Gandhi gave her credit for staying the course in fight for equality in South Africa

The death centenary of Thillayadi Valliammai, the revolutionary, famed to have inspired Mahatma Gandhi in his fight against colonial rule, was observed here at Thillayadi in Tharangambadi on Saturday.

Born to Mangalam and Muthusamy Mudaliar, Valliammai was initiated into political struggle by Gandhi, when the colonial State of South Africa declared null and void all marriages forged outside of the South African law or Church law. Thousands of marriages were annulled. Valliammai marched with her mother from Transvaal to Natal protesting against the unjust laws.

Valliammai also participated with her mother in protests against exorbitant taxes levied against workers. They were arrested and sentenced to three months of hard labour.

It is recorded that when Gandhi visited a fragile and ill Valliammai shortly after her release, the young girl vowed to be arrested any number of times to carry on the fight for people’s rights. Gandhi quoting the girl cited her as someone who inspired him to stay the course in the fight for equality in South Africa.

But the girl’s physical health did not match her mental strength. Shortly after her release, Valliammai, all of 16 years, died on February 22, 1914.

For Prega Moonsamy and his family, Saturday was their first date with Thillayadi, the ancestral home of Valliammai. Valliammai was the grand aunt of Prega Moonsamy.

“Thillady Valliamai was my grandfather’s sister,” he says.

Prega Moonsamy, along with his wife Radhie, and two daughters Prenita, and Sarisha, arrived here on Thursday to mark the celebrations.

As the bust of Valliammai here drew crowds, a function to mark her sacrifice was being held in Johannesburg, said Mr.Moonsamy.

At Thillayadi, a sense of pride gripped the air.

It was evident, when the celebrations were led by Gajan Mudaliar, a South African settled in Australia. Mr.Mudaliar arrived here with his wife Krishnaveni.

A Dharmapuri-based retired BDO Balasundaram took the initiative to organise the events jointly with the local panchayat.

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