September 24, 2017

The Madras Temple which witnessed Communal Violence

If you are from George Town/Sowcarpet area of Madras, you would have definitely noticed this temple, if not entered inside. This temple of Ganesha called as Varasiddhi Vinayakar is a very small temple, located at the junction of NSC Bose Road and Devaraja Mudali Street. Except for Lord Ganesha and a small prakara around the shrine, the temple has no other idol. But, not many know that this temple has a 300 years old history.

(I am quoting few historical details based on the book "Vestiages of Old Madras" written by H.D.Love and another book called "Madras in the Old Time" by Talboys Wheeler).

Ever since the city of Madras was founded, there had been tensions between the left hand Chetti community and right hand Komati community. The Governor, Thomas Pitt settled the dispute through an agreement in 1708 CE. However, a fresh community dispute broke out in 1716 CE. According to Chettis, the Komatis upsurped several titles that belonged to Chettis and also they performed some ceremonies in front of the icon that belong to Chettis. It was complained by the representative of Chettis, Collaway Chetti on 18th October. The icon is Chindadry Pillary and the ceremony was Pennagundoo Naggarum (as per the British records - it's a kind of recital of prayers in Sanskrit language).

On 20th December 1716 CE, the matter escalated and the Left Hands Chettis called for the closure of shops. It was followed by full scale riot. The British summoned the heads of both the communities and tried for a pact between them. This meeting which was held on 24th December 1716 CE was not successful. On 7th January 1717 CE, just one day before embarking to Britain, the Governor Harrison ordered that the Komaties could cry out Pennagundoo Naggarum at their houses and on ceremonies, but not before the icon of Ganesh. The matters were still not settled properly. On 8th January 1717 CE, Governor Collet, who had succeeded Harrison, issued an order. As per that, neither community would have any right to recite prayers before shrines of the other caste. He also warned that the icon would be shifted into the Gentoo Pagoda, if the disputes would continue. He further added that no small Pagodas should be constructed without getting Governor's permission to avoid future disputes.

The Gentoo Pagoda mentioned above is Chenna Kesava Perumal Temple, which stood in the current site of High Court. The historian, Mr. Sriram V. has identified Varasiddhi Vinayakar Temple as the Chindadry Pillary Temple. Interestingly, the Ganesh icon never moved to Chenna Kesava Perumal Temple. But that temple was demolished and was rebuilt near this Ganesh temple.

Happy travelling.

September 19, 2017

The 19th century Stationery Store of Chennai

Rajaji Salai is one of the few roads in Chennai which has so many historic buildings. It was called as the First Line Beach and was one of the most important roads of the city in the early 1800s. In 1700s, it was perhaps a beach similar to Marina beach.

The 2nd Baron Clive, the Governor of Madras, decided that the customs department should have its own building outside the St. George Fort. From 1798 CE onwards, the Customs House and a lot of business establishments were started on the left side of the First Line Beach. Thus, the beach was replaced by commercial establishments and port.

A big stationery store was constructed in the early 1800s. Although many of the British period buildings on this road were lost, fortunately this building still survives. The Government Stationery Depot now runs in this lesser known heritage building. The building's entrance is located in Arbut Not Lane.

Arbut Not Lane - Many of the Chennai streets are not spelled correctly. It is Arbuthnot Lane. The lane was named after Arubuthnot & Co. One of the partners of the firm was Sir George Gough Arbuthnot. It was a financial establishment located near this lane. As the bank was hit by major financial crisis in 1906 CE, a lot of Madras citizens lost their hard earned money.

Happy travelling.

Access Card, Burger Prasad and the Air Conditioned Temple

Access card, burger prasad and the air conditioned temple - it's true and I am not kidding. A temple near Chennai offers everything mentioned above. This article focuses on that temple.

Jaya Durga Peetham is a private temple. There was a saint who was called as Jaya Durga Siddhar. His disciples run a trust and also this temple. It is located in Raghavendra Nagar in Padappai, a sub-urb of South Chennai.

You will be required to show your original ID card at the counter and provide your details for registration. Then, you will be given an access card. You could enter and exit the temple only with this. Once you enter into the temple, you would feel as if entering inside an IT company. The temple is very neatly maintained.

Before entering into the temple, you will be given a water bottle. And, before leaving the premises, you need to swipe your card to get Prasad. The temple authorities do not charge for this and there is no Hundi in the temple. However, they have a big laundry list for various sevas and services with the pricing details.

On some special occasions, the temple authorities give burgers and brownies as the prasad. They even send cakes to the nearby regular visitors during their birthdays.

The sanctum enshrines Jaya Durga, the presiding deity. She is found seated on a lion. She has twelve arms and holds discus and conch in her upper arms.

In another shrine, Ucchistha Vinayak is found along with his consort. Interestingly, he holds conch and discus in his upper arms.

Varahi is found in seated posture in a separate shrine. The stucco images of different forms of Varahis are found as the niche images on the walls of this shrine.

The sub-shrine of Hanuman is very interesting. He is found along with his parents. When Vayu is depicted with a traditional deep (light), Anjana is depicted in human form. She does not have vanara face.

Panchakshara Ganesh, Mahamayi and Bhuvaneswari (utsav idols), Dhanvantri, Subramanya-Valli-Devasena, Swarna Akarshana Bhairav with his consort and Raja Karuppar with his consort are some of the other deities who are found in separate sub-shrines.

The samadhi of Swamiji and a Mukha Linga installed on top of it are located in a shrine.

Happy travelling.

Cherappanancheri Veemeeswarar Temple

Around 20 kms from Tambaram, the southern outskirts of Chennai, a small and lesser known village called Cherappanancheri is located. In this village, an ancient Chola period temple called Veemeeswarar Temple is found.

Temple Layout and Structure

Veemeeswarar is a 5.5 feet high Shiv Linga. The Goddess Swarnambikai is also found in the sanctum along with Shiv Linga. She faces the southern direction whereas the Linga faces the eastern direction.

The temple is a Maada Kovil (located on elevated platform). Also, it a Chola style Gajaprshtha (apsidal) temple. Unfortunately, the temple is in the ruins. Few years ago, the temple did not have ceiling. The local villagers collected funds and put an asbestos sheet on top.

The walls around the sanctum are completely damaged. No niche image or any other Parivara murti is found in this temple.

A comparatively new Ganesh temple is located near this ancient temple.

Two Nandis, one behind the other, are found facing towards the sanctum. It is said that the Nandi idol which is seen behind is the original one.

Surya is found on the other side of the road and he faces towards the sanctum. Originally, the sub-shrines of Surya was part of the temple. A road is passing through the shrine and the sanctum now.

Except for Shiv Linga, Nandi and Surya, no other image is found in this temple. Swarnambikai idol was made few years ago and installed. It is not an original idol. In the inscriptions, the Goddess name is mentioned as Swarnambikai. It is believed that the temple had Swarnambikai's idol originally.

The temple has (rather had) three Teerthams. Surya Pushkarani, Brahma Teertham and Vishnu Teertham, the first one on the true left side of the sanctum and the other two ponds behind the idol of Surya.


The temple is a Chola period temple. Historically, the village was called as Rajendra Chola Nallur, Kesari Nallur and Peruvanchur. As per the inscriptions on the walls of the temple, it is said that the temple was renovated by Kulotunga Chola III towards the end of the 12th century CE.


As per the legend, Surya came down to this village and worshiped Shiva during a Ratha Saptami day. All the 27 stars followed him and they also worshiped Shiva in this site. Hence, Shiva was named as Vinmeengal Ishwaran, which diluted as Veemeeswarar.

Happy travelling.

September 15, 2017

The Gymkhana Club

The Gymkhana Club is one of the prestigious clubs of Madras city. It is a popular landmark of the city. It is located on Anna Salai in the Island Grounds locality. It bears the door number 1 of Anna Salai.

The Club was started in April 1884 CE. Brig. General Johnson and Brig. General Alexander Arbuthnot penned the proposal to form this club on the land that belonged to the army. Johnson named the club as Gymkhana and he was one who formulated the rules and objectives of the club.

The membership was initially restricted to the British executives, Garrison members and few selected high profile Indians.

Today, the campus is spread across 7 acres of land. But, originally it just had a tent in the open ground. It all changed after the Raja of Venkatagiri (Muthukrishna Yachendra) donated land and the present building to the club in 1886 CE. The club grew and added more and more games/sports with the generous donations from the South Indian Zamindars (who called themselves as the Rajas).

The club brought football first to the city. The first tournament was held in 1884 CE, the very first year of the club itself. The club also brought rugby to the city in 1914 CE. The club has one of the oldest golf courses in Asia.

The first president of the club was Lt. General C.B.Johnson.  One of the prominent figures, who served as the President of the Club was Sir George Montgomerie John Moore. The famous Moore Market (which was lost in fire) was named after him.

Today, the club has around 4000 members. The elegant British period lime-mortar-brick building stands in the middle. The building has an imposing porch, broader verandahs, beautiful wooden staircases and grand lounge. The different designs of chandeliers are hanging down. The hall displays the portraits/paintings of the Raja of Venkatagiri and other prominent figures. The first floor has the dining hall and the balcony overlooks the green lawns and the swimming pool. This swimming pool is one of the city's first.

The Club offers a lot of facilities that include bar, catering, children's play area, guest house and party hall. The library in the club has massive collection of books. The sports facilities in the Club include cricket, billiards, board games, tennis, swimming, table tennis and golf.

Happy travelling.

P.S. The historical details, names and dates were taken from the articles written by the historian Sriram V and the official website of the Club.

September 14, 2017

Sir Thomas Munro - The Desi Videshi

Sir Thomas Munro - this man was not born in India, but he was truly an Indian by heart.  He was the Governor of Madras Province from 1820 CE to 1827 CE. He was a great reformer and was loved by Indians.

Munro is called as the father of the Ryotwari system. The Zamindari system of Bengal was followed across India. In that system, the Zamindars were given the task of collecting revenues. Munro felt that it was not suitable for South India. He introduced Ryotwari system in which the taxes for agricultural land were directly collected from the land owners. (The land owners were called as Ryots).

In his earlier days, Munro had served in the army and fought against Tipu Sultan and Hyder Ali.

When Munro served as the Collector of Bellary earlier, Sri Raghavendra Swami appeared to him and gave details about the land of Mantralaya Mutt. It should be noted that Swamiji was not alive and had died around 130 years before. This incident is recorded in the Madras Government Gazette.

It is said that Munro was a great devotee of Lord Balaji of Tirupati. He gifted a vessel to the temple, which is used to offer Pongal prasad even today. The vessel is called as Munro Gangalam. He made arrangements for the revenue to flow from a village to the temple so that Pongal prasad would be offered everyday. The tradition is still followed in the temple.

It is said that many of the Indians named their children as Munrolappa in those days.

Munro died of cholera on 6th July 1827 CE. He was buried at Gooty in Andhra Pradesh. The Governor's Council in Madras decided to have a bronze statue of Munro. Francis Chantrey, the English sculptor, was entrusted with the task of making the statue. The work began in 1828 CE and the sculptor took more than ten years to complete the task. The magnificent Munro statue which is weighing about six tonnes was ultimately brought to India and was opened to public view on 23rd October 1839 CE. Holiday was declared on that day. The public gathered in large number on this occasion and offered their love and respect to their beloved leader.

The Munro Statue is located in Anna Salai in the Island area. This magnificent statue attracts a lot of visitors and has found a permanent place in the itinerary of Chennai travel right from the 19th century CE.

The statue has Munro seated on a horse without saddle and stirrup. Due to this, this statue has been criticized a lot. Even the way how Munro has placed his sword on his foot has been made fun of. Nevertheless, this remains a major landmark of the original Madras.

Happy travelling.

September 12, 2017

Armenian Cemetery - The Madras Unknown

The association of Armenians with India is very old. Arguably, the Armenians are believed to have come to India as part of the forces under Alexander.

The Armenians have trading relationships with various parts of India for several centuries and hence they had their settlements all over India. It is believed that the Armenians settled in Madras probably towards the end of the 17th century CE.

The Armenian Street in George Town and the Armenian Church are the well known landmarks of the Armenians in Chennai. However, there is yet another landmark in the city, which is literally unknown. That is the Armenian Cemetery.

The Armenian Cemetery is located on Pallavan Salai. It is hidden inside a slum area near Kendriya Vidyalaya School.

This cemetery was built in 1812 CE. As per the historian Mr. Sriram V., the Armenians petitioned the Government that the cemetery in their church yard was full and a new site was needed in the same year. It was apparently given to them as per their request.

The area is completely encroached. The cemetery is closed and locked with a big grille gate. There are few tombs that are visible from outside. Who all lie there? Any important personality, by any chance? How many tombs are there? Who actually controls this site now? And, how to enter inside? The questions remain unanswered.

Happy travelling.

P.S. My sincere thanks to Mr. Sriram V., who took me to this site, as part of a heritage walk in 2017 CE.

September 11, 2017

Body Guard Mosque

Those who know about the famous Body Guard Muneeswaran Temple of Chennai might not know about the mosque which shares the same name, Body Guard Mosque.

The Body Guard Mosque is located in a slum area right on the banks of the Cooum River. The nearest well known location is Periyar Bridge. The BodyGuard line is located diagonally opposite to the famous Gymkhana Club in Anna Salai.

The site where the Government Hospital is located today had a heritage building earlier. The original building was purchased by the British from the Madra family sometime in the 1750s. Since then, it served as the residence of the Governor till 1947 CE.  (Later it became MLA Hostel.)

When the Governor was staying in this huge residence on the other side of the Cooum River, his bodyguards lived in a lane on the banks of the river. Most of the bodyguards were Muslims. They constructed a mosque on their locality in the late 1800s. Thus, the mosque has been called as the Bodyguard Mosque. The current structure of the mosque was the renovated one in the early 1900s.

The information about the mosque was gathered in the heritage walk lead by the historian Sriram V.

Happy travelling.

September 10, 2017

St. George's Bridge - A heritage bridge of Chennai

If you are from Chennai, you would have definitely traveled via Periyar Bridge, the river bridge which connects Anna Salai of Island Grounds area with the rest of Anna Salai that starts with the Hindu office. Do you know that this bridge which is named after the Dravidian political leader has heritage value?

The East India Company acquired the land that was located in the north west direction of St. George's Fort. They used the land to produce salt. In those days, Madras had a river called Elambore river which has become a part of Buckingham Canal now. The Elambore river and the Cooum river were joined with a channel and thus the land became an island. Later, the land was used for military activities. In order to connect the island with the city, few bridges were built. The bridge which is called as Periyar Bridge is one among them.

It is not known when this bridge was first constructed. The historians believed that the year of construction should be sometime between 1715 CE and 1718 CE. This bridge was built to connect the Island with Triplicane as well as to connect the Fort with St. Thomas Mount. Originally, called as the Triplicane Bridge, it was damaged by floods in 1721 CE. Before completing the repair works, it was damaged again by flood.

In 1746 CE, it appears that the English had brought down the Triplicane bridge when the French army under la Bourdonnais invaded Chennai. In 1805 CE, a new bridge was built in the same location but of a different alignment. It's a beautiful multi arch brick masonry bridge. There are totally eleven arches in this bridge. Now, it was named as St. George's Bridge. For a short period, it was named as Willingdon Bridge. In the late 1970s, the bridge was named after E.V.R.

Happy travelling.

September 9, 2017

Willingdon replaced by Kamaraj

Do you know Freeman Freeman-Thomas? No? Then, have you heard about 1st Marquess of Willingdon? Well, it does ring a bell, right? You must be familiar with Lord Willingdon. Major Freeman Freeman-Thomas was the first one to get the title "Marquess of Willingdon". He later became famous in the name of Lord Willingdon. He served as the Governor General of India between 1931 CE and 1936 CE. Before that, between 1919 CE and 1924 CE, he served as the Governor of Madras.

The pedestal in front of the entrance of the Gymkhana Club near Pallavan Salai in Chennai had the statue of Lord Willingdon for many years. In connection with the centenary celebration of the Independence struggle, the Madras Government moved this statue to Fort Museum. It was removed on 12th August 1957 CE.

In the same location, now we have the statue of K.Kamaraj, who served as the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu state.

What is so special about this statue? It was unveiled in 1961 CE. Yes, it was unveiled when Kamaraj was alive and was ruling the state. He allowed his own statue to be erected in his own capital city.

On 9th October 1961 CE, Jawaharlal Nehru, the then Prime Minister of India, unveiled the statue of Kamaraj as per the request from the Chennai Corporation. Nehru mentioned that he had made an exception to his policy of not unveiling statues of living person because Kamaraj was an unusual type of leader.

Happy travelling.

September 6, 2017

Amir Mahal

As I had written earlier in the blog post about Chepauk Palace, not many citizens of Chennai know that there are palaces in the city. Amir Mahal is one of the important palaces with heritage value. It is located in Royapettah locality. It is the residence of Prince of Arcot and his family members.

Brief History of Carnatic Nawabs

As a reward to the victory in the battle against the Marathas, the Mughal Emperor Aurangazeb appointed Zulfikhar Ali Khan as the first Nawab of Carnatic in 1692 CE. Thus, an important era in South Indian history started. The Nawabs are also referred as the Nawabs of Arcot, as they initially had their capital at Arcot. The province which was roughly extended from Krishna river to Kaveri river had accepted the supremacy of Nizam of Hyderabad.

The first Carnatic Nawab was on the throne till 1703 CE. He was succeeded by six Nawabs. The eighth Nawab was Muhammad Ali Wallajah. In 1765 CE, the Delhi Emperor made him as the independent ruler. Thus, he became the first sovereign ruler of Carnatic. Wallajah built the Chepauk Palace in 1768 CE.

The tenth Nawab was Azim-Ud-Daula. The Carnatic Treaty was signed on 26th July 1801 CE during his period. Based on the terms of the treaty, he had to give up the civil and military administration of the Carnatic to the East India Company. Thus, he became the first Titular Nawab of the Carnatic.

Ghulam Muhammad Ghouse Khan was the twelfth and last Nawab of Carnatic. The Nawab created the Muhammadan Public Library and Langar Khana. He died in 1855 CE without male issue.
At this stage, the Doctrine of Lapse of Lord Dalhousiewas applied and his sole legal heir, his paternal uncle Azim Jah, was denied the succession.

Brief History of Princes of Arcot

After the death of the last Nawab of Arcot, Azim Jah had to negotiate hard with Queen Victoria. Ultimately a new title of "The Prince of Arcot" was created in 1867 CE with several privileges and honors. He was made as the first Prince of Arcot.

As the Chepauk Palace was taken over by the Government in 1855 CE, Azim Jah moved to a new palace called Shadi Mahal on Triplicane High Road. Later, as part of settlement with the Prince, the Government decided to give "Amir Mahal" to the Prince in 1870 CE.

Sir Zahir-ud-Daula Bahadur, shifted his residence to Amir Mahal in 1876 CE. Since then, it has become the official residence of the successive Princes of Arcot.
Although the Amir Mahal was constructed in his period, Azim Jah did not move there. His successor,

The current Prince of Arcot, Mohammed Abdul Ali, also resides in this historic palace.

Amir Mahal

The Amir Mahal Palace was built by the British in 1798 CE in Royapettah. It was built in Indo Saracenic architectural style. The entire area covered around 14 acres of land.  It was used by the Chief Court of Civil Judicature. In 1870 CE, the Government gave this palace to the Prince of Arcot. As his family did not move there, the Royapettah Police Court functioned there between 1872 and 1875 CE.

In 1876 CE, the structure was renovated and was made as the official residence of the Prince of Arcot and his family. It is said that Robert Chisholm, who was known for the Indo Saracenic style, designed the palace during the renovation.

It is unbelievable to find such a magnificent and iconic structure in the congested Royapettah. The ornamental gateway on the road is a major landmark. The palace is tucked deep inside the compound. The distance between the gateway and the palace is about 300 m. The well laid path to the palace has tree lined up on either sides. The palace is surrounded by spacious lawns. Few cannons are lined up on the true left side of the palace portico.

The Durbar Hall in the first floor displays a lot of rare paintings of former Nawabs. In few of the paintings, the British officers are also found along with the Nawabs. The palanquin, photographs, shields, art materials, rifles and guns are displayed in the ground and first floors. The wooden staircases look elegant and they are so wide. The dining hall in the first floor is very spacious and it could accommodate around 200 people. The size somewhat matches that of a restaurant.

All the floors have beautiful chandeliers of various designs hanging from the ceiling. The floor is completely covered with the costly carpets.

It is said that there are about 80 rooms in this palace. The Prince of Arcot has his own flag hoisted in the front side of his palace.

In the beginning, only 30 royal members lived here. But, now around 600 people including the extended relatives of the Prince of Arcot and his staff live in the palace.

Amir Mahal is an important heritage symbol of the city, which should be part of Chennai heritage itinerary.

Happy travelling.

September 2, 2017

Chepauk Palace

Even those who have not visited Mysore would know that there is a palace located in that city. But, not everyone who lives in Chennai might know that this city also has a palace. Yes, Chennai has palaces. Chepauk Palace is one of the prominent palaces of Chennai. Had it been maintained properly, it would have become one of the heritage symbols of the city. But, the citizens of Chennai had never been lucky to get a Government that cares and respects heritage value of the city. Surrounded by modern day Government buildings, gutted in fire twice, neglected totally and with extremely poor maintenance, the buildings of Chepauk Palace are still there. However, they have lost their original charm. It is unbelievable that it is the same palace which looks majestically beautiful in the pre-independence era photographs.

Let us explore the history, origin, structure and all other details about this site in this article.

Brief History of Carnatic Nawabs

As a reward to the victory in the battle against the Marathas, the Mughal Emperor Aurangazeb appointed Zulfikhar Ali Khan as the first Nawab of Carnatic in 1692 CE. Thus, an important era in South Indian history started. The Nawabs are also referred as the Nawabs of Arcot, as they initially had their capital at Arcot. The province which was roughly extended from Krishna river to Kaveri river had accepted the supremacy of Nizam of Hyderabad.

The first Carnatic Nawab was on the throne till 1703 CE. He was succeeded by six Nawabs. The eighth Nawab was Muhammad Ali Wallajah. He had to struggle a lot in the political battle in his initial years. In 1765 CE, the Delhi Emperor made him as the independent ruler. Thus, he became the first sovereign ruler of Carnatic.

Chepauk Palace

Wallajah built the Chepauk Palace in 1768 CE. Apparently, he requested the British to build his palace inside the fort, which was turned down. Later, it was built in the current location on the banks of the river Cooum. The building, which is known for its red brick and lime mortar, covered an area of around 117 acres from the Cooum River to Pycrofts Road. The palace comprised of two blocks. The southern block is called as Kalas Mahal (also written wrongly as Khalsa Mahal). The northern block is called as Humayun Mahal.

Not many know that this palace is one of the earliest Indo Saracenic style building in the entire nation. The palace lost most of its portions today. The Senate House was built on the site where the artillery park stood once. The bathing pavilion of Nawab became the residence of Governor and then became the University Library.

It was probably designed by a East India Company Engineer, Paul Benfield by name. Although the Carnatic state was annexed by the British in 1801 CE, the Nawab's family was allowed to stay in this palace till 1855 CE. In order to liquidate the debts of the Nawabs, the palace was acquired by the Government.

Kalas Mahal was a two storied structure with two minareted entrances. Humayun Mahal originally had single floor. Robert Chisholm made alteration to the building. He added the first floor with Madras terrace. In 1870 CE, he connected this with Kalas Mahal with a 75 feet tall tower.

M.A. Chidambaram Stadium was part of the palace complex originally. The remains of the arch gate pillars with terracotta reliefs are still found at the entrance of the stadium. Further down on Triplicane High Road, two more remains of the pillars of the arched entrance are found. The relief images of Vishnu Avatars are found on these pillars. (It is said that the palace had three arched entrances.)

The building where the Triplicane Police Station is functioning today was called as Langar Khana. It was a kitchen and dining room for vegetarian food prepared by the Brahmin cooks and was served to the poor.

Happy travelling.

August 21, 2017

Hazrath Syed Badrudin Shaheed Dargah - Chennai

Note: Thanks to Mr. Kombai Anwar, a Chennai based historian. Although I have visited this site and the photographs are mine, the historical details in this post are based on the article written by Anwar in The Hindu newspaper dated 15th June 2017.

Santhome, which has become a part of the current Chennai city, was under the control of the Portuguese in the 17th century CE. In 1646 CE, the Golconda forces under the leadership of Mir Jumla, attacked Santhome.

Syed Shah Badrudin was a soldier of the Golconda cavalry. He climbed up the flag staff and brought down the Portuguese flag. He also replaced it with the flag of Golconda. It is believed that he was attacked from behind by the Portuguese soldiers.  Badrudin was injured very bad. He still managed to travel on his horse back till Pallavaram and at last collapsed there. The legend says that his head was severed and he picked up his fallen head and traveled till Pallavaram.

Badrudin was buried in the site where he collapsed. It is believed that his family members made their home around this spot. Thus, Badrudin became a martyr a.k.a. Shaheed. Soon, a Dargah came up in this site. Later, his mother and brother were buried on his either sides.

Today, we could find three enclosures that are open to the sky. The structures are of typical Bijapur style Indo-Islamic architecture and look very attractive. The big one has the tombs of Badrudin and his family members. His horse and dog were buried in the smaller enclosure.

Happy travelling.

August 18, 2017

Temples of Tiruvanchery

Tiruvanchery is a small village located near Selaiyur in the southern outskirts of Chennai city in Tamil Nadu state of India. There are three small but important temples located in this village. This article covers the complete details about those temples.

Selva Vinayakar Temple

Even today, Tiruvanchery is a remote village without much development. Just imagine how it would have been around 100 years ago. In the beginning of 20th century CE, few strangers spent a night in this village. On the next day early morning, they took away the centuries old idol of Lord Ganesha from the temple in this village with them. Those people were apparently from Mylapore village. Their original objective was not known. Out of fear or due to some unknown reasons, they apparently buried the idol somewhere in Mylapore.

Tiruvanchery temple did not have idol for few years. Then, a villager, in his dream, was directed to this unknown site by a divine voice. Thus, the idol was discovered and reinstalled in the same temple.

This is the legend or history told in Tiruvanchery village for the past 100+ years. This temple, which is called as Selva Vinayakar temple, was extended and consecrated in the beginning of 2017 CE.

The extended temple now enshrines other deities such as Shiv Linga, Parvati, Murugan-Valli-Devasena, Bhairav and Navagraha. Dakshinamurti, Vishnu, Brahma and Durga are found as the niche deities.

Kondanda Ramar Temple

The above mentioned Ganesh temple is located in Selva Vinayakar Street in the village. Hardly within 200-300 meters from that temple, the Kodanda Ramar Temple is located in Kodanda Ramar Street in the same village.

This is comparatively bigger temple. It shares its compound wall with the Tambaram Air Force Station. It is said that the temple of Venu Gopalan was originally located in the site on the other side of the compound wall. In the early 1940s, when Air Force station was called as RAF Station, the British Government ordered the temple to be shifted to the current location in the village. Thus, the temple was moved here in 1940s.

After few years, the temple got extended and Kodanda Ram became the presiding deity. Ram, Sita and Lakshman, very beautiful idols, are found in the sanctum. The original Venu Gopalan along with Rukmini and Bhama also managed to find a small place in the corner of the sanctum.

The temple was renovated and consecrated in 2017 CE. The sub-shrines of Ramanuja and Hanuman were added. Garud is found facing towards the sanctum. The new niche idols of Lakshmi Narasimha, Lakshmi Varaha and Lakshmi Hayagreeva were made and installed in 2017.

Bhajanai Koil

One of the most beautiful bronze images of Krishna all over Chennai is located in Bhajanai Koil, a small village temple, which is located at a distance of 600-700 meters from Vinayakar temple. The 6 feet tall bronze idol of Krishna along with Radha and Rukmini look stunningly beautiful.

The temple complex also enshrines a tall stucco idol of Hanuman.

Happy travelling.

July 24, 2017

Alavattaman Temple - Rajkilpakkam, Chennai

In the border between two village, Rajkilpakkam and Sembakkam, at the southern outskirts of Chennai city, Alavattamman Temple is located.

Alavattam is considered as the Grama devta (village deity). The original temple must be at least 200 years old. The temple walls were built in 1932 as per an inscription. The tower and the front side mandap were later added in the last 20-30 years.

The sanctum enshrines Alavattamman. She has four arms and is found in the sitting posture.

At the entrance, the idols of Ganesh and Kartikeya are found.

The prakara is wide and has few holy trees. The stone representation of Sapta Matas is found in the prakara.

There is a huge tank located outside the temple. It is one of the biggest tanks in this neighborhood.

Happy travelling.

July 23, 2017

Tirumalai Jain Complex

Tirumalai is an ancient Jain center located near Arni town in Tamil Nadu state of India. There are few other places called Tirumalai in South India. The famous Tirupati Tirumala temple and a Murugan hillock temple near Tenkasi are also named as Tirumalai. This Jain center is not to be confused with them. This has no connection with other sites with the similar name.

Tirumalai, which is also called as Arahanthagiri, is located in Tiruvannamali district. Today, we could hardly find Tamil speaking Jains. The Jains in Tamil Nadu state are mostly from Rajasthan or Gujarat states. The marble temples of Jain Tirthankaras that are found all over Tamil Nadu are built by them in the last one or two centuries. However, in the ancient times, Tamil Nadu was full of Jains. In fact, most of the oldest Tamil texts which are available today, were either directly or indirectly related to Jainism. Similar to the granite temples of the Hindus, the Jain temples were also built with grand towers, beautiful vimanas, attractive sculptures and other architectural elements. Not many people in Tamil Nadu realize that such ancient Jain temples exist. Tirumalai is one site where we could find such ancient Jain symbols in large numbers. In the olden days, it was called in different names such as Vaigavur and Srisailapuram. It is believed that the Jain monks lived in the hills of the village right from the 7th century CE. This article would focus on all those ancient Jain sites of Tirumalai village.

Neminath Sculpture

Few group of shrines are located atop the hill and few other temples and caves are located at the foothills.

Climbing up a flight of around 150 steps and few sloppy rocks, we would reach the Neminath shrine. It enshrines the impressive 18 feet tall rock cut carving of Neminath. It is the tallest Jain image in Tamil Nadu state. It is believed to be a Chola period work (12th century CE). (I could not find any record to proove that it was done by the Cholas, though). The sculpture is simple and plain without any ornamentation. The 22nd Jain Tirthankara is found naked and in the standing posture.

Parshvanath Shrine

Further going up, there is a big boulder which reminds us the famous butter ball rock of Mamallapuram, due to its similarity.

A small shrine for Parshvanath is located there. A small stone idol of Parshvanath, the 23rd Jain Tirthankara, is found in the standing posture and a five hooded serpent is upon his head.

The period of the temple is not recorded anywhere, to my knowledge. I believe the idol must be much older than the later period structure of the shrine.

Holy Footprints

Further up on top of the hill, there are three holy footprints (Padams) engraved on the rocks are found. A rare variety of Devaalari tree is found nearby. It has been planted in such a way that the flowers from the tree fall directly on one pair of holy footprints.

It is said that three Jain monks sacrificed their lives without taking food or water on this hill. To commemorate them, the holy footprints of those monks are engraved. There are some later period inscriptions found near the footprints. The one inscriptions was done by ASI in 1930s.

From top of the hills, we could get the aerial view of the entire town and importantly the impressive towers and vimanas of the Jain temples at the foothills.

Vijayanagara Period Jain Temple

A beautiful three tiered tower, a more beautiful three tiered vimana on top of the sanctum, impressive sculptures on the Maha Mandap - all these belong to a Vijayanagara period temple at the foothills. Structure-wise, it looks more impressive that the Kundavai Jinalaya (the Chola period Jain temple) which is located beside this. It must have been built in the 16th century CE. 24 Tirthankaras adorn the vimana, whereas different Jainism related images adorn the tower.

The sanctum enshrines a feet tall lime mortar image of Mahavir, the 24th Tirthankara of Jainism. The Yaksha and Yakshinis are found on his either sides. The backside wall and the ceiling are full of fresco paintings of Jainism images, which were done probably during the Vijayanagara period or later.

Outside the temple tower, there is a small shrine enshrining Panchaparameshti.

The temple has a front side small Maha Mandap. The Chola period inscriptions are also found on the boulders which become part of the temple complex now.

A small stone idol of Mahavira in the sitting posture is found in the Ardhamandap and another idol of Mahavir is found in the Maha Mandap. In the prakara, a serpent stone idol is located.

Kundavai Jinalayam

Behind the temple of Mahavir, the Jain temple called Kundavai Jinalayam is located. It is believed to have been built by Kundavai, the sister of Raja Raja Chola, in the 10th century CE. The presiding deity of the temple is Neminath.

The sanctum enshrines the small stone idol of Neminath. He is found in the seated posture with two disciples on his either sides.

In Ardha Mandap, there is a bigger black marble idol of Neminatha and in Maha Mandap, a small sized white marble idol of Neminath are found. These are all later additions.

In Maha Mandap, there are many beautiful metal idols of Neminatha and few other Tirthankaras and Jain deities are located in a separate shrine.

Brahmadeva, Jwalamalini and few other Tirthankaras are also found in the Mukha Mandap of the temple. The pillars in the Mukha Mandap have some interesting carvings.

Bali peetha and a platform for flag staff or deepa stambha are located facing towards the sanctum.

In the prakara a peetha is insalled to commemorate the Moksha attained by a Jain monk in the beginning of the 20th century CE. He was Shrivatheebha Simha, who wrote Kshetra Sintamani.

Cave Paintings

Few steps from the Kundavai Jinalayam would take us to caves where the Chola period paintings on the ceiling and the Vijayanagara period paintings on the walls are found. Some portions of the cave could be seen only by crawling.

If we lie down on the floor and look at the ceiling of the cave, it appears as if a colorful carpet is hanged atop. On the walls, the paintings of Dwarapalas and other Jain figures are found. In one cave, the big painting depicting Jain Tirthankara in the middle who is surrounded by women, animals and different varieties of celestial beings is found.

The bas-relief of a Tirthankara is found on the top surface of the rock that takes us to the caves. There are few shrines near by which are dedicated to Kooshmandini seated on lion, Bahubali with Brahmi and Sundari, Adinath and Parshvanath with Padmavati. (When I visited the temple, I could not go to these shrines which were closed).

King's Sculpture

In the interior village, there is a statue of a King (probably Nayaka?) with three consorts and another statue of a king surrounded by four maids. The locals call him as Raja Raja Chola, which is funny.


The inscription on a rock near the tower of Vijayanagara period temple tower dates to the 21st year of reign of Raja Raja Chola. It calls the town as Vaigai Malai.

The inscription on top of hill dated in the 11th year of reign of Rajendra Chola gives a long list of countries won by him.

In addition, there are inscriptions of Rajendra Chola (12th year of his reign), Raja Raja Chola (20th year of his reign), Vira Pandya, Rajanarayana Sambuvaraya and few other inscriptions are also found in and around the temples.

Happy travelling.