Wednesday, October 10, 2012

TN State Govt extends 99 year lease to Vivekananda House


Narendranath Dutta was born on 12/1/1863 – he became the chief disciple of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa. He is best known as Swami Vivekananda – who introduced Vedanta & Yoga in Europe and America and is considered a major force in the revival of Hinduism in modern India. His inspiring speech at the Parliament of the World's Religions at Chicago in 1893 beginning with "sisters and brothers of America" would ever be remembered.

In the 150th  year of Swami Vivekananda’s birth anniversary, the Ramakrishna Mission in Chennai has got a gift from the Jayalalithaa government. The place ‘Vivekananda House’ lies nearer Marina Beach and was once popular as ‘Ice house’ – though many locals may not know the reason behind it.  


Frederic Tudor (1783 - 1864) was known as Boston's "Ice King",  was the founder of the Tudor Ice Company. During the early 19th Century, he made a fortune,  shipping ice to the Caribbean, Europe, and even as far away as India from sources of fresh water ice in New England. The Tudor Ice Company harvested ice in a number of New England ponds for export and distribution throughout the Caribbean, Europe, and India from 1826 to 1892.  Tudor ice was harvested at various places. It would be too difficult to comprehend that in the 1790s only the elite had ice for their guests. It was harvested locally in winter and stored through summers in a covered well. Ice production was very labor intensive as it was performed entirely with hand axes and saws, and cost hundreds of dollars a ton. In later years ice was used to preserve food and began a commodity.

Tudor built a house in Chennai for preservation of ice in 1842 and this came to be know as “Ice house”. A prosperous advocate of Madras High Court Mr Biligiri Iyengar bought this property and renamed it ‘Castle Kernan’ – a famous Justice. Apart from being his residential quarters, this house served as a shelter for poor and educationally backward students.  When Swami Vivekananda returned from Chicago, he was given a rousing reception and Biligiri Iyengar being a disciple of Swami offered the house for the stay of Swami in 1897. Swami Vivekananda was taken there in a grand procession, and stayed there from February 6 to 14, 1897 and delivered seven electrifying lectures.   Swami’s disciples set up a permanent centre and mission activities continued till 1906 at which point of time, the property changed hands. In 1917, Ice House was acquired by the Government of Madras as part of their social welfare scheme after which the house functioned as training school for women and a hostel for widows.

Ice House was named Vivekanandar Illam by the Government of Tamil Nadu in 1963, the centenary year of Swami Vivekananda. On 6 February 1997, the Government handed over the Illam to Ramakrishna Math on lease to set up a permanent exhibition on Swami Vivekananda and the cultural heritage of India. The exhibition was opened to public on 20 December 1999.

All was well but suddenly a few years back, there were reports that the then ruling  Govt. of DMK  was contemplating taking over the property perhaps for the Tamil Language centre. That was not to happen as the Classical language centre [Semmozhi mayyam] came  up in another place on the Beach road proximate to V House.  With uncertainty hovering over the lease, it was eventually extended till 2020., making the  Mutt authorities and followers of Swami Vivekananda  happy.  It was claimed by Mutt sources that they had spent nearly Rs 1 crore to renovate the building since it acquired possession, without altering the building’s architecture.

Thus Triplicane is acclaimed to have the fame of being the land  where Mahakavi Subrahmanya Barathi, Swami Vivekananda, Subramanya Siva, Tilak, VOC, Sathyamurthi and many eminent personalities visited.
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Today’s Times of India reports that the TN State Government has extended the lease on Vivekananda House on the Marina by 99 years. The government has also given a hectare of land to the Cancer Institute in Adyar on lease for 30 years. The land is between the institute campus and the Buckingham Canal. The gift of Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa thus extends the  lease from 2012 to 99 years, i.e. till 2111. The lease rent is @ Rs.12,000 per annum.

 “We express our heartfelt gratitude to the chief minister for extending the lease of the Vivekananda House for 99 years to Sri Ramakrishna Math, Chennai. Swami Gautamananda, president Chennai Math, joins the numerous monks of the order, and the numberless devotees in conveying his deepest appreciation of Jayalalithaa, during this memorable occasion of the 150th birth anniversary celebrations of Swami Vivekananda being celebrated in and outside India,” said a press release.

The Ramakrishna Math had sent in a proposal to the state government to extend the building’s lease for 99 years early this year. “We are emotionally attached to the building where Swami Vivekananda stayed from February 6 to 14 in 1897. This year, we celebrated these nine days as navaratri and plan to continue the practice every year. We have sought extension of the lease by 99 years and also have sought the adjacent land to conduct computer coaching and tuition for children from slums,” said Swami Asutoshananda of the Chennai math.  Presently, tuition and computer classes are conducted in the building where space is limited. Nearly 300 students from Ayodhyakuppam and Nadukuppam have completed the computer course and are employed in various companies, a volunteer attached to Vivekananda House said. The Math has set up a 4D theatre and holographic display to explain ancient Indian culture, Swami Vivekananda’s life, his teaching and its relevance in today’s world.

The Jayalalithaa Govt has thus made the Ramakrishna Mutt and the Cancer Hospital happy by the orders issued.  A good gesture by the State Government indeed making all happy


A happy triplicanite
S. Sampathkumar.
10th Oct 2012.

PS :  acknowledge the TOI report of today for  the second part of the post.

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