Travel Shot: MS Subbulakshmi’s house in Madurai

About a year back, I visited Madurai with Chennai Pastforward. Led by V. Sriram, the 3-day was filled with temples, music, culture, rock-cut caves, heritage, history and was fantastic (watch out for posts on Madurai coming up next week!).

On one of the evenings in Madurai, our group was walking back towards the bus when Sriram, who was leading, suddenly ducked into a narrow street. Actually, alley would be a better word for the street which had a sign that read Mela Anumantharayan Kovil Street.

We obediently followed him, walking in a single file as the alley wouldn’t allow for anything more. Lined with shops on both sides and double storeyed structures above them, the sky was visible as a dark blue ribbon floating above us. I don’t suffer from claustrophobia, but I had the feeling of being hemmed in.

Just when I was wondering Sriram was leading us to, he stopped and pointed at an open window, through which light was streaming out, and said: “This is it. This is the house of MS Subbulakshmi.

Madurai, Heritage, Music, Hanumantharayar Street, Anumathnarayan Kovil Street, MS Subbulakshmi

I stared at the plain façade, plain except for a relief of a veena just below the window. If Sriram had not pointed it out, I would not have seen it — that is assuming I had entered the alley in the first place ! And even if I had looked up, I would have seen the veena relief and moved on since there is nothing to indicate the importance of the site and its connection to Madurai Shanmukhavadivu Subbulakshmi.

“This is where MS grew up, this is the house she left one evening for Madras (now Chennai) never to return again,” said Sriram. Everyone in the group was thoughtful as we looked up at the window, and the house where MS lived. Her story was familiar to all of us; her music even more so as most of us had grown up with it. It was a rather silent group that filed out of the Mela Anumantharayan Kovil Street that evening, each one lost in his/her own thoughts, including me.

In a country where memorials are built, statues erected and roads and chowks named after the most dubious of personalities, it is incomprehensible that there is not even a sign/plaque to indicate the house of a Bharat Ratna. The city administration, state government and the central government are all equally to blame for this apathy.

I find it ironic that a country that claims cultural and moral superiority over the rest of the word cannot even do this for one of the greatest musicians ever to be born here. And, in my opinion, a country that does not respect, recognise or nurture its creative people can never progress.

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34 thoughts on “Travel Shot: MS Subbulakshmi’s house in Madurai

  1. Yesterday I had a similar experience!

    In the temple town of Srirangam, I visited the final resting place of a progenitor of Vaishnavism – Aalavandar.Stories about his life are abs fabulous. It was an abs nondescript structure that could be mistaken for an abandoned tulasi maadam. Shocking to say the laest. Came away with a heavy heart. Flowers at the shrinemust be at least a month old.I gave Rs 300 to a man who claimed he is the caretaker. The gentleman who took me to the shrine demurred tosay someliquor shop is going to be richer by the amount this evening:-( Shame on everyone associated with the upkeep and all those learned and holy men who look on.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is the same story everywhere, TSK. I wonder what it is that will make us as a society be proud of, acknowledge and take care of our heritage. And we are also the same society that builds new temples and neglects the old ones !

      I have lost count of the number of times I have visited places with significant historical and cultural value and they lie abandoned, neglected or ina state of advanced ruin. These things used to make me angry, but cynicism is well entrenched now and I just feel sad.

      Thank you for telling me about Aalavandar, I didn’t know anything about him

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Some schools and colleges are already doing this, but it is still too few, too little. On the days, I’m feeling optimistic, I say that it is drops that make an ocean. One day, I hope the change happens as a mass movement.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. It’s not diff to make it a national movement like Swatcha Bharat.with a little imagination. Like NCC before these kind of services could even be made mandatory for finishing education.

            You often hear how some celebrity in US distributed news-papers or whatever when he was young. Apart from the genuine reasons that may be for doing so, I’m told such experiences are highly valued in the employment market besides the good it does to ones personality development.

            I think we here are grossly missing the opportunity for tapping into a young, energetic, ideals-driven, large cadre of people who could actively participate for national/societal good. With given numbers can u imagine what could be done?


    2. Sudhagee, would you happen to know the address location for this place? It would be great to have this located on your blog. Tell people how to get there. Drop a google map pin and share it. The more people do, the more the local people will connect.


  2. Frankly, I am also shocked. I never expected MS to be living in a simple house. As a country, we are failing if we do not promote our culture or rather the specific culture promotions which is happening today.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. MS had very humble beginnings and one rich with music. As a Bharat Ratna for her contribution, this is the least that I would expect any government to do — State or Central or even one of the many music Sabhas. But apparently, this is not important enough.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. No MS road in Chennai. This belies belief. What greater name is there in contemporary Karnatak classical music than MS. Even gnyanashoonyams like me adore her and her voice evokes the divine. This is truly sad.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t think there is any MS Road anywhere — Chennai or Madurai or elsewhere. I’m okay with that knowing how roads and chowks and buildings are named and renamed and changed. For me bestowing MS with a Bharat Ratna and then ignoring the heritage she leaves behind is unpardonable. A socirty like this can never progress.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Article illustrates how we all are ‘running after shadows and leaving the substance behind’.
    Once upon a time ideal people mattered and even the mention of their names ecoked awe and reverence.
    The Wheel Of Time has taken an ugly turn and this is what we see………
    Great souls and great lives that have lived in our land need to be highlighted for younger generations and postetity to comprehend ‘what really matters’.
    A few years ago when visiting the home of SRI THYAGAYYAR SVAMI in THIRUVAIYYARU both of us (my husband and I )were shocked beyond belief.
    The house instead of bring renovated to the beauty of its bygone era has undergone complete kitschy reconstruction that has no connection to the great Saint-Vaggeyakara and his saintly life.
    This ‘great renovation effort’ was executed under the ‘able leadership’ of none other than erstwhile Congress leader Jairam Ramesh.
    These were the ‘creme de la creme’ members of the then ruling Congress party (of the ilk of the guttersnipe Mani Shankar Iyer(shame and ire to call him Iyer).
    Let us hope with a new government soon in place the old stinking order will change for the better!
    Vande Maataram!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Vijaya, a very warm welcome to “My Favourite Things”. Thank you so much for stopping by and commenting.

      At a philosophical level, the wheel of life is at Kalyog and that is the reason the world is the way it is.

      Regarding your comment on the government, previous and current, I will not agree with you that the current government is better than the previous. All governments come with an agenda and art or its conservation is not on it. For eg. facilitating and getting sculptures back from international museums has become a matter of national pride. Is there any plan as to where the sculptures will be placed and how they will be taken care of?

      I shudder to think of their fate in our poorly managed and administered museums.


  5. This is news to me. I had no idea that there is no memorial or road named after MS. Our politicians can spend lakhs and crores on additional memorials for politicians or yesteryear illustrious/eminent personalities to serve their vote banks, when they already have several memorials/hospitals/landmarks/stations and so on named after them.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This is just heartbreaking. A lady whose music graced all our early mornings and is played in most temples. She is a veritable goddess of music…really very sad. I wonder what excuse they have for this…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No excuse, really. Apart from the fact that it is a private house. Always was and still is. And since when have governments really done anything for the cause of the arts apart from tokenism?


  7. Thanks to you, the husband and I visited this place while we were recently holidaying in Madurai. Like you say, it is so very sad that nothing has been done to preserve the legacy of MS Subbulakshmi, one of the biggest names in Indian music.
    In fact, after reading the article that you have linked to, I have more questions than answers.
    My post about visiting MS’s house:

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I read the details about .M.S.’s house in Madurai. This unappreciable situation is almost to the great in India.I compare it because last year during our trip to Europe even every small portion of a significant personality is taken care well.
        But I keep visiting as a homage.Shortly we are visiting Madurai.When I was glancing to know about her house I got details.No matter.Its our duty.We will pay our homage to the great.Thanks for sharing the details.


        1. Welcome to my blog, Suguna, and thank you so much for stopping by and commenting. I hope you had a good trip to Madurai and were able to see/visit her house there.


  8. I had a similar disappointing experience when I visited Varanasi. There was no sign or sound of Ustad Bismillah Khan or Pandit Ravi Shankar anywhere. The hotel we stayed at it played American pop music loudly, and not the best selection of it either. We located Ustad Bismillah Khan’s house with some difficulty, but it was lost in a lane amongst the markets, which too played Hindi film music very remote to the shahnai melodies of the Ustad. The only silver lining to this sad story is that the Ustad’s grand daughter invited us into the home, and shared some sweet memories of her grandfather with us.


    1. That is the tragedy of places which cater to the international tourist forgetting what the purpose of the place is. Why just international? Places that do not serve local food and cater to the parantha and paneer eating tourist are just as guilty.

      I’m glad that you were able to find Ustadji’s house and were able to meet his granddaughter. You’re blessed indeed.


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