September 3 is regarded as an important day in the history of the city. It was on this day in the year 1939 that legendary freedom fighter Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose visited the Madras Presidency for the first time.
On invitation from Pasumpon Muthuramalinga Thevar, the then leader of the All India Forward Bloc, to amass support for the party, Bose went to Madurai. He came to Madras en route. He reportedly stayed for three days at ‘Gandhi Peak’ on Bharathi Salai, Triplicane.
“Bose arrived by train at Madras Central. He was received by his supporters, and lawyer and freedom fighter S. Srinivasa Iyengar and Pasumpon Muthuramalinga Thevar. He was taken in an open jeep to the ‘Peak,’ the palatial house of civil engineer S.P. Aiyaswami Mudaliar, followed by a mammoth crowd of supporters,” S.P. Dhananjaya, the grandson of Mudaliar, said.
Earlier, S. Satyamurti, eminent freedom fighter, had issued a directive to Congressmen to boycott Bose, as he had a difference of opinion with Mahatma Gandhi. Mudaliar agreed to accommodate Bose at his home at the request of zamindar of Puliyur, Janakiram Pillai. He stayed in a room on the third floor.
In those days, the house was called as ‘Maniadikura Veedu’ (the house where the bell rings). The front portion of the house had a gong, which used to strike hourly for the benefit of residents around the ‘Peak.’ Once the hourly striking of the gong disturbed Bose’s meditation. He objected to this practice. Mudaliar refused to oblige Bose, saying the routine practices of the house could not be changed.
On the evening of September 3, Bose addressed a public meeting on the Marina. The meeting drew a crowd of more than a thousand people. The news of the Second World War had reached Madras. Bose announced the invasion of Poland by Germany and subsequent declarations of war on Germany by U.K..
On September 5, 1939, he left for Madurai. During his three-day stay, people thronged in large numbers to get a glimpse of the charismatic leader, and were jostling for space in front of the ‘Peak.’ Banners welcoming the ‘Lion of Bengal’ were put up on each floor of the home.
The spacious home was illuminated like a palace, he noted. An autographed photograph of Bose dated September 5, 1939, a prized possession, remains with the family.
The ‘Gandhi Peak’ saw yet another visit by Bose on January 10 and 11, 1940.The proof for this is recorded in an account notebook maintained by his grandmother Dhanammal, wife of Mudaliar.