Col. John Pennycuick, British engineer, elevated to Demi God

 "I hold strongly to the view that the deeds and services of great men should be honored by public commemoration in the places where they served not only as  posthumous compliments to themselves, but also an example and stimulus to others."
                                       ..........       Lord Curzon, British India  
Col. John Pennycuick's r Theni.Tamil Nadu.  

Above image: People from the town of Theni paying obeisance to Colonel John Pennycuick's  by way of doing aarti. photo with saplings at Palarpatti (near Theni),Tamil Nadu

Col. John Pennycuick,  Army engineer of  British India  during  his  tenure  in  the  Madras  presidency,  S. India  was solely responsible for completing a challenging and important dam project - Mulliperiyar dam,  never  taken  up  before  across the river  Periyar  and  diverting the westward flow of the river towards east and joining  it with the Vaigai  river.  In the wake of successful completion of this  major  public works project, he  helped  facilitate  the irrigation of 2.23 lakh  acres of otherwise useless land in  Theni, Dindigul, Madurai,  Sivaganga and Ramanathapuram  districts of Tamil Nadu. Thanks to  the generosity of the then ruler of the Princely State of  Travancore  who made this project  a success. 

Tamil Nadu CM  paying tributes to Col.
Above image: Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu State and AIADMK general secretary Ms. J Jayalalithaa paying tributes to Colonel Pennycuick.
This river-diversion project  was executed in the most difficult and dangerous terrain  under  the  tough testing times with horrible financial constrains.  Set his heart and mind  firmly on the project and the resultant economic gain in the future for the people in the  arid  and  rain shadow region  of  present  Tamil Nadu,  Pennycuick,  finally  made up his mind  to sell his wife's  valuable jewelry with her consent as a last resort to  tide over inadequate funds  he badly needed to complete complete the project.

His passion, dedication and  personal sacrifices, besides  his  humanitarian  considerations  for the people living  there won the heart of millions of  native people in that region. No doubt the grateful people of Tamil Nadu elevated him to the level of a Demi God. Thus, the British engineer has become an immortal figure among the people of Central Tamil Nadu.


 01. A stone plaque bearing Pennycuick's name is in Vadipatti, Tamil Nadu.
John Pennycuick.Mullaiperiyar dam.

 02. Several villages in Theni offered prayers to Pennycuick and took out processions, holding his portraits on Sunday to mark his birth anniversary. 

 03. The Public Works Department Office at Madurai City  not only does it have a life-size bronze statue of Pennycuick erected on the premises, but also named the complex after him.

 04.  People of Appantirupathi village celebrate his birth anniversary with great joy and distribute sweets among the people and visitors. They had a granite portrait of Pennycuick engraved and installed it in the village. 

5. ''Pongal'' or ''Sankaranthi'' is an important Hindu festival in Tamil Nadu associated with harvesting season (first half of January every year) - a sort of thanks  giving festival  to  the  mighty  planet,  the Sun.  At several villages  in  Theni, Madurai  and other districts,  John Pennycuick  is  remembered during the celebration of the  traditional  Thai Pongal  harvest festival. Villagers  celebrated Col. John Pennycuick’s  171st birth  anniversary by preparing  Pongal  in  999 pots symbolic of  the number of years of lease agreement signed by the erstwhile  Travancore  princely state  and the Madras Presidency over water sharing and construction of Mullaperiyar Dam.

 06. In  January, 2002 on a Sunday morning,  large number of villagers from Thambinayakanpatti,  Kombai, Pannaipuram in Thevaram  assembled at V O C  Grounds  and prepared pongal in 999 pots. The dish was placed in front of a  portrait of  Pennycuick, as an  offering  before  the start of  the celebration. Thus a British engineer became a venerated man, a divine status among the natives who hold him in great esteem.

 07. At Palarpatti near Bodi, “Thevarattam” – a folk dance – marked the beginning of the celebrations. After   the celebration, the people assembled in the  village community  hall  named  after the  great humane British engineer and conducted a mass prayer - a way of showing their  gratitude to  him who  economically  lifted them  from   impoverished conditions.

08. In some villages in Theni district,  grateful people prepare  'Pongal' (a form of sweet dish)  en mass in front of his portrait or statue and conduct prayer with devotion and  bakthi to the British engineer.

09. At many villages, numerous families go one step further and consider him a Demi God.  Not only do they keep his portrait in the puja (prayer) room but also offer prayers.  They decorate the portrait with garlands and flowers and perform 'Aarthi'(a tradition of good will) before his photos. People never fail to knell  or  prostrate before his  picture,  thus  elevating him to the  level of God. No doubt one can see Penniquick's photos along with other Hindu Gods in many villagers' houses. Many children in villages are named after him.

10. In 2013 in the town of Theni, a bus terminus is named after Pennyquick. In many villages in this region,
Public Works Department employees, people and politicians of various parties pay rich tribute to him on his birth anniversary.

No doubt that the people of Tamil Nadu,  nay  India owe a debt of  lasting gratitude to Col. Pennycuick whose skill,  sympathy,  judgment and foresight left a deep mark on the British Indian history.  Mr. Pennyquick  has  left  a  record  behind  him  that marks him out not only as the most distinguished British engineer but also a great human being with true Christian spirit of love and care.  

 "The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others."
                            ...... Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948)   

''Only a life lived in the  service to others is worth living.''
                            ...... Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

 "New Bus Stand in Theni Named After Pennycuick". New Indian Express. 3 January 2014. Retrieved 8 December 2014.