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Wednesday, July 2, 2014

prominent places of Triplicane - 'Mahatmaji Seva Sangham'

Thiruvallikkeni aka Triplicane is a famed land… a place where religion, nationalistic fervour, patriotism, sports, education and the individual dignity have interspersed for the benefit of the State and the larger interests of the Nation. That the place acquired its name from the famed temple pond ‘Kairavini’ – the pond of lilies – thus becoming ‘Thiru Allik Keni’ – the pond consisting of lily flowers;   Our lives dwell around the Great Sri Parthasarathi Swami  and that  Triplicane houses some best historic educational institutions driving home the point of scholastic excellence for decades – have all been detailed in my various posts.  Triplicane was the seat of freedom struggle – Balagandhara Thilakar and very many patriotic leaders had delivered powerful lectures in Triplicane (Thilakar thidal at Marina beach)  and inspired people in the freedom struggle. Mahakavi Subrahmanya Bharathi lived in Triplicane and from this place freedom struggle germinated.

There are many houses which have a rich history behind them – in the intersection of Car Street [Theradi Theru] and Singarachariar Street is this building which in my school days had ‘Mysore lamps’ advertisement …… which in fact was hiding most of the name ‘Jaganmohini’ … the house of ‘Vai Mu Kothaiyaki Ammal’ the first women writer of novels who also ran a magazine featured in one of my earlier posts.  Vaithamanithi Mudumbai Kothainayaki Ammal (1901 – 1960) – popularly known as ‘Vai Mu Ko’ was a Tamil writer, novelist and journalist who is remembered as the first woman to occupy the editorial board of a Tamil magazine. She wrote 115 books and she published monthly Tamil magazine.  Besides her writing skills, she  participated in the satyagraha agitation against Toddy and Liquor shops and was arrested by the Police and received a prison sentence  and participated  in the agitation against Lodhi Commission and the stir for the boycott of foreign clothes. To add to these traits, she was good in mid-wifery too.

There are some old buildings which are yet to turn into multi-storeyed apartments….. at North Tank Square Street is this building bearing No. 26 …. (Rex School is housed in the next building now!) – now in a forlorn state, not many would care to look at it, nor know of its great association … a cursory glance would reveal – Gandhi (dandi march) and the building named as ‘Mahatmaji Seva Sangam’ – the plaque describing founded in – 11.2.1948 … it is forlorn and unoccupied. 

Mahatmaji Seva Sangam was started with the aim of emancipating women. The driving force behind the endeavour was Vai Mu Kothainayaki ammal and hence has a glorious past.  In the conservative  yet the house of revolutionary freedom fighters, a group of women led the way in spreading the ideals of Mahatma Gandhi even after his death.  It was a welfare organization in the memory of the great National leader, with a difference – for it was an organisation `by women, of women and for women.'  One can well imagine the plight of poor and destitute women decades ago and through this Organisation, the founding members persevered to provide opportunities to women teaching them music (vocal and instruments like veena, violin), religious ones (slokas, Bhagavad Gita); vocational skills like shorthand, weaving using chakra and more. 

The women raised funds by organizing exhibitions and sales of handicrafts (made by the members) – have heard from elders that Rajaji, Kalki Krishnamurthi and many others have frequented this place – so did renowned musicians including DK Pattammal.  There had been religious discourses by renowned people including Sri Prathivadi Bayankaram Annangarachariyar Swami.   

Vaithamanithi Mudumbai Kothainayaki was a writer far ahead of her time – coming from a small village with no education, she achieved so much and this Sangham was indeed a great contribution towards the emancipation of women. She was the founding member of Mahatmaji Seva Sangh – the first President was another woman of fame.  She was the first (lady) Harikatha exponent who was on the rolls of honour of Music Academy (for the first time) in 1950 – it was C Saraswathi Bai.  Hailed as the first `Lady Bhagavatar,' Saraswathi Bai, born into an orthodox Madhva Brahmin family  rose to become a  great musician and dominated a field which hitherto was entirely men’s domain.  She actively participated in the freedom struggle too. 

Have only read about Vai Mu Ko and Saraswathi Bai – but have seen and know another great women, who for many decades ran the activities of Mahatmaji Seva Sangh and lived in that building too.. – that is another singer – Mrs GP Kamala, who rose to prominence in her young years –started singing accompaniment to famed exponents of  Baratha Natyam - Tmt Kamala Lakshmanan, KR Geetha and more.  In 1989 she was conferred the title ‘Sangeetha Agnya’ by Bharathanatyam exponent Sri Dhananjayan.  Years later, in 2004 she was the proud recipient of ‘Kalaimamani’ and received the award from the Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa.  Recently, she was honoured in another forum by Smt. Alarmelvalli conferring title “Gana Vidyadhari”.. Valli stated that Mrs Kamala had sung for her arangetram too.

Had made a post on Mrs GP Kamala  earlier …...

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

19th June 2014.

PS :  I have a personal connection … there were 4 tenants in this famed house… my father’s family were the third.  In 1970s and later, I have been there almost daily, grew up there, playing in the backyards ….. and cherish great memories of this place – though was not aware of its historic importance those days. 

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