Heritage Club members of Fatima College meander through narrow lanes of the Temple City identifying historical spots
Do you know where the first hospital was established in the Temple City? Who established it and in whose memory? Perhaps you can get the answer from these students.
Most of us do remember our father, grandfather, great-grandfather, paattans and pootis too but we give much less importance to the history and heritage they have handed down to us.
We conveniently sacrifice that heritage at the altar of development, trees included.
The Temple City has lost many of its centuries-old structures. Some of them, like the Vilakkuthoon police station, we have seen only in photographs.
To do their bit in preserving the past, the members of the Heritage Club of Fatima College walked through the streets of Madurai identifying some sites that stand as mere remnants of a glorious past.
Second-year student Aarthi said, “After enrolling in B.A. History, we should make a visit to historic places in our country, at least, in our city. If not, it shows our ailing education system.”
The students unearthed the information that the present Pandian Cooperatives near the Naicker Mahal was the prestigious building that housed the first hospital of the city.
Ramanathapuram Sethupathy constructed it in 1897 in remembrance of Price Albert Victor.
The building has an inscription that records the history. The city had an alarm system that not only woke up people but also announced that the Meenakshi Amman Temple was open for pujas and prayers.
The Nagara Mandap houses a huge nagara or drum, a thimiri nadaswaram and thaalam. For centuries, members of the Naidu community have played the instruments. They play them every morning and evening between 4.30 and 5.00.
The mandap, also known as Acharaya Mandap, is named after Kamattam Acharayan, a minister of Rani Mangammal, who is believed to have built it.
Though Madurai is well known as the Kingdom of the Pandyas, the city has evidence for the presence of a Pandya Fort in the Vittavaasal. The Vittavaasal has a British period inscription that warns that vandals would be severely punished. The British seem to have valued the importance of the structure more than we do. In all, the students went around identifying 12 places: the East tower of Meenakshi Amman Temple, Nagara Mandapam, Pudumandapam, Ezhukadal Street, Rayagopuram, Vittavaasal, the temple cars, Kothaval Chavadi, Vilakkuthoon, Pathuthoon Sandhu, Sethupathy Hospital and Thirumalai Naicker Mahal.
“I have visited so many temples and admired statues for their artistic beauty,” said Shanthi, final-year undergraduate. “I never thought they would carry history.” Muthupriya, a second-year student, said that she had decided to disseminate the information and history she had picked up during the walk. “I feel it is a way of protecting history.”
She adds, “Traditionally, it is a belief that Government should take up the responsibility of protecting heritage structures and sites. But the onus lies with every individual.”
Rulers of Madurai
Pandyas: 400 BC to 400 AD
Kalabhras: 400 to 550 AD
Early Pandyas: 550 to 985 AD
Cholas: 985 to 1100 AD
Medieval Pandyas: 1100 to 1190 AD
Later Pandyas: 1190 to 1334 AD
Madurai Sultanates: 1334 to 1372 AD
Vijayanagara Kingdom, Vanathirayars 1368 to 1529 AD
Madurai Naickers 1529 to 1736 AD
Arcot Nawab and others 1736 to 1801 AD
British rule 1790 to 1947