The fall of Seerani Arangam

NOT SO very long ago, a dilapidated structure stood on the sands of the Marina. Now, it stands no more.

In an overnight operation on Saturday, under cover of darkness, the decades' old structure was razed to the ground. Without warning, the dais that was being maintained by one arm of the Government (Directorate of Information and Public Relations) was brought down by yet another arm (Public Works department).

Seerani Arangam, like most other public structures on the beach, has a history. It was built during the Chief Ministership of C.N. Annadurai in 1970. People in the know of these things say Annadurai wanted to infuse social responsibility into his cadres and organised them into the "Seerani corps". They also go on to say that he requested the volunteers in that team to build a platform on the Marina. The structure that came up was therefore named after the corps and was christened Seerani Arangam.

The fall of Seerani Arangam

But the history of the spot on which the dais stood goes back further in time, according to some others. The Thyagigal Pugazh Parappum Iyakkam, for instance, holds that it was at that very same spot that Bal Gangadhar Tilak once roared from. He proclaimed from the sands that India would one day win her freedom and therefore the area was named Tilakar Kattam or Tilakkar Thidal.

In January this year, a group of six organisations unveiled a plaque at the Arangam, registering this nugget of history, led by former TNCC (I) president, Kumari Ananthan.

He said the name Tilakar Thidal was given by Subramania Siva, legendary freedom fighter of the South. Other freedom fighters including Mahatma Gandhi, Rajaji, Nehru, Sardar Patel, Satyamurti and Kamaraj had also delivered their rousing speeches from the same spot.

The fall of Seerani Arangam

Even as historians sought to establish "true origins", Seerani Arangam continued to be the preferred venue for a large number of public gatherings, religious, political and social.

The famous Vinaykar Chathurthi procession bearing idols of the Lord would mostly culminate behind the Arangam, where the idols would be sunk into the sea. Public meetings following the immersion ceremony would naturally be held at the Arangam.Seerani Arangam has also been an important location for the thespians of Kollywood.

Figuring in countless Tamil movies, the Arangam was the haunt of `reel life' lovers. And apparently, even real life lovers. Until recently, when the State Government's broom swept the beach clean, wiping this dilapidated, yet, memorable structure off the landscape of Chennai forever.

By Ramya Kannan

Photos: Hindu Photo Library, K.V. Srinivasan and S. R. Raghunathan.