Chennai joins UCCN list

The Creative Cities Network is a privileged partner of UNESCO, not only as a platform for reflection on the role of creativity as a lever for sustainable development but also as a breeding ground of action and innovation, notably for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The UNESCO Creative Cities Network (UCCN) was created in 2004 to promote cooperation with and among cities that have identified creativity as a strategic factor for sustainable urban development. The 116 cities which currently make up this network work together towards a common objective: placing creativity and cultural industries at the heart of their development plans at the local level and cooperating actively at the international level.

The Network covers seven creative fields: Crafts and Folk Arts, Media Arts, Film, Design, Gastronomy, Literature and Music.

As many as 64 cities from 44 countries have been designated as UNESCO Creative Cities by its Director General Irina Bokova. Chennai has been included in the list of UNESCO’s Creative Cities Network for its rich musical tradition

While differing geographically, demographically or economically, all creative cities commit to develop and exchange innovative best practices to promote creative industries, strengthen participation in cultural life, and integrate culture into sustainable urban development policies, the statement said.

“Within the framework of the implementation of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the New Urban Agenda, the Network provides a platform for cities to demonstrate culture’s role as an enabler for building sustainable cities,” it added.

The UNESCO Creative Cities Network now counts a total of 180 cities in 72 countries.Some of the other cities included along with Chennai are Alba (Italy) for gastronomy, Almaty (Kazakhstan) for music and Auckland (New Zealand) for music, according to UNESCO.

Greater Chennai

Madrasapattinam or Chennapattinam were the name of old Madras. What was once a small port and trading centre has now become a residential, commercial, industrial and IT hub of South India. The fourth largest metropolitan in the country is developing on a lightning pace. With more and more areas coming under the cover of Chennai, greater importance and fast development is happening in the suburban Chennai.

The center areas of the city are developing into commercial zones. Hence most of the city’s population has moved to sub-urban Chennai considering the property rates in the commercial areas and the cost of living as well. Chennai Metropolitan consists of Chennai district, parts of Thiruvallur district and parts of Kanchipuram district. The existing area of Chennai is 174 sq km. The expansion of Chennai is planned to cover the surrounding area of 256 sq km. Greater Chennai will be 430 sq km in total. Greater Chennai has the potential to connect every part of the city and the towns outside the city with better infrastructure and transportation making the commutation time less and comfortable to the people.

The following is the list of local bodies that has been included in the greater Chennai corporation:

9 Municipalities – Kathivakkam, Thiruvottiyur, Manali, Madhavaram, Ambattur, Maduravoyal, Valasaravakkam, Alandur and Ullagaram – Puuzhuthivakkam.

8 Town Panchayats – Chinna Sekkadu, Puzhal, Porur, Nandambakkam, Meenambakkam, Perungudi, Pallikaranai and Sholinganallur.

25 Village Panchayats – Idayanchavady, Sadayankuppam, Kadapakkam, Theeyambakkam, Mathur, Vadaperumbakkam, Suraipet, Kathirvedu, Puthagaram, Nolambur, Karambakkam, Nerkundram, Ramapuram, Mugalivakkam, Manapakkam, Kottivakkam, Pallavakkam, Neelankarai, Injambakkam, Karapakkam, Okkiyum-Thoraipakkam, Madipakkam, Jalladampet, Semmanchery and Uthandi.

42 neighboring local bodies have been brought under city limits being part of greater Chennai. The existing city is struggling to get proper infrastructure. With the addition of more local bodies to the existing city is going to need more efficient and effective planning and implementation which would lie depending upon the political stability. In spite of the expansion plans, the implementation lies in the hands of the political group of the ruling government. This has been a biggest drawback in Chennai. Hope that plans would be implemented considering the welfare of the people and not dependent on the ruling government.

Hotel Dasaprakash

The Story of Shri K. Seetharama Rao is vitally linked with the life and spirit divine of his illustrious father, Bhakta Shri Govinda Dasa. The history of Dasaprakash is the history of its founder Shri K.Seetharama Rao himself, who has become famous as the Proprietor of the Dasaprakash Group of Hotels in South India in the world of business, and as the Bhakta of Bhaktas in the world of spiritualism.

Starting from humble beginnings Shri Seetharama Rao, independently built up a number of catering concerns to serve the travelers, tourists and the public at large. These concerns were developed into a wonderful chain of Magnificent Hotels by the creative skill and imagination of Shri Rao who has been aptly described by many distinguished personages as the Hotel King of South India.

The hotel industry in India has a western tradition. Before the British we never thought in terms of Panthasalas or Dharmasalas. Sri Seetharama Rao’s biggest contribution to the industry was to make his hotels truly Indian in contemporary style. An Indian would be satisfied with Indian food if he were given the quality food he expects at home in the same pure and hygienic condition.

That had been Sri Seetharama Rao’s watchword in service because to him the quality of man’s mind depended upon the quality of food he ate. If the food is pure the mind is pure. Sri Seetharama Rao believed that however modern an Indian may be, his background is deeply rooted in religion, and that was why Sri Seetharama Rao provided recreation for the mind through cultural activities like music, drama, Indian Classical dance, religious films and also patronized seminars on religious and cultural subjects. However, everything right from the beginning to the end was Indian. Sri Seetharama Rao’s social mission in life was to project India through food and her way of living.

Dasaprakash which means “Light of the servant of God” was founded in the early 1920’s by this great visionary in honor of his father who was indeed a true servant of god. A line of business, long held to be only a means of making money, became in the hands of Sri Seetharama Rao an instrument of service and an agency for the spread of Indian Dharma and culture. Dasaprakash, with has outposts in Delhi and the US, has been aptly described as a home away from home by one of its distinguished visitors.

Dasaprakash opened its first restaurant in Los Angeles in 1989 in the city of Cerritos and opened another branch in West Los Angeles in 1996. The Santa Clara Dasaprakash restaurant opened in the early 2000’s.

The Dasaprakash family of restaurants specializes in South Indian food.

Source: Hotel Paradise 

The nostalgic SapphireTheatre

Veecumsee’s developed the first multi-theatre cinema complex in the country — the Sapphire — and it was opened to public in 1964. The complex housed three screens — Sapphire, and two smaller theatres; Emerald and Blue Diamond and there was also a small preview theatre. All of this at a fabulous location on Anna Salai (then Mount Road) near the Gemini Flyover (those days a major intersection with signals).

What made the Sapphire Theatre complex unique was the way it was run. Sapphire was for the mainline English films, Blue Diamond was for off beat films, or re-runs of films that had already been screened in Chennai. Blue Diamond would start screening films in the morning at 9 AM and run back to back shows up to midnight. Emerald was for Hindi films.

The first movie to be screened in Sapphire was Cleopatra and it was perhaps the first 70mm theatre in the country.

On top of this well ordered show plan, Sapphire marketed well and used ideas to capture people’s imagination. For example, when they screened ‘Those magnificent men and their flying machines’ they actually parked an old bi-plane in front of the theatre. Even before that, the first film I remember seeing was ‘The Sound of Music’ after Sapphire ensured that many schools sent their kids to see it along with their teachers!

Sapphire screened an eclectic mix to enthrall Chennai audiences. From Western classics like “For a few dollars more’ and ‘The Pitiless Three’ to ’2001, a Space Odyssey’, ‘Patton’, ‘Round the world in eighty days’, ‘Woodstock’, ‘The dirty dozen’, ‘Dirty Harry’, ‘Mackenna’s Gold’ to name a few. They had wooden displays in the entrance foyer where the names of the films shown at the theatre were faithfully painted under the respective years in which they were screened.

Many are the days whiled away at Blue Diamond as teenagers who simply wanted to spend the holidays doing something pleasurable watching movies like ‘Blow hot, blow cold’, ‘The moon’s a balloon’, ‘The Mackenzie Break’, ‘If its Tuesday this must be Belgium’ and other off beat and mainstream films. It used to be such an experience to walk in in the middle of a film, find a seat, watch till the end, sit through the short break and then watch the first half (and maybe see the full film again!)!

All the other large theatre complexes came up many years later – Devi theatre complex followed by the Sathyam Cinema complex. Casino used to screen many good English films as well, including some powerful films like ‘Highway Queen’ and ‘Mad Max’. And I remember seeing ‘Rollerball’ and ‘Enter the Dragon’ at Anand! But Sapphire was always special because it was the first theatre complex here, and the way it was managed and marketed.

Sadly it is no more, brought down by greedy, manipulative and political muscle. But it will always live on in my memory for the many magical moments I spent there as a boy, and later as a teenager.

Sapphire theatre was purchased by the AIADMK in 1994 from the Veecumsee family. It had planned to construct a party office at the site and even demolished the theatre for the purpose. But the plan has since been dropped.

In an earlier interview, AIADMK supremo J Jayalalithaa said, “We had acquired a place on Anna Salai, the old Sapphire theatre premises. But there was a lot of resistance from partymen. They are sentimentally attached to this building (the current party headquarters on Avvai Shanmugam Salai) because it used to be MGR’s residence earlier. The partymen don’t want to shift the headquarters to another place.”

And today The ruling AIADMK has put its Sapphire theatre property on Anna Salai for sale. The party kick started the sale process by appointing a consultant, who will handhold the party through the transaction.

Madraspatnam and Chennapatnam

The occurrence of the term Srirangarayapatnam, my town, in the cowle given by Sriranga Raya in 1645, introduces an element of confusion with regard to the origin of the names Madraspatnam and Chennapatnam.There was a view which had been prevalent ever since Walter Hamilton published his valuable account of India in 1820 that, at the time of the foundation of Madras, Sriranga Raya insisted that the settlement should be named after him as Srirangarayapatnam, but that his purpose was defeated by the local Nayak who managed to get it called after his own father, Chennappa. We know, however, that Sriranga succeeded to the throne only in 1642, fully three years after the foundation of the settlement.

This was not known to Hamilton who based his view only on a perusal of the cowle of the Raya, a copy of which was available to him among the Madras records that he utilised. The grant of the name of Srirangarayapatnam was probably intended by the Raya as a special mark of his royal favour to the factors of Madras. Also, about the time of this grant, Damarla Venkatapathi Nayak, son of Chennappa, was in disgrace; and this might have had a share in making Sriranga alter in his grant the name Chennappapatnam to Srirangarayapatnam.

The name of Chennapatnam is due to the fact that Damarla Origin of the Ayyappa Nayak, when writing to Francis Day name at Armagon in 1639, expressed a desire to found a town in the name of his father, Chennappa Nayak and offered the English liberal privileges if they would come and settle in it. Very probably the origin of the name came about this way.
Chennappa Nayak was a famous personage in his generation. He was a brother-in-law of Yachama Nayak and a prominent noble at the court of Venkatapathi Raya- I (1586-1614) and took possession of Vellore, on behalf of his master, after defeating its ruler, Lingama Nayak. From this time, Vellore served as the residence of the Baya and was a second capital of his kingdom. Chenna’s sons attained to considerable distinction. One of them, Damarla Venkatapathi, was the chief minister of Venkatapathi Raya- II (1630-42). He warred against the Nayak of Gingee and constructed a lake in the North Arcot District, which he named Chennasagaram, after his father. Another son of Chennappa was Ayyappa. Both these brothers helped the English in the acquisition of Madras.

A third brother was Ankabhupala known by a Telugu work, Ushaparinayam which he wrote and dedicated to his father, Chenna. Therein he says that his younger brother, Ayya, saw that the people of Pralaya Kaveri (Pulicat), the Dutch, were incessantly fighting with the people of Mylapore (the Portuguese at San Thome) and in order to put an end to that fighting, he founded the town of Chennapatna (Madras) between them so as to prevent their mutual bickerings.

The name Chennapatnam was applied from the beginning to the Indian town that grew up to the north of the English Fort which was built on the site of Madraspatnam, according to the first grant. The village called Madrasapatnam was definitely mentioned even in the first grant as existing at the time when it was made. In all the available records of the time 1639-45, a difference was maintained between the original village of Madraspatam and the new town that quickly grew up in and round the Fort. To this new town, the name Chennapatnam was given. Thus we may say that the village of Madraspatnam had existed under that name even prior to the English settlement of 1639-40; and the site of Chennapatnam was that of modern Fort St. George. The original village of Madraspatnam lay to the north of the site of the Fort; and within a few years of the founding of Fort St. George the new town which grew up round the Fort came to be popularly known to the Indians as Chennapatnam, either because Damarla Venkatapathi and Ayyappa wished it to be called so or because the site might already have borne that name; more likely, the former was the truth. The intervening space between the older northern site of Madraspatnam and the new southern plot of Chennapatnam, came to be quickly built over with the houses of the new settlers as the town expanded, so that the two villages became virtually one town.

The English preferred to call the two united towns by the name of Madraspatnam, with which they had been familiar from the first, while the Indians chose to give it the name of Chennapatnam. In course of time, the exact original locations of Madraspatnam and Chennapatnam came to be confused and even reversed as it was done by W. Hamilton. Madraspatnam was regarded as the site of the Fort and Chennapatnam as the Indian town to the north.

Source: This article is originally from “The History of the City of Madras”.