Sunday, February 5, 2017

History house

There is a house next to the Parthasarathy Temple at Triplicane which has, by a rough estimate, about 500,000 people pass through it on an annual basis. Actually, most of them go through the front room of the house during the ther (chariot) festival at the temple, because the idol of the deity is taken through this house in to the chariot. While it was once a thatch roof, the front of the house is now properly covered with a concrete roof, thus protecting the devotees much better than before.

This house has not only been associated with religion, but also with the fervour of the freedom struggle. It pre-dates the formation of the Indian National Congress; the house was built in 1877, 8 years before the Congress was founded. The house was built by Thirumalacharya, a descendant of one of the Pradhans of the Mysore Wodeyars. Thirumalacharya was a vakil and probably in that capacity had become close to the Nawab of the Carnatic. The Nawab gifted a set of six carved pillars that even today frame the main corridor of this house.

Thirumalacharya's son was a fan of the Buddha and at his insistence, the house was named Gautamashrama. This plaque in the covered front room of the house is a much later addition, dating to 1984. It proudly proclaims that this is a 'hallowed house', having hosted luminaries like Vivekananda, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Mahatma Gandhi, Bipin Chandra Pal, as also many others who lived closer to Madras, such as V.O.Chidambaram Pillai, Subramaniam Siva and Subramania Bharati who lived but a few streets away,  Sadly, this house is emptied of its good folk - the current generation has mostly moved away from Triplicane - and may soon be just a page in the book of history!

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Eight elephants

This wall, with bas-reliefs of truncated-tusked elephants, is an enduring image of the Theosophical Society's headquarters at Adyar. The elephant seems to be a recurring theme with the TS, at least of late. In their newsletter of December 2015, the TS takes inspiration from the elephant to be "strong and patient at the same time", for the elephant is thoughtful and relies on its patience to accomplish what it needs. That the elephant is long-lived, and a herd animal is a bonus, probably meant to invoke the legacy of the Theosophists. 

It is interesting that when the TS decided to launch its fund-raising drive, for the renovation of the buildings within the headquarters, they named the main renovation site "The Elephants". If you would like to contribute to the cause, you need to head over here!

Friday, February 3, 2017

Just because

As far as I can make out, this marriage hall was renamed only after 2014; before that, it was called the Hema Malini Kalyana Mantapam. I am not sure if the "dream girl" had anything to do with the property, but chances that she did are pretty high. The original owner of the property was Justice Somayya, who had built his bungalow on Lloyds Road. After his time, the bungalow became the place for conducting dream weddings. 

And this post comes up because we are going to this hall for a wedding reception tomorrow. Even if it has been a few years after the name changed to SVR Mantapam, map locations continue to refer to it as "formerly Hema Malini Mantapam"!

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Chariot at rest

We have read of the Parthasarathy Temple earlier, with its tower in the distance, or about its chariot festival. And we also got to see the chariot's wheels up close. 

So here is the chariot itself, decked out with the thombais and the thoranams, the final touches being put in place by the priests.

I've always felt that, much more than for any chariot festival of other temples, the one at the Triplicane must be special. After all, the deity is Himself a chairoteer, right?

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Loving life

Once again, it is "Theme Day" for the City Daily Photo gang, and this month's theme is "Loving life". 

Mountains, or beaches? I'm greedy enough to want both, but it is rather difficult to find the former within Chennai. The beaches, on the other hand, are a favourite spot for Chennai's citizens. The only thing that could be more fun than doing cartwheels on the beach is to end those with a dive into the water.

Just that over the past couple of weeks, with the jallikattu protests and the oil spill, the beach has had a jolt; but it will be back, like it always has!