The ballad of Arubathu Moovar

Guzili Pattu is the name given to a type of song by which news was disseminated in Madras city during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. They were printed on cheap paper and distributed in street corners and wandering minstrels sang them. Among the collection of Guzili songs available at the Roja Muthiah Library is the Vazhi Nadai Chindu published in 1915 by the Chakravarty Acchukoodam of 13, Nambulayar Street, Madras.

The song is about a beau of George Town asking his girl, the toast of Mullah Sahib Street, to walk down with him to Mylapore to see the Arubathu Moovar festival at the Kapaleeswarar Temple. The composition is structured as though the hero is pointing out the sights of the city to his beloved as they travel to Mylapore. The route however, is not the most logical and shortest.

The duo pray at the Ranganathaswami Temple (Mullah Sahib Street), the twin temples of Arunachaleswarar and Varadarajaswami (Anna Pillai Street) and the Dharmaraja Temple (Elephant Gate, Sowcarpet). Walking by People's Park (known then as Victoria Gardens), he sings of the high compound and beautiful gates.

The zoo is described next (for it was then within People's Park). They see male and female bears, a big tiger, a cheetah and what is sung of as “the famous” lion.

People's Park, according to the song also contained a tree whose sapling was planted by Prince Albert Victor (during his visit in 1889). The couple gazes at a lawnmower which can cut uniformly and then they marvel at a huge weighing scale used for sizing up the bales of grass. Attention is drawn to Overseer Willis' bungalow inside the garden. From Pammal Sambanda Mudaliar's memoirs we know that this Willis was also in charge of the Victoria Public Hall at that time.

The jail comes next and the duo claims to be able to see murderers, pickpockets and frauds going about doing their penitentiary duties. They also see the women's cells and the gardens tended to by the convicts. Chintadripet Bridge is next and there is mention of the “Chitra Bungalow” of Murugappa Mudaliar. The duo crosses Sami Naicken Road (now a lane off Harris Bridge), which refers to Sami Naick, the man who pioneered vaccinations in Madras and who lived off Harris Road in Langs Garden Road. A park, much neglected, stands even now in Sami Naick's name in that area.

Mention is made of Club House (later Express Estates and now the Express Avenue Mall), home to the Madras Club whose rear entrance they must have crossed and then they are standing next to a Taana Maada Koil, which could be the Wesley Church, for they say it is next to a school in Royapettah. Apparently Chellappa's Sweet Shop was the rage of Royapettah for here the singer asks his girl to savour puri halwa, laddu, jalebi, adirasam, palgova and pagoda.

How they could walk after that meal is a mystery. The journey ends with a burst of devotion, for the names of the 63 nayanmars are recited and then a glorious description of Kapaleeswarar and Karpagambal follows as the idols come out of the temple in all their finery.

Our code of editorial values

Related Topics
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Sep 18, 2021 1:09:06 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/the-ballad-of-arubathu-moovar/article3281752.ece

Next Story