people stories

Faces of Triplicane – Chennai

Triplicane or Tiruvallikeni as it was known in the Puranic age is one of the oldest villages that is a part of the Madras (Chennai) city today . It is in fact older than the city itself. Located just half a km from the Bay of Bengal coast and Fort St George , it is today synonymous with the Parthasarthy Temple and the agraharams where the Brahmin community lives till date . The name Tiruvallikeni or Tiruallikeni refers to the lotus pond in front of the temple. The place was also referred to as Vrundha-raNyam (beautiful garden) in Puranic scriptures.Today, it is a maze of narrow lanes and alleys, each having a character of its own.

Initially Triplicane was a part of Mylapore suburb sandwiched between the temple township and the Chepauk palace. Besides the Parthasarthy temple, the place is famous for the Chepauk stadium, the Amir Mahal, the home of the Nawab of Arcot, who lives there to this day. Near Amir Mahal is the Wallajah mosque also known as Badi Masjid or the Big Mosque built by the Nawabs.

Nobel prize winner Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar attended the Hindu High School (1922-1925) in Triplicane. Subramanya Bharathy, the freedom fighter and poet, lived his last years in a house there; the house has since been bought and renovated by the Government of Tamil Nadu (in 1993), and named Bharathiyar Illam (Home of Bharathiyar).

We started an early morning photo walk at Triplicane from the Parthasarthy Temple. A sort of a field trip, we were clicking images of the locality. People and homes have always been my twin fascination and so I began clicking away. But before that – a little bit of legend

The Parthasarthy temple built in the 8th century is considered to be one of the 108 divadesams or the abode of Lord Vishnu . The name ‘Parthasarathy’, in Sanskrit, means the ‘charioteer of Arjuna’ as Partha is another name for Arjuna. and Sarathy means charioteer. The legend says that this is where the Lord gave darshan to King Sumathi in the form of Parthasarthy .

The interesting aspect of this deity is that the face is scarred by the arrows that have been hurled during the Kuruskshetra war. Scholars suggest that the Pallavas built it as early as the 8th century. However, additions and renovations were constantly made over the next four centuries by the Pandyas and Cholas and the Vijayanagar kings.

A walk around the lanes only reflect the traditions and the old world charm that is still retained in the four main streets around the temple. Triplicane is called the Bachelors Paradise of Chennai. The locality has a large number of mansions – a local synonym for guest houses.Think food and think Triplicane.

Be it messes, cafes , idli shops or bhavans, Triplicane gives you great food for thought.While this post is more to do with the faces of Triplicane, the following post will showcase some of the old houses and the lifestyle followed probably 200 or more years ago .



  1. Revathi R 31 August, 2008 at 15:54 Reply

    Nice post. Brings back lost memories of childhood when we were taken to this temple on every visit to Triplicane where my maternal aunt lived. We used to refer Parthasarathy perumal as meesaikkara perumal. By the way Alli keni means Lilly pond! The western entrance of the temple is Thulasingha Perumal temple (Nrisimha). This is the main temple and entrance. Dwajasthambha is at this temple entrance only.
    Legends say that Parthasarathy requested Nrisimha for a place to rest after the tiring Kurukshetra war. But stayed on and became the main deity of Triplicane!

  2. Diana 31 August, 2008 at 16:43 Reply

    These pictures take me back to Chennai…I was ther for 3 years and every sunday , we used to visit Poonamlee road and triplicane for food….i remember thers an Oriya restaurant and we get good Oriya and Bengali food over there…Idlis were the best…..

    Very Nice pictures

  3. Indrani 31 August, 2008 at 19:53 Reply

    Those are powerful message conveying shots and what a wonderful photo walk through the city, lakshmi.I hope I will be able to do something similar someday.

  4. Kamini 31 August, 2008 at 20:22 Reply

    This is a fascinating post. It’s been many years since I’ve been to Triplicane, now I’m determined to go there the next time I’m in Madras. It looks as if the old way of life is still going on here, and that the modern globalization/IT/mall culture trends have passed it by.

  5. Alok 1 September, 2008 at 17:17 Reply

    Your pics are so inspired by the life around β€˜Triplicane’. I must say – amazingly captured moments and the post gave me a different insight to the place and people out there.

    Now, I am waiting for the continuous of this to appear here.

    You have a wonderful ahead πŸ™‚

  6. Swathi 1 September, 2008 at 21:13 Reply

    hi lakshmi,
    You have bought the single dimension of the Triplicane where in you missed out the few histrionic aspect of it. You have done the story on single dimension but their good numbers muslims who co-existed along the major Iyengar community. music and art thrive in the bye-lane of the Triplicane which was kept alive by people who have migrated from Tanjore. Presently you find lots of Mansions where lots of Bachelors reside with great stories to told as so as stayed when they were perceiving their Education.

    You also forget to have look great wallah road were the cricket is main menu………What say

  7. ugich konitari 1 September, 2008 at 21:23 Reply

    Lakshmi, I have been quietly enjoying your pictures in a lurking mode.

    Wonderful stuff. You have a way of bringing life to a bunch of pictures, that really tell you so much about a place.

    Look forward to more of your great stuff……

  8. Lakshmi 1 September, 2008 at 23:13 Reply

    Revathi – You are a storehouse of information..thanks for dropping by and adding so much to the post

    Diana – Welcome to backpacker.Im glad you enjoyed the stay in Chennai..its my hometown..An oriya restaurant there..where ?

    Vishesh – Thanks πŸ™‚

    Indrani – Glad you liked them..its my two bit to the celebration..believe there are photowalks in Bangalore too..will let you know

    Kamini – Thats the best part about Chennai or Madras..coexistence and certain values do not change

    Ropi – Those are religious symbols

    I am – πŸ™‚ thanks

    Cuckoo – Thanks..yes, I am a Tamilian πŸ™‚

    Agnes – Welcome to backpacker and thanks..happy it evoked pleasant memories

    Gopal – Yes, its very vibrant

    Pea – welcome to backpacker and thanks for the comment..well, its not a small town, but a metro city..however Ive captured the faces in a suburb

    Alok – thanks have summed it up so well..its a great place..

    Ravi – Welcome to backpacker and congrats..Im so glad that another traveller is bit by the blog..looking forward to reading your blog

    Swati – Thanks for your long comment..Please read my post..It does touch upon the things that you have mentioned..the idea behind the post is to only capture the faces though .

    Ugich Konitari – Welcome to backpacker..great to know that you were able to experience an area though my eyes and enjoyed it as well

  9. Gargling Garbage 2 September, 2008 at 00:17 Reply

    My fav – Parthasarathy temple pond at midnight, specially when it’s raining! And Vijay’s ice cream, chocy and vanilla cone for just Rs.12! πŸ™‚

    Can never forget the cows, the flower sellers, the buses that’d amble along the alleys, or the very many mansions πŸ˜‰ and the pleading eyes of an 80-year-old woman begging outside a restaurant…

  10. KC 2 September, 2008 at 00:42 Reply

    Although i live in Parrys , Chennai – i spent most of my childhood at Triplicane in my Aunt’s house , which was located just behind the Parthasarathy temple !! Thanks for bringin back my childhood memories !! πŸ™‚

  11. Shantanu 2 September, 2008 at 19:44 Reply

    Wow, this is what India is really about, isn’t it? The pictures of the people are wonderful. I am always wary of photographing people in places I visit…

  12. Stephanie 2 September, 2008 at 21:39 Reply

    You have captured the feel through your photographs of the people and their daily work. It’s colorful and poetic!

    thank you!!

    I love reading your comments as I learn so much here as well!!

  13. Aaarti 3 September, 2008 at 13:45 Reply

    Hey lakshmi

    Awesome post, and lovely pics… I’ve been to Triplicane and around a
    couple of times only, and every time i am there, i get the feeling
    i’ve been transported to a diff world… its like there are 2faces of
    chennai, i guess that is the beauty of this city… co-existence as
    you rightly said!!!

    Revathy- wow, that was fascinating info….

    Gargling– ahem!!:P

  14. Lakshmi 3 September, 2008 at 13:59 Reply

    Eunice – Thanks so much for the lovely comment..I think your blog is one of the best..there is always something new and exciting that I feel so envious πŸ™‚

    GG – I can understand why you prefer madras to bangalore..ironically I havent roamed the streets of madras too late in the night..been out for films and ice creams though

    KC – Childhood memories are the best ..glad my blog brought back some of the good times

    Shantanu – Yes, and no stereotypes, I hope πŸ™‚ I enjoy taking pics of people and some I ask permission ..and show them the pics πŸ™‚

    Wendy – Thanks ..Ive started enjoying street photography

    Stephanie – Nice of you to call it poetic..I find the street life very dramatic although it looks quite mundane

    Mridula – This was a photo walk where street photography was the main reason for the walk ..and we always stopped by and asked for permissions..of course , some pictures were candid πŸ™‚

    Celine – Yes, those are symbols of their religion, caste, sub caste, beliefs..a friend of mine VJ knows more on this and I can ask him for info if you are interested

    Priyank – No, this was a photowalk and when you are a big group clicking pictures, people are not conscious..and we asked some for permission..I even bought certain items at a shop if I was taking pictures , but some were candid..I love taking pics of people and in general, I feel people are happy when we take their pics and show them..its only us- the so called urban cultured types who are uncomfortable when some one takes our pics πŸ™‚

    Gil – Thanks ..they are from my “ooru” as we say in Tamil for town.

    Aaarti – Thats the best part of madras..cooxistence and I think these aspects will not change πŸ™‚

  15. Anu 4 September, 2008 at 04:09 Reply

    You should visit triplicane during Diwali, the lights and sounds transform the whole place. Brings back a lot of memories seeing these faces, with the Sricharanam worn so dominantly :)!

  16. chennaidailyfoto 4 September, 2008 at 11:46 Reply

    Loved the post on Thiruvallikeni aka Triplicane ….. i’m glad i also took some pictures of triplicane during that photowalk about people and posted across the web.

    People and their expressions are engaging ….

    Ram N

  17. dharmabum 4 September, 2008 at 12:35 Reply

    VERY interesting pictures, lakshmi – colourful and vibrant. in a few days, we’ll also have the ganesha processions in triplicane. hey btw, did you miss the ice house?

  18. ceedy 4 September, 2008 at 19:23 Reply

    Thank you so much…again…it just awesome to tour India sitting far away here….

    Liked your take….faces that make or break everything πŸ™‚

  19. indicaspecies 10 September, 2008 at 03:01 Reply


    Thank you. Of course, I’d be interested.:)

    I hope when I’m down South next, I’d get an opportunity to meet you and VJ and have a conversation on this.

    And btw, I tried to phone you a few times this time but in vain.

  20. V V Thevan 10 September, 2008 at 18:42 Reply

    beautiful images and theme. You have taken contemporary literature (if blogging can be termed literature πŸ˜‰ to a new height.

    I hope these images (especially of the two women talking animatedly) live hundreds of years, and immerse in awe our future generation – Let them say that I lived in the times of Lakshmi the contemporary blogger.


  21. Lakshmi 14 September, 2008 at 11:24 Reply

    Anu – Also during Dasara when the entire area comes to life ..

    Jeevan – Thanks..every area has its own flavour.

    Ram N – Welcome to backpacker and thanks..Your pictures are great.I do like capturing people..they define a culture .

    Dharma – I did forget to mention it ..but yes, we went there as well

    Mr Brilliant – Thats so true..South is almost a different country

    Ceedy – Faces say a lot about a city and its culture

    Celine – Thats surprising..maybe you have a different no..will mail you mine..It would have been good to meet

    Madan – Welcome to are too flattering..Im just trying to capture the essence of a place and people are the best ways to do so

  22. Mandino 8 July, 2009 at 09:35 Reply

    These are pictures of great messages, these are quite and intense message about the reality that the world is in. I would be good that travelers would get to know this too, I would like to suggest because these pictures could win a contest…

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