The centenary celebrations of the Madras High Court were observed in 1962. Chronicler V. Sriram recounts the events from the day, including their rich cultural intonations.
The High Court of Madras has just completed its sesquicentennial celebrations and that brings to mind its centenary, which was observed between 6 and 8 August 1962.
The celebrations were conducted in a pandal on the premises, executed specially by Thanjavur artisans. The entire High Court was illuminated with electric lights for four nights in succession.
The celebrations began on the morning of 6 August with traditional temple honours from the Chennakesava and Chennamalleeswara Temples. It was entirely appropriate for these Patnam temples had once stood where the High Court is today. This was followed by vedic chants by priests from Mylapore and the rendition of Thevaram songs by maestro MM Dandapani Desigar.
At 4.30 pm, the President of India, S Radhakrishnan arrived, escorted by the Governor, Bishnuram Medhi. Students of Kalakshetra sang a prayer after which S Ramachandra Iyer, the Chief Justice of Madras read the welcome address and also a message of goodwill from the Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. The President then pressed a switch, which immediately flooded the pavilion with light, for 100 bulbs to mark the centenary, came on. Dr Radhakrishnan’s speech was followed by speeches of the Governor, the Chief Justice of India BP Sinha, Sir CP Ramaswami Iyer and Dr PV Rajamannar, the immediate past Chief Justice of Madras. VK Thiruvenkatachari, the Advocate General, proposed the vote of thanks. During the event, a postage stamp commemorating the centenary was released as also that wonderful and now rare-to-find work – A Century Completed, written and edited by VC Gopalaratnam, one of the giants of the Madras Bar.
The second day’s events started with a concert by TM Krishnaswami Iyer, former Chief Justice of Travancore State. In the afternoon, there was a tea party for 1200 invitees, chiefly comprising the legal fraternity. There followed a variety of classical entertainments put up by advocates and judges and their wives at the Raja Annamalai Manram. Among these was a classical concert by Justice TL Venkatarama Iyer accompanied by VP Raman on the violin and N Srivatsamani on the mridangam. On the third day, a play written and enacted by the High Court staff was staged at the Annamalai Manram. A Sports Day had been conducted earlier and medals, prizes and clothes were distributed among the High Court staff. A Centenary Medal was given to each member of the High Court Establishment. Formal dinners were hosted for about a 1000 invitees comprising the who’s who of Madras on each of the three nights.
An exhibition comprising historic artefacts such as the Charter Rolls was inaugurated on the 6 at the 3 Court Hall. The literary works, photographs, sketches, paintings and cartoons done by Judges and lawyers were also on display. The exhibition was open to the public and such was the demand that it was allowed to remain for more than a fortnight, hundreds of people visiting it even as the Courts were at work. It was the people’s celebration of a city icon.