Many a time, heritage stories, historical anecdotes, and cultural pasts go forgotten or undiscovered. But the efforts of the untiring souls never fail to spotlight these tales. One such gift to the City of Destiny is John Casteallas, a St Aloysius alumnus whose family belonged to the city. It was a delightful Saturday evening at The Park Hotel as the heritage-loving crowd of the city was taken on a tour of the history of Vizag. The event had John deliver the Lost Treasures of Vizag, an invite-only presentation on the city’s rich cultural past. The one-hour-long rendition threw light on some of the most fascinating facts, untold stories, lesser-known tales, and much more about the beach city’s heritage.
John caught the attention of the audience from the word go with the history of Ross Hill, a famed spot amongst the locals for the bright white-washed cathedral. He narrated how it was earlier known as Mosquito Hill, a name given by the British owing to the mosquitos that infested the area. It was appalling to know that a cyclone in the 1950s destroyed most of the city, especially the Vizag Fishing Harbour. The heritage aficionado also recalled the Hudhud cyclone in 2014, which inflicted severe damage to Vizag.
During his presentation, he exhibited pictures of the artefacts and furniture made by local carpenters in Vizag. The audience gasped in amazement when he revealed that those Vizag-made pieces are now present at Buckingham Palace, UK. John also highlighted the souvenirs of Visakhapatnam, such as brass toy soldiers made by the locals, which were gifted to British officials in the 18th century. It was also disheartening to know that much of Vizag’s marvellous architecture and buildings were demolished by the French Governor Buise.
This interactive event went on to uncover the contributions of Bobbili Raja in developing the city. Interestingly, most of the establishments, such as the Town Hall, were donated by the late Maharaja. In the heart of Vizag, a transformative chapter unfolded with the establishment of the Vizagapatam High School by the London Missionary in the 19th century. John highlighted that this set the stage for the city’s educational evolution.
Another interesting fact that awestruck the audience was that the Pope Bishop gifted the bell to St Aloysius school, established in 1847. The Kurupam Tower in East Point Colony has a fascinating story to it too. John narrated how the statue in the tomb went missing two years after its establishment. Though some locals were accused of stealing the three-ton statue, it was later identified that it was never inside the tomb. It is suspected to have got lost in the seas during transportation, while the inspirational model for the statue still resides at a museum in France.
Did you know that the Bible was first translated to Telugu in Vizag, in the year 1805? John Castellas explained how the Bible was first translated by a Vizag pundit and was later printed in 1812 with the first manuscripts preserved to date. The event concluded with the narrator explaining how many forgotten and lost treasures of Vizag are of great significance. It was an enriching experience for the audiences to know the history of the City of Destiny and its prominence.
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