A. Vaidyanatha Iyer, an eminent lawyer from Madurai is remembered for the significant role he played in the Temple Entry Movement. He led four Harijans into the Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple for the first time on July 7, 1939.
Seventy-four years down the line, Tamil Nadu Harijan Seva Sangam will recall the historic movement and recollect his contributions to the cause of the downtrodden on Wednesday, his 58th death anniversary. Iyer was the president of Tamil Nadu Harijan Seva Sangam in the 1940s and followed the instructions of Mahatma Gandhi to fight for the justice of harijans.
“Tamil Nadu had two persons who involved not just themselves but their families as well for the cause of the society. They were Periyar and Vaidyanatha Iyer. It would not have been an easy task for Iyer to organise such a movement at that time,” said R. Srinivasan, secretary of Tamil Nadu Harijan Seva Sangam.
“The best part of the movement was that a person from a community that did not want the Harijans to enter temples raised his voice in support of them. His wife and other family members were kind enough to let the Harijans stay in their house and eat with them,” he said.
A series of public meetings were organised where Iyer vociferously said that Harijans should be allowed inside all the temples in the State. “To allay the fears of the Harijans who had been assuming that it was a sin to enter the temples, Iyer took them to Travancore where the Temple Entry Proclamation was issued and implemented. After the temple entry in Madurai, he faced the ire of many people and legal actions were initiated against him. The then Chief Minister C. Rajagopalachari, who was Iyer’s good friend, intervened and came to his rescue. But for Rajaji’s intervention, Iyer would have been prosecuted for fighting for equality,” Mr. Srinivasan said.
Later, Iyer also led Harijans into Koodal Alagar Perumal Temple in Madurai and temples in Palani.
The Tamil Nadu Harijan Seva Sangam will enact the Temple Entry Movement before school students on Wednesday.