Sunday, December 13, 2009

Beam of justice

I don't think there is any other court of justice of which it can be literally said that it cast its beacon of light nearly 35 kilometres around. That honour can only go to the High Court of Judicature at Madras - that is because its tallest minaret, at about 175 feet, was taller than any other structure nearby when the court buildings were opened in 1892. Although I haven't been able to find anything to support it, my guess is that the minaret was designed to play the role of a lighthouse. It holds the record for being Madras' longest serving lighthouse, having been used for about 83 years, from 1894 to 1977.

The first lighthouse at Madras became operational in 1796 and was little more than a lantern with reflectors, housing a dozen coconut-oil burning lamps, placed on top of the Exchange Building (the Fort Museum of today). It was used for almost 50 years, when it was moved to the Esplanade, atop a Doric column built for the specific purpose of serving as a lighthouse. That column, which came into use in 1841, still stands inside the High Court complex, having given up its crown to be housed in the minaret of the Court. The Argand Lamps and reflectors, which began flashing on January 1, 1844, was supplied by Chance Bros., Birmingham and was replaced - rather, improved upon - in 1927 and by all accounts continued to be used until 1977.

So which is Madras' fourth lighthouse? All of you from Chennai would have seen it at the south end of the Marina, but that's subject for another post!

The minaret may not look so tall from this perspective, but an older post shows it standing head and shoulders above its cousins!


Leif Hagen said...

Those towers are very impressive and unusual! Grand looking! Dhanyavadagalu

Shantaram said...

@ Leif: The might of justice!