Sunday, January 16, 2011


The next Congress Session held in Madras was in 1914. This was held in a pavilion erected in the grounds of the Doveton House in Nungambakkam.

Some information on the Doveton House: The Doveton House is one of Madras's historic buildings thanks to its origins that can be traced to the 1790s, when it was built by a Benjamin Roebuck. The home got its name when it became the residence of a John Doveton, who had purchased it on becoming a Lieutenant General,from a Linghi Chetty in 1837. John Doveton had served as the guardian of Tippu Sultan's two sons who were taken into custody by Lord Cornwallis until Tippu had paid his reparations soon after the Third Mysore War. After his time, the property changed hands with the Government acquiring it.The Women's Christian College moved into this campus in 1916 and this house survives as part of the campus even today.

The session was well attended with 866 delegates participating. The platform was crowded with all the nobilities of Madras when the President elect, Bhupendranath Basu came in, in procession, escorted to the Pavilion door by a guard of Congress Volunteers on cycles. The session was a historic one as it was visited by H.E, the Governor of Madras, Lord Pentland, the first visit ever paid by a Representative of the Crown to the Congress.

The Congress did not return to Madras until a good 13 years later, when the 42nd Session was held in 1927. The venue for the Session was the grounds of the Spur tank in Chetpet. This Session was a significant one for two reasons. The first one was that it was the first time that the Congress called for Purna Swaraj, or complete freedom with Jawaharlal Nehru moving the Independence Resolution. The second reason was that it was this session paved the way for the formation of the Music Academy, as an offshoot of an All India Music Conference that was held in conjunction with this Session of the Congress.

The last Session of the Congress held in Madras was in 1955. This session,held in Avadi saw the adoption of a resolution moved by Jawaharlal Nehru on the Socialistic Pattern of Society.

(Rajaji addressing the Subjects Committee:Photo from an old issue of Frontline Magazine)

The Congress did however meet again at Madras, at Maraimalai Nagar in 1988 for a meeting of the All India Congress Committee, an event that was presided over by Rajiv Gandhi.

1. HOW INDIA WROUGHT FOR FREEDOM:BY ANNIE BESANT, The Theosophical Publishing House, Adyar, 1915


Saturday, January 15, 2011


Madras played host to the 19th Session of the Congress in 1903. The venue this time was Spring Gardens, Teynampet where a Pandal accomodating nearly 6000 persons was put up.An Industrial Exhibition was also inaugurated with it(the Industrial Exhibition being in its 3rd edition) by the Maharajah of Mysore. Interestingly, Burma was represented for the first time in this session. Lal Mohan Ghose was elected President of this session.

Two notable matters discussed in this session were the Coronation Durbar held in Delhi earlier that year and the Madras Municipal Bill which was to be introduced. On the subject of the Coronation Durbar, the Congress took strong exception to the treatment accorded to the Indian Princes-"Subject to a humiliation they had never known before under the British Government" and the Indian visitors, who returned with "bitter memories of the different treatment received by Indians and Europeans". The Madras Municipal Bill was called "retrograde and reactionary" by the President and a resolution was passed condemning its introduction. The Bill evoked strong criticism as it proposed to reduce the number of popular representatives to 16 (from the 24 that was existing) and gave 8 to associations wholly or mainly composed of Europeans.
Strong exception was also taken to the Bill due to the fact that it was not in consonance with the principles of Local Self Government laid down in the time of Lord Ripon.

I have not been able to place the exact location of Spring Gardens. This seems to have been the residence of the Rajah of Pithapuram, Rajah Ram Venkata Kumara Mahipati, Surya Rao Bahadur Garu as is seen from a book published in 1915. It is interesting to note that a Maharajah Surya Road exists even today in the Alwarpet-Teynampet area.

The 23rd Session of the Congress was held in Madras in 1908. This session was held in exceptional circumstances, having been adjourned from Surat where it was originally held in 1907. The move to Madras was caused due to a split in the party over the election of the President. Dr.Rash Bihari Ghose had been elected President for the session but it was suggested that Lala Lajpat Rai be elected President. Matters came to a head when Bala Ganagadhara Tilak made an attempt to move a motion, either for adjournment or for the Presidential election. Chaotic scenes followed as he attempted to address the delegates who had refused to listen to him. A riot broke out and in perhaps one of the early instances of its kind, a shoe was flung at the dais and the unfortunate recipient was Sir Pherozeshah Mehta, the famous Parsi lawyer and political figure!!. The meeting was declared adjourned and police had to clear the hall.

Following the drama, the Convention Committee met at Allahabad in April 1908 where a Constitution was drawn up for the Indian National Congress. Thus, Madras had the distinction of playing host to the first session held under a Constitution, in December 1908.

The session was held at Elphinstone Grounds, Mount Road and was held in far more pleasant circumstances than the earlier one.

More in the next post...

Saturday, January 1, 2011


Amidst all the scams,political drama and turmoil that India was witness to particularly in the last quarter of the year occurred an event that did not quite get the coverage an event of such significance ought to have.

The Indian National Congress, leader of the UPA Government turned 125 years of age on 28th of December 2010.

This post traces the close association the Congress has had with Madras right from its inception in 1885.

The seeds for the formation of a National Congress were sown in late December 1884 when seventeen men met at the house of Dewan Bahadur Raghunatha Rao in Mylapore to chart out the plan for the formation of a political National Movement. (The historic residence where the meeting was held does not exist any longer and in its place today stands an apartment complex-Vishwakamal. In fact one of the residents of the complex says that there existed a plaque commemorating this event for a long time before it was sadly demolished during the construction of this apartment). Most of these seventeen men were delegates in the Annual Convention of the Theosophical Society that had just concluded at Adyar. Though what exactly was discussed at the meeting is not known, it is generally accepted that this Convention of seventeen men had sown the seeds for the formation of the Congress.

Madras has so far played host to 8 Annual Congress Sessions. The following paragraphs take a brief look at the sessions and interesting trivia that surround it.

The first Congress session to be held in Madras was in December 1887. This was the 3rd Congress Session, the first two having been held at Poona and Calcutta respectively. The chairman of the reception committee was another man with Mylapore connections, Sir T.Madhava Rao. It was held in a huge pandal erected specially for the purpose at Mackay's Gardens (This is an area that exists by the same name even today and lies just off Graeme's Road) and was attended by 607 delegates, Madras leading the numbers with 362 delegates participating. Another interesting bit of information, though not verified is that today's Thousand Lights area takes its name thanks to the thousand lights that were lit on the occasion of this Congress Session. It was in this session that Congress got its first Muslim President with the election of Badruddin Tyabji to the post.
Entertainments were hosted by Lord Connemara, the Governor of Madras, Sir Savalai Ramaswamy Mudaliar, the great philanthropist and the then Sheriff of Madras and Mr.Eardley Norton, the famous lawyer.

The next Congress Session Madras played host to was in 1894, the 10th Session of the Congress. This session was held in Hyde Park Gardens on Poonamallee High Road, a place that exists even today as part of the Kilpauk Medical College campus. It was a property of the Rajah of Panagal, Parthasarathy Ramarayaningar who had given it to the college for its functioning. I found a wonderful photograph of the pandal put up on the occasion which I share here: (The photo is courtesy an old edition of the ILLUSTRATED LONDON NEWS but is not of great quality, though the wordings are visible)

Sir Alfred Webb, an Irishman was elected the Chairman of this Session.
I have been able to gather little else about this Session.

The Congress returned to Madras for its 14th Session, held in December 1898. This session was held at Patters Gardens, Royapettah. which was the residence of one of the wealthy Gujarati families of Madras, Lodd Krishnadas Balamukundas and his son Lodd Govindoss. The family was known for its philanthropy and was involved in a lot of social activities in the city. (I have covered this family in some detail in my article for the Madras Musings on Gujaratis of Madras).

Ananda Mohan Bose was the Chairman of this session.

Rest of the sessions are covered in my next blog post...


Hi Friends,

Its been quite a while since I last posted on this blog...7 months to be precise!!!

I tend to get into a "writer's block" quite easily...or in this case, a "blogger's block" (not a very desirable quality a wannabe serious writer like me should have!!!).

But this year is a new beginning and I hope to blog more often and do better than I did last year.