Madurai

Heritage bazaar to come up at Kunnathur Chathiram site

Transformation: Work in progress for a shopping complex at the site where Kunnathur Chathiram was located on East Avani Moola Street near Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple in Madurai on Sunday.

Transformation: Work in progress for a shopping complex at the site where Kunnathur Chathiram was located on East Avani Moola Street near Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple in Madurai on Sunday.   | Photo Credit: R. Ashok

After much delay, work has started to construct a complex with 190 shops and parking space for 150 two-wheelers

Those who visited Kunnathur Chathiram, once a prominent edifice near Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple, might have spotted a construction site with signboard requesting people not to litter the place.

The more than century-old inn remains a talking point for shopkeepers and long-time residents. After several litigations, work has started at the site recently. In 14 months, the Corporation is expected to complete a complex with 190 shops with a dedicated space for tailors stitching traditional garments and temple festival paraphernalia.

Old shops, new location

Architect R. M. Valliappan, who is in charge of the project, says plan to move 300-odd shops from Pudu Mandapam, located opposite the eastern entrance of the temple, was mooted in 1980. “The then Chief Minister M.G. Ramachandran planned a shopping complex on Ezhukadal Street. The shopping complex was built for hawkers but they were reluctant to move saying theey would lost their traditional client base. In 2003, under Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM), we identified Kunnathur Chathiram as an ideal site for their relocation,” he said.

A corporation engineer said though the project was initially planned under the JNNURM scheme, it did not take off owing to payment issue to the construction contractor.

“A missing ‘maragatha lingam,’ a small idol of Lord Siva, which was found in the chathiram site in 2009 and kept in the Corporation treasury, police investigation, a case at the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court ... these all caused further delay,” he said.

For 10 years, there was no action at the site. No attempt was made to shift shops from Pudu Mandapam in those years until the fire at Meenakshi temple on February 2, 2018.

After the fire

Immediately after the fire at the eastern entrance of the temple, discussions regarding shifting shops out of both the temple and Pudu Mandapam premises began. Shopkeepers were immediately asked to vacate the premises by the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments department and the temple authorities on February 3.

Later, the Madurai Bench of Madras High Court permitted them to open shops on the Amman Sannidhi side till December 31, 2018, but on a condition that they have to find alternative sites to set up shops in the interim period.

S. K. Siddiq, a shopkeeper selling puja articles, said, “We were always ready and willing to move to an alternative space close to the temple so that our business is not hit. For generations, our forebears have been doing business here. Now, we are satified that we could at least move to the Kunnathur Chathiram site.”

The Corporation plans to build a shopping complex with 190 shops and parking for 150 two-wheelers under the Smart Cities Mission’s ‘heritage projects’ programme at a cost of ₹9 crore.

“It will have the traditional pathway connecting East Avani Moola Street with East Chithirai Street. The heritage bazaar will have a façade in sync with Madurai’s temple architecture,” said Mr. Valliappan. After admiring the sculptures at Pudu Mandapam after it is restored, visitors can shop at the heritage bazaar, he added.

Criticism

Shopkeepers say there is no space between the proposed complex and adjacent buldings. “How can the building be painted and maintained in the future?” they wonder.

A senior engineer said corporation by-laws permitted end-to-end construction on East Avani Moola Street. “We are not breaking any rules,” he said.

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Printable version | May 27, 2020 10:04:17 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Madurai/heritage-bazaar-to-come-up-at-kunnathur-chathiram-site/article28817839.ece

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