THE CROWDED SUBURB of Triplicane was among the first villages to be acquired by the East India Company in the 1670s. It derives its name from the sacred lily tank (tiru-alli-keni) that once stood here. One of the oldest temples in the city, the historic Parthasarathi Temple, is situated in Triplicane. Built in the 9th century, the temple is dedicated to Krishna (or Partha) in his role as Arjuna’s divine charioteer (saratbi) in the epic, the Mahabbarata. The temple festival, in December, attracts thousands of devotees. At one time, the residences of the priestly Brahmin caste were clustered in the narrow lanes around the temple. Among them were the homes of the mathematical genius, Srinivasa Ramanujan (1887-1920), and the early 20th-century nationalist poet, Subramania Bharati. Triplicane was once part of the kingdom of Golconda and as a result this quarter has the largest concentration of Muslims in the city.
The Nawab of Arcot, Muhammad Ali Wallajah (1749-95), an ally of the British in their struggle for power against the French, contributed generously to the construction of a large mosque here in 1795. Known as the Wallajah (Big) Mosque, this beautiful grey granite structure with slender minarets is situated on Triplicane High Road. The adjoining graveyard contains the tombs of various Muslim saints. The nawab’s descendants still live in Triplicane, in a stately mansion known as Amir Mahal. Constructed in 1798, it became their residence after the Chepauk Palace was taken over by the British.