Chennai

The story of Rajaji Hall in Chennai

CHENNAI, 15/08/2014:A view of the Rajaji Hall in Chennai on August 15, 2014. Photo: R_Ragu

CHENNAI, 15/08/2014:A view of the Rajaji Hall in Chennai on August 15, 2014. Photo: R_Ragu   | Photo Credit: R_Ragu

Now noted as a place where leaders are laid in state, the centuries-old Rajaji Hall has borne witness to happier times

The pillars of Rajaji Hall have seen tears — happy and sad. Previously known as Banqueting Hall (it was renamed after Independence) the building is where important political leaders are laid in state. This includes CN Annadurai, Periyar EV Ramasamy, K Kamaraj, the ashes of Indira Gandhi, MG Ramachandran, J Jayalalithaa, and now, M Karunanidhi.

Hundreds of thousands of men and women have walked the wide flight of stairs leading to the hall over the years, for one last look at their leader. It appears in the public eye on such occasions and is largely forgotten the rest of the time. What is the story behind this building?

Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, the Frontier Gandhi, who is on a visit to Madras is seen with Mrs. Ujjal Singh, wife of the Tamil Nadu Governor, Sardar Ujjal Singh, leave after the women's reception at Rajaji Hall on December 31, 1969. On the left is is Mrs. Sathyavani Muthu, Tamil Nadu Minister for Women's Welfare. 
PHOTO: THE HINDU ARCHIVES

Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, the Frontier Gandhi, who is on a visit to Madras is seen with Mrs. Ujjal Singh, wife of the Tamil Nadu Governor, Sardar Ujjal Singh, leave after the women's reception at Rajaji Hall on December 31, 1969. On the left is is Mrs. Sathyavani Muthu, Tamil Nadu Minister for Women's Welfare. PHOTO: THE HINDU ARCHIVES   | Photo Credit: K_N_CHARI

 

Built in 1802 by the East India Company’s astronomer and engineer Goldingham, (‘Once a Council Hall’ by Savitha Gautam, Madras Musings, Vol XIX No 23), the hall takes the form of a Greek temple. Gautam writes that it was extensively remodelled from 1875 — ‘the terrace was enclosed by the arcaded verandah in 1895’. According to historian V Sriram, it was meant for Governors to hold public events and was used for that purpose till 1947. “It was used for Government events and conferences. The first road conference took place there. Those days, there were very few hotels in the city for such events,” says Sriram.

Thiru C.N. Annadurai, Chief Minister presenting the Madras State Sangita Nataka Sangam's award to Thiru M. Karunanidhi, Minister for Public Works for best screen play wright for 1966-67 at a function held at Rajaji Hall, Madras on April 22, 1967.
PHOTO: THE HINDU ARCHIVES

Thiru C.N. Annadurai, Chief Minister presenting the Madras State Sangita Nataka Sangam's award to Thiru M. Karunanidhi, Minister for Public Works for best screen play wright for 1966-67 at a function held at Rajaji Hall, Madras on April 22, 1967. PHOTO: THE HINDU ARCHIVES   | Photo Credit: UNKNOWN

 

Sriram adds that when Ariyakkudi Ramanuja Iyengar completed 50 years in music, a grand celebration was held at Rajaji Hall. “MS Subbulakshmi sang the prayer,” he says. Sriram says that it also hosted the first Madras Week celebrations in 2004. “A one-day programme for school children happened there on Madras Day that year. They had brought in monuments that they had made for display,” he remembers.

Another significant event held at the hall was the Madras Exhibition of Industries in 1854. Not just Europeans, but also Indians had brought their products to the exhibition. Sriram explains, “That was the beginning of the industrial thrust of what is recognised today as Tamil Nadu.”

He adds that the exhibition had furniture, silver and gold jewellery, sketches in water colour, bronze ornaments, marble figures, pottery, among others. “There were even lectures on how people should start business ventures,” he says, adding that he hopes the historical building will put to other uses so that it’s maintained well.

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Printable version | May 21, 2020 2:43:37 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/the-story-of-rajaji-hall-in-chennai/article24644569.ece

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