Friday, August 27, 2010

இன்று கண்ட வண்டி வாசகம் . . . அம்பத்தூரில்

சாலையை பார்த்தால் சமத்து
சேலையை பார்த்தால் விபத்து

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Talk on Fort St.George -- Dr.Satyabhama Badhreenath

Venue : Vennirul Art Gallery, C.P.Art Centre

Speaker : Dr.Satyabhama Badhreenath, Superintending Archaeologist, ASI, Chennai Circle

On : Saturday 21/Aug/2010

On the occasion of Madras Day 2010, this inaugural lecture on Fort St.George was accompanied with an exhibition of prints, aquatints, etchings and engravings from the collections of Mr.V.Narayan Swami and the Foundation.

This is the gist of her talk consolidated from my notes. As usual, if you notice factual errors and mistakes
please blame it on me.

In the quest to find good quality muslin cloth, English East India Company looked at several places on the East coast -- Machilipatinam was their first option but the Dutch traders had a thriving trade already established with the locals, so, their search began again. Through local connections, the Nayak at Poonamallee ceded a strip of land opposite the shore to Francis Day and Andrew Cogan. Interestingly this was their first acquired territory in India which served to be the 'very bounce of the empire'.

Fort House was one of the first buildings but it had to be reconstructed after being hit by a storm. Fortification wall and many other structures were added over a period of time. In the initial years, the company allowed people of various nationalities to reside inside the fort and conduct trading activities - this included, Portugese, Armenians.

Dutch movements triggered the English instincts to upgrade military preparedness inside the fort -- defensive architecture, unhindered supply of water, food and other essentials to manage eventualities, and ramparts, fortification walls were some of the focus areas.

Dr.Satyabhama Badreenath lecturing on Fort St.George


Some of the famous personalities associated with the fort -- Robert Clive, Arthur Wellesly amongst others. Next to Clive's House the company had given a place to Nawab of Arcot but he was then moved out (that's how Chepauk Palace came to be).

King's Barracks is one of the earliest barracks in India, was constructed in 1755 and is about 1,00,000 square meters. It is a very simple building with big columns and large verandas that facilitate cross-ventilation. First floor was used by the company authorities while the ground floor was used for storage needs.

Flag mast inside the fort is one of the tallest in India, it is made from the hull of a ship that wrecked near the coast of Madras. [ Note from Mr.K.R.A.Narasiah: This was possibly constructed during Yale's times, it was originally on the south eastern side and that wrecked ship could have been 'Royal Adventure'].

As part of the talk, she shared a set of slides with the audience (hall was almost full except for one or two empty chairs) and spoke about some of the restoration efforts carried out to repair the area underneath the flag mast, Banqueting Hall in Clive's House, Chaplain's House, and one of the earliest houses inside the fort where the work is in progress. For the ASI, this is really a challenging task with the available resources because these structures deserve continual attention and care.

Fort exchange building, now housing the Fort Museum, is an interesting piece of heritage structure. In the initial years (this is in the starting years of English East India Company) this building was used for auctions. In view of the business requirements, for better acoustics the
ceiling was designed with grid patterns that look like virtual prisms. Showing an image (scanned from a book) of a tea auction house where the auction would be at the top floor of the building while the bids were conducted from the ground floor. She said fort exchange interior is modeled on such auction houses. Very interesting indeed.

Thanks to Dr.Satyabhama Badhreenath for sharing her knowledge on the fort. It would have been really good if there had been more youngsters in the audience. As usual CPR staff were courteous, guests were served coffee, photo exhibition on old Madras was really well done.

Really wonderful morning session, Thanks to Madras Day.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Reminiscences from the Fort St.George Walk

It could have been better ... Attended four talks but missed many more that were scheduled as part of Madras Day 2010 -- couple of them by Pradeep, all the talks at RMRL. Except for one, couldn't take notes in the rest of the talks. So, if you notice errors / omissions / deficiencies / mistakes blame it on me but NOT the speakers.

Starting with the Fort where it all started ... A walk inside Fort St.George followed by a talk on the same subject. Walk was led by Vincent D'Souza and the talk was by Dr.Satyabama Badreenath because both were on the same day, in the morning of
Saturday Aug/21/2010. Well, I couldn't have asked for more, its all etched in my memory forever.

That's Vincent D'Souza (in the black tee and yellow cap)

On a pleasant Saturday morning, after much waiting at the gates (Courtesy: Chennai City Police) we stepped in to the Fort -- group was about 15 in size. Part of the group was an elderly citizen and few kids with their parents. Cornwallis cupola, Fort exchange building (now serving as museum), Fort house (one of the earliest houses in the campus), Army Parade ground, St.Mary's Church, Former Town Hall, Admiralty House, Madras Arsenal, Moat (could see trains in the Fort Railway station), King's Barracks were some of the landmarks covered in the walk; Vincent would tell us the significance about each of them while some of us listened, some took notes / snaps.

Some interesting notes:

Old street names have been retained and the names are put up in legible big letters -- some of the names are York street, Gloucester street, Middle street, Inner street, Charles & James street, Choultry street.

Tombstones inside St.Mary's Church are worth documenting. There is a tombstone for Sir Thomas Munro and so many more.


Former town hall is now Army recruiting zone and Hospital.

Next to the Fort House is the York street. Vincent prompted to bend and sit on our knees to see the arch that led straight to the blacktown of olden days.

Admiralty House built by an Armenian is named Clive's Corner -- as soon as you enter this compound, just raise your neck to see a round plaque which reads "Robert 1st Lord Clive lived in this building in the year 1753 truly great in arms and in council". A portion of this building is now occupied by the local ASI office.

King's Barracks, one of the largest in Asia, is now used for storing provisions (cartons after cartons after cartons) to meet the local army and navy requirements.

Behind the King's Barracks is the Queen's Barracks.

King's Barracks


Fort Museum is open from 8am to 5pm (these are the current timings) and is a must visit for anyone interested in heritage, history.

Thanks to Vincent's persistence, we made it to the Fort St.George and it was worth traveling from Nerkunram to Fort -- I joined the group at 7:10am delayed because of traffic diversion near Ripon Building, took detour via Basin Bridge.

Tidbits:

Part of the group were two foreign citizens.

Opposite the Fort museum is placed guns captured by the British from various campaigns.

Many old buildings inside the fort are in dilapidated condition. One hopes the powers-that-be shows interest in their restoration and put them back to sensible use.

Name plates installed on the base holding the guns can be hardly read.

Below you will see the picture of a plaque
(erected in 1968) that commemorate's the 250th anniversary of the naming of Yale College.

Plaque commemorating the 250th anniversary of Yale College