Mylai – Some things dont change (thankfully)

This might not actually fit into a “travellogue” per se, but its worth a mention. The first time that I am actually writing about a specific area in chennai :-). Whats it all about?

City of Chennai, bustling with activities right from 4AM till about 12 midnight. The silence of the early morning broken by devotional songs and the clutters of the milk containers as they are carried by the Milkman doing rounds of the houses. Sounds pretty much like a village story , rite? Well..Thats one part of this landmark place in chennai called “Mylapore” aka “Mylai”.

Mylapore is one of the religous landmark in Chennai. If you happen to be here early morning during any of the festive season, you can see colorful “Kolams” (Similar to Rangoli), of varying sizes, in front of houses. During special days, the deity is taken in procession on the adjoining streets (commonly known as “agraharam”).

Mylai is known for the famous “Kapalishwara” (Lord Shiva) temple, which is one of the destinations if you were on a sight-seeing trip of chennai.

Also, a number of “sabhas” can be found in Mylapore. “Sabhas” are places which promote music and upcoming artists. Carnatic concerts are conducted regularly at these ‘Sabhas’ and these are THE place to be in the month of December and January, when it rains music in chennai and various distinguished/upcoming musicians from all ove rthe world come down to exhibit their talent.(More on this later)

One other famous place is “Mylai Karpagambal Mess”. This was started 40 yrs back and going strong till date.I got introduced to this place in 1996 and been a regular since then.


The place is not a fancy one, as in , does not have the looks of modern restaurants. It looks like a house-converted-to-an-hotel and the ambience is ‘homely’ and food is hygenic. The (south indian) dishes are served on a plantain leaf (cant use spoon for eating Dosa:-) ). My regular is “keera Vada”, “Kichadi” and ofcourse the ghee Dosa.. yummmm.. Sambhar and chutney are not served in ‘Kathoris’ as done in the normal restaurant. Instead, the helper comes around with a big bucket as and when required :-)

The famour Marina beach is 10 mins from Mylapore. One can catch the rising sun coming over the Bay of Bengal. Pretty wonderful sight early in the morning.

Next time you visit chennai, you know where to go , right???

So long then :-)

11 Comments

  • smitadhall says:

    Very neat, Karthik. Especially for us north-indians who actually come looking for such places and don’t know where to find them. While traveling, I always prefer visiting and experience places that the respective natives would. This sounds like an ideal such-itinerary.

  • Nandan Jha says:

    Well done Karthik.

    Back home, we eat on banana leaves and there are no ‘katoris’ :) I usually have hard time explaining delhi-ites that how do we manage to eat thing like ‘milk’ (dry fruit laden hot milk but not at all thick) on a banana leaf , its that art of using the full palm and the dexterity which you inherit to swipe the milk just in time so that it doesn’t go beyond the boundary of banana-leaves. I could almost eat the Sambhar in your post.

  • karthik says:

    Its truly an art to eat Sambhar and rasam out of banana leaf :-). It was really resisting writing this post. Good that I did it now. Smita, next time you are inchennai , watch out for Mylai (apart from TNagar :-) )

  • Smita says:

    yeah… T-Nagar… right!! Been to Chennai 4-5 times but have never been able to perform the T-Nagar ritual as one should…

  • Rajeev Tivari says:

    Chennai is one of my favourite place due to its food, ambience, simple people (discounting Burma Market Bhais), city buses and last but not the least, the Illiot’s Beach.

    Mylapore is the place which smells of the mystique of Chennai. It derives its name from the place of peacock, as Myla- denotes peacock, if I am correct. Maylpore, Adayar used to be on my route when we would traverse from north to south of chennai in the mid nineties. Though I could never visit then the Kapaliswara Temple during that stint of nine months in the city. These were the times when probally one of the first large format malls of India was opening in the form of the Spencer’s Plaza. I had my first escalator ride here. And yes, I also patronised the street book sellers at Anna Salai and purchased quite a few old editions of MAD. There was this great cloth shop by name of Cassidy’s which is no more now I think.

    I would visit Chennai frequently and about eleven years back I purcahsed my wedding gift to my wife from the famous Lalita Jewellery of T Nagar. Later, we took a trip of south after our first kid and then we could pay our due obeisance to lord Kapaliswara.

    People might find it stange, but I always felt at home in Chennai and my job keeps me taking to Chenai every now and then.

  • Sudhir says:

    I stayed in Chennai for a year and even now I go to Chennai from time to time. I can vouch for Mylai Karpagambal mess….awesome food, especially the khichdi…. and to top it all I stayed in T.Nagar…..though I always get poorer by a few thousand rupees when we visit Lalitha Jewellers and Kumaran and Pothys for sarees…..can’t resisit and the the material is top class. Elliots is a lovely beach…..and don’t miss the lime mint cooler drink in ‘ Fruit shop on Greames Road”. That happens to be the name of the cool drinks house which has branhes on Greams road and in Besant Nagar near the beach. Ok Ok am getting too nostalgic.

  • karthik says:

    @Sudhir

    Was wondering y u had not commented so far. I was damn sure that u wud mention ur “khichdi” story :-) . Thanks for mentioning the other places. One other place that u missed out was the “Old Adyar bridge” :-).. Good old times.

    @Rajeev,
    Thanks for the history of the name. forgot to mention it. kinda took that for granted :-)

  • manish khamesra says:

    Karthik its a short, crisp and beautifully written. It would surely be very helpful for us who keep on looking for eateries suggested by locals.

  • Sudha Narayanan says:

    Hi Karthik,
    Hope you remember your old colleague. Nice to see you here. Mylapore is the closest place to my heart as I have spent 21 years there having been born and brought up there! No other place can beat the old charms, culture and innocence of Mylapore. Not to miss the other famous Dabba Chetty shop(which stocks almost all the natural and herbal products you can think of in that small 200 sqft space!) The maada veedhis(four roads surrounding the temples) which has so many landmark places and provides a nice experience to walk around and feel your culture and roots, instead of malls. And many more…
    Nice writeup!

  • Aarti says:

    Know what.. i was in that area couple of weeks ago and the mess was missing… infact had gone part of a trail with uncle n aunt, and the lady who took us said it was broken down… none knew if it was being renovated or gone for goood… :(

    shall send the pic i took of the empty space on fb tomorrow!!

  • GAM says:

    Well said.

    I love Mylapore and we make it a point to stroll around in its old world by lanes on every visit to Chennai. I hope this place never changes. Must try Karpagambal Mess next time. I also noticed a brand new Saravana there on my last visit.

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