Sunday 13 December 2015

Cleanup @ Fort St.George, 22nd November 2015

For second year in succession we had the opportunity to clean parts of Fort St. George and during this occasion it was the St.George Gate. The Heritage Week celebration which takes place between 19th-24th November every year provides an ideal platform for activities of this nature but the another meaning to the word nature was not kind with its activities thus Chennai bore the brunt of North East Monsoon, the city witnessed two heavy spells of rainfall one prior to our cleanup and the next which was the deluge in the first week of December. Our cleanup which was sandwiched between the two was more in the form of necessity as the rain kept the city in its tenterhooks and we had to keep the momentum going since the concept of cleanup at heritage sites in Chennai was something unique and moreover it was in tune with the vision of our Prime Minister for a Clean India.

The site for the cleanup was St.George Gate one among the five gates in the Fort apart from minor ones and most importantly still in use. A quick glance at the history of Fort St .George would invariably take us to  the days of Francis Day and Andrew Cogan the Fort came into existence with the arrival of them on 20th February 1640, the fort was named after St.George, the patron saint of England. It 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 include The Secretariat, Exchange Building (Fort Museum), St. Mary's Church, Clive's House, Grand Arsenal and Kings Barracks.

After a brief welcome ceremony at the Fort Museum auditorium around 80 members including the staff and students of KRM Public School, special children from Chettinad Srihari Vikasam and our host ASI Chennai Circle proceeded with cleanup session on the terrace and ramp way of St.George Gate as the stagnant  rain water made it impossible for cleanup around the gate area but it was indeed a blessing since we had the opportunity to remove the plants and weeds that grow on the heritage structure creating cracks in the monument and thereby considerably weakening them, came to know from the authorities that this is single most hectic task and goes all round the year. After a satisfying morning with breakfast arranged at the historic Clive House the cleanup came to an end with distribution of certificates and an added responsibility to all the participants to keep the momentum going ... The journey of thousand miles begins with the first step

Group Picture @ Fort Museum

Newspaper Clipping


Deccan Chronicle

Sunday 30 August 2015

Cooum River Heritage Ride - 16th August 2015 (Madras Day Heritage Ride)

The Cooum River Heritage Ride organised by the Cycling Yogis as a part of Madras Week Celebrations 2015 was held on Sunday, 16th August. The Ride stated from CISF Guest House, Port of Chennai (where the Cooum river mearges with the sea) a peloton of 79 cyclist began their ride in the wee hours of the morning (5.15 am) and pedaled all the way to its origin near Kesavaram via Poonamalle High Road, Tirumazhisai, Tiruvallur, and Mappedu to reach the final destination Koovam Village (Distance:72km) by 11.00 am. Soon after which there was a brief interactive session followed by visit to important places notable being Sivapuram Sivan Temple and Kesavaram. In the return direction shuttle service was arranged (transportation of the riders and cycles by vehicles). Medal Distribution Ceremony and Bufffet Lunch was organised for all the participants at Sathyam Grand Resorts, Sriperumbudur. Earlier a special 25 pages booklet on Cooum History in form of snippets was launched by Historian. S.Muthiah on 14th August at KRM Public School, Perambur. Both men and women from various age groups participated in the ride. Going by the feedback  the ride brought forward camaraderie and spirit of Madras Week Celebrations, most importantly the memories the participants took back to cherish. 
Thanks to all our sponsors and supporters.

CISF Guest House
Sivapuram Temple

Sathyam Grand

Kesavaram Dam

Sathyam Grand 

Cooum River Heritage Ride Snippets 

# 1 Be it the famous Bodyguard Muneeswaran Temple or the numerous religious places dotted on the banks of the Cooum River the list goes long but few which could find mention are ... Mount Road Dargha of Sufi Saint Hazrath Syed Moosa Sha Quadri (RA) who hailed from Persia (Baghdad Shareef) and lived here during the middle of 17th Century. The ZION CHURCH, Chindadripet which is probably the only Church in Chennai to be started by Americans in 1847, the first Indian female English novelist Krupabhai Satthianadhan is also said to be associated with this Church. Lastly the Sivapuram Temple near the Koovam Village built during the reign of King Rajaraja Chola (985-1014) where an inscription mentioning about a canal being dug from the Cooum Lake to the temple can be found. The River throws interesting insights into many facets of people's daily lives, for now religion being one such. Look out for something new in the weeks and days ahead. Till then Happy Cycling. 
# 2 Weather conditions form an integral part of cycle rides many of us peep into the daily weather forecast before venturing out early in the morning on a ride. The Madras Observatory presently in the Regional Meteorological Centre , Nungambakkam is perhaps the oldest observatory in the country, founded by the British East India Company in 1792 for over a century it was the only astronomical observatory in India that exclusively worked on the stars eventhough hourly weather forcast was made available from 1840's by 1899 it had been relegated to gathering weather-related data. The 15-foot tall granite pillar weighing 10 tonnes, which carried the original transit equipment is still preserved in the RMC Campus. (Picture of Madras Observatory from its archives, the orginal 15 feet tall pillar and ever memorable Ramanan)
# 3 Pictorial story on Higginbothams the oldest bookstore in India
# 4 He would bathe in the Cooum River twice a day before venturing to worship the deity at Komaleeswaranpet Temple. Perhaps he was the first Indian to bequeath a will. It was none other than Pachaiyappa Mudaliyar (1754-1794) a renowned philanthropist, dubash and merchant who made a great fortune during his younger days and resided in Pagoda Street later Harris Road. As a tribute to his life and times a commerative stamp was released in 2010.
# 5 First plane in Asia took of from the middle of the Cooum River @ Island Grounds.  Giacomo D'Angelis of Corsica founded the premier hotel of his times Hotel D'Angelis near to the present Anna Statue (Mount Road).It wasn't until the Wright Brothers that Madras witnessed it's first exhibition of flight. Giacomo D'Angelis inspired by the Bleriot's cross Channel flight and determined to get Madras to aviation in March 1910 piloted the made in Madras aeroplane using the Island Grounds as the Airstrip.
# 6 India's first steam Car was made on the banks of Cooum River. 
In 1903, Samuel John Green of Simpson & Co, Madras, built India’s first steam car and caused a sensation on the roads of the city. The Madras Mail hailed its appearance as the beginning of “a new industry for Madras.” Thanks to Cooum - Cultural Mapping (Picture : Model of a steam Car)
# 7 The Oldest Lending Library in the South was the Madras Literary Society  Established in 1812 by the Asiatic Society of Madras, in 1905 it moved to the present location in DPI Campus from the Connemara Library. Famous members included Subhas Chandra Bose, Annie Beasant and Dr.S.Radhakrishnanan. Legends abound of British Officers rowing down the Cooum River to enter the Library through its current back entrance 'River Gate'
# 8 The only World War-1 engagement that took place in India
This happened in Madras and importantly at the mouth of the Cooum River, parts of the Madras Harbour, the Royal Madras Yacht Club and wall near Madras High Court were bombed by SMS Emden on the night of 22nd September 1914.
# 9 Battle at Takkolam 
Last in the series of snippets, this battle took place on the plains of Cooum River and Kosasthiliyar in 949 AD. The battle was between Rajaditya son of Chola King Parantaka 1 and a confederacy of Western Gangas, Banas and Vaidumbas led by Rashatrakuta King Krishna the Third at Takkolam. The battle resulted in the defeat of Cholas and death of Rajaditya. 

Thanks to Cooum Cultural Mapping 

This article was published in Madras Musings September 2015

Madras Musings

Newspaper Clippings

TOI - Chennai

TOI -- Chennai



Tuesday 28 April 2015

Three Cheers to World Heritage Day Ride - 2015

Flag Off at Santhome Inn
Three years have gone past but the memories of the first ride or our founding day still lingers fresh in the mind. From Pedal Yatris the acronym which propelled the concept for starting a new theme based cycling group in Chennai or to the recently concluded Puducherry Heritage Ride its been a journey to relish and rejoice.  On 19th April another such occasion was created by the Providence this time for commemorating the World Heritage Day followed by our 3rd Anniversary Celebration.April mornings are always hot and humid in this part of the country, the Sun beats mercilessly through the day but fortunately the recent rains brought down the temperature to comfort levels. The destination for a change was not heritage building or  monument it was Dakshinachitra a place dedicated to heritage and culture, it is also an exciting Heritage Museum for lifestyles, crafts and performing arts of South India located near Muttukaddu on the ECR Road.

Stamp on Sundar Sir
The narrow stretch of road between Santhome Church and Marina Lighthouse is where our Starting Point was situated. The Ride was flaged off by the Dignitaries from Santhome Inn at 5.15 am and around 150 Cyclist ventured on a less than 30 km ride to destination Dakshinachitra. Pedaling across the narrow roads of the Santhome Highway via Foreshore Estate reach Thiru.Vi.Ka Bridge, the sight of Madhya Kailash brings a sigh of relief since OMR Road can accommodate higher volume of cycles, its no wonder that this road is an haven for riders. Breaking up into smaller groups according to their speed levels and in the days when average distance cycled is increasing most of them reached Dakshinachitra much early before the scheduled time. For a moment Dakishinachitra looked like a mela for Cyclist. Breakfast was served with much fun fare and display of camaraderie it was indeed joyful to be midst the cycling community. After a sumptuous brunch next on the agenda was the 3rd Anniversary Celebration at the Seminar Hall.  The program included presentation about Cycling Yogis in the last three years, future endeavors and thanking our sponsors, supporters and well wishers if not for whom we would not have existed. The highlight of the program being the release of Special Edition My Stamp on Sundar Rajan Sir. It was our way of felicitating him and showing our love and admiration to this Grand Super Randonneur, the first recipient of the stamp with envelope sealed from Post Office was Balasundaram Sir of Balaji Cycle Store. The program concluded with the video by Capt. Venkataraman taken during our previous edition of World Heritage Day Ride to Mahabalipuram Lighthouse.

Kokali Kattai Attam
Now on to the business end a group picture at the amphitheater coupled with a quick tour and the grand finale of the day was the folk performance, most of us eagerly looked forward to this show and what a memorable one it was to be, quite a few folk dances of Tamilnadu also find mention in the Tamil Sangam Literature. An ancient art form that still prevails in some pockets of Tamilnadu is Kokali Kattai Attam in which the artist perform on stilts that are custom made. This special show of Kokali Kattai Attam performed exclusively for us brought the curtains down to the event, most of the riders along with the cycles were transported back to the staring point by vehicles. Going by the idiom all's well that ends well the package of fun and frolic combined with a sense of awareness about our glorious tradition is what we hope many would have taken back as memories. If we did succeed or not these memories which the participants took back are the mute witness to our aspirations.

Participants of World Heritage Day Ride at Dakshinachitra

Click on the link to watch the video of the event by Capt. Venkatraman

Newspaper Clippings

Deccan Chronicle

The Hindu

Friday 30 January 2015

Republic Day Heritage Ride to Puducherry 2015

Start at Ibis Hotel, Chennai 
The rain was unexpected. After setting our alarms to unearthly hours of the morning, we gathered at our starting point, the Novotel hotel, only to watch an unscheduled downpour. To commemorate the country’s 66th Republic Day, we were all set to participate in a Heritage Ride to Puducherry, 119 km in all. The ride was finally flagged off at 6.30 a.m. About 70 cyclists in all, men and women, began pedalling down the road to Kelambakkam, riding past the Thiruporur temple tank brimming with water. We made good time, and thanks to the morning rain, the weather was perfect. Hence, many of us reached Poonjeri by 7.45 am, doing about 20 to 22 km per hour.

Garnering plenty of attention along the way, we slowed down occasionally to answer questions from passers by, which ranged from ‘Where are you going?’ to ‘How much does this cycle cost?’ As we progressed onto ECR in a big group, the formation gradually changed, with people breaking away into smaller groups, each setting their own speed, while a few of the riders simply drafted behind each other. Since there were riders who were doing their first 100 km along with veterans, our group included a ‘sweeping team,’ whose job was to stay at the back and ensure that no rider was left behind.
Mudaliyar Kuppam Boat House
Reaching Vengambakkam, we rewarded ourselves with a packed breakfast, which included plenty of bananas, to keep up everyone’s energy levels. It was still easy riding though, with most participants chatting as they cycled, enjoying the company and the weather. Since this ride was intended to double up as a ‘sight-seeing expedition’ as well, we headed next to Mudaliarkuppam’s TTDC Boat House.
Of course, seeing the world from a bicycle is completely different from viewing it through the tinted windows of a traditional tour bus. It’s also infinitely more challenging — in a good way. The wind, for instance, plays a vital role when riding on ECR. While the tail winds assist you, the cross winds and head winds sometimes sap energy levels. Luckily for us, the wind gods seemed to be on our side — and we were blessed with mostly tail winds all the way.

Chambre de Commerce

Riding to Mudaliarkuppam took us through the lush green parts of ECR, taking many selfies along the way to remember the ride. After another food break, where we washed down more bananas with energy drinks, followed by peanut candy, we rode past Kadapakkam and set onto the road to Alamparai Fort. We reached Marakkanam before noon:  the road here can be tricky for experienced cyclists as it bone dry, with hardly any vegetation. The dramatic and vast expanse of salt pans located near Buckingham Canal creates a perfect setting for those seeking solitude. The pleasant weather soon gave way to a hot and humid afternoon, becoming a source of concern for those doing their maiden 100 km. This was possibly the most challenging part of the ride, and as we crossed the Toll Plaza near Hanumanthai, the distance between the smaller groups increased considerably. After this, it was just grit that kept us going. Pedalling past the last stretch, and entering the Union Territory triumphantly, most riders reached the finish point located beside the picturesque sea between 1.00 p.m. - 2.00 p.m. For 11 riders, it was their maiden 100 km finish. The more experienced riders, who included marathoners, tri-athletes and endurance cyclists, stood by the finish line to cheer all the newbies on an inspiring and gratifying sight.

Medal Ceremony at Novotel Hotel
In keeping with our bicycle-tourism agenda, after lunch we hopped back on our cycles, along with the Minister for Tourism, P. Rajavelu. The Minister cycling along with us, even if it was for a short distance, was the highlight of the evening however the Heritage part of the ride was there to be covered. Now crisscrossing the French and Tamil Quarters  which houses many of the landmark churches and buildings in Puducherry we stopped over at few places like Notre Dame des Agnes (Pink Church), Aayi Mandapam, Raj Nivas and Immaculate Conception Church posing for group pictures and had a very brief interaction about the significance of the place. Once done with the heritage part it was time for bidding adieus to this  place historic place, later in the evening all  the riders and their cycles were transported back to the starting point by bus and trucks. A gala medal followed by dinner  brought the curtains down to what had been a memorable day. All's well that ends well. Thankful to our sponsors Novotel & Ibis Hotel Chennai, DP World Chennai, Sagitec, Pro Bikers, Klachak, Orange Cube and Puducherry Tourism  

Aayi Mandapam, Puducherry

Newspaper Clipping

The Hindu - Puducherry

New Indian Express

      This blog was earlier published in "The Hindu" Metroplus on 27th January 2015