The sands of the Marina may attract thousands of visitors but little do they know about a spot from where history unfolded. It is the Tilak Ghat, which is a row of four granite plaques with inscriptions in English and Tamil. It was from here Subramania Siva gave the call for freedom in south India. The Tilak Ghat was a dais on the beach which was later renamed as Seerani Arangam.
Located opposite Presidency College, it was once popularly known as Tilakar Thidal but faded in public memory after the ‘Seerani Arangam' was demolished.
Subramania Siva had announced at a public meeting in 1908 that the place would be known as Tilak Ghat in memory of Bal Gangadhar Tilak. His views were backed by poet Subramania Bharati.
P.N. Srinivasan Editor of the Bharathamani, said the venue not only had a special significance during the freedom struggle but was also closely associated with leaders such as Bipin Chandra Pal, Chitta Ranjan Das (C.R. Das), Annie Besant, Subash Chandra Bose, S. Satyamurthy and Kamaraj.
He also said that it was from here Mahatma Gandhi announced the non-cooperation movement at a public meeting on March 20, 1919. It was also the venue for the salt satyagraha in the 1930.
But this historic name would have completely faded from public memory, if not for the efforts of a patriotic group led by Mr. Srinivasan, who wanted the venue to be renamed Tilak Ghat by installing a plaque.
Mr. Srinivasan said the first step in this direction was taken during the Republic Day celebrations that was organised by Gandhi Darshan Kendra, a magazine dedicated to propagating Gandhian philosophy, in 2003.
A granite slab in Tamil prepared jointly by Gandhian Organisations declaring the spot as Tilakar Tidal was unveiled then.
Important personalities such as K. Kasturi Rangan, former Editor of Dinamani, Senior Advocate R. Gandhi, former civil servant B.S. Raghavan and Kumari Anandan, participated in the function.
Failing to a get a response from several representations made to the State Government, Mr. Srinivasan filed a writ petition in Madras High Court in June 2004 seeking a direction to declare the place as Tilakar Tidal.
He said that even after the Court directed the State government to dispose off the representation dated June 19, 2003, within four months, the State Government informed him through a letter dated September 21, 2006, from the Information, Tourism and Memorials Department that a policy decision to the proposal to erect a plaque was refused.
Mr. Srinivasan again filed a PIL dated September 11, 2009, in the Madras High Court. He says: “The writ petition came up for consideration in Madras High Court on November 11, 2009, in which the following directions to declare the stretch of sands in front of the Presidency College as ‘Tilak Ghat' and suggested that the 60th anniversary of Republic Day might be a good occasion for the State to come forward on its own to commemorate the day by putting up the plaque at the Tilak Ghat.”
Finally on January 26, 2010, a plaque was installed bringing to an end the long struggle to name one of the important venues of freedom struggle.