15th April 2018.
The much awaited Poonamllee heritage walk came to true on 15th April 2018 with 20+ history enthusiastic participants. This walk or the ride (both 4 wheeler and 2 wheeler ) was curated by Mrs Nivedita Louis, a freelance journalist, after 3 times painful recee to get permission and first hand information. The beauty is, the persons in-charge of that heritage places, do not know the real history behind it.
Our original plan was to start 16.00 hrs, from the blind school was changed to 07.00 hrs and aimed to complete by 10.00 hrs, to avoid to visit the places after sun set. Out of 13 places planned, we could able to cover 12 historical places with new findings and Thirukachi Nambikal & Sri Varadharaja Perumal temple was dropped for want of time ( 13 Cut short to 12, since 13 may not be lucky number.. ha..ha.. ). This post and continuation posts of my blog will cover the important details of our Poonamallee heritage visit, of course with some photographs.
VICTORY MEMORIAL BLIND SCHOOL
Initially there was a fort measuring 175 yards by 42 yards called Mohammaden fort, built by Nawab of carnatic with 18 feet high rampart, bastions, moats and fortification which divides the Poonamallee in to two parts. Muhammad Ali gave this fort to British with 330 sq miles, (which had 231 Villages) in 1749 CE and again 2284 sq miles(which had 2000 villages) in 1763 CE, to ascend to throne of Arcot with British armed support. During 1780 CE to 1800 CE, struggle between Mysore, French, British and Nawab, this fort got military importance and Garrison was constructed to house barracks, Stables, retirement recluse and Hospital.
The construction of the barracks was started in 1888 CE and completed in March 1893 CE. Some of the streets of the Villages are named by the Britishers ( Buckingham Street, Queen Victoria Road, Sepoy Line., etc.. ). Quarters, kitchens, prison for petty thieves prison for the war soldiers ( French ) were also added. The floors of the Barracks was laid with cudappa stones. ( the available stones at that time are used for flooring of the stables which includes dismantled more than 1000 years old Hindu temples with Chozha period inscriptions ) The stable could house 500 horses and famed Poonamallee Arab horses were bred here.
Albert HA Hervy, a young Captain served in the 40th regiment of Madras Native infantry in 1830s in his book ‘Ten Years in India” describes the poor condition of the barracks. The European soldiers are accommodated in a poor condition. Fort walls of Poonamalle fort was knocked down. The Hospital and part of barracks, the ramparts running along these buildings keep out of any healthy circulation of air. The officers quarters are wretched, little bits of pigeon holes and so hot that any one residing within them ought to be grilled to death. The French Barracks housed prisoners are the ‘best in the place’. The pensioners residing within the limit of depot, in cottages neatly laid out, with small gardens in front.
Later in 1931CE, Asia’s first high school was started in this barracks as per Eric Conran Smith’s idea and named as Victory Memorial Blind School to commemorate the victory of British in world war –I. Rayappa Joseph was the first Indian Principal. 950 students once on roll was now with only 250 students. Vocational training classes also conducted for the women. Regional Braille Press, Govt rehabilitation center for blind women, blind teachers training institute are function here.
Now the area has shrunk to 36 acres of which 10 acres are with CRPF, Hospital and a Sacred Heart Seminary. At present there is no trace of Fort or the fort walls and the present Sri Kottai veeran Muneeswarar temple may remind the fort once existed ( details will be in next post ).
A Panoramic View of the Victory memorial school
Blind school view from road side
Stairs to first floor
Horse Stable corridor
The inscription stone of the Barracks building
Chozha inscription (May be Rajaraja)
Vikrama Chozha ( 1118 - 1136 AD) inscription
To be continued ...Kottai Veeran Muneeswaran Temple - Exploring Poonamallee - A Heritage Walk
--- OM SHIVAYA NAMA---