Дата публикации: 04 августа 2023
Автор(ы): N. A. LISTOPADOV
Публикатор: Научная библиотека Порталус
Источник: (c) Asia and Africa Today, No. 12,31 December 2010 Pages 63-67
Номер публикации: №1691100947



Doctor of Historical Sciences

Chennai Keywords:, Madras, Marina, Murugan, Tamil

Marina, in this case, is not a female name, but the main attraction of the South Indian city of Chennai (Madras), the capital of the state of Tamilnadu. Marina, in other words, Sea, is called the ten-kilometer embankment of Chennai. Rather, it is not even an embankment, but a wide, several hundred meters long, sandy strip stretching along the Bay of Bengal. Who Murugan is will become clear later.

To get an idea of Chennai and the people of Chennai, you should definitely visit the Marina, and it is better to walk along it. Only you need to go there in the late afternoon, when the daytime heat subsides. That's what I did.

I was walking along St. Thomas the Apostle Street. Yes, yes, the same one, Thomas the Unbeliever. He used to walk down this street, too. True, it was almost two thousand years ago. According to legend, the Apostle Thomas preached Christianity in South India after the death on the cross and subsequent resurrection of Jesus Christ. Here he died a martyr's death. The relics of the apostle are located in the underground sanctuary.

Pope John Paul II and our current Patriarch, then Metropolitan Kirill, knelt before them. At the end of the 19th century, a magnificent Gothic cathedral, called in the Portuguese manner San Tom, was built nearby. And earlier on this place there was a temple built by the Portuguese in the early XVII century. Chennai Christians, and not only them, firmly believe that it was the intercession of the Apostle Thomas that saved the city from destruction during the tsunami in December 2004. Thus, the history of Chennai goes back two thousand years.

But this is a Christian story, and what can we say about the Hindu one, which is much more ancient. The rich port city of Mailapur, which traded with Rome, once flourished here. Mayil means peacock in Tamil. It was in the image of a peacock that the Hindu goddess Parvati appeared. Now Mailapur is one of the districts of the metropolis.


From the bustling traffic-filled street, it is best to turn into the Marina behind the lighthouse, walking from the Cathedral of St. Thomas the Apostle for half a kilometer past endless tea and coffee shops. The time is six o'clock in the evening. The scorching tropical sun is setting. And exhausted by the heat of the day, people begin to flock to the Marina to breathe in the refreshing sea air.

You'll meet a lot of people here. A whole family gets out of the car: my father in white robes, my mother in a colorful sari, two children in jeans and T-shirts, and even a burly grandmother in a dark sari. And this family rode up on a motorcycle. And also five people. As soon as they fit. Three-wheeled turtle taxis roll up, packed with passengers. A Muslim family passed by. The women are all dressed in black, with their faces covered. Only his eyes glisten in a narrow slit. It would seem that they came to the water, to the beach, you could dress easier. But no, the force of custom is irresistible. The head-to-toe black drapery of Muslim women is contrasted with the bold outfits of female students - tight jeans and bright T-shirts. Everyone stretches across the sand to the water.

On the sand, life is in full swing. There are numerous eateries with local delicacies for every taste. The sharpest seasonings are offered. If you don't want something spicy, take some sweets. You can quench your thirst with freshly squeezed sugar cane juice. Or fruits: bananas, pineapples, papaya, mango. Cheerful, talkative saleswomen will quickly crumble the pulp that is dripping with sweet nectar.

For my taste, it is best to refresh yourself with coconut juice. All the streets of Chennai are littered with coconut palm fruit all year round. The state of Tamilnadu came out on top in India for collecting coco-

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owls. You can also try toasted corn on coals. You can't list everything.

Marina is not only a feast for the stomach. There are a lot of all sorts of entertainment, albeit uncomplicated, but this is no less attractive for a diverse audience. You can, for example, shoot small fry at inflatable balloons in an improvised shooting range. Special expanse - for kids. At their service - a variety of carousels, set in motion manually or with the help of rattling motors. Not a bad ride on a horse. There are quite decent white horses. Boys fly kites.

Then there was an elderly trainer, black as anthracite, with a small monkey in a hilarious dress. The macaque dances, extends a paw for a handshake, and salutes. Of course, only those who pay the money. It's strange that there are no cobra charmers. Probably snakes only work in daylight, not at dusk. There are no cobras, but there are flutes. A traveling merchant is hung with them. When he offers his musical product, he plays a pleasant melody.

On the Marina, you can learn your fate. The fortune teller sat on a plinth right on the sand. The oracle is a green parrot, a very funny bird. I couldn't resist. I went over and paid a small amount. The owner placed in front of the parrot a box with cards depicting deities and zodiac signs. It busily began to sort through them with its red beak. So, this is not what you need. And this piece of paper doesn't fit. The bird thought about the card over the sixth or seventh, shook its head and handed a piece of cardboard to the owner. When I picked up the card with my fate written on it, not without some excitement, I found that the prediction was in Tamil. After turning it this way and that, I returned the card. My future was encrypted. Maybe it's for the best. If you don't have a lot of confidence in parrots, contact the hamsters, who are no less funny than the parrot, sorting through magic cards, though not with their beak, but with their paws. Well, there is also fortune-telling on seashells. There are plenty of seashells in the Marina.

Tamils are rather reserved people with a pronounced sense of self-esteem. There are few beggars on the Marina, which is nice. In addition, no one is forced to talk to a foreigner. Unless some curious bespectacled student comes up to ask what country you're from.

I talked to one of them. His name was Murugan. A common Tamil name. Murugan is one of the hypostases of the god Shiva. Mu-ru-gan ... sounds harsh, jerky. Tamil men, for the most part very dark-skinned, with rough features, this name is suitable. Murugan, not a god, but a student, is studying information technology in college. After all, this industry is booming in Chennai.

It is generally believed that the Silicon Valley of India is Bangalore, the capital of the neighboring state of Karnataka. But Chennai is not much inferior to the hyped, fashionable Bangalore in terms of computer science development. Numerous offices of the respective companies are located in modern buildings. My interlocutor expects to get a job in one of them, and maybe try his luck overseas, in California's Silicon Valley.

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the valley. Indian programmers are highly appreciated there.

Marina equalizes everyone. You can't tell who's a computer genius from an air-conditioned office, and who's a small merchant from a stuffy shop or a worker from one of the car assembly plants. Chennai is home to some of the world's largest automotive companies, including Daimler, Ford, BMW, Hyundai, Mitsubishi, Renault and Nissan. No wonder Chennai is called the Indian Detroit.

Marina is a romantic place. It overlooks the roadstead of Chennai Port, littered with ships from all over the world. The lighthouse sends them guiding signals.

Here and there you can see couples cooing and snuggling on the day-warmed sand. They don't notice the scurrying merchants or the frolicking children. Unless the guy buys the girl a fragrant jasmine garland, and that will decorate her hair. It has long been dark, but the lovers are in no hurry to leave the hospitable Marina. And in India, happy hours are not observed.

On the Coromandel coast, where Chennai is located, there are almost always big waves. In addition, there are strong undercurrents in the Marina area. Swimming here is dangerous. And most of the Indians can't swim. People go into the water and are content to be doused by the incoming waves. The ladies, of course, squeal. Only teenagers rush into the depths of the sea to immediately jump ashore.

Not everyone has a rest at the Marina. Fishermen are working. There are many boats in the sea and on the shore. Mostly motor cars, big ones. But there are also just rafts made of logs. The oarsman uses a long pole to steer the boat, skilfully gliding through the high waves, and even managing to throw and pull out the net.

Many fishermen resemble Papuans. Their skin color is coal-black. The hair is very curly. Her lips are plump. This similarity is not surprising. After all, the Dravidian Tamils and the peoples of Papua New Guinea belong to related races. Scientists also note some similarities between the languages. Caught seafood is sold right there, nearby. Behind the lighthouse, a fishing village stretches along the shore. It's more like a slum. There is a fish market right on the side of the road. Noisy merchants loudly praise their goods: "Buy fish, shrimp, crabs, squid!" Often quarrels break out between the merchants. The Tamil language is already very fast, expressive, and here at least you can bear all the saints. But the Hindu gods in a small temple stand impassively watching the bickering of the women. They're used to everything. God Murugan knows that an offering of a coconut and a bunch of bananas will appear in front of his statue in the early morning.


In the vicinity of Marina, you are once again convinced that India is a real conglomerate of religions and beliefs. Directly above the Hindu temple of the fishing settlement on the hill stands the already well-known Cathedral of St. Thomas the Apostle. After admiring its stained glass windows, I walk up the street. Just a few hundred meters away, I see a mosque with a high minaret.

And opposite the mosque is a white marble Jain temple with fine carvings. The entrance is open. The sanctuary is filled with images of the Tirthankar teachers of the faith. Some of them appear naked. The attendants are dressed in white robes. This is the temple of the Svetambara Jains, not the Digambara. Here they go naked, completely feeling like a part of nature.

When I leave Svetambarov, one of the caretakers comes up to me and recommends me to visit an ancient Hindu temple complex. It's just around the corner, he explains. The hint pleased me. So the Jainist does not see Hindus as competitors.

The Hindu shrine really impresses with its huge pyramid tower-gopuram. The name of the temple is Kapaliiswarar. This is another of the names of the same Shiva-Murugan. Gopuram is completely covered with colorful statues of Shiva, Parvati, Ganesha, Hanuman and other countless gods and goddesses of the vast Hindu pantheon. In their company - mythical heroes of epics and animals. Such a pandemonium of heavenly powers can only be found in South India.

Architecture here merged with sculpture and painting. It seems that the gods left the gloomy interior of the temples and settled outside to be closer to people. In the altar, Shiva is represented by a lingam-a phallic symbol. At the temple walls there are pens for cows-sacred animals. Cows are also revered because, as Hindus believe, it is this animal that will help in the afterlife-

* The Tirthankara teachers of faith (there are 24 of them) did not recognize any clothing, they were considered to be "clothed with space" or "cardinal directions". The founder of Jainism is considered to be the 24th teacher of faith-Tirthankara Vardhamana, called Gina and Mahavira (VI century BC) (editor's note).
** The two main groups of Jains are the Svetambaras (dressed in white) and the Digambaras (clothed in space, i.e. naked). ed.).

*** Jainism rejected the authority of the Vedas and gave access to its community to men and women of all varnas (castes). I have preserved the Hindu teaching about the rebirth of souls and retribution for deeds.

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It is necessary to overcome the flow of life that separates a person from the state of moksha, the final liberation.

There is probably no religion or denomination that is not present in Chennai. Chennai residents go to pray not only in Hindu, Christian, Jain temples and mosques, but also in Sikh Gurdwars and Buddhist viharas, and even in the temples of Zoroastrian fire worshippers. Not to mention the followers of various schools and sects. Surprisingly, there was also a place for atheists. Moreover, the ruling Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (Dravidian People's Party) in Tamilnadu formally adheres to an atheist ideology.

One of the city's attractions is the international headquarters of the Theosophical Society, which occupies a vast territory surrounded by greenery and flowers. Under the palm trees and banyan trees there is a cult of our compatriot Elena Blavatsky, the founder of theosophy-a teaching that seeks to combine spiritual achievements, wisdom of the East and the West. One of the sprawling banyans is a direct descendant of the bodhi tree under which the Buddha attained Enlightenment. In the quiet park of theosophists - a real paradise for plants, birds and animals and, of course, snakes, including cobra.

In general, Chennai has many parks and squares. This is a green city. The luxury of tropical flowers and leaves makes it cozy, covers up the nondescript everyday life.

Now let's take a look at Chennai from above. It is best to do this from the mountain, or rather, the hill of the Apostle Thomas. An ascetic church built by the Portuguese in the 16th century has been standing at the very top of the mountain for almost half a millennium,and there are magnificent icons with signatures in Armenian. The Armenian community was once very influential in South India. One of the icons, the Madonna and Child, is attributed to the brush of Thomas himself, or even the Evangelist Luke. It doesn't matter if this is actually the case. The icon is beautiful.

Alas, this cannot be said about the view of the city, opening from a height. Its patchwork panorama is blurring. The formation of the city at the beginning of the XVIII century makes itself felt by merging towns and villages scattered across the plain. The eye has nothing to stop at. Only the blue sea beckons in the distance.

So let's go back to the Marina. Perhaps Chennai Embankment can claim to be included in the Guinness Book of Records for the concentration of monuments. Here they are literally at every turn. Here is Mahatma Gandhi walking briskly with a crutch in his hand. Nearby, the former Chief Minister of the state holds the children close. The figure of the poet Thiru Valluvar rises majestically. In the square opposite is a bust of Annie Besant, one of the founders of the Indian National Congress party. From the north, the Marina is closed by memorials with an eternal flame. The ashes of two former chief ministers of Tamilnadu, S. Annadurai and M. Ramachandran, are buried here. The former is better known by the short name Anna. Chennai toponymy is lucky for "female" names. The Marina faces Anna Salai, Anna Avenue, named so, of course, in honor of the former Chief Minister. And the city's international airport is called Anna.

The famous Indian guru Vivekananda Museum is located right on the waterfront. It occupies a semi-circular building that resembles a cake. Now there are interesting exhibits telling about the life and deeds of Vivekananda. Earlier, in the XIX century, the cellars of this house were used as ice storage. At that time, they did not know how to produce ice on site. And enterprising Americans began to bring it to Madras on ships from far away America. The business turned out to be very profitable and flourished for several decades. After all, the English colonizers could not drink whiskey and gin without ice. Then they learned how to get ice on the spot, and its import stopped. Left as a reminder of the storage building. However, now it preserves not the ice, but the memory of the great sage Vivekananda, who, calling for tolerance, said: never argue about religion, religious disputes are always not about the main thing. It seems that the Chennai people are trying to listen to the guru's message.


In addition to the Vivekananda Museum, other buildings on the Marina attract attention. Mostly they are built in the so-called Indian-Saracen style in the XIX century. and are distinguished by massiveness, even heaviness.

Especially impressive is the Madras University complex, one of the largest in India. As you can see, according to tradition, it continues to be called Madras, and not Chennai. In general, the names of cities are not so simple. In 1996, Madras was renamed Chennai on the grounds that the first name comes from colonial times, and the second is originally Tamil. In fact, there have long been fishing villages with names such as Madraspatnam and Chennapatnam on the site of the present city. Of course, how

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The major port city of Madras was founded under the British rule. What's true is true. The beginning of this process was the founding of Fort St. George by the East India Company in 1639. It now houses the Government of Tamilnadu and a museum.

I was particularly impressed by the huge portrait of Queen Victoria, the mistress of the seas, under a crimson canopy on a lion throne. He simply exudes an awe-inspiring grandeur. Probably, the artist thought that Great Britain came to India forever. But the colonizers had to leave. Like many others.

Who just did not bring on the waves of the Indian Ocean to the Tamil coast. Portuguese, Dutch, French, Danes, Armenians, and Jews were also noted here. They were all walking around the Marina. But the footprints in the sand quickly disappear. There are traces in history, influence in culture.

St. Mary's Church, built in Chennai in 1680, is preserved on the territory of the fort. It is now owned by the Ecumenical Church of South India. But the granite font is still the same. It baptizes Christians for almost three and a half centuries. A huge church book has also been preserved, which records baptisms, weddings and funerals. Everything in the fort breathes history and adventure.

In general, I am opposed to renaming. But I must admit that the name Chennai sounds softer, more melodic than the hard and rough Madras. Now the city authorities are once again launching a campaign for renaming. It is proposed to remove the names of the colonial period from the city map, and instead give them Tamil ones, assigning the names of local cultural figures to streets and avenues. I hope that this will not affect the Marina, despite the fact that the embankment was so named in 1884 by the then British governor of Madras.

Opposite the historic fort is the modern Chennai Port, the third largest cargo port in India. In terms of container transportation, it generally ranks second. It's a whole city within a city with long docks and warehouses.

Chennai is woven not only into world trade, but also into world history with all its upheavals. During the First World War, the city was shelled by a German warship, and during the Second World War, it was bombed by Japanese aircraft. As a reminder of the wars, there is a war memorial dedicated to the Indians who fell on the battlefields.

Be sure to visit another memorial located in the suburbs of Chennai. It is built on the site of the death of former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in a terrible terrorist attack in May 1991. The extremist organization Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, now defeated by the Sri Lankan army, sent a "live bomb". It happened in Madras. Let's hope that such a tragedy will never happen again in Chennai.

Modern Chennai is rapidly developing. Its population exceeded 5 million people. As the city grows, so do its problems. The streets are packed with cars, motorcycles, and auto rickshaws. Sometimes there are also carts drawn by oxen. Especially colorful are the carts that transport fruits and vegetables. On the cart - mountains of grapes, papayas, mangoes, pumpkins. There are giant fruits of the breadfruit tree - jackfruits. A slow-moving bull is walking along the sidewalk, not paying any attention to the passing cars. The driver, seeing a potential buyer, slows down the cart. I liked to buy fruit from such a cart counter, and not in the supermarket.

I've heard that Chennai is a faceless city with no dominants. This is partly true. The Tamil capital is spread out over the coastal plain and does not differ in beautiful silhouettes. But we can safely say that Marina has become the face of Chennai, its business card. Marina is a metaphor for life itself, a metaphor for time. The sea waves wash away all traces on the shifting sand. On the other hand, the ocean energizes the living. The fearsome god Shiva-Murugan is also listed as a destroyer. But it destroys in order to clear the place for new construction.

Life on the Marina's sand continues.

Опубликовано на Порталусе 04 августа 2023 года

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