Sunday, March 4, 2012
WHO WAS GUNGA RAMAH?
In today's Madras Miscellany piece in The Hindu, Mr.S.Muthiah talks about the resurrection of the Town Temple and points out to the fact that February 2012 marked 250 years of the plan that was first drawn up to resurrect it and relocate it to the current location. The complete piece:
Madras Miscellany: The ‘Town Temple' resurrected
The piece also makes a mention of a Gunga Ramah street,the place where the Committee of Works recommended that the temple be relocated.
Gunga Ramah street is a street that exists even today, as Ganga Raman street.Its a nondescript small lane(much like many others that dot the area), connecting Nainiappa Naicken street and Mint street. The lane follows a peculiar shape, running straight for most of the part, before making a pronounced diagonal bend towards the Nainiappa Naicken street end. At the Mint street end stands Novelty tea shop, a shop that was once renowned for its hot samosas. The lane today has a few old buildings left, mostly private residences.
In what is an interesting coincidence, the Chennakesava Temple is slated for a Kumbabhishekam this year, exactly 250 years after it was first proposed to move it to its current location. The renovation work was on in full swing when I visited this temple in early December.
But pray, who was Gunga Ramah? Was he one of the Dubashes of the East India Company, much like Linghi Chetty, Thambu Chetty, Samudra Mudali and many others who are commemorated by street names in the area? Or was he a famous native merchant whose acts of philanthropy made him legendary?
The etymology behind street names, especially in the old areas of the city would undoubtedly throw up interesting insights into the native history that developed along with the development of the East India Company..