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    Chennai  :

    Ooty Varkey, the baked delicacy synonymous with the Nilgiris, is all set to get the prestigious Geographical Indications (GI) tag. A society of its manufacturers has recently submitted an application in the city GI registry seeking the tag.

    India, as member of the WTO, enacted the GI Act in 1999 which came into effect in September 2003. The GI tag is given to a product to indicate its specific geographical location or point of origin. The tag ensures none other than those authorised are allowed to use the product name.

    The popular snack, which traces its history to the Raj, is distinct to the Nilgiri district. It is made from a mixture of flour, sugar, salt and mava (a mix of home-made yeast comprising banana, rava or semolina, maida or flour, and sugar). It gets its distinct taste from the water used to prepare the mix and the climatic conditions of the Nilgiris. The varkey mix is baked in a firewood oven on moderate heat. The entire process, from preparing the dough mix to baking, takes around 12 hours. The product, which has a sweet and spicy variant, has to be consumed within 20 days.

    According to the application submitted by the Ooty Varkey Producers Welfare Association, the British, who had been residing in the Nilgiris, made their own snacks which included mostly biscuits, cakes and cookies. A new snack, similar to a cookie, was made in Ooty. The British ate this new cookie with their tea.

    After Independence, the product became an important item in the bakeries of Ooty, Coonoor, Kothagiri, Manjoor and Gudalur. The production and sales also increased substantially.

    “In spite of attempts made by the bakeries down in plains, the varkey made in those places does not have the same taste,” the application said adding, “over the years its popularity has been growing from domestic and foreign tourists.”

    The popular snack, which originated during the Raj, is made from a mixture of flour, sugar, salt and mava. The Ooty Varkey gets its taste from the water used to prepare the mix and the climate in the Nilgiris.

    source: / The Times of India / News Home> City> Chennai / by Manish Raj, TNN / August 31st, 2015

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    Madurai :

    A city has several awe-inspiring sights, but a village too is not far behind, as a group of more than 200 college students learnt on Sunday. The students, who had gone on a ‘heritage walk’ to a small village in Madurai, were amazed by the richness of tradition and the diversity of cultural practices in the hamlet.

    Thenoor, about 12km from Madurai, is around 200 years old and believes itself to be under the control of Lord Sundarajaperumal, the deity of Alagarkoil.

    Children beat drums in the background as the group, which included historians and scholars, walked around the villages, admiring its ancient structures. They visited the Sundaram temple, Perumal temple and Sivan temple.

    The village is known for its ‘vetrilai’ or betel leaves, which the people grow in large numbers to offer to Lord Sundarajaperumal.

    Special performances were arranged for the visitors, including folk dances like ‘kollattam’ and ‘kummi’ performed by village girls dressed in traditional attire.

    In an interesting competition, the men in the village are required to prove their eligibility for marriage by lifting a heavy stone. The competition, called the Ilavattakal, drew many spectators on Sunday.

    Some of the students became so enthusiastic that they soon began to cheer for the participants.

    The villagers played traditional games like uriadithal, pambaram, gilli, pacha kudirai and kabbadi. Some of the older members took part in games like vidukathaigal (riddle-telling) and proverb-telling.

    The trip was organised by the Dhan Foundation. The group was also treated to glasses of ‘kool’, a preparation made out of millets that some of them had not even heard of.

    source: / The Times of India / News Home> City> Madurai / by Karishma Ravindran, TNN / August 10th, 2015

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    Four inscriptions belonging to different historical periods have been found at an ancient temple in a dilapidated condition at Alamelumangalam, a remote village off the Tiruchi-Musiri Road, by research scholars of Dr. M. Rajamanikkanar Centre for Historical Research, Tiruchi.

    The inscriptions split into fragments apparently during renovations taken up in the past were found during an explorative study undertaken by R. Akila, assistant professor, Arignar Anna Government Arts College, Musiri, along with two K. Kasturi and S. Sridevi, postgraduate history students of the college.

    Ms. Kasturi’s brother, K. Sarankumar, a schoolboy, had sounded out her sister on the existence of a dilapidated temple in the village. Ancient sculptures were found at the temple, referred to as Varadaraja Perumal Temple by local people, according to R. Kalaikkovan, Director, Dr. M. Rajamanikkanar Centre for Historical Research.

    In a press release, Dr. Kalaikovan said large size icons of Vishnu and his consort Sridevi, which were once inside the temple, have now been kept under a thatched shed, a makeshift arrangement made by a local resident A. Ramasamy.

    The dilapidated temple at present has a vimana without upper structures and two mandapas in front. The larger pillared mandapa in the front has a raised platform on its northwest housing two sculptures of Vishnu of medium size and an icon of Naga. The mukha mandapa was empty, he said.

    M. Nalini, Head, Department of History, Seethalakshimi Ramasamy College, who verified the inscriptions found at the temple, said that two records of 14th century split into several fragments were identified at the bases of two mandapas and the vimana and one of them reveals the gift of a fertile land to the temple towards its worship and offerings by the sabha of a certain Brahmin settlement. The inscription provides a list of signatories who were members of the sabha.

    The other inscription throws light on a processional deity and the endowment of dry land towards its worship made by a group of people. Another inscription of 18th century copied from the door jamb of the larger mandapa registers the gift of a land by Vedanayaka Nambi. The purpose of the gift was not known.

    A later Pandya inscription copied from a pillar of the same mandapa introduces Kailayamudaian Anjataperumal who probably was behind the construction of the mandapa.

    The inscriptions split into fragments were found during an explorative study

    source: / The Hindu / Home> News> Cities> Tiruchirapalli / by Special Correspondent / Tiruchi – August 28th, 2015

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    The fibre paintings depicting the history of freedom fighter Veerapandiya Kattabomman at his memorial in Kayathar has become a crowd-puller.

    After the Kattabomman memorial was opened by Chief Minister Jayalalithaa on June 18 last, over 200 tourists visit this place every day and the number goes up during holidays.

    To add more colour to the memorial, two mega fibre paintings depicting the coronation of Kattabomman and a hare chasing the hound near Kattabomman’s fort at Paanchaalankurichi have been kept.

    source: / The Hindu / Home> National> TamilNadu / by Special Correspondent / Tuticorin – August 28th, 2015

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    It is rather typical of several Mylaporeans to pride themselves on the fact that their area has two streets named after John F. Kennedy. Sadly for them, Kennedy Streets 1 and 2 have nothing to do with the President of the U.S. who was assassinated on November 22, 1963 at Dallas, Texas. For that matter, these narrow thoroughfares that connect Luz Church and Musiri Subramania Iyer (Oliver) Roads do not even commemorate any other Kennedy. The two lanes are actually a throwback to the not-so-distant pastoral past of our city. Names recalling that verdant history abound — Ayanpuram (now Ayyanavaram) — the hamlet of cowherds, and Mandaiveli — pastureland, are two such examples. The Kennedy Streets are part of the same heritage.

    They are both Kannadian Streets and commemorate a community of curd-sellers who, as the name suggests, were Kannada speaking. This sub-grouping among Lingayats had some distinctive trade practices — they carried on their heads a woven basket in which was a mud pot that contained the curds. The whole ensemble was covered with a thick black woollen blanket, no matter what the season of the year was. Setting out early in the morning, they would cover all the streets, shouting alternately ‘thayiroooo’ (thayir is Tamil for curds) and its Telugu equivalent — ‘perugu’. Given the blanket and the weird cries, mothers conveniently used them to scare their kids into submission.

    Edgar Thurston (1855-1935), the anthropologist, studied the community very closely and devoted several pages to them in his Castes and Tribes of Southern India, a book he wrote with K. Rangachari and published in 1909. As per this work, which also has a photograph of a Kannadian, the tribe was to be found in plenty, numbering 4,000-strong around the Chembarambakkam Tank and in Kanchipuram District. It does not mention the Mylapore settlement. The authors trace the community’s arrival in the Madras area to the 17th Century.

    That was when the Lingayats had revolted against the Mysore king, Chikka Deva Raya and were ruthlessly suppressed. Those that survived took to a nomadic existence. In the 18th Century, which according to Thurston, was the most troublesome that India had seen, with armies “passing and re-passing the Ghats”, the Lingayats attached themselves to the troops, as purveyors of milk and butter. With peace, a large group settled outside Madras and came to be known as the Chingleput Lingayats.

    Given the Tamil Brahmin’s affinity for curds, a group of Kannadians settled in the two lanes of Mylapore and catered to the local market there. Carrying the curds balanced on two pots suspended across the shoulders or head led to the community being referred to as Kavadigas also. Their settlement in Mylapore too morphed with time — becoming Kunvadi and later Kannadi Street. From there to Kennedy was but a step. What happened to the Kannadians? Bottled (later sachet) milk must have driven them out of business. There is no trace of them and both streets are quiet residential localities today.

    source: / The Hindu / Home> Featurer> MetroPlus / by Sriram V. / Chennai – August 14th, 2015

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    Arya Bashyam being taken away by the police after he hoisted the tricolour at Fort St.George in 1932. Ilustration: Satwik Gade

    Arya Bashyam being taken away by the police after he hoisted the tricolour at Fort St.George in 1932. Ilustration: Satwik Gade

    From the tricolour being hoisted at Fort St.George to filmgoers at Gaiety defying imperialist high-handedness, Cooum has witnessed some defining moments of the Indian freedom struggle

    All of us are in some form of shackles, self-imposed or otherwise. I was made to flow freely, but the dead weight of man-induced sewage has reduced me to a piteous crawl. If I could, I would break free of this shackle. But I am just a river, and I can’t. My own helplessness has made me an admirer of those who have shaken off their yokes. For one, I have been a witness to stirring expressions of love for the country, when it was under British yoke.


    Everyone loves a hero. Everyone is enthralled by people who put their lives on the line for the common good. On the 26 of January in 1932, in the whole of India, there was none more heroic than Arya Bhashyam. Even today, I develop goosebumps as I recall how Arya Bhashyam, his face afire with a deep-burning love for his country, clambered up the incredibly tall flagstaff at Fort St. George, and replaced the Union Jack with the Tricolour. When he climbed down, his eyes were aglitter with pride and a sense of accomplishment. There was no trace of fear in those eyes, when the guards pounced on Bhashyam.

    It surprises me no end how we forget our heroes – most of them, I mean. I got to see T. P. Kumaran Nair, when he was lodged in the Madras Central Jail in the early 1940s. A handsome and guileless man, he was on death row. Arrested when he was returning from Singapore and tried for treason, he did not seek mercy and faced death fearlessly. He courted martyrdom and found it on July 7, 1944, and had the honour of Subhash Chandra Bose calling him Shahid-e-Hind (martyr of Hindustan). Nair worshipped Bose and he trained cadets in the Indian National Army. It’s a pity that except for a road in Nellicode, Kerala, that bears his name, T.P. Kumaran Nair remains largely forgotten.

    There were many common people who made a contribution to the freedom struggle who will forever remain in the shadows. During stilly nights, the cries of people being beaten inside the Gaiety cinema come back to me.

    It was 1939 and Thyaga Bhoomi, a Tamil film based on a work by writer Kalki, was being screened in defiance of ban orders from the British Indian government in Madras. The government saw in the film a subtle call to support the freedom movement. It acted on the assumption that the Congress party had a hand in it. The ban order was served when the film was in its 22 week at Gaiety. The people behind the film, which included S.S. Vasan and K. Subramanyam (who made the film) chose not be cowed down: they ran free shows of the film at the cinema. It was during one such show the police barged into the cinema and beat up the audience. Despite the pummelling, they stayed inside.

    Doveton House in Women's Christian College where Tipu Sultan' sons are believed to have been held captive.

    Doveton House in Women’s Christian College where Tipu Sultan’ sons are believed to have been held captive.

    Then there are certain structures proximate to where I flow, which are not readily associated with the freedom struggle. But they have had a part in it. Tipu Sultan’s sons were held captive at the timeworn Doveton House in Women’s Christian College.

    Then the Tipu’s weapons of war on display at the Madras Museum bring back the past powerfully for me. For visitors to the Museum, they are relic of the past. Flowing – actually, crawling by the Museum – and looking at these instruments, I could hear the distant sounds of a spirited struggle.

    Sources: Venkatesh Ramakrishnan of the Chennai Cooum Group, The Hindu Archives and the Madras Musings

    source: / The Hindu / Home> News> Cities> Chennai / by Prince Frederick / August 20th, 2015

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    A less ornamented Kapaleeswarar Temple, a Hema Malini when she wasn’t a star or when wedding photography meant a visit to the studio after the ceremony . The people be hind the images of Madras are still holding fort but are changing with the times to capture pictures of a new era. On August 19, World Photography Day , we go back to an era when photography was manual, dark rooms secret repositories of knowledge and printed photographs only preserves of memories.

    Photo Emporium, which still stands tall in Chennai, was established in 1927 by A Thirunavukarasu. “Those were the days of expertise and innovation. In 1959, my father was making a video on Satya Sai Baba in Putaparthi. As there were frequent power cuts, he shot the video using the light of four to five cars,” says A K Rajkumar.

    A lot of what the present Photo Emporium is now is due to the business acumen of A T Kathiresan, Rajkumar’s father. It was under him that the studio set up offices in Mumbai and Kolkata and it became one of the first importers of cameras from Japan, Ger many and Italy, cut films, single-use flashbulbs and photo mounts. The studio has been associated with illustrious families like those of the Murugappa Group, Apollo Hospitals and the Chettiars for three generations, documenting the developing city through its connections with industries like Binny , Weston Crompton and Parry & Co.

    Long-standing relationships have also helped Sathyam Studios in Mylapore survive 83 years. V V Giri, musicians G N B, singer T V Rathinam and Cho Ramaswamy were regulars. Despite the small space, which houses the photo studio, it has a roomful of old cameras, glass negatives and numerous black and white pictures from a time when getting a photograph taken was a big occasion. “Even for weddings, people used to take only a couple of pictures. The newlyweds and the family would all come to the studio for a photograph,” says C S Balachandra Raju, the octogenarian owner.

    His father C Satyanarayana Raju, the founder of the studio, was a self-taught man like most early photographers in the city . This passion runs through generations, as Balachandra’s three sons have also taken after their father.Hence though the daguerreotype camera was much before his time, B Anand, the youngest son, knows how to use it. “We have kept all the old cameras for their heritage value. But in this age of quick and easy photography , few people appreciate this art form,” says Anand.

    source: / The Times of India / News Home> City> Chennai / by Arpita Bose, TNN / August 19th, 2015

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    Illustration: Satwik Gade

    Illustration: Satwik Gade

    ‘Valourous Chola Prince Rajaditya was killed right in front of my eyes by a poisioned arrow’

    A great city grew on my banks, but did you know that they have been sites of the clash of civilisations?

    The location was close to what you now know as the spot where the dam was constructed across me at Keshavaram, where Kosasthalayar splits to do her own thing. It was near the location of this modern dam that I witnessed a bloody war of much importance, many moons ago.


    In 949 AD, the combined armies of the Cholas and Cheras were led by the Chola crown prince Rajaditya, son of King Parantaka-I. The army met a fierce enemy in King Krishna III of the Rashtrakuta kingdom at Thakkolam (now technically placed in Vellore, but quite close to Kancheepuram), to whose aid came the forces of Ganga dynasty.

    On a fateful afternoon, Rajaditya, the valorous Chola prince, was killed right in front of my eyes by a poisoned arrow, altering forever the history of the Tamil kingdom. Owing to the death of the prince, the crown later moved to his younger brother Arinjaya Chola and thus paved the way for the ascension of his descendants Raja Raja-I and Rajendra-I, two of the greatest Chola emperors, at a later point.

    Imagine this: If not for the Thakkolam battle on my banks, you may not see the iconic Brihadeeshwarar temple today in Thanjavur since Raja Raja Chola would not have become a king.

    A few kilometres down Thakkolam, the Polilore battlefield (Pullalur), again near my waters, was where the British forces faced tremendous losses in the Carnatic wars.

    In 1780, Tipu Sultan faced off with British East India Company commander Colonel William Baille, inflicting deeps wounds to the British ego. As I watched the guns and canons blaze on either side, Baille was captured along with many of his troops and taken to Srirengapattna in Mysore.

    But a year later in 1781, they returned to the same spot for another encounter.

    The British side, now reinforced with better fire power, defeated Hyder Ali under the leadership of Eyre Coote. I remember that the Polilore field had witnessed another ancient but less decisive war as well, when Chalukyas led by Pulakesin II and Pallava King Mahendraverma-I took on each other. The former won.

    Source: Venkatesh Ramakrishnan, Chennai Cooum group

    source: / The Hindu / Home> News> Cities> Chennai / by SruthiSagar Yamunan / August 17th, 2015

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    Coimbatore :

    The regular walkers at the Race Course were in for a small surprise on Friday morning as portraits of several unsung heroes of the freedom movement were displayed on the path. Everyone knows about Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Bhagat Singh and other freedom fighters as our history lessons in school were complete without them. But names like Akkamma Cherian, Usha Mehta, Hemu Kalani, Durga Bhabi, Leela Roy and Bhima Bai Holkar hardly appear in any text book nor are many children taught about their sacrifice for the motherland.

    “With each portrait that I pass, the only feeling I have is that I have done nothing for my country so far. These people gave up everything to ensure that we live in a free country but we should ask ourselves what have we done to better our country,” said Saroja, a home-maker from Salem. D Yuvarajan, 12, pointed out to a portrait depicting the Jallianwala Bagh massacre and told his mother all that he learnt in school. “I am not familiar with many of these leaders and so I am asking my mother to explain their contributions to me while I am sharing what I know with her,” he said.

    A government arts college student was moved by the story of Hemu Kalani, who was hanged at the young age of 19, and said that he would definitely go back and read more about these unsung heroes. “I am very interested to read more about their life and their struggle. I am interested in learning more about each of them,” said S M Arun Boopathy studying BSc Maths.

    For some it was a day to play quiz and find out who knew better history. “We both have seen nearly 30 portraits so far and we are testing each other as to who knows more about them. But the sad part is we did not even recognise half of them,” said R Ashish, who was with his friend Samuel.

    The portraits are on display outside All Soul’s church at Race Course till 6pm on August 15.

    source: / The Times of India / News Home> City> Coimbatore / by Komal Gautham, TNN / August 15th, 2015

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    Musician Vikku Vinayakaram performs at the 40th year celebration of Doordarshan. Photo: B. JothiRamalingam / The Hindu

    Musician Vikku Vinayakaram performs at the 40th year celebration of Doordarshan. Photo: B. JothiRamalingam / The Hindu

    As it completes 40 eventful years in chennai, Doordarshan vows to continue as family-oriented infotainment channel.

    On the occasion of Doordarshan Chennai’s 40th anniversary, several celebrities and dignitaries flocked to the Narada Gana Sabha on Wednesday to celebrate the channel that defined television for them.

    They also offered suggestions on the route it should take in the future.

    Actor and director Bhagyaraj recalled how Doordarshan launched many a film career. “It is from DD that the world of cinema got several musicians and actors. Music director Deva and actor Vadivukarasi were involved in DD programmes before entering films,” said Mr. Bhagyaraj, who has directed Kadhaiyin Kadhai for DD-Podhigai.

    “Programmes on my grandfather and violinist Kumbakonam Rajamanickam Pillai have been telecast,” actor Thyagu said.

    “We are enjoying the limelight because of DD. My drama, Ayya Amma Ammama, has been telecast eight times since 1982,” said Mr. Ramamurthy, who has done nearly 48 plays for Doordarshan.

    Danseuse Padma Subrahmanyam, who performed at the launch of DD in 1975, was back on Wednesday to give a Bharatanatyam performance. “I am glad to be associated with DD for many decades. I remember giving a solo performance on Krishnayya Tubhyam Namaha and Silapadigaram then,” said Ms. Subrahmanyam, who has been performing for DD every year.

    “I have performed in many Bharatanatyam shows and even produced programmes like Konjum Salangai,” said veteran actor Vennira Aadai Nirmala.

    “I watch DD-Podhigai regularly because of the importance it gives to classical music and Bharatanatyam,” she added.

    Governor K. Rosaiah said that with programmes on health, education, career counselling, film and agriculture, Doordarshan catered to diverse viewers.

    He lauded DD-Podhigai for creating awareness of government schemes and staying a family channel despite stiff competition from private satellite channels.

    Adopting the latest technology in production and ensuring more advertisements would take DD-Podhigai ahead of other channels, he said.

    Earlier, A. Suryaprakash, chairman of Prasar Bharati, elaborated on the need for a public service broadcaster in these days of mushrooming private satellite channels.

    Recalling the popular programmes, including sports quiz, he said, “We will continue to offer quality infotainment and unbiased news and raise awareness on government schemes.”

    Nadoja Mahesh Joshi, additional director general (south zone), Doordarshan, and N. Thyagarajan, additional director general (engineering, south zone), also spoke on technological changes that DD has undergone.

    source: / The Hindu / Home> News> Cities> Chennai / by K. Lakshmi / Chennai – August 13th, 2015

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