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He who removed fear and changed history

Staff Reporter
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Remembering Vaidyanatha Iyer and Temple Entry Movement

GREAT MIND:The statue of Vaidyanatha Iyer at the East-North Chithirai street junction in the vicinity of Meenakshi Sundareswarar Templein Madurai.— FILE PHOTO
GREAT MIND:The statue of Vaidyanatha Iyer at the East-North Chithirai street junction in the vicinity of Meenakshi Sundareswarar Templein Madurai.— FILE PHOTO

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 people 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 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 voice in support of them. His wife and other family members were kind enough to let the Harijans stay in their house and eat food with them,” he said.

A series of public meetings were organised before the temple entry, on which occasions Iyer would vociferously profess that the 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, 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.

On Wednesday, Tamil Nadu Harijan Seva Sangam will the enact Temple Entry Movement in front of school students. It will conduct a host of competitions in order to make them aware of the historic movement.

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