Chennai First a Celebration. Positive News, Facts & Achievements about Chennai, Tamilians and all the People of TamilNadu – here at Home and Overseas
  • scissors
    A French Reunion island team interacting with students at Cauvery College of Engineering and Technology at Perur near Tiruchi on Sunday.... | Photo Credit: HANDOUT

    A French Reunion island team interacting with students at Cauvery College of Engineering and Technology at Perur near Tiruchi on Sunday…. | Photo Credit: HANDOUT

    Out of the 8.5 lakh population in the island, 3 lakh people are Tamils

    It was a trip Bernard Goulamoussen (50), a French citizen of Tamil origin settled in Reunion Island, had been longing for since his childhood.

    Eagerness writ large on his face, Goulamoussen tells how he was able to see traces of his roots wherever he went during his current trip in Tamil Nadu.

    For, he had no idea to which part his ancestors who had migrated more than 200 years ago belonged.

    Goulamoussen was among a group of 10 such visitors to Tamil Nadu from Reunion Island, a French overseas territory in the Indian Ocean, who have come to the State to understand their forefathers’ culture, tradition, civilisation, ancient history, educational system, rituals and practices.

    After visiting several parts of the State including Chennai, Madurai, Dindigul and Thanjavur, they landed in Tiruchi on Sunday to explore its cultural heritage.

    Led by Yogacharya Nilamegame, a native of Puducherry who had settled in Reunion Island about 30 years ago, they visited Cauvery College of Engineering and Technology at Perur near here and interacted with the students to understand the Indian educational system.

    Like Goulamoussen, most of the group members also have no knowledge of their mother tongue Tamil.

    But, they still practice Tamil culture reflecting in the way they dress and religious practices.

    “We do not know where our forefathers lived in Tamil Nadu. We feel ecstatic to be in the land of our origin. We may have forgotten Tamil. But we have not given up our tradition yet,” says Goulamoussen, a temple priest, in French.

    Out of 8.5 lakh population of Reunion Island, 3 lakh people were Tamils. Except one-third among them, the rest had poor knowledge about their roots in Tamil Nadu.

    “But then, it is because of our deep understanding of festivals of Tamils and religious practices that we regularly recite Devaram and Thiruvasagam in temples,” said Nilamegame, who has penned a book on rituals of Tamils in Tamil and French.

    After the interaction, N. Nallusamy, former Minister and Chairman of Cauvery College of Engineering and Technology felt that the State government should set up an exclusive Department to teach Tamil language to the diaspora, particularly in Reunion Island, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Myanmar.

    source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> News> Cities> Tiruchirapalli / by C. Jaisankar / Tiruchi – January 08th, 2018

  • scissors

    ThanjavurMamaCF08jan2018

    A tongue-in-cheek, two-part piece that traces the genealogy and features of a unique species

    Tamil Nadu erupted in the early 20th century into what can only be called a revolution, the Dravidian revolution, which transformed the texture of Tamil society.  It was ‘Periyar’ E.V. Ramasami Naicker, who changed the classist nature of public life in Tamil land. Within a generation, Tamil Nadu was transformed; with people from various castes taking control of politics and society; the ‘Periyar’ effect.

    In this avalanche of change, Brahmins who were at the top of the social food chain became the singular targets of the new revolutionary correctives. But in a small corner of the beleaguered Brahmin world of  Tamil Nadu existed two art forms — Carnatic music and Bharatanatyam — which became a new sanctuary for the Tamil Brahmin, very specifically, the Mylapore Brahmin, unmistakable as the ‘Mama’ of Mylapore, Madras’s most famous temple-suburb.

    In the winter of 1927, a historic session of the Indian National Congress was held in Madras, presided over by Dr. M.A. Ansari, at which, on the motion of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Purna Swaraj or Independence was accepted as the objective of the Congress.

    The session was also historic for the music community in Madras because of the series of music and dance performances organised alongside. The very next year, Madras Music Academy was established for the “further advancement” of Carnatic music and to conduct music conferences and performances. And December became the chosen month, the one month in the year that Madras calls ‘cold’ and when the monkey caps come out.

    Madras emerged as the ‘classical music place’ to be in within the first half of the 20th century, and a number of music-saturated Brahmins homed in on the city. In bygone centuries, Carnatic music was spread around the towns and villages of Thanjavur and Tirunelveli but it was now concentrated in cosmopolitan Madras. Here the art form was reorganised, systematised and intellectualised. Madras became the Mecca of Carnatic music.

    By the 1980s, people from across India were heading to Madras every December. There were over 15 sabhas and leading musicians performed in almost all of them.

    Through this period, the government was filled with leaders who took forward the anti-Brahmin legacy. But that did not matter when it came to celebrating the December festival.

    Chief ministers and governors inaugurated sessions of Carnatic music and acknowledged its great aesthetic strength. Rationalist leaders and atheists didn’t blink an eye when speaking at events, though Carnatic music was lyrically religious. Carnatic music and Bharatanatyam became examples of the cultural refinement of the Tamils, and musicians and dancers were celebrated as cultural ambassadors.

    Enter, the hero

    Paradoxically, a state that insisted on social equality came to be known nationally and internationally for two art forms practised, promoted and patronised only by the cultural elite.

    From this rather serious sociological narrative emerges one person, a charismatic and entertaining embodiment of a societal overhaul. With his sheer presence he bestows upon Carnatic music its antiquity, at the same time containing it within his own identity.

    He is today an ignored social animal, but when the sounds of the tambura waft through the humid Marina breeze, his face lights up, shoulders broaden, the space becomes his to own, he is on home turf, a turf he understands better than any curator, one on which he has watched so many masterful innings. The players and audiences look up to him, as he gives to the art as much as he receives, or so he believes.

    Our hero is the Brahmin man, the chief patron of Carnatic music in ChennaiBut he is not just any Brahmin man; this person is special, the hard core ‘Carnatic-ite’. We call him the Mylapore Mama. He has lived for centuries, probably saw Tyagaraja sing on the streets of Thanjavur, discussed the nuances of ragas with Konerirajapuram Vaidyanatha Bhagavathar, and bemoaned the death of Vina Dhanammal in the early 20th century. He is the typical Brahmin but wait, he is much more.

    The essence of Todi

    He proclaims, “I have music in my blood. After all, I grew up drinking Cauvery water.” Most of these Mamas seem to have had ancestors who lived around Thanjavur. He walks around Chennai the way his great-grandfather would have ambled on the banks of the Cauvery. He is great friends with the maestros, usually addresses them by first name, and even teaches them a thing or two about singing.

    His essence is Kamboji, Kalyani, Todi and Kedaragoula. Within his mind exists the collective wisdom of the last 150 years of music.

    He is, therefore, someone who has lived with Carnatic music from its times as a triangular (Brahmin, isaivellalar and devadasi) social preoccupation to its present singular Brahmin obsession.

    He has seen all the changes of the 20th century and discussed its pros and cons, probably sniggered at them, and held on to what he believes are the core values of Carnatic music. Don’t think he is antiquated. He is not; he will surprise you with the most bizarre acknowledgement of a musician you thought was awful. You cannot slot him, he will deceive you, be careful. His greatest function has been as Carnatic connoisseur, the person who shapes the music and the musician, or so he believes. He will stroll into concerts, discussions and lectures and find his way out, all the time exuding an air of great superiority.

    Metaphor for music

    Why Mylapore? Because Mylapore is not just a Brahmin-dominated location in Madras (sorry Chennai); it is a metaphor. A metaphor that conjures up images of a man with a tuft, betel nut in mouth, bare-chested, clothed in a veshti. But these images themselves are metaphors, circles within circles. All Mamas don’t dress this way, but they retain the qualities that these images imply: traditionalism, comfort, belief, knowledge and control.

    The Mylapore Mama has great command over the Queen’s language, though with a strong Sanskrit accent. He reads The Hindu over a cup of filter coffee, has strong opinions about everything, and, of course, can reel out the names of ragas, talas, compositions and — to the amazement of all — render snatches of several ragas. It is sometimes difficult to understand him as the words escape arrogantly from the corner of his mouth, the one-liners are cryptic, the words loaded and the sarcasm natural. Today, Mama may live in San Diego, Melbourne, Singapore, London, Delhi or Johannesburg but he is after all from Thanjavur.

    Usually addressed as Shankar Mama, Sundaram Mama, Ramamurthy Mama or Krishnan Mama, these men are the custodians of Carnatic music.

    Bearing that great responsibility, they operate differently with different people, and it is this that I find most fascinating. As in any field, there are always musicians at different levels of acumen and status; all of them build relationships with the Mamas.

    Now put the Mama and Chennai’s music season together and we have a potent combination. The Margazhi Season is the Olympics of Carnatic music. The Brahmin music world assembles from around the globe to witness the show and Mylapore Mama is the mascot. It is his time to rule, dictate, pontificate, control and deliver a verdict.

    A careful structure

    The music season itself is structured in an interesting fashion. The organisation, the concert timing, the duration and venue influence artists and audiences, and together determine the artist’s status within the establishment.

    As a general rule, mornings are devoted to lec-dems or concerts by super-senior musicians. Super-seniority is not equivalent to super-speciality; it only indicates the average age of the artist. Yes, there are also some greats, but the majority fall into the purely geriatric category. Over the years, this has changed a bit with younger artists also performing in the morning. The mid-day concerts are by novices and first-timers. After 1:00 pm is for artists a little more mature, which means they have performed at the mid-day level at least a few times before. These last till 5 p.m. roughly, with entry free for all.

    The evening concerts are, of course, for the ones who have made it, the stars, the popular artists, to listen to whom people are willing to spend money. These hierarchies have been in play for decades and every musician hopes and prays to move from mid-day to evening concert. This is the equivalent of the Bollywood box-office dream.

    These timings are also referred to in terms of the artists’ seniority: junior, sub-senior and senior, and each category is called a ‘slot’. Everyone — and I mean everyone — wants to know your slot and based on that decides your status in the Carnatic world.

    (To be continued…)

    The writer is a rebel, whether against cultural conventions or injustice or just bad tea.

    source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> Society / by T.M. Krishna / January 06th, 2018

  • scissors

    Amidst a verdant grove of teak trees in Tamil Nadu’s Anamalai Tiger Reserve lies an ageing tombstone with a Latin inscription that says “Si Monumentum Requires Circumspice (If you seek his monument, look around)”.

    The grave of a little-known Scotsman named Hugo Francis Andrew Wood, this serene spot remains a must-see for local forest guards and nature enthusiasts more than 70 years after the man himself died. For he is the reason why these ancient hills are still lush with trees.

    Here is the untold story of how Hugo Wood came to the rescue of Anamalai forests at a time when they stared at a bleak future.

    Annamalai01CF30dec2017

    In 1820, a team of British surveyors ventured into the still unexplored Anamalai range (that spanned several peaks in the Madras Presidency) and were pleasantly surprised to find it heavily forested with towering trees of teak and rosewood.

    At that time, timber formed the backbone of many industries and Britain’s oak forests had vanished due to the irresponsible felling of trees. Furthermore, to retain its naval supremacy among the colonial powers, Britain desperately needed wood to make new ships.

    Apart from shipbuilding and construction, logs were also needed to build train tracks for Britain’s rapidly expanding rail network — for each mile of train track, around 2,000 wooden planks were required — and provide fuel for steam locomotives.

    As such, the surveyors were quick to realise the value of what they had “discovered”. Soon after, the mountains began being gradually robbed of their abundant tree cover, with the teak being shipped of to Tiruchirappalli (to build train tracks) or Bombay (to build Royal Navy ships in the Bombay shipyard).

    Too large to be conventionally transported, the giant teak trees were cut down into logs, carried by elephants till a point and then floated down the river to the plains below — the reason why, in time, the spot came to be named Topslip.

    Annamalai02CF30dec2017

    In fact, according to Forestination in Madras Presidency by Dietrich Brandis (1883), roughly about 40,000 trees were felled each year in government forests in Madras Presidency for the railways alone!

    Thanks to this over-exploitation, the once-green hills of Anamalai had lost much of their tree cover by 1885. For the next three decades, several British foresters tried to regenerate the region but failed. And then came Hugo Wood.

    Appointed the District Forest Officer of Coimbatore South Division in September 1915 (a post he would hold till 1926), Hugo decided to put a stop to the unchecked destruction of Anamalai’s forests and drew up a working plan for the same.

    First, the 45-year-old Scotsman talked the local colonial authorities and convinced them to stop hunting wildlife and the irresponsible chopping of trees. He also befriended the tribals who lived near the forests, restored their traditional rights and brought back many who had been displaced (due to the British bringing the Anamalai forests under the reserved category).

    Annamalai03CF30dec2017

    Next, Hugo scathingly admonished the British government for uprooting trees and introduced the forest management technique of coppicing — a method that takes advantage of the fact that many trees rapidly regrow during spring if they are cut down up to the stump during the winter.

    Finally, he marked out areas where no logging or coppicing would be allowed for a period of 25 years. In fact, such was his dedication towards his work that he refused to provide timber to the British during the World War I (1914-1918).

    In 1916, Hugo set up a bamboo hut in Mount Stuart (near Topslip) and began working in earnest to regenerate the forest of the mountain range. He started small, targeting an area of 25 acres. By the time of his death, it had spread to an area of 650 sq km.

    He lived alone, cooked his own food and never missed out on a daily ritual. During his daily walks in the deforested land, he would fish out fistfuls of teak seeds from his pockets, use his silver-tipped walking stick to poke a hole in the ground, and plant seeds there.

    Annamalai04CF30dec2017

    He would repeat the process till his pockets were empty. Then he would go back for more seeds and start again from where he left off. He also made efforts to rid the hills of Lantana camara, an invasive species of flowering shrub that hampered the growth of teak.

    Hugo’s hard work paid off, breathing new life into the hills of Anamalai.

    In 1925, Hugo retired after a severe bout of tuberculosis and settled in Coonoor, according to a Tamil Nadu forest department booklet. Having remained a bachelor (choosing instead to devote his life to conservation), he died on December 12, 1933, at the age of 63.

    However, a few months earlier, a seriously ill Hugo had written a will asking to be buried amidst the trees he had planted. He has also sent the money for the same to the chief conservator of Madras Presidency.

    On his death, this request was conceded and Hugo Wood was laid to rest among his lasting legacy — the teak trees he raised in the hills of Anamalai.

    On windy days, leaves gently float down from the trees on to the tombstone as if to pay homage to the man who so completely loved the Anaimalais and who did so much to save it.

    Annamalai05CF30dec2017

    Today, this place has become an oft-visited spot for tourists while his immense contribution has become a part of the local folklore. Forest department vehicles ferry people from Kozhikamuthi elephant camp to Hugo’s grave amidst Topslip’s flourishing teak forest. The forest department is now planning to set up a memorial dedicated to the legend at the spot.

    Close by is the Mount Stuart Rest House (built in 1886) that is still let out to guests. Though the building stands in all its historic glory, it does have limited damage caused by curious bears and wild elephants who seem to have taken a permanent fancy to the house! However, do note that only wildlife enthusiasts and nature lovers are allowed accommodation.

    Photographs :  Pic (01) www.commonos.wikimedia.org / P. Jeganathan / (02 and 03) www.ddraftaniwalpower.org  (04 and 05) www.keralarchaeology.blogspot.in

    source: http://www.thebetterindia.com / The Better India / Home> Conservation> Environment> Lede> Nature / by Sanchari Pal / December 28th, 2017

  • scissors

    MarathaCF28dec2017

    New book showcases contribution of Thanjavur Marathas

    The contributions of the Thanjavur Maratha rulers to the State were recalled at a book launch in the city on Tuesday. Pratap Sinh Serfoji Raje Bhosle, sixth descendant of the Thanjavur Maratha royal family, released his book — Contributions of Thanjavur Maratha Kings — chronicling their impact on fields such as art, culture and literature.

    “This covers not only the history of the former rulers, but also the lives of Shivaji Maharaj, his son Sambaji, their guru Samartha Ramdas Swami, the Cholas and the Nayakas, and also contains historical facts about their contribution to bharatanatyam,” he said.

    Actor Vyjayanthimala Bali presided over the event and released the book. “Thanjavur is unique in so many ways and what the Serfoji family has contributed to bharatanatyam is part of history,” she said, recalling the time when there were Marathi compositions written for the dance form. “There was a time when it used to be called Maratha bharatanatyam, I have seen dancers perform on Marathi compositions written by the rulers.Bharatanatyam exponent Lakshmi Vishwanathan and Aravinth Kumarasamy, artistic director of Apsara Art Singapore, were present at the event.

    source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> News> Cities> Chennai / by Staff Reporter / Chennai – December 27th, 2017

  • scissors

    StThomasChurchCF28dec2017

    St Thomas English Church that turned 175, stands a solemn witness to the passage of time

    It’s late afternoon and birds keel over the squat steeple of St Thomas English Church (STEC) that stands at a bend on Santhome High Road. Children rush out of the school gate, a few swing from the low branches of trees that swish noisily in the brisk sea breeze. A winter coastal light washes over STEC’s white structure, complete with arches and turrets. Beyond stands a fishing hamlet barnacled to its compound wall that has replaced the fence with a wicket gate that opened to the beach and the bay beyond. Here, in the sweep of golden sands where Thomas, the saint who lends his name to the church and one of Christ’s 12 apostles walked, there is a mercurial stillness that hangs in the air — a quietude that has conquered the call of birds, chatter of children and the roar of waves for 175 years now.

    I’m led on a guided tour of the 14-ground campus by Rev Richard Ambrose Jebakumar, the present presbyter, and Sheeba and Roshan, who were born and raised in this pastorate and whose families have been members for generations. High above the arched doorway is a crest emblazoned into the wall that spells out 1842 – the year the church was founded — and reads ‘Quarto septennial – abounding in grace, faith and love.’

    “These are words that have largely inspired the philosophy of this church and its members,” says Rev Jebakumar. “Raised to meet the spiritual needs of the large number of Europeans who had made Santhome home, the church owes its existence largely to the dynamic Methodist missionary Robert Carver.” Carver, who is buried under the main altar of the church, arrived in India in 1824 and was a pioneer in the work of the oldest mission of the Church of England in India that worked at promoting Christian knowledge. By 1836, Bishop Daniel Corrie obtained a grant to build the church. By 1842, Carver had moved back to Madras from Mannargudi, and STEC was consecrated later that year. After Carver died a few years later, the church had many notable presbyters leading it, including AR Symonds and A Westcott, with the first Indian presbyters taking over in the 1930s. Their names now fill the wooden plaques that hang in a quiet corner of the church, although their work has for long defined the character of this pastorate. “St Thomas’ strength lies in the fact that it is a family church. Governor Thomas Munro worshipped here, and generations of families have been members here. It has helped foster a rare bond,” says Sheeba, member of the pastorate committee, outlining the many activities the 250 member-families pitch in for.

    “Hospital visits and working with women and children from disadvantaged backgrounds, especially those from the nearby CSI School for the Deaf, are some of the areas of focus.” Sheeba’s husband, Roshan, was a member of ADAG (Anti-Drug Action Group), a church band in the 1980s. “The church also pitched in to help the flood-affected people in the locality. The school, established in 1986, serves children from modest backgrounds. Weddings for the poor were held for the 175th anniversary. We also organised special services and installed a statue to mark the occasion,” adds Rev Jebakumar.

    The church has changed little since it was first raised. Massive wooden doors open to aisles lined with beautifully carved pews and walls with poignant marble plaques that tell tales of English men land women ost to battles, sunken ships and tropical disease. The stained glass behind the brass and stone-embedded cross on the altar was replaced after the tsunami struck. “We were at service that Sunday. It was the only part of the church that was destroyed,” says Sheeba. On the brass lectern stands a version of the King James Bible, its pages brittle with the weight of history, but its words firm.

    Music has been a strong tradition in the church. The Thomas Robson pipe organ, built in 1868 and played by organist Anila Manoharan, is the second-oldest in the city. Its strains wash over the cobble stone altar outside and to the sunset lingering across the foam-topped waves. And, above the roar of the traffic rise the words so loved by the people here — ‘There’s a church near a bend on the sea shore, No lovelier place I love more.’

    source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> News> Cities> Chennai / by Deepa Alexander / December 27th, 2017

  • scissors

    ChapelCF22dec2017

    At first appearance, the small chapel inside St Andrews Girls Higher Secondary School at Singarathoppu in Ramanathapuram district appears like an inverted ship. Its build is different, unlike the usual Gothic or Anglican architecture in which Catholic and protestant churches were built earlier. Not many know that this humble 117-year-old chapel has a tale of its own. It was erected in 1900 in memory of Arthur Heber Thomas, an English missionary, who worked for dalits and cholera-affected people in the nearby villages before dying of malaria in 1890.
    Hailing from Warmsworth in England, a 25-year-old Thomas, a member of the Society for the Propagation of Gospel, reached Madras on May 2, 1887, by steam ship, S S Manorama. His missionary work took him to Ramanathapuram, where he began working for dalits in Venkulam and treating cholera-affected people in Singarathoppu. He died on November 2, 1890, and was fondly remembered by locals for treating cholera patients even in the last days of his life. Residents of Venkulam built another church called ‘Thomas Church’ in his memory.

    “His letters written to his brother and father reveal his love for the region, especially for Tamil language, which he was learning to speak and write. He had also documented the extreme tropical weather in the region, onset of cholera in 1888 after a cyclone hit the region in December that year and spotting numerous deer at Sayalkudi,” said V Rajaguru of Ramanathapuram Archaeological Research Foundation.

    Rajaguru ascertained these facts from the book, ‘The Steep Ascent – Memorials of Arthur Heber Thomas and Records of Ramnad Mission’, published by Bemrose & Sons Limited and Snow Hill and Derby in 1907, and field visits to Venkulam area near Utharakosamangai where Thomas worked.

    The Thomas Chapel at Singarathoppu was built by his English friends after his death. “They designed it like a ship — a symbol of Thomas’ voyage to India,” Rajaguru said.

    All the material except the church bell was sourced from the region. Lime was obtained from sea shells along the Ramanathapuram coast. Grinders using bullocks were used to make lime mortar and soap stones were used to polish the floors.

    “The architecture of a tiled roof over the vault gives a weather control feature to this church. No matter what the weather is outside, the atmosphere inside the church is always pleasant. Considering that the missionary wrote to his family about extreme tropical weather in the region, his friends may have given a thought about this special architecture.”

    source: http://www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com / The Times of India / News> City News> Chennai News / by Arockiaraj Johnbosco / TNN / December 22nd, 2017

  • scissors

    VedanayagamCF19dec2017

    I’d always thought there was only one renowned Vedanayagam, a Tanjore Christian who expressed Christian thought in words sung to Carnatic music, a man of Tamil letters but who was known by two names: Vedanayagam Sastriar and Samuel Vedanayagam Pillai. Sriram V set me — and several others — straight recently on Pillai, telling us that Sastriar was a totally different person, born 50 years earlier. The straightening out offers me this opportunity to clear the air about the confusing Vedanayagams.

    Sastriar, born in 1774 a Roman Catholic in Tirunelveli, became a Lutheran, converted by the Rev Christian Schwartz, the tutor of Serfoji, heir apparent of Tanjore. Sastriar joined Serfoji in his classes and they became friends. Sastriar then went to study Theology in Tranquebar, at the seminary of the first Protestant Mission in India.

    While working in Mission schools in Tanjore, he began composing Christian lyrics to Carnatic music and writing Christian treatises. He was to write over 125 treatises during his lifetime, his best known the Bethlehem Kuravanji.

    When Serfoji became king, he made Sastriar his Court Poet. And Veda Sastrigal, as he became known, continued composing hymns and songs in praise of the Holy Trinity. This emphasis led to his falling out with the Court of Tanjore, but had him considered as the first Christian Evangelical Poet.

    The other Vedanayagam, Pillai as I’ll call him, is known as Mayavaram Vedanayagam Pillai. Born in Tanjore in 1826 a Roman Catholic, which he remained all his life, he got employment in the law courts in Trichinopoly after schooling. While working, he studied Law, passed the necessary exams and was appointed a Munsif in Mayavaram. Thirteen years of dedicated service later, he resigned when a new District Judge was appointed; a sick Pillai had not gone with the other sub-judges of the district to welcome him, an act misconstrued enough to cause differences with his superior. Early retirement gave him time for two fields he had become interested in — writing and Carnatic music.

    After translating several law books, he wrote a book he is still known for: Neethi Nool (The Book of Morality). Written in Tirukkural style, its couplets are on moral behaviour.

    Then, in 1879, there appeared the book that would make a difference to the Tamil literary scene. Titled Prathapa Mudaliar Charithram, it is considered the first Tamil novel. In a preface to later editions, he explains, “My object in writing this work of fiction is to supply the want of prose works in Tamil, a want which is admitted and lamented by all.” He also says his previous books were rich with “maxims of morality”, in this he was illustrating them with examples from life. This lengthy book focuses more on instruction in values than entertain as a romance. In 1887, his second, and last novel, Sugunambal Charitram, was published, but was not as successful. He wrote 14 other books.

    Moral education is what Pillai brings into his huge collection of songs. These songs, composed to no particular deity, are still popular in Carnatic Music concerts. In fact, Sanjay Subrahmanyan not so long ago gave an entire concert featuring Pillai’s Carnatic compositions.

    ***

    When the postman knocked…

    * Bhaskarendra Rao Ramineni who scours the Andhra Pathrika archives tells me that an obituary of Yakub Hasan says his wife Khadija Begum was a Member of the Madras Assembly and that Rajaji, paying tribute to his Public Works Minister in his 1937 Ministry, said that Hasan’s wife was from Turkey.

    YakubHussainMPOs19dec2017

    That gives a clear cut answer to my speculation in Miscellany, December 4. Bhaskarendra also sends me a picture from the paper showing Khadija Yakub Hasan in Western clothes, a reflection of Ataturk’s modern Turkish women. Yakub Hasan, a founder of the Muslim Educational Society, represented the Muslim League in the Madras Legislative Council from 1916 to 1919. Later, he represented in the Council the Chittoor Rural (Muslim) constituency from 1923 till 1939. As Minister in charge of the PWD he played a significant role in the negotiations with Hyderabad on the Tungabadhra Project. He convened and presided over the first Khilafat Conference (1919) held in Madras and resigned from the Assembly over the Anglo-Turkish treaty (1920) which ended the Khilafat campaign to restore the Caliphate.

    ***

    ArundaleRukminiCF19dec2017

    * Who was the Arundale that Rukmini Devi married, asks T Saroja, in a letter about the Music Season, visitors from abroad and what they’d think of Kalakshetra’s problems. Arundale was no visitor to the Music Season; in fact, there was no Music Season when he arrived in India. George Sydney Arundale was a Theosophist from Australia whom Annie Besant had invited to head the educational programme in the Theosophical Society’s campus. The 16-year-old Rukmini Nilakanta Sastri (whose father was a Theosophist) met the 42-year-old Arundale and they fell in love, getting married in 1920, scandalising Madras Society. Whatever the criticisms about this Spring-Autumn marriage, together they were to change minds with their contribution to the classical dance scene in Madras. During a visit to Australia in 1926, they went to see Anna Pavlova dance. It was later said, Rukmini Devi was “a changed person from then … she wanted to be a part of the fascinating world of movement and expression.”

    From that desire was conceived Kalakshetra, the premier school for South Indian classical music and dance. Does it really have to cope with politicking casting a shadow over it ever since the passing of Rukmini Devi in 1986?

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

    source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> News> Cities> Chennai> Madras Miscellany – Chennai / by S. Muthiah / December 18th, 2017

  • scissors
    The World War II air-raid shelter near Kasimedu being demolished. | Photo Credit: R. Ragu

    The World War II air-raid shelter near Kasimedu being demolished. | Photo Credit: R. Ragu

    Historian V. Sriram says structure near Kasimedu should be protected

    A piece of the city’s rich colonial past made of concrete and metal is being demolished to make way for development work along Ennore Expressway. On Thursday, a hydraulic breaker found it hard to dismantle the concrete behemoth constructed several decades ago.

    The air-raid shelter constructed by the British to withstand bombs during World War II that usually stands neglected near Kasimedu, will soon become history.

    Locals not bothered

    Locals unaware of the history of the structure, do not seem to be bothered about the demolition.

    While those at the site said it was being pulled down for widening Ennore Expressway’s service lane, another said it was being done for laying of the Chennai Petroleum Corporation Ltd’s (CPCL) crude oil pipeline. However, both the National Highways Authority of India, which manages the road, and the CPCL denied that they had anything to do with the demolition.

    Historian V. Sriram said the grey concrete structure was constructed by the British Government during the World War II as an air-raid shelter. He said several such air raid shelters were constructed in and around the city to house the local people in the event of an air attack.

    Over the years the concrete building, which was not put to use for the purpose it was constructed, had remained neglected by government agencies and had gradually become a public convenience for the locals.

    Dumping of garbage

    The concrete structure resembling a water sump with no doors reeks of a bad smell and is filled with garbage going to show the way ‘historic’ building has been treated by the government authorities.

    Mr. Sriram rues that when several buildings not of any historic value could be lifted and moved, this air raid shelter certainly deserves to be protected. He pointed out the concrete structure, though not converted into a museum, could have been preserved by moving it to the other side of the road so that it could serve as a reminder to a time when the city came close to be bombed.

    source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> News> Cities> Chennai / by R. Srikanth / Chennai – December 01st, 2017

  • scissors
    The hero stone discovered near Anadigambareswarar Temple in Anamalai shows two warriors’ valour. | Photo Credit: HANDOUT_E_MAIL

    The hero stone discovered near Anadigambareswarar Temple in Anamalai shows two warriors’ valour. | Photo Credit: HANDOUT_E_MAIL

    Dated around 16th century, it depicts an incident that could have taken place in the area

    A hero stone depicting the valour of two warriors has been discovered in a bush behind the Anadigambareswarar Temple in Anamalai. Assistant Professor of History, Rajapalayam Raju’s College, B. Kandasamy, who spotted the stone, says it has two warriors, three women and child. Hero stones are carved in memory of warriors’ valour and worshipped.

    In this case, it shows a warrior holding a jagged sword in his left hand. The portion depicting his right hand is damaged. The second warrior is seen holding a long sword in his right hand and a jagged sword in his left hand.

    Garland

    One of the women is seen holding a garland and the child is seen supporting a warrior. The second woman is also seen holding a garland. The third woman is seen holding a hand fan and taking them to heaven after martyrdom.

    The stone, dated around 16th century, depicts an incident that could have taken place in the area.

    The warriors’ head gear, lower garment and the women’s lower garment are also clearly visible.

    The discovery of the stone assumes significance in the light of discovery of iron objects and another three-tier hero stone from near the Perumal Kovil Karadu in the area.

    The three-tier hero stone is now in the Coimbatore Museum, Mr. Kandasamy adds.

    source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> News> Cities> Coimbatore / by Karthik Madhavan / Coimbatore – November 20th, 2017

  • scissors

    MadrasSchoolCF07nov2017

    The East Indians, as Anglo Indians were known till 1911, were well served by schools and churches in almost every locality where they were in numbers. In New Town and Vepery areas, near where they served in the General Hospital and Gun Factory, the German missionaries representing the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge had done their bit. In Royapuram, the railway and harbour employees were well served by St Kevin’s and St Peter’s. And in Perambur, the railway hub, there was the Railways School and the Lourdes Shrine, all serving Protestants and Catholics. But where the poorest East Indians lived, in the Narasingapuram, Chintadripet, Pudupet and Royapettah areas there was nothing between St Mary’s in the Fort and St George’s Cathedral for those who worked in stables like Waller’s, coach-builders like Simpson’s, as printers in Addison’s, and sales-clerks in Spencer’s and Higginbotham’s. That was till the Rev Henry Taylor arrived in 1842 and was temporarily posted to sahibdom’s St George’s.

    Struck by the poorer East Indians’ conditions in the Round Tana area, Taylor rented a room there in July 1842 and commenced worship and primary classes. That will on November 26, be celebrated as the 175th anniversary of Christ Church, Mount Road, and its school. Growth followed thanks to Thomas Parker Waller who owned a large stable and coach rental here. When a building and compound he offered the new institution was deemed too small, he negotiated exchange of a part of his estate for an adjacent property and gifted in perpetuity the latter, then worth ₹ 12,000, to the new church. Here, Taylor’s successor, Rev Robert Carver (Miscellany, February 6) established in 1843 two schools called the Mount Road Male and Female Schools, to be duly called the Christ Church School. Another building in this property was used for worship. Work on the church began in 1850 to John Law’s design and Christ Church, Mount Road, was consecrated in 1852. The Church, including furniture from Deschamps, then a leading furniture maker, cost ₹ 37,000.

    Remembered in the Church with a memorial tablet and in the name of a primary school opened in 1986 is TP Waller. Another tablet, one in the porch, remembers his son, a veterinarian, who died in 1830. Connected or not, another Waller name figures in the School’s history; Bishop Edward Waller (1922-41) helped the school considerably with Diocesan funding.

    Funds were till the 20th Century a constant problem for the School. Typically, an 1854 note showed expenses being ₹90 a month and school fees only about ₹30 from around 120 students! It was a poor school with poorer children. This lack of funds was to over the years affect the character of the school, which kept shuttling between being a middle school and a lower school.

    The history of this period is too depressing, not to mention full of upheavals, to record. But what seemed like a closed chapter became a new chapter with Waller’s infusion of funds and support from St George’s Cathedral, St Mary’s in the Fort and St Matthias, Vepery.

    This made possible a new block in 1928 at a cost of ₹40,000 and recognition as a High School in 1947. In 1949, when St George’s Cathedral School closed, Christ Church welcomed its students, as numbers meant viability. Today, with over 2,000 students it is a co-educational higher secondary school from 1905 with good results and many a university entrant, a far cry from 1930 when it reported “After years of barren results, it is refreshing to find one passing in the Middle School examination”! That was a School that changed from 1936 after the previous 25 years had recorded “hardly one per cent in passes”. Since then it has been recording 90-100 % passes and students joining India’s most prestigious services and institutions. Among them is Dr John Varghese, principal of St Stephen’s College, Delhi.

    The mystery of the missing award

    My mention on August 27th of the Jagirdar of Arni’s Gold Medal for Physics/ Chemistry not having been awarded for years, has brought intriguing information. In letters to the Arni family in 2005, Presidency College categorically stated their records showed no such awards. Yet, in 1992, plaques were seen in the College’s Central Hall listing Arni Award winners in Physics and Chemistry.

    Still more intriguing is that the CVs of many leading Indian scientists mention them as having received the award. These include Dr CV Raman in 1905, Dr Govind Rao (‘Father of Chemical Engineering in India’) in 1921, and Dr S Chandrasekhar in 1930. Later winners found include in 1956 (Physics) Dr TR Viswanathan, a Director of Texas Instruments after stints at MIT, Carnegie Mellon, Stanford and Berkeley, in 1974 (Chemistry) Dr N Pattabhiraman, Professor of Oncology, Lombardi Cancer Centre, Washington DC, Dr N Gopalaswamy (1977, Physics) who was with NASA, and Dr S Moorthy Babu, Anna University.

    With so many winners, listed as late as 1986 (Dr Babu), how could an award vanish into thin air? Be that as it may, would the College like to start all over again with the help of the Arni family?

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

    source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> Society> History & Culture> Madras Miscellany / by S Muthiah / November 07th, 2017

  • « Older Entries