Tuesday, December 22, 2009

WHITHER STATUES - THE NEED AND THE REVERENCE THEY GET IN TAMILNADU AND ELSEWHERE


Dear (s)

Well sometime back the unveiling of statues took centre page at far off places – the one at Bangalore attracted more space in Chennai space and the one at Chennai was widely reported in Kannadiga newspapers – those were the statues of Thiruvalluvar at Bangalore and Sarvagnar at Chennai in Aug 2009 (Read my previous posting in the blog)

The culture of statues has a long history and is not new to Tamilnade alone though there have been many clashes arising out of issues involving statues. Originally, statues were installed to propagate the memory of great leaders, poets and visionaries of the Society and even in a place where rationalists question religion, there arose very many statues to leaders of importance. It was to instill in upcoming generations some knowledge and recalling of the glorious acts of the erstwhile leaders. It is unfortunate that instead of learning, sometimes they become the reason for public disturbance.


Yes Not all of them. The Thiruvalluvar status standing 133 ft tall (40.5m) at Kanyakumari is a magnificent edifice – situate at a place where two seas and an Ocean meet.

The statue has a height of 95 ft and stands upon 38 ft pedestal representing the 38 chapters of virtue in Thirukural. The combined height of the statue and pedestal is 133 ft denoting 133 chapters in the Thirukural. Thirukural is a classic of couplets containing 1330 verses widely translated in to many languages – the Latin translation being made by Constanzo Beschi way back in 1730 making it known to European intellectuals, the richness and beauty of this oriental literature. I have been a great fan of Thiruvalluvar and here is one which asserts the strength of virtue.




Internationally, the statue of liberty is a great edifice. This officially titled Liberty Enlightening the World dedicated on October 28, 1886, is a monument commemorating the centennial of the signing of the United States Declaration of Independence, given to the United States by the people of France to represent the friendship between the two countries established during the American Revolution. Standing on Liberty Island in New York Harbor, it welcomes visitors, immigrants, and returning Americans traveling by ship.

If you are a Chennaite, you are accustomed to statues of political leaders and other noblemen dotting the beaches of Marina.  


The great poetess Avvaiyar


Mahakavi Barathiyar

the triumph of labour

the monroe statue near island grounds
the one celebrating the stoppage of horse race !
What pristine beauty or prestige, a statue would add is better seen on Marina beach where apart from Triumph of Labour and Mahatma Gandhi, there are various other statues including the ones of Swami Vivekanand, Kannagi, Kambar, Ilango, Bharathiyar, Avvaiyar, Robert Caldwell, Constanzo Beschi, Anni Besant to the cine Sivaji. Whether they add lusture and sense of pride is a moot point.

Now comes the news of removal of two statues which existence itself perhaps went unnoticed thus far. They were stark reminders of colonial era – those of King Edward VII and King George V – on either side of the upcoming Assembly complex in the Govt. Estate. They stand removed by the Highways Department for widening Annasalai and Kamaraj Salai (Mount Road and Beach Road !) these purportedly would be shifted to Govt. museum at Egmore where one can have glimpse.

Curiously, these two statues were gifts to the Province by wealthy business prior to independence. Edward VII was the eldest son of Queen Victoria lived between 1841 and 1910 and was King of UK from Jan 1901 till death. It is reported that he usually smoked 20 cigarettes and 12 cigars a day. His statue was reportedly unveiled by Governor of Madras in 1903 commemorating his coronation. This stood in front of the northern gate of Govt Estate. George V ascended the throne in 1910 and was the Emperor of India through WW 1, died in 1936. He attended Delhi Durbar appearing before the subjects crowned with the Imperial crown of India. There is another statue of his lying beside the Flower Bazaar Police station.

Sometime back when the Govt. decided to install a statue to cine actor Sivaji Ganesan and when there were some court cases, heavy armed police security was posted guarding the statue. These removals most surely would not even attract public attention, leave alone any body thinking of whining.

Though not welcome, most of the statues get glory only on their days of birth / death and generally get bathed in smoke polluted by vehicles and remaining ugly with bird droppings.


With regards – S Sampathkumar

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