Friday, 6 March 2020

Ranee's Clock tower, Thanjavur city, Tamil Nadu - this heritage site, a legacy of Maratha rule needs renovation!!

Thanjavur Rani's Clock Tower, Tamil Nadu. Times Content
Please refer to my post:  on Thanjavur Ranee clock tower which is reproduced ''verbatim'' by Thanjavur information/ Thanjavur tourism ( It is very unfortunate they neither mentioned about my  above post; nor did they give credit to some of photos taken by my son Sri. Ramakrishna Anand.!! I wish they had  done it as a courtesy.... ................
Among  many historical buildings of Thanjavur district that are in dire need of preservation and restoration,  the  red-brick walled tall structure -Ranee's Clock tower is the foremost one. Being an old town in Tamil Nadu  it was in AD 1799, Tanjore (then an Anglicized name)  became a British Principality.  The British rule, under the East India company, was established   based on the principle of the Doctrine of Lapse as the then Maratha ruler did not have a legal heir to the throne. 
doctrine of Lapse authored by Dalhousie of ESI
 This doctrine whose author was Lord Dalhousie,  governor-general of India (1848–56; of East India Co.), was  a  dubious one  mainly concerned with  questions of succession to Hindu kingdoms. A sort of   corollary to the doctrine of paramountcy, by which Great Britain, as the ruling power of the Indian subcontinent, claimed the legal control  of the subordinate Indian states and so also the regulation of their succession. The paramount powers never accepted legal adoptions by Hindu rulers.
Location map. Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu.Weather Forecast
The tall octagonal brick building  as tall as a 8-story structure, adjacent to old bus stand at the busy intersection of Gandhiji  Road and Rajah Mirasudar Hospital road,  is an impressive Maratha monument built in 1883 when  king Serfoji II ruled Thanjavur. The structure built in an Indo-European style is made of brick with lime mortar. The unique feature of this old clock  tower is it was  fitted on it with marble framework.   A British made clock, all the faces (four in number) is connected with a common  Pendulum. Till the late 1950s the clock used to chime that could be heard in many parts of the fort area of Thanjavur  town and I myself, when I was a boy, heard its resonating, soothing  sound  for several years.  Part of the reason was there was not so much  urban din and noise in this town which has become noisy in the past one decade. One could see  a few buses, cars (mostly foreign - USA: Ford Prefect, Studebaker, Pontiac, Chevrolet; UK:  Hillman, Morris Minor, Vauxhall, Vanguard,  Standard motors, etc.,  and trucks plying on the well-kept dust-free roads. 
Thanjavur Rani's Clock Tower, Tamil
Among the attractive features of this clock tower,  its  green colored wooden  ornate projecting balconies with a  nice roof on all four sides overlooking the roads, etc and the spiral wooden stairway in side the tower through which those balconies could be accessed  were in bad shape due to poor upkeep. In particular,  those wooden balconies perching close to the top need immediate attention.  On the ground,  the park used to be well-kept and in the evening  visitors to the park (Rajappa park) could read news papers in the  library ( built in the name of Venugopal Naidu, former chairman of the Thanjavur Municipality) or listen to the AIR (All India radio) evening radio programs.  Nowadays, the park is not well-kept and on the bench one may see unwanted people taking long nap in the tree shades. One municipal employee told me they would take steps to beautify the Ranee's clock tower and the surrounding areas in the near future.
Prior to 1968 around the  front of the Rajappa park, both on the Gandhiji road  and Hospital road, there were no shop  buildings  and people could walk comfortably on the sidewalks (platforms). From the then old  popular and ever busy  Coffee hotel ''Mangalambika'' (famous for piping hot flavored coffee and tasty Rava Dosai and Patnam pagoda) right across the clock  tower one could  see the park as well as the base of clock tower clearly; the place around the monument was barricaded and maintained well.  There used to be a coronation arch  (connected to a colonial event) across the Gandhiji road near the park  and it was removed  long ago because it caused traffic jams in that  busy area.

Why is it called Ranne's clock tower?  Out of the total  sum of Rs.19,000.00  spent on the  construction of this clock tower in 1833 during the reign of Raja Serfoji, the Maratha queen's contribution was  Rs. 12,000.00 - a whooping  sum  in those days. Hence, the clock tower was named after the Ranee. It is is so tall if you traveled by train  from Kumbakonam toward Thanjavur, after passing the Vadavar  railway station (now it is removed), you could see  at the distance the clock tower building like a  tall stick protruding on the distant horizon  along with the palace Arsenal tower and the big temple tower. 
In 2011, the municipal authorities, along with the Rotary club of Thanjavur town renovated the old clock and replaced it with a new one. Unfortunately, after some period, it became defective and stopped working.  Since then, the clock has not yet been either repaired or  replaced.  Since such old mechanical  clocks  and spares are not available on the market, the authorities need to replace the clock with an electronic one.

Recently, as part of the Smart City program introduced by the Central Govt,  the Municipal corporation removed all the illegally built shops along the  clock tower area, besides structures built on the one side of the entire stretch of the old  Ramparts including the East gate market place. They were once part of a big moat protecting  direct access to the old fort ( it is believed it is under the ASI control). 
In the Clock tower park there is a poorly maintained bust of King George V (1865 - 1936) and the inscription below the bust reads: “His Imperial Majesty King George V, Emperor of India. 6th May 1935 Silver Jubilee. Presented by Mr. T.N. Kalidoss, B.A., B.L., an humble and loyal citizen of Tanjore (Shri.T.N. Kalidoss  happened to be a practicing lawyer at Thanjavur  attached to the  Thanjavur Bar Council then  and his father was a famous lawyer Sri. Naganatha Sastry whose residence was just across the old bus stand
Thanjavur Rani's Clock Tower, Tamil Nadu. Times Content
on the  South rampart - presently Hotel Arya Bhavan is  functioning there. As an old timer I am glad the inner part of the old house with kalyana koodam is being well maintained by the hotel owner. The front  narrow passage used be an old space. Here, on  a few occasions I used to play cricket with the lawyer's  grandsons. The  Ranee's clock tower carries a plaque mentioning  the  names of  people from this town who died in  WWI  (1914 and 1918).
Thanjavur city map. Tamil Nadu.
 I myself saw the  wide and deep  dry moat without water stretching all the way from the present old bus stand on the East and far beyond the recently demolished Thiruvalluvar Theater on the West side.  Close to the Thiruvalluvar theater area there used to be a Small Town  Bus Stand  with 4 or 5 bays in the early 1950s. It was the main bus  stand then  for the entire town!!. It was not a pucca one  and the roof was covered with coconut palm thatches. No long distance buses  were available in those days from Thanjavur to places like Madurai  and other cities.  Some  buses were run on coal gas, not on petrol. Most of them were efficiently operated by the private companies.
In the late 1950s, the then Tamil Nadu govt. reclaimed the  moats and adjacent areas, filled them with dirt, etc., leveled them and converted into plain even ground.  During the  Congress ministry under dynamic  Sri K. Kamaraj Nadar with efforts taken by Industries Minister R. Venkatraman,  eminent local congress men like  late Sri Parisuththa Nadar and well-known  Poondi land lords- Vandayar bros of Thanjavur, an excellent, big modern bus stand was built and later on the near-by land  in the early 1960s an Inter/Intra state Bus stand came up to go to Chennai city  and other places.  In those days, no shops were allowed to function inside the bus stand, blocking the pathway.  The police were so strict, at night if you ride the bike on any street without a  head light, you will be fined. When some body uses the public place in the town to urinate, he will be taken to the police station. At night  couple of police  used to be on duty, patrolling the streets. The entire state was a dry one. No liquor or local Sarayam sale across the state was allowed.  The crime rate was almost at the lowest level. After 1968s, the Thanjavur Main Bus Stand, the clock tower  and adjoining park lost their glamor because of encroachment  on the  sidewalks near the Rajappa park and inside the bus stand and close to the bays. Sowly, a chotic situation arose and the bus travelers had to pass through many hawkers on the path way to get to the bus.
As for Ramanathan Chettiar Hall, just across the Union Club  building  close to the old bus stand,  it was, I was told,  donated to the municipality by a rich Chettiar family. It was, in those days like a town hall - a venue for dance programs,  Tamil dramas and public meetings. I myself along with my school buddies saw  the late Cho Ramaswami's  hilarious drama - Mohd. Bin Tuglak. It was a house-full show and, for a week or so  the lampooning drama was the talk of  the town and the audience had a good laugh. 

As for the Raja Mirasudar Hospital (RMH) on the Hospital road, in the 1950s and early 1960s, it was well maintained by the then govt. and they gave  good public health services to the people. The poor patients were well taken care of by the hospital management - by nurses and doctors.  They  were given  free quality bread/ bun,  food, etc and good quality milk almost daily.  In the absence of a Medical College and a well-equipped modern hospital then, the entire town and adjacent villages were dependent on the RM hospital. They, with particular care, handled dreadful diseases like Cholera, Smallpox, etc that were threats to the people in those days in the summer time.  As in other parts of the world, medical services were not well-advanced as  they are today. Though most of the people were leading a hand to mouth life in those days, they led a contended life. Corruption in public places was looked upon as a sin by the people and govt. employees. Corruption did exist as pockets here and there and did not affect the poor.  The people's only sources of entertainment were the movie halls in the  cities and towns; the touring theaters in small villages were equally popular. Thanjavur town had a large tree cover and the air pollution was at the minimum. As a senior citizen, I am missing the old charm of the this historical  town and the pollution-free environment.