Monday, July 14, 2014

Legend of the pole

To the east of the St Thomas Basilica, just as the ground drops off to the beach, stands this wooden pole. Legend has it that this is a splinter of a colossal tree that fell across the Adyar river, causing a flood in the neighbourhood. The king (yes, this legend goes back a couple of millennia) tried sending his elephants and mahouts to move the log; no success. It was then that the wandering holy man threw his girdle around the tree trunk and yanked it out to the shore. That was St Thomas and the log has now whittled down to this pole. 

It is a nice story, but there is no way to authenticate it. The legend of Thomas is an article of faith and this wooden pole is going the same way. A more plausible explanation of this wooden structure is that it is all that remains of a flag pole from the time that the Portuguese occupied the town of San Thome. The town's fortifications extended to the beach and this flag pole would have stood on the eastern bastion. 

In 2004, when the tsunami struck the Marina, the waters did not rise up to where the pole stood. There can be many explanations for that (significantly, the pole is at a reasonably high elevation from the shore and the tsunami fizzed out at this spot), but there is only one that the faithful believe - that this pole was the only factor that stood between San Thome and the tsunami!

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