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Thampanoor tales

Thampanoor is full of landmarks, be it the railway station, bus station, cinema halls or tutorials.


WHEN THE monsoon lashes the city or even during the cool summer showers, the people of Thiruvananthapuram think twice before going to Thampanoor or Pazhavangadi. Although both these places are in the heart of the city, they are localities where even an unexpected downpour can create pools of waist-deep water in a matter of minutes.

Despite the efforts to clean up the drains and the sewerage system, and widen the thoroughfares to accommodate the ever-increasing traffic, the persistence of water logging and chaotic traffic conditions point to the fact that things are still beyond control of the authorities concerned.

The presence of the Trivandrum Central railway station, Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) bus terminus, Railway Mail Service (RMS), half-a-dozen movie theatres, several parallel colleges and countless hotels create a bedlam here at all hours. Thampanoor has also become notorious as a centre of all kinds of nefarious activities once the sun sets.

Old timers say the locality never used to be the haunt of anti-social elements until now. Thampanoor came into prominence when the railway line was extended till here from Chacka. For a long time, it remained the `land's end' of the Southern Railway, till the extension of the railway line, first to Nagercoil and subsequently to Kanyakumari, in the early Eighties.

Much of old Thampanoor comprised wetlands, so much so that it was always referred to as Thampanoor yela. The railway station and bus terminal stand on what were once lush paddy fields. There were also two large ponds here, the Vaniankulam and Manjalikulam, both of which were reclaimed a long time ago. Vaniankulam has been converted into a parking space for trucks and lorries as well as the godowns of the State Warehousing Corporation. Manjalikulam is today the playground of the SMV School for Boys.

The most impressive landmark in Thampanoor is the elegant, granite building of the railway station. It was opened in 1932 during the Regency of Maharani Sethu Lakshmi Bai. Masons who cut and chipped the rocks for the building used to camp at the site that is now the Ponnara Sreedhar Park. A narrow road running from Chenthitta in front of the New Theatre to Aristo Junction existed even then.

In 1929, the Power House was opened on land adjoining the Railway yard to provide electricity to the city.

Historian Kizhakkemadom Govindan Nair says that Thampanoor acquired its name from Kunjunni Thampan, Palliyara Vicharippukar or Chamberlain of Maharaja Uthram Tirunal. Maharaja Uthram Tirunal was the younger brother of Swati Tirunal. Much of Thampanoor belonged to Thampan, a native of Cherthala, who was also the son-in-law of Irayimman Thampi.

Numerous aristocratic Nair houses such as Arappura Veedu, Charuvila veedu, Kalluvila, Nanthiar veedu, Mannuvila, Mele Veedu, Maithanam Veedu, Thaivila and Thottathuvilakom were located in East Thampanoor. There are also a few places of worship here, the oldest of which are the shrines of Subramanya and Ayyappa. The small temple of Vighneswara in front of the railway station and the large mosque behind the KSRTC terminus are fairly recent.

Thampanoor also has a cluster of cinema theatres, of which the New Theatre and Sree Kumar are the oldest in the city. The New Theatre was rebuilt during the 1970s. Both these theatres were owned by Merryland P. Subramoniam, veteran director and filmmaker, who gave an impetus to Malayalam cinema by making mythological films such as `Sree Guruvayoorappan' and `Kumarasambhavam' and many popular commercial films too. Those were the days when posters and hoardings were not seen often. Cinema advertisements were placed atop bullock-carts and handcarts and taken around the main streets of the city. Drummers and men carrying gaslights or `petro-max' lights on their heads walked in front of the carts. It was also the custom in the theatres to play aloud popular film songs before a show started. And invariably, the first song to be played aloud would be Sundarambal's unique rendering of the song, Jnana Pazhathe Pirinje... , in praise of Lord Muruga.

Today, Thampanoor is the focal centre of the `tutorial' culture that thrives in the city. These parallel education institutions also woo regular college and school students. Prominent parallel colleges of yesteryear include SNT, DoWell, Victory, Shanker's and Our College.

Thampanoor is associated with two unforgettable names of 20th century Malayalam literature. The editor, critic and historian, Kesari A. Balakrishna Pillai, was born in the Pulickal Mele Veedu family of Thampanoor. Noted Malayalam poet P. Kunjiraman Nair breathed his last at the C. P. Sathram here. It is a traveller's bungalow built by the Corporation of Trivandrum and named after Sir C. P. Ramaswami Aiyer, the able but autocratic Dewan of Travancore, to commemorate his 60th birth anniversary. Novelist P. Kesava Dev wrote his masterpiece, `Odayilninnu', while he was lodging at Thampanoor near the present Athulya theatre complex.

M. G. SASIBHOOSHAN &
BINDU SASIBHOOSHAN
Photo: S. Gopakumar

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