Sunday, October 5, 2008

There was one, once

Continuing a bit on the theme of street names, I have to strike closer home. Cenotaph Road, near my apartment, is a short road connecting Mount Road to Kotturpuram. It is very likely that not too many people know what 'cenotaph' means - it is one of those exact words that is used very rarely. I don't think I've heard of it anywhere but with reference to the road in Chennai and in P.B.Shelley's poem 'The Cloud'. Unlike Shelley's Cloud, Lord Cornwallis must be silently fuming at what has become of his Cenotaph in Madras.

When it was first set up, the Cenotaph marked a significant limit of Mount Road, if not its far end altogether. The Cenotaph was a cupola housing a 14-foot high statue of Lord Cornwallis and it was set in the centre of an oval garden. This marked the outer limit of an evening's ride or drive out from Fort St George. For the residents of the Fort, it was a good way to pretend they were in London and the Cenotaph Park was Hyde Park, where they could spend the evening and get back to the Fort before it became really dark. In the 1800s, Cenotaph Road was merely one of the spurs from this park, going down to the Adayar river. Over a couple of centuries, Cenotaph Road became well known, but the Cenotaph itself has been scattered around. The statue of Cornwallis is now in the Fort Museum and it's last cupola, in the photograph, is at the entrance to Fort St George.

Of the cupola that was the centrepiece of the Cenotaph Park, there is no trace. Separated from its shelter, Cornwallis' statue is hidden away inside the Museum. And Cenotaph Road carries on, with just a faint memory of an empty tomb that once stood there!


anantha said...

nice post, dude.

Hilda said...

Another very interesting post. The structure does look a little lonely, but its surroundings seem to be very pretty, including the white building in the background.

Shantaram said...

>> Anantha>> Hey, good to see you - where have you been?? Thanks for coming by and for the encouragement!

>> Hilda>> Yes, it does seem like its wandering days are over, it has settled down nicely!