Tuesday 25 November 2014

Heritage Site Cleanup @ Fort St. George - 2014

Fort St. George came into existence with the arrival of Francis Day and Andrew Cogan on 20th February 1640, it was named after St.George, the patron saint of England. It nearly took thirteen years to complete the first form of the fort and the oldest surviving British building is the St.Mary's Church added in 1680. The hectic construction activity between 1756-1783 saw the fort to its present shape. Spread over 42 acres significant buildings here include Secretariat, Exchange Building (Fort Museum), St. Mary's Church, Clive's House, Grand Arsenal and Kings Barracks.
Before Cleanup
he idea of creating awareness by cleaning places of heritage sends a message to keep them clean and tidy, it brings forward a sense of satisfaction in doing a bit to our heritage which hitherto was just alone by cycling to these places, keeping this in mind and on one such occasion during the World Heritage Week Celebrations between 19th-25th November, 2014 there was an Heritage Site Cleanup around the northeastern part of the rampart wall and the surrounding areas at Fort St. George coming under the ASI, Chennai Circle on Saturday 22nd November, 2014. Going by the trend an early morning start the ride from Pro Bikers OMR via Madhya Kailash, Adyar, Santhome, Marina Beach took us to the cleanup venue. Completing the security formalities we were now inside the Fort premises to be welcomed by the ASI Officials and the ever jubilant and energetic school students of KRM Public School,Perambur.
Cleanup Action
Getting into the scheme of things after a brief inaugural by the Deputy Superintendent in front of Fort Museum the cleanup under the able supervision of ASI Officials now started and the place now witnessed hectic activity of 
clearing the partially covered wild vegetation and weeds, collection of scattered litter with the cleared vegetation around the northeastern rampart wall and disposal of the waste in the designated dumping area. Even as the work progressed at the cleanup site the street by its side was also cleared of litter by our enthusiastic volunteers. As the cleanup proceeded the comparison with the video of seed growing into a plant captured by the time lapse camera came to the memory,fortunately here too there was the DD
After Cleanup
Podhigai crew capturing the video but entirely in a different format. After an hour and quarter the cleanup site now had a new look, gone were the wild vegetation and scattered litter. Soon a sumptuous packed breakfast awaited the participants. All's well that ends well our Cleanup came to a happy conclusion with a sense of joy and a
This Heritage Site Cleanup would not have been possible without the support of the ASI Chennai Circle, staff and students of KRM Public School, Perambur and our group members. On behalf of Cycling Yogis thanks to one and all who helped us for the grand success of this event which in the upcoming years will be a bench mark to replicate. 

To view the video click on the link: 
Group Picture at Fort Museum

Newspaper Clipping

Friday 3 October 2014

Heritage Rides for Madras Week Celebration 2014 (Part-2)

Madras Day Heritage Ride on ECR (Sunday, 24th August 2014)

If Lords is for cricket, Madhya Kailash is for cycling such is the popularity of this place that over the years its become a norm for many cyclist to start their long distance rides from this point. Not minding the early morning start at 5.00 am, cyclist began to gather here for a ride which was to celebrate the 375th birthday of our city. As the clock ticked 5.00 around 60 + Cyclist began to pedal towards the ECR Road eagerly looking forward to know a bit of its history and legends. 
Marundeeswarer Temple 
East Coast Road (ECR) was known as the Vadugaperuvazhi(Vadakku Peruvazhi) the big way to the North. Besides providing connectivity between the Kaveri delta and the northern regions especially Andhra and being of particular value to the Cholas, the road facilitated trade with other countries primarily with those of South East Asia. Our first brief halt on ECR was the entrance of Sri Marundeeswarer Temple (Tiruvanmiyur) here in this temple inscriptions can be found in the shrine of Tripurasundari Amman (Godess Parvati). These date back to the 11 century during the period of Rajendra Chola. A commentary on Thiruvanmiyur by Saiva Saint Thirugnanasambandar suggest that it must have been a thriving region even in the 7th Century(circa). Sage Valmiki Temple found here is perhaps the only one in India. Getting on to the saddle our next stop was at VGP Golden Beach for a water break soon we reached Covelong (Kovalam) it was a port  of the Nawabs of the Carnatic.  The Nawab built the ancient port of Covelong. In the year 1746 Covelong was taken over by the troops of the French  and in 1752 destroyed by English under Clive. The Dutch built a fort in Covelong during the colonial times, which today has been made the Taj Fisherman Cove , a private luxury beach resort. It  also has an ancient Siva temple named Kailasanather Temple which perhaps dates to 13th Century and the famous Dargah of Sufi Saint  Tamim al Ansari.
Kovalam Dargah
He is considered as one of the Sahaba (Companions of Prophet Muhammed) after a group picture at Kovalam Dargah the next destination was at the u turn point and it was the ancient Vishnu temple at Thiruvidanthai named  Sri Nithya Kalyana Perumal Temple in this temple many of the Chola inscriptions are seen on the base of the north wall in the central shrine. It has an inscription dated 11th Century which talks about a merchant from Kondungallur in Malai Nadu (Kerala) making a gift to the temple and insisting that proceeds from it feed and support some Brahmins.   There is also an inscription of the Rashtrakuta king Krishna III dated 959 A.D.  This place was sung by Vaishnava Saint Tirumangai Alvar. After a very short interaction and a group picture we now set out for long ride towards Madras Square at Neelangarai, in the history of the ECR this place Neelangarai was also referred to as Neelagangaraiyan. This was the name of a chieftain named Neelagangaraiyan during Chola times, he made many donations to
Madras Square
around Chennai. Having pedaled for the an hour we now reach our final destination Madras Square (Cafe- Art Gallery), here a sumptuous breakfast coupled with an nostalgic talk by veteran cyclist Mr. Jahiram Janakiraman on Cycling in the city of Madras between the years 1970 - 1990 awaited us. As time just kept ticking the entire morning now appeared like a mirage having packed itself with loads of memories, if I was there to celebrate 350th Birthday Celebrations during my Loyola College days and now for 375th Birthday as a Cyclist, providence willing one can never rule out the 400th Birthday bash ... Three Cheers to Madras.   

To view the video click on this link: 

Tiruvidanthai Nithya Kalyana Perumal Temple


Wednesday 27 August 2014

Heritage Rides for Madras Week Celebration 2014 (Part -1)

 Madras Day Heritage Ride to Perambur (Sunday, 17th August 2014)         

              The Madras Day Celebrations spread from 17th to 24th August witnessed a plethora of events and the euphoria reached its crescendo on 22nd August which is the Madras Day, a very special attribute to this year being the Madras 375 years tag attached to the festivity. As is the norm since 2013, two Sundays sandwiching the Madras Day were allotted for our Heritage Rides and perhaps there could not have been a better way to showcase our gratitude to this gracious city other than organizing an heritage ride on bicycle.

           To many North Chennai is still an enigma probably due to its lack of connect with the modernity of the city but few know here lays a treasure house of history which ultimately propelled the city on its course to development. Perambur is the railway hub of Chennai and contains some of the oldest railway establishments in the country including industries, churches, educational institutions set up during the British days. Almost near to the wee hours of Sunday morning we set out on an Heritage Ride of Perambur starting from the entrance of Madras Veterinary College, Vepery built in 1904.Riding along the Perambur Barracks Road via Pullianthope, Attu Thoddi, Vysarpadi Jeeva we reached KRM Public School situated in Perambur. 

Loco Works, Perambur
Along with the school children the Heritage Ride of Perambur commences the first stop being Our Lady of Lourdes Church built in 1879 by Fr. H. Hennessey a Parish priest in St. Andrews Church Vepery halting for a group picture we continue to pedal to Carriage and Wagon Works considered to be one of the oldest railway establishment set up by the British in India, the recently added memorial arch depicting its 150 glorious years welcoming us, the workshop here was built by Madras Railways in 1856-57 and later became a part of Madras & Southern Maratta Railway Company. Our next destination was the Railway Hospital iwas started in 1928 as a 40-bedded hospital for the Railway staff under the insistence of Chief Medical Officer of the Madras and Southern Mahratta Railway Maj. G.J. Cruikshank. Later it become a pioneering hospital when the Department of Cardiac Surgery at the hospital was recognized as one of the best cardiac surgery units in the country. Moving further we reach the entrance of Loco Works the locomotive maintenance work was transferred here from Carriage and Wagon Works and it was set up in 1932, The amalgamation of three railway companies namely Madras, Southern Maratta and Mysore Railways in 1951 saw it came under Southern Railways. Assembling for a group picture with the majestic steam locomotive here in the background we now take an u-turn and riding via Loco Bridge reach the Lord Baden Powell Scout Training Center incidentally Lord Baden Powel is the founder of scouting movement and the Netaji Scout Group one of the oldest scout groups in India was started here at Perambur in the year 1925. 
KRM School Students
The penultimate stop was the Southern Railway Institute New Hall with its huge hall and excellent dance floor that throbs with life during the Christmas and New Year Balls or the weddings. For nearly a century, the Institute has played a vital role to the Anglo-Indian community in Perambur. After a very brief halt at this place we reached our finish point the Unity House now under Southern Railways Employee Sangh it was here the father of the nation Mahatma Gandhi visited on 3rd September 1927 to inaugurate the Union office, one can still find the Foundation stone at the entrance of this premises. 

           At the end there was a brief ceremony here at the Unity House honoring Mahatma Gandhi, a group dance and popular bhajan songs were performed by the school students. The ride was unique in many ways it was the first time a school partnered with a city based cycling group in the event of this stature, it is also with our continuing focus on Northern Chennai after having been to Royapuram during the previous edition of Madras Week Celebrations and lastly the pride of having cycled to places associated with the history of Perambur.

To view the video click on this link:


St.Lourdes Church, Perambur

Monday 28 July 2014

Recce ride to Perambur for Madras Week Celebrations 2014

                                             Even if you would have spent most your lifetime in this city sometimes you get a feeling that you are still a stranger, this is what precisely happened when we set out on a recce ride to explore the northern locality of Chennai named Perambur for the upcoming Madras Day Heritage Ride in August, but luckily this time around we had the support of the staff from a renowned local school to help us. A ride down this locality in the early hours of Saturday morning on 12th July 2014 and later cohering the data with information about this place brought forward few interesting observations. The growth and development of Perambur owes its allegiance to the Railways and the nearby industrial areas. Being the railway hub of Chennai this place has the luxury of having three railway stations all carrying the names Perambur, Perambur Carriage Works and Perambur Loco Works. Everything or the other one sees here is connected with railways not to mention the black steel fences which the railways put around their properties.    

Plaque unveiled by Mahatma Gandhi (1927) 
ur first stop during the recce ride was at the landmark Our Lady of Lourdes Church built in 1879 by Fr. H. Hennessey a Parish priest in St. Andrews Church, Vepery, in the year 1903 the Church became an independent Parish, perhaps this place would have certainly witnessed huge gathering by the members of the Anglo Indian community for which Perambur was once popular. Just to the side of the Church on the Siruvallvar Road is located "Unity House" the plaque outside its gate reminiscences the days when Mahatma Gandhi had visited this place to unveil it. Moving on further and riding along the railway tracks which also has history since it was in 1883 the Bombay - Madras line was laid we now come to Sir Baden Powell Scout Training Center and its picturesque surroundings, a pit stop here would certainly set up the mind to travel back in history. On to the road and passing by the Loco Works Bridge a landmark to many born after 1950, we now enter the area of green foliage and roads bearing English names.
The sylvan road takes us to the
Carriage & Wagon Works (1856)
entrance of the Wagon and Carriage Works one of the oldest railway establishment set up by the British in India, the recently added memorial arch depicting its 150 glorious years welcoming us, the workshop was built by Madras Railways in 1856-57 and later became a part of Madras & Southern Maratta Railway Company, initially it handled BG, Wagons and Steam Locomotives for periodical repair and overhaul. The locomotive maintenance work was transferred to the Perambur Loco Works which was set up in 1932. The amalgamation of three railway companies namely Madras, Southern Maratta and Mysore Railways in 1951 saw them came under Southern Railways. Riding towards the Loco Works situated in the Constable Road our next halt was at the Railway Hospital, it was started in 1928
Perambur Railway Hospital (1928)
as a 40-bedded 
hospital for the Railway staff under the insistence of Chief Medical Officer of the Madras and Southern Mahratta Railway Maj. G.J. Cruikshank. Later it become a pioneering hospital when the Department of Cardiac Surgery at the hospital was recognized as one of the best cardiac surgery units in the country. Pedaling forward we now reach the entrance of Loco Works where stands a trademark Steam Locomotive engine and posing for a group picture, we come to the end the recce ride at ICF Railway Museum (ICF was established in 1953 with the Swiss collaboration) debating about the finish point for the upcoming Heritage Ride.
 Setting aside the other nearby historic landmarks like the Jamalia School or the famous Buckingham and Carnatic Mills we ride back home taking the memories of this unique place which over the period of time played a vital role in the development of Chennai, the city which is now getting ready to celebrate its 375th Birthday. Till next time ... 
(Picture Courtesy: Venkataraman Rajagopal)

At Perambur Loco Works (1932)

Saturday 31 May 2014

Another Bicycle Chronicle (Part-3)

Chronicle of 2012

Cycle & Surf @ Kovalam Beach
The year saw the emergence of few cycling groups including a racing team and triathlons in Chennai. The first event of the year was Neville Billimoria's 'Dawn to Dusk' on 8th January in aid of cerebral palsy afflicted children, the evening ride starting from IIT Madras finished at Mahabalipuram with a sumptuous dinner at GRT Raddission. On 26th February the city witnessed a grand and gala cycling event, the entire Marina Beach stretch exploded with high octane cycling, it was the BSA Chennai Cycling 2012 the event saw cyclist from all parts of India vying for the podium finish, the criterium race being the highlight of the day. The month of March witnessed a Cycling cum Surfing ride to Kovalam Beach which propelled me to take up swimming seriously, around this time regular rides during the weekends as groups stared to make amends and gain momentum. 
 CRX Reaxion 3rd Anniversary
April brought forward TCC Off Road Ride to Nanmangalam Reserve Forest but the most important and momentous occasion of all was on 24th April the day when the Cycling Yogis group came into existence this group specifically focused its activities on riding to places of Heritage and Historic Landmarks breaking away from the normal rides. On 4th May the one stop shop for all the cycling needs Pro Bikers in OMR opened up for the cycling enthusiast of Chennai, the shop soon became a landmark for all the cyclist be it for purchase of cycling needs or as a get together place to witness the telecast of popular sports events. Cycling related other sports activities in the form of Triathlon came into existence and the Chennai Enticer Triathlon was held on 22nd June this event was first of its kind in our city and was soon followed by the second event on 23rd July from SDAT Velachery to Besant Nagar. On 30th July the CRX Reaxion group celebrated its 3rd Anniversary ride to Mahabalipuram followed by lavish spread of breakfast at GRT Raddission Hotel. 
Bike Marshals @ TCC Road Race
The month of August saw the beginning of Racing Team named Madrascals a group specialized in racing events and on 12th August the TCC Road Race was organised on the ECR Road where I had the opportunity to be the Bike Marshall along with Mr. Sundar Rajan had an awesome time watching from close quarters the speedy peloton in action, the West Chennai Cycling group came to existence in June had some of its members involved in a ride from Chennai to Chidambaram for the cause of 'Saving the Girl Child'. The 19th of August was a red letter day for Cycling Yogis it was on this day the first ever event as a part of Madras Week Celebrations took place, the Madras Day ride covered Triplicane, Chepauk and Mylapore exploring this regions rich history and heritage. This event galvanized the group and brought it into limelight midst the cycling community. The end of September was time for TCC Weekender Ride to Melmaruvathur with a pit stop at Pearl Beach Resort near Cheyyur, the pristine water at this resort swimming pool will remain in the memory for ages to come. On 21st October the first Brevet Medal distribution ceremony took place at Madras Boat Club. 
Second Chennai Enticer Triathlon
The end of the year cycling activities began to gather momentum there were more eyeballs now focusing on social media sites like facebook, posting and sharing of Dailymail analysis and pictures of riding the cycle became a regular feature, in November specialist coaches from abroad like Dan Henchy of U.K were in the city to conduct training sessions, as a run up to Tour of Tamilnadu Heritage my article named "Prelude to Tour of Tamilnadu - Heritage" which covered and mapped the entire ride route of around 850 KM with historical data and inputs of the area which was to be pedaled was posted as a serial in the fb group pages. Finally the seven day tour was flagged off from Madras covering all the UNESO World Heritage Sites of Tamilnadu, it should be mentioned with gratitude that Tamilnadu Cycling Club provide me with an opportunity of being the official Tour Guide for this event. The ride ended at Mahabalipuram with the memories of some splendorous moments on the lap of the wonder that is Tamilnadu. Ending on an high note by seeking for happiness and good health to one and all on the occasion of the new year.

Saint Thiagaraja Samadhi, Tiruvaiyaru 
First Madras Day Heritage Ride

Thursday 29 May 2014

Another Bicycle Chronicle (Part-2)

Chronicle of 2011

BSA Fun, Fitness & Freedom Ride
The year started with the welcoming of Cyclist Anil Kumar from Bangalore on 11th January who was on his solo Tour of India. Another big cycling event to happen on 30th January was the 3rd International Cycling Race in the ECR Road. The event witnessed many teams participating from different parts of the country with a notable absentee being Chennai based teams and it was an wonderful sight to see a large gathering of cyclist and particularly the Road Race. My first cycling anniversary came up on 14th February and my ride tally being around 5000 km sealed and packed. On 27th 
April a turning point in my cycling career happened it was the purchase of Cannondale Q5 which over the years partnered me to greater glories. The earlier bicycle which I had was not to my size and specifications but this new possession was a beauty which compelled to keep riding more. The new bicycle brought with it new cycling gears and frequent rides to the heritage town of Mahabalipuram. Cycling was gaining momentum most notable being the role of social media like facebook which began to witness growing traffic on cycling related activities.

Ghada Kufar (MTB Himachal)
The following months came forward with many rides both group and individual, on 31st July the BSA Fun,Fitness and Freedom Ride was organised at Kodambakkam, it was an wonderful time to meet reputed cyclist Samim Rizvi during this event, but the most important moment of the year came on 18th September I was fortunate enough to win a jackpot ticket to Hercules MTB Himachal fully sponsored by TI 
Cycles. From 29th September to 2nd October I was at Shimla to participate in MTB Himachal as a weekend rider. This was my first pan Indian cycling event and this event drew many cyclist from across the country and abroad. The first day was a 76 km ride to Ghada Kufar which contained some dangerous descent with almost non existent roads to pedal I had ever come across, the over night stay under the tents at this place was worth every penny. On coming to know about steep uphill climbs in the coming days I just sat back to relax and enjoy the scenic Himachal Pradesh in the support vehicle which was specially arranged and the tour came to an end with some fascinating memories to take in return. 
BRM 200KM Recce
       Back here in Chennai things were getting bit diverse the festival of lights Deepavali saw another ride to Mahabalipuram but the most notable being I was able to complete my first 200 km on 12th November as a part of BRM Recce for Madras Randonneurs.The momentum of this ride brought about great results during the TCC Team Time Trials on 4th December. Usually end of the year contains a packed cycling activities and if 17th December was the Tour of Tamilnadu inauguration ride to Vandalur Zoo, the 18th December witnessed another landmark event in Chennai's cycling history it was on this day when 200 
km Brevets was flagged off. Many of my cycling friends participated in this event even though I could not due to various reasons but I was there to help my friend who unfortunately could not finish the ride. The last week of the year brought about the southern flavor the 2nd edition of Tour of Tamilnadu kick started from Madurai passing through Rameshwaram, Tuticorin, Kanyakumari and Kutralam, the seven days tour was very satisfying since I completed the entire ride distance on my cycle. The tour brought forward camaraderie and splendid memories like never before. Bidding adieu to Lord Alagar at Madurai on the New Year Day returned home seeking his blessings.

Tour of Tamilnadu 2011

Another Bicycle Chronicle (Part-1)

Chronicle of 2010
Reaxion Ride on 11th April 2010 
Ever since my college days I have had great admiration for Kalhana and Anantha Ranga Pillai, to me the writings on life and people of their times would even withstand the critical scrutiny of present day scholars and these works exemplified a bench mark in writing of history in India. Here is one such attempt by me in trying to follow their footprints at least to the barest minimum and just as the memories of the Valentine's Day 2010 appears like yesterday a day when I got hooked into cycling much water has run down in these five years just as I now attempt to write another episode of life in black and white.
Tour of Tamilnadu 2010
As a rank outsider and novice my initial days of cycling was truly by trial and error method. The cycling scenario in Chennai was very much different from the present, the only known cycling event to me during those days was the monthly CRX Reaxion Ride to Mahabalipuram and having attended a few of their monthly rides in February and April it was getting bit monotonous even though I almost managed to put an average of minimum 20- 25 km daily with my Schwin MTB, on 19th September 2010 the newly formed TCC (Tamilnadu Cycling Club) conducted individual time trial from ECR Toll Plaza to Scenic Spot, being my first it was indeed exciting but my timing of 44 minutes suggested a great scope for improvement. The person who got me into the cycling community had recently opened his BSA Go bicycle shop at Kodambakkam. Frequent visits to his shop made me get much more involved and passionate about cycling. During that period the role of facebook in connecting the community was also very limited or perhaps my role could have been lesser.

At Taj Connemara Hotel
The next big event was the launch of Mongoose and GT Bicycles in India by its CEO on 29th October at the Taj Connemara Hotel which was closely followed by my first 100+ km ride to Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary on 31st October incidentally this was the Inaugural ride for Tour of Tamilnadu, by this time came into contact with many fellow members of the cycling community who in years to come became good friends. The weeks ahead was meant for training for the cycling tour which had the
theme 'Hills' with not much of preparation or not even possessing a proper cycling gear except for the helmet I embarked upon my first long distance cycling tour. The seven day tour called Tour of Tamilnadu began at Coimbatore on 25th December and covered the hills stations of Ooty, Yercaud and Kodaikanal, during the tour I was mostly a passenger sitting in the support vehicle during the climbs and enjoying the rides on the downhills or in the plains the longest being Karur to Bathalgundu 100+ km. This tour became a trendsetter since it included participants who over the course of time began to contribute much to growth of cycling in Chennai . The memories of December evenings midst the hills with camp fires, fun and frolic brought forward joyful moments, the tour came to an end on the last day of the year with many aspirations and good will to look forward. On the way back to Chennai I had a stop over at Srirangam having a blissful time at precincts of the temple during the dawn of the new year.
At Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary on 31st Oct 2010

Tuesday 22 April 2014

World Heritage Day Ride to Mahabalipuram Lighthouse 2014

      After the World Heritage Day Ride across the timeless Mount Road in April 2013 it was now time to explore the relics of navigational nostalgia on 20th April 2014 during the occasion of World Heritage Day Ride to Mahabalipuram Lighthouse. A calm Sunday morning witnessed a peloton of 60 cyclist being flagged off from Madras Lighthouse by the Director of Lighthouses and Lightships to Mahabalipuram Lighthouse. With a pit stop at VGP Golden Beach and Crocodile Bank many of the cyclist zipped past the ECR Road to arrive at the landmark town by around 8.30 am, soon followed a sumptuous breakfast and then came a date with the 100+ Year old Lighthouse having an awesome panoramic view of this historic town 
Mahabalipuram Lighthouse
      Being an aid to navigation Lighthouses have played an important role in the maritime history of various nations. The Pharos of Alenxandria built in 275 AD is considered the first known Lighthouse. In India there are about 182 Lighthouses some of which are century old and most of them are now automated. They are all regulated by the Lighthouse Act (1927) but over the years the operational use of Lighthouses seems to have declined due to expense of maintenance and growth of modern navigational systems.
         From the days of Cholas, Cheras and Pandyas to the times of Portuguese, Dutch and English we have had a long duration of maritime history. The proposal for Lighthouse in this UNESCO World Heritage site of Mahabalipuram came up in the year 1885 during the British rule, due to modernisation and development of Madras Port which began to attract more shipping traffic and to create a safe passage for ships to Madras an order was passed in 1886 to set up Lighthouse atop of the Olankaneeswara Temple along with construction of Staff Quarters and equipments from Santapille Lighthouse (AP) were transferred to Mahabalipuram. Thus an old lantern room with light equipments also containing three wick coconut oil lamp was installed in February 1887. The new system had many drawbacks the wick lamps maintenance was strenuous for Light keepers, the report from Archaeologist blaming the Port and PWD officials for disfiguring the ancient temple structure put the Government in a fix and finally the report from the then Superintendent of Lighthouse mentioning it as unsuitable brought about the end. 
        In 1896 an estimate for construction of new lighthouse tower on the rock adjacent to the Olankaneeswara Temple structure and proposal for new equipments was put forward. The new lighthouse tower was constructed with 76 steps of granite slab spiral staircase with the new Lantern Room supplied by Chance Brothers of England also containing the equipment meant for Kaup Lighthouse (Karnataka) which were redirected, the main illuminant installed was 55mm Petroleum Vapour Burner and standby French three wick Capillary Lamp. Finally in March 1901 the new Lighthouse was commissioned  The lighthouse tower constructed with dressed granite stones was never painted due to the archaeological importance of the place. The character of the light being 3 flash every 20 seconds and in 1940 it was changed to single flash white every 20 seconds. Over the period of time and with modernisation its now under the control of Directorate General of Lighthouses and Lightships. It was also rededicated to the nation on completion of 100 years.
          This wonderful ride concluded with a group picture and pleasant memories of yet another event organised by Cycling Yogis.  Transportation was arranged to ferry back both the cycles and the cyclist to the starting point Madras Lighthouse. Kudos to one and all who supported and participated in this event.  

References: Mahabalipuram Lighthouse published by DGLL & History of South India by K.A.Nilakanta Sastri 

To view the video click on this link:

Cyclist at Mahabalipuram Lighthouse Complex

Thursday 30 January 2014

Republic Day Heritage Ride to Pulicat 2014

                                         There could have been no better way to celebrate the 65th Republic Day than a ride to the Pulicat on 25th January 2014. At the early hours of the morning around 45 of us set off from MCC High School, Harrington Road to Pulicat passing through Perambur, Madavaram, Moolakaddai, Puzhal, Redhills, Thatchoor, Ponneri and reached final destination Pulicat. The Pulicat lagoon is the second largest brackish water wetland in Asia measuring 720 sq km,the built heritage of Pulicat or Pazhaverkadu reflects the thousand years of maritime history beginning from Chola period to the starting of European administration in India. This place acted as a threshold for creation of Madras (Chennai) in 1639 AD. For the past 1300 years this place was attracting traders and lately many tourists. It can take pride of establishing modern history of India. The Europeans established their trading post beginning with Portuguese in 1502 AD followed by the Dutch in 1603 AD and then British in 1619 AD. The traces of history are reflected in its monuments some of which are unique to Indian history and architecture. The built and natural heritage with its craft and unique language (Arwi) makes it one of the best tourist spots closer to Chennai. With the sun behind our back we pedalled across the streets of Pulicat visiting the following places 
Periya Jamia Palli Vasal:
At Periya Jamia Pallivasal (Mosque) built sometime in 17th Century, uncharacteristic of of Muslim Mosques there is no dome at the top. Pulicat has rare language called Arwi, it is Tamil written in Arabic script thus indicating a long standing direct relationship with Islam and this Port town. 
Periya Jamia Mosque, Pulicat 
Sri Adi Narayana Perumal Temple: 
An architectural marvel made of laterite. It was under Vijayanagar rule in 14th and 17th Centuries that this Adi Narayana Perumal Temple was built.
Dutch Building: 
This building could have been used as Port office during the Dutch days. This building has tall four side sloping roof and verandah with typical circular columns found in other Dutch buildings. It is possibly the earliest European built structure in South East India.
Dutch Cemetery: 
The new cemetery, which is three centuries old, is located at the south-west corner of the fort . It  consists of a total of 77 graves. Most of the graves belong to the Dutch and most of them have detailed carving on the tomb stones. Five graves have structures built over them. Three of these graves have arched pavilions with detailed cornice and band work supporting the vaulted dome on the top. Two of them are covered with Obelisk on the top with detailed rectangular offsets at the bottom. The entrance gate to the cemetery is a semi circular arched opening. Two skeletons are inscribed on the supports on either side. The key stone is inscribed with a time fly. Words in Dutch language are inscribed on either sides of the key stone.
                                               Having criss crossed just 4 of the Heritage Spots in Pulicat our day at the office came to an end with a sumptuous lunch at the MSS Building which also houses the Interpretation Centre. And as the focus now shifts to the Catamaran Race which is part of the Pulicat Day festivities, loading the cycles into trucks and bidding adieu to this bustling fishing town our Heritage ride comes to an wonderful end and memories of the ride that would be imbibed in all the participants minds for years to come especially our ride across the bridge and the scenic view of the lagoon with the Lighthouse as the background which would be a certainty.

For further reading on the History of Pulicat please visit my earlier blog titled "Recce ride tracing the origin of Madras" dated 27th December 2013. 

This blog was later published in MyVyapar's 'Harrington Post' edition on Sunday 9th February 2014

Tuesday 14 January 2014

Mylapore Festival on Pedals 2014

On a cool mystic Margali morning the Mylapore Festival 2014 Heritage Ride brought forward the aura of Mylapore (Thirumayilai) an ancient residential village which pre-dates Chennai's birth in the 17th century and evolved today as a major cultural and commercial centre. This place retains the look and feel of an old neighbourhood, the culture and heritage typically south Indian. The Ride with a peleton consisting of 40 riders started at Nageswara Rao Park and our first destination was Luz Church located at the west of the Basilica in Santhome. In the south wall there is an ancient stone with a Portuguese inscription which reads 'Friar Pedro of the Observance of St. Francis built this church of Our Lady of Light in 1516' The historical importance of the church is apparent from the fact that the area is officially called ‘Luz', the Portuguese word for light. The Church of Lady of Light, which was built in 1516, is possibly one of the oldest Churches in India. From here our next stop was Sanskrit College the Madras Sanskrit College came into being in 1906,owing its origin to the philanthropy of Sri V.Krishnaswamy Iyer, who was a judge of the Madras High Court and member of Governor’s Executive council. In December 1905, the Sanskrit College was started and from 1st February 1906 the college began functioning to this day it has been imparting this Classical Language. Next on the agenda was Thiruvalluvar Temple the Tamil sage of the Sangam Period Thiruvalluvar author of the famous Tamil work Tirukural is said to have been born in Mylapore. The temple dedicated to Thiruvalluvar is believed to have been constructed in the early 16th century and the temple was extensively renovated in the 1970s. After a brief halt at this temple we next pedalled to Santhome Basilica built over the Tomb of St.Thomas in 16th Century by the Portuguese and later rebuilt by the British in 1896 from here it was destination Brodie's Castle but we had a very brief stop over in between at Quibble Island cemetery incidentally the `Battle of the Adyar River' was fought in October 1746 in the shallows of Quibble Island, between a few hundred French-led Indians with cannon and thousands of undisciplined forces of the Nawab of Arcot rallying to the support of the British ousted from Fort St. George and ended in the rout of the latter. During the British rule an European cemetery here came into existence.
Brodie's Castle
The Brodie's Castle located nearby was built between 1796 and 1798 by James Brodie, an East India Company civil servant who obtained an 11-acre grant to build his mansion. He fell on bad times and rented it out to the Government. Brodie who was fond of boating on the Adyar river drowned in it in 1801,some say in a boating accident.The family sold the castle to the Government and it has been Government property ever since. Several judges occupied it over the years. It also served as the official residence of P.S.Kumaraswami Raja (1898-1957) when he was Premier of Madras Province during 1949-1952. In 1956, it became home to the College of Carnatic Music which was set up in 1948. Many leading musicians have been on its faculty. The stop at this place abetting Adyar River was just was an enthralling experience to the riders soon it was time to return to Mylapore and for one last time it was the longest non stop ride of the cool morning destination being Sri Kapaleeswarer Temple Mylapore our finishing point. The temple built in 7th century by the Pallavas, to the famous Saiva Saints of Tamilnadu called the Nayanmars the temple was located on the sea shore. The present temple's architecture looks of later origin for some attributing to the 16th Century Vijayanagar period. The Arupathimoovar festival dedicated to Nayanmars held here annually is very famous. The Ride came to an end at the vicinity of the 16 pillared Mantap in front of the temple which also is the hub of the festival with a thanks to all the participants and supporters, the gathering slowly vanished into the buzz of morning traffic not to mention each taking something in return notably the bliss of rediscovering this ever evolving place of Madras.

Saint Tiruvalluvar Temple