Friday, 20 April 2018

Agurchand Mansions (Khaleel Mansions), Chennai, a fine heritage structure

-
(Khaleel Mansions) Agurchand Mansions, Chennai Flickr
Chennai (Madras), Tamil Nadu has had innumerable colonial monuments of architectural wonders in the past and we have lost some of them due to so many factors, one being sheer negligence on the part of the government with respect to periodical repairs, etc., and the other is lack of an interest group, of course with political influence, whose main interest will be to save such rotting buildings from serious damages beyond redemption. In the past, a part of heritage building Amir Mahal ( once official residence of Nawab of Arcot), Triplicane was damaged due to fire. Way back, a superb building Agurchand  Mansions (formerly known as Khaleel Mansions) had a fire mishap. In the latter, the damage was not a serious one. 

On  busy Anna Salai (formerly Mount Road) at  Spencer 's Junction, Chennai you can not miss a majestic and imposing  Indo-Saracenic styled brick-red two storeyed building, which is so simple, but impressive, you will be tempted to take an another look at this exotic edifice in the midst of jumbled  buildings.  Originally called the Khaleel Mansions, now it is known as  Agurchand Mansions.  Agurchand, a rich business man of Sowcarpet, Chennai  offered highest bidding (Rs. 5.5 lakh) for the property when the government auctioned the building as evacuee property when the legal heir of Khaleel mansion migrated to Pakistan.  Hence the Khaleel Mansions became  Agurchand Mansions in1964.                         

The building has impressive arches, long veranda arcade typical of colonial design. The building was designed to let out for rent to shop owners and retail traders. There were  about 58 shops here. In January 2012 there was a fire accident in this building. 
Fortunately, the damage was not a big one.
(Khaleel Mansion)s Agurchand Mansions, Chennai,The Hindu
It will be a bit interesting if you peep into the origin of this wonderful building. It was built in 1930s by Haji Mohamed Khaleel Shirazi, a Parsi who  moved over to Chennai from Iran  and got  into the construction business. He is believed to have built a few buildings here and also owned some in the prime areas. It is often said of this building, "It was the first multi-storeyed building to come up on Mount Road." After Khaleel Shiraji’s  death one of his sons Abbas Khaleeli, an ICS officer working in Madras Government, became the owner of the mansion.  At the time of partition of India, after independence in August 194, Abbas decided to migrate to  Karachi, Pakistan for good. Incidentally his wife is the  daughter of the Dewan of Mysore Sir Mirza Ismail, a brilliant administrator.  Abbas' property became an evacuee property under the Evacuee Property Act, 1949. Hence, the  Madras state government put up the mansion for auction.

Believed to be the city's ‘first 100-foot high building,’ Agurchand Mansions (Khaleel Mansions) is tagged as   the city’s first ‘high rise’. As to the history of this building, according to  an article (vide: The Hindu dated September 16, 2012 ) a well-researched one, the place where Agurchand mansions stands  was part of a vast stretch of property, covering  all the way from Mount Road to Express Estate, lining the eastern side of what was called Lord Pigot Road and which is now Club House Road. This property and the gardens were owned by the Arcot Nawab family members, and in this particular case,  it was owned by a Begam. She is believed to have sold the property to  Agha Mohammed Khaleel Shirazee on August 30, 1910.  Being one of the  richest men in Madras in the early 20th Century,  Mohd. Khaleel developed the property. The Kahaleel Mansons was built  between 1923 and 1925, then the city’s tallest building .

 http://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/history-and-culture/The-city] 99/article12572907.ece

 http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/No-major-damage-to-Agurchand-Mansion/article13382061.ece