Sunday, July 25, 2010

Blavatsky Avenue

The Hindu, one of India’s largest circulation daily English-language newspapers, carries a notice of a prospective redesignation for streets in Chennai (Madras, for old timers) bearing the names of non-Indians. There seems to be a move to keep at least some of them. The reporter, under the headline, “Retain street names of foreign personalities who served our society,” writes:

The Salem Historical Society has urged the Chennai Corporation not to rename at least 20 important roads of the total 50 in its renaming list in Chennai city. These streets had been named after foreign personalities who, the Society points out, had rendered yeomen service to the development of the then ‘Madarasapattinam' and its society. The move, the Society, in its written requests sent to Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi and Deputy Chief Minister M.K. Stalin claims, will “erase the vital vestiges of history” from the face of the State and rob the younger generation of understanding a slice of the heritage too. “Hence they should be preserved,” it insists.

Though it has no reservation against the naming of streets and roads after Tamil intellectuals, the civic authority should at least retain some of the important names of foreigners who had “integrated themselves into the Indian society.”

Along with the many Besant Roads (“Annie Besant fought for the country's and women's liberation”) the government is urged to retain, one finds Blavatsky Avenue (“Madam Blavatsky was a president of Theosophical Society”) listed. While Mme. Blavatsky was not President of the Theosophical Society (no Olcott Roads ?), her presence as a resident of Madras certainly brought the town (as it was then) a global recognition as a spiritual metropolis with the publication of her magazine, The Theosophist (still published here).

The rest of the article from the July 25, 2010 Hindu can be read here.

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