The Chennai Photo Biennale is underway - a tremendous and wonderfully curated series of exhibitions and events. If you are anywhere near, don't miss it!
More than twenty venues across the city have been brought into service - from galleries to train stations to some of the city's most historic buildings, including the Madras Literary Society, and the building you can see above, the Senate House of the University of Madras.
And I owe the Biennale a huge debt - for the first time I have been able to enter the Senate House which is even more overwhelming and remarkable inside than from the outside.
The Senate House was built in the 1870s and completed exactly 140 years ago. It's an outstanding example of the Indo-Saracenic style which draws on Mughal design and is itself an expression of British Indian cultural confidence at the high watermark of Empire.
One of the earliest buildings in the Indo-Saracenic style was Chepauk Palace nearby, built in the mid-eighteenth century. And you could argue that the buildings at the heart of the Indian government, North Block and South Block in Delhi, which were built from 1912 when the capital was moved from Calcutta, are among the last examples of this trend in architecture.
But nothing quite prepares you for stepping inside Senate House.
The building was designed by Robert Chisholm - one of the key figures in Indo-Saracenic design, particularly in Madras/Chennai. The Times of India has recently published an article lamenting its poor upkeep and gross under utiliisation, and suggesting that the substantial amount of money allocated in recent years to restoration has not been well spent.
But as far as I could see, the building is in decent condition - and a glorious space for a photography festival. The stained glass and the many aspects of Mughal-influenced design - the arches, the shape of the windows, the jallis, much of the fine detail - along with the vast size of the interior make it among the most memorable buildings I have visited.
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