Chennai First a Celebration. Positive News, Facts & Achievements about Chennai, Tamilians and all the People of TamilNadu – here at Home and Overseas
  • scissors


    Whether it was to celebrate Madras’ August birthday or not, Vikram Raghavan, a regular contributor to this column from the American capital, a Madras history buff, and a collector of Madras memorabilia, has just picked up the Thomas Daniell aquatint of Fort St George seen here. Thomas Daniell and nephew William were in India from 1785 to 1793 (Miscellany, April 21, 2008) and published in Britain between 1795 and 1808 “a monumental work”, Oriental Scenery, with 144 prints of Indian scenes. Of these, half a dozen are of Madras. A few more are of Mamallapuram, Tanjore, Madura and Rameswaram.

    My favourites, one of which I would like to get a real-life glimpse of, are two of the earliest pictorial representations of sport in Madras. A print of the Assembly Rooms on the Race Course at Madras hangs in the Fort Museum. The other is of Cricket in India, an original aquatint which is with a private collector in Calcutta who once sent me a poor transparency of it. As this representation was dated 1792, it was probably done in Madras because that was when the Daniells had left Calcutta and were here. And if that was so, the match was at The Island, the only grounds for the game at the time.

    In the picture, the bowler is shown bowling under-arm, the practice then; the bat is a club-like implement like a baseball bat; many of the fielders wear coloured trousers and the scorer is sitting a little wide off gully. A cow ambles about in a corner of the field in the foreground and at the left, by a few trees, is a tent, probably the pavilion. All this is really recognisable only if the picture is seen large. So take my word for it! It was sailors from East Indiamen, locally stationed British soldiers, and East India Company Writers and younger merchants who introduced the game in India. The first recorded cricket activity in the country dates to 1721, when visiting sailors played a game in Cambay, Gujarat, “to divert ourselves”, according to ship’s captain Nicholas Downton.


    As for the Assembly Rooms, they were a kind of grandstand and clubhouse a little south of today’s racecourse where “entertainments” were held, a ball organised for every race day evening; the races were in the morning, then it was off to work and back again for waltzes and minuets. The first reference to organised sport in Madras, racing at St Thomas’ Mount, is in 1775.

    As for Vikram’s original colour-engraved aquatint, it dates to 1797 and is titled South East View of the Fort St George, Madras. The scene was probably viewed from somewhere near Royapuram. It shows masula and other boats, four men pulling a boat through the surf, and ships well out to sea in Madras Roads. Madras Harbour was many years in the future.


    When the postman knocked…

    Clarifying my Institute of Mental Health (IMH) story (Miscellany, June 26) is my Australian correspondent, Dr A Raman, whose hobby is Madras medical history. His research deserves a book one day. Meanwhile, a more accurate story from him than mine about what began in Purasawalkam in 1794 as ‘The Madras Madhouse’ run by Valentine Connolly. It was a leased building (at ₹825 a month) to which Surgeon Maurice Fitzgerald succeeded, holding charge until 1803. James Dalton took over, rebuilt the facility and ran it till 1815 as Dalton’s Mad Hospital. Its cases included ‘circular insanity’, later described as ‘manic depressive illness’ and today as ‘bipolar illness’.

    Government involvement started in 1867 with approval for a facility to be called the Madras Lunatic Asylum (later called the Government Mental Hospital and from 1978 the IMH). The Asylum, raised in the 66.5 acres of Locock’s Gardens, Kilpauk, opened in 1871 with 150 patients and Surgeon John Murray as Superintendent. By 1915, there were 800 patients, 80 per cent of them civilians. About half the cases were classified as ‘mania’, about 20 per cent as ‘melancholia’ and about 25 per cent as ‘dementia’. ‘Criminal lunatics’ were kept segregated.

    Cycling Yogis will mark Madras Week with a booklet called Cycling Trails. It includes 40 trails with details about what to see on them. Every trail in the booklet has been cycled on by the compilers over the last year. Some of the trails which caught my attention were called ‘Madras the First’, ‘Madras the Oldest’, ‘Historic Residences’, ‘Mahatma Gandhi’ and ‘Police Heritage’. For booklets, contact, then make use of them during Madras Month.

    This is not about Madras at all, but strange things happen around us all the time. And the recent strike by our Government medicos drew Don Abey’s attention to it. He refers to the Government Medical Officers’ Association in Sri Lanka calling off their agitation in mid-strike when the National Movement for Consumer Rights threatened “it would stage ceremonies in front of the homes of GMOA executive committee members to invoke God’s curses on them for holding hundreds of thousands of patients to ransom!” Powerful are the threat of death-threatening curses and pleas of consignment to Hell!

     The chronicler of Madras that is Chennai tells stories of people, places, and events from the years gone by, and sometimes, from today.

    source: / The Hindu / Home> Society> Madras Miscellany – History & Culture / by S. Muthiah / Chennai – July 10th, 2017

  • scissors


    The honorary director of the Nilgiri Documentation Center, Venugopal Dharmalingam, laid a wreath at the grave of the first Commissioner of the separate Nilgiris, James Wilkinson Breeks at the St. Stephens Church on Tuesday.

    Mr. Venugopal said that June 6 marks the anniversary of the tragic death of Mr. Breeks 145 years ago in 1872.

    “The Nilgiris, which was a taluk of the Coimbatore district from 1800, was made a separate district in 1872 and placed under a Commissioner. Mr. Breeks was the Private Secretary and later the son in law of Governor Dennison,” he said.

    He said that Mr. Breeks’ lasting legacy was his tireless excavations of the pre-historic grave sites on the Nilgiri hills which revealed a human history of over 3,000 years of the hills. “The collection includes pottery, animal and human figurines, ornaments in iron, bronze, gold and a magnificent bronze bowl,” he added.

    Mr. Breeks apparently died due to the emission of some poisonous gas while opening one of the grave sites, and died at the age of 42.

    “The work of the NDC is to bring to light, the history literally buried in the Nilgiris,” said Mr. Venugopal. Murali Kumar, the general manager of Sullivan Court, accompanied him.

    source: / The Hindu / Home> News> Cities> Coimbatore / Staff Reporter / Udhagamandalam – June 06th, 2017

  • scissors
    Palm leaf manuscript. | Photo Credit: Handout

    Palm leaf manuscript. | Photo Credit: Handout

    Palm leaf manuscripts reveal a history of slavery in Nanjil Nadu, now part of Kanniyakumari district

    “The severe drought has left us with nothing, not even gruel. Our legs and calf muscles have become swollen and we are not able to walk. So as suggested by the head of our family, we sold ourselves to Raman Iyappan.”

    A 1459 palm leaf manuscript faithfully records the grim story of a Kerala Samban magan, Avayan, his nephew Thadiyan and his sister Nalli, in the note prepared for their sale as slaves.

    The lush green fields of Nanjil Nadu, the rice bowl of erstwhile South Travancore and now part of Kanniyakumari district of Tamil Nadu, hide a history that cut across the social spectrum. Slavery was common in the region as recently as 200 years ago.

    Interestingly, while members of the Vellalas, a land holding community that wielded enormous influence during the reign of the Travancore kings, were sold as slaves, Dalits, who were also often sold as slaves, also owned land.

    A collection of 19 palm leaf manuscripts, part of the so-called Mudaliar Olaigal, reveals details of the practice. Written in Tamil script, the language of the manuscripts is mixture of Malayalam and Tamil, reflecting the composite culture of the region.

    “A manuscript recorded in 1601 that records the sale of land by two Dalits — Avaiathan and Konathan, who belong to the Pallar community — proves the claim that Dalits also owned lands,” said folklorist A.K. Perumal, who has translated and edited Mudaliar Olaigal, published by Kalachuvadu.

    The term ‘Mudaliar’ refers to the head of the family in Azhagiyapandiapuram in Kanniyakumari district. The community of Saiva Vellalas were conferred the title ‘Mudaliar’ by the Travancore kings and they ruled Nanjil Nadu on behalf of the kings.

    Late poet Kavimani Desigavinayagam Pillai copied a few manuscripts in 1903. In addition to records on slave auctions, they contain a wealth of detail on the revenue system, maintenance of irrigation tanks and rivers and professions of many communities.

    Chronicling a reality very different from the present, the manuscripts speak of wealthy Dalits.

    A manuscript from 1462 says one Sundarapandian Chetti borrowed four ‘kaliyuga Raman panam’ (money used in that period), from one Kesavan of ‘sambavar’ caste, a sub-sect of Dalits. A 1484 manuscript, when referring to the border of a piece of land, says it lies “south of [the property of] Perumparaian”, a big land owner from the community.

    Women punished

    “But in the case of Vellalas, the women sold as slaves were used as maids in their owners’ houses. Only a Vellala was allowed to own another member of his community as a slave and this was openly announced before the commencement of an auction,” said Dr. Perumal.

    The women slaves from the Vellalas were known as ‘Vellatti’. According to the Madras University Lexicon, ‘Vellati’ means a servant maid or slave.

    “Slaves from the upper caste were clearly differentiated from Dalit slaves. Vellattis were used for the housekeeping,” explains said Dr. Perumal, who collected the manuscripts from the Thiruvananthapuram archives.

    Women from upper castes were often sold as slaves after they were found to have had relationships with men from lower castes.

    Dr. Perumal said slave markets existed in Aloor ( present day Kalkulam taluk), Aralvaimozhi, Thazhakudi (Thovalam taluk) and Rajakkamangalam (Agastheeswaram taluk).

    K.K. Kusuman, who has studied the history of slavery in Travancore, had recorded that the price of a slave depended on the social hierarchy.

    The manuscripts contain records of the prices fixed for slaves. In the records, the caste of a slave is used as a prefix unlike the modern day practice in which a caste title is used as a suffix.

    Dr. Perumal said poverty was the reason for slavery.

    A 1458 manuscript records a slave as saying: “We sold ourselves because of poverty.” Another one, recorded in 1472, records the poignant story of a man pledging himself and his daughter as he was unable to repay a loan and interest due on it. Subsequently he is recorded as having become a permanent slave.

    Slavery was abolished in Travancore on July 18, 1853 by a declaration made by the King Uthiram Thirunal.

    source: / The Hindu / Home> News> States> Tamil Nadu / by B. Kolappan / Chennai – May 08th, 2017

  • scissors

    That was a question I was recently asked in connection with a reference I had made to Umda Bagh and its links with education in the city for nearly 125 years. Good question, and off I went ahunting for information.

    Into the Umda Bagh campus moved c.1895 the Madrasa-I-Azam, the chief Muslim school in the South and which was established in 1849. This developed partially into a Government Muhammadan College with its own buildings in 1934.

    In 1948, the College was reconstituted as the Government Arts College for Men. The College moved to Nandanam in 1972 and a women’s college opened in its stead in 1974. This was named the Quaid-E-Millat Government College for Women, leaving many a student puzzling over the prefixed name, which I’m told means ‘Leader of the Nation’.

    A Tirunelveli Rowther, Mohammed Ismail went into business in the 1920s and became a leader in the worlds of leather and Madras commerce. That leadership led him into politics, in which he had shown interest from when, as a 13-year-old, he started in 1909 the Young Muslim Society in Tirunelveli.

    Nine years later, he founded the Council of Islamic Scholars and joined the Indian Muslim League. In 1946, he led the League’s Madras unit in the Assembly elections and became Leader of the Opposition. He was also elected to the first Lok Sabha, which simultaneously served as the Indian Constituent Assembly. And, an intriguing election that year was as the founding President of the Madras State Mutton Dealers’ Association, which he remained till his death 26 years later.

    When Pakistan was born in 1947, the Muslim League divided and an Indian Union Muslim League came into being. Mohammed Ismail was elected its first President. After serving in the Rajya Sabha from 1952 to 1958, he moved into Kerala politics with States’ Reorganisation in 1956. Leading the IUML, he won Lok Sabha seats in 1962, 1967 and 1971. He died a year after his last election, revered in both Tamil Nadu and Kerala as the Quaid-E-Millat, a leader who ensured communal harmony. Interestingly, his education had been in Hindu, Catholic and Protestant schools and colleges!

    Perhaps the greatest tribute paid to him was by Congress Chief Minister M Bhaktavatsalam who, describing his dignified and conciliatory behaviour in the Legislature, said he was “a model for all Opposition leaders”.


    When the postman knocked…

    V Mahalingam writes (Miscellany, April 17): “N Kannayiram went to the West Indies as a replacement for G Kasturirangan of Mysore who cried off because of groin injury and not as replacement for CD Gopinath.

    Also CDG didn’t opt out as he was not happy with the cricket board’s ways. He pulled out as he was suffering from collar bone injuries and he was replaced by L Adisesh of Mysore who also pulled out. Totally there were four replacements before the tour.”

    With this column’s word length now abbreviated, I don’t have the luxury of elaboration. But even then, there was no reason to link two entirely different sentences about Kannayiram and Gopinath except for the fact that they were adjacent to each other. Juxtaposition is not the equivalent of replacement! More interesting is my correspondent saying it was “collarbone injuries” that made Gopinath skip the tour.

    Reporting a long interview with Gopinath for the book Office Chai, Planter’s Brew — Gopinath approving every word of the final text — this writer stated: “(In 1952) Gopinath, being South Indian, was ‘rather strangely called Madrasi in a rather contemptuous way’ by other members of the team. This was an era when cricket essentially meant Bombay — and in Gopinath’s words, ‘…it was almost as if, if you came from Madras, you had no business to play cricket…’ He goes on that around then Gordon Woodroffe’s offered him a job — it was a time when the first Indians were being recruited by British firms — and he was mulling over it because he felt the remuneration was inadequate given his academic and sporting record.

    But his father, an old Imperial Bank hand, pointed out he’d get fair treatment in a British firm and could go far (he did; he became its first Indian Chairman). The interview then records, “Musing on the advice and his issues with (Indian) cricket, Gopinath decided to refuse the West Indian tour.” No mention of collar bone injuries anywhere.

    Subash Chandra Bose at the Tea hosted for him at the Beehive Foundry, Madras on September 3,1939. To his right is K S Rao, owner of the Beehive Group, and third from right (seated) a mystery man only recently identified by the owner of this picture. Standing is C. Audikesavalu Chettiar, Rao’s partner.

    Subash Chandra Bose at the Tea hosted for him at the Beehive Foundry, Madras on September 3,1939. To his right is K S Rao, owner of the Beehive Group, and third from right (seated) a mystery man only recently identified by the owner of this picture. Standing is C. Audikesavalu Chettiar, Rao’s partner.

    Ramesh Kumar, who’s kept the Beehive Foundry name going in its original Oakes & Co. premises on Popham’s Broadway (Miscellany, June 2, 2014), now Prakasam Salai, sends me today’s picture of yesteryear. It’s of Subhas Chandra Bose being hosted at tea at the Beehive premises on September 3, 1939. With him are Kowtha Suryanarayana Rao, the founder of the group that owns the premises, and his partner C Audikesavalu Chettiar, Ramesh Kumar’s grandfather. To Rao’s right is a person whom I wonder how many recognise, despite his being a well-known name in Tamil Nadu. He is Pasumpon Muthuramalinga Thevar.

    Rao founded the Swadharma Swaarajya Sangh (Orthodox National League) in 1913 for the “revival of the declining spiritual and cultural values of Bharateeya life, dharma and religion”, I wonder how much Bose or Thevar had in common with it? I also wonder, given the date of the felicitation, whether Bose fled to Germany from Madras; that was the day India was dragged into a World War.

    The chronicler of Madras that is Chennai tells stories of people, places and events from the years gone by and, sometimes, from today

    source: / The Hindu / Home> Society> History & Culture / Madras Miscellany / by S. Muthiah / May 01st, 2017

  • scissors
    An ancient urban civilisation existed in the recently excavated site in Keeladi which archaeologists compare to Harappa

    An ancient urban civilisation existed in the recently excavated site in Keeladi which archaeologists compare to Harappa

    The Indus Valley Civilisation was part of the cop per age which dates back to 6000 BC but, interestingly, man was still in the stone age in southern India during that time, notes P D Balaji, head, department of history and archaeology, University of Madras . “In peninsular India, the chalcolithic (copper) age deposits overlap with the neolithic deposits of the stone age. There is neither pure neolithic culture nor pure chalcolithic culture in south India ,” Balaji said during the 23rd annual session of the Tamil Nadu History Congress at Periyar University  in Salem on Sunday.

    Balaji said the reason for the absence of the pure copper age in southern India still intrigues many archaeologists.At one point of time in India, both copper (in north) and stone (south) were used as raw materials for manufacturing tools. This might be the reason for the presence of copper implements mixed with the neolithic deposits, he said.

    “The inverted firing technology used for manufacturing black-and-red-ware pottery had emerged in north India during the copper age itself. In many chalcolithic sites, including the later Harappan sites, black-and-red-ware sherds are found in plenty. However, the same technology took more than 1,500 years to reach the southern part. When it reached peninsular India, people were in the iron age,” he said.

    The chalcolithic-era pottery of north India eventually became the characteristic pottery of iron age culture in south India. “Perhaps this sort of divergent chronology leads one to interpret that development first took place in north India, from where it penetrated to other parts,” said Balaji, who was speaking on ” Archaeology in reconstructing the past: Problems and perspectives”.

    The iron age of south India is considered important as there was an extensive horizontal mobility of society during the phase. To prove his point, Balaji said microsettlements began to emerge all over the ancient Tamil country at this time. “The people of this period followed a megalithic culture that synchronised with the end phase of iron age and preSangam age. That vouchsafes for the references to megalithic burial practices in the Sangam literatures literatures,” he said.
    The Sangam age between 300 BC and 300 AD was significant as it was during this period that major townships, capital cities and port cities came into existence for the first time in the ancient Tamil country, he added.

    source: / The Times of India / News Home> City News> Chennai / M T Saju / TNN / October 04th, 2016

  • scissors
    Sandhya Mendonca. Photo: V. Ganesan / The Hindu

    Sandhya Mendonca. Photo: V. Ganesan
    / The Hindu

    Best of Chennai Volume 2 tells a vibrant story of the metropolis through perceptive articles and beautiful visuals. Editor Sandhya Mendonca talks to DEEPA ALEXANDER about the making of the coffee table book

    The Sangam Lobby at ITC Grand Chola, with its elegant white stucco and spectacular copper-and-bronze horses, is an ornate narrative of Chennai, a city that Sandhya Mendonca celebrates in her latest book. As she sits to be photographed at the head of a sweeping staircase, she holds in her hands Best of Chennai Volume 2, to be released that evening by the Governor of Tamil Nadu, K. Rosaiah. Published by Bangalore-based Raintree Media, the book — sixth in a series published in India — is part of a unique format that is brought out in over 40 countries by Global Village Partnerships to showcase entrepreneurial spirit and bridge cultures.

    Coming seven years after the first volume published in 2009, Best of Chennai Volume 2 is an opulent production, a slim slab that covers topics as far afield as culture and corporate icons, education and hospitality, luxury and logistics, spaces and entertainment and media and start-ups.

    “It took our team of nine, the better part of a year to lay it out,” says Sandhya Mendonca, editor-in-chief, Raintree Media, who conceived and edited the book. Mendonca, who holds a Masters in Political Science and started out as a journalist, took her love for writing and editing further, when she founded her media brand 12 years ago. “I handled public relations for events with artistes such as Mark Knopfler and Sting, and taught as visiting faculty at IIM-B. I had explored nearly all aspects of communication… it was time to become a publishing entrepreneur.”

    “The first book I published was on a golf course in Bangalore. I approach publishing like an artist does his painting — and therefore, the book was designed like a golf ball, with birds that populated the course as page holders. I got hooked to doing different kinds of books filled with both style and substance,” says Mendonca. An eye for unusual layout and a love for celebrating communities pictorially led to Raintree producing handsome customised volumes on the culture of states, gymkhana clubs, Raj Bhavans, cricket teams and schools. Fiction, articles for magazines and websites, and books in the Best of… and Marvels of… series artfully mix travel with scenes from the everyday.

    “The Best of… series is part of Sven Boermeester’s Global Village Partnerships. When Sven travelled to Australia, he decided to create a template to show the best of what is local. Most people feel they know everything there is to know of their city or country, but that isn’t always true. The Best of… series has the same format across the world, whether the regions they feature are homogenous or culturally diverse. In particular, they look at businesses and what makes the region tick,” she says.

    Decades of photojournalism have illustrated Chennai’s major themes and trends, so how different then is this book from others? “It serves a fresh dish. You try to find hidden aspects even in the many stories and people that are known in the city. Not many in Chennai are aware of the Officers Training Academy or how Real Image Media Technologies enhances their cinema experience or that Ajit Narayanan, who pioneered an app for children with communication impairments, is an IIT-Madras boy,” says Mendonca.

    The book decodes Chennai’s history from its gracious days as modern India’s first city with its garden houses and elegant boulevards, to its status as a hub for films, fine arts, start-ups and education. It celebrates change through finely-scripted articles by both producers and guest writers, such as dancer Anita Ratnam and film critic Baradwaj Rangan. It interviews heads of established business houses, hotels, restaurants and building conglomerates, who have shaped the city’s many incarnations. “The business houses here are icons, their work is mindboggling, but they are very low-key about it. So, the book has some rare interviews where these corporates speak of the role of their companies.”

    It also captures the zeitgeist of our culture — dance, music, art and theatre — from the classical to the common. “This is a city framed by the idea of culture,” says Mendonca, flipping through the pages punctuated with a rich tapestry of artwork by Achuthan Kudallur, S. Nandagopal and K. Muralidharan. “The book focusses as much on mainstream culture as it does on the alternative,” she says, alluding to Sofia Ashraf’s music video on the mercury pollution in Kodaikanal and the incredible work of the common man during the floods. “It weighs on Chennai’s culture and commerce in equal measure. A community that hinges only on commerce will have no soul.”

    It is this essence of the book that Governor K. Rosaiah endorsed at the launch, when he commended the team for capturing the city’s indomitable spirit. “The book nicely depicts the bouquet of culture, architecture and commerce of Tamil Nadu, especially Chennai,” he said.

    It should be read not only because it celebrates the city but also because it celebrates us.

    (Priced at Rs. 3,000, Best of Chennai Volume 2 is available at Odyssey, Chamiers and online.)

    source: / The Hindu / Home> Features> Metroplus / Deepa Alexander / Chennai – July 08th, 2016

  • scissors


    • The move of the govt to create a Greater Chennai Corpn has virtually revived the ancient province of Tondaimandalam.
    • A study of the region by Colonel Colin Mackenzie says Tondaimandalam was 1st inhabited by Kurumbas, a fierce tribe .
    • Epigraphs of the region also reveal the existence of a sound administrative system
    • _______________________________


    The move of the state government to create a Greater Chennai Corporation, bringing into its fold several areas of Kancheepuram and Tiruvallur, has virtually revived the ancient province of Tondaimandalam that is believed to have existed in the last Sangam period. The Chennai region was a part of Tondaimandalam.

    With the first references to the region going back to tribal Kurumbars and the reign of King Karikala Chola in the 1st century AD, Tondaimandalam had been under the rule of the Kurumbars, Cholas, Kalabhars, Pallavas, Pandyas and the Vijayanagara dynasties for over 2,000 years. The region during the said period came under two divisions — Aruvanadu and Aruvavadatalainadu.

    Greco-Egyptian writer Ptolemy observed that the region was named Aruvarnoi and that the territory roughly extended between South Pennar and North Pennar, which together came to be called as Tondaimandalam or Tondainadu, after the conquest by Tondaiman Ilam Tiraiyan, who took over the Chola empire from Karikala Chola and Nedumudikilli.

    The Mackenzie Manuscript, a study of the region by Colonel Colin Mackenzie, the first surveyor general of India, says Tondaimandalam was first inhabited by Kurumbas, a fierce tribe — early references to whom are found in the Ashokan edicts — until their defeat by Ilan Tiraiyan.

    The tribe divided the region into 24 districts and built several forts. Historian Prof K V Raman says, “Places like Mylapore, Triplicane, Egmore, Pallavaram, Velacheri, Thiruvanmiyur and Nungambakkam among many others formed a vital part of the ancient Tondaimandalam.”

    “Even though names of places like Nungambakkam, Ayanavaram, Vyasarpadi, Villivakkam, Ambattur etc appear to be modern names of recent origin, they find mention in inscriptions dating back to the 12th and 13th centuries AD, which in turn stresses their antiquity,” he adds. Inscriptions belonging to the Pallavas, Cholas, Rashtrakutas, Pandyas, Cheras and the Vijayanagara kings that have been found in places like Pallavaram, Triplicane, Thiruvanmiyur, Thirunirmalai, Padi etc. bear witness to the political changes through which the region passed.

    Those from the 10th, 11th and 12th centuries AD make it evident that the area on which Chennai city and its surroundings are situated were included partly in Puzhal Kottam and partly in Puliyur Kottam.

    “The region has been rightly called ‘the classic ground of early Paleolithic culture in south India as the first Paleolithic relic was discovered at Pallavaram, leading to the discovery of many more Paleoliths in other places. Megalithic sites and tools, dating back to the Iron Age were also discovered here,” says Raman.

    Epigraphs of the region also reveal the existence of a sound administrative system — both central and local — including active functioning of village assemblies (sabhas) in Manali, Adambakkam and Tiruvottriyur. The system was functional during the Pallava rule in the 9th century AD.

    Later under the rule of Chola and Vijayanagar kings, the function of village assemblies was extended to many other places of the region. The region had an equally significant contribution towards the fields of literature and learning. Thiruvalluvar, the author of Thirukkural, is associated with Mylapore while Sekkizhar, author of ‘Periya Puranam’ is said to have hailed from Kunrattur.

    Some of the heralders of the Vaishnava wing of the Bhakti movement were either born in this region or were closely associated with it. Pey Alvar, one of the earliest Alvars, came from Mylapore while Thirumazhisai Alvar was born in Thirumazhisai near Poonamallee. Thirukacchhi Nambi, a close associate of Sri Ramanuja, the famous philosopher of the Vishishtadvaita school, came from Poonamalli.

    Epigraphical, archaeological and literary sources reveal that Buddhism and Jainism once had a hold in this region. Monuments of the Chennai region reveal the contributions of the Pallava, Chola and Vijayanagar dynasties. The Pallavas built the famous cave temples in Mamallapuram, Mamandur and Narasapalayam villages near Kancheepuram and at Singaperumal Koil.

    Dr S Krishnaswami Aiyangar in ‘Madras Tercentenary Commemmoration Volume 1939’ also talks about Mylapore dating back to the beginning of the Christian era, making it over 2,000 years old.

    Historian R Sathianathaier says, “Tondaimandalam was the heart of the Pallava empire, the helmet of the Chola empire, the scene of a triangular contest among the Pandyas, the nucleus of Saluva Narasimha’s power and the grave of the Vijayanagar empire.”

    (The author is the director of Chennai 2000 Plus Trust)

    source: / The Times of India / News Home> City> Chennai / TNN / June 24th, 2016

  • scissors
    The entrace of the International Institute of Tamil Studies, Taramani Photo: Special Arrangement

    The entrace of the International Institute of Tamil Studies, Taramani Photo: Special Arrangement

    GEETA PADMANABHAN takes a walk through the International Institute of Tamil Studies, Taramani, and returns with stories of valour and artistry

    Did you know the ancient Tamils could weave cloth so fine that yards could be packed in a matchbox? That they compared pinpoint surgery to a bird picking fish from deep waters? Painted planets on the ceilings of bedrooms?

    These and other facts come alive in a comprehensive display at the International Institute of Tamil Studies, Taramani. One visit there, and you’re sure to feel great pride.

    More so, when you realise that they were so perfect, we still follow their designs.


    The Institute was started in 1970 for Tamil research. Students and academicians stepped in for study and discussion. In 2014, directors Vijayaraghavan and Manavazhagan (present officer-in-charge) submitted a proposal to the Government for a cultural centre, where a permanent exhibition would recreate the 5,000-year-old history of Tamils. The exhibits would retell legends culled from decades of research.

    The approval was announced in September 2014. A new building came up, and several teams set to work. They gathered material, shaped models and ordered paintings. In March this year, the centre opened to the public.

    The attractions

    At the centre, you’ll first be led to a spiffy, modern theatre with excellent acoustics for a treat of short films (eight to nine minutes each) put together with photographs, dramatic recreations, videos, film clippings and pictures of sculptures/murals from temples.

    One is on the evolution of Tamils as a settled group, their inventions to make life comfortable, their superior talent in weaving, growing crops and trade, and the formation of family units.

    The others are about ancient Tamil medicine, water management, war craft and administration. Clear narration threads the stories seamlessly.

    Rich sources

    “Sangam literary works spanned 5,000 years. For my doctorate, I researched on the life of Tamils during that period. In many ways, that became the basis for what we have created here,” says Dr. Manavazhagan. The information found in literature has been corroborated for authenticity by archaeological findings, living structures, palm-leaf manuscripts and copper plates that have survived the centuries. If Kallanai teaches us water management, the Tanjore temple is a fine example of architectural ability, and the lighthouse stands for ancient Tamils’ prowess in ocean navigation.

    Celebrates literature

    “This museum is based entirely on literature,” says Dr. Manavazhagan. The idea was to gather in one place tangible evidence of the achievements of Tamils in various fields.

    It would reveal to the world the culture that nurtured ideas, patronised art, war craft and scientific temper, and promoted progressive norms as a way of life.

    “We want our youth and foreigners to be introduced to that advanced civilisation,” he says.

    What’s on display

    The undeniably rich life of the Tamils is narrated through paintings based on Sangam literature, wood and cement reproductions of artefacts found in various parts of the State, photographs of collections in other museums, replicas of weapons and implements, dioramic representations and models of old cities and temples — many of them accompanied by literary evidence.

    The galleries

    The exhibits have been arranged in five well-lit, well-arranged galleries — Tholkappiar Arangam displays art forms (the door is the highlight); Thiruvalluvar is about metalcraft/agriculture, education, medicine and weapons; Kapilar has a collection of home tools/grinders, exhibits on temples and gods; Avvaiyar Arangam has life-like depictions of famous events in the life of kings; and the Ilango Adigal gallery touches on ship-building and sail-weaving — for which Tamils were well-known. The highlight in this gallery is a beautiful mini lighthouse.

    Dioramas tell us how kings stuck to the rules of war, treated subjects with justice, and ensured fair-play and compassion to all creatures. The scale-models of Madurai and Srirangam reveal the meticulous city-planning and extraordinary temple-building artistry.

    Call 2254 2992 for a trip back in time.

    source: / The Hindu / Home> Features> MetroPlus / Geeta Padmanabhan / Chennai – May 31st, 2016

  • scissors

    Salem Historical Society that works for the cause of protecting historical monuments in and around the district got a 100-year-old map of the district. At a function organised by Salem Historical Society and YMCA, SALEM 225, to mark the 225th year of establishing Salem district, the map was presented by Philip K. Mulley of Kotagiri in The Nilgiris who is a writer and historian, to J. Barnabas, general secretary of the society. The map prepared by Helio-Zinco Survey Office, Madras in 1916 depicts the boundaries of the Salem district which was one of the biggest district in the country and the first district to be formed in South India in April 4, 1792.

    J. Barnabas, general secretary of the Salem Historical Society displays the century-old map of Salem district.– Photo: E. Lakshmi narayanan

    J. Barnabas, general secretary of the Salem Historical Society displays the century-old map of Salem district.– Photo: E. Lakshmi narayanan

    The district that spread over 7,530 sq m comprised Salem, Namakkal, Dharmapuri, and Krishnagiri and was divided into three broad zones.

    Mr. Mulley said that Malabar and Coimbatore were formed only after Salem district was formed.

    He said that Alexander Reed was the first Collector of the district who served between 1792 and 1799.

    David Cockburn, the Scottish Collector and who is known as ‘Father of Yercaud’ constructed five schools in the city during his period of service (1820-1829) at his own cost.

    Robert Bruce Foote known as ‘Father of Indian Paleoarchaeology’ excavated tools used during Neolithic and Iron Age in Yercaud.

    “They served for the development of the district and hence they were remembered till now,” he added.

    Mr. Barnabas told The Hindu that 620 copies of the map were printed in 1916, and the century-old map available with the society was a rare collection.

    He said that the map brought alive the erstwhile district and would help the youngsters know the past.

    “The map would be laminated and placed in the society’s office,”Mr. Barnabas added.

    During the celebration, the war medal of M. Israel, war veteran of First World Ward (1914-1919), group photo of intermediate class (1939-1941) of The Salem Municipal College and few rare pictures were on display.

    source: / The Hindu / Home> National> Tamil Nadu / by S.P. Saravanan / Salem – April 10th, 2016

  • scissors

    Chennai may have proliferating waste, sewer rats, mosquitoes and bad traffic but it is an intellectual city, which does not fake. Its people are real


    I would like to invite the new graduates and post-graduates [of Madras University], to journey with me, briefly, on a survey of life around us, of the scene here, in our very own city of Chennai and in our beloved state of Tamil Nadu. You belong, as I do, to Chennai, most of you, and to Tamil Nadu. So what I describe is what you and I are witness to, complicit in, and part of.

    Let me start with three things that are good and great about Chennai, famous for having the largest number of temples, medical shops and posters to a street.

    First, it is a real city. Its people are real. Their problems are real, their poverty, their misery is real. As are their joys and their sense of fun. Their creativity, their improvisations are real too. Chennai does not fake, does not pretend. And above all, Chennai handles real life, in a real way, making of that reality what it can. You could say India is like that and so it is but, in being true to itself, Chennai can be said to be India’s teacher.

    Second, Chennai is a metropolis with a mind of its own. It can, alongside Kolkata, be described as an intellectual metro. ‘Metro,’ incidentally, comes from ‘mother’. A metropolis is ‘Mother City’. This intellectual mother city has corner shops and stalls that sell every variety of newspaper, superb journals, well-brought out magazines — including, I must say a lot of rubbish — with unflagging speed. If you see in a Chennai newspaper the list of that day’s happenings, you will see meetings being organised by study circles ranging from Gandhi to Ambedkar, Periyar to J. Krishnamurti, Marx to Einstein. No wonder a person like Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, born to a Telugu-speaking mother, chose this mother city as his home.

    Third, Chennai is a city with the most extraordinary cultural resources. No other place in the world has as many music halls that double up as meeting halls, small or big, five star or zero star, as Chennai does. ‘All Are Welcome’ is surely a Chennai phrase, signifying the bandwidth of the city’s cultural life. No wonder Tanjore Balasaraswati and Madurai Subbulakshmi became so comfortable in Madras, as the city was then called.

    We can be proud to be Chennaivasi.

    But pride becomes conceit if it is unaccompanied by honesty. So, let me now turn to three things that are not so good or great and are, in fact, positively wrong about our city and therefore about us.

    Ours is a city where unknown and unnamed diseases incubate in uncountable measure because we are callous, short-sighted and downright irresponsible—Photo: M. Karunakaran

    Ours is a city where unknown and unnamed diseases incubate in uncountable measure because we are callous, short-sighted and downright irresponsible—Photo: M. Karunakaran

    First, our civic sense. Chennai’s civic sense is an affront to the senses. Of what self-purifying or uplifting use, what earthly or heavenly use, can the temple-at-every possible step be if the Chennai male spits and urinates at every possible corner, crevice and culvert? It is utterly hypocritical on our part to blame the civic authorities, our Corporation, of not keeping the city streets clean, if we maltreat our surroundings 24×7 as we do. The conservancy staff that clears the mounds upon mounds of garbage we generate deserves not just our gratitude but our apology for doing its work without our help. Believe me, they are more important and more deserving of respect than the temple chariots that block our paths every so often in futile repetitiveness.

    Ours may be the city where Tiruvalluvar is believed many centuries ago to have lived, where Mudarignar Rajaji, Thanthai Periyar, Perunthalaivar Kamaraj, Arignar Anna and Sangita Kalanidhi M.S. Subbulakshmi lived, but the fact is that ours is also the city where sewage rats proliferate in their millions, mosquitoes breed in their billions and unknown and unnamed diseases incubate in uncountable measure not because the so-called ‘authorities’ are neglectful but because we are callous, short-sighted and downright irresponsible. Make no mistake, dengue and chikunguniya today and — who knows — plague and rabies tomorrow will not be caused by an inefficient administration but by our own cynical lifestyles.

    Second, our road sense, by which I mean the way we negotiate our movement on roads, is scandalous. And the biggest offender, I might even say ‘culprit,’ is the motorcyclist. No one is above the law except the motorcyclist. I take it that many if not most of you graduating students of MU are motorcyclists. So please take this as addressed to you. The poor pedestrian is the biggest victim of the motorcyclist’s dizzying hurry.

    There is another hurry around us. The hurry to build, which is accompanied by the hurry to destroy. The sharp-toothed bulldozers of destruction which can reduce a building to pulp in a matter of hours and the large cones of cement which can build on the destroyed site within days, are about hurry as well, a hurry to reap in profits as quickly as possible. And the result? Roadsides that are permanently dug-up, footpaths with heaps of sand and cement bags on them.

    This brings me to the third wrong, our sense of right and wrong. Chennai is overlooking some human tragedies being enacted right under its gaze. Simply put, this is the huge and widening divide between the very rich and the destitute in our city. If the number of cars and motorcycles has risen dizzyingly, the number of vagrants is also rising at an alarming rate. And they symbolise the great divide.

    It is utterly wrong that sky-scraping buildings should rise in our city, both for residential and professional purposes that will pull out ground water in profligate quantities, when thousands of people in the city have to pump up water physically from derelict, broken down hand-pumps at street corners.

    Let us not again blame the authorities for giving permissions, clearances. Who asks for them? Who facilitates them? Is there any clearance without an applicant?You, products of Madras University, can choose to be part of the greatness of Chennai or part of its problems. I hope you will choose right.

    Tamil Nadu’s tradition

    We are rightly proud to belong to this State. Speaking for myself, being a resident of Tamil Nadu, and descended from Tamil ancestors is an identity I cherish. Let me quickly enumerate three things that make our State great.

    The first is its breaking the back of caste discrimination. The battle is not over yet but it has achieved phenomenal success. For this we have no one more to thank than Thanthai Periyar and the self-respect movement that he started. We cannot also forget the pioneering role played by the Congress prior to independence against untouchability.

    The second is its tradition of religious accord. There is a dangerous wave of religious intolerance that is being set afloat. Tamil Nadu can be sure to rebuff, stoutly and spontaneously, any attempts to introduce religious and communal majoritarianism on the wings of electoral majorities.

    The third is the remarkable improvement in the status of its women, be it in the matter of the age of marriage, health or education. The curse of dowry is still with us and in pockets, child marriages still take place, but the woman in Tamil Nadu is no longer the undernourished, under-educated and abused woman of some decades ago.

    But let me now list three factors or three characteristics of ours as a people that should cause us to worry.

    The first is our proneness to glorify success, success in politics, in commerce, in any field. It is not unconnected to our devotionalism. The glorification of success leads to worship of the successful and the powerful who are, by definition, successful. It is one thing to admire, to support and even to adore. It is quite another to make of anyone we admire, a cult.

    The second is our preoccupation with our regional, linguistic and cultural identity. This is self-depriving. We are looked upon — let us be aware of it — as a people who are wrapped up in our own self-importance. This is a very unfortunate image to have for our tradition is far from being that. Take the number of Tamils or residents of Tamil Nadu who have become Bharat Ratnas — Rajaji, Sir C.V. Raman, Radhakrishnan, V.V. Giri, Perunthalaivar Kamaraj, MGR, the author of the green revolution C. Subramaniam, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, Sangita Kalanidhi M.S. Subbulakshmi. They were national personalities and I take this opportunity to say that it is a thousand pities that Periyar and Arignar Anna were not awarded the Bharat Ratna in their lifetimes.

    The third is our relationship with money. It is the most passionate. But in the case of the vast majority of us, the passion is also honest. But it is a fact that we are too easily dazzled by wealth, be it the wealth of persons, corporates, or of temples. Money is blinding us. We may want to earn big, we should not let that desire blind us.

    Remember what has made us great and that which keeps our great heritage from rising higher.

    Remember too that Tamil Nadu has as much to offer to India today and tomorrow as it did in the decades gone by. You have as yet reputations to make, none to lose. Make them with not just your minds but your consciences wide awake.

    (Excerpts from Gopalkrishna Gandhi’s address delivered at Madras University’s 158th annual convocation on Monday. Former Governor of West Bengal, Mr. Gandhi is Distinguished Professor of History and Politics, Ashoka University.)

    Click here to read the full text of Mr. Gandhi’s speech

    source: / The Hindu / Home> National> TamilNadu / by Gopalkrishna Gandhi / September 29th, 2015

  • « Older Entries