Archive for the ‘Chennai (Madras) History’ Category

Old Woodlands Hotel

July 21, 2014
Woodlands Hotel, Royapettah

Woodlands Hotel, Royapettah

Completely cut off from public view and located at the end of a curving drive is a sylvan property that is now on its last legs. It is reliably learnt that the space has changed hands and developers will soon swing into action.

One of the prominent landowners of Madras Presidency was Shanmukha Rajeswara or Naganatha Setupathi, Rajah of Ramnad, and among his many properties was Woodlands, Royapettah, a stone’s throw from the erstwhile Madras Club property that became Express Estate and is now a mall. Set in the midst of 16½ acres. Woodlands was the city residence of the Rajah before he moved to Cenotaph Road. Woodlands was purchased by Muni Venkatappa, a building contractor, in 1937, for a hotel business. Not finding the going easy, he offered it on rent in 1938 to K. Krishna Rao (1898-1990).

Krishna Rao had worked as a dishwasher, waiter and flour-grinder before he got his big break, when he was asked to manage a restaurant on Acharappan Street in George Town. Having made a success of it, he struck out on his own and set up Madras’s first Udipi hotel, ‘The Udipi Sri Krishna Vilas’ on Mount Road in 1926/27.

He leased the Royapettah property and established the eponymous Woodlands Hotel here, the first of what is now an immensely popular worldwide chain. The hotel had 45 rooms at a rent of Rs. 5 a day. Krishna Rao would himself solicit guests by waiting at Central Station! The Music Academy’s annual conference in 1938 was held here under the leadership of Ariyakkudi Ramanuja Iyengar, which proved a strong advertisement for the hotel. It became the place where the glamorous stars of the 1940s – M.K. Thyagaraja Bhagavatar, N.C. Vasanthakokilam and others-stayed. The War years brought difficulties, including the crashing of a light plane in the garden! In 1947, Rajaji hosted a tea party on the lawns here to celebrate India’s independence.

In 1952, Krishna Rao moved Woodlands Hotel to Edward Elliot’s (Dr. Radhakrishnan) Road, where it became the New Woodlands Hotel, to ­distinguish it from the old at Royapettah, which continued as a hotel. Despite the outstanding success of the former, the latter remained popular as a venue and, in 1959, it was from here that Rajaji launched his Swatantra Party. The place was also a favourite location for photo and film shoots.

In 1966, Woodlands, and especially room number 32, shot briefly into ­notoriety. 750 bars of gold were discovered under the mattress following a tip off. The consignment had been brought by car from Bombay and was hidden here by a guest who, having locked the room, went off to the Dasaprakash Hotel to stay. Investigations led to the arrest and trial of Kotumal Bhirumal Pihlajani and several others. In its time, it was a sensational instance of gold smuggling.

Till the mid-1970s, Woodlands continued to remain one of the well-known hotels of the city. It then went into a decline. The property itself now houses a hotel and a theatre under different managements and both share its name. The hotel building, with a portico that was probably added later, is of the typical Madras roof type. It has some fascinating and beautifully maintained period furniture and fittings. A few plaster statues adorn the vast gardens. Apart from the cheap lodgings it provided, the hotel was till recently known for its lunches, which were of the traditional South Indian variety.

Other Lost/Losing/Surviving Landmarks of Chennai

The Oceanic Hotel

My Ladyes Garden

Connemara Hotel

The Airlines Hotel

Everest Hotel

Modern Cafe


The Eastern and Western Castlets

The Madras Bulwark

Tambrahm wedding, in Washington

July 18, 2014
A recent edition of Washingtonil Tirumanam

A recent edition of Washingtonil Tirumanam

A golden wedding anniversary had passed silently by and nobody noticed. I allude to that of Rukmini and Rajagopalan, which took place, as I see from the invitation card, on April 29, 1963. I am assuming that the couple had a happy married life and were still around to celebrate the 50 anniversary of tying the knot.

What is all this you ask. And what is so unusual about a Tambrahm wedding that happened 51 years ago? Well, in the first place, it took place in Washington, a rather unusual location for those times. And secondly, considering that it took place in an era when media was in its infancy and the Internet was something that the army used, thousands of Tamils followed the build up to the actual event with bated breath all across the world.

Those belonging to that era would have caught my drift. Those who came in later will need explanatory notes and here they are – it was in 1963 that the well-known Tamil writer, humourist and editor of the magazine Dinamani Kadir, Sa Viswanathan (Saavi) embarked on his entirely fictitious account of a Tambrahm wedding in Washington, courtesy the wealthy Mrs. Rockefeller.

The plot in brief is like this – the well-to-do Hopes family based out of New York is extremely close to the Murthy family, whose head works for the UNESCO. From Vasantha, the Murthy daughter, Loretta, the Hopes child, hears about the wonders of India. When Vasantha gets married in Thanjavur, the Hopes come down and participate in a full-length wedding.

Back in the US, the Hopes brief Mrs Rockefeller about the wondrous Tambrahm wedding and she is keen to see one; not by herself but in the company of all her family and friends. She therefore, using the good offices of Murthy, selects a South Indian couple who are to be married in Madras, to come over the US. They are of course accompanied by their respective clans, an assortment of cooks, priests, musicians (Ariyakkudi, Lalgudi and Palghat Mani Iyer) and nagaswaram artistes, countless other service providers and above all, a battalion of Mamis who are brought in to make appalams.

What follows is a grand wedding at R Street, Washington DC. Wielding a facile pen, Saavi created a hilarious account of how a Brahmin wedding is organised, contrasting it with the wonderment of the Americans. As you read it, you also get the feeling that Saavi was laughing at us. The story when serialised, was accompanied by the sketches of veteran Gopulu, making for a big hit. Alliance Publishers later released it as a book, which is still in print.

Washingtonil Tirumanam became a successful play, staged by every sabha in the city. Making his theatrical debut in it was Poornam Viswanathan. The highlight was the audience participating in the traditional procession accompanying the bridegroom, conducted every evening around the venue.

51 years later, Washingtonil Tirumanam remains evergreen – a testimony to Saavi, and our weddings that keep getting bigger.

This article appeared in The Hindu dated July 19, 2014, under the Hidden Histories column

From Chintadripet to the CIA!

July 11, 2014
Zion Church, Chintadripet

Zion Church, Chintadripet

Zion Church in Chintadripet is probably the only shrine in our city that owes its existence to the Americans. It was established by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM), the first Christian missionary organisation from the USA, set up in 1810.

In 1820, Dr Myron Winslow moved from the USA to Ceylon and began the work of the ABCFM there. In 1836, he came to Madras to establish what would later become known as the Zion Church. He also did pioneering work in creating a Tamil-English lexicon, which he completed by 1856 or so and for which the Harvard University awarded him an honorary doctorate. One of Dr Winslow’s daughters was married to John Welsh Dulles who came from a Presbyterian family of Philadelphia. In 1849, Dulles, ordained as a minister, set sail for Madras, along with his wife. Arriving here, he began spreading the gospel among the natives, the Zion Church being his base. Ill-health forced his return to the USA in 1853 and there he was to write a book based on his stay in our city – Life In India, Or Madras, Neilgherries and Calcutta. Published in 1855 by the American Sunday-School Union of Philadelphia, it is a fascinating work. Accompanied by black and white sketches, it has detailed descriptions of Mount Road, Chintadripet, Town, Mahabalipuram, St Thomas Mount and other localities of the city and is available as a free download from the Internet. By the 1860s, the ABCFM began focusing on Madurai, where it established the American College. The Zion Church was handed over to the Christian Missionary Society. Today it falls under the Church of South India.

Back in America, John W. Dulles continued his work till 1887. His son Allen Macy Dulles carried on the Presbyterian tradition but not so grandsons John Foster and Allen Welsh Dulles, taking as they did after their mother’s family that was into politics and public office. The elder brother served as Secretary of State during Eisenhower’s tenure as President. Cancer cut short his career in 1959. During his tenure in office, his younger brother headed the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the United States. Between them, the brothers advocated a strong stance against communism, which dictated much of Cold War policy including interventions in Iran and Guatemala.

The Kennedy administration however did not take kindly to Allen Welsh Dulles. Following the Bay of Pigs fiasco in 1961, President John F Kennedy (JFK) forced him to resign, a day after he had awarded him the National Security Medal! More irony was to follow in 1963, when following JFK’s assassination President Lyndon B. Johnson inducted Allen Dulles into the Warren Commission that investigated the murder. Dulles’ appointment, given that Kennedy did not like him, came in for criticism and much of the botched up nature of the eventual report of the Warren Commission was indirectly attributed to Dulles.

Standing at the Zion Church, who would think of its link to the CIA?

This article appeared in The Hindu dated July 12, 2014, under the Hidden Histories column.

The Cosmopolitan Club – a brief history

July 9, 2014
A photo of the Cosmopolitan Club, taken in 1956

A photo of the Cosmopolitan Club, taken in 1956

Strategically located on Mount Road, the Cosmopolitan Club is one of the landmarks of the city. Founded in 1873, it was meant to be a place where Indians and the English could meet on an equal footing unlike the earlier clubs, such as the Madras Club and the Madras Cricket Club, that were only for the whites. The Club was initially at Moore’s Gardens, Nungambakkam, and moved to its present location in 1882.

Set in a compound filled with trees, the club building is two-storeyed and is a traditional brick and lime structure. The portico spreads into a verandah that goes all around the building. The best feature of the place is the lobby that is accessed from the verandah. Lined with the best timber of the times, it ends in fluted Corinthian columns that frame a wooden staircase. The first landing has an alcove that hosts a bust of Sir C.V. Kumaraswami Sastry, Justice of the High Court of Madras. The first floor is noteworthy for its wooden-floored hall, a card room and a grand library.

W.S. Krishnaswami Nayudu, Justice of the High Court of Madras in the 1950s, has in his memoirs given us some details of the early days of the Club. Formed on July 27, 1873, the first meeting was presided over by H.S. Cunningham, Advocate-General of the High Court of Madras. He became the first Vice- President, when its President was Justice Holloway. The first Secretary was Captain Tyrell. The Club began with 40 members.

The present property is said to have been the site of Simpson’s, coach-builders, or of Thomas Waller’s stables. It was bought by the Club through the good offices of Haji Muhammad Abdul Sahib for Rs.17,000. The purchase was funded through the issue of debentures to members.

Though it was meant to be a mixed club, the European element left by 1890. It had always been the convention of the Club to have a retired Judge or Government official as its President. This was first broken in 1882 itself when Mir Humayun Jah Bahadur, a grandson of Tippu Sultan, became President. In later years, other notables, such as Raja Sir Savalai Ramaswami Mudaliar and Sir Pitty Theagaroya Chetty, have also been Presidents. The convention of Judges or Officers becoming Presidents has been given up in recent times.

The Club played an important role in the formation of the Justice Party, its founder, Dr. T.M. Nair being noticed by the social elite of the city only after he became a member. It is, therefore, in a way the birthplace of the Dravidian politics of today. During the early years, it was also home to the Egmore lobby of lawyers of the High Court, as opposed to the Mylapore lobby. The Club’s platinum jubilee in 1954 was a grand affair, with Justice A.S.P. Ayyar presiding and W.S. Krishnaswami Nayudu preparing the souvenir on behalf of a committee.

It is one of the most popular clubs of the city, known for its South Indian cuisine and its facilities.

King Thebaw’s transit stop

July 7, 2014

Moores Road

“The Lord of the Universe is being marched down to his ship and this letter will have the honour of travelling with him as far as Rangoon,” – thus ran the communication dated November 29, 1885, from Col Agnew to Mountstuart Elphinstone Grant-Duff, Governor of Madras. By the Lord of the Universe he meant King Thebaw who had been defeated by the British and was being exiled to India.

The royal party arrived in Madras on December 15, 1885. “Received from Col. Le Mesurier, Commanding 2 Liverpool Regiment, the person of the prisoner King Thebaw of Mandalay, Upper Burma” – this was the acknowledgment from W Wilson, Acting Chief Secretary, Madras. Grant-Duff would have liked to sign the letter. “Fancy missing the chance of giving a receipt for a king” he was to write to a friend. The Governor’s Council met in the afternoon when a slip of paper was delivered. On it was written in pencil the passenger manifest:

1 King

2 Queens

2 ‘Dauters’

13 Maids of Honour, etc.

The deposed king and his family were handed over to the custody of Col. Cox of the Madras Police. The city was no stranger to ex-royals. It had once been considered suitable for Napoleon before his victors decided on St Helena. The sons of Tipu Sultan were brought here as hostages. In the 1870s, the Gaekwar of Baroda was exiled to Doveton House in Nungambakkam, now home to the Women’s Christian College. Arrangements were therefore made to house Thebaw, his imperious, cheroot smoking wife Supayalat, and the rest of the retinue in a three-storied residence called The Mansion. It belonged to Raja Sir Goday Narayana Gajapati Row, the philanthropist and British-supporting Zamindar of Anakapalle. It was he who sponsored the statue of Queen Victoria that stands outside the Senate House.

On March 7, 1886, Queen Supayalat gave birth to her third daughter at The Mansion. Christened Ashin Hteik Su Mat Phaya, she was referred to as the Madarasu Phaya (Madras Princess) till her death in 1962. The Thebaws were shifted to Ratnagiri in Bombay Presidency in April 1886.

To readers of Amitava Ghosh’s The Glass Palace, the exact location of The Mansion has been a mystery. HD Love’s Vestiges of Old Madras places it in Nungambakkam next to Moores Garden, now Moores Road. Old maps put it at the intersection of Greams and Moores Roads. It was first the residence of HS Graeme in the 1820s and the road that led to it is still known as Graeme’s or Greams Road. The house was to be in the limelight once again in 1911 when it was the scene of the trial following the shooting of Sub Collector Ashe at the Maniyacchi Junction. Security constraints led to the hearings being held at The Mansion, which was then the residence of Justice Wallis of the High Court of Madras. It is a pity there is no marker for such a historic home of which no trace no survives.

This article appeared in The Hindu under the Hidden Histories column on July 5, 2014

The Whitechapel Foundry connect

June 30, 2014
One of the bells in the Armenian Church

One of the bells in the Armenian Church

The Armenian Church standing on the eponymous street is one of my favourite locations in the city. Its solidly-built walls, quiet nooks and stately interiors fill me with a sense of peace that cannot be matched. Lovingly tended by the Armenian community in Calcutta and by the local caretaker Mr Alexander, it ought to be on every resident and tourist’s visit itinerary.

Leaving that aside, it was while walking around it with a group of Americans last week that I recalled that the heritage structure has its (albeit tenuous) links with the US of A. This concerns the bells of the church, which are housed in an independent three-storied tower, on the southern side of the yard. They are accessed via a three-century-old staircase by the more physically fit and brave. The church authorities restrict entry to the tower – a sensible precaution given the age of the staircase. The ground floor of the tower has three tombs all with the same carvings on the headstone. The inscriptions are in Armenian but they probably were members of the family that funded the tower. The belief is strengthened by the fact that the same motif as the headstones – winged angels, is repeated on all floors of the belfry.

The bells are rung every Sunday at 9.30 am. Said to be the largest in the city, there are six of them, donated at different times to the church, each weighing around 25 kgs. All of them were cast at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry of London. The company, founded in 1570, moved into its present premises in 1739 and continues in the same business. Talk about focus!

Given that all the bells in the Armenian Church bear the stamp of Thomas Mears, it indicates that they were all cast between 1787 and 1844, when two men of that name, probably father and son, were master founders with the company. It is of interest to note that the same company cast the bells for St Pauls Cathedral and Westminster Abbey in London, besides several other churches in England and the Big Ben in the Houses of Parliament in London.

Now for the American connect. The Liberty bell of Pennsylvania is one of the treasured heritage possessions of the USA. Commissioned in 1751, it was cast at the same Whitechapel Foundry and shipped to Philadelphia where it hung in the steeple of the Pennsylvania State House. It cracked even during its first ring and had to be recast twice locally before it could be used properly. A second and more lasting crack in 1835 ended its career as a ringing bell but it has remained a tourist attraction. Scaled down models of it, crack and all, remain popular souvenirs across the country. Our own ‘Belfry Six’ as the set of bells in the Armenian Church are referred to, have thankfully remained crack-free.

I wonder if any other church in our city has bells cast by the same company.

This article appeared in The Hindu dated June 28, 2014, under the Hidden Histories column.

Slayer of Smallpox

June 20, 2014
Dr Ayyagari Ramachandra Rao

Dr Ayyagari Ramachandra Rao

Summer may pack in a whole host of problems but we must be thankful that smallpox is no longer one of them. Right till the 1960s, despite rigorous vaccination campaigns, this deadly illness would repeatedly strike at Chennai’s populace during summer, killing several and leaving many others scarred or blinded for life. The credit for its eradication goes largely to the Communicable Diseases Hospital (CDH) run by the Corporation of Madras at Tondiarpet and to Dr Ayyagari Ramachandra Rao, who was its first Superintendent between 1959 and 1964.

Dr Rao, who was with the Health Department of the Corporation, had a long stint with the CDH, which, in his time, was known as the Infectious Diseases Hospital. By the time he rose to be its Superintendent, he, according to his own account, had handled over 30,000 cases of smallpox. Under his guidance, a smallpox virus laboratory was set up at the CDH, which soon began attracting research scholars from across the world.

Between 1952 and 1960, the lab and the CDH under Dr Rao, played an important role in assisting Dr Henry Kempe of the University of California in developing a more effective vaccine against smallpox. Dr Kempe was nominated for the Nobel Prize for this.

Back at the CDH, Dr Rao put the new serum to good use. By a study of the past records at the CDH, he arrived at the conclusion that smallpox occurred in three-year cycles, the first year being the most virulent. Having seen an outbreak in 1960, he prepared himself for 1963. His first step was simple – he insisted that any patient being admitted to the CDH, irrespective of the disease he or she was suffering from, had to be compulsorily vaccinated for smallpox. This prevented the infection spreading from smallpox patients to others in the campus.

The second step was revolutionary and controversial. World over, it was the considered opinion of experts that smallpox vaccine was ineffective in protecting infants. Dr Rao differed and insisted that any baby being delivered in a Government hospital in the city be vaccinated. Promoted as Assistant Health Officer and later Chief Health Officer of the Corporation, Dr Rao was able to carry on his campaign throughout the city. Children between the ages of one and three were also compulsorily vaccinated. The results were amazing. The number of cases of smallpox among infants in 1964 was practically non-existent. By one of those interesting coincidences, it was exactly 200 years after Dr Edward Jenner’s discovery of vaccination for smallpox. There were no epidemics thereafter in the city.

His work received international acclaim and Dr Rao became an advisor to the WHO, travelling extensively across the world to help fight smallpox. In 1972, he wrote a detailed account of his experiences. By 1979, thanks to people like him, the WHO declared smallpox an illness of the past. This year marks the 50 anniversary of Dr Rao’s and the CDH’s first success in Madras.

This article appeared in The Hindu dated June 21, 2014, under the Hidden Histories column.

When football came to Madras

June 20, 2014

With the FIFA World Cup fever raging, most people in Chennai appear to have switched to being awake during nights. The lucky ones manage to sleep through the day and the others go about their work like zombies. Who would have thought namma Chennai would respond like this?

It is rather appropriate that the birthplace of football in the city is also awakening from a long hibernation. I allude to the Madras Gymkhana Club, which is coming back to normal after a strike. In 1895, The Sketch, a Journal of Art and Actuality published in England noted that football was making rapid progress in Madras despite being practically non-existent till a couple of years earlier. “Last year, a few ardent devotees came together and decided to make a start. The game found support at once, and when, at the General Meeting of the Gymkhana Club a request was made for a Tournament Cup to be played under certain conditions, a uniform consent was accorded,” it said, thereby dating the advent of football in our city to 1894. The Gymkhana Club, founded nine years earlier, may be more of a social club today but in its youth was very much the place for all kinds of sports barring cricket, which of course had its home on the other side of the Cooum.

The first tournament in the city was held in 1894 itself with 10 teams from all over the country participating. The list of members of the Gymkhana Club who played a match in that tournament against the 5th Field Battery of the Royal Artillery is still available in full. From 1895, the Gymkhana Club hosted an annual tournament, which became a fixture, the winning team getting the EK Chetty Cup. The Governor of Madras was an honoured invitee to the finals, Lord Willingdon, being a particularly committed patron between 1919 and 1924.

By then, Indians had begun to take to football elsewhere in the city. The South Indian Athletic Association instituted the Jatprole Cup tournament. The EK Chetty Cup of the Gymkhana Club regularly went to regimental teams until 1933 when the Pachaiyappa High School became the first Indian and non-military team to win it. Another powerful contender was the Minerva Club. The Gymkhana Club fielded all-European teams till 1940, when for the first time an Indian — S.K. Swaminathan — played for the club.

In 1934, the Madras Football Association (MFA) was formed thanks to the Madras United Club, a body founded by sport-loving Indians and now a mere shell of its former self. Other clubs of the city, including the Gymkhana Club, became members of the MFA, which began conducting First Division League Football matches from 1936, the Second Division beginning in 1937. In 1972, the MFA became the Tamil Nadu Football Association.

The Gymkhana Club also brought rugby to the city and in 1914, that exhaustive work Southern India, Its History, People, Commerce and Industrial Resources by Somerset Playne noted that the club’s 15-member team regularly travelled to Calcutta and Bombay, winning cups everywhere. Arriving in Madras in January 1929 as a young covenanted officer of Best & Co, R.M. King, was summoned to meet the director of the firm — Sir Robert Denniston. He was quite apprehensive as to what it was all about only to be told to sign up as a member of the Gymkhana Club immediately. The club had to play a rugby match against a team from a visiting ship — HMS Emerald, and was one man short! King left his impress on Madras sports and in business, for he rose to become a director at Best.

The Second World War ended the Gymkhana Club’s interest in football and allied sports. With several playing members opting to fight at the front and never returning thereafter, the Club last hosted its football tournament in 1941. But it ensured an everlasting legacy — our city’s love for the game.

The Madras Gymkhana Club Team that played on January 9, 1894

Goal – WF Pelly

Backs- J. Hunter and A. Corben

Half Backs – E.F. Freeland, A. Smith and A.W. Clark Kennedy

Right Wing – R.E. Firth and J.A. Douglas

Centre – A.H. Wellman

Left Wing – E.R. Ross and A.R. Nethersole

This article appeared in the Metroplus supplement of The Hindu dated June 20, 2014.

Lost Landmarks of Chennai – The Hotel Oceanic

June 19, 2014
The Hotel Oceanic

The Hotel Oceanic

Think ‘Oceanic’ and it conjures up memories of the 1950s – an empty San Thomé High Road, a pristine Adyar creek teeming with bird life, an art-deco hotel standing at the edge – a world-class facility where visiting international cricket teams were hosted. Today, all that remains is an empty plot of land, fronted by a crumbling welcome arch over which can still be seen some of the letters that once spelt the hotel’s name.

The property itself, originally five to six acres, goes back to probably the 19th Century. Certainly, when lawyer K.R. Shenai bought it in 1917, it had already had an old garden bungalow in its Southwest corner. The evacuation of Madras in 1942 led Shenai to sell his landholdings, and the part fronting San Thomé High Road was purchased by M.S. Ramaswami Chettiar of Mahalakshmi Films.

Chettiar built two hotels on the premises – the ‘Oceanic’ and the ‘Ratnagar’. Completed in 1954 or thereabouts, the Oceanic in particular was known to be one of the best hotels in India, “equipped with linen, crockery, cutlery, refrigerators, air-conditioners, cooking ranges, electric fans, ice-cream machines, ice-making machinery, light fittings and other moveable and also with tools, implements, lawn mowers, equipments, kitchen and other utensils” to quote from a record in the 1960s. In addition it had a shopping gallery where some of Madras’ best known retailers set up outlets. By 1959, the Oceanic started attracting high class tourists – being only one of three hotels in the city to offer air-conditioned rooms must have helped. “Luxurious Oceanic, a most popular hotel of Madras, situated on the sea shore, all single and double rooms air-conditioned,” ran an ad in 1958.

Chettiar died in 1964, but five years prior to that, for reasons best known to him, he leased out both the hotels to R. Kapanipathi Rao, who at that time was running Noel’s, a well-known restaurant on Mount Road. The lease was renewed in 1965 by Chettiar’s son Meyyappan and continued to run till 1970. But by then, the Oceanic was no longer what it was. The fact that lessor and lessee were fighting each other in the Court did not help. In 1973, Kapanipathi Rao, following a High Court judgement, was asked to hand over the property to Meyyappan.

The hotel could have survived had an urban land ceiling case not been filed against the owners during which period it finally shut down. The trial went on till 1993 when judgement went in favour of the owners. There was then talk of the Taj Group of hotels taking over the hotel and reviving it, keeping the art deco main block intact. But that was not to be. The owners demolished the structure early this century and there was talk of an IT Park coming up there. The site remains vacant as on date.

Other lost or vanishing or old landmarks of Chennai -

My Ladyes Garden

Connemara Hotel

The Airlines Hotel

Everest Hotel

Modern Cafe


The Eastern and Western Castlets

The Madras Bulwark

An app to track our city’s heritage

June 18, 2014
An app to track Chennai's heritage

An app to track Chennai’s heritage

Our city, founded in 1639 as a small piece of no man’s land, has grown into a vast metropolis. Any space that grows over the years and keeps adding to its population makes history almost every minute of its existence. Dotted about Chennai are several historic buildings, parks, entertainment spaces, streets and homes that have a tale to tell. Unfortunately with the pressure of urban growth and modernisation, these stand in danger of being forgotten. The application Past Forward is an attempt to create a virtual space for Chennai’s past and its vibrant heritage.

Put together by well-known writer and historian Sriram V, and developed by Broadgate Technical Services (India) Pvt Limited which is into the mobile application development space (, it helps you identify various heritage spots and learn the story behind them as you go walking or driving around Madras that is Chennai. You simply need to locate a structure or space that intrigues you and check if this app has its tale. In case it does not, we encourage you to send us a photograph of the location and we will see that it is soon up on our app, with details of its past. The application is currently available in two versions – for Android and Apple phones.

This is just the beginning. By registering on our app, you will receive articles on various aspects of Chennai, on a regular basis. We are also planning to offer other features as we go along.

In the meanwhile, happy heritage hunting @

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