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The Hall with a history

TDM Hall in 1941   | Photo Credit: By Special Arrangement

When the partition of the East Thottekkat, a famous Nair family in Ernakulam, was happening the members decided to build a memorial for two illustrious family members – Diwan Sankunni Menon and his brother Diwan Kochugovinda Menon. The family set apart 23 cents for this purpose adjoining the present Durbar Hall Road and Diwan’s Road. This land was formed into a trust and handed over to Ernakulam Karayogam that had been formed during that time.

The Karayogam was the brainchild of a handful of members of the Nair community in Ernakulam. The aim was to have an association to ‘promote goodwill and amity among the various sections of the society, particularly for the welfare of the Nair community’. The Ernakulam Karayogam was registered in 1925. Ninety years on the Karayogam strives to continue the professed objectives of its founding fathers – social service irrespective of religion, caste or creed.

The members of the Karayogam discussed and decided that whatever the memorial be it should be befitting the stature of the two Diwans. Finally, they settled on constructing a public hall as Ernakulam as the capital of the Cochin State did not have such a facility. “A few members were of the opinion that only a small hall was needed, a bhajana madom, space where people could get together for their religious and spiritual activities. Moreover, 23 cents of land would not be sufficient for a reasonably big public hall. That’s when the Karayogam decided to approach the government granting permission to hand over 49 cents of land close by that had a huge, unused pond,” records V.N. Venugopal, local historian.

In a letter to C.G. Herbert, Diwan of Cochin, in October 1932, Ambadi Sankara Menon, president of the Karayogam, stated that they were ready to undertake the reclamation of the pond which would probably cost something around Rs. 4,500. The letter also informed that intention of the Karayogam to construct the Thottekkat Diwans’ Memorial (TDM) Hall at this site. The government assigned the ‘ poramboke tank’ to the Karayogam ‘free of land value on the specific condition that the reclamation be done only to build the hall’.

Construction of the hall began in right earnest. The Karayogam had to spend Rs. 3,000 as compensation to the occupants of the land and Rs. 3,500 for reclamation. Records also show that Rs. 15,000 was budgeted but it shot to Rs. 25,000. This escalation was because of the sharp rise in cost of materials during the War.

“In 1939, when the construction of the hall was halfway through the government occupied it. The war recruitment office began functioning from here. It was handed back to the Karayogam in 1941. The work was completed and the formal inauguration was held. Lakshmikutty Nethyaramma, the consort of the then Maharajah Kerala Varma ‘Midukkan’ Thampuran,” informs the present Karayogam general secretary P. Ramachandran (Venu).

The funds for the construction were collected through liberal contributions from the society. “We have the list of contributors and you’ll find that everyone, irrespective of whether a Nair or not, put in their share. Right from the Archbishop of Ernakulam to businessmen, doctors, banks, Cochin government to ordinary citizens everyone donated to the cause. That is why even today we place no restriction of religion, caste or creed when it comes to our charitable services. Let me give you an example, we give approximately 60 per cent of the annual educational aid to non-Hindus. This also applies to the medical assistance we provide to the needy patients,” says Ramachandran.

The TDM Hall, the notable historic structure and cultural property, is the centre of the Karayogam’s activities and also its main source of income. “The main entrance those days was from Diwan’s Road. I remember the majestic two-storied building out of which the Cochin Nair Bank, that later merged with State Bank of India, Samastha Kerala Sahitya Parishad, and Hindi Prachar Sabha functioned. The Karayogam also had its office there and the spacious hall that became a venue for some important events and many marriages,” remembers V.N. Venugopal.

In its 74 year history TDM Hall has been host to many landmark events, political, religious, cultural and social. “There are so many but these events come to my mind. One was the first parliamentary party meeting of the first Communist Party after being elected to power in Kerala. It was held here on March 25, 1957. EMS Namboodiripad made his first speech after being elected leader of the parliamentary party at this hall. It was here that K.J. Yesudas, who used to walk all the way from Thoppumpady, learned music under Sivaraman Nair. Many others who went on to make it big in music like Kalyani Menon, Gokulapalan and J.M. Raju trained here. Then it was here that the 60th birthday celebrations of Mahakavi G. Sankara Kurup was held and Joseph Mundassery made that speech, which created a controversy that raged through literary circles for sometime,” says journalist and local historian Ravi Kuttikad.

Today, TDM Hall has been renovated with added features. It has a roof top dining hall (Pamba), the original hall is now a dining space (Periyar), in 2001 a new air-conditioned hall, Ganga, was inaugurated, and between 2007 and 2014 seven new halls of varied sizes have been added.

“Our priority has and will always be charity. We have been able to pursue all the activities that the founding father and later officials of the Karayogam started. We also have plans for the future. A hall similar to TDM Hall and a guest house at Guruvayur, a poly-clinic in Ernakulam, and a village, complete with villas, where there will be farming, a dairy, a hospital, a start-up platform for entrepreneurs, one that will be a hub for all services, are our dreams. We have begun initial discussions in this regard,” says Ramachandran.


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Printable version | Jul 22, 2021 7:31:39 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/alter-point-column-tdm-hall/article7138391.ece

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