Monday, 21 October 2019

St Andrew’s (Portuguese church), the oldest church in Chennai predating St. Mary's!!

1700: plan of Fort St. George, Madras (Chennai (TN).
 There  has been a general consensus among historians and heritage lovers that the very first church built under the the early colonial rulers of  Madras is  St Mary’s church  located inside  Fort St. George  on the beach road, Chennai.  According to an article published in The Hindu (dated 19 Feb. 2018) by Sri Muthaih who, in the past, wrote quite interesting articles on the various aspects of Vintage Madras city, St Andrew’s,  a Roman Catholic  church dating back to 1642, is the oldest one predating  historical St. Mary's by 50 long years.  It was built by  Fr. Ephraim de Nevers with permission from Andrew Cogan, the  Agent of Fort St George, a British settlement in Madras. As  numerous Portuguese employees and the local fishermen community out side the fort  needed spiritual and divine services, Fr.Ephraim   convinced  the Capuchin Friar  who was to leave for Burma, to stay in Madras to take care of Church activities.
Services were held in the shed-like church in the initial stages and a school was functioning under the church. Fr.
Ephraim taught English, Portuguese, etc  to Europeans and the Indian children also attended the school.  An interesting fact is Fr. Ephraim allowed the British to worship in the church whenever it was free.  St. Mary's School on Armenian Street  is an off-soot of this old school. Owing to break in continuity in its history, the school  loses its claim to be the oldest Western-style school in British India. A permanent structure housing the church came up in  1675. It was rebuilt again in 1721, perhaps to rival, in the north, St Mary’s in the south
The first church in British Madras
St. Andrew’s, the Portuguese Church,  was just outside the north wall of the Inner Fort was known as  Portuguese Square.  Both St. Mary's and Portuguese churches fell within the confines of Fort  St. George  when the outer walls were built in 1666 as part of additional fortification.

St. Mary's church, Madras (Chennai), Alamy
St. Mary's church, Madras (Chennai).
Above image: A vintage photo of St. Mary’s Church in Fort St George, Madras, Tamil Nadu, taken by Frederick Fiebig in c.1851. It is the oldest surviving Anglican church in the East. It was built  50 years later  after the Portuguese Church had been built  in Madras, by Sir Streynsham Master, Governor of Madras between 1678-81, Designed by William Dixon, the Master Gunner of the Fort, consecration took place in 1680. The tower of St. Mary's was completed in 1701, a steeple added in 1710, It is inside Ft. St. George that was constructed in the early 1640 by the British East India Company as its headquarters of the Coromandel Coast and marked the  earliest foundation of Madras city.This church, inside the fort, is steeped in history. It was here in the old prayer house solemnized the marriages of both Robert Clive,  the man who laid the foundation for the British Empire by capturing Bengal  and Elihu Yale who  served as a governor of Fort St. George, and a vestryman and treasurer of St Marys Church. His later gift of money to Cotton Mather helped in the foundation of Yale University in the USA which recently ran into  problems regarding its connection with the slavery  in the southern USA.,_Chennai

Sunday, 20 October 2019

Loreto House - a Heitage school of Kolkata - first mission in SE Asia - early colonial period

In January 2017  Loreto  House, a group of heritage schools based in Kolkata, WB celebrated 175 years of excellent services to the society.  The grand ceremony was marked by a 'legacy walk'  from the Muhammadan Sporting club to the Middleton House  and later to the Governor's residence. About 2000 women participated in the long walk  and the West Bengal Governor  welcomed the gathering and their long march. He recalled the  spirit  and dedication of those nuns who established one of the finest institutions in India 175 years ago with one thing on mind - education and dedicated public services.  The Loreto nuns set the mission out side their home ground Ireland. Concerned about the education of  women from the Catholic community Chaplain Dr. Bakhaus made a trip to to Loreto Abbey, Rathfarnham, Ireland  to bring the Loreto nuns to start a mission in Calcutta (Kolkata) to engage them in quality school education. A team of 7 nuns and 5 postulants all in their 20s landed in Babughat, Kolkata on  29 Dec. 1841 led by Mother Theresa Ball and Mother Delphine Hart  with a distinct mission. They sailed from Dublin on first of Sept, 1841 on a ship named Scotia.
Loreto House, Kolkata
Loreto House was established in  January 1842 in Calcutta, by the Sisters of Loreto belonging to the institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In the beginning, they had 60 students. As part of the mission, some nuns visited the Portuguese Church in Moorgihata to  teach  poor children in that area. Thus came into being the first Loreto  Foundation in SE Asia.  The school instilled discipline and  devotion to duty for which the Lorato schools became famous. 
Lorato House, Kolkata,

Lorato House, main entrance, Kolkata
Loreto House Middleton Row, a nice 3-storey building  became the home of these nuns and it was the garden house of the Gov. General who was kind enough to allow the nuns to stay there and start the mission.  Besides famous occupants of this house, the  second Anglican Bishop of Calcutta, Bishop Reginald Heber stayed here after 1820s. Unfortunately, he died  on 3 April 1926 on a visit to Tiruchirapalli town, Tamil Nadu. A house for students was opened by Loreto in  2006 in this place, now a big city. The one in Kolkata is  the oldest and the first Loreto institution to be established in India, besides, it  was one of the few all-girls Catholic schools of that time. The old Loreto House was demolished between 1958  and 1961 as it became unsafe for occupation  and the present building on campus is part of the old one.

The early students  were taught at a house where nuns resided under Mother Delphine Hart, assisted by Sr. Teresa Mons and Sr. Martina McCann. The School was initially established for the education of Catholic girls. However, it has long admitted students of many religions 

Siister Mary Ward, founder  Loreto mission,
Founded in Saint-Omer by a dynamic  English woman, Mary Ward, in 1609, the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary consists of members  who are  commonly known as the  ''Loreto Sisters''. It is  a Roman Catholic religious congregation of women dedicated to quality education and their dictum is 'discipline and devotion to duty'.  The congregation  adopts its name from the Marian shrine at Loreto in Italy where  Mary Ward used to pray.  It was  on 19 December 2009, Ward was declared Venerable by Pope Benedict XVI.  The Loreto Sisters use the initials I.B.V.M. after their names.

Today the congregation is engaged in a wide variety of new ministries, catering to the needs of the society. Activities include: literacy programs, spiritual education, counseling, managing shelters for homeless women, etc. Being active across the globe, the Loreto Sisters operate some 150 schools imparting education to over 70,000 pupils irrespective of creed, religion, etc. beliefs.

Christ Church, Kasauli - earliest Anglican church in Himachal Pradesh!!

.Christ Church, Kasauli,HP
Christ Church, Kasauli,HP tripadvisor in

Kasauli, which was a colonial hill station,  is a cantonment in Solan district of Himachal Pradesh State. Like countless hill stations across India  like Ooty in Nilagiri hills of Tamil Nadu, Kodai (Kodaikonal), Tamil Nadu, Darjeeling in West Bengal, etc  this hill station was first discovered during the early colonial period. The British officials with the East India Company wanted to  escape from the scorching  hot summer season  and hot weather conditions in the plains and took refuge in  cool, lush green  hill stations. The cantonment  in Kasauli was established by the British  in 1842 and it is about  77 km from Shimla, 65 km from Chandigarh, and 94 km from Ambala Cantt (Haryana), an important railway junction of North India. Presently, lots of people visit this hill station to be free from summer heat and hot winds prevailing in the lower plains in the summer. Christ Church in this town is a historical one and  is open on all days.
In the early period it was an Anglican church, consecrated on 24 July 1853. At present it  is part of CNI - the Church of North India  in the diocese of Amritsar since (1970). Located on the Mall street, no body can miss this  colonial church which is the oldest one in Himachal Pradesh. Set in a nice, picturesque ambiance with tall trees around,  this church attracts lots of heritage lovers. The most striking features in this place of worship are the well-made stained glass windows depicting Christ, Mary, St. Barnabas and St. Francis specially  imported from Spain and Italy. When the sun's rays pass through them, the images in the windows come alive and the view is just breath-taking.
Interior - Christ Church, Kasauli,HP
The spiritual and divine services in the church first began  on 24 July, 1853, by Chaplain Thomas John Edward Steel, M.A., St. John's College, Cambridge. The church was revered as a holy place by Authority of the Bishop of Calcutta in 1857 as it is dedicated to
St. Francis and St. Barnabas.
Interior - Christ Church, Kasauli,HP
Simplicity in design  is the hall of this church. The gray colored  church  building with  eye-catching stained glass windows and the green colored roof  enhance of the beauty of this quiet place with a lot of greenery around. Tucked among tall trees with shadows all around, you can not miss the fragrance of pine and other trees.   Built in  distinctive Gothic style, the  church  is a fine piece of European  architecture  that includes an impressive  clock tower with a sundial in the front, main hall, cruciform floor, beautiful stained glass windows  behind the altar that can be accessed by  a comfortable  aisle.
Interior - Christ Church, Kasauli,HP
The stained glasses over the altar  carry the image of  Christ and  the Crucifixion. Here,  Christ is flanked by Joseph and Mary.
The church is shaped like  a cross  and it was done by British families  who lived here way back in 1840s and the foundation of the church was laid in  1842.
 Out side the church lies  a cemetery with graves and tombstones  dating back to 1850s and earlier. There  are many graves of British soldiers and others. This church is yet another legacy of the early colonial period under the English company (EIC).

Saturday, 19 October 2019

The chaotic state of Roya Gopura, Madurai - access roads need to be conserved

Chaotic Yezhu Kadal st. leading to Roya Gopura (tower). Madurai
 The great ruler of Madurai Nayak Dynasty Tirumala Nayak (A.D. 1623 to 1659),  wanted to have a huge tower built on the premises of the famous Meenaskshi-Sundareswarar temple. Unfortunately, he could not complete the project after the construction of the tall entrance and four giant monolith pillar, the work had stopped in
the early stage. Later rulers did not touch the work left behind by Thiumalai Nayak.  Though the  incomplete work was in the earliest stage, it is a good example of nayak rulers' architectural and sculptural splendor, a symphony in stone. This place  is known
as the  arena for two of the 64 divine sports (in Tamil Thiruvilayadalkal) of Lord Siva.

Street view from Roya Gopura, Madurai Commons wikipedia.prg
The entrance to the incomplete Roya Gopura in on  Ezhu Kadal Street  which has become a mini bazaars with hawkers selling their wares at the entrance, blocking the view of the temple.  Roya Gopura has been rendered into a  neglected piece of history due to sheer negligence and scant regard for our past history by the temple authority.  Mythologically speaking it is the place where the consort of Lord Shiva Goddess Meenakshi appeared from the sacred fire as ''Thadathagai'' during the yagam performed by Malathuvaja Pandian and Kanchanamala.

Unfinished Roya Gopuram (1858), Madurai, pinrest. comAdd caption
At loss is the divinity of this place of worship because of the presence of rows of shops on either side starting right from the entrance to the incomplete Roya Gopura on  the Ezhu Kadal street.
This street comes alive during the major temple festival event and it is on this street  Goddess Meenakshi fights kings on her ‘dik vijayam’and finally meets Lord Shiva during the Chitirai festival, held in the month of April to May. The Tirukalyanam (wedding)  of Goddess Meenakshi with Lord Sundareswarar takes place following day. On this  famous festive occasion this street that is decorated with lights  is crowded with devotees  who enjoy  watching  the procession of deities.

Roya Gopura, Madurai. encroachments. Commons wikipedia.prg.
It is said that  Ezhu Kadal Street owes  its name to a small temple tank that is said to have contained water from seven oceans. As the temple tank began to dry over a period of time, the State government and the temple administration HR &CE, not paying any  attention to neither the divinity nor the historical importance of this place,  came up with a big  shopping complex on it. Thus in this complex lost the legacy of Nayak rulers and their religious belief.
Yet another grievance expressed by shop owners and others is the conservationists whose priority is to clean the big streets around the temple, should  also  focus on  the narrow one-way street - Yezhu Kadal street and others around the Roya Gopura that need elaborate cleaning. They are full of shops and the traffic is chaotic with no proper regulation.
The  Ezhu Kadal street is an important part of not only history associated with the Roya gopura, a great Nayak monument. The shops near  and along the entrance  walls literally spoil the heritage value of such wonderful creation, blocking their view.  Normally, the Government should restrict human activities as mush as possible  close to the heritage structures/  monuments. In Tamil Nadu and elsewhere, the temples and monuments are encroached upon by shop keepers and hawkers and at stake is the historical values of the monuments. The government should keep the surrounding areas clean and free from shops, etc. The monuments that carry the frozen history   need to be accessed  without any hindrance by the tourists and others. Local bodies should get the opinion of the people who are part of the society and, being stake holders, they deserve to be heard.

Friday, 18 October 2019

Incomplete Roya Gopura (tower), Madurai Meenakshi temple

Unfinished Roya Gopuram, Madurai, pinrest. comAdd caption
Above image: The photograph of the unfinished Raya Gopura (Tower) of the Meenakshi temple, Madurai in Tamil  Nadu, is part of a collection entitled 'Photographic Views in Madurai ' (Madras, 1858) and was taken by Linnaeus Tripe in 1858. This rare photo shows the incomplete Main tower (Roya Gopuram) on the east side of the Meenakshi temple  with Pudu (new) Mandabam and East Gopuram visible in the backdrop. East of the temple........................

 Tirumala Nayak (A.D. 1623 to 1659) of Madurai Nayak Dynasty had a plan to build a huge tower. Though the construction of the  new tower  had begun in earnest, for reasons beyond comprehension,  the work was not completed and left out in the very early phases. The amazing features are the four tall monolith towers that rise to a height of 50 feet from the ground level. That how the four  tall pillars were   erected in alignment  at the right upper level is a riddle. They are  the only pillars  half-constructed on the Meenakshi Temple premises. It is on the west side of the main shrine.
Madurai Meenashi temple,inomplete  Roya Gopuram

The unfinished tower is  at the western corner of Yanakal street and the entrance is facing Yezhukadal street. It measures 59 meter in length  and 38 meters  in width. The remnants we are seeing here were  built in AD 1654 by Thirumala Nayak  with view to enhancing the beauty of Meenakshi temple, one of the finest temples dedicated to Shiva in India.  The gopura is a wonderful representation of the architectural finesse of the Nayak period. His brother Nayak king Muthiyaly along with Thirumala Nayak gave due importance to temple building in the  Nayak kingdom and the Nayak rulers of Madurai, Thanjavur and other places made vast contribution to Hindu temple architecture in Tamil Nadu. They built or made additions to the Vishnu as well as Shiva temples.   Had the Nayak ruler completed this  Roya gopura, perhaps it would have been the tallest one in Tamil Nadu.
The gargantuan base of the unfinished Raya gopuram., Madurai
The Meenakshi temple in Madurai is dedicated to Shiva and his consort Meenakshi (meaning fish-eyed), a form of Parvati. The temple rectangular in plan  covers 6 hectares and consists of 11 huge towers and 4 entrance gopurams adorned with divinities and others. Inside this enclosure there are huge mandapas (halls) supported by massive ornate stone pillars, tanks, shrines and
 the two shrines of God Shiva and Goddess Meenakshi.
Madurai Meenaskshi temple, entrance. Roya Gopuram.
Above image: Photo of the unfinished Raya Gopuram in the Meenakshi Sundareshvara Temple of Madurai, taken by Nicholas and Company in the 1870s.  The temple  towers are extremely elaborate and completely covered with figures of divinities, celestial beings, monster masks and animals, nice paintings, etc. The entrance to the Roaya Gopura is very tall and the doorjambs are elaborately carved with scroll work.................................

Any  visitor to the unfinished Roya Gopura will be wonder-struck by  the tall, huge base  with its ornate thoranas, elegant carvings, sculptures of dancing damsels, lion-based pilasters and niches. There is a well-carved stone sculpture of Tirumalai Nayak, the ruler of Madurai who  was instrumental for the temple's expansion and regular maintenance. When Thirumalai Naicker started the construction,  the 217-foot tall tower of  Thiruvannamalai temple, Thiruvannamalai,TN was the tallest one and the ruler wanted to build the tower in Madurai taller than this one. At present,  the 236-foot tall Srirangam Ranganathar temple is the tallest one in Tamil Nadu, followed by Thanjavur Brigadishwar temple (big temple) and Sri Villiputhur Andal temple in Virudhunagar district.

Crumbling Victoria Hostel, Chennai - 119 year old heritage structure awaiting major repair and restoration

an old image of Victoria Hostel, Chennai  pinrest com

In Chennai alone there are hundreds of old colonial and other monuments,  legacies of the British Raj and early colonial rule under the EIC. Historians and heritage lovers  deplore that these structures and others remain neglected  by the city authorities for years together with no basic periodic repairs. It shows lack of awareness of old heritage buildings and their importance  among the public as well as officials  who have scant interest in the  historical value of such heritage sites that connect us with the by-gone era.  There is no realization such old structures ought to be repaired periodically and preserved for the posterity. Further, presentation of our wonderful monuments in style with fine ambiance  will attract lots of foreign tourists who evince keen interest in such buildings steeped in history. The Bharat Insurance building on Anna Salai, Chennai,  a colonial building, is slowly crumbling and, I understand, steps are not yet taken to carry out basic repairs to preserve the building. In 2011, a part of the roof  of General Post office building on Rajaji Salai, Chennai caved in during the monsoon season. For all old poorly maintained colonial structures in Chennai or elsewhere, the monsoon season  every year is a difficult one to pass through. The heavy rains some times cause severe damages and make them weak as years go by.  'It should be borne in our mind that in these  impressive monuments of past era, there lurks in every nook and corner  our history'.

Victoria Hostel,
Victoria Students’ Hostel, Triplicane, Chennai, a Grade I heritage structure in the Justice E Padmanabhan Committee report, has been in a run-down state for decades resulting in  leaking pipelines, damaged rooms, broken balconies and toilets,  Recently the government announced that this hostel building would be repaired and restored soon. This 119 year old hostel  in a  narrow lane  is attached to the Madras Presidency College on the beach road, Chennai  and is struggling hard to accommodate about 300 students as the hostel lacks basic amenities and the structure is in a dilapidated state.  An insetting fact about this dying monument is it is  made of wire-cut  red bricks, embodies the signature architectural features of structures designed by the legendary architect  Robert Fellowes Chisholm who also  built the Senate House  on the Beach road, Chennai and Amir Mahal, the official residence of the Nawab of Arcot, an alley of the East India company.

Victoria Hostel, Chennai/

Established on 30th January, 1900 in the government land by  students and admirers in memory of Rao Bahadur P. Ranganatha Mudaliar, M.A., Professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy, Presidency College, Madras, Sir Arthur Havelock, Governor of Madras, presided over the opening ceremony of the Victoria students’ Hostel in the presence of many distinguished ladies and gentlemen.  It was built by T. Namberumal Chetty, civil contractor (?). This Hostel has been under  the Government of Tamil Nadu  since 14.06.1987. In accordance with G.O. Ms. No. 608. Education Dept. dated 16.04.1987, the Principal of the Presidency College, Chennai-05 was instructed by the Commissioner of Collegiate Education, Chennai - 6, to run this Hostel.
Victoria Hostel, Chennai
There  are about 120 rooms out of which 20 are in very bad condition. Students have to bathe in the open and shell out more than  Rs 1500 a month. Due to lack of space two or three  students have to  share  single rooms. The college authorities say they are dependent on funds from the government for regular repairs, etc. and they can not carry out immediate repairs. The Cm of Tamil Nadu government has given a nod and it means something will be in the offing!!

After several appeals, the officials of the Directorate of Technical Education (DOTE) on a visit to the hostel said steps were underway to get the hostel repaired.  Presumably, it will take a year to begin the restoration process, etc  because of red tape. Conservationists say Victoria Hostel is dying every day because of continuous pipeline leaks, etc and the roof appears to be too weak  to get past the next monsoon season. The students in the hostel need to be shifted to elsewhere for safety purpose.

Thursday, 17 October 2019

The Senate House (University of Madras), Chennai - a wonderful colonial building needs immedate repair work and restoration

the Senate House,
The Senate House, the main   administrative  hub of the University of Madras in Chennai, on Wallajah Road, along Marina Beach is a fine piece of colonial architecture  designed by famous engineer  Robert Chisholm.  He took five years to complete it in 1879.  A classic example of Indo-Saracenic architecture in India, it is an impressive land mark in Chennai facing the Bay of Bengal.This impressive vintage landmark has  administrative departments of the University and offices of the Vice-Chancellor as well as the Registrar of the University of Madras. The resentful fact isthis amazing building is in a poor state.
Side view, the Senate House,Chennai.
Senate House, Madras - Tucks Oileete (1911)
Robert Chisholm was a 19th-century British architect  of great repute and is considered  as  one of the pioneers of Indo-Saracenic architecture in India rightly mixing Indian elements with European style. A new name came into being called  Renaissance and Gothic styles of architecture.  Chisholm's other wonderful creation is 
the Chepauk Palace  built in 1871 for the Nawab of Arcot  who wanted to move his residence to Madras (Chennai) close to  Fort St. George, then the main center of the English company's trading post. In the place where the Senate House stands, it is mentioned, a  saluting battery was present at that site.
The central tower of the Senate House, Chennai.
Senate House, Chennai, Marina beach
Senate House, Chennai, Marina beach

Until the the Senate House came up, the university convocations were held in the  Banqueting Hall (now known as Rajaji Hall).. It was during 14 July – 21 December 1937 the legislature of the Madras Presidency met at the senate house to carry on the deliberations. The most note-worthy feature of this structure is the subtle inclusion of many elements of the Byzantine style that adds zest this already wonderful building.  Mainly bricks and  lime mortar  went into construction.  A striking part of the building is the  great hall of the Senate House that is supported by six mammoth pillars. There are domes on each corner of Senate House which are intricately designed and colored.  The Senate hall  was specifically designed with  immense height and proportions and is marked as one  the finest of its kind in India. Senate House has two entrances, which are located on the northern and southern sides of the building.  It spreads over 1.5 acres on the Chaupak campus and the other heritage structure on this campus need immediate attention  to get them  back on their past glory.
Senate_House_(University_of_Madras), Chennai.

the Senate House,
Presently, the Senate House presents sad picture  due to lack of adequate funds and  sheer  negligence on the part of officials concerned. It is said the University of Madras does not have funds to take care of the restoration work and the state government recently granted Rs. 5 crores and much of the fund was spent on the senate clock tower alone. The façade may be in good shape, but inside it is in a dilapidated state where one could see rodents, snakes and  other creature; the paint has peeled off and, when it rains heavily,  the water seeps in through the grilled windows. In 2004 and 2007, renovation was done but the work proved to be a failure  owing to poor management of funds R.6 crore alloted for the work.  The government and heritage lovers should act soon on this wonderful vintage structure before it becomes too late for its