Friday, February 15, 2013

Mapping the City

You create a map of the city when you walk through it. You absorb one step at a time, one image after another. There is a simultaneous assimilation of the visual images and what you hear, what you think. You put aside some of these perceptions and thoughts in your mind. These are our memories of the city.

One of the older streets with the houses in stone walls and lime plaster. The informal bazaar happens against these walls.

I walked some more through the town of Tiruvannamalai. Actually, I wandered through it but it was in some ways a selective wandering. I had earlier been to the streets to the south of the Arunachaleswarar temple which was the pettah area or the fortified town and the old bazaar.

Was this disorganised complexity or organised complexity?

I had now chosen to know more about the part of the town that was newer, that had developed only fifty to sixty years before, the part to the north of the temple precinct. Here, as in the southern part, there were streets that functioned as bazaars – shops below, residences or offices above. I started to begin my count of this walk from the Raja Gopuram or the East (main) entrance of the Arunachaleswarar temple.

Still the same street but now looking westwards.This was a street parallel to the east-west axis of the temple and on its south side.

These streets were newer, wider and more modern. As I walked, I saw this shop with a board that said ‘Malaysian Electronics’. There was Airtel, there were Supermarket chain stores. The north of town was clearly the modern bazaar whereas the south of town was the traditional bazaar.

As I moved closer to the rathas (car) on Car street, I was moving away from the temple in the north direction and towards the Big Street.

Often in the Indian city, the development of the inner city core has been in concentric circles, with the traditional bazaar being in the inner circle and the modern bazaar streets falling within the outer circles. Here, it was growth that had been along an East-West axis – the early development being on its southern side and the later development of the town being on its northern side. It was the large expanse of the temple that had created this axis and governed the development of the town in a particular way.

The ratha was large enough to shelter women street vendors in its shade (which was yet to come, it was still early morning)

I had walked from the Raja Gopuram onto the Car street. This was the street where the wooden ratha (car) was parked when it was not being taken around the temple in a ceremonial procession. Along the Car street, I had stopped by at the Deepam hotel, where they serve you filter coffee in a brass tumbler. The brass glass for the coffee. It was nice. They said it was from Kumbakonam. The Car street took me northwards to the ‘Big Street’.

The part of the town that was new with its modern shops selling televisions, mobile phones and branded shoes.

This part of town was also where you could find bookshops selling Tamil religious books and music CDs and DVDs. The entire new development seemed to be an outcome of the increase in religious tourism and its primary objective was to serve the pilgrims who came to Tiruvannamalai throughout the year.

Walking alongside the wall of the temple on its northern side and towards the arunachala hill.

I continued to walk along the Big street, which seemed to have a high density of lodges and small buildings with large sign boards that said ‘Bathrooms & Toilets’. Amongst the lodges on this street were the Aruna Lodge, the Annamalai guest house, the Swathi Sri Residency A/C and the Sri Malaimagal Lodge. The left edge of this street was the high, northern stone wall of the Arunachaleswarar temple. From this street you could also enter the temple through the Ammani Amman Gopuram or the North entrance as it was called. On the opposite side, there was the Chinnakadi street with its hardware shops. There were other small lanes that sprung out from this street selling jewellery and household goods.

Sketch Plan reflecting the original 1760 map by John Call

In the 1760 map of Tiruvannamalai, this street had already been in existence and so also some of the smaller streets perpendicular to it The older development from that time had been replaced by new development in recent years. However, this was still the ‘old city’. For some, it had old memories. For me, the memories both in perception and thought were new.

3 comments:

R Niranjan Das said...

Busy, colourful and crowded. Nice post.

www.rajniranjandas.blogspot.in

Divenita said...

The first paragraph pulled me into this post :).

You create a map of the city when you walk through it. You absorb one step at a time, one image after another. There is a simultaneous assimilation of the visual images and what you hear, what you think. You put aside some of these perceptions and thoughts in your mind. These are our memories of the city.


May you visit many more bazaars.
Please keep writing.

Shalu Sharma said...

Very nice photos.