This Madras Week forget the beaten path and set out to discover these not so well-known aspects of Chennai

If you’ve lived in Chennai for a while, chances are that you are familiar with its landmarks. You can find your way to Marina beach, drive blindfolded to Nungambakkam, take pride in showing visiting relatives Fort St. George, click pictures of Kapaleeshwarar temple at different times of the day and go deer spotting in the IIT Madras campus once in a while. But are you sure that’s all there is to do? Here are five places and things about the city that you might not be so familiar with.

Black bucks in the heart of the city

Probably among the last tropical dry evergreen forests in the East coast, the Guindy National Park is a rare gem. It boasts of a variety of rare flora and fauna and is home to 400 black bucks. Roaming the vast empty spaces behind Raj Bhavan, these deer are a wonder to watch. Considered the flagship species of the park, black bucks were introduced in 1924 by Lord Willingdon. While entry into this side of the National Park is restricted, once inside, the city disappears and you are lost in the wonders of this park’s biodiversity.

Ancient log of wood

Everyone in Chennai would have stepped into Marina Beach, or passed by Santhome Cathedral, admiring its tall spires and enthralling history. But beside this cathedral, down a small road to the beach, you will come face-to-face with a single log of wood mounted on a pedestal. Here is a legend associated with it. In the first century, a log of wood washed ashore and no matter how hard the local king tried, he couldn’t get anyone to move it. St. Thomas took the girdle from his waist and asked one of the men there to move the log using this as a rope and it did. It is said that the king gifted the log of wood to St. Thomas, who used it to build a church there.

Register of births and marriages

Inside St. Mary’s, the oldest Anglican Church in the city, is the earliest register of baptisms, marriages, and burials. This prayer house, solemnised Elihu Yale’s (former Governor of Madras) and Robert Clive’s marriages. In fact, the first registered marriage is that of Elihu Yale, who assisted in the foundation of Yale University in the U.S. He married Catherine Hynmers, a widow, in 1680. Another marriage was that of Robert Clive who married Margaret Maskelyne in 1753.

Topping’s granite pillar

Within the campus of the Regional Meterological Department in Nungambakkam, is a relic that goes back more than two hundred years. A 15-ft granite pillar, which weighs 10 tonnes and the smaller structures around it are the parts of the first modern public observatory in the country, The Madras Observatory. The pillar, erected in 1792, carried the original transit equipment. Its architect was Michael Topping (whose name is inscribed on it). The pillar also has Tamil and Telugu inscriptions, saying, “posterity may be informed a thousand years hence of the period when the mathematical sciences were first planted by British liberality in Asia”.

Buck’s jetty

Inside the YMCA College of Physical Education, are the remnants of a jetty. It is said that its founder Harry Crowe Buck, travelled up the Adyar River in a boat, docked here and decided to build the college at that very spot. In fact, the jetty was active until a few decades ago, when river navigation was part of the city’s transport system. Now, only the dock remains. And nearby, is the house that Buck built for himself, with a panoramic view of the campus.

Another ghost jetty can be viewed from Law’s Bridge that connects Chintadripet to Ripon building.

Chennai Central at The Hindu celebrates Madras Week!

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