Here is an image of the kapali Kovil theppam festival held in Jan 2006. (image courtsey Kutcheri Buzz)

Mylapore along with Tiruvellikeni and Purasaivakkam is among the oldest settlements in Madras. The charm of these settlements lies in their traditional atmosphere which blends with modernity seamlesly.

Mylapore has a few Street Houses, which are slowly making way for development. ‘Street houses’ are houses which are pretty narrow but long, they have the front door in one street and the back door in another, they literally extend from one street into another and lined the entire Mylapore Mada Veedhi, but today due to development, these houses have given way to modern constructions.

Central to Mylapore is the Kapeeleshwar temple; its present location is around 300 years old, the temple is originally supposed to have been located along the coastline, somewhere near the current Santhome Church. The temple is supposed to have been relocated somewhere after the Portuguese arrived in Madras. The famous Mylapore vegetable market on one side surrounds the temple and jewellery stores on the other. Today the vegetable market had been moved to Thannithorai market near the Anjaneer temple because it leads to traffic congestion. The other famous temples in Mylapore are Mundakanni Amman, Madhavaperumal and Keeshavaperumal temple, which are old, along with the newly build Ramkrishna Mission Universal temple are an essential part of Mylapore.

Mylapore was earlier a Brahmin dominated area; they dominated the Mada Veedhi area, surrounding the temple in street houses, they have since moved on and out of the area. Inspite of living elsewhere, they still make an annual pilgrimage every year to attend the annual Kapali Kovil (kapali temple) Pangunni Utsavam in March-April annualy.

The area has every kind of eatery from the cheapest to the most expensive which serve good vegetarian food, depending on the comfort level provided, pichupillai street has a small roadside eatery which serves good idaippams and dosais, one has to eat on the road here, the next level would be Karpagambal Mess, which provides rudimentary chairs and tables, and finally for a proper restaurant feel one would have to go to Sangeetha in Luz. The best part is all the three places serve food of similar quality; one only pays for the varying degree of comforts and ambience. I swear by Pichu Pillai street hotel, sanding on the small lane and eating the idiyappam is a pleasurable experience. The ‘Window Shop’ is also famous, here food is served through a window, and one has to stand on the roadside and eat. The unique feature is that all round MadaVeedhi, non vegetarian food is not avaliable, one has to travel to Luz for non-veg food.

Dabba Chetty kadai and Sri Vidya stores in Mylapore are famous for their various spices and poweders, , not sambhar and rasam, but traditional items like kaddukkai, and a few other traditional poodis, along with their thiruman and srichurnam.

Mylapore also houses some famous educational institutions like PS high school, Lady Sivaswami girls higher secondary school, and Vivekananda College, and the Barathiya Vidya Bhavan These institutions are as much a part of Mylapore as the Kapali temple is. Mylapore Fine arts provides rasikas with good music during the December festival, it is right next to the famous St Isabels hospital and behind the famous Luz Church, which is over 400 years old.

The three tanks in Mylapore, Kapali temple, Chitrakoolam and Madhave perumal temple tank are an example of the yeahri system developed to conserve rainwater. Water collected in the PS high school gound would overflow into Kapali Temple tank, once that was full, the water would flow into the Chirtakolam and finally into the Madhavaperumal Temple tank before flowing into the sea. Today, because some idiotic corporation engineer gave permits to build flats between PS high school ground and Kaapali temple tank, the entire system is ruined. The Kapali temple tank is now full, after a long time thanks to the unprecedented rain Chennai received. The kapali temple recently celebrated its Theppam festival or float festival.

The streets of Mylapore are narrow, just about big enough for one midsize sedan to pass, there is absolutely no space to even widen the road, and navigating through the area in a car is a big hassle. Mylapore to me would be a quientessential representation of the spirit of Chennai, a mix of tradition and modernity, where one seamlessly blends into the other rather than one growing at the cost of the other.

1 Comment so far

  1. G V Balasubramanian (unregistered) on April 2nd, 2006 @ 9:17 am

    Vatsan, Its a nice coverage of Mylapore. I give below some links in flickr of photos taken at Mylapore during the Mylapore Festival that took place in January 2006.

    Rayar Mess, where even celebrities visit, is it still there? Before the likes of Saravana Bhavan and Sangeetha came to Chennai, Shanti Vihar in Luz was frequently visited by the locals.

    Vegetable shops around the tank, Navasakthi Vinayagar Temple ,Rex Fashions, Hari’s (where seconds of inner garments were sold at discounted price), Radha Silk Emporium, a book shop (next to Sangeetha) where all school / college books are sold, second hand book shop opposite to Vitan (is it still there), Nageswara Rao Park are some of the high points of Mylapore

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