Category Archives: Madras Week

Greatest British Contribution in Madras to Modern India

The Madras Regiment

The Greatest British contribution in Madras to Modern India is the raising of the Madras Regiment by the British in 1758. Making a beginning with these infant steps today we have the mighty Indian Army – the largest standing volunteer army in the world.

In 1640 AD the British East India Company established its first fortified post -Fort Saint George near Madras which soon became its headquarters. The Madras Regiment was initially formed as the Madras European Regiment in the 1660s by the East India Company. However, it was formed as a battalion in 1748 under the command of Major Stringer Lawrence. The battalion was involved in all the battles against the French forces in India. Lawrence structured the regiment to include two battalions, one European and one Sepoy (Indian). Both battalions were similar in structure and included seven companies each, with each company including three officers in command and seventy privates. Also part of the companies, were four sergeants and corporals and three drummers.

The regiment has been part of many campaigns with both the British Indian Army and the Indian Army. Many well-known British officers have commanded this regiment; Robert Clive is one among them. This regiment has fought the Carnatic wars, which were fought in South India.

The elephant crest symbolizes its gallantry in the Battle of Assaye under Arthur Wellesley, later Duke of Wellington.

The motto of the regiments is Swadharme Nidhanam Shreyaha” (It is a glory to die doing one’s duty)

War cry of the Regiments is Veera Madrassi, Adi Kollu , Adi Kollu” (Brave Madrassi, Hit and Kill, Hit and Kill!)

After the formation of Madras Regiment many more regiments were set up during the British Raj. The process of raising new units and modernization of the weapons and equipments has been continuous since then.

Today the Indian Army has on its strength 9,80,000 active troops. It is divided into Six Operational commands and One Training command. It sheer size and geographical coverage is gigantic.

But for the initiative taken by the British to set up the Madras Regiment, I very much doubt if our country would have ever had such a formidable force that we have today. This for me is the biggest British contribution in Madras to Modern India.

Post by: Wg Cdr S Harshavardhan,  First Week Winner

The views expressed in the posts and comments of the Madras Week blogs do not reflect the positions or opinions of British Council. They should be understood as the personal opinions of the author. British Council is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied here.

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Greatest British contribution in Madras to Modern India

The idea of Madras: Made for India
Retreating forces of colonization historically leave behind a lot-some gigantic structures some indelible signs of oppression and exploitation, some unshakeable institutions, irreversible social mutations, ways of life inconspicuously fused with the regional culture.

It is possible that one surveys what the British rule left behind as its contributions in Madras with mixed emotions including a fair sense of indignation. Such emotional overhang could come in the way of taking a more rational viewpoint.

History aggregates otherwise scattered entities. Viewed with that in mind, the idea of Madras appears to be a colossal contribution of the British to building of modern India.There is so much the British built and left behind in Madras. But the very act of building a vivacious city out of a nondescript stretch of coastal land and endowing it with lasting characteristics, part purposely and part inevitably, stands out from all of them as the most far-reaching contribution to modern India. Because along with Calcutta in the north east, Chennai in the south formed a firm foundation for the developmental template of post-colonial India.

Moreover, to string up a collection of independent territories into an integrated democratic country, it needed the foundation of a few broad-based cities, which could act as the nuclei of modernity- Cities with well developed educational and healthcare systems, flourishing commerce and industry, dependable transportation facilities and stable administrative structures. Britons left Madras as one such city at the end of India’s freedom struggle. (This is not to say that there was an act of unusual benevolence from the part of the colonial rulers, but to reflect on the truth that a well developed city was a natural outcome of centuries of colonization by a powerful European state, which used it primarily for its own riches. )

The General Hospital, Chennai which started as a hospital for the East India Company in 1664, The College of Engineering, Guindy (CEG), the oldest engineering school in India which was founded as a survey school in 1794, the development of Madras port as a trade hub in the 18th century, the founding of suburban trains in the early 20th century and the legislative and executive machinery of the Madras Presidency were all parts of the building blocks of a city that would defied the torrents of political and social change. Add to it the cultural ethnicity, original art forms, regional education systems and other elements of ancestry which were not annihilated.It is not difficult to see that Madras was an idea of the British raj that outlived its historical confinement.

Post by: Sajan PK, Runner Up Winner

The views expressed in the posts and comments of the Madras Week blogs do not reflect the positions or opinions of British Council. They should be understood as the personal opinions of the author. British Council is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied here.

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Greatest British contribution in Madras to Modern India

British contribution has been manifold in making this city of Madras a modern metropolis where peace flourished and the essentially conservative citizens lived happily.
Proper Infrastructure is the key critical component for any developmental activity to take off successfully. The greatest contribution of the British has been in the provision of this infrastructure in terms of road and rail links, construction of buildings that are today the landmarks of the city of Madras. A lot of care and meticulous planning has gone into the execution of this work. Their completed projects have successfully stood the test of time. Even a century old building stands like a rock today while the projects executed in recent times fall like a pack of cards. This all the more highlights the quality of contribution and significance of the British work which is commendable. Today we are struggling to maintain and bring up structures of the same standards.
We tend to compare what we have today with those that the British had provided. Their work becomes the standard, the base for evaluation of the work on hand.
Hats off to the British for their contribution in providing the foundation for a vibrant, modern Madras and placing in not just on the Indian map but also on the world map for all to take note of .
Like it or not, one cannot deny the valuable contribution the British have made in India particularly in Madras.

Post by: M.S.Vaidyanathan, Runner Up Winner

The views expressed in the posts and comments of the Madras Week blogs do not reflect the positions or opinions of British Council. They should be understood as the personal opinions of the author. British Council is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied here.

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An Iconic Symbol of Madras- The Culture and Lifestyle

There is a certain quality to every city. There is a certain sense of attachment and nostalgia, little weaknesses and major flaws about a certain place which every person is willing to overlook if their love for the place exceeds its problems. Madras has particular such qualities within its folds of Kanchipuram silk sarees and under the aluminium tumblers filled with hot filter coffee, the biggest of them all being its inherent culture and the casual setting that will welcome anyone with open arms. (Of course, there is Rajinikanth, but since he represents Tamilnadu as a whole and not just my blissful city, I would like to let that one go.)

Culture flits through the space between your fingers and floats in the air here. Be it through the heavily jam-packed streets of Ranganthan Street a week before Diwali or Mylapore’s early morning scent of coffee and peace, there lies an immaculate love within people for the ideas and beliefs they believe in. Traditional art forms and practices are followed till date and it doesn’t always pertain to just one religion. The cosmopolitan air to the city joins hands with the living cultural realm it so feeds and the residents enjoy every major festival without any bias with respect to religion, caste or creed. The confectionaries received on Christmas, the rava laddu, seedai etc made on the days many Hindu festivals and the open invitations to hog biriyani on Eid from our neighbours are all on the same platter and always a cause for people coming together in tolerance. The lifestyle of the people who live in mutual co-existence here isn’t sophisticated but down-to-earth and quite lively.

For most parts of it, it consists of simple folks, stereotyped and to a certain extent true- a middle-class crowd, who don’t mind taking a share auto to work or eating from the roadside idli kadai. Every autorikshaw driver is anna and every flower-seller is akka. The simple lifestyle offers that much bravery to indulge in friendship with people one has never met before.

December season (margazhi mahotsavam) still has its own crowd hitting every sabha in town, every free concert attended as the last square foot would allow and the open heart to welcome another to share that last square foot to enjoy the music as well.   A front-runner when it comes to theatre, the city is dotted with many established theatre groups and many upcoming ones, both in Tamil and English. A vibrant theatre scene and an on-stage presence has almost every child enrolled in music lessons, Bharathnatyam classes and oratorical skills which Madras prodigies easily obtain along with brilliant education. Cultural hubs like the Kalakshetra along the beach fronts of Chennai are most popular and ensure the continuum of tradition and art forms. Till date, the many beaches along the coastline are a crowd-puller for various shows, meets, rallies and leisure.

The immense built-heritage of the city with its innumerous Indo-Sarcenic architecture and Dravidian temple structures are a striking feature which can transport one back into the times when Chennai was still a colonial settlement and much before as an agglomeration of kingdoms. With globalization hitting every other metro in the country at rocket speed, the gradual development of this city is of much satisfaction while it still holds on to the threads of tradition.

People here are attached to the culture in ways they don’t comprehend. If you try asking an average Madrasi to read some other newspaper for a day and not The Hindu, (the most widely read newspaper in Chennai) they might go crazy with the oncoming change. There needs to be spice in the food and kolams at doorsteps, filter-coffee utensils at home and good sambar everyday and an occasional Rajinikanth movie to cheer for. (This has to be watched first-day-first-show)

Last but not least is the love the language Tamil holds and the way ‘Zha’ sounds under one’s tongue. The many aspects of heritage and the culture that has been passed down for several decades and centuries still lives in its acme living its full content and that is the biggest symbol the city could ever possess.

Post by: Hemalatha Venkatraman, Second Week Winner

The views expressed in the posts and comments of the Madras Week blogs do not reflect the positions or opinions of British Council. They should be understood as the personal opinions of the author. British Council is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied here.

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An Iconic Symbol Of Madras…

Madras evokes a range of emotions and images in me. The majestic façade of Chennai Central, the bustling Koyembedu market, the meandering Cooum… the list goes on. However, to me, the most iconic symbol of Madras happens to be my favourite place in the city – the Marina beach.

I have always been enthralled by beaches. Peering down into the blue waters of the Atlantic from the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland, walking on pebbly beaches in Wales, freezing in the cold shores of Atlantic City, celebrity spotting in the warm beaches of LA, squinting out at the shimmering waters of the Persian Gulf in Dubai, I’ve always had a recurring thought – “Not as good as our Marina”.

The Marina beach is the world’s second longest sandy beach and is special to me. I have fond childhood memories of building elaborate sand castles and running to and fro with the waves as they beckoned to me. I could spend hours simply sitting on the cool sands of the Marina, gazing out into the endless sea and watching the world go by, with the salty breeze caressing me, bringing with it the tang of the sea.

Every morning, the Marina welcomes a host of joggers huffing and puffing along as the golden globe of the sun emerges over the horizon. As the sun climbs the sky, one sees lovers immersed in their own little world oblivious to the scorching heat. Evening comes around and the Marina is abuzz with activity.

I doubt if any other beach offers such sustainable livelihoods to scores of people as the Madras Marina does. Ten minutes is enough to attract the attention of a myriad group of intrepid businessmen and women. First comes the sundal seller with his shouts of “thaenga, maanga, pataani sundal!”, enticing you with the chickpea snack, peppered generously with grains of sand. He is followed by the soothsayer, who bestows her blessings for a 100 children on you! Next comes the flower seller, accompanied by the intoxicating scent of jasmine, insisting you buy a closely woven strand. The bajji seller tantalizes you with his piping hot bajjis – onion, potato, chilli – ah! The sheer variety! Meanwhile the fiery sparks that burst out of the corn seller’s cart as he roasts ears of corn grabs your attention and you watch, fascinated, as he slathers a potent mixture of chilly powder and lemon juice on the corn.

Pacify your sweet tooth with some fluffy, bright pink cotton candy or pay heed to the tinkling of the ice cream pushcart. The balloon seller, the gypsy selling attractive trinkets, the musical jingles of the merry-go-round, the men urging you to go on a horse ride… there is no end to the enterprise and commerce that abounds at the Marina.

As night approaches, the Marina quiets down, until only the crash of the waves remain. And as the broad beam of light from the lighthouse sweeps past, a sense of peace descends on you. The eternity of nature embraces you and you are one with the universe again.

Post by: Anne John, Runner Up Winner

The views expressed in the posts and comments of the Madras Week blogs do not reflect the positions or opinions of British Council. They should be understood as the personal opinions of the author. British Council is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied here.

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An iconic symbol of Chennai

Laid in Madras; Lifeline of Chennai

You reach most cities at the end of a railway journey and very likely you leave the towering building and the associated din of the railway station behind once you venture into the chaos of the city.

You come back to the city’s railway station only for the next journey that takes you far away, otherwise trains or railway stations rarely chug into your daily life. Provided, you don’t live in Chennai.

Everyday Chennai can be painted in a mosaic of railway imagery. Some in garish colours and zig zag forms, others in pastel colours and alluring curves. But all about journeys of  metallic tracks and electric power that connect impossible ends far apart in the city with incredible ease.

Its vast network of city trains (suburban and MRTS) surely is an unmistakeable icon that defines Chennai. And a legacy that connects the vibrant city to its colonial past.

Operating 580 services through its 3 segments, the Chennai Suburban Railway moves about 5 lakh people on its city stretch alone everyday. If you add the 1995-born MRTS (Mass Rapid Transit System) to the 82- year old Suburban Railway, what could be called City Trains is a formidable force in urban transportation with a total capacity of nearly 6 lakh people per day. But it is not so much about the numbers as it is about the social fabric in motion it weaves everyday.

Sitting next to a hurried IT professional rushing to a ‘life-threatening’ client meeting could be a migrant labourer scanning the city in search of a job. Airtime on board a city train could be shared by the latest Tamil chart buster playing from a smart phone and the loud calls of a hawker selling boiled peanuts in paper cups. Unfading smiles on the wet faces of children coming back form the beach could mix well with fragrant glances exchanged between romancing couples. Despite an apologetically feeble “First Class” signage that notionally separates one or two coaches from the rest, the sheer human power on board these trains pull down barriers of separation, though momentarily, and blends all forms of religion, caste, class and strata, connecting people with their purposes with amazing speed.

And the myriad narratives of everyday urban lives pour out at all city railway stations abutting street markets selling fruits, vegetables, stationery and magazines. If you get out of an MRTS train, you could also step into the middle of nowhere.

For those who are running short of time as well as for those on a lazy exploration, these iconic locomotives of Chennai takes you to your destination with predictability, going over the road traffic or cutting through them. Accomplishing hour-long commute in minutes running  through 17 MRTS stations and 24 suburban stations (from Beach to Kattangulathur), city trains form a lifeline as well as a channel for the cultural life of the city.

Have your ever stood in a melting night at a sleepy suburban railway station staring at the distant green light, waiting for the katalkkari chellum katassi vandi (the last train to the Beach)? That is an experience you can not let go of in Chennai and conjure elsewhere in the world!

Post by: Sajan PK, Runner Up Winner

The views expressed in the posts and comments of the Madras Week blogs do not reflect the positions or opinions of British Council. They should be understood as the personal opinions of the author. British Council is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied here.

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An iconic symbol of Madras – The Marina

Any scorching sunny day in Madras is downed by chasing the waves and getting lost in the sands of Marina, an eternal iconic symbol of Madras. Marina was, and will always be the icon to Madras.Marina, the second largest urban beach in the world, holds the first place in the hearts of the people of Madras.

Marina has brought trade and cultural exchange to Madras, right from its early days, in addition to the trade winds as always. Also, Marina, literally translated as “sea promenade” has stood true to its name right from the day it was christened by General Duff.

A major catalyst in the urbanization of Madras, has also contributed to its socio cultural, economic and cultural significance. The promenade from the Fort St. George to the Elliots beach is dotted with numerous Indo –Sarcenic buildings, the major seats of knowledge-the Presidency College, The Queen Mary’s, University of Madras. It houses the erstwhile seat of the state administration- St. George Fort and the present day hot seat –the Secretariat. The ceremonial parades of the armed forces are held on the sands of Marina every year.

The light house in Marina has been the path finder for Marine traders. The present day business network of Madras is enhanced by the Chennai Port and one can’t fail to notice the dock in the horizon. The visit in the early hours, uncovers the life of the native fishermen, the true sons of the sea.

The cricket craze city is comforted by playing beach cricket in the sands of Marina or by cheering up the players at the Chepauk Stadium across.  Now the crowd looks forward to the splendid beach volleys and the annual marathon along the beach too.

One  relishes  the past with a stroll in the Marina, dotted by the memorials of Anna and MGR, the triumph of labour statue, the Gandhi marching to Dandi, and the timeless Tamil saints and poets frozen in stone, the famous Ice house, now the Vivekanda Memorial ending with the Karl Schmidt memorial in Bessie.

The other wise calm and tranquil beach has been a witness to some fiery political meetings, rallies and demonstrations during every other election season.  The trend continues to this day as Marina is stage for the various awareness shows, rainbow parades and pride walks.

Scores of people throng Marina to beat the heat, to relish the mouth watering seafood and bajjis, to shoot out balloons, to run wild with kites and at times just to get engulfed in the magnitude of the waves and listen to the hum of the sea.  But all roads lead to Marina, on the day of Kaanum pongal when families give their customary visit here, on the day of get together.

The urban scenario in Madras today has been witnessing mushrooming malls, multiplexes and theatres but the Marina is still the favourite hot spot of youngsters and old alike, the nature’s best jogging track, and the abode for lovers, and has the best eateries in the city that offer you sundals, bajjis, seafood, corn, cotton candy, ice cream, kulfi and what not. You can have your fortune read out by the people lurking around to read your finger prints, palm and face and at times with a card drawn by a parrot. You can feel on top of the world riding racing horses whose reins are secure in the hands of its trainers. The sands of Marina are also a home and a night stay for the scores of people who throng the beach when the city refuses them a place to stay.

One can go here and be awestruck by the lazy morning sun and bustling local life or walk for sum hot piping food on a hotter noon, or even watch the dramatic change of activities at the dusk or just forget oneself, staring at the horizon, deafened by the roars of the waves washing across your feet and feel timid in front of the vast ocean which never rests even when the metro retires to sleep, calm yet maddening at the same time, the true spirit of Marina.

A visit to Marina is a travel made into a journey and a moment etched as a memory; this is a salute to the icon of Madras, that’s here to stay forever.

Post by: Valaikodi

The views expressed in the posts and comments of the Madras Week blogs do not reflect the positions or opinions of British Council. They should be understood as the personal opinions of the author. British Council is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied here.

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An Iconic Symbol of Madras

Ancient Tamil culture had the wonderful practice of addressing the city by its river. Rivers were considered sacred and treated as blood running through veins of the country. They treated river as a mother. As far as Madras is concerned there are many rivers and lakes but Cooum stands out. Cooum was addressed and attached with Madras right from the ancient times. For a city many icons comes and stand as a face for a while but very few will remain irreplaceable. Cooum is one such icon which is irreplaceable. One cannot study the history or the current status or the future status of Madras without Cooum. Cooum is a river which cannot be ignored when the name Madras is told.

The Cooum River divides the north and central Madras. The name of the river is said to be derived from the Tamil terms such as Cuppam(Deep Pit) and Coovalan(Expert in ground water and river and all water resources). The history of the river goes way to centuries when it was lively and lives were dependent on it. The river was the source for drinking water, transportation and navigation. The navigation through this river has a lot of credits to Indians as they used not only for trade within the country but also outside the country too and archaeological facts prove this. The river had many natural banks and one such is even named Amaintha Karai (Naturally formed bank) now known as Amjikkarai. The river was once considered as a Thames of south India. Bearing all these fruits the river is less than 45 miles of length. No river in the world has this much pearls in its crown of this length.

Beyond this financial and socially integrated status the river also formed a sacred part. Ancient scriptures suggest that once bathed in Cooum your sins are washed away. Even well-known philanthropist Pachaiyappa Mudaliar used to bath in the river before offering his prayer daily. This river was compared to even the mighty Ganges and said it has the same sacred powers of that the Ganges.

It was in the later stage of the twentieth century the Cooum River started getting polluted. At the early 1950s the river had around 90 species of fishes and due to toxicity it was reduced around 40 at 70s. Now it is no more a habitat for the aquatic creatures nor does it support the living around the area. The river once considered a path to salvation is waiting for its redemption. Many attempts to revamp the vein of Madras went in vain. It has now become the storage place of all industrial and habitat’s wastes. Cooum now is synonymous to the waste, toxicity and ardent odour of the sewage.

The facts and face of the river may have changed so as the city of Madras. But one thing that never changes is the historic bonding of the river to the city. The river is not perennial but as a cultural icon of Madras it is perennial. The deep pit hides lot more secrets in its dirt so is the city of Madras, it too hides lot more secrets to be unraveled. The river Cooum was a cultural icon of Madras, is a cultural icon of Madras and will always be the cultural icon of Madras.

Post by: Gopalakrishnan Krishnasamy

The views expressed in the posts and comments of the Madras Week blogs do not reflect the positions or opinions of British Council. They should be understood as the personal opinions of the author. British Council is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied here.

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An iconic symbol of Chennai

“The Triumph of Labor” Statue on the Marina beach of Chennai is an iconic symbol of Chennai.

It means different things to different people. For the weary tourist it offers the cool shade, for the man selling bubble blowers it is an ideal location to catch the eye of prospective buyers, for the sundal (softly cooked dry green peas) seller , hot spot to push up his sales and for the trade unionist it symbolizes importance of hard work and persistence.

The statue portraying four men trying to move an adamant boulder was sculpted by Debi Prasad Roy Chowdhury, the first Indian Principal of the Madras School of Arts and Crafts. Unveiled in the 1950s, it is reminiscent of a famous World Ward- II photograph showing American Marines raising the flag on Iwo Jima

The statue was installed on the eve of the Republic Day in 1959, as part of the then Kamaraj government’s drive to beautify the beach.

Since the “Marina Beach” is the favorite place for the people to keep away from sweltering heat all through the year. Right from morning walkers to kids who take over the sands during evening and senior citizens who spend their time talking about the daily happenings with friends, everyone has a bonding with the beach. Hence this statue on Marina naturally becomes a cynosure of all eyes, one that stands there as monuments of hard work and leaves an indelible mark on everyone’s mind.

Post by: Anand Gopalan

The views expressed in the posts and comments of the Madras Week blogs do not reflect the positions or opinions of British Council. They should be understood as the personal opinions of the author. British Council is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied here.

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An iconic symbol of Madras…

The basilica of Santhome church, a national shrine, located at the southern part of the Marina beach, in the city of Chennai has its own historical significance.

It is named after St.Thomas, one of the twelve legendry apostles of Jesus Christ, and is built over his tomb. It has the honour of being one of the 3 churches built over the tomb of apostles, other than St.Peter’s basilica in Rome and that of St.James’s basilica in Spain.

After the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, all the apostles of Jesus travelled all over the world spreading His word. St.Thomas became acquainted with an Indian merchant called Habban who used to do business in the Middle Eastern countries and through him, St. Thomas landed in India in 52 A.D. The original church of Santhome was said to be built by St. Thomas himself.

According to Dr S Radhakrishnan, the first president of India, “Even before Europe became Christian, India became Christian because of St. Thomas the Apostle of Christ”.

In the 16th century, the church was rebuilt by the Portuguese. However, its present magnificent version was designed by the British and was given the status of a cathedral in 1893. It was brilliantly designed by the then British architects in the Neo-gothic style which was popular during that period in England. The nave, the main body of the church is 112 feet and the width is 33 feet and the tip of the cross of the spire is 155 feet from the ground. The colourful stained glass windows, displays the moments of the apostle, St. Thomas with the resurrected Christ Jesus.

The three important pilgrimage centers are Santhome, Little Mount and St. Thomas Mount in Chennai because Santhome church was built by St. Thomas, Little Mount was where St. Thomas sought refuge and St. Thomas Mount was where he attained his martyrdom. Also there is a very interesting and incredible fact associated with these   places ….these three places are situated in a straight line making an angle of 30 degree from the equator.

The church was recently renovated and includes two chapels, one above the ground is the main chapel and one below the ground is the tomb chapel. The church also known as “Our Lady of Mylapore church” because of the Mylai Matha statue brought  by St.Francis Xavier.

The church is filled with the divine spirit which brings you solace and peace once you enter this ancient church. Over the years, it has been the divine place filled with the grace of God for many praying souls across the centuries. The sunlight seeping through its stained glass windows drenches you in the healing power of the Divine. The quiet gentle sea breeze touches you as you pray……it is a great spiritual experience to visit this inspirational church.

Thus the history of the church is closely entwined with the city of Madras for the past 400 years or so, ever since madarasapattinam came into existence.

Post by: Annie Leovalan

The views expressed in the posts and comments of the Madras Week blogs do not reflect the positions or opinions of British Council. They should be understood as the personal opinions of the author. British Council is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied here.

 

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