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Friday, September 20, 2013

Madras HC rejects PIL challenging usage of Sri Villiputhur Rajagopuram as State Emblem

Be it our Ration card, or the Text book – we are proud of the symbol – the tall and brilliant structure of the Gopuram depicted. 

In Tamil Nadu, most Temples have beautiful and majestic Gopurams and at Sri Villiputhur in Virudhunagar district  is it a 11 tiered structure of about 192 feet high. The famous Gopuram by legend dates back to  Sri Periyazhwaar.  Srivilliputhur, with its twin temples, dedicated to the deities Vatabadrasayee and Andal-Rangamannar, is a place of high religious importance. The tall towers, massive car, huge tank, sculpted pillars, ancient Ramayana frescoes and modern wall paintings depicting the Lords of 108 Divyadesams, numerous inscriptions dating back to the rule of Pandya kings, fine rectangular hall with a wooden roof and above all its unique "Thiruppavai Vimanam" speak volumes of their rich architectural heritage.

Sri Andal and  Ranga Mannar

The majestic Gopuram of the West tower of the Sri Villiputhur divyadesam is the emblem of State of Tamil Nadu.  The Temple Gopyram is at the centre  in yellow colour. The base consists of the Indian emblem (Sarnath Lion Capital) at the center in red colour with the Indian flagon both sides. The emblem also has two inscriptions in Tamil script, one at the top தமிழ்நாடு அரசு ("Thamizh Naadu Arasu" -  "Government of Tamil Nadu") and other at the bottom வாய்மையே வெல்லும் ("Vaaymayae Vellum" which translates to "Truth Alone Triumphs" ~ commonly "Satyameva Jayate" in Sanskrit).

This Gopuram is in news because of a PIL filed on the State emblem on the grounds that it tantamounts to disrespect of National flag. 

TOI reports that the Madras High Court has ruled that the usage of the emblem was not violative of secular values nor showing any disrespect to the National flag. Rejecting a public interest petition which said that by having a temple tower in its emblem the State government was violating the  secular values enshrined in the Constitution,the first bench said: “It cannot be said that since the emblem of the government of TN is having a temple tower,itis giving preference or encouraging a particular religion.”

The bench comprising acting Chief Justice R K Agrawal and Justice M Sathyanarayanan was passing orders on a PILfiledby ex-serviceman R Kannan Govindarajulu of Kancheepuram. Kannan cited two ‘flaws’ in the state emblem. One, it had a religious symbol – a temple tower. Two, the national flag image in the emblem was not in accordance with the proportion laid down in the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act,1971.

The bench rejected both the arguments saying there was neither disrespect to the tricolour nor anything favouring any religious group. So far no accusing finger had been pointed towards the TN government with regard to preference for a particular religion, it said. As for the national flag, the judges said the provisions of the Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use),Act,1950 and the Flag Code of India,2002were regulatory in nature and impose only reasonable restrictions. Agreeing that the Flag Code should be followed, the judges said: “In the state emblem, the national flag finds a prominent place. This court is of the view that the length –to breadth ratio is applicable only if the flag is displayed. This court is also of the view that respect and dignity of the flag has been preserved in the emblem and therefore it cannot be said that the said display is against the provisions of the Act and the Flag Code.”

R. Krishna Rao born in 1915, a distinguished artist is credited with the design of the monogram for Tamil Nadu state in the year 1949. This symbol replaced the colonial symbol that was used even after India’s Independence. Sri Villiputhur gopuram is no the tallest though !  The artist retired as the Principal of College of Arts and Crafts and a few years later  became the Director of the Art Department at Kalakshetra, founded by Padma Bhushan Rukmini Devi Arundale.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

20th Sept. 2013.

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