My waters nurtured centres of learning

Women's Christian College, established in 1915, was among the prominent education institutions opened along the banks of Cooum. File.  

Today, the city you know as Chennai has a number of schools and colleges, and the government of Tamil Nadu runs schools in every district and taluk. What many people do not know is that this “modern” education has its roots on my banks.

The Directorate of Public Instruction (DPI) campus, which most people recognise thanks to the bus stop on College Road, laid the foundation for most of the schools and colleges that are functioning today. When Thomas Munro came to Madras, he converted the campus of the College of Fort St. George into the Department of Public Instruction, to set up schools at every Collectorate and taluk headquarter. Through the DPI, Munro set up training schools for teachers. From here, it was a small step to the establishment of a high school, and then a college in the city.

The first high school, which was set up on April 14, 1841, at D’Monte House (Chief Magistrate’s Court, Egmore) was then converted to the first college in South India in 1855: Presidency College. Soon, this institution gave birth to the University of Madras, which occupied a part of the college’s premises before it moved to its current home.

Once the university was set up, the Madras Medical College, one of the first in the country and located along my banks, decided to become affiliated to it.

Another famous Chennai college was also established along my banks: the College of Engineering Guindy. Don’t let the name fool you. This college was set up as the Madras Survey School in 1794, by Michael Topping to educate the residents of the Male Orphans Asylum (home to orphans of British soldiers who died in service). From then, the college has grown in leaps and bounds, and shifted homes to the Khalas Mahal before it finally ended up on its current campus at Guindy.

Before Independence, I was a popular destination for education. Loyola and Queen Mary’s College, established in 1914; Women’s Christian College (1915) and the Quaid-E-Millath Government College for Women were opened along my banks, and continue to thrive.

The now dilapidated Madras College of Arts (Government College of Fine Arts) too was set up along my banks. This college, like me, had a wonderful past, but now is sadly neglected. At one time, tiles manufactured in the college were being exported to as far away as the United States.

While a number of significant steps were taken along my banks towards the formation of the city, today I have been cast aside. A few people remember my glorious past, and my contribution to the city, I hope one day this recounting will give an old lady a new lease of life.

Source: The Hindu Archives, Venkatesh Ramakrishnan of the Chennai Cooum Group

Madras Week: Thus Spake Cooum

>Tracing the sacred roots of a river

The 18 century philanthropist Pachaiyappa Mudaliyar would bathe in my waters and then proceed to worship Lord Komaleeswarar.

>Artists' walk documents the many facets of Cooum

A group of artists had captured these facets of the Cooum river as they set out on a journey along the waterway.

>Institutions pitch innovative solutions for cleaning Cooum

A city grew on the banks of the Cooum, but did you know that they have been sites of the clash of civilisations?

>Celebrating Madras Week

Over years, Chennai’s own river, the banks on which Madras arose, 376 years ago next week, has meandered on, stoic in the face of the assaults on it.

>Madras thrived on her banks

A group of history enthusiasts has brought a fresh perspective to the image of the river.

>The scene of great battles

A city grew on the banks of the Cooum, but did you know that they have been sites of the clash of civilisations?

>For them, Cooum is not synonymous with sewer

The Cooum, as strange as it might sound to some, still remains a lifeline to many villages in Tiruvallur district.

>Cooum snippets

In the first-person account that follows, one R. Premsingh writes, “I wish to draw the attention of the Corporation authorities to the stinking smell emitted by the Cooum river.”

>Cooum: Madras' engine of growth

Nearly everything that was and is notable in the city took root along my banks, from the houses of the powerful to the centres of commerce

>Staving off the sewage threat in Cooum

Chennai Metrowater seems to be trying to actualise the big dream of cleaning Cooum river through small steps.

>What's in a name?

A group of history enthusiasts has brought a fresh perspective to the image of the river.

>When crocodiles swam free in Cooum

If you walked by the Cooum about a 100 years ago, you may just have spotted the Cooum crocodile

>Cooum: High tide of artistic expression

From cinemas and bookstores to theatre performances and architectural marvels, I have witnessed this great city reaching new creative heights over many decades.

>Chennai Corporation to play a key role in Cooum makeover

Following a resolution by the Chennai Corporation Council this summer, the civic body is set to do a study on the restoration of heritage landscape along the Cooum river.

>On Islands Grounds and the Cooum

Do you know that Island Grounds owes its name to the Cooum?

>My waters nurtured centres of learning

The Directorate of Public Instruction on my bank laid the foundation for most of the schools and colleges in the city

>The river never found its place in Tamil cinema

The Cooum has always been portrayed as filthy and as a garbage dump yard.

>Crucial decision made: Between Andhra and Tamil Nadu

So valued was the free-flowing Cooum in those days that there was a demand to carve out an Andhra State from the Madras Presidency in the mid and late 1950s.


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Printable version | Nov 21, 2021 9:38:07 PM |

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