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Virudhu (Banner)

A warrior who had won a number of banners in battle came to a small town and challenged the residents of a town. He was defeated and killed by a resident who then seized all his banners. This town of banners was called Virudhukkalvetti.

Virudhukkalvetti, later renamed Virudhunagar is a small town in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu. It has come to dominate other small towns in a small radius around it. It became a marketing and service hub and an administration centre.

Most things here reel under the weight of time. The town of banners, remains in small pockets, nestled in another era. A sort of time machine in parts, where the immersion is interrupted only by electricity cables

A google image search for Edvard Munch’s Self Portrait with Skeleton Arm Munch was one the first few artists to use lithography as an artistic medium. A more lucrative use of the medium was found elsewhere.

Labels were introduced to America under the art of Lithography. The earliest adopters were orchard owners.

Lost but not forgotten While Manohar Bhatia is no more, my efforts to trace his son Shyam who probably still produces labels have been futile. I tried to reconfirm if Manohar Bhatia really was the first and got the reply from Badal Hasija, a screen printer with over 45 years of experience. “101 %, he was the first” says Badal and added “I even remember the first label he made was for Gabriel shock absorbers and it left me wondering for days, what Manohar Bhatia had produced” Harveer Sahni (

Johnson & Johnson brought the self adhesive labels to India. By 1959 Johnson & Johnson had setup a permacell division to make self adhesive tapes. By 1965 they were manufacturing self adhesive labels in India. However they sold only converted labels and did not offer any labelstock to others in the market. Around the same time, Manohar Das Bhatia, a screen printer, producing water transfers in his company, Sharat Industries, did pioneering work and produced what was the first self adhesive sticker in India. Using a PVC face stock with pressure sensitive adhesive supplied by Calico and a Polyethylene sheet as a release liner they manufactured their stickers.

Ganeshar Mark Cool Drink Shop A quaint soda shop in Virudhunagar bottles its own soda. The self adhesive label, of-course, is part of any bottling eort. One wonders if the town of banners now manufactures labels.

Artificial Flavours, entered the historical record at the great exhibition in London. More than 14,000 exhibitors from around the world gathered in the newly built Crystal Palace. By the end of the 19th century organic chemistry was providing tools to the inquisitive to more carefully control the process of creating artificial flavours.

The striking similarity of the smell of these ethers to that of fruit had not escaped the observation of chemistry August Hofmann Distinguished chemist at the Royal Society

The Crystal Palace, a cast-iron structure built in London to host the great exhibition of 1851

Harrison's flavoring extracts, Philadelphia, 1868

The repertoire of artificially flavoured soda at Ganeshar Mark Cool Drink Shop. Most popular beverages in Tamilnadu have their roots in Virudhunagar

Ganeshar Mark Cool Drink Shop was established somewhere around 1940. This was before the selfadhesive label was introduced to India.

In 1940 a local artist hand painted three posters for Ganeshar mark soda. Two of these posters depicted Ganesh and the third one was of a woman playing tennis but they never used it because it was considered inappropriate.

The town wide web

An Indian village has renamed itself after a popular web commerce website. It is estimated that the Information technology sector generates direct employment for 2.5 million people in India.

KPM Samy and his brother run the Ganeshar Mark Cool Drink Shop together with some help from their family. Both their kids are in college studying computer science eyeing a job in an IT company. They are not very keen to continue the family business.

For now, Ganeshar Mark Cool Drink Shop remains a popular joint among the locals for its special masala soda, rose milk, badam milk, and handmade ice creams.

Virudhunagar is about 50 Kilometres from Madurai. The Ganeshar Mark Soda Shop can be found close to the centre of the town facing the temple.

The End


A story lost in time but made of time. A history that constructs and devours at the same time. Everything that is new and exciting eventuall...

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