Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Victoria Edaward Hall, legacy of British rule, Madurai, Tamil Nadu

Madurai, the second largest city on the banks of river Vaigai in Tamil Nadu, is well-known for its antiquity (more than 2500 years old) as well as for its famous temples, in particular, Meenashi Amman temple dedicated to Goddess Meenakshi, consort of Lord Shiva and Lord Sudareswarar (God Shiva). This sprawling temple is an architectural beauty and was patronized by all Tamil ruling dynasties of yester years.  The Famous Kallazhagar Perumal kovil and also Karthikaya (Murugan) temple are nearby. This ancient temple city is a major tourist center  and is well connected to other parts of India.
 
Victoria Edward Hall (Town Hall), Madurai. Times of India


Just like Marina for Chennai and Dalhousie square for Calcutta, Madurai has it's famous Town Hall road which presently has lots of shops and lodges. It is adjacent to Netaji road and close to the famous Meenkshi temple. Like other parts of South India, Madurai and region south of it were under the colonial rule.

Victoria Edward Hall, the legacy of British era used to be the  town hall of Madurai. Established in 1902,  it was the first closed auditorium for Maduraiites. Located close to the railway junction on the North Veli street, this building was named after Queen Victoria who made a historical visit to india.

It's an  architectural splendour that has stood the test of time and vagaries of weather - a reminder of the influence of British colonialism. This simple, but attractive building is a blend of  Gothic, Portuguese and Victorian style of architecture. 

QueenVictoria, England. The Cut

In the colonial period, this historical town hall catered to the needs of the  top politicians, theatre freaks and for the British government. The latter would conduct programs related to the government activities. As for important public meeting by the natives,  Tamukkam ground and Thilakar Thidal  were functioning as the open air auditorium for the common public at the same time. According to Ismail, the secretary of Victoria Edward Hall, there is a public library functioning only in the morning. There is  also an old library  section that  houses  more than 100,000 books on various subjects. There are amazing collections of old books, government gazettes and a rare  old novels. It seems, this library is a heaven for researchers in history and colonial British India. 

Madurai city. South India Tours and Trav

In the later period after the advent of movies, the British used to screen English movies to entertain a sizable foreign community mostly British, Americans and Anglo-Indians. As it was not economically viable, they stopped screening the English flicks.

Subsequently, a large community of Sourastrians (in local parlance (Pattu nool Karars), the silk weavers who moved over to Madurai from Gujarat during the Nayak rule, took the land and the building on lease and screened  native films. 

Madurai. Turkey Travel Guide

Later 70 years ago the building  was converted into a cinema theatre called 'Regal Talkies; it became a den for the Hollywood flicks, in particular, Bond movies.
 The building, being in the prime area of the city, has impressive lawns where the old timers enjoy reminiscing the peaceful, pollution free, traffic free past era. This town hall is the pride of Madurai city where the father of our nation Gandhiji changed his attire; he shed his normal wear and  adopted loin cloth, symbolic of Indian working class. It spiritually motivated him to become mentally strong  get freedom for India at any cost.
 
Victoria Edward hall, Madurai Spicyonion.com


Presently, the Town Hall has countless books that have educational value. Besides, there are provisions for indoor games, etc., as well. This famous town Hall  echoes  the sentiments and aspirations of Indians in the pre-independence era. It was here at Madurai, at the request of Rajaji, eminent lawyer Madurai A. Vaidhyanatha Aiyar, for the first time ever in the Madras Presidency,  successfully led a group of Harijans (dalits) into the Madurai Meenashi temple.
The temple entry team led  by Vaidyanatha Iyer included L.N.Gopalasamy, president and secretary of Tamil Nadu Harijan Sevak Sangh and Kakkan (later he became a Tamil nadu minister in 1960s) At 8.45 a.m. on July, 8, 1939, a batch of five Dalits, and a Nadar entered the temple and made history. 

Ref:

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/life-style/Madurais-famed-hallmark/articleshow/13931021.cms