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