The Mylapore festival starts today. This 4 day festival capsules the lovely vintage life of Mylapore. Kudos to the organizers for organizing such festivals and sending many old mylaporeans down the nostalgic lane.
I am very possessive about mylapore and whenever some one mentions the place, I strongly feel it is mine and i know the place better. Off late, though i must admit I've never visited mylapore much. My two day visit to chennai does not permit to visit this heaven. Sigh!. Anyways, I rewind my memories of my birthplace and favorite vacation spot during the 70’s & 80’s.
Though raised in Bangalore, I and my cousins (minus my sister who was always sticking to my mom’s pallu and stayed back in Bangalore) spent our summer and winter vacation at Mylapore along with my maternal grandparents, uncles and aunts.
My dear Mylapore has a rich history and culture. The beautiful potpourri of colourful flower shops, kunkum shops,vegetable market, sounds of the temple bells & cycle bells of rickshaws and cyclists selling soan papdi, fragrance of flowers and aroma of traditional food, the mada veedhis(streets around temple) filled with jewellery shops like sukra, cloth stores like rasi silks, a divine shop called Giri trading selling all religious and pooja items, Shanthi dresses – the one stop shop for all dancers in India and abroad, Ambika Appalam depot selling appalams, vattals, ready mix powders, Sri vidya manjal kunguma kadai- the shop which religiously follows the adage ‘work is worship. They prepare the best quality manjal & kungumam in the most traditional way, The narrow by lanes dotted with provision stores like Sankar stores, Leo coffee and Prakash coffee, the dabba chetty kadais, thattan kadais( gold smiths), sweet shops selling murukku, thattai, kara sevai, shops selling betel leaves and goli soda. All these and much more surround the heart of Mylapore – The 300 year old Kapali koil.
My grand father instilled in us( cousins) a discipline to attend the temple daily for worship , So it was in our daily routine to visit the huge temple daily after our bath. This temple's gopuram was visible from our terrace on kutcheri road. An average mylaporean’s life revolved around this temple. The locality owes its name to this temple, also called Mayilapuri( the city of peacock). The temple has a big pond/tank called Chittiraikulam .
During the teppam( float festival) held here There is a small mantap in the center of this huge tank and the God is taken to the center of this mantap on a float decorated with beautiful serial lights late in the evening. There are many petty shops pitched up here during festival time selling bangles, chains, toys, dresses etc. During Chariot Festival (Ther), my uncles used to go to pull the ther(chariot) with all the people stamping one another's feet. Residents of mada street used to throw water from rooftops to keep the devotees away from the scorching sun. Next day "Arupathu Moovar", Patti and mami's would be busy churning the curd to make 'neer more'( butter milk). We would take the neer more,sit on the steps of senghazhineer pillaiyar koil and offer to passersby to quench their thirst.By late evening the utsava murthy's like vellai sami( deity) used to pass by our house in a chariot. We would come out of our house to offer coconut and camphor to the god pasing by our door step. Every temple festival was like a festival at home for us.
Just visualizing all these transports me to an atmosphere charged with festivity.
There are also many traditional houses around the mada veedhi called agraharams which are residences of practicing Brahmins. These houses have seating place outside the house called 'thinnai' and all these houses have open courtyard in the middle of the house with a tulsi maadam(Brindavan). The dhoti clad mamas and madisar mamis here wake up to the melodius suprabhatam( a song played in the morning to wake up) and to the aroma of the kapi. The way this degree kapi is made in these households is a delight to watch.The kapi is served in steel tumbler and davara(rimmed saucer). The liquid is cooled from the tumbler to the davara and back without spilling. The end product is a frothy cup of kapi in the steel tumbler which would put any expresso/capuccino out of race.
Many traditional economical eateries like Karpagambal mess, rayars café where tastes are simple divine dot here.
A little away from the tank is The Luz corner. Another shoppers paradise, where you can shop till you drop at crores & crores, Trillions & trillions, millions & millions,shanti vihar complex, Kasi cut piece corner, vitan super market. Bow your head to Luz vinayagar here, have a bite of cake at Universal Bakery and a cool sip of flavored milk at Aavin, buy the best hosiery at reasonable rates at Hari’s and head into Kutcheri road.
All a mylaporean had to do was to list his tasks and finish it off with a walk around the temple.
Mylaporeans are blessed to have many temples, churches and mosques in their vicinity. Along with kapali koil you have the mundakanni amman koil, senghazhineer pillaiyar koil, Madhavaperumal koil, luz navasakthi vinayakar, Luz anjaneyar, karaneeswararkoil, the sai baba koil and many more.
It also boasts of a beautiful beach called Santhome beach. On the shores of the beach is the santhome cathedral.
You can walk to the best of sabhas ( cultural academy) here at Bhaaratiya vidya bhavan, Vani Mahal, Mylapore fine arts club ,Narada Gana Sabha Parthasarathy gana sabha etc. where the music fest is conducted every december. This fest is unparalleled in the world.
The best of educational institutions like Lady sivaswami ayyar girls school( my mom and perimma's school), P.S senior secondary school( sundar mama's school), Rosary matriculation where ramani chitti schooled, St. Bede's ( ravi mama's school), Vidya mandir and many more are located here.
Very good music and instrumental teachers had their houses here, Like Veenai Pitchumani, MSS. Mrs. Meenakshi ammal, the author of the most famous cook book 'cook & see' stayed right opposite the teppa kulam.
Today many new establishments have been set up around mylapore like Citi center mall and other glass facaded buildings. They co- exist with all the small shops selling jewels, silks and flowers serving as a gentle reminder that some things never change and are here to stay. This place has still retained its old world charm and today links and blends the tradition & modernity.
Mylapore, - a blessed place is a paradise for me.