Painting is his passion; architecture is his admiration; literature is his childhood love and history gives him happiness. Meet 33-year-old Madhusudhanan Kalaichelvan—primarily an architect—who is always in demand for weekend tours, lectures and demonstrations on Indian culture and temples.
In September, he presented a talk, ‘Sacred Landscapes of Madras’ for Spirit of the Earth—an initiative of AIM for Seva in Chennai to enlighten the audience about rare and lesser-known facts about Thiruvorriyur, Thiruvallikeni, Thirumylai and Thiruvanmiyur, at Mylapore in Chennai.
“Saiva poet Sambandar has sung about women of Mylapore using a traditional rice called Otrai Puzhangal. There is a growing demand for such unknown facts on historic places. I enjoy sharing my knowledge on these,” says Kalaichelvan, who is an associate professor of architecture in MSAJ Academy of Architecture, Tamil Nadu. Interspersing his lecture with songs of poets of 6-7 CE, the talk reflected his dedication towards a life of literary excitement, historic elation and artistic wilderness.
A student of PSBB School in Chennai, a class of analytical Mathematics that described zero as any point in the universe with coordinates cutting across distracted him so much that he went searching for his own origin and roots. “What better way to study history in India if not through temples and architecture?” he says. From there began his quest for architecture. “The rich heritage of Madras, my childhood memories of temple visits, the practice of rituals and meal time conversations at home on Indian culture were convincing enough to take up architecture as a career when I was 17.”
In 2008, he left for the US to do Masters in Architecture from Ohio State University, but a visit to Lord Ranganatha in New York made him realise that his true calling was in his home land. “I packed my bags and came back to Chennai the following year and joined a private academy of architecture to continue my studies,” says Kalaichelvan.
He volunteered for various organisations for restoration of temples. The conservationist says, “Temples have also developed contemporary attire. Somewhat parallel to yesteryear community space, today temple complexes include auditorium venues.”
Amidst all this he culls out time to create terracotta artefacts of the Harappan Civilisation. “I enjoy capturing timeless time and putting together all the different perceptions that lie in my mind,” he says.
What gives his utmost satisfaction? “Learning. There’s nothing more satisfying than knowledge,” he smiles.