Brahmanyan

October 10, 2012

Frankincense : சாம்ப்ராணி

Filed under: Uncategorized — Brahmanyan @ 4:38 pm

ImageIt was my first posting in Salalah in Sultanate of Oman. Salalah is the most beautiful place in Arabian peninsula. Salalah is the capital of Vilayat of Dhofar (Province) in far south of the Sultanate bordering Yemen and the Arabian sea. On my first outing in the town,I was taken to the local market area in Haffa by my colleagues, what was called Haffa Souq. It was March, 1982, formative years of rapid development of the Sultanate. Vestiges of old culture were visible in the Country.

Market looked like our own roadside markets in Tamil Nadu on a weekly shandy day , with the items of sales spread out on the roadsides. Here I found most of the “shops” were managed mostly by “Zanzibari” women, who are very much different from rest of the Omanis. The market was filledup with all sort of materials essential for day to day use in the household. For the first time I saw the resins of Frankincense ( சாம்ப்ராணி) sold in bulk. The sales women burnt the granules and spread the wonderful aroma around. I was curious to know more about this wonderful material that was commonly used in our Pooja . I give below a brief account of what I learnt about Frankincense.

Frankincense : சாம்ப்ராணி
The high quality frankincense tree, the boswellia sacra, grows only in the Dhofar region (and in parts of northern Somalia). The best of it comes from trees on the inland side of the Dhofar mountains, but some frankincense also grows on the plains to the south of Salalah. Visually, the tree is not so attractive, but strong, a low twisted bush-like tree which has no central trunk. And it has numerous prickly branches extended every side.

Later, I came to know Dhofar region (in Oman and Yemen) had the natural privilege of growing this wonderful tree in a relatively restricted habitat which is just out of range of the monsoon rains but where cool winds depress air temperatures in hot summer months .

The resin is extracted today the same way it was done 4,000 years ago. In the spring, tiny slits are made in the tree bark, and the resin that oozes out is collected in bowls.Ducts inside the bark produce a milky white, sticky liquid that flows out when the tree is injured. The liquid solidifies into a resin when exposed to the sun.

Frankincense is being used for religious purposes for centuries by Greeks, Romans, Egyptians. Mention of this aromatic resin is found in the Holy Bible.
Frankincense is one of the three gifts brought by the three wise-men who followed the bright star in the east to Bethlehem where Jesus was born.
“And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshiped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts;Gold,and frankincense, and myrrh” (Matthew 2:11).

It is our tradition to spread the aromatic smoke of Frankincense in our Pooja in Temples as also in homes. I believe this practice must have got introduced from North or during the Maratha rule.

But I do not know the reason for calling halfwits as Mada Sambrani ( மட சாம்ப்ராணி) !

The Arabic word for Frankincense (Sambrani) is Luban, the Greek and Latin words for frankincense libanos and libanus are derivations of this. The traditional angular incense burner is called “Mabaakhur“. Nowadays Electrically operated incense burners are available.
OODH – Aghir
Oud is different.
Oud, Oodh or Oudh in Arabic is extracted from tropical tree known as Agar Tree (Aquilaria). In Sanskrit also it is known as “Agar”. In Tamil “Agir” “அகிற்”. “When the wood of this tree gets infected with a certain mould variety (Phialophora parasitica), it reacts by producing a precious, dark and fragrant resin, which is the perfume ingredient oud (also called agarwood)”. The word “Agar-bathi” or “Oodubathi” is derived from Agar only. Oudh-oil is highly valued perfume, most expensive perfume in the world . The oil is known as “dehn al oud” and the resin is ” Oud Mubakhar” in Arabic.

Oh Yes !  Oudh or Agar is considered an effective aphrodisiac. It finds in many places in romantic literature in Sanskrit. Poet Kalidasa wrote” Beautiful ladies, preparing themselves for the feast of pleasures, cleanse themselves with the yellow powder of sandal, clear and pure, freshen them with pleasant aromas, and suspended their dark hair in the smoke of burning Aloes(AGAR)wood…(Abhijñāna Sākuntalam)

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September 23, 2012

It Happened in Madras – Visit of SMS Emden

Filed under: Uncategorized — Brahmanyan @ 6:50 pm
Visit of SMS Emden:It happened in Madras exactly ninety eight years ago to this date on September,22,1914. The city was bombed from sea by a German war ship named
SMS Emden.

SMS Emden (Seiner Majestät Schiff  -His Majesty’s Ship) was a most successful German commerce raider during World War I at sea. The ship was named after a small town in northern Germany on the banks of river Weser which flowed into the North Sea.The ship formed the part of German East Asia squadron based at the port of Tsingtao on the Kiachow bay located near the tip of China’s Shantung peninsula. This 3500-ton fast,light cruiser Emden was commanded by “daring,skillful and chivalrous Captain Karl Friedrich Von Müller; forty-one- year old ,tall, blond Prussian” .
With the outbreak of World War I  (1914-18) Emden sailed off from its parent squadron and steamed into Bay of Bengal, an area teemed with British shipping .For three months from August 14 to November 9,  Emden ravaged allied shipping along the east coast of India and Indian Ocean, virtually paralysing British trade along the Bengal coast .This single ship forced Admiralty to retain ships at ports and made troop-carrying vessels sail in convoys protected by escorts. Within a span of four days in September 10-14, 1914, Muller sank 8 British steamers on the approaches to Calcutta. With determination  British Admiralty in London  pooled the resources of empire to form hunter-killer groups to comb ocean  to hunt down Emden, their elusive foe.

Fame of Emden  rests on its Captain’s ability to evade Royal Navy for so long. The ship  used to appear at unexpected places at will like that of a ghost ship.This was possible because its captain masked ship’s movements by resorting to a simple trick, by installing a dummy funnel which gave it an appearance of 4-funnel British cruiser instead of 3-funnels it had.

SMS Emden searched the southeast waters off the coast of Burma,  Capt. Müller found no prizes there, he changed course to the west. The captain had been planning a raid on some British shore installation, and now decided to put his plan into effect. He wrote in his log: “I intended going from the Rangoon estuary to Madras and, in the dark, shelling the oil-tank installations….I had this shelling in view simply as a demonstration to arouse interest among the Indian population, to disturb English commerce, [and] to diminish English prestige.”

After coaling from Markomannia, Capt. Müller steamed  his ship Emden southwest, towards Madras, all the while listening to radio traffic between British warships searching for their elusive enemy. By the evening of September 22, 1914, the German cruiser was off Madras, with the city’s lights in view to the west.Then came the command “Searchlights.” and. these in a few seconds found their target, which happened to be the law court Buildings of Madras, with  Light-house beacon mounted on the roof. But the bomb fell on the wall of the Chennai High Court and its fragments are in the collection of the Government Museum, Chennai and of the Fort Museum. You can find a stone plaque describing the incident at the place where the bomb fell in the High Court Buildings. Another, fell opposite to the Fort St. George in the sand and it did not explode. The ship’s search light fell on the huge petroleum tanks of the British owned Burmah Oil Company by the northern side of the port. The engines were stopped and the first shots fired out of five guns. Another broadside was fired. but fell short of the target: a second shot hit one of the petroleum tanks, causing it to burst into flames and explode. For ten minutes Emden steamed parallel to the coast, unleashing some 130 shells at the white-painted oil tanks.  One of the six tanks exploded in a ball of flame; four others were pierced and damaged but did not catch fire. As a result of the raid, more than three hundred fifty thousand gallons of fuel (Kerosine) were destroyed, four people were killed, and “British prestige was dealt a considerable blow.” It took one and half days to put off the fire.The bombardment lasted from 9.03 to 9.45 PM. During this time the British shore batteries fired only three shots, which went right over Emden. After the third shot  nothing was heard from the port. During the bombardment a bomb accidentally hit a merchant steamer, which caught fire, killing one of the crew. It was 9.47 when Emden left Madras, on preset course set with all lights out and travelled  on its way to the French town of Pondicherry.

Mean while in Madras, Lord Pentland, then governor of Madras,  was camping in Ooty. He came down from the hills on Sept.25  three days after the bombing.  He met officials at Central station at 7.10 a.m., proceeded to the harbour to inspect the damages, visited General Hospital to meet the wounded, and by 10.15 a.m., was in the government house and proceeded to Ooty to continue his stay there.The citizens of Madras responded to the event in the expected way by spreading roumers and panic. Which in turn instigated people to vacate the city. Almost 20,000 people left the city in panic.

Emden undoubtedly was the most successful German commerce raider during Great War at sea.She captured 24 steam ships during her short career September-November 1914 which includes sixteen British ships, which were sunk, at an estimated loss of £2,200,000. She also played havoc on the British trade of the Bay of Bengal, closing Colombo, Calcutta, Madras and Rangoon at various times. Her war time cruise was followed with great interest in Britain and Germany. And  Captain Von Müller’s conduct of the raid was greatly admired. He was awarded the Pour le Mérite (or Blue Max) and finally promoted to Kapitän zur See.

I would like to end this post with a few words about the Ship’s commander Capt.Von Müller   Capt.Karl Friedrich Max von Müller, captain of the SMS Emden born in 1873 was the son of a Colonel in the Prussian Army. He was a professional soldier who had attended  military academy in Schleswig-Holstein. Though entered the army first he was transferred to the Imperial Navy later, where he made his mark as a great Captain in World war I. Captain Müller   was always gentlemanly to the captains and passengers of the ships he captured, and he made certain that every captured British sailor was treated well and kept safe.Most of Emden’s survivors spent the remainder of the war as prisoners on Malta.After his capture Von Müller was imprisoned in Malta and England, where he attempted an escape but was recaptured. While his executive officer, wrote his experiences on Emden and prospered after the war as an author and lecturer, Capt. Von Müller, in contrast, declined to speak on his experiences and lived quietly at his home in Blankenburg until his death in 1923. Asked once why he did not write a memoir, Capt. Von Müller replied, “I should not be able to escape the feeling that I was coining money from the blood of my comrades.”

I am not sure whether the present generation will understand or appreciate the historical importance of this post. But I am sure this post will evoke older generation to reminisce those glorious days when chivalry had different meaning . Finally by its exploits  Emden  became a household word in Tamil and Malayalam usage meaning “Shrewd, Evasive or Street-smart”.

August 13, 2012

My Coimbatore

Filed under: Uncategorized — Brahmanyan @ 10:26 am

Coronation Park:

His Majesty King George V and Queen Mary held a grand Durbar in Delhi to commemorate their Coronation as Emperor and Empress of India on December 12, 1911. To commemorate this event many Cities in India built Buildings, Parks and Public places and named after the event. Coimbatore did not lag behind. A grand Park was built in the sprawling grounds east of Stanes European High School, in Uppilipalayam, south of Central Jail Compound. This was named “Coronation Park”. When I was young I had been to this Park many times with my parents and family members. There was a good Band Stand in the center of the Park, where the Police Band used to be in attendance and play on weekends. The Park was covered with nice plants and trees and had walk ways neatly paved. Wooden Park benches were there to relax. Apart from the “locals”, I have seen many English men and women visiting the Park with their kids. Later when Radio came into existence Loud speakers were fixed on the roof of Band stand and AIR music started floating in the Park. After independence the Coronation Park was renamed “V O Chidambaram Pillai Poonga” after the Patriot V.O.Chidambaram Pillai, who was interned to undergo rigorous imprisonment of two life imprisonment (40years) in the adjacent Central Jail for sedition.

Later on Elephant ride, a Toy Train and other play things for children were added one by one in this Park.

To the west of Coronation Park there was a huge ground, where big public meetings were held in those days. It was here I heard Pundit Nehru for the first time. Soviet Leaders Marshall Bulganin and Khrushchev addressed a huge gathering at this grounds in 1955. Now this place has vanished into the Stadium buildings.

There was a small, but very nice Stadium South of this Park with oval ground extending up to Avinashi Road. This was known as “Gandhi-Irwin Stadium”. There used to be a Statue of “Gandhi and Lord Irwin” signing the “Gandhi-Irwin Pact”. But for some reason this statue was removed from the stadium by the Municipality. For a long time the annual District Olympic Sports events used to take place here. This ground was used for holding Political Meetings also. Here I have heard speeches of many Political Leaders of those days.One of the events in the Stadium grounds that was enshrined in my memory was the First Independence Day celebrations on the evening of August 15, 1947, with the orchestra from Central Studios were playing popular tunes. That was the day when I got a new Indian tri-colour flag for the first time.

Goshen Park:

There is another Park in Coimbatore which has a significant role in Coimbatore Water supply. If you ask any native of Coimbatore “which was the pride of the town ?”, they will answer “Siruvani water”. Yes, the sweet water of Siruvani situated in the high ranges of western ghats near the picturesque Attapadi – silent valley in Kerala area was diverted to the Town by a Dam built in 1925. This water was brought to the Town which is about 37 Kms from the source and stocked in the reservoir of Panagal Water Works at the Goshen Park north of Madras Forest College. Protected drinking water supply from this source to Coimbatore was envisaged by a visionary S.P.Narasimhalu Naidu , a Brahmo Samajist. There is still a School run in his name near the CS&W Mills in the City. The Siruvani Scheme commenced in 1925 was commissioned only in 1931. Around the Reservoir in north Coimbatore a nice Park was developed by the Municipality. This was named after the Governor of Madras Presidency 2nd Viscount George Goshen and called Goshen Park. When I was young I used to visit this park frequently with our family members, since it was close to R.S.Puram, where we lived. In those days we were allowed to roam about on the sands in the top of the reservoir, which had stairways to reach. For a long time the area around this place was grown with corn fields. After independence the name of the Park was changed to Bharathi Poonga, named after the famous Patriot and revolutionary Tamil Poet Sri Subrahmanya Bharathi. And the road is now known as Bharathi Park Road. And the area has been developed into busy city suburb.

My Coimbatore

Filed under: Uncategorized — Brahmanyan @ 10:22 am

Two great Temples.

MARUDAMALAI:

My first trip to the holy shrine of Lord Muruga in “Marudamalai” was when I was in my fifth class about 67 years ago (1941). But this being my first outing any where, this trip was fresh in my memory. We, the entire fifth class students were “packed” into horse drawn “jutkas” and proceeded to “Marudamalai” which was just about 6 miles from Agricultural College. In those days there was no proper road of the kind we see today. It was a mud road what is called “metal road” now-a-days. On the way about one mile from the hills we were asked to get down from the Jutka to cross a stretch called “Anaipallam” – or Elephant pass. This was a deep gorge of sand carved by the rapids that flew from the hills on rainy season. Surprisingly you may not find this natural formation today due to modernisation of road. Then we proceeded slowly towards the hills.All the boys and girls were asked to get down from the Jutkas when we reached the foothills and herded to climb 800 feet on the hills towards the temple. There were no proper steps or path leading to the Temple about a Mile and a half climb upwards. There was a bridle path of stones arranged by the hill folk living in the hills. Every thing looked big and wonderful for me. We reached the temple soon. In those days the temple was simple and old. From the platform in front of the Temple we were shown the Coimbatore town by our teachers . On the way near the Temple there were huts and sheds, where the Hill tribes called “Malasars” were living. The “malasar-women” were dressed in a different way like the Coorgis and children were running around the huts along with cows and dogs. Except for two old Choultries there was no other buildings on the hills.

“Marudamalai” also known as “Marudachalam” is the holy abode of Lord Sri Subrahmanya near Coimbatore. The Temple itself was very old one. We are not sure as to the origin of the Temple. But it finds a place in some ancient poems of Siddhas .The famous Pambatti Siddhar’s name is associated with this shrine. Previously the Temple was maintained by some landlord at Vadavalli a small village on the way from Coimbatore. In fact the priest (Gurukkal) of the Temple was living in the village. In olden days he used to travel from Vadavalli to the Temple by a cart every day to perform Pooja. The name “Maruthamalai” is associated with “Marutha (Amrutha) Tree” (Termanaliaarjuna.Combretaceae). During my earlier visits to the temple I have seen cluster of these huge trees down on the way to the Pambatti Siddhar Cave near the Temple. Water dripping continuously from the roots of the trees protruding into a natural formation of a pond. Nearby there used to be the cave of Pambatti Siddhar. Where I have seen a Samiyar (sanyasi) living. But some time in 1950s all these land marks were wiped off by a landslide of huge stones due to heavy rain. Fortunately the Temple escaped the natural fury. The present structure of Pambatti Siddhar cave must have been rebuilt later.

During our trips we used to go further up behind the Temple on the way to a “Sunai” or a cool water spring. There was no proper path for this place., except some stone formations arranged by the hill tribes. We were told that further up there is a “Pillayar Koil” called “uchi pillayar koil”. But I have never gone upto that place.

Couple of years ago when I visited this holy shrine of Lord Muruga, I was shocked to see the changes. I could not find anything which was originally there. Now a road has been built up to the Temple. All the old Choultries are gone, as also the hutments of the hill tribes. Even the Original Temple has been changed to a new structure, except for the sanctum. Both the sides of the steps leading to the Temple are filled with shops selling all sorts of plastic things and junk foods. My mind cried out “O God why did you allow these changes to happen in your peaceful abode ?”.

PERUR:

“Noyyal River” is the smallest of the three tributaries to River Cauvery in Tamil Nadu. The other two are “Bhavani” and “Amravathi”. All the three rivers are in “Kongu Nadu”. Many people may not know that the City of Coimbatore is situated on the banks of “Noyyal River”. If we travel up along with the River Noyyal towards west of the City for 3 miles (about 5 KMS) on the Siruvani Road we will reach the holy abode of Lord Siva in Perur. Perur meaning “big town” has a hoary history going back to early Christian era. Perur is also known as “Melai Chidambaram” (West Chidambaram) The town itself is small but very old. There has been findings of ancient Roman coins in the ruins of this place. The original Temple is said to have been built during Karikala Chola period. This temple must have had renovations and additions a number of times during the Hoysala, Vijayanagar and Nayak periods. But every one have added some part of the Temple. But the grandest of all the Kanaka sabhai has been built by the Madurai Nayak King, Alagathri Nayak in 17th century. The exquisite beauty of the “Kanaka sabai” cannot be described by words, it should be seen to enjoy. The Mandapam is facing south. Both sides of the mandapam are adorned by intricately carved stone pillars with the images of Lord and Devi in Dance forms. The photographs of these pillars are shown in the Encyclopedia Britanicca as examples of Dravidian Art. At the end of the Kanaka sabai is the sanctum of Lord Nataraja in Ananda Tandavam along with Devi Sivakama Sundari . This Kanaka Sabai is considered holy next only to Chidambaram and Perur is called Melai Chidambaram. (West Chidambaram).There used to be a panel of stained glass figures of “holy Naalver” – Tirugnana Sambandar, Appar, Sundarar and Manikka Vasagar fixed at the Southern end of the roof. Similarly there used to be a number of “lustre lamps” hanging in the “Prakarams” of the Temple. But both these I found missing when I visited the Temple recently.

The sanctum sanctorum of the main shrine is facing the east. Here the Lord Siva is known as “Patteeswarar” or “Goshtiswarar” in Siva Linga form, very ancient idol. His holy consort “Pachhai Nayaki” or “Maragadambal” has her separate Sanctum nearby. When I was young I have been to this holy place a number of times by walk, by cart, by cycle and other conveyance. I and my friends used to take a short cut on the banks of the canal from Noyyal river. It was an experience to remember. We used to drink sugar cane juice offered by the villagers on the way which was offered by them when we ask for water.

“Noyyal river” at Perur runs at a KM north of the Temple. She is a beauty, just 80-100 ft. wide enters the place after curving “coyfully” from the West. There were coconut groves both sides giving shade to the river.I still remember the “echoing” of the sounds people make while bathing in the river. I have taken bath in the River a number of times at various seasons. There was a small bathing Ghat with separate enclosures for men and women. The water flow was gentle upto the ankle level on normal days. But may go upto knee high on monsoon times.

Perur attracts huge crowd of pilgrims on Three occasions. Two “Amavasya” – Newmoon days one in the month of “Thai ” and another in “Aadi.”, pilgrims mostly from Malabar Districts come here in large numbers to perform “Pithru Karmas” for the departed souls. And the famous “Arudhra Darsanam” in the month of “Margali” is the most important festival in this Temple. On this day “Sri Nataraja” is taken out for dharshan. This attracts large number of pilgrims from all around the district

One particular aspect of this famous Temple used to trouble me. Why such a great Temple does not have equally big Raja Gopuram? Perhaps, the reason might be known to the Lord only.

My Coimbatore

Filed under: Uncategorized — Brahmanyan @ 10:20 am

Famous Musicians from my City.

“My name is Coimbatore Thayi” announced the sweet voice of the lady at the end of the 78 rpm Gramophone record after the Tamil Song. I do not remember the year but this must have been long long ago, when we had a hand winding Gramophone box with a huge funnel speaker like the one you see today in the logo of HMV Gramophone Company.In those days say seventy years ago all the artists would authenticate their records by such announcement of their name in the end. Palanikunjaram more popularly known as Coimbatore Thayi was born in 1872 in a highly cultured Devadasi family known for its accomplishments in Classical music and dance. Her mother Vengammal was a famous singer and her grandmother Coimbatore Visalakshi was a renowned Sadir (Bharatanatyam dance) artist. Initially Thayi followed her grand mother’s foot steps and learnt Sadir and performed her “Arangetram” at the age of 11. But she found her fame was in Carnatic music and the family shifted to Madras in 1890 At Madras she grewup in the company of great exponents of Carnatic music and soon became famous. The newly introduced media known as “Gramophone” in 1900 helped her music to reach the corners of the Presidency. Her recordings were most popular in those days and she headed the popularity chart of HMV for years. But sadly death took her away in her mid-forties, leaving her rich music in the recordings long afterwards.

I came across an interesting anecdote about this great lady. It seems a rich visually impaired Frenchman Maurice Delage by name, connoisseur of music heard Thayi’s gramophone record in Paris. He was astonished by the voice modulations (gamaka) of the Lady and decided to make a trip to Madras to meet her. and which he did eventually later on. The out come was his composition “quatre poemes hindous”.

Though not many names are related to Coimbatore in the realm of fine arts and Music,like Madras or Tanjore district, there are a few great men and women who had left their mark in that field.

Palladam Sanjeeva Rao, the great flautist who held the top position for decades was from Coimbatore. I have heard his concerts many times. He was the celebrated disciple of the great Sarabha Sastry. Sanjeeva Rao enchanted the listeners by his perfection in rendering Carnatic music on Flute and popularised the flute as a solo concert instrument. Palladam Sanjeeva Rao got many hounours and he was conferred “Sangeetha Kalanidhi” in 1943 by the Madras Music Academy.

At one time playing Carnatic Music on Harmonium was considered sacrilege. AIR banned this instrument from their broadcasts for about 30 years. But one person from Coimbatore became a wizard and showed his talent by bringing out the best of Carnatic music from this instrument. He was none other than Perur Subrahmanya Dhikshidar. His gramophone records “testifying his instrumental excellence while accompanying a maestro of calibre of Palladam Sanjeeva Rao” are witness to this fact. He used to attract big crowds of rustic and elite listeners by his versatility in handling the harmonium. He used to play on the instrument by covering the key board with his silk upper cloth. Harmonium as a classical instrument regained popularity during the time of Perur Subrahmanya Dhikshidar and his legacy is continued by Palladam Venkataramana Rao (though not is disciple) even now.

I used to attend the Guru Pooja day of Sri Ramakrishna Vidhyalam at Perianaickenpalayam near our City every year. It used to be a grand function with Lectures, Music programs, exhibitions and free food etc. This must be in 1950s . On one such visit, after lunch suddenly a rich voice came from the loud speakers singing Bhajans. The crowds mostly of villagers rushed to the Pandal to listen this wonderful divine music. There on the dais was an young “Sanyasi” with a cooling glass with an yellow bandanna tied on this head singing bhajan to the accompaniment of his old harmonium played by himself. I am told his name was Pithukuli Murugadas. He kept every one mesmarised by his rich music. Later I came to know Sri Murugadas belong to Coimbatore and his name was Balasubramanian. My grandma told me that his parents were supplying good drinking water to brahmin households in those days. He is very well known in the Tamil Speaking world for his rich bhajans.

Coimbatore N.Ramaswamy (Pillai) was a permanent Mridangam Artist with All India Radio for many years. He belong to the old generation of Vidhwans who were trained under the Guru Sishya Parampara. He had his gurukula under the famous Palani Subrahmanya Pillai. Though I have heard his playing on Mridangam in Radio I have never seen him in person, since he was staying in Madras.

I shall conclude this chapter mentioning three famous names in the field of Cinema and Stage who made Coimbatore famous.

T.S.Balaiah was a versatile actor who started as a villain in Cinema but soon established himself as a character actor by his style of acting and dialogue rendering. Another great name was S.V.Sahasranamam who came from the stage to cinema. He was a respected senior Actor from the NSK Nataka Sabha group. And the third name is Nagesh the veteran comedian. Nagesh entered the Cinema world as a comedian but soon blossomed into a character actor. All these great actors come from Coimbatore District.

My Coimbatore

Filed under: Uncategorized — Brahmanyan @ 10:19 am

Places of interest.

When I think about my childhood days in Coimbatore, many incidents come to my mind, which may be insignificant at that time. I remember the day when I was going with my maternal Uncle near YMCA on the Head Post Office Road. He showed me a small shed like structure in dilapidated condition opposite YMCA grounds occupied by a Tailoring Shop. He told me in olden days this place used to be busy with lot of English men and women visiting from far off places including estates in Anamalais and Nilgiris. The reason was Coimbatore’s only “Hand Stitching Tailor” had his shop there. A Muslim Tailor who used to Stitch Garments from Gents Suits to Ladies Dress especially for the English population all by “hand stitching”. Some thing unbelievable today. Such was the demand the Tailor used to set the schedule for delivery of the finished garments. This must have been before or around 1900, since the first Sewing Machine was brought to India by a Lady in Bombay only in 1879. I wish to add few sentences about this uncle of mine. He was my mother’s younger brother. A soft spoken simple man. Though born in a rich family, had to face poverty by the time he reached his High School. He told me that he had to sell his bicycle to pay fees to write his high school examination. But this does not stop him from acquiring knowledge from reading in Libraries and free reading rooms. Only magazine that he used to purchase was “The Illustrated Weekly of India” regularly to keep himself updated about Politics and complete the famous “Crossword puzzle” published in it. He was an enthusiastic reader who used to share interesting information with others. In those days “The Illustrated Weekly” used to carry very good war time pictures apart from pictures relating to independence movement. He used to tell about the famous cities in Europe. When I visited Europe later after nearly 40 years on a holiday Tour, I made it a point to post him picture post cards from all the places he mentioned when I was young. Later he joined Imperial Bank of India as a temporary hand, but retired as Head Cashier after a long service with State Bank of India. Some people will remain with us ever due to their goodness.

In north Coimbatore there is a place called “Tatabad” just behind the Pykara Power House. Many in the present generation may not know why it is called by that name. It is because “Tata and Sons Co. Ltd”., purchased a huge chunk of land in this place to open their Oil Mills to manufacture Cooking Oil, Soaps and detergents etc. They even brought some structural machinery for construction of the Oil Mills. But, due to some strategic reasons they abandoned the idea and shifted the project to Kochi. Then this place was divided in to building sites and sold. Tata Oil Mills at Kochi is now owned by HLL.

At the corner of Madras Bank Road (present Railway Station Road) and Trichy Road, there used to be an permanent exhibition building in those days. It was called “Electric Exhibition” ! This was about the uses of electrical energy for household purposes. Since I was too young I could remember a few only like Electric Lights, Fans etc. The idea was to introduce the uses of Electric Power to the people produced by the new Pykara Hydro Electric system. Unimaginable in the present condition of scarcity of Power. I am told that the Government offered very favorable terms to industries to use Electric Power including free transformers etc. Later this place was occupied by the famous “India Coffee House” a meeting place for many youngsters. Here we used to get very good Coffee, bread toast and a few simple snacks served by uniformed servers.

My Coimbatore

Filed under: Uncategorized — Brahmanyan @ 10:18 am

Trains and Buses.

If I tell that at one time no express train stopped at Coimbatore Railway Station, no body will believe me! But it is true. Coimbatore was a whistle stop station even for the Passenger trains. I remember  the old Railway station, a  small granite structure,  on the western side of the railway lines at the southern end of  present goods shed road just after  the Variety hall Road cross. The  prestigious Blue mountain Express used to pass through the station to Mettupalayam in the mornings without stopping.The same was the case of  the return Blue Mountain Express from Mettupalayam to Madras. The nearest Express stop was at Podanur Junction about 5 Miles(8 Kms)  from the town. Podanur was an important and old Divisional Head quarters in South Indian Railways, on the Jolarpet-Mangalore Line. If we wanted  to catch Blumountain Express for Madras, we had  to take a Passenger train or a horse drawn Judka to reach Podanur Junction well in advance. Similarly we had to detrain at Podanur and commute to Coimbatore on our return journey also. Later on at the request of the increasing population Blue Mountain Express stopped for two minutes at Coimbatore Station. In those days the S.I.R. permitted the trains to stop at any station if the I Class passenger has to detrain. (Usually I Class was  reserved for rich and Englishmen only.) Which is unthinkable now. I was told that the Railways experimented another novel method to cool down the I Class Compartments for the Englishmen during hot summer. For a price the Railways used to provide Ice Boxes to be kept under the berths, which had special vents to drain off melting water! You know in those days Ice itself was imported from USA by ships and stored in Ice House in Madras. This Building is known as Vivekanandar Illam now.

South Indian Railway Company which was reconstituted in 1891 was one of the oldest in India. Its jurisdiction covered mainly the old  Madras Presidency. The trunk route on Jolarpet – Calicut in which Podanur was a Division, was completed in 1862. by the then Madras Railway.The Podanur-Coimbatore – Mettupalayam BG line was opened in 1873.

Another interesting information many of the present generation in Coimbatore may not be aware was that the then Coimbatore District Board  had constructed and commissioned a Metre Guage line from Podanur to Pollachi, which was run by the S.I.R, and eventually taken over by them. Similarly Tanjore District Board also constructed a Rail link to Arantangi in those days.

Railway link to Coimbatore was used more for transporting Cotton to the newly started Cotton Spinning and weaving Mills in Coimbatore and to connect Mettupalyam. In those days, Lorry transport was not developed much. There were three big textile Mills on the proximity of the railway lines in the City. They were C.S.&W.Mills, Kaleeswrar Mills and Somasundaram Mills. Till recently these Mills were linked by railway sidings directly entering the Mills. All the three Mills had towering chimneys belching smoke when they were powered by steam turbines at one time, which were also the land mark for Coimbatore.

During the war time, in 1941-42, old Railway Station was demolished and brand new Station Building with modern facilities with entrance on the Madras Bank Road (Imperial Bank).was built. Initially there were only Two Platforms for receiving BG Trains, which was expanded later on by adding two more platforms for Metre Guage trains extended from Podanur.

Podanur-Coimbatore-Mettupalayam line became busy when the Nilgiri Mountain Railways started functioning in 1899. During the summer seasons many Maharajahs used to go over to Ooty by special carriages attached to Bluemountain Express. It was a colourful sight to see various specially built Carriages with different Royal Coats of Arms displayed on them. Also the Governor’s secretariat used to be shifted to Ooty from Madras during Summer months to function from there.

Coimbatore was well connected by good Bus services from olden days. Sri Gopalaswamy Naidu Doraiswamy Naidu, popularly known as G.D.Naidu started his Transport business under the name of United Motor Service (U.M.S) and ran his first “Auto Coach” between Pollachi and Palani in 1920. Incidentally my mother’s maternal Uncle, who was the Police Office Manager at that time was a good friend of Sri Naidu. In those days licensing and regulating Bus Transports were under the Police Department. Then Sri Pollachi Nachimuthu Gounder started Anamalais Bus Transport (A.B.T.) in 1931, connecting Pollachi with Coimbatore and other nearby areas. Later another company known as Mettupalayam Coonoor Services (M.C.S) was started by Sri Katteri Chettiar at Mettupalayam connecting Ooty with Coimbatore. This service was known for their good Bus Coaches from the beginning. There were other Bus Transport Companies like BMS, Pakshiraja and VCK which connected the City to other parts of the District by running Buses on feeder routes.

Interestingly for a long time, there was no common Bus stand or Bus Station in the city for the Buses to start or reach. Each Company had its own Bus station in different parts of the city. The present Bus Station at Gandhipuram was opened only after the transports were nationalised.

If I tell that at one time no express train stopped at Coimbatore Railway Station, no body will believe me! But it is true. Coimbatore was a whistle stop station even for the Passenger trains. I remember  the old Railway station, a  small granite structure,  on the western side of the railway lines at the southern end of  present goods shed road just after  the Variety hall Road cross. The  prestigious Blue mountain Express used to pass through the station to Mettupalayam in the mornings without stopping.The same was the case of  the return Blue Mountain Express from Mettupalayam to Madras. The nearest Express stop was at Podanur Junction about 5 Miles(8 Kms)  from the town. Podanur was an important and old Divisional Head quarters in South Indian Railways, on the Jolarpet-Mangalore Line. If we wanted  to catch Blumountain Express for Madras, we had  to take a Passenger train or a horse drawn Judka to reach Podanur Junction well in advance. Similarly we had to detrain at Podanur and commute to Coimbatore on our return journey also. Later on at the request of the increasing population Blue Mountain Express stopped for two minutes at Coimbatore Station. In those days the S.I.R. permitted the trains to stop at any station if the I Class passenger has to detrain. (Usually I Class was  reserved for rich and Englishmen only.) Which is unthinkable now. I was told that the Railways experimented another novel method to cool down the I Class Compartments for the Englishmen during hot summer. For a price the Railways used to provide Ice Boxes to be kept under the berths, which had special vents to drain off melting water! You know in those days Ice itself was imported from USA by ships and stored in Ice House in Madras. This Building is known as Vivekanandar Illam now.

South Indian Railway Company which was reconstituted in 1891 was one of the oldest in India. Its jurisdiction covered mainly the old  Madras Presidency. The trunk route on Jolarpet – Calicut in which Podanur was a Division, was completed in 1862. by the then Madras Railway.The Podanur-Coimbatore – Mettupalayam BG line was opened in 1873.

Another interesting information many of the present generation in Coimbatore may not be aware was that the then Coimbatore District Board  had constructed and commissioned a Metre Guage line from Podanur to Pollachi, which was run by the S.I.R, and eventually taken over by them. Similarly Tanjore District Board also constructed a Rail link to Arantangi in those days.

Railway link to Coimbatore was used more for transporting Cotton to the newly started Cotton Spinning and weaving Mills in Coimbatore and to connect Mettupalyam. In those days, Lorry transport was not developed much. There were three big textile Mills on the proximity of the railway lines in the City. They were C.S.&W.Mills, Kaleeswrar Mills and Somasundaram Mills. Till recently these Mills were linked by railway sidings directly entering the Mills. All the three Mills had towering chimneys belching smoke when they were powered by steam turbines at one time, which were also the land mark for Coimbatore.

During the war time, in 1941-42, old Railway Station was demolished and brand new Station Building with modern facilities with entrance on the Madras Bank Road (Imperial Bank).was built. Initially there were only Two Platforms for receiving BG Trains, which was expanded later on by adding two more platforms for Metre Guage trains extended from Podanur.

Podanur-Coimbatore-Mettupalayam line became busy when the Nilgiri Mountain Railways started functioning in 1899. During the summer seasons many Maharajahs used to go over to Ooty by special carriages attached to Bluemountain Express. It was a colourful sight to see various specially built Carriages with different Royal Coats of Arms displayed on them. Also the Governor’s secretariat used to be shifted to Ooty from Madras during Summer months to function from there.

Coimbatore was well connected by good Bus services from olden days. Sri Gopalaswamy Naidu Doraiswamy Naidu, popularly known as G.D.Naidu started his Transport business under the name of United Motor Service (U.M.S) and ran his first “Auto Coach” between Pollachi and Palani in 1920. Incidentally my mother’s maternal Uncle, who was the Police Office Manager at that time was a good friend of Sri Naidu. In those days licensing and regulating Bus Transports were under the Police Department. Then Sri Pollachi Nachimuthu Gounder started Anamalais Bus Transport (A.B.T.) in 1931, connecting Pollachi with Coimbatore and other nearby areas. Later another company known as Mettupalayam Coonoor Services (M.C.S) was started by Sri Katteri Chettiar at Mettupalayam connecting Ooty with Coimbatore. This service was known for their good Bus Coaches from the beginning. There were other Bus Transport Companies like BMS, Pakshiraja and VCK which connected the City to other parts of the District by running Buses on feeder routes.

Interestingly for a long time, there was no common Bus stand or Bus Station in the city for the Buses to start or reach. Each Company had its own Bus station in different parts of the city. The present Bus Station at Gandhipuram was opened only after the transports were nationalised.

If I tell that at one time no express train stopped at Coimbatore Railway Station, no body will believe me! But it is true. Coimbatore was a whistle stop station even for the Passenger trains. I remember  the old Railway station, a  small granite structure,  on the western side of the railway lines at the southern end of  present goods shed road just after  the Variety hall Road cross. The  prestigious Blue mountain Express used to pass through the station to Mettupalayam in the mornings without stopping.The same was the case of  the return Blue Mountain Express from Mettupalayam to Madras. The nearest Express stop was at Podanur Junction about 5 Miles(8 Kms)  from the town. Podanur was an important and old Divisional Head quarters in South Indian Railways, on the Jolarpet-Mangalore Line. If we wanted  to catch Blumountain Express for Madras, we had  to take a Passenger train or a horse drawn Judka to reach Podanur Junction well in advance. Similarly we had to detrain at Podanur and commute to Coimbatore on our return journey also. Later on at the request of the increasing population Blue Mountain Express stopped for two minutes at Coimbatore Station. In those days the S.I.R. permitted the trains to stop at any station if the I Class passenger has to detrain. (Usually I Class was  reserved for rich and Englishmen only.) Which is unthinkable now. I was told that the Railways experimented another novel method to cool down the I Class Compartments for the Englishmen during hot summer. For a price the Railways used to provide Ice Boxes to be kept under the berths, which had special vents to drain off melting water! You know in those days Ice itself was imported from USA by ships and stored in Ice House in Madras. This Building is known as Vivekanandar Illam now.

South Indian Railway Company which was reconstituted in 1891 was one of the oldest in India. Its jurisdiction covered mainly the old  Madras Presidency. The trunk route on Jolarpet – Calicut in which Podanur was a Division, was completed in 1862. by the then Madras Railway.The Podanur-Coimbatore – Mettupalayam BG line was opened in 1873.

Another interesting information many of the present generation in Coimbatore may not be aware was that the then Coimbatore District Board  had constructed and commissioned a Metre Guage line from Podanur to Pollachi, which was run by the S.I.R, and eventually taken over by them. Similarly Tanjore District Board also constructed a Rail link to Arantangi in those days.

Railway link to Coimbatore was used more for transporting Cotton to the newly started Cotton Spinning and weaving Mills in Coimbatore and to connect Mettupalyam. In those days, Lorry transport was not developed much. There were three big textile Mills on the proximity of the railway lines in the City. They were C.S.&W.Mills, Kaleeswrar Mills and Somasundaram Mills. Till recently these Mills were linked by railway sidings directly entering the Mills. All the three Mills had towering chimneys belching smoke when they were powered by steam turbines at one time, which were also the land mark for Coimbatore.

During the war time, in 1941-42, old Railway Station was demolished and brand new Station Building with modern facilities with entrance on the Madras Bank Road (Imperial Bank).was built. Initially there were only Two Platforms for receiving BG Trains, which was expanded later on by adding two more platforms for Metre Guage trains extended from Podanur.

Podanur-Coimbatore-Mettupalayam line became busy when the Nilgiri Mountain Railways started functioning in 1899. During the summer seasons many Maharajahs used to go over to Ooty by special carriages attached to Bluemountain Express. It was a colourful sight to see various specially built Carriages with different Royal Coats of Arms displayed on them. Also the Governor’s secretariat used to be shifted to Ooty from Madras during Summer months to function from there.

Coimbatore was well connected by good Bus services from olden days. Sri Gopalaswamy Naidu Doraiswamy Naidu, popularly known as G.D.Naidu started his Transport business under the name of United Motor Service (U.M.S) and ran his first “Auto Coach” between Pollachi and Palani in 1920. Incidentally my mother’s maternal Uncle, who was the Police Office Manager at that time was a good friend of Sri Naidu. In those days licensing and regulating Bus Transports were under the Police Department. Then Sri Pollachi Nachimuthu Gounder started Anamalais Bus Transport (A.B.T.) in 1931, connecting Pollachi with Coimbatore and other nearby areas. Later another company known as Mettupalayam Coonoor Services (M.C.S) was started by Sri Katteri Chettiar at Mettupalayam connecting Ooty with Coimbatore. This service was known for their good Bus Coaches from the beginning. There were other Bus Transport Companies like BMS, Pakshiraja and VCK which connected the City to other parts of the District by running Buses on feeder routes.

Interestingly for a long time, there was no common Bus stand or Bus Station in the city for the Buses to start or reach. Each Company had its own Bus station in different parts of the city. The present Bus Station at Gandhipuram was opened only after the transports were nationalised.

My Coimbatore

Filed under: Uncategorized — Brahmanyan @ 10:16 am

Educational Institutions in olden days.

I began my education in a Municipal Elementary School with Tamil medium. It was one of the few schools available in those days for middle class. The School was having spacious Class rooms and a big play ground, that can be compared to facilities available in modern day Colleges. Even though there were a few other Elementary and Middle Schools,to my knowledge there were only five High Schools in Coimbatore in my days. St.Michaels High School, Union High School, City Municipal High School all for boys and Government Girls School attached to Training School, Presentation Convent for girls. Apart from them there was Stanes European High School, and St. Frances Convent for Girls which were teaching in English Medium. Sarvajana High School at Peelamedu run by PSG charities was the only Hindu institution.They were also running the only Technical School imparting technical education courses.Later on Sir Arthur Hope Politechnic was established by the industrialist G.D.Naidu.

Now let me tell about the Colleges in Coimbatore during my younger days. Government Arts College was the only College in Coimbatore teaching Arts Courses in intermediate and upto Degree level. But Coimbatore had the privilege of having two specialised institutions one was Coimbatore Agricultural College, a residential institution established in 1908 for Agricultural courses and research, by the Government of Madras and the other was Madras Forest College, established in 1912., one among the two Forest Colleges in India run by the British Central Government in those days, the other one known as Imperial Forest Research Institure was at Dehradun (UP).

Coimbatore Agricultural College was built in a sprawling area of 300 acres east of the Town on the Indo Saracenic style of Architecture which was popularly used by the British during the period from late eighteenth century to early ninteenth century for the institutions built by them. When I was young I used to cycle the 3 Kms distance from my house often to meet some of my school mates who were residing in the quarters there.In those days, the campus and the play grounds were maintained very well.There was a Museum in the College exhibiting rare things connected with Agriculture and of general interest, which I used to visit when ever I had been to the College. There were good Play grounds for Games like Hockey, Football and Cricket for the children of the residents. That is where I played my first game of Cricket with my team, and understood how poor my team was in that game! We used to attend the the that College auctions regularly to purchase used Cricket and Hockey balls that were sold at eight to ten for a rupee. Interestingly the Teams were always named after the Captains like “Chakru” Team or “Padhu” Team. Entire Campus used to be very peaceful and silent always.

Madras Forest College established in 1912 was built in an area of 195 acres in north of the town bordering R.S.Puram, in the similar style of Indo-saracenic architecture. This college was different, this was smaller than the Agricultural College. Both the Colleges had nice Clock Towers in the frontage towering over the porticos. On silent nights the sweet sound of the hourly gongs were heard from my house. But the campus and hostel of Forest College were out of bounds for visitors. But there was a museum “Gas Forest Museum” which had housed rare forest products and mounted taxidermy wild animals. This institution was closed during the second World War (1940-45) to house the British Evacuees, about which I shall tell later .

The Students of these two institutions used to wear Green and Blue Blazers respectively with their college coat of arms stitched on their pockets.

Another research institution was Sugar-cane Breeding Station, only of its kind in Asia run by the Central Government.

My Coimbatore

Filed under: Uncategorized — Brahmanyan @ 10:15 am

British Evacuees Camp in Coimbatore.

People born after independence may not know that Coimbatore played an important role during the World War II. Coimbatore hosted an evacuees camp accommodating about 3,000 British refugees during the period from 1941 to 1945. For this purpose the then British Government closed down the Madras Forest College and cleared several acres of forest land, West of the College. Initially they put thousands of tents in the open area across the Tadagam Road to accommodate the British refugees mostly from their European Colonies like Malta and other islands. Then rows after rows of small tenements were built for them in the space cleared in the Forest College Campus. Ofcourse initially this area was out of bounds for civilians in the Town. It was a novel experience for us to see groups of white skinned families cycling in our R.S.Puram area. Most of them were refugees from Malta and Greece. There were a few families of Anglo-Burmese stationed there.

Incidentally the first town bus service in Coimbatore was commenced during this period only. Two buses were introduced to run between the British Evacuees Camp and the Bazaar area and Cinema Halls on regular duration. These Buses were run only for the use of the refugees and civilian population in the Town were not allowed to use these Buses. Only interaction between the people of Town and the Evacuvees is Football matches between the evacuvees team and the Local team. Though BEC inmates confined themselves to the activities within their camp area, it is not uncommon to see minor frictions between the locals and inmates. Some of the inmates from of the Camp were enterprising people. A few of them from Malta and Burma studied Book keeping and Accountancy under my father, who was a Chartered Accountant.

This camp was closed in 1945 after the end of the War and the refugees returned to their home lands.

Another important War time development was the Air base at Sulur which is about 26 Kms from Coimbatore. This base was established during the World War II by the British as Royal Navy’s Fleet Arm – RANS. It was also repair base for their South East Asian Planes. A good Concrete Road was laid by the British Government from the Air base to Cochin, passing through the Coimbatore town, Palghat and towns in Malabar area. This Air Force base was torched by the freedom fighters on August,26, 1942 in response to the “quit india” agitation called by Mahatma Gandhi. Now this Air Base is under the control of Indian Air Force.

One day in the afternoon (I do not remember the year) during the wartime many people from our street were rushing to the Mettupalayam Road to see the procession of hundreds of bullock carts moving through that road. What is special in it? Nothing except these carts and the well fed big bullocks were different. We were told these were sent by the then Maharaja of Mysore as his contribution towards war efforts of the British. These were stationed at the specially built barrecks built in the eastern side of the Goschen Park (Barati Poonga).

The War period saw large scale exodus of people from Madras to Coimbatore. Many Government offices and industries too shifted to Coimbatore during this period. This gave a short term economic boost to the Town. I had the opportunity to see some prominent citizens of Madras like Dr.Arundale, Rukmani Devi Arundale of Theosophical Society and Rt. Hon. V.S.Srinivasa Sastry taking walks in our R.S.Puram area.

My School which was an Elementary School got upgraded to Middle School during this period due to sudden influx of students. But the sprawling sports ground was taken over by the ARP Corps ( a war time institution) for their offices and training. Air raid sirens were fitted in prominent place in the Town.Street lights were fittied with “blinkers” and all glass windows in the buildings were painted black to effect back-outs. Trenches were dug in every available vacant grounds. Periodic Fire drills were conducted to train the public in case of emergencies. All the Doctors and Nurses were drafted for war time duties. All these preparations in the Town, which is in a corner of the Province, looked as though it will experience airborne bombings any time by Germans or Japanese! Of course for youngsters like me it was a real fun with imagination and fear. The net result is that most of the jobless vagabonds got temporary jobs and some discipline was brought into the lives of people.

Melodies floating from Memories

Filed under: Uncategorized — Brahmanyan @ 9:55 am

Melodies floating from memories

When I look back and ask  which was that one singar who had influenced my love for  hindustani music, I could say without hesitation it was the one and only Kundan Lal Saigal.    He was and is my favorite male singer till date. I was just  a boy of ten when I heard K.L.Saigal for the first time from a gramophone record in my relative’s house. At that age I was wondering why my aunt (a lady doctor) was wiping tears while hearing the song “Soja Raajkumari Soja” coming from the gramophone.. Later I understood  it was the magic of  Saigal’s songs, that brought tears to all listeners who heard his songs That was the power of his music.

Kundan Lal Saigal was born on April, 11, 1904 at Nawa Shahar in Jammu  as the fourth child to Kesar Kaur and Amarchand Sehgal, a Tehsildar. they were Punjabis from Jullandhar. Even from his childhood Saigal evinced more interest in music at the cost of his studies. K.L.Saigal  did not have a formal training in classical music under any teacher, Pundit or Ustad,  but he was gifted with extraordinary talent of musical perception that made him to absorb the notes that he heard and responded to all technical musical needs as a singer. He was a natural singer and his voice was born with him. When he was young his mother Kesar Kaur, deeply religious lady,  used to take him to  various religious functions where Bhajans, Keertan and Shabads were sung in traditional styles. Similarly Kundan Lal often accompanied his father to the interior parts of the State where he was exposed to the folk music of Punjab and Kashmir straight from the shepherds and wandering minstrels. Later he worked for Remington Typewriters as a salesman, for a few years, which allowed him to tour to several places in India.  These gave him the opportunity  to absorb and learn music in a natural way. The following  incident may  show the impact of his observations.

While he was working as timekeeper in The Punjab Railways offices in Delhi K.L.Saigal  had to pass through Delhi’s Fathepuri Bazaar on his way home . There he used to stop for a few minutes to listen to a blind faquir who was singing  the same Bhajan every day . The song was so enchanting that later  when   he bacame a great singer Saigal sang this Bhajan “Radhe rani re daro na” in his  movie “Puran bagath”  in 1933 and all his four Bhajans in that film  created a sensation throughout India.

Veteran Music director and actor . Pankaj Mullick who had worked with K.L.Saigal described that “Saigal’s voice was a tenor with a true pitch and a three-octave span.” Saigal could use his tenor voice with telling effect in a number of songs even though his forte was soft, soothing tunes rendered in his inimitable baritone .

When K. L Saigal worked as  a salesman before he chose music as a vocation, his singing was limited to his friend’s circle. During one such occasion of his singing, a sales representative of Hindustan Record Company happened to be present in the congregation. He recognized Saigal’s potential and persuaded him to sign a contract for recordings with the company.   All his non-film songs were invariably issued during his lifetime, under the Hindustan label, though in later years his records of film songs appeared under H.M.V. Iabel. (Hindustan was a sister concern to H.M.V.). His first recorded song  “Jhulna-Jhulaye-rii” set in Raag Gandhari was released by Hindustan Recording Company.Then onwards, there was no looking back for him, the fame of Saigal as a singer spread to every corner of the Country. But it was B.N.Sircar the founder of New Theatres, Calcutta, who discovered the potential of Saigal in the field of Cinema and gave him the contract for acting in his Films. Saigal was lucky to work under great Music Directors of that time . His style of film music was shaped by  famous Music Directors like R.C.Boral, Timir Baran and Punkaj Malik.  His was a leisurly music rendered with ease, struck to the discipline of Raagas. Clarity in  his diction was his asset. He never stooped to musical acrobatics. In those days orchestration was simple with few musical instruments, they never intervened with the voice of the singer.

Though  K L Saigal  started acting in 1931, the real break through came with the Film “Devdas” in 1935, in which he acted as Devdas, which established Saigal as the first Super Star of Indian cinema. His song “Baalam aaye baso more man meii“ was a trend setter in cinema  music. This tune was so charming it was used in many Indian languages. In Tamil Smt. D.K.Pattammal has rendered a  song “Poonkuyil koovum pooncholayil oru naal”  set to this tune. Many people may not know  that K.L.Saigal had rendered two Tamil Songs in the Tamil version of Devdas released by New Theatres. .They are “Koodiye paduvai komalak kiliye”  and “Madana undanmel maha hoham” .Then on the magic of Saigal left its imprint in every film that he acted  by a number of immortal songs. “Duniya rang rangeli baba” in Dharthimatha (1935), Ek bangala bane nyara in Prasident (1937), Then the film Street singer (1938) came with his unforgetable “Babul Mora Naihar Choto Hi Jaay“followed by “Aas Karon Kya Aas Niraas Bhayi” in the film Dhushman.(1939). Kundan Lal Saigal rendered his immortal classic “So jaa Rajkumaari So jaa“ in the film Zindagi (1940). Saigal ended his New Theatre era by shifting to Bombay in 1941.

Saigal joined  Ranjit Movietone, Bombay owned by Chandulal Shah on regular contract in December 1941. Here also his songs“ Madhukar shyam hamari chorr” in  pictures Bakhta Surdas (1942) and “Diya Jalao Jagmag Jagmag” in Tansen (1943) were big hits.He did a film My Sister (1944) for New Theatres, Calcutta. His song “Do Nainaa matware tihaare hampar zulm kare“ in the film was a big hit. In the mean while Saigal fell sick and his last film “Shahjahan“ (1946) was a memorable one. In spite of his failing health, Saigal gave wonderful music under the direction of  Music director Naushad Ali in that picture. His last song “Jab dil hi toot geya, hum jee ke kya karenge”  said to have been rendered rendered by him sitting on his bed.

Saigal was a good person, dependable friend and had a heart of gold who gave all that he had to the needy. But unfortunately he fell to the clutches of alchohal, which togather with his diabetes killed him ultimately. Kundan Lal Saigal died in his home town Jullandar on January, 18, 1947 at the prime age of 43.

K.L.Saigal was married to Asha rani and had two daughters and a son. Not much is known about them.

Saigal has recorded  185 songs in his career spanning about 13 years.  The period from 1933 to 1946, is known in the Hindi film world as the Saigal era of music. Many singers who entered the world of film music later , could not resist   emulating  his style, of singing.. That includes Talat Mahmood (“Sab din ek samaan nahin thha“)  Mukesh (`Dil jalta hai to jalne de“.) Kishor Kumar (“Jagmag jagmag karta “). C.H. Atma  (“Preetam aan milo”) and  Surrendra (” Aawaaz de kahan hai“)..

Well, what is special about Saigal’s music? His simplicity and relaxed mode of rendering his songs were his magic.  Behind it lies his utmost devotion and hardwork. Lata Mangeshkar an ardent admirer of Saigal has brought out two albums “Shradhdhanjali“ by singing the songs of Saigal as a mark of her tribute to him.

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