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Wandering Through Old Madras

On August 22nd, 1639, our beloved home, Madras was founded by the East India Company by the purchase of the village of Madraspatnam or Chennapatnam by factors Andrew Cogan and Francis Day from Damarla Venkatadri Nayaka, the viceroy of the Vijayanagar Empire
As our little tribute to Madras, our home, our inspiration, celebrating it’s 379th Birthday this year, we decided to spend a day rediscovering a few heritage buildings that make Chennai (then Madras), the city we know today and managed to capture a few snapshots with our leather pieces in hand.
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We began at Fort St George, the first British Settlement by the East India Company constructed in 1644 which led to the foundation of Madras with the surrounding settlements and villages. Situated by the sea, it served as a hub for merchant activity. The architecture is typical of the style of the 17th and 18th century British constructions.
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The next building we visited was the Senate House, situated at the University of Madras along Marina Beach, which serves as one of the oldest and best examples of Indo Saracenic architecture, It was designed by Robert Chisholm who is considered to be one of the pioneers of this style of architecture. In 1864, the Madras government placed an advertisement inviting designs for the Senate House building. Chisholm’s design was eventually approved and the building was constructed between April 1874 and 1879.
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The style was a harmonious blend of Indo-Islamic, Indian architecture, Gothic revival and Neo-Classical styles favoured by the British. The Senate hall is of immense proportion and height and it has corridors on the ground floor which stand on six massive pillars on either side. There also are three segmental arch openings in each porch in the east, west and south. A few key elements of the structure are the Byzantine Domes, large stone columns, turrets and stained glass windows that add to the beauty of this building.
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The last building on our trail took us to the Government Museum or Madras Museum, located in Egmore. Started in 1851, it’s the second oldest museum in India after the Indian Museum in Kolkata. It is known to house the largest collection of Roman antiquities outside Europe. The Museum grounds comprise of six buildings and 46 galleries, covering the total area of about 16.25 acres.
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Located close to the main museum, the museum theatre is a rare specimen of the Italianate style of architecture, inspired by Classical architecture and developed by the British in the late 19th century. The structure has a high plinth and is accessed through a tall flight of stairs. It is primarily a semicircular structure with a rectangular wing at the rear with the walls and columns adorned with floral and geometric designs.
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With this, we come to the end of our trail and we hope you enjoyed this as much as we did! A huge thanks to the two lovely, talented women we shot this series with – Nida Ali and Madhulika Kapilavayi.
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