''Vilakkuthoon'' (lamp). Madurai city , a historical site now restored

Vilakkuthoon (lamp). Madurai city  commons.wikimedia.org

 Vilakkuthoon (lamp). Madurai city hehindu.com

Above image: Villakkuthoon (lamp)- In honor and gratitude of an  English Collector  John Blackburne this lamp post  was erected  at the intersection of South-East Masi streets, Madurai city.  Being a dedicated  District  Collector of Madurai with a vision and foresight,  he was instrumental in developing Madurai into a big city.  The grateful  residents of this city in 1840  had the lamp post erected  as an expression of their reverence to the collector with an epithet at the bottom. it is missing now. It explained  how the residents collected money to erect Vilakkuthoon in memory of Blackburne in the 1840s, Since 2008 it had been in a state of neglect and in course of tile the inscription on the post disappeared  It  shows  negligence on the part of certain officials in charge of city maintenance.  In the  Madurai District Gazetteer  the inscription is mentioned, “ with the same intent a Blackburne’s lamp was erected near the site of the old east gate of the fort. An inscription on this says that it was put up by a grateful people .”

In 2019  Rs. 35 lakh  was allocated  for renovation of  historical Vilakkuthoon and Patthu Thoon, (Ten Pillars), a set of structures that lie 200 meters away from Vilakkuthoon.   The lamp post  and the surrounding areas underwent renovation work as part of renovation project undertaken by the govt  to  carry out major repair and conservation  work on selected heritage  site in and around Madurai.   According to the MMC engineer Rs. 5.7 crore was to be allotted as a separate project  to illuminate heritage sites in Madurai.

As part of the Central government’s Smart Cities mission  why  Vilakkuthoon, was chosen for illumination is the town during the   colonial era  was  one of the oldest lampposts  that  illuminated the temple town in the pre-electricity days.  Under the  Smart Cities Mission plans are afoot   to lay  a Heritage Walkway Mission   connecting 12 historic  sites including Vilakkuthoon   through a charted route. Such heritage walk way propjets are quite famous in places like Delhi, Lucknow, Thiruvanathapuram (fort heritage Zone),  Kochi  Madras, Mysore, etc.  Murizris  heritage walk  covering Kodungallore, Ernakulam (Kerala) etc will benefit the people. Further such programs across India will promote tourism and also preserve   our ancient heritage sites. 

As for the Madurai project there will be a stone-block pathway covering Kamaraj's statue a nd Vilakkuthoon with sitting benches  benches canopy sampling etc. Forming a traffic island people can enjoy the ambiance  under the shade.  Also included is a  20-foot-high watchtower that would be used by the  police to keep vigil.

 Sketch  by INTACH Velakkuthoon, madurai hehindu.com

The historical lamp post  way back in 1840 was meticulously planned and set in a suitable place  to illuminate the entire area for the comforts of the public. Collector  Blackburn  had set the stage for the growth of Madurai city as a big one considering its location and historical importance. 

Unfortunately now this place is so  much developed this 160 year old lamp post stands silently oblivious to the madding crowd, urban noise, heavy vehicular traffic, etc.  But the INTACH has come up with a  booklet briefly covering various heritage sites in Madurai.  including  Vellakkutoon.