Saturday, February 3, 2018

A Hindustani Music tradition right in the heart of Madras

Published in The Hindu, dated January 05, 2018

The Kanchenwada at Madras was a thriving hub of music and dance, illustrious artistes among the performers

It wasn’t just another royal wedding, when Nawab Ghulam Ghouse Khan, the last Nawab of Carnatic, took Jahangir Baksh as his second wife. Unlike his first wife, who hailed from a Hyderabadi noble family and chosen by the elders, Jahangir Baksh with whom the Nawab had madly fallen in love, was a dancing girl, a courtesan otherwise known as the Tawaif or Kanchen. On November 24, 1848, he married the dancing girl Jahangir Baksh and awarded her the title Azamunnisa Begum. The tawaifs were female entertainers who excelled in the arts of poetry, music, dancing, singing, and were considered to be well-versed in etiquette or what was known as ‘Aadaab.’ Highly respected for their politeness and refinement, their entertainment was a fine balance of classical song and dance and romantic enticement.

Though the tawaifs were no strangers to the Tamil country, in Madras they were mostly known as ‘Kanchen.’ “The elite among the tawaifs in the Mughal court were usually referred to as Kanchen” says Saba Dewan, an independent documentary film maker, who had made a film on the tawaifs of Varanasi and is currently writing a book on the same theme. In the 1760s when Nawab Muhammad Ali Walajah moved his durbar from Arcot to Madras, it was only natural that the court musicians and dancers, well-versed in Hindustani, followed him to the city.

According to Sawanihat-I-Mumtaz, which chronicles the history of the Nawabs of Carnatic, “Latifa, Tanu and Sajni, known as Sona, were the dancing girls” and “Aminud Din Khan and Ram Singh Bayragi” were the musicians often invited by Nawab Umdat ul Umra to perform at the palace of his senior sister, Sultan Unnisa Begum. Umdat ul Umra, who also wrote poetry under the pen name Mumtaz, occasionally asked the musicians to set his verses to Hindustani tunes and even chose the dancing girl to sing and dance the verse. An occasion like his father Walajah’s birthday was celebrated with Sona singing and dancing the verses of Umdat ul Umrah set to tune by Aminuddin Khan and Ram Singh.


Over a period of time, Madras became home to a number of Kanchen looking for patronage and a locality sprang up in the heart of Madras, right next to Amir Mahal at Royapettah.

Mir Bakshi Ali Street, Mohammed Hussain Street and Jani Jahan Khan Road, where interestingly the Anglo Indians also lived, became the centre of a thriving Hindustani music and dance tradition in Madras. Perhaps due to the predominant number of dancing girls and musicians at Madras, who originated from Hubli Dharwad, the two streets and the road came to be known as Kanchenwada, as wada in Marathi means a locality or a traditional complex with several mansions for different members of a family or a community.

A century after Nawab Ghulam Ghouse Khan passed away the tradition was still alive in Madras. Old timers recall that as the night wore on, the ‘Kanchenwada’ came alive to the rhythms of the tabla, harmonium, dholak, sitar and sarangi, competing with the ghungroo of the dancing girls, who sang sensuous thumris from Urdu ghazals and popular Hindi film song.

For the elite North Indian in Madras, it was at the Kanchenwada, at the mehfil, that some of the finest ghazals of Mirza Ghalib, Kaifi Azmi, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Shahir Ludhianvi, Shakeel Badauni (UP) and many other poets could be heard. One could also listen to the likes of Ustad Bismillah Khan, ‘who at the invitation of Nayab Jan Bai played Shehnai at her house’ says Saleem, who learnt the Sitar from Ustad Ahmad Hussain. Just like their patrons, among the Kanchen there were both Hindus and Muslims.

Kamala Bai, Gulzar Bai, Radha Bai, Haseena, Mumtaz, Nazeeraa Banu, Nayab Jan Bai and Baby Bai were some of the names that the old timers remember with fondness. The Kanchen were held in such high esteem that ‘the rich used to send their children to the tawaifs to learn etiquette,’ says Rauf, a senior photographer, who spent his childhood in the Kanchenwada.

Cinema and the Kanchen

“The kanchen also sang popular songs from Hindi films such as ‘Pakeezah,’ ‘Kohinoor,’ ‘Taj Mahal,’ ‘Mughal-e-Azam’ and ‘Umrao Jaan’,” says Laiq Ahmed, who himself wrote poems for the Kanchen. Though the arrival of cinema meant new entertainment avenues for the masses, and possibly declining patronage, many Kanchen took to the medium. “Nasreen Banu had danced in Gemini studio’s Hindi film ‘Paigham’,” says Ilavenil, a Tamil writer who also happened to be her neighbour on Jani Jahan Khan Road. Baby Bai, the most popular of the Madrasi Kanchen of the 1950s made a guest appearance in ‘Gharana’ as a nurse, says Laiq Ahmed. She also made a film, which of course bombed, recollected Abdur Razaaq, who met Baby first as a patron and ended up marrying her in 1960.

Like the dancing girls, the Hindustani musicians too found place in the Tamil film industry. Ustad Ahmad Hussain Khan from ‘Achpal Gharana’ in Pune, moved to Madras at the young age of 14. He subsequently became the Choudhry (caretaker) of the Kanchenwada at Royapettah. “He played Sitar for Tamil film Music composers, mostly for K.V. Mahadevan,” says Saleem, his disciple.

“The close-up shot of the fingers playing the sitar in the famous song, ‘Sonnathu Neethaana’ of Nenjil Oru Aalayam are not Devika’s but that of the Ustad Ahmad Hussain” reveals Makbhool Hussain, who used to accompany the Ustad for recording to various studios in Madras. Incidentally, the Ustad also taught music at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. The Hindustani musicians found patronage in some of the city’s prominent hotels, while the Kanchen were invited to perform at weddings.

Most of the Kanchen had rich patrons. “Every Kanchen who lived on Jani Jahan Khan Road used to entertain at least five customers. There was a plate kept in front of the musicians. The dancer used to drop the money collected from the evening into the plate. After the performance it was split between the musicians and the dancers,’ says Makbhool Hussain, who played the tabla for many of them. There were occasions when a happy patron would shower more than just money. Ilavenil, the Tamil journalist, remembers the instance of a patron throwing a house document at Nazeera Banu (obviously he had registered it in her name), a Kanchen who had migrated post- Partition from a riot torn Delhi to the relative safety of Madras.

Though the Kanchen were entertainers and inhabited a world that bordered on the ‘sinful,’ they were also religious. Rauf, a senior photographer who lived in Mir Bakshi Ali Street observes, “They would not perform during the month of Ramzan or during Muharram. They also celebrated all festivals including Diwali,” he says.

Horse Racing

“Interestingly, the tawaifs from other cities, including Benares, Lucknow, Bombay, Nagpur, Hyderabad, Hubli and Khanpur, descended on the city when horse racing was on,’ says Makbhool Hussain. They probably followed their wealthy clientele, rented houses and camped in the city till the races were over.

However, cinema and the changing social mores were having an impact on the Kanchenwada and trouble was brewing. The anti-Nautch movement that brought a traumatic end to the Devadasi system, was having its impact on the tawaifs too. Cases were filed to stop their practice and Kamala Bai, a Kanchen, engaged M.A. Ghatala, a High Court lawyer, to fight the case. Around 1958, the Madras High court ruled in the Kanchens’ favour. “The kanchen celebrated the win with a big party for my father, at a house near the Music Academy and the Tamil film actor and great comedian Chandrababu was one among the guests,” recollects Javed Ghatala.

However, the times were changing. What the judiciary rightfully refused to stop was brought to an end by a marriage. Abdur Razaq married Baby in 1960 and moved with her to the upcoming T. Nagar in 1962. With Baby Bai, the star performer moving out to lead a family life, the Kanchenwada lost its lustre and many other Kanchen followed in Baby’s footsteps, seeking a future for themselves in the institution of marriage. By the 1970s, a little more than a 250-year old tradition in Madras came to an end, leaving almost no trace of its splendorous past. As Nazeer Akbarabadi, the people’s poet of 18th century laments:

Kya tamashe inqelab-e-charkh ke kahiye Nazeer

Dum mein wo raunaq thi aur ek dum mein yeh be-raunaqi

(What to say of the lustre of revolving time, O Nazeer. In an instant there was such splendour and in another, this dullness)

Mosques in Dravidian Islamic style of Tamil Nadu

Published in The Hindu, dated November 23, 2017

Among the many inscriptions at the Vaishnavite shrine of Adhi Jagannatha Swamy at Thirupullani, about 10 km from Ramanathapuram in southern Tamil Nadu, there is one about a grant for a mosque. This particular inscription of the late 13th Century by the Pandya King Thirubuvana Chakravarthy Koneri Mei Kondan, describes the grant made to the Muslim Sonagar, to build a mosque at Pavithramanikka Pattinam. While no one today has a clue as to the exact location of Pavithramanikka Pattinam, the region has many ancient mosques like the rest of Tamil Nadu. What is unique about these mosques is that they were all built of stone, in the Dravidian architectural style with Islamic sensibilities.

Unlike north India, Islam came to the south through maritime spice trade even as it was spreading across Arabia in the 7th Century. The Muslims who were traders enriched the country with precious foreign exchange, and hence were accorded a special place by the Tamil rulers of the day, and often received grants to build mosques, like the one at the Adhi Jagannatha Swamy temple.

As mosques are called Palli Vaasal in Tamil, and they were built of kal, the Tamil word for stone, they came to be locally known as kallupallis. These kallupalliswere essentially built more like mandapams, better suited to Islamic requirement for the congregation to assemble and stand together in prayer.

With guidelines for the construction of mosques being simple - such as prayer facing Mecca, no idol worship and clean surroundings, the masons who worked on these mosques under the supervision of religious heads restricted themselves to carving floral and geometrical motifs instead of human figures as in a temple. “While the raised ‘Adisthana’ of the Hindu temple was retained, there were no ‘Garbha Grahas’ and no figurines carved on any of the pillars” says Dr.Raja Mohammad, author of Islamic Architecture in Tamil Nadu.

For more than a millennium, hundreds of such mosques built in the Dravidian Islamic architectural style came up across Tamil Nadu, often with the help of grants from the rulers of the day, ranging from the Cheras, the Pandyas, the Venad kings and the Nayaks to the Sethupathis of Ramanathapuram. Across Tamil Nadu, wherever Tamil Muslims lived in large numbers, from Pulicat near Chennai to Kilakarai, Kayalpatnam, Kadayanallur, Kottar, Tiruvithancode, Madurai, etc., one finds these beautiful kallupallis.

Amongst these kallupallis, though not the oldest, the most beautiful mosque is to be found at Kilakarai, near Ramanathapuram. A medieval port town with a predominant Tamil Muslim population, Kilakarai has many mosques built during different eras spanning many centuries. The one built towards the end of 17th Century is the most beautiful of them all. It is believed to have been built by the great merchant and philanthropist Periathambi Marakkayar, also known as Seethakkathi, whom the Dutch records speak of as a great trader having considerable influence with the Sethupathis, the then rulers of Ramanathapuram.

The mosque built in the Dravidian architectural style of the late Vijayanagara period, has elements that are specific to native traditions. Like many other kallupallis, this mosque too has Podhigai, the floral bud detailing on the pillar corbels, which represent positivity and auspiciousness, an essential part of the cultural beliefs of the land. An interesting engraving found in this mosque is the Tamil calendar for prayer.

What is unusual about this calendar is that, timings for prayers in the various Tamil months are marked in Tamil numerals, a rarity, found in just a few other mosques in southern Tamil Nadu.

These mosques, deeply embedded in the Tamil culture, were also places where Tamil flowered. Further down south, at the Kottar mosque in Nagercoil, an early Tamil Islamic literary work, Mikuraasu Malai, was presented to the assembled congregation by Aali Pulavar in the late 16th Century.
Mikuraasu is a Tamilised form of Mihraj, and narrates a significant event in the life of Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh), his ascension to the heaven. Even after 400 odd years, the tradition of singing Mikurasu Malai on the eve of Mihraj continues to this day at the Kottar mosque. Other literary works such as Seera Puranam, a Tamil epic on the history of the Prophet, are also recited across mosques in Tamil Nadu.

The Kallupallis in Tamil Nadu stand as proud reminders of not just an architectural tradition but also of cultural traditions, where Islam effortlessly adapted itself to the native customs.

Colonial Confusions - The Hindu Muslim divide that never was

Published in The Hindu, dated September 14, 2017

‘That a Telugu merchant should command the (Vijayangar) Rajah’s forces is singular enough, but that the Nawab should employ a general of that race when ample selection from Moslem warriors was open to him is even more surprising’ goes an account of the East India Company about an impending battle in the vicinity of Madras, sometime around 1656.

Those were the early days of the Company at Madras. With their limited understanding of India, they perhaps found it odd that a merchant, of all people, should double up as an army commander, a martial role, they probably assumed was only the preserve of the Kshatriyas. Even stranger for them was that the Golkonda Sultan, a Muslim himself, with many Muslim warriors at his command, had Hindus as his Generals. The Golconda General whom the Company was referring to was Lingam Nayak.

To the English, coming from an almost monotheistic society, with not just religion, even denominations such as Protestants and Catholics marking clear boundaries of ethnicity, India’s bewildering diversity was a riddle, they couldn’t comprehend easily. Certainly, not in the initial few decades. And their ignorance and confusion reflected in their observations of people and events around them, which found their way to the Company records.

If only the Company had paid attention to its early days under the Vijayanagara ruler Sri Ranga III, they wouldn’t have been so surprised, as one of the local Governors they dealt in his reign was Ballabala Cawne. He was ‘though a Moslem, ruled under the Rajah’ writes Henry Davison Love in his ‘Vestiges of Old Madras.’

Comeback bid

Driven out of power by the combined forces of Golkonda and Bijapur, Sri Ranga III, was trying to make a comeback, perhaps with the covert support of Aurangazeb, who as a young prince was also the Mughal Viceroy at the Deccani Sultan’s courts. It was under such circumstances, with the Mir Jumla of Golkonda (who held these parts under Golkonda) switching over to the Mughal side, that the Vijayanagar forces under the Telugu Merchant Koneri Chetti, assembled for a battle in the vicinity of Madras. The battle of course never took place, as Koneri Chetti ‘rendered himself up to the Moores as a Prisoner, but was received in State by the Commanders with more than accustomed honour in such cases.’ While clearly surprised by the turn of events the English did figure out that the Golkonda General Tupaki Krishnappa was a relative of Koneri Chetti.

It was not the only instance of the Hindu-Muslim confusion that the English encountered. When one of their chief native merchants Cassa Verona died, there were rival claimants to the body. The Hindus wanted to burn the body and the Muslims claiming him as one of their own wanted to bury it. Cassa Verona who also went by the name ‘Kasi Viranna’ also had a Muslim alias as ‘Hasan Khan.’ The first mosque in Madras was supposed to have been built by him. He played a vital role in protecting the company’s interests, against a very demanding Golkonda. Out of gratitude for the service rendered by him, the Company even made a gold medal and a chain to honour him, but unfortunately Cassa Verona passed away before it could be presented. Upon his death, when the controversy over his religious affinity was threatening to become a Law and Order issue, the Company pored over his records and sorted out the confusion.

While the English were quick to sort out the religion of their trusted Native Merchant, they deliberately continued with the confusion when it came to interpreting the native states or their armies. When H D Love, made a chronological summary of the events in the ‘Vestiges of Madras,’ he persisted with the wrong perceptions of the early colonial days.

For the year 1656, thus goes the narrative: “Hindus Revolt. Fight at Madras between Hindus under Koneri Chetti and Moslems under Lingam Nayak.” The Vijayanagar and Golkonda fight had been turned by the East India Company into a Hindu versus Muslim, not withstanding many Golkonda Generals and troops being Hindus like Lingam Nayak or Tupaki Krishnappa, and similarly Muslims under the employment of Vijayanagar. The English were not unaware of these nuances. The Company does acknowledge the fact that, irrespective of the ruler, the native armies were known for religious plurality as H D Love records that ‘during the siege of San Thome, in 1673, Telugu officers held high command in the King of Golconda’s army.’

It has to be noted that, though a monumental work, that gives us valuable insight into the colonial times, the writing of the book ‘Vestiges of Madras’ commenced a little after the partition of Bengal, along communal lines. Compartmentalising our history as distinctly ‘Hindu’ and ‘Muslim’ when it was clearly not the case, was to ‘divide and rule.’ Sadly the Indian sub-continent still continues to pay the price for the initial Colonial confusion that was deliberately turned into a state policy.

From Agraharams to Self Immolations - West Mambalam Heritage walk with Padmapriya Baskaran

From Agraharams to Self immolations protesting imposition of Hindi - The story of West Mambalam
Published in Madras Musings, dated September 1-15, 2017

Didn't realise west Mambalam had such colourful history. But then when you hear it from some one who has grown up in the area and passionate about history like friend Padmapriya Baskaran the history comes alive.

If T Nagar was crowded, to me West Mambalam was congested, barring a few stretches and it was with great difficulty that one negotiated ones way. So I never really bothered to look at it in a historical sense, though I was aware of the fact that Mambalam existed much before Thiyagaraya Nagar was born in the early 20th Century. So it was with curiosity that I registered for the ‘Walk through west Mambalam’ obeing conducted by Padmapriya Baskar, a blogger and heritage enthusiast and most importantly a neighbourhood girl, who had spent most of her life there with memories of Mambalam as a self contained and conservative neighbourhood.

Early in the morning of 19th August the walk through West Mamblam began at the Kothandaramar temple, which is located closer to the Madley subway. The Kothandaramar temple was built by Adi Narayana Dasa, a descendant of Gopanna popularly known as Bhaktha Ramadas, who was a revenue collector under the Golconda ruler Abul Hasan Tana Sha. A great devotee of Rama he is supposed to have used the state money collected for the construction of the temple at Bhadrachalam and hence was imprisoned for misusing of state funds. And as legend goes he was finally released when Lord Rama and Lakshmana appeared in the guise of traders and paid the due amount in gold to the Sultan. The Kothandaramar temple built on the model of the temple at Bhadrachalam, was later renovated by Vankayala Kuppaiah Chetty, a rich businessman, who apparently was being slow poisoned by his own relatives. Vankayala Kuppaiah Chetty stands with folded hands frozen as a sculpture right in front of the sanctum sanctorum. The street adjacent to the Kasi Viswanathar temple is also named after him, though the name has been truncated just to Kuppaiah.

The next stop from the temple was the school run by the Ahobila Math, one of the three schools in Chennai city that follows the Oriental method of teaching. The Ahobila Math Oriental school was started in 1953. A co-education, the children still wear traditional attire to the school. Past the Agraharam where the tiled houses are giving way to multi storey buildings, we stopped at the Srinivasa Theater. Built in 1963 by Devanathan, right in the heart of city which is going the expensive multiplex way, the highest priced ticket at this theater even today is Rs 30/-.and lowest ticket is priced at Rs 7/- You get to see the latest releases too and all in DTS sound.

Moving alongside the Haridass madam also known as Bajanai mandapam, we reached our next halt, the Kasi Viswanathar temple.  Padmapriya said as water source was one of the main reasons for any army in those days to make its camp, it was around the long tank (that has now disappeared to emerge as T Nagar) that the Vijayanagara army had camped. The commander of the Vijayanagara army was keen on a pilgrimage to the holy temple of Viswanatha at Kasi (Varnasi), but as he could not make it to Kasi, he decided to build the temple right on the banks of the Long Tank and hence it is known as the Kasi Viswanathar temple. The temple believed to have been built about 400 years ago was in a very dilapidated condition and was renovated just a few years ago says Padmapriya.

A little further away from the temple stands the Thandu Thulukkanathamman Koil, which in itself seems to convey that it should have been a deity worshipped by the camping army as thandu means a camping ground for army says Priya.

The Gohshala adjoining the Kanchi Mutt was started about 30 years ago with 3 cows and today it has a little more than 100 cows says Priya. Every Friday devotees assemble for the Goh pooja which is telecast live. The milk from the Gohshala is distributed to schools nearby free of cost.

The last stop was of course the Public Health center, a medical facility started as a small thatched hut which has now emerged as a full fledged hospital with 150 beds and a cardiology section. We also passed by the deity Elliamman, which is one of the seven frontier deities of the erstwhile Mambalam village. The Telugu inscription nearby stands testimony to the village having been a Reddy Zamindari village.

During the course of the walk Padmapriya kept adding details about the some of the important landmarks within the West Mambalam area which we couldn’t cover like that of the Ari Gowda, a  Badaga leader with political affiliation to the  Justice party. He is supposed to have donated vast tracts of land he owned in the West Mambalam area when Justice party was trying to create new settlements. Hence the road has been named after him says Priya. Two of the subways that connect T Nagar to West Mambalam are named after men who self immolated themselves during the anti-Hindi agitation of 1965. Interestingly the Duraisamy subway as per Corporation records is actually known as Dheeran Sivalingam Subway pointed out Padmapriya. On the night of January 25, 1965 Sivalingam who was just 21 years old, and working with the Corporation of Madras committed self-immolation, protesting against the imposition of Hindi. As he lived at Viswanathapuram adjacent to the railway gate, which gave way to the subway in the late 1960’s, it has been named after him. Aranganathan who went to pay his last respects to Sivalingam apparently decided to follow him and committed self immolation on the morning of 26th January. Says Priya, in a matter of 24 hours 7 people took their lives protesting against the imposition of Hindi and this gave jitters to the ruling Congress dispensation.

Though the walk got over due to paucity of time clearly there were many more stories to tell and we realized we had covered only a small section of the West Mambalam. From temples, mutts, Ghosalas to protests against Hindi imposition, West Mambalam has many tales to tell. And Padmapriya brings them all alive with her passion.

An officer and a gentleman

Published in The Hindu, dated August 3, 2017

 It was an annual recurrence — the Tamirabarani breaching its banks during the Monsoon and the people of Thoppur being marooned. The small village of Thoppur lay just across the river from the Vaishnavite pilgrimage centre of Alwarthirunagari in Tuticorin district of Tamil Nadu. When it rained non-stop for about two weeks in 1914 and the water level rose, almost swallowing the village, the people had to climb on to the few pucca buildings, including the roof of the mosque, to save themselves. When the flood waters receded, the loss, as usual, was considerable, in terms of food grains, cattle and other means of livelihood. Among the 100 Muslim families, many were weavers, some were farmers and a few had profitable businesses in Ceylon, as Sri Lanka was then known. After two days of living on rooftops with the meagre rations they could salvage, the people of Thoppur decided that they had had enough, and it was time to move further away from the river, to a safer place, permanently. Their request for resettlement was heard sympathetically by the then Sub-Collector of Tuticorin, H.R. Pate (ICS, who also headed the Sri Vaikuntam Taluka Board). The Britisher visited flood-prone Thoppur, ascertained the facts and recommended to the Government that the villagers be allotted an alternative area to live. The people of Thoppur had by then identified 150 acres of land about three miles away from their village and the Tamirabarani. Pate helped them buy the property, which comprised both poromboke and patta land. Archway to Campellabad A modern, planned town, complete with parallel streets, a park and a beautiful mosque right in the centre, came up soon. Four businessmen from Thoppur kept aside one-eighth of the profit they made in their businesses in Ceylon for the construction of the mosque. That mosque has the distinction of being one of the finest and the last to be built in the Dravidian Islamic architectural style. Token of gratitude As a token of gratitude for all the efforts taken by Pate in ensuring that the Thoppur residents got alternative accommodation, the people decided to name the new settlement, which they considered a managaram (a big town), after the British Sub-Collector. It came to be known as Patemanagaram. Pate is also remembered for his role in the updating of the district manual of Tinnevelly (now Tirunelveli) of 1879 with additional information and republishing it as part of the Madras District Gazetteers in 1916. Even as Patemanagaram was nearing completion in 1937, a few kilometres away, Muslims living in two small villages — Sivaraman Kulam and Ganganatha Puram — decided to move to a place with better facilities. When they approached Quaid-e-Milleth Muhammad Ismail Sahib, he took up their cause with Sir Archibald Young Gipps Campbell, who was a member of the Revenue Board and a former Chief Secretary. Sir Campbell, with the reputation of having founded a Freemasons Lodge in Madras (named after him) that was the first to admit both Europeans and Indians, was receptive. He ensured that they were immediately allotted 80 acres of land. Patemanagaram misspelt Even as the Muslims started building a new modern township, “Muhammad Ismail Sahib suggested that it would be appropriate to name the township after Sir Campbell as a tribute,” recalls A.M. Buhari, founder of the iconic Buhari Hotels on Mount Road. Hence it came to be known as Campbellabad, (‘Abad’ in Persian means settlement). Incidentally, Buhari hails from Campbellabad. Lord Rippon, Penny Cuick and Arthur Cotton are some other names from the colonial administration that we as Indians still remember fondly. There are monuments erected or named after these men for their significant contributions to the betterment of the life of the local people. Perhaps there were many others who did the same, in contrast to the General Dyers of the day. Patemanagaram and Campellabad certainly add to our multi-layered understanding of colonial history. P.S: Despite possessing a detailed history in Arabu Tamil, it is a pity that the village of Patemanagaram misspells the name of the man to whom they owe it, as the current name board reveals ( See photo).

Following the Ramzan Trail

Published in 'Madras Musings', dated July 16-31, 2017 Triplicane is the part of Madras that offers the best festive feel during Ramzan. To experience and soak in a bit of history, around 60 heritage enthusiasts assembled at the Muhammadan Public Library to participate in a Ramzan Walk I led. The library, at the junction of Wallajah Road and Triplicane High Road, was the ideal starting point to introduce the participants to the history of the Muslim community in Madras. Though Islam came to Tamizhagam even as it was spreading across Arabia in the 7th Century and over a period of time resulted in the evolution of the Tamil Muslim community (which is spread across the State), it was the Nawab of Arcot moving residence to Madras in the 1760s that brought in a large Urdu-speaking Muslim community to the city. Though the Arcot Nawab’s history began with the Mughal conquest of much of this region in the late 17th Century, Muhammad Ali belonging to the Wallajah clan, which was founded by Nawab Anwar-ud-Din in 1744, is the person who is most connected with Madras. ‘Wallajah’ was a title conferred by the Mughal emperor on Anwar-ud-Din’s son Muhammad Ali, upon the latter’s capture of Pondicherry along with the English. When Wallajah moved from Arcot to Madras in the 1760s and built his palace at Chepauk, the neighbouring area, adjoining the Triplicane Parthasarathy temple, developed into the residences of the nobility and others working for the Nawab. The East India Company in honour of their trusted ally had named the Fort St. George gate leading to Chepauk palace as the Wallajah Gate and the road that leads to the Chepauk Palace is still known as Wallajah Road. It was on this road that we assembled and the group was told about the Tamil Muslim community, the Urdu Muslim community as well as other communities in the city, such as the Gujarati Bohras, Kutchi Memons, Malayalam-speaking Mapilas, Konkani-speaking Nawayats and Telugu Muslims. walajah mosque 12 The tank by the Wallajah Mosque. The Muhammadan Public Library itself is more than 150 years old and owes its beginnings to Edward Balfour, an East India Company surgeon who was instrumental in setting it up. The library has books gifted by the King of Egypt and contributions from the Nawabs, the Governor General, the Governor and others. As it was evening, a time when traffic on Triplicane High Road becomes unmanageable, making it difficult to be heard amidst all the din, I narrated the story of the next important landmark in our itinerary at the Library. It was the story of the Kaman Darwaza, an arched gateway that once led to the palace of Begum Sultan-un-Nisa, sister of Nawab Umdat-ul-Umra. If Chepauk Palace reminded us of the Wallajah dynasty’s heydays, the Kaman Darwaza a little away from the Adam market is a sad reminder to the fall of the dynasty. During the rule of Umdat-ul-Umra, who succeeded Muhammad Ali Wallajah, it was his senior sister Sultan-un-Nisa Begum who was considered to be the actual power behind the throne, so much so that matters of state were very often discussed at her palace. The sister believed that it would be her son Rasool Umra who would succeed to the Arcot throne upon her brother’s death. When Umdat-ul-Umra made it clear that he intended to make his own son Tajul Umra as his successor to the throne, the sister was outraged and began sulking. The East India Company, looking for an ideal opportunity to take over the reins of the Carnatic, used this simmering resentment within the Arcot family as an excuse to plot its way. When Umdat-ul-Umra died, the embittered sister refused to let her brother’s coffin pass in front of the Kaman Darwaza. Today, the Kaman Darwaza still stands with ‘Azeempet’ emblazoned on it. Story heard, the Group made its way down Triplicane High Road, past an old publishing firm, Sahul Hameed & Sons, and Adam Market, before it briefly stopped to take a look at the Kaman Darwaza. Then it made its way through shops selling attar (perfumes), books and other essential items required in a Muslim’s religious life, till it came to the Rumani semiya sellers on the pavement. Rumani semiya is mostly handmade in Muslim homes and goes into the making of Sheer Kurma. Towards the last week of the month of Ramadan, the pavements of Triplicane High Road, adjacent to the Big Mosque, are crowded with the Rumani semiya-sellers. The next stop was the Masjid-e-Anwari on Big Street. This simple mosque that opens into a courtyard is named after Nawab Anwar-ud-Din and is believed to have been built by him. Then it was on to our final destination, the Wallajah Mosque compound. As you enter the compound it is difficult to miss the large beautiful white building that appears on the left. Today a lodge for weary travelers, it was the Ottoman Turkish consulate in the early 20th Century, when members of the Badsha family were the Turkish Consuls. The Badsha family helped in the building of the Hamede-Hedjaz railway line by the Ottomans, which would later become the target of Lawrence of Arabia. The Wallajah mosque, a very Muslim religious edifice, is a fine example of the secular traditions of this country. Inside the mosque, above the mihrab where the priest stands and conducts the prayer, is a chronogram composed by Raja Makhan Lal Khirad, a Hindu officer who served Wallajah. It was constructed in 1794. As the mosque was getting filled with Muslims about to break their fast, the group was not able to go in and see the chronogram, but it did see another secular tradition of contemporary times, that of the volunteers of the Sufidar trust, mostly Hindu Sindhi volunteers, men and women, serving Nonbu Kanji (a sort of rice porridge with lentils) to those fasting. The concept of Nonbu Kanji is a very Tamil Muslim tradition, something similar to the Koozh served in the Tamil month of Aadi by a section of Tamil Hindus. As the men in the group entered the mosque, the women took their place by the dargah along with other fasting Muslim women and were served the Kanji and dates with a few other accompaniments. When the time to break the fast came, the group, mainly non-Muslims, happily enjoyed the Kanji. Some of them, like Priya, had gone light on their lunch, just to experience the hunger pangs that a fasting Muslim would feel. Sitting with thousands of fasting Muslims and experiencing the breaking of the fast was a moment to cherish for the group. Once the fast was broken, the group assembled again to hear the story of Bahrul Uloom who is buried next to the mosque in the dargah by which the women had sat and broken the fast. Bahrul Uloom was a revered religious scholar, who was invited by Muhammad Ali Wallajah to settle in Madras. It is said that when the scholar reached Madras, Wallajah himself came out of the palace to carry him in a palanquin. Bahrul Uloom was paid one thousand rupees, a princely sum in the late 18th Century. We discussed the Shia-Sunni divide, Sharia, and a whole lot of other issues facing Muslims, while walking to the tomb of Quaid-e-Millat. Then it was time to talk about Muhammad Ismail Sahib, a Tamil Muslim from Tirunelveli, who became known as Quaid-e-Millat, the leader. He was the founder of the Indian Union Muslim League. After independence, even as Muhammad Ismail Sahib struggled for the Muslim cause, he also argued in the Constituent Assembly debates for Tamil to be made a national language. After his death in 1972, he was buried where Nawabs had been buried. From Wallajah to Muhammad Ismail, from monarchy to democracy, the heritage walk gave the group an understanding of the history as well as diversity of the Muslim community in Madras. P.S: It was Vincent D’Souza who suggested this walk for the city since last year.

திராவிடத் தோழமை - திராவிட இயக்கமும் இஸ்லாமியர்களும்

நக்கீரன், ஜூலை 1, 2017

இன்றைக்கு கிட்டத்தட்ட ஐம்பது ஆண்டுகளுக்கு முன்னர், திராவிட முன்னேற்றக் கழகம் முதன்முதலாக பேரறிஞர் அண்ணா தலைமையில் ஆட்சிப் பொறுப்பை ஏற்றிருந்த சமயம். சென்னையை அடுத்து, அச்சிறுப்பாக்கத்திற்கு அருகில் உள்ள பள்ளிப்பேட்டை கிராமத்தில் வசிக்கும் முஸ்லிம்கள், தொழுகைக்காக பள்ளிவாசல் எழுப்புவதற்கு உள்ளூர்வாசிகளிடமிருந்து கடும் எதிர்ப்பு. அதற்காக உயிர்பலியாகிறது. தங்கள் உரிமையை விட்டுக் கொடுத்துவிடக் கூடாது என்று முனைப்புடன், நோன்பு பெருநாளுக்கு முந்தைய இரவில் அங்கே குழுமியிருக்கும் முஸ்லிம்களுக்கு, நள்ளிரவில், அவர்கள் பதட்டத்தை அதிகரிக்கும் வண்ணம் அந்த குக்கிராமத்தை நோக்கி வாகனப் படையெடுப்பு. கலவரத்தை எதிர்கொள்ளத் தயாராக கண்ணியத்திற்குரிய காயிதே மில்லத்தின் மகனாரான மியாகானின் தலைமையில் கூடியிருந்த அந்த சிறு முஸ்லிம் கூட்டத்தினருக்கு வாகனங்கள் அருகில் வர பெருங்குழப்பம். வந்தவையெல்லாம் நீல நிற போலீஸ் வாகனங்கள். அதிலிருந்து இறங்கிய போலீசார், கீற்றுக் கொட்டகை கட்டுவதற்குத் தேவையானவற்றை இறக்கி விட்டு, காலை பெருநாள் தொழுகைக்கு முன்னர் பள்ளிவாசல் எழுப்பப்பட்டிருக்க வேண்டும் என்று தங்களுக்கு மேலிடத்திலிருந்து உத்தரவு வந்திருப்பதாக மியாகானிடம் கூற, கூடியிருந்த அனைவருக்கும் இன்ப அதிர்ச்சி. நடந்தது இதுதான். முஸ்லிம்கள் பள்ளிவாசல் கட்டுவதற்கு எதிர்ப்பு, அதுவும் தன் கட்சிக்காரர்களாலேயே என்ற செய்தியை அன்று டெல்லியில் இருந்த காயிதே மில்லத்திடம் இருந்து தெரிந்து கொண்ட முதலமைச்சர் அண்ணா உடனடியாக எடுத்த நடவடிக்கைதான் அது. காவலர் பாதுகாப்புடன் பெருநாள் தொழுகையை மனநிறைவுடன் தொழுது முடித்த முஸ்லிம்களுக்கு இன்னொரு ஆச்சரியமும் காத்திருந்தது. தொழுது முடித்த மியாகானை சந்திக்க அருகிலுள்ள பயணியர் விடுதியில் முதல்வர் அண்ணா காத்திருக்கிறார் என்ற செய்திதான் அது. விடுதியில் அண்ணாவுடன் காவல் துறை மற்றும் அரசு அதிகாரிகள் மட்டுமின்றி, இதற்கு முட்டுக்கட்டையாக இருந்த தன் கட்சி அமைச்சர்கள் இருவரும் இருந்தனர். கான்சர் நோயால் பாதிக்கப்பட்டு இருந்த நிலையிலும் அண்ணா இஸ்லாமியருக்கு ஏற்பட்ட இக்கட்டை களைய நேரடியாக களத்தில் இறங்கியிருந்தார். சில மாதங்களிலேயே பேரறிஞர் அண்ணா இறந்து போனார். இருப்பினும் இஸ்லாமியர்களுக்கும் திராவிட இயக்கத்திற்குமான நெருக்கமான உறவிற்கான எண்ணற்ற எடுத்துக்காட்டுகளில் இதுவும் ஒன்று. இருபதாம் நூற்றாண்டில் திராவிட இயக்கம் ஆரம்பித்த நாட்களில் இருந்தே இஸ்லாமியரை அரவணைத்தே அதன் நடவடிக்கைகள் இருந்திருக்கின்றன. பெரியாரின் வரவால் இன்னும் பலப்பட்ட அந்த உறவு இந்தி எதிர்ப்பு போராட்டம், இயக்கம் சார்ந்த நடவடிக்கைகள் என்று வலுப்பெற்றது. பெரியாரின் வழியைப் பின்பற்றி ஆட்சி செய்த அண்ணா, கலைஞர் காலத்திலும் அவை தொடர்ந்தன. இந்திய சுதந்திரத்திற்குப் பின்னர் காங்கிரஸ் ஆட்சியில் பல உரிமைகளை தமிழக முஸ்லிம்கள் இழக்க நேரிட்டது, புதிதாக ஒரு காவல்துறை பிரிவினை உருவாக்க முனைந்த சென்னை மாகாண அரசு முஸ்லிம்களை காவலர்களாக தேர்வு செய்வதற்கு எதிராக அரசு ஆணை பிறப்பித்தது. இதற்கு எதிர்ப்பு எழ, 1952 ஆரம்பத்தில் அன்றைய நிதியமைச்சராக இருந்த கோபால் ரெட்டி தடையை விலக்குவதாக சென்னை மாகாண சட்டசபையில் அறிவித்தார். இருப்பினும் சுதந்திரத்திற்கு முந்தைய நீதிக்கட்சி ஆட்சியின் போது பனகல் அரசரால் ஆரம்பிக்கப்பட்ட அரசு யுனானி மருத்துவப் பாடசாலை காங்கிரஸ் அரசால் இழுத்து மூடப்பட்டது. இந்திய மருத்துவ முறையை ஊக்குவிக்கும் எண்ணத்தோடு சென்னை அண்ணா நகரில் சித்த மருத்துவப் பிரிவை கலைஞர் கருணாநிதி தலைமையிலான தி.மு.க. அரசு தொடங்கியபோது, காங்கிரஸ் அரசால் இழுத்து மூடப்பட்ட யுனானி மருத்துவத்திற்கும் படிப்புக்கும் இடம் வழங்கப்பட்டது. அதேபோல் சுதந்திரத்திற்கு முன்னர் இஸ்லாமியரின் உயர்கல்விக்காக சென்னை அண்ணா சாலையில் ஸ்பென்சர் அருகில் ஆரம்பிக்கப்பட்ட அரசு முகம்மதிய கலைக் கல்லூரியையும் வெவ்வேறு காரணங்களைக் காட்டி அன்றைய காங்கிரஸ் அரசு பொது பெண்கள் கல்லூரியாக மாற்றியது. எந்தக் கல்லூரி முஸ்லிம்களிடமிருந்து காங்கிரஸ் ஆட்சியில் பறிக்கப்பட்டதோ, அந்த தவறுக்கு பிராயச்சித்தமாக தி.மு.க. ஆட்சியில் அக்கல்லூரிக்கு கண்ணியத்திற்குரிய 'காயிதேமில்லத் பெண்கள் அரசு கலைக் கல்லூரி' என்ற பெயரை சூட்டியதோடு மட்டுமில்லாமல், இஸ்லாமியர் இழந்துவிட்ட கல்லூரிக்குப் பதிலாக சென்னை மேடவாக்கத்தில் 40 ஏக்கர் நிலம் கலைஞர் கருணாநிதி தலைமையிலான தி.மு.க. அரசு ஒதுக்கியது. இதே போல் இட ஒதுக்கீடு, நபிகள் நாயகம் பிறந்தநாள் விழாவுக்கு விடுமுறை என்று முஸ்லிம்களுக்கு அனுசரணையாக தி.மு.க. ஆட்சியில் எண்ணற்ற உதாரணங்களைக் கூறலாம். கண்ணியத்திற்குரிய காயிதேமில்லத், தந்தை பெரியார் ஆகியோரின் மறைவு, தி.மு.க. விலிருந்து ஙஏத விலகல் ஆகியவை இந்த உறவில் பெரிதும் மாற்றம் கொண்டுவரவில்லை எனலாம். காயிதேமில்லத்தின் மறைவுக்குப் பின்னர், எமெர்ஜென்சியை அடுத்து 1977-ல் நடந்த சட்டமன்ற தேர்தலில் ஙஏத தலைமையிலான அ.தி.மு.க. பெரும்பான்மை பெற்று ஆட்சியை பிடித்தாலும், அந்த கூட்டணியில் இடம்பெற்ற அப்துல்சமத்தின் தலைமையிலான முஸ்லிம் லீக் போட்டியிட்ட 10 இடங்களில் ஒன்றில் மட்டுமே ஜெயிக்க முடிந்தது. இதைவைத்து முஸ்லிம்கள் அ.தி.மு.க.வை ஒதுக்கிவிட்டார்கள் என்று முடிவுக்கு வந்து விடக்கூடாது. மாறாக தி.மு.க. மற்றும் அ.தி.மு.க. வேட்பாளராக போட்டியிட்ட முஸ்லிம்கள் பலர் சட்டமன்றத்தில் நுழைந்தனர். காலப்போக்கில் இஸ்லாமிய கட்சிகள் முஸ்லிம்கள் பெரும்பான்மையாக வசிக்கும் தொகுதிகளில் தனித்து போட்டியிட்டு தங்கள் பலத்தை நிரூபிக்க முற்பட்டபோது அத்தொகுதி முஸ்லிம் வாக்காளர்களின் வாக்குகளில் பத்து சதவிகித வாக்குகளைக்கூட பெறமுடியாத அளவுக்கு பொதுக்கட்சிகளில் குறிப்பாக திராவிட இயக்கத்தில் முஸ்லிம்கள் ஐக்கியமாகிவிட்டிருந்தனர். எம்.ஜி.ஆர். தலைமையிலான அ.இ.அ.தி.மு.க.வின் ஆட்சியின்போது சிறு சலசலப்புகள் இல்லாமல் இல்லை. ஜெயலலிதாவின் தலைமையிலான அ.இ.அ.தி.மு.க. ஆட்சியில் திராவிட அரசியல் அயோத்திக்கு செங்கல் அனுப்பும் அளவுக்கு "பரிணாம வளர்ச்சி'யை நோக்கி பயணிக்க, இந்து மற்றும் இஸ்லாமிய மதவாத சக்திகள் தமிழகத்தில் வளர ஏதுவானது. காங்கிரசால் தொடர்ந்து தவிர்க்கப்பட்ட நிலையில், 1999 பாராளுமன்றத் தேர்தலில் பா.ஜ.க.வுடன் தி.மு.க. கூட்டணி உறவுகொண்டது. இது முஸ்லிம்கள் மத்தியில் பலத்த அதிர்ச்சியை ஏற்படுத்தியது. இருமுறை இந்திய அரசாணை சட்டம் 356 பிரிவில் ஆட்சியை இழந்த தி.மு,க,விற்கு மத்தியில் நட்புக்கரம் தேவையாயிருந்தது. இருப்பினும் அது ஒரு இக்கட்டான உறவு, கொள்கைக்கு முரணான உறவு. முஸ்லிம்கள் மத்தியில் சலசலப்பை ஏற்படுத்தினாலும் அந்தக் கூட்டணியால் பெரிதும் நொந்தது உள்ளூர் இந்துத்துவவாதிகள்தான். தி.மு.க.விற்கு எதிரணியில் இருந்தபோது தமிழகத்தில் அமைப்பாக செயல்பட இருந்த சுதந்திரம் கூட கூட்டணியால் பறிபோனதாக மூத்த இந்து அமைப்பினர் அங்கலாய்க்கும் அளவிற்கு தி.மு.க. அரசு இந்துத்துவ அமைப்புகளை கட்டுக்குள் வைத்திருந்தது. 2011-ல் ஜெயலலிதா தலைமையிலான அ.இ.அ.தி.மு.க. ஆட்சி பொறுப்பேற்றபோது, பரிணாம வளர்ச்சி அரசியலில் இருந்து விலகி பெரும்பாலும் திராவிடமயமாக்கப்பட்ட அ.இ.அ.தி.மு.க. ஆட்சியாக, சிறுபான்மையினர் அனைவரையும் அரவணைத்துச் செல்லக்கூடிய ஆட்சியாகவே அது செயல்பட்டது. இன்று தமிழகத்தைவிட மிக அதிக அளவில் இஸ்லாமியர் வாழும் வட மாநிலங்களில் அரசியல், பொதுவாழ்வு என்று அனைத்திலும் புறந்தள்ளப்பட்டிருக்கும் இஸ்லாமிய சமூகத்தோடு ஒப்பிடுகையில் ஐம்பது ஆண்டு திராவிட ஆட்சி என்பது தமிழர்கள் அனைவரையும் சாதி, மத வேறுபாடின்றி அரவணைத்துச் செல்லும், குறிப்பாக இஸ்லாமியரை பொறுத்தவரை அவர்கள் பிரதிநித்துவம் பெற்ற ஆட்சியாகவே அமைந்துள்ளது எனலாம்.