October 2 marks the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of the Nation. Between 1896 and 1946, during the course of the Freedom Movement in India, Gandhi visited Chennai — then the winter capital of Madras Presidency — 20 times.
During his visits, Gandhi addressed the people of Tamil Nadu and mobilised them to take part in the freedom movement.
On the occasion of Bapu’s 150th birthday, we take a look at places in Chennai associated with Gandhi.
Pachaiyappa’s College Hall, Pachaiyappa’s College Hall, Chennai
Mahatma Gandhi made his first visit to Madras Presidency in 1896 for a 14-day period, after having spent three years in South Africa. During his stay, Gandhi convened several meetings in the presidency, where he spoke about the problems faced by Indians in South Africa and tried to mobilise support for their cause.
The biggest meeting was held at Pachaiyappa’s College Hall, where a resolution was passed urging the government to intervene and prevent the ill-treatment of Indians in South Africa.
Gandhi Mandapam, Sardar Patel Road
Gandhi Mandapam is a memorial that was built along Sardar Patel Road near Adyar to honour the Father of the Nation following his death.
It was opened to the public in 1956 and now houses memorials for Mahatma Gandhi and four other leaders from the state — independence activist and Gandhi’s close associate Rettamalai Srinivasan, former Chief Ministers Rajaji, Kamaraj and M Bhaktavatsalam.
The memorial also houses Mahatma Gandhi Museum and Mahatma Gandhi Library. Today, the memorial is used for hosting public functions in the city.
Anderson Hall, Madras Christian College, East Tambaram
When Gandhi visited Madras Presidency in 1916, he presided over a debate at Anderson Hall, the largest auditorium at the Madras Christian College, in East Tambaram.
Later, this event came to be known as the inauguration of Madras Christian College’s Debate Society.
Thambu Chetty Street, George Town
When Mahatma Gandhi and Kasturba Gandhi first visited Madras, the couple stayed at the house of G A Natesan for 14 days. G A Natesan was the founder of The House of Natesan, G A Natesan & Company, Booksellers, Publishers and Printers, who later went on to become a life-long friend of the Gandhis.
Today, nothing remains of G A Natesan’s first house, since the publisher moved to a garden residence in Luz, Mylapore a few years later. However, Thambu Chetty Street continues to remain a place of relevance in Chennai’s history even today, with its location opposite to the Madras High Court.
Gandhi Statue, Kamarajar Salai
The beach promenade along Kamarajar Salai opposite Marina Beach is home to several statues, one of them being a statue of the Father of the Nation. The statue was unveiled by former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru at the promenade on April 14, 1959, near the Lighthouse and opposite the office of the Director General of Police (DGP).
Every year, the statue is decked with flowers to observe Martyrs’ Day, Independence Day and Gandhi Jayanti. The statue was renovated in 2014 under the directions of then Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, following continuous exposure to sea salt and other elements.