My article on Tanneer Turai Market appeared in the Times of India dated 13th June 2008
The Buckingham Canal was dug as a famine relief measure in the 1870s. Till around a 100 years ago, it was a major means of transportation with 1500 boats plying between Mylapore and Mamallapuram.
With the Canal running close by, a market was planned on its banks in Mylapore so that vegetables, firewood, tiles and other items could be brought in by boats. Hence the name, Tanneer (water) Turai (fronted) market. Spanning eight and a half grounds and divided into stalls, it came up as a Trust largely due to the munificence of V Bhashyam Iyengar, a legal luminary who resided nearby. Today the river is a foul gutter and bringing goods by boat is impossible, but the market thrives.
The best times to visit the place are in the early hours of the morning and once again in the evening. The best way to explore it is by walk and there is no space to park any vehicle in the near vicinity. Sales go on in a brisk fashion, with bargaining being enjoyed by vendor and buyer alike, the sharp Mylapore repartees being given and taken in equal measure. Today you can buy vegetables, fruits, plantain leaves and coconuts from here. Meat is a strict no-no perhaps due the largely Tambrahm nature of Mylapore.
Feeling peckish and in the mood for some light ‘Tiffin’? Then step into Durga Bhawan, one of the oldest Udupi style restaurants in this part of the city, just opposite the market. As for temples, there are plenty in this area. Facing the market is the Appar Swami Temple, built in 1852 in memory of a saint of the same name who attained salvation here a year earlier. Sharing a wall with the market is the famed Luz Anjaneyar Temple. Close by is a temple dedicated to Tiruvalluvar, the immortal early poet, who is said to have resided in this area. He is also commemorated in a statue next to the market.
This nerve centre of Mylapore is sadly under threat. One of the 18 merchants who controls it has it is said sold his share to a developer who wants to demolish the structure and build a high-rise here. Over 250 families, including vendors, labourers, handcart operators and rickshaw-pullers depend on the place. Some of the shopkeepers have gone to court against the demolition and there matters rest. Before something happens, rush along and see Mylapore in all its dynamism.
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The article is on page 57