Monday, August 24, 2015

Chennai Anna Nagar Township Emerged from World Trade Fair 1968: Madras Week 2015 Photowalk Experience

Visvesvaraya Tower @ Anna Nagar Tower Park,

As part of Madras Week celebrations, Chennai Photo walk organized its Walk # 3 in collaboration with Social History Group founded by Ms. S. Thirupurasundari Sevvel, (T Sundari), the popular architect and the local history enthusiast around the 'Neighborhoods of Anna Nagar Tower Park'  on 23rd August 2015 between 07.00 and 08.30 am.

Ms.Thirupurasundari Sevvel, a staunch advocate of antiquity
Here are some interesting facts about Ms. S. Thirupurasundari Sevvel, . B.Arch (SRM University), BA (HONS) Architecture (University of Birmingham under Architecture Exchange Program), Masters in urban and regional planning (MURP) at Université François Rabelais de Tours, who is an architect, town planner in Anna Nagar and her family has been living in this neighborhood for generations.  She was thrilled to take note about the cities  abroad maintained a thorough documentation of their layout and development. Being influenced by the passion of the common people of various cities in documenting the history of the city, Ms.T.Sundari determined to do something similar and began by focusing on Anna Nagar. Being an architect, designer,  town planner and a staunch advocate of antiquity it was very easy for her to get started. She ascended up by launching a Social History group and also formed Nam Veedu Nam Oor Nam Kadhai (volunteer) team. She continued to collect, collate and document enormous data about Anna Nagar (including hand bills, booklets, photographs, press clippings etc.), the township developed by the Tamil Nadu Housing Board in the early 1970s following the World Trade Fair in the area in January 1968. She is eager to learn and use what she has learned.  The walk #3 was lead by this young, aspiring and enthusiastic architect. The members of the Chennai Photowalk and  volunteers from Social History group have come across with outpouring information about Anna Nagar.

Since from the commencement of the photowalk she shared all relevant information at the relevant points. The participants also interacted with her and some of them recalled anecdotes from their memories. Till 1950s the area was identified as 'Mullukadu' alias 'Velankadu' since the locality was full of thorny bushes. The locality was formally named as Mullam Village and is still being referred by the Land and revenue department for all official purposes. It was also called as  'Naduvakarai' for other purposes.

Entrance Arch
Ayyanar Statue
In the 1967 General elections, the DMK swept Madras State, winning all 25 Parliamentary seats and 138 of the 173 Assembly seats. Anna became Chief Minister on March 6th, sworn in along with his Cabinet by Governor Ujjal Singh at Rajaji Hall. In January 1968, the Government hosted the Second International Tamil Conference in Madras. In January 1968 Madras hosted the World Trade Fair. In the absence of World Trade Fair of January 1968, the Anna Nagar township would not have taken shape. The most popular 135 feet tall Tower with  fourteen tier cyclic ramp spiraling to the top and finial (supported by an elevator) was designed and built at the center of the expo grounds as a watch tower and it stands still as the landmark of Anna Nagar. The pavilions were set up around this watch tower and these pavilions were permanent structures. The facade of the Tamil Nadu Pavilion was designed like the models of the 'Temple Tower' or 'Temple Gateway' as well as the 'Temple Car.' Later on after the Trade Fair these structures were auctioned. The present Anna Nagar Ladies Club and the Anna Nagar Club served as the Thailand Pavilion and the Kerala Pavilion respectively. The four entrance arches were constructed all the four cardinal directions of the World Trade Fair. Now the entrance at the East stands majestically bearing the name 'Anna Nagar Dr.Visvesvaraya Tower Park Arch.'

WTF Motif

Enamel Board
The thick brick wall on the right side of the arch bears the bas relief image informing the theme of the World Trade Fair i.e, the strong man is about to strike the hammer on the anvil; two chimneys with smoke; electricity pole and the crane chain. Also there is an enamel board conveying the information about the setting of bas relief on the eve of Indian World Trade Fair held in the month January 1968 by Perarignar Anna.   The vacant grounds before arch (now occupied by the structures of Kandaswamy College for Men) was used for VIP car parking. The public transport terminus was located around the Round Tana.

Round Tana
The shuttle vehicles served to transport people from Round-tana to the W. T. Fair grounds. Also there was a star hotel to accommodate foreign delegates at Aminjikarai PH Road - Nelon Manickam Road junction. The huge  Ayyanar Statue with thick moustache appear beating drum was installed to commemorate the Second World Tamil Conference.

Plaque: Inauguration of Tower
World Trade Fair Tower was initially named as Panch-Sheel Tower as the commemoration of the five principles of Panch-sheel enunciated by Jawaharlal Nehru and later it was rechristened as Visvesvaraya Tower to honour Sir Mokshagundam Visvesvaraya,  the Diwan of Mysore (1912 - 1918), an engineer, scholar and statesman. The park covering an area of  15.35 acres came up only in 1979. The Park around the Tower was developed in stages in later times. The tower, park equipped with an amphitheater, a bird-watching deck, badminton courts, kids play area, a skating rink, a lake, and other facilities are being maintained by the Chennai Corporation. The World Trade Fair collected an entrance fee of 05 -10 paise from visitors to climb up and to have the panoramic view of the World Trade Fair grounds. Later Madrs (Chennai) Corporation collected Rs.5.00 as an entry fee from visitors. Over the last five years the visitors were not allowed to the top due to few miss happenings.

TNHB Model House G.Floor + F.Floor, Ext. Stairs
The town planning people preferred to formally name this locality as West Madras Extension. Later it was rechristened as Arignar Anna Nagar. Over a period of time the name was shortened as AA Nagar and thereafter 'Arignar; the honorific syllable was not pronounced by the public. Finally the name Anna Nagar became the official name.

The project fetched roads and public transport facilities. The Tamil Nadu Housing Board (TNHB), a state government board set up in 1958 to address housing needs of the lower and middle income groups.  TNHB was the only major provider and it built large colonies in Anna Nagar. At this point of time the residential plots measuring 1.5 ground land was offered at a cost of Rs.4500/- with a 75 per cent Government subsidy to build houses to promote the layout initially. TNHB also geared up to construct typical TNHB model residential buildings - with ground floor and first floor with internal toilets and exhaust fans as well as external staircase - at the request of the land owners. However only very few takers were there for this area that was without facilities like schools, hospitals, markets, etc. Ms.Sundari mentioned about one or two typical TNHB houses surviving still (which is now W-Block).

She was also telling that Anna Nagar is the first township and the unique township in Chennai to follow standard addressing system followed in the western world. Areas expanded after the formation of the initial 1970 layouts do not follow the standard nomenclature. Therefore finding door numbers in various streets is the most  challenging task. The residential houses are numbered in a disorderly pattern and even avenues and blocks are also difficult to find out. 

Ms.Sundari is curious about the stories associated with townships like Anna Nagar, Shenoy Nagar and even bus stops. She explained how she would find answers to question like: How did Blue Star got its name? Actually there was no name or landmark to locate this bus stop. One transport driver got worried about this and came out with a name 'Blue Star' as there was a laundry with the name 'Bulooo Star.' I was also curious to know about Shenoy Nagar has been named after whom? She gave immediate answer as Joseph Patrick Lasrado Shenoy (JPL Shenoy - shorter form) of the Indian Civil Service (ICS). The ICS officer hailed from a Catholic family of Mangalore. Most of the years of JPL Shenoy's service were spent in the then-Madras Presidency. He retired as the Commissioner of Madras Corporation in 1944.

'Although Anna Nagar may not have a centuries-old heritage like Madras, it is certain that a few decades from now Anna Nagar too will have heritage to cherish.' The photowalk came to an end by 08.30 hrs.

  1. A blog site to document Anna Nagar T. Madhavan. The Hindu August 12, 2013
  2. Celebrating Madras Week – in colour Madras Musings VOL. XXIV NO. 10, September 1-15, 2014
  3. Spotlight on Anna Nagar Vipasha Sinha. The Hindu August 2, 2014
  4. The change from silent NADUVAKKARAI to busy and bustling Annanagar -tracing the social history of annanagar. July 17, 2013.
  5. There are many ways to celebrate Anna Nagar. Vipasha Sinha The Hindu February 7, 2015
Engal Kalyanam Galatta Kalyanam - Sivaji Ganesan, Jayalalitha - Galatta Kalyanam Tamil Song Rajshri Tamil (Youtube) (Galatta Kalyanam Tamil Song shot in the World Trade Fair 1968. Singers: T M Soundararajan, P.B. Srinivas, P. Sushila, L.R. Easwari, C.S. Ganesh. Director: C.V. Rajendran.)

Namma Annanagar Video -1 TS sev (Youtube)

Old Anna Nagar(chennai) from 1968 to 1972 Sundar Ramamoorthy (Youtube) 

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