Statues of prominent personalities occupy pride of place in public spaces, a reminder of our collective past
Sculpted from history and finding pride of place in public spaces, they exist as silent witnesses to the numerous changes a city undergoes.
Though Kochi cannot boast of a large number of statues like the Capital city, there are a few of them in the city, recalling personalities from our collective past.
The statues of Mahatma Gandhi — the one between Maradu and Poonithura, and the other near Rajendra Maidan — are prominent ones in the city.
The statue at Poonithura has given the spot its name — Gandhi Square. While the statue has undergone changes four times, the square remains much the same, except for the addition of a few shops and other establishments.
The predecessor to the statue was a photograph of the Mahatma installed by Gandhian Ittirarichan Menoki on January 30, 1948. It was replaced by a bust of Mahatma Gandhi, brought as a gift to the people of his town by Tripunithura Madhava Menon, a noted dancer who was part of some of the leading troupes such as Uday Shankar’s. It was sometime in 1975 that the bust gave way to sculptor M.R.D. Dattan’s concrete statue of Gandhi, says former councillor A. B. Sabu.
A new statute, this time in bronze, replaced the old one on Gandhi Jayanti in 2004. The new installation came up after the old statue had to be shifted for a pipeline laid by a public sector oil company.
The statue of the Mahatma near Rajendra Maidan is well maintained and is a towering presence in the city.
The images of the Mahatma have evoked sharp responses from the people from time to time. The Gandhi statue at Poonithura was in the news in October 2011 because there were rumours that the statue would be relocated to favour a bar hotel. A peace and anti-alcohol activist in the city had also sought legal intervention against the statues of the Mahatma not resembling the actual person.
The statues of the Mahatma are the most abused in the city, says K.J. Sohan, chairman of the Standing Committee on Town Planning, Kochi Corporation, about how people have installed statues or busts of the Mahatma for various reasons. The installations have come up at autorickshaw and bus stands and in other public spaces in West Kochi without any authorisation and often without the respect due to the Father of the Nation, he says.
Chairman of Greater Cochin Development Authority (GCDA) N. Venugopal says the statue of the Mahatma near Rajendra Maidan is often used by political parties and other organisations to display their flags. This is a trend that must be stopped, he says.
Raja Rama Varma
The statue of Raja Rama Varma in Tripunithura is an ornate depiction of the past and a landmark. The raja is represented in regal splendour, cloaked in a sherwani, holding a scroll and adorning the royal headgear. However, it is ironical that though the spotlight is on the personality, successive generations are familiar with the landmark as only Statue Junction, the significance of the personality lost to the townspeople. The statue’s visibility is also marred by a huge tree that shelters it and hides it from behind. The people of the town may not remember the king who earned the epithet of Dharmika Chakravarthi for being a scholar and a visionary.
The statue came up in 1936 after he received honorary Degree of Doctor of Law from the Banaras Hindu University, recalls octogenarian Ravi Achan, a former Ranji Trophy player and a member of the royal family. The statue was unveiled by a member of the viceroy’s council, Nalini Ranjan Sarcar.
Ravi Achan says the tree that now blocks the view of the statue came up about 15 years later.
The statue of social reformer Sahodaran Ayyappan at the eastern entrance to the city is a reminder of the close link the thinker and journalist had with the city of Kochi. The statue was unveiled by former President Shankar Dayal Sharma in February 1996 in the presence of then Chief Minister A.K. Antony.
Swami Vivekananda’s statue in Children’s Park is a recent addition to the city’s visual fare. It is seven years old and was set up by Bharat Vikas Parishad in memory of his visit to Kochi on December 3, 1892. It was here that the Swami met Chattambiswamigal.
But the view of Swami Vivekananda’s statue is blocked by a transformer installed in front of it two years ago. BVP office-bearers says their appeal to the Electricity Board to relocate the transformer has had no effect so far.