As a part of the Smart city project, the Periyar bus stand will be replaced by a swanky terminus with a tourist plaza and other amenities.

Madurais iconic Periyar bus stand to be demolished residents express mixed reactionsM Sasidharan
news Heritage Sunday, January 20, 2019 - 18:50

Residents of Madurai bid farewell to their iconic ‘Periyar bus stand’ on Saturday as it is ready to make way for a swanky bus stand complex in its place. Tamil Nadu Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam laid the foundation stone for a combined bus stand and tourist plaza as a part of the Smart City projects in Madurai.

Reports say that Periyar bus stand, Shopping Complex bus stand (opposite Periyar bus stand) and the shops in both these places will be demolished and the new structures will be built there at an outlay of Rs 137 crore. Alternate arrangements have also been made to accommodate the buses around the old bus stand so that the regular commuters are not inconvenienced.

A landmark that defined Madurai

Periyar bus stand, named after Tamil Nadu’s revolutionary social reformer, is situated at a stone’s throw from Madurai Junction railway station. Walkable from Meenakshi Amman temple, this bus stand is almost 100 years old. It is considered the entry point into Madurai city, so much that the local residents call the area, starting from Periyar bus stand, ‘town’.

Arvind Kumar, the Convener of Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), Madurai Chapter, tells TNM that the bus stand is situated on the periphery of the old town of Madurai. Madurai was historically the Meenakshi Amman temple, and the streets around it, were named after Tamil months.

According to Arvind, Madhurai could have evolved into the place it is today because of TVS. “Madurai’s first public transport was introduced by TV Sundaram Iyengar back then. The area on Veli Street was extensively owned by TVS company and hence the bus stand could have evolved there over time,” he says.

The bus stand was named after the social revolutionary EV Periyar sometime in the 1970s and it was the only bus terminus in Madurai then.

However, when the World Classical Tamil Conference was held in Madurai in 1981, another bus stand came up near the district collectorate. It was called the Anna bus stand, named after CN Annadurai, the former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. Since then, some of the bus services were allocated to be operated from the Anna bus stand.

Over the years, the area around Periyar bus stand has undergone a battery of infrastructural changes.

The bridge connecting Mahaboopalayam (Maappalayam) with town was replaced by a wider bridge, but Periyar bus stand was relatively untouched during that phase of construction. Similarly, the space opposite the current bus stand was also converted into a small terminus and was colloquially known as the Shopping Complex bus stand.

Livelihood, landmark, food: What it meant to residents

The aroma of hot idlis on banana leaves and tea from the nearest tiffin shop waft through the air with voices shouting ‘Poo vaangittu pongamma’ (please buy flowers) adding flavour to it. Sights of women adorned with fresh jasmine flowers in their neatly oiled hair, numerous small shops selling fruits and other trinkets and lines of town buses are normal at Madurai’s Periyar bus stand.

Now, the news of Periyar bus stand being demolished has caused worry among the residents due to a range of reasons. Some like flower and fruit vendors, who were were dependent on the bus stand for their livelihood, express their anxiety over seeking a completeley different job.

Sudhir, an engineer who grew up in Madurai, says that it is exciting that something new is coming up. “But it will be great if the small shops and businesses are not affected by this move. There are a lot of small businesses like flower vendors who have been selling flowers in the bus stand for decades,” he adds.

A few others express their unhappiness over missing the good food that was available inside and around the bus stand, round the clock. A few others are genuinely sad that the town will lose its gigantic landmark.

A hope for change

Some like 27-year-old Adithya, a native of Madurai, Some people see the silver lining to the new project. “While I will definitely miss Periyar bus stand, if something better is going to come up in its place, I am all up for it,” he says.

The people of Madurai, in fact, see this as a chance to address the issues the terminus has had for decades. “For example, there have been problems with the entry and exit points to the bus stand. While the entry point is clearly defined, the exit points became complicated after the new flyover was inaugurated in 2007-2008. I hope the new bus stand solves this problem,” Adithya adds.

Arvind Kumar also fosters similar hope for the new terminus. “Any evolution or change is done keeping the future needs of the city in mind. Even the reconstruction of Periyar bus stand must be carried out so that the city will be able to handle more public transport in the future,” he explains.

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