Connemara Library in Chennai

Was able to visit the famed Connemara Library yesterday, after a gap of nearly 3 decades. The library is considered one of the four national repositories along with the
Asiatic Society of Bombay, Mumbai, National Library, Calcutta and the Delhi Public Library, Delhi.  Singaravelan, the erudite librarian there told me that the Library was designed by Architect Henry Irwin, a friend of Rudyard Kipling who very deftly carved some of the jungle book characters in the wooden awnings of the library shelves! And the old building of the library, built in Indo-Saracenic style of architecture was constructed at a budget of Rs 5 lakhs over a period of six years and was opened on 5, 1896, and named in memory of Lord Connemara, who had been the Governor of Madras.

The Bronze statue of Mahatma Gandhi there has an unique charm about it.

End of the year Salute to my unknown friends …

If we see back in time over the last one year we would find countless people who have made our lives better with their service or their smile. Like this healthcare worker, Nirmala, in my office who cleans the offices and the corridors before the office opens so that most of us who work in that office have a clean start to the day. How many of us even know the people who make a difference to our lives silently without us being aware?

It could be your neighbour picking up your newspaper that had fallen on the ground and placing it on the door handle; it could be the anonymous co-passenger on the train who helps you with your luggage; it could be the Vegetable vendor on the street who puts in an extra bunch of coriander leaves as a bonus for your loyalty to her shop; or it could be the opposite vehicle driver who gives way to you when it’s too narrow for two vehicles to pass; or it could be the unknown restaurant guy who packs your food with less spices just as you like it; it could be just about anybody whom we don’t give a second glance. But they do make our lives better in many ways even if we dont know them…

Even though 2021 is a year I’d rather forget for all the friends we have lost to the pandemic or otherwise, yet I am very grateful for all those friends, known and unknown, who made my life better in some way or the other. ..

A story of Faith…

Statue of Munro on Mount Road, Chennai

Most of us would have seen Sir Thomas Munro’s horse mounted statue on Mount Road. The statue is in remembrance of his having been the Governor of Madras Province from 1820 to 1827.

However, about two decades before he became the Governor of Madras Province, he was the collector of Bellary. Bellary had just been taken over by the East India company after the Anglo – Mysore War in which Tippu Sultan was defeated.

Munroe was a pioneer in tax collection for the British. As collector of Bellary, he surveyed most of the land and fixed taxes for various lands until he came to Mantralaya. There, he was in a fix as there were no documents to prove that the land where the Samadhi of the great Saint Sri Raghavendra is located belongs to the Mutt. Munroe decided to take over the land but was advised that the Saint is still alive in Samadhi. The Mutt also told him that only Sri Raghavendra knew the details of the land acquisition and none in the Mutt present at that time could give satisfactory details to Munro. Intrigued, he went to the Mutt and to the Samadhi of Sri Raghavendra to determine the case.

Munro went around the Samadhi, alone, and was met by a bearded gentleman who took him aside and showed him the papers and explained in detail how the land belongs to the Mutt.

Munro was convinced that the land indeed belonged to the Mutt. Thanking the bearded man, he came around from the back of the Samadhi and turned back to see him. The bearded man had disappeared.

Thinking that the beared man must have been from the Mutt, Munroe started demanding to see the bearded man from the Mutt officials. But when they came to know the story, they realised that he had indeed met Sri Raghavendra himself. Some people even started prostrating at his feet, saying that the Grace of Sri Raghavendra had indeed fallen on him as he had been fortunate enough to see and talk to the great Saint who is in Samadhi for several years. This incident happened in 1801.

Sri Raghavendra Swami, who lived from 1595 to 1671 and attained Samadhi at Mantralaya is a living saint and it is widely believed that that the Saint will be in Samadhi for 700 years, till 2371…. 🙏

Munro must have been a good soul for having had this beautiful experience.

So everytime I pass by this statue, I bow down to this Britisher, not because he was the Governor of Madras Province, but because he could effortlessly see the great Saint Sri Raghavendra for whose Darshan and vision many of his devotees would die for….

Indifferently Busy …

Trying to find myself
some peace
in the Mad buzzle of MADras
the past few days…
Work, work and mad at work,
No time for friends or
With the little I connect
I find
they don’t have time for any!!
No respite, but
Solace settles the disturbed soul….
Indifferent ways of a BUSY city,
I control the urge to stop
a few passers by and ask,
“Hey! What’s the hurry?”
But instead prefer to get thrashed
by the same indifference….
It is in the urban skin
It is in the urban skin.

People, Places and Precious things….

People, Places and Precious things….( 2004 diary of Om)

Steam enthusiasts like Mr Natarajan (who runs chartered trips through  Steam Heritage Chariot Trust) and a nondescript Higginbotham Book seller on the Platform at Ooty Railway Station – both make a formidable sales pitch in their own way, selling Heritage Value to many of the Tourists who visit NMR. The Station Master of Ooty Station too, as incharge of the Heritage Station is able to sell the idea of Heritage to the visiting Tourists. He/She is an important functionary in the district.

The author with Mr Natarajan
The Station Master of Ooty Railway Station, Mr Saravanan, along with the Junior Engineer, P Way, Mettupalayam, Mr Jayaraj.

The places on NMR itself speak to the Tourist.  Hillgrove Railway Station, for example, is a very ordinary looking station where the passengers on the 45.88 km ride from Mettupalayam to Udagamandalam get their first snacks like some hot tea/Coffee and some paruppu vadai on their way uphill. Till the train arrives, the station is deserted and is quite lonely. When the train arrives there is such a hustle and bustle that the place transforms itself as well as the passengers in a few seconds.

The Higginbotham Book stall at Ooty
Hillgrove Railway Station

At Ooty, there’s this contraption that attracts a lot of people, especially Rail enthusiasts. It’s a derailing point ( also called a trap point) that derails rolling stock if activated. It’s quite a rare contraption that attracts lots of curious visitors, Rail enthusiasts and of course, Tourists.

Trap Point or Derailing Point at Ooty Railway Station


Towards Understanding Hindu Culture, Rituals and Traditions (Part Sixteen)

(And God said, “Let there be light; and there was light” – The Holy Bible. Light has been the most fascinating element known to man for it not only destroys darkness it also imparts knowledge. The lighting of a lamp in Hindu traditions is symbolic of driving away the darkness and lighting the lamp of wisdom. In ancient times, the air currents of the world were affected by such massive lighting done in millions of homes across South India that preceded or set the pattern for the monsoon rains. But today, due to industrialization, Global warming and other factors, festivals like Karthigai Deepam may not have such an impact on weather patterns as it did in ancient times)The lesser known FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS other than Deepavali for which India is famous for, is Karthikai Deepam of South India. Aganaanooru a book of 400 poems dating back to the period between 300 BC to 200 BC refers to Karthigai Deepam as the “peruvizha” during the full moon period of the Tamil month of Karthigai. The Tamil savant Avvaiyar too refers to the festival in her poems.Thiru Karthikai Deepam is a regional festival of lights mostly observed by Hindus South India, especially Tamil Nadu. It falls in the tamil month of Kaarthikai and occurs on the day when the moon is in conjunction with the 6 star constellation of Karthigai (Pleiades in terms of Astronomy). In various places in India this is celebrated in various names such as Thirukarthika in Kerala ( where, interestingly, it is to welcome Goddess Sakthi ) and in places like Orissa and in parts of North India, it is celebrated as Karthik Poornima.Legend has it that it is the Birth of the celestial Lord Muruga who was formed from the six star constellation into six lotuses who conjoined to become the son of Lord Shiva and Parvati.The other more Popular legend is that on this day Lord Shiva stood as a pillar of fire without beginning or end (ஆதியும் அந்தமுமாய்) and Lord Vishnu took the form of a boar to search for the roots and Lord Brahma took the form of a bird to search the origin of the pillar of fire above. Both couldn’t find the beginning or end of the pillar of fire. But Brahma returned with a flower that fell from above, saying that he found the origin above. Lord Shiva is said to have cursed him saying that since he lied, people will no longer worship him.In his famous song called Potri Pathigam after which Lord Shiva gave him a vision of Kailash and took him to the other World, Appar alias Thirunavukarasar says,
அமையா அருநஞ்ச மார்ந்தாய் போற்றி
ஆதி புராணனாய் நின்றாய் போற்றி
கமையாகி நின்ற கனலே போற்றி
கயிலை மலையானே போற்றி போற்றி.Here Appar Refers to Lord Shiva as the Eternal Flame.The most famous light during the Karthikai Deepam Festival is that of Tiruvannamalai in Tamil Nadu, South India. The lamp is lit atop the Tiruvannamalai Hill and is seen for miles around.The festival is celebrated for three days. First day is celebrated as Karthigai Deepam or Shiva Deepam ( for Lord Shiva) second day is celebrated as Vishnu Deepam ( for Lord Vishnu) and third day is celebrated as Brahma Deepam (for Lord Brahma) in some parts of Tamil Nadu the third day is observed as “Kuppai Deepam”.The lamps used are usually clay lamps, called AGAL VILAKKU in Tamil.

Is it crime to be woman ?

Understanding Heritage – Legends reveal the etymology of certain places…..

Series – Three of 2019

(The Ranganatha Temple on top of a hillock in Thiruneermalai, situated near Chromepet in the suburb of Chennai, is rich in tradition and history with many inscriptions from ancient Chola and Pandya periods. It is mentioned in Brahmanda Purana, and is also connected with Thirumangai Azhwar and Bootha Alwar. In this temple, Lord Vishnu is seen in four poses – standing/sitting/Lying and Walking. It is said that after completing the epic Ramayana, the sage Valmiki was blessed by a vision of Rama, Sita, Lakshmana, Bharatha, Shatrugan and Hanuman at Thiruneermalai)

There are a number of places in Chennai that is connected with various legends. For Example, Mylapore was better known as “Mayil Aarpu Oor” meaning the place where the peacocks scream. The etymology of Mylapore can be traced to Puranaanooru, they say. The Shiva Temple in Mylapore is known as KAPALEESWARAR – the one with the skull (Kabalam in Tamil means Skull – Interestingly, Thiru Vodu also means skull – and some say that the name Tiruvottiyur comes from Thiru Vodu Oor – but more of Tiruvottiyur at the end of this blog post)

A road connecting Ayanavaram to Villivakkam is known as Konnur High Road. At present there is no place by the name Konnur. Then how did this name come into being? According to legend, two demons, ‘Ilvalan’ and ‘Vatapi’, born to Sage Dhurva and Aswamukhi, were tormenting the world with their wicked ways by killing people. Their modus operandi was unique – one of the demons would change into a fruit and the other would offer it to eat to people. Once consumed, the demon would come out by tearing the stomach of the person who ate the fruit. Once Sage Agasthya came to visit this place and the same trick was performed on him by the demons. Agastya put his hand on his stomach, and said, “Vatapi, Jeernabi” – thus killing the demon and later he killed the other demon too – the place where he killed the demons, was called as KONNUR….a name that exists till this day…

After killing the demons, Sage Agasthya planted a Vilvam tree (it is believed that the presence of Vilvam tree prevents demons to come in the vicinity) in the nearby Malligaichery Village (Malligaichery Village is the present Villivakkam) which is believed to be still existing in the Shiva Temple of Villivakkam….and hence the name, Villivakkam from the VILVAM Plant.

North East of Villivakkam lies Thiruvottiyur – one of the oldest places of Chennai City. The Thyagarajaswamy Shiva Temple in Tiruvottyur is one of the oldest temples in the city. Believed to be more than 2000 years old, the temple has many unique stone inscriptions detailing the history of the chola and pallava times. This temple was visited by many saints like Appar, Sundarar, Gnana Sambandhar, Thyagayyar, Vallalar, Valmiki, Kambar, Adi Shankara etc. It is widely believed that Kamba Ramayanam was composed here first before it was recited at Sri Rangam, Trichy.

The diety of the place is known as Adhi pureeswarar. It is believed that Lord Shiva blessed Lord Brahma here at the time of the dissolution of the Universe, (Pralaya) by making the waters evaporate ( Vatri – means drying in Tamil), hence this place is called Thiru Vatri Oor. It is believed that Lord Shiva dried up the waters by becoming a huge living fire and later stayed on as a Swayambu lingam. It is said that this is the first (Adhi in Tamil) Swayambu lingam that appeared in the earth after the Pralaya, hence the lord here is named “Adhipureeswarar”. (Adhi means first) Legend has it that a great Saint Pattinathar is believed to have lived here in Tiruvottiyur for long and attained Samadhi.

Time for the indelible ink….

Exchange of slurs
the politics of issues
mere personal slang matches
where issues are blurred
by hatred and venom…

and suddenly, personalities reign supreme.

Who has done what ?
Who is better suited
to rule in future?

Whom to trust ?
And whom to elect ?
Tough questions indeed
for the voter
with the difficult task
of weighing the merits
and demerits,
Right or wrong or left;

while straining to catch the beats
of campaign drums that match the mind of the confused
has to honourably erase
the slate clean
With his or her choice
On Election Day.

Speaking through
The Ballot Box,
Casting the vote
And saying it aloud
with his action : –
“As a voter,
my opinion, matters
The most….”

Atleast to me.
– D.Om Prakash Narayan

Previous Older Entries