Tuesday, March 4, 2014

May Day Park, Chennai: An Iconic Urban Park from Colonial Times


May Day Park, Chennai - Facade

May Day Park, Chennai - Monument

May Day Park, Chennai - Granite Monument

May Day Park, Chennai - imposing fountain - an attraction

May Day Park, Chennai - Statue of Hungerford Tudor Boddam - British Judge, Madras High Court

May Day Park, Chennai - Statue of Hungerford Tudor Boddam - Plaque
The May Day Park, located at Deputy Mayor Kabalamoorthy Road in Chintadripet, originally known as Napier Park, is a good example of a park constructed during the British rule in 1869 and named after Francis Napier, the 10th Lord Napier and 1st Baron Ettrick, KT, PC, the Governor of Madras Presidency (27 March 1866 – 19 February 1872). This park has provided the innovative groundwork and value for park culture in Madras city adhering to its cultural needs. The colonial administrators realized that the development of parks is an important aspect of urbanization. Over the years the Madras Municipality (Colonial rule) and the the Chennai corporation (after independence) strived to augment the green cover in the city. Now the total number of parks have increased to 486.  Urbanization experts consider that this number is still inadequate when comparing with Delhi (15,000), Mumbai (1,300), Bangalore (721) and Hyderabad (709).

This 14 acre land, once used as stables by Messrs. Burghall and Company in Chintadripet, has been converted as an urban park. Messrs. Simpson & Co had an eye over the land for their carriage factory expansion requirements. However Madras Municipality passed a resolution on 28th January 1869 and proposed the need for developing an urban park at this site. The Government of Madras Presidency has approved the proposal and accorded finance sanction and land allotment on 15th April 1869.

This park was used to hold public meetings by political leaders like M.Singaravelar and Periyar. Several rallies and processions including the anti-Hindi agitation during 1960s were flagged off from here by eminent leaders.

At the north eastern corner of the park the statue of of Hungerford Tudor Boddam, the eminent British Judge of Madras High Court stands under the arched canopy.

The Napier Park was later renamed by the Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi to meet the demands from Communist Party. There is a symbolic 'May Day' monument with two gear wheels, a gun and the word 'May' sculpted in Tamil. Also there is a mound shaped water fountain.

The present park has not only have greenerys, trees and walkways but also equipped with facilities for children’s area with swings  and also space for cricket, football, volleyball and badminton on the eastern and western sides of the park. The park, maintained by Simpson & Co, has given a new meaning for public recreation spaces in Chennai city.
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