enshrines Ganesh in the sanctum. At the entrance, two small idols of Ganesh and Lakshmi are found.

Happy travelling.

October 7, 2017

Gayatri Devi Temple in Chennai

It is rare to find a temple for Gayatri in South India. In Selaiyur, near Tambaram, the southern outskirts of Chennai, there is a small temple for Gayatri.

Gayatri is usually depicted with five heads and ten arms. However, in this temple, she is depicted with single head and two arms. She holds Vedas in her left arm and kamandalu in her right arm. She is seated on white swan.

It's a small temple managed by a trust from Haridwar. It is called as Gayatri Shakti Peetham. It is located near Air Force Quarters in Varadarajan Nagar of Selaiyur. The temple maintains a calm atmosphere.

Happy travelling.

October 2, 2017

Mylapore Karbagambal Mess

"You cannot claim to have visited Chennai, if you have never been to Mylapore." This is what I told to you a friend of mine from Pune who has come to Chennai for more than ten times but not visited Mylapore. Mylapre is known for a lot of things - heritage, Navaratri, temples, music and also the traditional restaurants which are called as "Mess".

Karpagambal Mess is one of those famous messes in Mylapore which Chennaites love. It was established in 1953 CE in East Mada Street by Ramadas Iyer. Originally it was started as a small eatery and it could serve only 50 people maximum. Now, it has expanded as multi floors air conditioned restaurant.

Till 1980s, when the bus was the main transportation service in Chennai, people from far away localities who visit Kapaaleeswarar would never miss to have their lunch or dinner at Mami's Mess or Karpagambal Mess. Both of them are located near the temple.

Filter Coffee, Keera Vadai and Badam Halwa are some of the dishes that are sought-after. Old framed paintings of Gods and Goddesses adore the walls of the restaurant even today.

Those who regularly visit this restaurant would know that this mess has lost its old charm and taste. Nevertheless, it is still patronized by the people of Chennai. It still remains as an identity of Myalpore for sure.

Happy travelling.

October 1, 2017

The Best Rose Milk from a Small Newspaper Mart

Rose Milk - the pink colored flavored milk with rose syrup, was one of the most favorite drinks in Tamil Nadu till 1980s. Today, it has become difficult to find this tasty beverage in the restaurants and shops. Nevertheless, there is one place in Chennai city where people throng in large numbers for rose milk even nowadays. Do you know, where in Chennai, you could get the best rose milk? For more than six decades, this shop remains as the Number 1 in Chennai when it comes to this drink. This is not a restaurant, hotel or provisional store. It's a small newspaper mark, which is meant to sell newspapers and magazines.

Kalathi Newspaper Mart in East Mada street in Mylapore is a very small shop. However, anyone in this area, would easily direct you to this place. It is so famous in this locality for many decades. In 1927 CE, Kalathi Mudaliar started this shop as there was no other shop in this area to sell the daily essentials. It was taken over by Shri. Kannan in 1951 CE. He introduced rose milk in 1952 CE. Since then, this shop continues to be the best place which sells rose milk. Even today, you could find people in small queues in this shop buying rose milk. This mart sells more number of glasses of rose milk than the daily newspapers and magazines.

In the 1960s and 1970s, a lot of cine stars and play artists were the regular customers of Kalathi rose milk.

Happy travelling.

September 30, 2017

Mylapore during Navaratri

Navaratri is celebrated for ten days (including Dussera) all over India. In every state, it is celebrated in a unique way. It is famous as Durga Pooja celebrations in Bengal. Gujaratis celebrate Navaratri with dandiya and garba. In Tamil Nadu, Kolu is the highlight of Navaratri celebrations.

Kolu (which is usually mis-spelt as Golu) is an interesting and artistic way of displaying dolls during the Navaratri times. The dolls are placed on odd numbered steps. This tradition of Kolu has been followed for hundreds of years in the houses and nowadays even in the temples.

During the Navaratri times, all over the state, the dolls are sold on the temporary road side shops. Although the dolls are sold in every nook and corner of the state during the festival time, when it comes to Chennai city, people would mostly like to buy the dolls from Mylapore locality. The heritage rich area would have hundreds of road side shops selling thousands of dolls during the festivals. The Mada Streets around the famous Kapaleeswarar temple would have the festive-look. The dolls depicting various deities, saints, kings and even common man in different postures, some theme based dolls and few dolls with unique designs are all found on the streets.

Mylapore is traditionally famous for many things including Kolu bommais (dolls). It would be interesting to visit the area during this festival, whether you would want to buy the dolls or not.

Happy travelling.

September 29, 2017

Mannivakkam Manneeswarar Temple

Mannivakkam is a village located at a distance of 9 kms from Tambaram in the southern outskirts of Chennai. There is an ancient temple for Shiva called as Manneeswarar located in this village.

It is said that this temple was built by Kulotunga Chola I towards the end of the 11th century CE. It is believed that he built 108 Shiva temples in Thondai Mandalam. Some of the other temples built by him include the temples of Manimangalam, Somamangalam and Tirumazhisai.

I personally could not find any historical record or reference that this temple is a Chola period temple. Except for the idol of Dwara Murugan, which appears to be Chola period, everything else in the temple appears to be later period.

The temple has an inscription on the outer wall of the sanctum which belongs to the Nayaka kings in the beginning of the 16th century CE.

A small kalyana mandap within the temple has an inscription dating 1818 CE. The mandap was built by Pachai Ammal, the wife of Periyalingappa Mudaliar.

Kanchi Puranam talks about a river called Manniyaru which was running across this village in those days.

The village is a quiet and calm place. The east facing temple has no tower but few stucco images on the facade of the entrance are found. The east facing sanctum enshrines the four feet high Shiv Linga. He is named as Manneeswarar and Mrityunjeswarar.  At the entrance of the Ardha Mandap, the idols of Ganesh and Kartikeya are found.

In Maha mandap, there are two sub-shrines that have the bronze idols of Nataraj-Sivakami, Uma-Chandrasekhar and others. The pillars of the Maha Mandap are circular in shape.

The entrance of Maha Mandap has the ancient idols of Dwara Ganesh and Dwara Murugan. Murugan appears to be of Chola period. He holds Vajra and Akshara Mala in his two upper arms.

Maragambikai is the Goddess. She is found in a south facing shrine.

Nandi is also facing the eastern direction and not towards Shiv Linga. It is said that Nandi was helping the Chola king in some battles and hence it is facing towards the exit. The bali peetha and the flag staff are located near Nandi Mandap.

An old sculpture of Nandi is additionally found in a corner in this temple.

Surya and Chandra are found facing towards the sanctum. Navagraha and Bhairav are also found in the temple.

Kannimoola Ganapati's sub-shrine is located in the prakara.

Ganapati, Dakshinamurti, Vishnu, Brahma and Vishnu Durga are found as the Koshta images. Chandikeshwara is found in his usual location near Brahma and Durga.

Happy travelling.

September 28, 2017

The Wrestler-turned-Godman of Chennai

Not always the history books, travel guides or even the Google Map would help you to find or explore a lesser known site. Sometimes, only a localite could help you on this. Being a localite of Sowcarpet area of Chennai city, let me introduce you to a 120 years old temple and its history. This is getting documented in detail for the first time. No other print media or electronic media has ever mentioned this temple.

There is no tower or vimana. It is an old two storied building with a narrow entrance in the busy NSC Bose Road. You might either miss this out or mistake this building as an old independent house.  The stucco images of Radha Krishna and few other Vaishnava deities on the facade of the first floor are the only clue to connect this place with a religious site. It is the 120 years old Radha Krishna Temple. This temple has an interesting history.

Shri Ram Prasanna Swamiji
In 1905 CE, a holy man, Ram Prapanna by name, from Mirzapur of Uttar Pradesh state, came down to Madras. He belonged to Tingala Brahmin community. (Tingala Brahmin community follow Vaishnavism and they consider Ramanuja as their Guru). As there was no temple for his community people, he sought the help of a wealthy person. That person was from Allahabad and he owned more than 100 houses in Madras. He donated the land to Swamiji. Swamiji installed the idols of Radha and Krishna in a simple structure on that land. After gifting the land for this temple, the childless wealthy person was blessed with a child. He believed that it was due to the blessing of Radha-Krishna. He donated additional funds and built this big building for this temple.

Pahalwan Swamiji 
In 1920s, there was a famous wrestler Pari Pekkar by name in Mysore region. A wrestler from Uttar Pradesh defeated Pari Pekkar in a wrestling match. Then, that victorious wrestler came down to Madras. There he met Swamiji. Swamiji made him as his disciple. Thus, the wrestler turned into a Godman. His name is Raghavendra Prapanna. He was also called as Pahalvan Swamiji. He took over the administration of the temple in 1927 CE. Ram Prapanna went to Bhagalpur in Bihar state and started taking care of a Radha-Krishna temple there.

The current person who administer the temple is Shri. Brij Kishore. He is the great grandson of Shri. Raghavendra Prapannaji.

The temple is on the first floor. There is only one shrine. The beautiful white colored marble idols of Radha and Krishna are found in the shrine. The image of Ramanuja is also placed in the same shrine.

A big meditation hall is found in front of the shrine.

This temple is located in the opposite direction of Chinna Kadai Renuka Parameswari Temple.

Happy travelling.

Pahalwan Swamiji

Brij Kishore


September 27, 2017

Kakada Ramprasad - Chennai

According to me, Mint Street in Sowcarpet is the best place in Chennai for a pakka food trail. For every ten steps you would find a unique option here. Especially, if you want to taste the Gujarati or North Indian snacks, Sowcarpet is unarguably the best option in the city. Kakada Ramprasad sweet shop is one of the best among those few popular Guajarati/Rajasthani/North Indian shops.

Ramprasad Kakda from Rajasthan started a sweet shop in Mint Street in 1958 CE. He apparently served only jalebis and moti paks initially. Today, there are hundreds of varieties of sweets and chat items available in this shop. Also, there is a restaurant that has come up on the top floor in the recent years. The shop has also opened its branches in other localities of the city.

This is arguably the best place to have badam milk in the entire city. Apart from badam milk, the shop is known for aloo tikki and hot jalebis too.

If you go to Sowcarpet, do not miss this 60 years old shop.

Happy travelling.

September 26, 2017

Juna Jain Mandir of Chennai

Sowcarpet is the locality of Chennai where a large number of North Indian and Gujarati communities are still found. Ananda Ranga Pillai in his famous diaries of 1746 CE mentions about the Gujaratis of Madras.

After the formation of Black Town, a lot of Gujarati families migrated to Sowcarpet. The migration continued till 1950s. The migration happened not to a particular reason and different groups of Gujarati speaking people migrated to Sowcarpet. It included the Gujarati traders from Gujarat, Khedaval Brahmins who had already migrated to Thanjavur, Gujarati Jains, etc. Hence, it is not surprising to find so many Gujarati Jain temples in Sowcarpet.

Two notable Jain temples are located in Mint Street in Sowcarpet. One temple, which was rebuilt with white stone marbles in 1994 CE, was constructed in the site where the original Jain temple stood for about 90 years. There is another temple in Mint street which is much older than this temple. It is referred as Juna Mandir. (In Gujarati language, Juna means old). I could not find any records on the date of construction of the original structure of this temple. However, I believe that the original temple could have been built in the late 1700s or early 1800s. The wealthy community which migrated to Sowcarpet in the middle of the 18th century would have definitely built their temple by then. The current structure of the temple is hardly 100 years old.

If the name boards are not there, anyone might mistake this building for an independent house. The ground floor has administrative office, the first floor is used for religious gathering and the temple is found only in the second floor.

Although the temple is referred as the Juna Mandir, the actual name of the temple is "Shri Chandraprabhu Bhagwan Jain Swetamber Temple".

The sanctum enshrines the white marble idol of Chandraprabhu Bhagavan in the middle. He was the eighth Tirthankara of the Jains. On his either sides, Sambhavnath, the third Tirthankara and Sumatinath, the fifth Tirthankara are found.

The small images of Godi Parshwanath (23rd Tirthankara) with the hood of a serpent above his head as well as Chintamani Parshwanath (24th Tirthankara) are found on the two corners in the sanctum. All the five Tirthankaras are in Padmasana posture.

Bhairav is a guardian deity in Jainism. The bust image of Bhairav is found in a niche in this temple. The small image of Manibhadra with boar head seated on an elephant is found. He has six arms. He is a Yaksha as per Jainism.

Jwalamalini, the Yakshi of Chandraprabhu, as well as Chakreswari Devi, the Yakshini of Rishabha, are also found in this temple.

The community hall, Jain Sthanak is also located near this temple.

Happy travelling.

September 25, 2017

The Unknown Temple of Abhaya Anjaneya in Chennai

If I am not wrong, no other print or electronic media has covered the temple on which this article is written.

Anjaneya is generally found in Anjali Hasta (depicted with folded hands). Only in few temples, he is found in Abhaya Mudra. There is one such temple found in Sowcarpet area of Chennai. The lane where the Rath (car) of the twin temples Chenna Kesava and Chenna Mallikeswarar is stationed is called as Theradi Street. This lane being a dead end and as the Rath blocks the passage, hardly anyone would venture into this lane. Even Google Map does not help us to find this lane. It is located diagonally opposite to the twin Pattinam temples. At the end of this small lane, the temple of Anjaneya is located. It's a small temple with one shrine. Few pillars and a mandap like structure is found nearby. The temple is named as Bhakta Abhaya Varaprada Anjaneya Swami. Hanuman is found in the standing posture. His right arm is in Abhaya mudra and his left arm is holding a mace.

In 1940s, the Madras Jewellers & Diamond Merchant's Association, was functioning in an office in this lane. This temple must be minimum 100 years old.

Happy travelling.

September 24, 2017

The Madras Temple which witnessed Communal Violence

If you are from George Town/Sowcarpet area of Madras, you would have definitely noticed this temple, if not entered inside. This temple of Ganesha called as Varasiddhi Vinayakar is a very small temple, located at the junction of NSC Bose Road and Devaraja Mudali Street. Except for Lord Ganesha and a small prakara around the shrine, the temple has no other idol. But, not many know that this temple has a 300 years old history.

(I am quoting few historical details based on the book "Vestiages of Old Madras" written by H.D.Love and another book called "Madras in the Old Time" by Talboys Wheeler).

Ever since the city of Madras was founded, there had been tensions between the left hand Chetti community and right hand Komati community. The Governor, Thomas Pitt settled the dispute through an agreement in 1708 CE. However, a fresh community dispute broke out in 1716 CE. According to Chettis, the Komatis upsurped several titles that belonged to Chettis and also they performed some ceremonies in front of the icon that belong to Chettis. It was complained by the representative of Chettis, Collaway Chetti on 18th October. The icon is Chindadry Pillary and the ceremony was Pennagundoo Naggarum (as per the British records - it's a kind of recital of prayers in Sanskrit language).

On 20th December 1716 CE, the matter escalated and the Left Hands Chettis called for the closure of shops. It was followed by full scale riot. The British summoned the heads of both the communities and tried for a pact between them. This meeting which was held on 24th December 1716 CE was not successful. On 7th January 1717 CE, just one day before embarking to Britain, the Governor Harrison ordered that the Komaties could cry out Pennagundoo Naggarum at their houses and on ceremonies, but not before the icon of Ganesh. The matters were still not settled properly. On 8th January 1717 CE, Governor Collet, who had succeeded Harrison, issued an order. As per that, neither community would have any right to recite prayers before shrines of the other caste. He also warned that the icon would be shifted into the Gentoo Pagoda, if the disputes would continue. He further added that no small Pagodas should be constructed without getting Governor's permission to avoid future disputes.

The Gentoo Pagoda mentioned above is Chenna Kesava Perumal Temple, which stood in the current site of High Court. The historian, Mr. Sriram V. has identified Varasiddhi Vinayakar Temple as the Chindadry Pillary Temple. Interestingly, the Ganesh icon never moved to Chenna Kesava Perumal Temple. But that temple was demolished and was rebuilt near this Ganesh temple.

Happy travelling.