The Kardyl building (Bharat Insurance Bldg.) Chennai - a fascinating heitage site

Kardyl /Bharat Insurance Building, Chennai,

The heritage enthusiasts of Chennai saved several heritage buildings either from total demolition or from rotting. Bharat Insurance building, earlier known as the Kardyl building, is a beautiful heritage structure located on the prime arterial Anna Salai (previously Mount Road), built roughly 122 years ago and was saved from  near demolition by its present owner L.I.C of India, a mega insurance company run by the Central Government.
 Kardyl /Bharat Insurance Building, Chennai,

The original name of the Bharat Insurance Building  is  the Kardyl building, a  huge  structure that was  built in 1897 in  Indo-Saracenic style. Constructed for W E Smith and Company, it was bought by Bharat Insurance in 1934. This insurance company became part of the  Central government government controlled   Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC). This historic building would have turned into  mound of dirt, but for the timely intervention of heritage lovers and others who are on  a war path to save countless monuments in Chennai. The Madras High Court in 2010  restrained Life Insurance Corporation of India's move to pull down the structure without complying with regulation 22 of the Development Control Rules for the Chennai Metropolitan Area, 2004.The Bench asked the State government to issue rules to prevent persons from undertaking any repair, even in the name of renovation of heritage buildings without seeking the necessary approval of the HCC - the Heritage Conservation Committee.The court also asked the  HCC to save heritage site as far as possible. It was a land mark judgement that would save innumerable heritage sites in this state as well as in other states in the future.

the Kardyl /Bharat Insurance Bldg., Chennai,
Kardyl /Bharat Insurance Building, Chennai,

This Kardyl building owes its origin to W.E. Smith, a pharmacist, who landed in Chennai in 1868. He went to Ooty in the Nilgiri hills and opened a pharmacy shop. Encouraged by the success of the Ooty shop and other branches, he was keen to set up a shop in Madras (Chennai). Smith engaged in "wholesale and manufacturing of drugs and aerated water, sale of  surgical instruments, besides serving  as opticians.  With prompt and dedicated services, his business expanded beyond his expectation and, now, he needed more space for keeping stocks, etc. W.E. Smith was South India's leading pharmacist. 

Kardyl Building was inaugurated in 1897 and it took three years to complete it. This building became the HO and Smith was doing business under the name of "W.E. Smith & Co Ltd." Kardyl Building, triangular in plan,  is a unique structure where one see a blend of   Indo-Saracenic,  Mughal with the Ottoman, Hindu and  European Classical styles. The architect  J.H. Stephens of the P.W.D. Madras had his extraordinary imagination and vision run riot; an infusion of many and varied designs in one building is odd and it was tagged as palatial. The company's  show room itself measured 60-foot by 40.

No visitor to the heart of Mount Road, Chennai can miss the striking features of  Kardyl  building such as  domes, spires, 100-foot minarets, nice impressive arches and long verandahs (for better air circulation inside)  all blended into a unique style of  fantasy.  The building had rooms for  practicing doctors and dentists on its first floor facing Mount Road, and for its European assistants facing General Patter's Road. Also once functioned in this building were a cafe and a beer bar. Smith's aerated water factory was in the back of the compound.  
To protect the structure from further damage and  worn-off, particularly, in the monsoon season, the building was covered with a blue sheet in 2012. The heritage lovers and experts were quite concerned about the impact of monsoon on this old  weak structure. First of all the sooner this structure is repaired and saved from further  deterioration, the earlier the restoration process will be put in place.