The “French Bungalow” in Arni

11 Mar

Shortly before I left on my first trip to Vellore this year (on 17 February 2017), my neighbour and friend Dr. Chakko Jacob told me that one of the sites I should definitely visit was “The French Bungalow”.

I did some internet research and one of the sites I found was:

The content here said:

“The French Bungalow, also referred to as the French Castle, is a renowned tourist attraction. There is a romantic side to this construction of the building. It was made by a prince of Mysore, Srinivasa Iyer, and is still owned by the Mysore Royal Family. The French Bungalow was built by him for residential purpose after he married a French woman, whom he met and fell in love with while he was abroad for studies. The bungalow was constructed with imported material, mostly from Glasgow.

“The walls of the French Bungalow are made of limestone blocks and stones which hold the main framework. The building has one tower at each corner of the four walls. The bungalow also has a dry well which served as a Roman Bath. The house had servants’ quarters and kitchens and there is also a repository for grains on the premises of the French Bungalow. However, due to low maintenance, the bungalow is now in ruins.”

There were some serious problems with this information. The royal family of Mysore are the Wodeyars, and they are definiely not Brahmins. “A Prince of Mysore” could not have had the name “Srinivasa Iyer”.

The credible reports are that the ruined stately home in Poosimalaikuppam, about 16 kms from Arni once belonged to the Jagirdars of Arni and might have been built by Thirumalai I Rao Sahib:

“There were two palaces situated 3 miles from Arni . There were also Palatial residences for the Jagirdar of Arni in Poosimalaikuppam (a forest resort very close to Arni town), in Chennai (Arnee House) and in Bangalore (formerly Jai Mahal Palace).”

Thirumalai I Rao Sahib, the fifth Jagirdar was the jagir holder at the time of the Battle of Arni 1751. He died in 1765 and was probably the builder of the Poosimalaikuppam Bungalow. His successor was Sreenivasa I Rao Sahib and this name could have inspired the name, “Sreenivasa Iyer”.

One clue I found was that, “The famous Mysore Maharaja Maligai (Jagiri Maligai) at S.V. Nagaram is located 5 km from the Arani Town. “S.V.Nagaram expands as Sathyavijayanagaram, which was the former capital of the jagir of Arni. Visiting this settlement is on my Todo list for my next visit to Arni.

At any rate, the so-called French bungalow stands forlorn in the jungle in Poosimalaikuppam, which is marked as a Reserve Forest (RF) in Google Maps.

I haven’t been able to get a professional opinion if the architecture is French, although it may well have several French architectural features, especially since Arni is only 118 kms North West of Puducherry (Pondicherry, the erstwhile French colony.)

This might also explain the romantic story about the “French Woman” of Poosimalaikuppam.

The clinching evidence that the so-called “French Bungalow” was one of the palaces of the Arni Jagirdar is the Latin family motto at the entrance of the building:

Per Deum et Ferrum Obtinui

“I have obtained it by God and by my steel [sword]”

It appears that this is the motto of the Hill family in Worcestershire. The Hill family traces their ancestral roots back to Norman origin before the year 1100.

The son of Thirumala I Rao Sahib was named SRINIVASA RAO SAHIB, which gives us some idea why the name of the “Prince of Mysore” turned out to be “Srinivasa Iyer”.

The Jagirdars of Arni were descended from to Vedaji Bhaskar Rao Pant. Those who know Tamilnadu history will remember that Tanjore District was a Maratha kingdom till it was absorbed into independent India. These Marathas, like the Arni Jagirdars speak “an archaic Marathi” which was no doubt well integrated with Tamil.

The “serendipity” of my interest in Arni is that earlier this week, on 8 Mar 2017, I traced and was almost miraculously introduced to a representative of the present descendants of the Jagirdar of Arni, who lives in Bangalore.


12 Responses to “The “French Bungalow” in Arni”

  1. Hema Malini Rajendra March 13, 2017 at 11:08 am #

    it is fascinating to see a French connection in Arni….how the jagirdars of Arni were descendants of TheMaratha rulers …makes interesting reading. the palace is a beautiful structure.wonder why it was left to go to ruins like this, People interested in architecture and in restoring ancient structures should restore it and make it a heritage building which people will be interested in visiting

    • Ajit Mani March 15, 2017 at 4:34 am #

      Hi Hema Malini, I am not an architect but I think the building is beyond easy redemption as its beams and load bearing structures have been destroyed by exposure to the elements.

    • Senthil Nathan M April 10, 2018 at 6:41 am #

      It is (Arani french castle) in remote place. So without any doubt our government won’t show any interest in its restoration.

      “Ezhilagam” former Arcot Nawab’s palace at chepauk is the concrete evidence for the negligence of History – our roots – thats why we Indians become slave of whites and other invaders. Learning history in proper way leads to better tomorrow for our children…..

      We lost many many things in the past….. still loosing many many things in the present….. If not awakened we will loose everything in the future…..

  2. Aditya June 12, 2017 at 4:38 pm #

    You may find this site interesting.It contains an architectural sketch made by an English architect William Hogson who designed the old Spencer’s department store in Chennai. It was built as a forest residence of the Jagirdar of Arni.

    • Ajit Mani June 15, 2017 at 5:24 am #

      Thank you, Aditya, that was definitely helpful. I will look up William Hogson…


  3. Shyam October 7, 2018 at 11:21 am #

    So who owns it currently? By the family descendents or ASI or state government? Any idea how to find the ownership?

    • Ajit Mani July 8, 2019 at 1:39 am #

      I really dont know who owns it… there is a caretaker there but there is little he can do!

    • Ajit Mani October 26, 2019 at 11:28 pm #

      Thank you. Very interesting. The “castle” is called a shooting box. The area is called a Reserved Forest now.

  4. P.sukumar January 28, 2020 at 2:26 pm #

    Dear Ajit
    Great work done . Some people near by that area are not know this things you identified and published, but clarity is missing .

    • Ajit Mani July 27, 2020 at 6:01 am #

      Thank you and sorry about clarity! Let me know if there is something that you want clarified!

  5. Yogi September 10, 2022 at 3:29 am #

    Amazing ♥️ was here just half an hour prior to typing this comment… beautiful place…worth the ride… It’s sad to see it crumble💔

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