After what seems an age, I am back with my chronicle of pin codes. Today’s is Chennai 600025, which is essentially Anna University, occupied by the College of Engineering Guindy (CEG) and the Alagappa College of Technology (AC Tech), with a few other, but no less significant, campuses also being a part of the same area. For the record, Chennai 600025 is bordered by Kotturpuram (Chennai 85), The Raj Bhavan (Chennai 22) and Nandanam (Chennai 600035).
The Legend Of Little Mount
If we were to go chronologically, then Little Mount I guess would be the first landmark here. Legend has it that St Thomas, one of the 12 apostles of Jesus, came here and lived in a cave. In the 16th century, the Portuguese built a church dedicated to Our Lady of Health, which after several modernisations is a circular shrine, with very little of its heritage left.
The Story of Saidapet
Technically, all of this is Saidapet, which was once part of the Jagir of Chingleput (now Chengalpattu, and more correctly Chengalva Pattanam – the town of red lotuses), an area with a documented history from the Sangam age and by 18th century Mughal property. Saidapet takes its name from Mohammed Syed, who as Sadatullah Khan was elevated as the Nawab of Arcot by Aurangzeb. With the Mughal Empire weakening and the Nawabs more or less free to do what they wanted, the English gained the upper hand. The jagir of Chengalpattu was handed out to the EIC in 1763 by the then Nawab of Arcot. This was ratified by the Mughal Emperor in 1788. Saidapet became an important town and finally in 1859 became district headquarters, which is why we have the handsome Magistrates Court building located here. This, when Saidapet was made part of Madras city in 1949/50 became the Metropolitan Magistrate’s Court, in which capacity it still functions. The road on which it stands is Taluk Office Road, as it connected to the Collectorate which was on the other side of the Adyar, cutting across Mount Road. Once known as Home’s Gardens, that collectorate was a handsome Indo Saracenic edifice, full of lovely stained glass and statuary and named Panagal Buildings in the 1960s. This was demolished in the 1990s to make way for a new multi storey Panagal Maligai which is ugly beyond description.
CE Becomes CEG
It was just before the First World War that land was allotted by the Government of India for shifting the College of Engineering from Chepauk to Guindy. The 185 acres was carved out of Guindy Lodge campus, the weekend retreat of the Governor of Madras, and now the Raj Bhavan. Work began on the buildings only towards the end of WWI and much of the architecture owes its inspiration to the then Principal WA James. This includes the shape of the main building, which is the letter E, standing for engineering. The construction of a rear wing in the 1980s, though in sympathetic style has obliterated the significance of that original contour. The CEG, which became home to the Anna University in 1978, remains one of India’s premier engineering colleges. It is also the country’s oldest technical institution, having its beginnings in 1794. And its campus is still lovely. Wandering around, you can see every kind of architecture – the colonial in the structures of the 1930s, the brutalist/modernist in the workshops and blocks built in the 1960s and 1970s, inspired by Le Corbusier and also Soviet buildings, and then some very modern structures such as the Dana Bergh building.
AC Tech as an Adjunct
Next door is the AC College of Technology. It owes its existence to ‘Vallal’ Sir KV Al Rm Alagappa Chettiar, who in a short life amassed, lost and amassed several fortunes. Just around Independence, Alagappa Chettiar decided to donate all his wealth to education, especially of the technical kind. This visionary saw that India would need more technocrats and less clerks and bureaucrats in future. The AC Tech came up in consequence in 1944, thanks in part of Dr Sir A Lakshmanaswami Mudaliar, then Vice Chancellor of the University of Madras. The handsome buildings, mostly in Art Deco style, were by LM Chitale I think. This college is also part of Anna University.
The Anna Centenary Library
At the northern end of Anna University/CEG campus, bordering on Kotturpuram is the Anna Centenary Library. Conceived by M Karunanidhi, this came up as a tribute to his mentor and former CM of Tamil Nadu, CN Annadurai. With foundation stone being laid in 2008, work was completed in 2010. Around five lakh books, sourced in a very haphazard fashion, make up the collection. The library however is a delightful building, thankfully spared the rage of JJ when she was CM. With the DMK back in saddle, it is predictably seeing better days.
Taking a Boat to Guindy
By the side of this library is a narrow road, which was how you came to CEG from the Nandanam/Saidapet mainland, in the era when there was no bridge. For a long time this bore the name Ferry Road. I don’t know what it is called now. The other option was to take the Adyar Bridge and then turn left on to what is now Sardar Patel (earlier Guindy) Road. Gandhi Mandapam Road is a creation of the 1980s, after the Kotturpuram Bridge was built.
Srinagar Colony that Suryanarayanan Built
Completely overshadowed by the institutions of Chennai 600025 is an upmarket housing area known as Srinagar Colony. This was the brainchild of writer Sivasankari’s father Suryanarayanan, who ran a successful auditing firm Suri & Co. For long a resident of T Nagar, it was he who conceptualised Srinagar Colony and developed it in the 1960s. According to Sivasankari, an island on the Adyar was used for mixing the cement concrete needed for the houses. Several prominent people from T Nagar made the shift to Srinagar Colony, and that included the promoter himself. The singer DK Pattammal was a long-time resident too. In later years the eminent neurologist Dr Krishnamoorthy Srinivas lived here. Srinagar Colony still remains a gracious area, with its layout modelled on Mada Streets and named as such.
To read about Chennai 600024, click here – https://sriramv.com/2022/08/24/chennai-600024-kodambakkam-madrasday/
You can see a full presentation done by me on the CEG here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6QiZlnAJh5E