Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Chepauk palace of Nawob of Arcot- skillful take over by the British

 Chepauk Palace old image.

Above image: 
Residence of Prince of Arcot. In the late 1920s, Klien & Peyerl's picture (Courtesy: Vintage Vignettes) of Chepauk Palace in the first decade of the 20th Century.......

Chepauk Palace, Chennai  the first building in India to be built in the Indo-Saracenic style of architecture is one a few oldest buildings in India constructed in 1760s. Once the  the official residence of the Nawob of Arcot from 1768 to 1855, this heritage building is slowly crumbling because, as usual, both  the state and central governments  show least interest in preserving this historical building for the younger generation. The past historical events are relevant to the posterity. A few years ago, the Khalsa Mahal, was gutted and  a part of the ceiling in Humayun Mahal  caved in,  since then the building and the surrounding areas  have been  in a state of neglect.  Part of the building is being used by the state government and it is unfortunate none of the employees vents his voice to restore the palace back to glory. This old palace in chennai a vestige of colonial grandeur and legacy.

On a visit to this place one will hardly realize that this was once a royal  enclave. - residence of the royal family of  Nawob of Arcot,  who presumably in 1777 gave  Arcot diamonds (a 38.6-carat oval-shaped highly valuable diamonds) as gift to Queen Charlotte. Now this palace is hidden behind  government office buildings - PWD building  and Ezhilagam. Untill 1860s, it was a sea-front building, and one could see this building in full glory at a distance from the sea. This  palace, on a site of roughly 117 acre,  was built for the Nawob of Arcot Mohammed Ali Walajah, whose capital was Arcot. He wanted to reside closer to the East India company's settlement -Ft. St. George  under their protection.  After  the Carnatic Wars, the kingdom of the Carnatic had virtually become a protectorate of the British East India Company. Like many rich rulers of India,  the Nawob got himself caught in the trap devised  by the British called ''subsidiary alliance''. Now, the Nawob for security, relied entirely on the troops supplied by the British East India company. Paul Benfield (1742–1810), financier and trader  who had close contact with the Nawob, was in charge of construction of the palace. He was  the former engineer  of East India company.

a 38.6-carat oval-shaped

The building had two parts:  Humayun Mahal, the ruler's quarter two- storey Durbar hall, the Diwan-e-Khas.  The other being private quarters called Khalas Mahal.  In order to maintain his royal status, the  Nawob  had spent more money on the place than he could afford and consequently  his debt snowballed into about  10 million pounds, pretty huge amount in those days. The  Arcot ruler's debts soared above the Himalayan height and were far  beyond redemption. Soon after the death of Nawob, the onus of clearing the debt fell on Nawob's  son Umdat-ul-Umrah. The clever company officials and the crown had been waiting for the first opportunity to gobble up the Arcot kingdom. Further,  the company suspected that Umdat had contact with Tipu Sultan, the Company's arch enemy. Using default of loan as an excuse, East India company  not only annexed the palace of  once the rich Royal family  but also ceremoniously  evicted him and his family without  compunction whatsoever for the Palace. The kingdom, having been taken over by the company in 1801, now the Nawob became a  titular ruler, with a hereditary title 'Prince of Arcot' granted  by Queen Victoria . The Nawob  was granted a paltry sum as pension plus  some protocol benefits so that his line of generation could carry on the royal family' s legacy.  Amir Mahal with a plot of its 14-acre grounds, on the Pycrofts  Road, Triplicane, has been   the residence of ex -Arcot ruler's descendants since 1870. Soon after take over by the British company,  the royal family moved into a new residence, Shadi Mahal, on Triplicane Road. About the vast plot and the Nawob's palace attached by the British, there was no taker when  put up for 

 The Chepauk Palace
auction in 1855 and finally it came under the control of the  government. The beautiful  tower between Humayun and  Khalsa Mahal was built by  Robert Fellowes Chisholm, popular  architect well-known for Indo- Saracenic style of buildings in India.
The MA Chidambaram Stadium (also known as Chepauk ground) itself was built on part of the palace grounds. An interesting fact is, it is believed, that Cricket has been played here since 1842, when the Madras Cricket Club was founded.


 The Chepauk Palace

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