21th August 2017.
This scheduled walk of “The Arcot Nawabs Trail at Triplicane” kick started on 20th Aug 2017, after a delay of 20 minutes around 06.20 hrs, from Madras University entrance on Walajah Road. This walk is a part of Madras day celebrations. Registered for this walk well in advance. Since all the gates except one, of PWD offices are closed, reached back side of the Khalsa mahal through small passage. Mr Anwar gifted us a small bottle of “ather”, a perfume extracted from the natural flowers, which normally used by the Muslims before going to the Mosque and functions. The he started explaining the details of the Kalsa Mahal and Humayun Mahal. The story of the Nawab’s Chepauk Palace goes like this…
The Carnatic usually refers to South India, once the power center of various dynasties like Mughals, Marathas, British, French and also The Nawabs of Arcot. This dynasty of Arcot was controlled between Mughals and Marathas during 17th century. Till date the present Prince, Nawab Mohammad Abdul Ali holds the seat of power as Arcot and Madras, presently called Chennai as their Home.
At the end of 17th Century, while Marathas are trying to establish their base in South, Aurangzeb, the Mughal Emperor wants to overtake Marathas. So he sent Zulfikar Khan, who could not do anything for about 6 years. Seeing this the local chieftain Yechamma Nayak had written a letter to Aurangzeb saying that Zulfikar Khan is fooling the Emperor and if he is given power, he would defeat Marathas within a weeks time. But the letter some how landed on the hands of Zulfikar Khan. So he called Yechamma Nayak cunningly for a meeting, without revealing, how he got the letter written to the Emperor and killed him. After Marathas were defeated Zulfikar Khan was recalled to Delhi and also Zulfikar Khan was asked to make Yechamma Nayak's son to the throne. ( This shows that Aurangzeb knew the feud between Zulfikar Khan & Yechamma Nayak ). Saadatullah Khan or Mohammad Saiyid, the successor of Zulfikar Khan has become the Nawab of Arcot.
While the Arcot Nawabs grew, the British East India company also established their strong hold from Fort St. George. The friendship between Nawabs and British also grew slowly. The British supplied liquor and expensive gifts to the Nawab Daud Khan Panni, who was a drunkard. He has the funny character of giving villages in the drunken state and ask British to return back during normal.
Zulfikar Khan’s successor Saadatullah Khan or Mohammad Saiyid wants to suppress the business of British by establishing a Port at Mylapore, but landed at Kovalam. He invited Armenians and Belgium East India Company for the trading to get more revenue. The Robert Clive and Dupleix clashed in the wars of carnatic, British won the war and Mohammad Ali Wallajah came to the Power of Arcot. When Wallajah wants to move to Madras, where there are no friends, asked British to build his Palace in side the St.George Fort which was turned down. ( There is an another version that the Governor himself asked Wallajah to built a Palace within the fort, which was denied ). A new Palace was built at Chepauk on the banks of River Cooum. The Palace’s north boundary the present Madras University has become the bathing ghat for the Wallajah.
The present Chepauk Palace consists of two blocks namely Khalas Mahal, which was built in mid 1760's with minaret entrances on west and south and Humayun Mahal with a single story. It was believed that the Khalas Mahal was designed by Paul Benfield. In the mean time the Khalas Mahal was taken over by the British for the debt of Wallajah. Robert Chisholm made alteration in both blocks and converted in to offices for the Revenue board of Governor Lord Napier. The original single story Humayun mahal was added with madras terrace first floor. Both blocks are inter connected with a 75 feet tall domed and minaret square tower called Records tower in 1870AD, by Robert Chisholm.
Since we are not allowed to enter the Khalas mahal under renovation and all the gates are closed, we returned back on the same way and headed towards Wallajah Big Mosque.
….. to be continued The Arcot Nawabs Trail at Triplicane – A Heritage walk with Kombai Anwar – Part -II