Chennai is considered one of the cultural centres of India. And, if there is one part of Chennai that embodies these more than the others do, it is Mylapore. While Chennai is said to date back to the 17th century (1644) when The East India Company established Fort St. George, Mylapore was already a large settlement then. There are records of settlements around Mylapore predating the birth of Christ. And, before the British, Mylapore was occupied by the Portuguese and the French.
This weekend we are witnessing the 11th edition of the Mylapore Festival, when the entire community comes together to put up a four day street festival celebrating the music, art, food, traditions and culture of the place. From a fairly sedate start this festival has grown in popularity over the years.
The kolam competition is one of the very popular events during this festival. Kolam is a drawing made on a swept and washed floor using white rice powder. Traditionally it is drawn early every morning by Hindu women in front of their homes. Last year I watched as a part of a very busy street was cordoned off to hold this event. These are some of the photographs taken then.
Amongst many other things Mylapore is famous for its Kapaleeswarar Koil a Shiva temple. There are references to this temple that date back to the 7th century, but these references place the temple on the seashore over a kilometer away from the present location of the temple. Additionally the present temple reflects the architecture of the 16th century although there are inscriptions within the temple dating back to the 12th century. The explanation for this paradox seems to be that the old temple by the seashore was razed to the ground by the Portuguese to build the Santhome Cathedral and that the Kapaleeswarar Koil was then rebuilt by the kings of Vijayanagaram in the 16th century.
These are two sketches that I made on location a few weeks ago. The first is of the entrance to the temple with a mandapam (hall) in the foreground. And the other sketch is of a house just outside the temple which caught my eye because it had its own mini-temple. I later discovered that it was the house of one of the senior priests of the temple.