Friday, February 13, 2009

The pillar

Though Anna Nagar was the first properly planned and laid out part of Madras, it was not the city's first attempt at creating a 'colony'. That honour goes to a part of the city that was once a vast guava grove, just beyond the place where the Nawab of Arcot used to stable his horses. The stable doors were bolted after the horses disappeared quite a while ago; the groves stayed on for longer. Sometime in the early sixties, in a fit of national pride, a large clearing was made in the grove and a tall pillar was erected. The pillar was topped off with the Lion Capital from Sarnath - which is the National Emblem of India.

Within a year or so, four roads radiated out from the pillar and they were criss-crossed by others. In a limited way, the area was segregated into housing, commercial and educational sections. Circa 1964, when it was kind of ready for occupation, naming it was easy though it went back all the way to the 3rd century BC. Emperor Ashoka, who ruled over most of today's India in those years, who set up several 'lion capitals' over his empire, also lent his name to the township.

Ashok Nagar shows little signs of its original plans today. The pillar continues to tower over it; and 'Ashok Pillar' continues to be one of Chennai's most recognizable landmarks even today!


Hilda said...

Fascinating history to such a slim, tall pillar! It's not really as slim as it looks, is it?

Shantaram said...

@ Hilda: Actually it is quite slim - and nondescript! It is only the imitation of Sarnath that gives it some stature!

Anonymous said...

Hi, We are using the photo of the ashok pillar from this page for our group on facebook. Please reply back if this is not ok, we will promptly remove it.- Ashok nagar friends

Shantaram said...

@Ashok Nagar friends: I'm sorry to have taken so long to reply. If you think you can still use the image, please do so - but do credit the blog! Thanks.