I am no good in Geometry and so I don’t know what the name for a triangle is whose base is curved – like a fan -but whatever that is would be a good description of the area spanned by Guindy. At its apex is Raj Bhavan and from there, fanning out are two arms – Velachery and Gandhi Mandapam Roads, with the IIT campus curving along the convex end. There is just one PO here and that is (of course) Raj Bhavan PO.
HD Love is completely silent on Guindy but he does mention that in the 1640s, Governor Langhorne acquired a garden bungalow in the Mount area, which he later sold to Chinna Venkatadri, just before leaving for England, which shows in how many creative ways them colonials made money. Muthiah opines that this was the same property that after many twists and turns came into the hands of one Gilbert Ricketts (ugh, what a name) who died intestate in 1817. The 600 acres of scrub forest came up for auction in 1827 when Sir Thomas Munro was Governor and he acquired it all for the Company. It became the weekend retreat of the Governors of Madras until 1947. During the week they were at Government House, Mount Road (now Omandurar Estate, with the house demolished to make way for you know what) and during weekends they were in Guindy, huntin, shootin, and fishin. That is, when the Governor and family were not summering in Ooty, which was for six months each year. Jolly lives these Governors led. Beginning with 1827, the Raj constructed Guindy Lodge, a process that ended only in 1947. That year, with Independence, Governor Krishnakumarsinhji Bhavsinhji, the Maharajah of Bhavnagar, opted to make Guindy Lodge the Governor’s official residence and so it became. The building was described by the late K Kalpana as the luckiest heritage structure in the city as its maintenance is in keeping with the prestige of its occupants.
Guindy Forest as it was, soon began to be forked out for other purposes as well – IIT Madras (another pin code) took away some and I think even earlier Anna University (yet another pin code) got land from here. The Adyar Cancer Institute (Dr S Krishnamurthy Campus) came up on the northern edge. Along side this is what was once only Gandhi Mandapam – the city’s memorial to the Mahatma, inaugurated in 1956. Under Kalaignar Karunanidhi, this was rather cannily converted into a Golgotha of sorts for leaders of non-Dravidian allegiance, the beach being reserved for the new ruling elite. Rajaji got a memorial here (Kalaignar designed the distinctive crown on it), and was followed by K Kamaraj. Then came Bhaktavatsalam. In later years, a martyr’s memorial and another to Rettaimalai Srinivasan the Dalit leader have come up here as well. By far the most impressive are those to Gandhi, Rajaji and Kamaraj.
Guindy Park, spanning five square kms, was carved out of Raj Bhavan in 1958, at the instance of Pt Jawaharlal Nehru. This has over time become a national park, one of the few within city limits and is home to a diverse array of flora and fauna, the Black Buck being the most visible symbols. The animals however recognise no limits and wander all around Raj Bhavan, IIT and the surroundings. Deer have been known to walk all the way to the Nizhal Park in Kotturpuram and from there enter the Madras Club. The Children’s Park is a part of the greater Guindy National Park and when I was a child, Vidya Mandir had a practice of taking students one day each year to the place. My favourites there were the shoe-house and a large metal deer on wheels. This was once used by soldiers for target practice. There was a toy train that I don’t recall to have ever worked. One corner of Guindy National Park is occupied by the Snake Park. This was once the Crocodile Bank, begun by Romulus Whitaker and when that initiative shifted out to Mamallapuram, the land was given to the Snake Park, begun by Rom Whitaker in 1972 and India’s first facility for reptiles. Despite such an impressive green cover, Raj Bhavan is in reality a last stand for Chennai’s ecology – what Theodore Baskaran writes of as our ‘squandered heritage’.
There are entire lakes and ponds inside the Raj Bhavan campus. Besides there is a polo ground, once a place where the game was regularly played, with the Governor’s team being a formidable one. The city had its own polo players, led by AC Muthiah, who too practiced here. Now that is all in the past. Also here was the Riding Club, of which perhaps more when I cover the Race Course, which though associated with Guindy, falls in Chennai 600032 and can be dealt with when its turn comes.
One last word – the name Guindy – I don’t believe any of the tall stories involving Sage Bharadwaja’s (it could be Parasara or Yagnyavalkya too)kamandal or kindi . I also don’t believe that it was because of neighbouring Kathipara being shaped like a kindi.
You can read about Chennai 600021 here