Madras High Court Heritage Walk

On Sunday, I went to a heritage walk of the Madras High Court premises coordinated by INTACH & UDC (Jane Jacobs Walk). It was a photo walk and the people from INTACH explained the architecture, heritage and history of this landmark monument which was initially built during 1838 CE. Of course, we could only cover a small portion, but whatever I saw was simply dazzling. I have published some photos taken during that walk here.

Our walk started from the Old light house within the high court premises (shown above). It seems this is the second light house built in Chennai during 1834 AD and it predates even the high court premises! The first light house was functioning on the top of the Fort Museum (Secretariat) building and the third light house – guess what – was the main dome of the Madras High Court building itself, which was functioning until 1970s. They used to carry wood and burn it just below the dome, it seems. The old light house (shown above) has a unique Pin Code – 600104 which is not shared with any other area!

The High Court premises is an architectural marvel originally created by a contractor called Namberumal Chetty and designed by the British. This building is a fusion of Hindu, Muslim and Christian architectural styles and was the first court building to have all three. The British wanted to convey a message that they are not alien to Indian traditions and hence they blended all dominant architectural styles of their day, together. A closer look of the arch:

You thought court rooms were boring? Have a look at this one –

Another fancy courtroom –

A small bit of their archives/files 🙂

A photo of the main building from inside –

A photo of the main dome from the inside (so big!) –

The coloumns supporting the main dome –

A corridor –

A staircase –

And you thought high courts are boring places! They gave us lot of info about Judges,  politics (during British times), important events, architectural heritage, interesting historical tidbits, etc. They showed us the museum, library, bar association, conference hall, etc. Sorry, those photos are blurred! They even gave us one samosa and grape juice (which were excellent) before a presentation on the important judges of the Madras High Court and Supreme Court (during the British times) 🙂

The good news is, INTACH intends to conduct more heritage walks on the 2nd Sunday of every month. They are planning, hopefully it will materialize. So, all of you (in Chennai) can go and visit this architectural marvel on a guided tour by people who know the premises well. Don’t miss!

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18 thoughts on “Madras High Court Heritage Walk

  1. Good to see that you are back to traveling and blogging about it DI. 🙂 Very interesting post as I have never visited any high court. Did they take you inside the lighthouse? wow.. so many files! :O

    1. Some restoration is going on in the lighthouse – so we can’t go inside it now. I think in a few months we maybe able to go inside. I am yet to visit the marina beach lighthouse which is already open to public! Thanks for reminding 🙂

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    1. I think heritage walks are conducted in Mumbai and Kolkata high courts too. I remember one of the presenters telling us that. But, it has been outsourced to some agency and not conducted by the internal staff, it seems.

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  2. Indeed a marvelous perspective inside the court premises of madras high court, which I have seen only in news channels… and also first time seeing a court room. It’s a heritage in itself… I liked the elegant black furniture’s. Yes, there’s a lot of observe and learn out of just being perceived as heritage monument… wish I had the chance of visiting the court, but not as an accused! Lol

    1. That’s what they also told us – they were glad to receive guests for a change instead of the the regular clients/accused!

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  3. DI…I’ve never seen it like this! It looks absolutely gorgeous with bright red painting! The arches, domb, ceilings, stained windows – everything looks beautiful too. What took away my attention was that room full of paperwork – oh god! Never knew there’s a tour for this. Thanks for sharing DI! Chennai rocks!!

    1. The campus, for a Govt. building, is surprisingly well maintained too! That paperwork/archives room seems to have impressed many ppl here 🙂

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