Rajaji Hall, Chennai, a historical colonial building where former TN Chief Ministers were laid in state for the public

 The news that  Rajaji hall of Chennai, a heritage structure that is steeped in history spanning more than two centuries is to be renovated soon and a sum of Rs.17 crores has been allocated by the PWD is a welcome news, though it is belated.  

This stately structure will be given a fresh lease of life and will be restored back to its old grandeur soon. What is Metcalfe Hall to  Kolkata (built in 1840s) is Rajaji hall to Chennai. Both colonial structures, in the past, faced near demolition by the state governments.  The TN department of tourism will be much benefitted if it is fully restored with out any further delay. When it comes to conservation or restoration of heritage structures, lethargy is writ on the face of  officials and  if  action is taken, it moves at a snail's phase, more so in Tamil Nadu. Many structure in Chennai and other places would have been saved had right action  been taken by the authorities concerned. 

What is unique about the Rajaji hall is it was one a hive of many social activities  and is a testimony to  both happy events  as well as  poignant events . For decades the façade of the building -veranda and and the wide steps have served as a venue  for lying in state the mortal remains of   Chief ministers of this state  since the death of Sri K. Kamaraj Nadar, a man of vision and an impeccable Congress leader who worked for the common people. Each one of the CM's contribution was unique in his or her way. They all ruled the state with skill and tactics. The historical building gave them the needed rest, respite and respect from common people before their final funeral services.. 

This stately building that appeared in many films, it is unfortunate,  becomes  a forgotten place among the vast number of people  who came from different parts of the state to  take a last  glimpse of  their favorite leader lying in state before their final funeral. 

Interior  banquet hall, Rajaji hall, Chennai.in.worldorgs.com

Above image: 1997. Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi presiding over a meeting of representatives of all political parties and organizations in the Banquet Hall at Rajaji Hall in Chennai on May 14, 1997. At the meeting decision was taken to: 01. Install the statue of   Pasumpon Muthuramalinga Thevar (Forward Block leader and an associate of Netaji Bose) at Kandamanur in Theni, 02, To name a transport corporation after Veeran Sundaralingam, a rebel against the Raj and 03. To rename districts and transport corporations to make them sound caste-neutral. In the latter case, it was given up midway due to difficulty in implementing it........ Photo Credit: The Hindu Archives

The Rajaji Hall (Banqueting Hall), Chennai, Alamy.com 

 The Rajaji Hall (Banqueting Hall), Chennai, in.worldorgs.com

Above image: The Rajaji Hall (Banqueting Hall), Chennai, earliest  public hall in the city used for social functions. Architect: John Goldingham;  modeled after the Parthenon in Athens.. Completed in 1802  as an extension of the Government House on the order  of  Gov. Lord Edward Clive,  Extensively remodeled from 1875 - ‘the terrace was enclosed by the arcaded verandah in 1895.’.......

he Rajaji Hall (Banqueting Hall), Chennai,in.worldorgs.com

he Rajaji Hall (Banqueting Hall), Chennai, in.worldorgs.com

Since the  early period  under  the time of George Foxcroft (1668), the first Governor, successive Governors ran the EIC' s trading activities, etc  from  Fort St George, Chennapatnam (Madras / Chennai) along with their paraphernalia - writers, soldiers, etc.  The English company's progress being phenomenal,   a century later there arose a  necessity to have a spacious separate building with adequate facilities to run the EIC 's  administrative office. 

Ft. St. George was not suitable for further expansion of the office building So, after 1753  then  Governor Thomas  Saunders acquired  the house  with land  from one Antonia de Madeiros, a rich  Portuguese settler. The house was then the  Governor’s official residence.

After 1757  some additions were made to mark  the victory  of British forces in the Battle of Plassey (a diabolical one with lots of back stabbings) in Bengal.  

1759: The Fresh army based in Pondicherry and the English Army had frequent skirmishes to control  Madras. In 1759  a strong French force led by  Comte de Lally  targeted the Governor's House. and it was followed by  Hyder Ali in 1767. 

1798: The banqueting Hall was  commissioned by Edward Clive II, eldest son of Robert Clive (tenure:1798-1803) and in 1799 the hall began to take shape to mark  the annexation Mysore kingdom from Tipu Sultan in 1799 in the final Angelo -Mysore war. The battalion led by Wellesley entered Tipu's fort at Srirangapatna and one of his soldiers shot him dead. In 1802 it was opened and in the later years the building underwent many changes. 

In the later period after 1820  the  Raj Bhavan at Guindy, Chennai served as the governor’s weekend home till 1947. Later it became the official residence of the Governor of Madras Presidency initially and later of Tamil Nadu.  

 After independence 1947: 

Soon after India's independence in August 1947, as the banqueting Hall was in good condition, the Madras government used it as a venue to  conduct many  stately events, exhibitions and meetings.

Queen Elizabeth at Rajaji hall 1961. thehindu.com

Above image: 1961. Queen Elizabeth II, who died on September 8, 2022 (after the longest reign as a woman monarch) visited India in 1961, 1983 and 1997. Her 19 February 1961 visit to Madras (Chennai) was an interesting one. Queen Elizabeth herself is seen cutting a cake for her child, the first birthday party for Prince Andrews. She also brought the child to Madras. Then CM  K. Kamaraj not only ordered the cake ( made by Bosotto Bros Bakery, Chennai) but also arranged for the celebration at the Rajaji hall.  Also in the picture are Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, the husband of the Queen, and Cabinet colleague and later a popular Central minister C. Subramaniam, native of Coimbatore).......


T1969. he Rajaji Hall (Banqueting Hall), Chennai,

Above image: 1969.  Popularly known as the Frontier Gandhi Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan (a powerful Phakhtoon leader),  a friend of Gandhiji, who was on a visit to Madras. Here, he  is seen with Mrs. Ujjal Singh, wife of the Tamil Nadu Governor, Sardar Ujjal Singh. He is leaving the Rajaji Hall after he had  attended the women's reception On the left is is Mrs. Sathyavani Muthu, Tamil Nadu Minister for Women's Welfare.(Photo credit:  The Hindu Archives) ........

 The Rajaji Hall (Banqueting Hall), Chennai, thehindu.com/n

Above image:  Thiru M. Karunanidhi, Minister for Public Works  receiving  the Madras State Sangita Nataka Sangam's award from CM  Thiru C.N. Annadurai. The award was for best screen play wright for 1966-67 at a function held at Rajaji Hall, Madras on April 22, 1967.......
Paying last respect to the CMs -- at Rajaji hall: 

Many Chief Ministers of Tamil Nadu were laid in state in the façade of the Rajaji Hall for the common people to pay their respect to the leaders who contributed their mite to the economic growth of the  state.  These leaders may be gone, but their legacy still continue.
                                      '' The boast of heraldry, the pomp of pow'r,
                                         And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gave,
                                         awaits alike th' inevitable hour.
                                          The paths of glory lead but to the grave''.
                                                                      From ..    Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard
                                                                                      BY THOMAS GRAY
1969 the body of CM  Annadurai lying in state at Rajaji Hall.en-academic.com

Above image:  1969. Former CM from the DMK party C.N. Annadurai (February 4, 1969) lay in state at Rajaji Hall. Also seen in the picture is MGR (M.G. Ramachandran) , popular film actor, future CM and leader of the ADMK  party. Sri CNA died of cancer at the age of 59. CM Anna got an honorary degree from Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA (incidentally Elihu Yale (benefactor of Yale) was the then President of EIC's Madras settlement and made his fortune here. 
Mortal remains of K. kamaraj at rajaji hall, Chennai.indianexpress.com

Above image:1975: The body of former Chief Minister and prominent Congress leader K. Kamaraj (October 4,1975) lay in state in Rajaji Hall. he was close to Nehru and played a key role in Congress at all India level. His political guru was S. Satyamurthy, yet another Congress leader from Pudukkottai. .......


Rajaji Hall.ex CM M.G.R 's death.Ms. Jayalalitha behindMy photography

Above image: 1987. The body of Ex CM, Tamil Nadu MGR  lay in state at the Rajaji Hall in Madras on December 24, 1987. In the image above you can see Ms. Jayalalitha, the  future CM of TN. death occurred due to kidney complications though he underwent kidney transplant in the USA  a few years earlier. A popular actor and a charismatic leader. he was known for his charity and social activities. He donated his vast movie studio and other properties (under a trust) to the TN govt.


CM Jayalaitha lying in state. odishanewsinsight.com

Ex CM, Tamil Nadu (dec.2016) lying in stateThe News Minute

Above image: 2016. The mortal remains of  former CM Honorable Ms. Jayalalitha  lay in state in the Rajaji Hall for public viewing   (06 December 1916), before the final burial. Top image: India's PM Modiji paying his last respect. Highly talented film actress and political leader  she was a polyglot and a powerful orator. A courageous woman of wit and wisdom. ......... 

.Rajaji Hall, chennai.PM Modiji paying respect to Dr. kalaingar.ndia.com

.Dr. Kalaingar Karunanidhi laing in state. india.com

Above image: 2016. CM. Kalaingar Karunanidhi's coffin as he lies in state at Chennai's Rajaji Hall 16  August 2016. Beginning  his life in a poor family in Thrukuvalai, near Thiruvarur,  he became one of the most powerful politicians in India. A powerful orator in Tamil with political acumen, he was also a popular  screen playwright. Though  a well-known atheist, he was the one who made  Thiruvarur Azhi Ther ( the biggest temple chariot in India) run for the first time after a pretty long gap. He also organized a fine ceremony to mark the 1000th year of Thanjavur big temple (built by king Rajaraja Chola)  and had a millennium coin and a commemorative stamp released by the Central govt; he died at the age of 94........

According to heritage lover and writer V. Sriram the first public event at the Rajaji Hall was -the Madras Exhibition of Industries held in 1854.  This hall witnessed a grand celebration  when Carnatic stalwart like Arriyakudi  was completing  50 years in music with a prayer invocation music by the late MS Amma.