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Monuments of Mount Road – Chennai




After a photowalk of Triplicane, it was time to walk down memory lane in Mount Road .A mixed crowd of enthusiasts joined together on a Sunday morning to walk down Mount Road and hear stories about erstwhile landmarks and monuments of the road. It was organised by Vincent D Souza , founder and editor of Mylapore and Adyar Times , who is also one of the key organisers of the Madras Day celebrations. What I really liked about Vincent and his team is that they are keen to reach out to the common man and the passion they have for the city. Most other groups tend to make an event like this a glamorous social affair catering to a few celebrities , media professionals and whos who of the city who form mutual admirers of each other..Well, I chose these walks and decided to enjoy an enjoy morning stroll of Madras.


Mount Road or Anna Salai as it is called today is one of the key arteries of Madras, connecting virtually two ends of the city – Fort St George and St Thomas Mount. It was supposedly built in 1795 by the British for the army to move easily between these two points and old pictures show this stretch as a beautiful avenue lined with trees It starts off as on a little island near Fort St George on the Cooum creek and leads to the highway that takes one directly to the tip of India to Cape Camorin.The statue of Thomas Munro, one of the Governors of the Madras Presidency stands almost at the entrance of the club . During the British period, this was the entertainment hub . Clubs, churches, movie halls, restaurants, icecream parlours and shops were the key landmarks here.


The Gymkhana Club and the Cosmopolitan club along with Madras Cricket Club (which is actually on Wallajah Road, a deviation from Mount Road) were the prestigious clubs here since colonial times. The Old Government Estate,near the Gymkhana Club, houses the mansion where the governors of Madras once lived. The banquet hall built in 1802 by the second Lord Clive, the eldest son of Robert Clive, is today called the Rajaji Hall after the first Indian governor-general, C Rajagopalachari . The broad staircases, the beautiful panelling and chandeliers lend this hall an old world charm. In fact an exhibition of rare coins and stamps by late collector Raja Seetharaman (who recently passed away) was held at this hall.

Our walk was for about 90 minutes starting from the Hindu office which was not the first English newspaper published in the city. Its predecessor is The Mail, who has shut publication, but the building still remains and some printing goes on. We walked on listening to stories around Chellarams and Higgingbothams ,how the theatres Elphinston and New Elphinston have morphed into new complexes ,our mouths watered as we got nostalgic about the flavours of Jaffar Ice cream parlour . Udupi cuisine got introduced to the city here by Woodlands and Buharis was the other foodie’s landmark.

The Postal Department ‘s Phitalic Bureau was once a movie theatre, while Southern Railway is getting its act together to renovate their monument here. A small mosque lies sandwiched between two buildings and one can easily miss it . I had, until now.

We heard about the Mount Road Round Tana where trams once used to ply, where there was apparently a underground war time chamber and where the first subway of Madras was built. We saw quaint buildings where Chinese dentists (did I hear right , Vincent ?) used to be adept at solving teething problems.




We also heard about a Greek who ran a restaurant here at Mount Road. We stopped by at India Silk house and Musee Musicals and stopped by at a dilapidated go-down wondering it could have been in the yesterdays. Another stop was to look at the beauty of the dilapidated building of Bharat Insurance which is still in litigation.Across the road, Poompuhar announced its crafts mela.

We climbed up the Agarchand Mansion and had an aerial view of the Mount Road overseeing Spensers .The Mansion in brick red is my most favourite building in Mount Road and everytime Im at the Spensers signal, I stop and take a look at this monument .This walk in many ways kindled my interest in Madras’ heritage and I am keen in participating in this activity.I happenned to meet some very interesting people, including three wonderful women – Nandini, Geetha and Navneeth with whom I had breakfast soon after.

Mount Road branches out into famous localities and suburbs of Madras like Royapettah, Triplicane,Thousand Lights, T Nagar, Teynampet, Mylapore, Nandanam, Saidapet, Guindy and so on..Want to know more..well, you dont have to wait till Chennai Day 2009. Just enrol into chennaiwalks@gmail.com or check www.madrasday.in for more information.

30 comments

  1. Akira 6 September, 2008 at 20:10 Reply

    This is such a nice initiative…exploring the city on foot…they could have this as a continued program; visitors or tourists might be interested in such an experience.

  2. Kamini 7 September, 2008 at 10:09 Reply

    I just love this series, Lakshmi. I was swept up in such a wave of nostalgia reading this and seeing the photos – ice creams at Jaffar’s was a super-special treat, and I still tremble with fear remembering all the piano exams I took in Musee Musical. I rarely venture to Mount Road when I’m in Madras as the traffic is so atrocious, so it was nice to see it through your eyes. Thanks!
    Kamini.

  3. Diana 7 September, 2008 at 16:09 Reply

    Hi Lakshmi — I remember all these places….Theres the Hindu office …My College, Asian College of Journalism, on Mount road……

    Nice shots….

    These pictures took me back to my college days.
    We use to hav food at Sarvana hotel. Theres Khadi bhandar too on the road….and not to forget those narrow lanes where we got yummy samosas and cool gadgets..

    Good one lady.

  4. Shantanu 7 September, 2008 at 22:31 Reply

    Very interesting post. I am beginning to develop a taste for historic buildings (as a result of my visits to Europe). I haven’t spent time studying Indian ones yet. Great pics!

  5. Anu 8 September, 2008 at 01:00 Reply

    Wow, Mount Road sure brought back memories, thanks for the history, never knew these facts. I just identified them as the red brick building or the really old tower on mount road

  6. ugich konitari 8 September, 2008 at 11:03 Reply

    Lakshmi,

    Great pictures. And the walking tour sounds like a great idea.

    Somehow, the city is not a patch on the charming silhouettes and pictures of the Triplicane . Those pictures have character. You actually feel like opening those doors and going in. …

    The Chennai big buildings stuff feels like it needs to be viewed from a distance….

  7. dharmabum 8 September, 2008 at 16:19 Reply

    i was just about to ask you how once gets included on those walks – thanks for the answer, and the posts.

    and i liked the article on karwar that appeared in metroplus today πŸ™‚

  8. Rajiv 9 September, 2008 at 11:57 Reply

    Lakshmi – your blog is good. You still have a lot to cover in Chennai. Here are some areas:
    1. Kamarajar Salai (Marina Beach Road)
    2. Mylapore
    3. Beasant Nagar
    4. Chennai Water Bodies (there are many here …not just the seas)
    5. San Thome Road and Adyar Poonga
    6. Fort St.George, Parrys corner and Port

    Well this is just some …..and I’m sure there are plenty more. I’m just waiting to see your pics on these.

    As for Mount Road ……….well it has plenty of old heritage buildings …….which sadly are not being preserved ….because of their real estate value and because the private individuals see more value in bringing down these than in preseving them. You missed some pics of Thousand Lights Mosque, Gemini Flyover, Cosmopolitan Club. Please post them if you have them with you.

  9. Veens 9 September, 2008 at 14:43 Reply

    πŸ™‚ Wowzie!
    I have to goto Chennai now and if I am there, I will go on foot with these people, I think thats the best way to see the city!

    Good work on this post I must say!

    πŸ™‚

    By the way, do we have group like this in B’Lore πŸ˜€

    Just Asking πŸ™‚

  10. Vincent D' Souza 9 September, 2008 at 19:56 Reply

    Cheers for this effort Lakshmi

    Just make sure you work on the factual info and also caption the nice pictures you post here

    We, as freewheeling organisers of such events would like lots more young people to sign up. . . because the participation keeps us going. . .

    I will run the Mount Road waking tour at least thrice this year. On a Sunday, start at 7 am and end by 9 am. The start point is always the bus top outside The Hindu and the end will be on the 2nd floor of Agurchand Mansion diagonally opp. Spencers.

    If anybody wishes to be on any of the walks my colleagues and I conduct, mail us at – madraswalks@gmail.com

    A web site is to be launched soon so this shd be useful too

    Other walks we run in Madras that is Chennai – Mylapore, San Thome, Fort St. George, Railway Stations (Egmore, Central and Royapuram).

    We welcome groups and school and college teams too.

    We charge a small fee and in most cases, the tour is on foot – that is the best way to explore a city/town/village.

  11. Lakshmi 14 September, 2008 at 23:58 Reply

    Vishesh – Thanks for the comment..hope to see you in the walks sometime

    Akira – They are starting something on these lines

    Priyank – There have started maintaining them ..one at a time..a small beginning, but a long way to go

    Agnes – Thank you

    Alok – Glad you enjoyed it..welcome to my city..sometime you must do a real walk

    SK – There will be more..looking forward to seeing you sometime

    Kamini – I was overwhelmed as well..do let me know when you are in Madras next time- would be good to meet if possible

    Hobo – Thanks πŸ™‚

    Diana – Glad it brought back memories..they are so precious..thanks a ton for sharing

    Indrani – I do hope you will visit Madras soon

    Shantanu – I did go to some parts of Europe last year and my interest in our country’s heritage became stronger after that

    Ravi – That would be nice..looking forward to your post

    Anu – So did I until some time back.thanks

    Cuckoo – yes, born and bred ..do let me know when you are visiting chennai next..i dont need any excuse to go there

    UK – Well, each part of the city has its charm..I like the city as a whole πŸ™‚

    Ajeya – Yes..but they cater largely to tourists and are a bit expensive

    Dharma – Thanks for reading πŸ™‚

    Revathy – Thanks ..its always nice to share a great experience and initiative

    Chaggoholic- Welcome to backpacker and thanks for appreciating the post

    Sameera – Thanks..the places are so beautiful

    Mitr- Thanks..they have been around for a while, but not promoted ..its a good initiative

    Rajiv – Welcome to backpacker and Thanks for the list..I will have to do many more posts..your post is brilliant

    Veens – Suggest you go to Chennai..its a beautiful city. Yes, there are initiatives in Bangalore as well

    KC – happens to all of us..I havent been on such walks in bangalore

    Hobo – Ah !!

    Vincent – Welcome to backpacker and thanks for the suggestions..all research is from the walks conducted by you and from ASI documents..Its a great initiative and I hope more people participate..I am for one interested for sure

  12. Eezee 22 February, 2009 at 07:04 Reply

    This is just a wonderful ‘stumble-upon’ for me. I was born and raised in Govt. Estate around where you had taken all these pictures. Thank you so very much, please do share if you have any more pictures from around there.

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