vivekananda-illam

Originally called “Ice House”, this landmark was re-christened Vivekananda Illam in 1963. This was in remembrance of Swami Vivekananda’s brief sojourn here It is a sacred place for every student and devotee of Swami Vivekananda.

Vivekanandar Illam on the Marina Beach, Chennai, built 158 years back, has a long and interesting history. It was meant to store ice and hence it got its popular name, the Ice House. Eventually this house became a silent spectator of a series of diverse historical events, some of which have lifted this building to a status of an outstanding historical and cultural monument.Mr. Frederic Tudor, the ‘Ice King’, built three houses in Kolkata , Mumbai and Chennai to keep ice under proper insulation so that it could be stored for months together. Amongst the three buildings the one at Chennai alone stands today. It was built in the year 1842. Tudor maintained his business in Chennai from 1842 upto around 1880. After the invention of making ice by ‘steam process’ in India, his business collapsed.

Then the Ice House was sold to Mr.Biligiri Iyengar, a prosperous advocate of the Madras High Court. He remodeled the house adding circular verandahs and provided it with many windows to make it fit as residential quarters. Also he named the house ‘Castle Kernan,’ as a tribute to his friend, the famous Justice Kernan of the Madras High Court. Apart from being his residential quarters, this house served as a shelter for poor and educationally backward students. The structure failed as a residence, probably because of inadequate ventilation.

The Government took over the building in 1917 and it has been renovated recently, with a statue of Swami Vivekananda installed. Today, it houses a gallery of 150 rare photographs on the life of Swami Vivekananda. It also houses a section on India’s cultural heritage and on the history of the building itself. The Government of Tamil Nadu named the Ice House as “Vivekanandar Illam”, during 1963, the Centenary year of Swami Vivekananda.