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Memorial for Dalit spiritual leader and legislator to come up

B. Kolappan
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Swami Sahajananda.
Swami Sahajananda.

The State government will construct a memorial to Swami Sahajananda, a Dalit spiritual leader, who set up Nandanar Educational Trust in Chidambaram for providing education to children from the depressed classes, particularly girls, in 1916.

Chief Minister Jayalalithaa told the Assembly that her government has decided to construct a memorial following a request from Republican Party of India member C.K Tamilarasan and CPI(M) members K. Balakrishnan and Ramamurthi.

Swami Sahajananda along with P. Subbaroyan, who was then premier of the Madras Presidency, strongly supported Annamalai Chettiar’s decision to set up Annamalai University in Chidambaram. The move evoked opposition from a section which questioned the need for a new university when Madras University was already there.

He was a member of the Tamil Nadu Legislative Council between 1926 and 1932 and again between 1936 and 1947. After Independence, he was elected to the Assembly from the Chidambaram constituency and continued as a member till his death in 1959. Though a strong votary of Annamalai University, he criticised the institution on the floor of the Council when it spent more on teaching languages and subjects other than Tamil. He wondered whether a music department was necessary when people did not have food to eat.

Born as Munusami in Pudupakkam near Arani in 1890, he was rechristened Sigamani in a Christian missionary school in Tindivanam. “He quit school when there was an attempt to convert him and other students to Christianity. He was forced to repay the money the school had spent on his food,” said former MLA Ravikumar, who has compiled the speeches of Sahajananda in the Legislative Council and the Assembly.

Sahajananda’s family migrated to Kolar in search of a livelihood and he was attracted to spiritualism there. He established contact with many spiritual leaders, and one of them, Karapadi Swami in Vyasarpadi, advised him to work for the welfare of Dalits in Chidambaram. It was he who named him Sahajananda.

He established a mutt and a trust in the name of Nandanar, a medieval Dalit devotee and one of the 63 Saivite saints, in Chidambaram in 1916. Twenty-five students were admitted to his school.

“He advocated education for Dalit girls. Mahatma Gandhi visited the school in 1926 and again in 1934. He mobilised funds for the family of freedom fighter V.O. Chidambaram Pillai,” said Mr Tamilarasan.

He travelled to Singapore and Malaysia to give lectures on Saiva Siddantha. “He urged Dalits to abstain from beef. When there was opposition to Hindi, he spoke in support of teaching the language. He wanted Dalits to learn more languages, arguing that it would liberate them. In his institution, he taught Sanskrit to Dalit students,” said Mr Ravikumar.

Ms. Jayalalithaa also announced a memorial for Kuyili, a lieutenant of Velu Nachiyar, the queen of Sivaganga, who blew up armaments of the British in the 18{+t}{+h}century, by setting fire to herself and jumping into an armoury.

Manimandapams for Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan will come up in Dindigul. They supplied forces and ammunition to Velu Nachiyar in her fight against the British. She also announced that the Ambedkar memorial in Chennai would be renovated.

Swami Sahajananda set up trust in Chidambaram for providing education to children from the depressed classes

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