Updated: August 15, 2019 1:56:57 pm
August 15 marks the 72nd anniversary of India’s freedom from British rule. Chennai, then the winter capital of Madras Presidency, has played a significant role in India’s struggle for freedom — home to great leaders, site of great movements.
Today is a good time to take a look at the places in this coastal city that played a key role in India’s freedom movement.
Tilak Bhavan on No. 2, Cathedral Road, Mylapore
(Present day – Welcomhotel)
No. 2, Cathedral Road was the rented residence of C Rajagopalachari, who served as the first and last Indian Governor-General of India and then the Chief Minister of Madras.
It was in this house that Mahatma Gandhi met Rajaji for the first time and stayed at his house as a guest during his visit to Chennai. The house, which today is a swanky five-star hotel, was the birthplace of the nation-wide Non-Cooperation Movement in 1919.
Tilak Kattam (Ghat in Hindi), Marina Beach
Tilak Ghat at Marina Beach was once upon a time the public square of British India, where Indians would gather to listen to speeches by the leading lights of the freedom movement. From Mahatma Gandhi to Bal Gangadhar Tilak to Annie Besant to Subash Chandra Bose, all the prominent freedom fighters addressed gatherings at this beach.
Today, the memory of Tilak Ghat continues to live among citizens, with protests and speeches by politicians, NGOs and common people still held on the shore of the longest beach in the country.
Dakshin Bharat Hindi Prachar Sabha, T Nagar
The Hindi Prachar Sabha was established by Mahatma Gandhi in 1918 to propagate Hindi among the Southern states in British India.
During the freedom movement, Gandhi would give speeches at the sabha and stress upon the importance of having a common language to unite people in their fight against the British rule.
Krishna Vilas, Mylapore
Present Day – Vishwakamal Apartments
Krishna Vilas, a quaint building on Ramakrishna Mutt Road where an apartment block now stands, was the building where the idea of the Indian National Congress was first discussed and formalised.
After AO Hume floated the idea of a political front for and by Indians in Kolkata in 1884, 17 leaders, from different parts of the country, gathered at Madras’s Krishna Vilas. It was here that the idea took concrete shape, and the creation of the Indian National Congress was formally announced a year later in Bombay.
The Grove, Eldams Road, Mylapore
Present Day – The Grove School
The Grove was the residence of C P Ramaswami Aiyar, a lawyer and a former Advocate-General of Madras Presidency. While The C P Ramaswami Aiyar Foundation now runs a school here, the grove of trees that the place is named after stays untouched.
In here stands tall the divi divi tree under which Annie Besant, and after she was jailed Ramaswami Aiyar himself, sat and edited the newspaper ‘New India’, at a time when the government had banned any form of publishing of nationalist material.
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