On a carpet of withered leaves, under the shadow of a century-old building, a group of architecture and history lovers listened with rapt attention the stories the walls of Madras High Court had to tell, on Sunday.

“Just next to the lighthouse (constructed in 1838) where we stand, there used to be two temples. Water from the temple tanks were brought by priests and witnesses deposed had to touch the water and take oath,” said M.L. Rajah, advocate and member of the Madras High Court Heritage Committee, to participants of the High Court heritage walk. Later, the temples were shifted out of the complex, he said.

As the group strolled from one building to another, interesting anecdotes and stories behind the architecture unfolded.

“The buildings of the High Court, including the law college and the lighthouse, are exuberant examples of Indo-Saracenic architecture that display an amalgamation of Islamic, Moorish, European and Hindu styles, among others,” said Sujatha Shankar, architect and convenor of INTACH (Chennai chapter).

They also show how public buildings have been used to convey political messages; and what better way to communicate them than through architecture, she said.

After a glimpse of the architectural marvel of these buildings, Mr. Rajah led the crowd to the next stop: the statute of Sir V. Bhashyam Iyengar, the first Indian acting advocate-general.

“He had a morbid desire to die while arguing a case; and incidentally, during a court proceeding, when he felt uneasy, he walked up to the statute of Sir T. Muthuswami Iyer, and passed away,” he said.

The group then walked through the Madras High Court museum, the Madras Bar Association and ended the tour at the magnificent court halls.

Ann Neuman, a 45-year-old writer from New York who arrived in Chennai a week ago, seemed visibly excited after the walk.

“My friends specifically asked me to not miss this walk. It is wonderful to hear the history of the court systems here and what it has done to the city,” she said.

The heritage walk initiated by the Madras High Court Heritage Committee will be held on the second Sunday of every month. For details, contact: 9841013617.

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