The 125th anniversary of the Madras Mahajana Sabha was celebrated here on Saturday.

Addressing the function, Union Minister of Shipping G.K. Vasan said the Sabha was a year older than the Indian National Congress. But, the ideals of both organisations were the same. When the Congress movement was banned by Britishers, the freedom struggle was continued through the Sabha.

During the Quit India movement in 1942, members of the Sabha participated in it and were imprisoned for two years. Leaders such as Gandhiji, Jawaharlal Nehru, Gokhale, Balagangadhara Tilak, Rajaji and several other leaders had spoken in the Sabha, he said.

M. Chockalingam, Judge, Madras High Court, said the Sabha was started with a variety of objectives. Its members participated in the first meeting of the Indian National Congress.

N. Murali, Managing Director, The  Hindu, speaking after releasing a souvenir, said the organisation gave a platform to freedom fighters and was a united force for nationalist feelings. The organisation was a political institution, which gave voice to public opinion.

The founders of The  Hindu newspaper had a long association with the Sabha. Though the organisation was small, it survived for over a century because of the vision of its founders, Mr. Murali said.

On the occasion, four freedom fighters were honoured with cash prize, memento and shawl. Prizes were distributed to children who won oratorical, music and drawing competitions organised by the Sabha.

T.S. Balasundaram, president, recalled the history of the Sabha.