How milestone number 25 along the Buckingham Canal in Pulicat now stands strong

Love for heritage Fisherman M Suman who strengthened the milestone special arrangement   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

It was a sore sight; but one that the people of Pulicat had got used to: a seemingly ordinary stone column was lying on the ground amid thorn bushes. Nearby, people defecated in the open.

Then, M Suman, a local fisherman hired two people to lift the column and fix it firmly. He knew it was no ordinary stone.

“It is the 25th milestone: the last one along the East Coast Canal, starting at Basin Bridge,” says Xavier Benedict of AARDE Foundation (Art & Architecture Research Development and Education), a non-profit Trust in Chennai.

The milestone dates back to 1840, according to Xavier. There were 25, from Madras to Pulicat, set along the Buckingham Canal, once an important waterway.

“People have forgotten how historic the canal is,” says Xavier. “It is the only known canal to have milestones, and also boasted an ingenious locking system.” If it existed today in its original form, it would take us only an hour to travel from Chennai to Pulicat, Xavier says; on road, this takes twice the duration.

Sadly, several of the milestones are missing, including the first one at Basin Bridge, he points out.

Fortunately, cheered on by Xavier, Suman saved the final one. A heritage enthusiast, Suman talks with fascination about the milestone.

“We walked into garbage and thorn bushes, but behind them all, was this stone… bejaar ah irundhadhu [Was too much to handle].”

Suman says that he initially hesitated to approach the fallen milestone number 25. But he finally did.

“We took photos once the stone was strengthened and shared it on the Pulicat WhatsApp and Facebook groups,” says Xavier, adding that hopefully, it will inspire more people to learn about Buckingham Canal. “We can judge the width of the Canal using the position of the milestones,” he says.

However, over the years, thanks to the development of the city, the canal has shrunk, and “beyond Royapuram, we cannot even see it”.

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Printable version | Oct 27, 2020 9:31:16 AM |

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