In this third and final article of our Heritage Series, we present to you snippets of the Gajendra Circle as it evolved over the years. You can find the other articles in the series here.
Gajendra Circle is a landmark of IIT- M that has been held dear by every generation of students that has passed through insti’s gates. In fact, one can almost say it’s the very center of IIT – M’ s existence, both literally and figuratively. Most of us, especially the last 10 odd batches know of our beloved GC as an imposing structure of two elephants facing in opposite directions, and an upturned umbrella like structure perhaps providing shade to it. Let’s take a short trip down memory lane and see how the GC came to be.
The very first GC dates as far back to the year 1963. It was a solid lamp post at the round about with four lamps. Corresponding to each lamp, was the front portion of an elephant emerging from the lamp post. The elephants had their trunks raised so that the tips touched the lamp post above their heads.
However, by 1970’s, GC appears to have changed drastically with the four small elephants getting replaced by two bigger elephants and two human figures as illustrated in the figure below.
This version of GC seems to have inspired much amusement among the students, as is evident in the following piece and cartoon from Campastimes, the campus publication in those days.
What is it??
Rocket launching pad?
Cover for some underground operation?
Or is it a new party symbol?
God knows. And in addition to him, maybe the men who were responsible for its erection do know. Maybe they do, and maybe they don’t. I am not betting, when it comes to that thing at the Gajendra Circle.
If you are not the clod that my friend told me you were, you must have guessed by now that I am alluding to these two elephants and the two men posing at the Gajendra Circle.
Being a student of life, I have studied with growing concern, the reaction of my comrades to this macabre work of art. Before going into describing this master piece’s influence over the sanity of the residents, I must tell you how it looks.
The fact is that , it does not look like anything!
It consists of two elephants , which on finding each other so unbearably nauseating have decided to never see each other again, and by mutual agreement have decided to face opposite directions. The elephants have fortunately been painted black as against the pink that was expected of the men behind its construction. Leaning on these two elephants are two men, who like the elephants have taken a natural and inevitable dislike to each other, and are using an elephants head to hide from each other. The men are short, undersized and wear badly tailored pants. One of them carries a hammer , presumably with the aim of self destruction. The other man carries a scroll. Some say they are cog sheets, while others maintain that the scroll is his degree, in which he has agreed not to use his ignorance to subservient ends. I remain neutral. More over I dislike the idea of presuming that these two men represent the students.
Come to think of it, what do these statues actually represent? Opinions differ. Some say the men represent the student body as seen by the staff, while the elephants represent the staff as conceived by the students. Some connoisseurs say it’s the merger of the Zulu war symbol and the Neanderthal rain dance! Some neurotics maintain that its all a vision , and that it will all soon pass.
This model seems to have existed till 1972 – 1973, after which the human figures disappeared and gave way to the present day statue. For all the mocking that GC seems to have received in the above cited pieces of work, today it stands as one the most popular landmarks of IIT Madras and has inspired, among other things, even the logo for the 51st edition of Inter-IIT Sports Meet to be hosted by IIT Madras.
May be a few decades down the line, students of recent batches will come back to insti to find a GC 4.0. Until then, we can continue making bucket lists of climbing these elephants, taking that one cover picture with this iconic background or even finding the mysterious Third Elephant. (Do let us know if it exists!) .
Editor’s note :
We are grateful to Kumaran Sathasivam, IIT-M alumnus and author of Campaschimes, for allowing us to use excerpts and photographs from the book. Campaschimes is a comprehensive and richly illustrated book on IIT-M’s history and in the editor’s opinion, it is a must-read for anyone even remotely related to IIT-M.
We are also thankful to K Sundararaman, Mechanical Engineering alumnus from 1988, for letting T5E use his copy of Campaschimes.