Sreemathy Mohan penned this report on the Royapuram tour that was conducted as part of Madras Week. This appeared in Madras Musings

When you have a group of 50 enthusiasts looking to learn about the locality in the northern part of Chennai – which has been “heard” more of but not “visited” – and a person like Sriram V. who leads it, what you get is an outstanding educative tour with lots of fun and learning!

St Peters Church
St Peters Church

And what is nice about these walking tours is that it brings people together to learn the history of the city’s oldest neighborhoods and, more importantly, the information and conversation which gives an insight and discovering hidden treasures.

Places covered: Royapuram railway station – the first railway station of South India opened in 1856 and which is the oldest surviving railway station in India.

St. Peter’s Chruch built in 1799 by the local boatmen/fishermen residents and consecrated in 1829. It is popularly called “Madha kovil” and has four Mada Streets around it. Royapuram derives its name from St. Peter, who was referred to as “Rayappar” in Tamil.

Royapuram was also a principal suburb to the Parsi and Anglo-Indian community and the next stop was the Parsi cemetery – Anjuman Bagh – and the close by Parsi fire temple – the Jal Phiroj Clubwala Dar E Meher, where only Parsis and Zoroastrian Iranis are admitted into the sanctum sanctorum. This temple celebrated its centenary in 2010.

A brief walking tour followed, getting to know the streets of Royapuram – Maniyakara Chaultry Theruvu, via Lying-in Hospital, leading to the dargah of Hazarath Sheik Kunangudi Masthan Sahib, a sufi saint who visualised God as a female entity in his prayer songs and inspired Bharatiar to write “Kannamma” themes!

Robinson Park, a legendary park, now named Arignar Anna Poonga, is the place where DMK was founded.

All in all, an exemplary day!