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