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(ARCHIVE) Vol. Vol. XVIII No. 12, october 1-15, 2008

Historic Residences in Chennai - 3

(Sriram V.)

Chettinad Palace
P.S. Kumaraswami Raja (Greenway’s) Road

This vast and handsome pile is probably the largest private property in the city, set in what was once a verdant estuary, now overrun by constructions. Originally, a garden house called Somerford, it was purchased and modified to an Italian architect’s adaptation of a Baroque design in the first half of the 20th century to serve as the residence of Raja Sir Annamalai Chettiar of Chettinad (1881-1948). The Raja was one of the directors of the Indian Bank and became director of the Imperial Bank of India when it was set up in 1921. He had vast business interests and lands in Burma. He was a member of the Madras Legislative Council for three successive terms from 1920.

Annamalai Chettiar’s management saw the Meenakshi College in Chidambaram, founded in 1920 by his elder brother Dewan Bahadur Ramaswami Chettiar, transformed into the Annamalai University which came into existence on January 1, 1929. He was honoured with a knighthood and the hereditary title of Rajah of Chettinad. Raja Sir, as he was popularly known, was a champion of Tamil Isai, fighting to restore Tamil to its rightful place on the Carnatic music platform. He founded the Tamil Isai Sangam in 1943, and the Raja Annamalai Manram, located in the Esplanade area, was built in 1953 as the headquarters of the movement and as a memorial to him. His son Raja Sir MA Muthiah Chettiar (1905-1984) was the first Mayor of Madras in 1933 when that office was reinstated. Muthiah Chettiar’s son, business and turf baron MAM Ramaswami, now lives in the palace.

– (Courtesy: KALAMKRIYA.)

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