Wednesday, 4 January 2017

The Senate House, Univ. of Madras - colonial heritage site

univ. of madras senate house
tour of Senate House, U of Madras, Chennai./
Among the Indian cities next to Kolkata (Calcutta), Chennai city (Madras) has the distinction  of possessing the largest number of colonial buildings, about 2467 heritage structures; this being the highest within any  metropolitan area (CMA) limit in India. Surprisingly,  many of them are 200 years plus. old  and this will give you a clear picture of  how Madras City flourished  during the early EIC rule and later (after 1857) under the direct administration of the British Government, London. Historically Madras played a pivotal rule in  international trading activities and expansion of British imperialism. The British  controlled the sea trade in the Bay of Bengal and part of the Indian ocean, thus confirming their supremacy over other European powers.
Senate House, Madras, oil painting.
 The idea of conserving the historical heritage sites got an impetus only after a  major fire  accident in the Moore Market building  in 1985, in the wake of it,  a majestic colonial structure was lost for ever. Only in 1997, the state government took serious action to preserve heritage sites  to check further damage so that they would continue to remain as vestiges of colonial legacy for the younger generation to appreciate them.
The Senate House,U of Madras 1874.ebharat darshan
 The Senate House, the administrative hub of the University of Madras, constructed by  architect Robert Chisholm between 1874 and 1879, is believed to be  one of the best and oldest examples of Indo - Saracenic  architecture in India  incorporated with many elements of the Byzantine style. Robert Chisholm, a well known 19th century  British architect, did a pioneering work mixing Indo - Saracenic   style of design.  Earlier,  he focused more on the Renaissance and Gothic styles of architecture.  Chisholm 's other works in  Indo-Saracenic include  the PWD buildings of the Chepauk Palace (1871) in Chennai.
Tower of the Senate house. Chennai.
The senate hall is of immense proportion and height and it has  corridors on the ground floor and they  stand on six massive pillars  on either side. The tall four towers at each of the corners of the building enhances the beauty of this historical building. The six porches on all sides bring out their  vintage elements. The roof is made of brick shell with lime mortar. The structure stands majestically opposite the Marina Beach and draws the attentions of the passers-by. That there stood a  saluting battery on this site  prior to the construction of the Senate House is an interesting historical fact.

With the passage of time, vagaries of weather and inadequate annual maintenance, this old amazing building lost its sheen and  colonial charm.  Resolved to preserve this and other structures, steps were afoot by the local government and are making progress now.

The Senate House,U of Madras 1874.ebharat
The Madras University, one of the oldest in Asia, founded by the Brutish to impart western education to the Indian natives,  was in dire need  of a separate building for administrative purposes, senate meeting and to hold convocation. The necessity arose because of the growth of the institution, more subjects, students and faculty members. Hence, this building came up and  Robert Chisholm was entrusted with design and construction of the Senate house took roughly 5 years, beginning in 1864.  Prior to this building, the convocation was held in  Banqueting Hall (now known as Rajaji Hall). It was  during July 14 - December 21, 1937 the legislature of the Madras Presidency met at the senate house. There are small halls for holding  the meetings of the senate, academic council and of the faculties, etc. The building, in the past,  had  offices of the Vice Chancellor, the Registrar and the university departments of study, a library, and research etc. For more than 120 years,
the senate house had been a venue of many functions  and convocations  until 1965, when most of the activities were shifted to the massive centenary auditorium, built in 1960.


01. The  Madras Music Academy in the first years since inception conducted its concerts, etc in the The Senate House. Though, the use of Senate house was limited to holding of the convocations and examinations, after the construction of new departmental library building and later on the centenary building, besides being used as classrooms for teaching foreign language