Other States

Thiruvalluvar finds no welcome in Haridwar

The 12-foot statue is lying abandoned as local priests object to its installation in the pilgrimage town.

Just a few metres from the Ganga at the Mela Bhawan in Haridwar lies a massive package, wrapped in black plastic sheets and tightly bound with ropes.

It is the 12-foot-tall stone statue of Tamil poet-saint Thiruvalluvar, left here after Bharatiya Janata Party MP from Uttarakhand Tarun Vijay failed to get a site allotted for it.

Multiple moves

Mr. Vijay came up with the statue idea to “mark the arrival of Thiruvalluvar in Haridwar.” The statue was moved from Haridwar’s Dam Kothi area after protests erupted over its planned installation.

The initial site chosen was on the Ganga’s banks, near Har Ki Pauri, a prime location that draws large crowds, especially for the Kumbh Mela. But as priests started a protest, a new place had to be found, Haridwar Additional District Magistrate J.S. Nangyal said.

Chief Minister Harish Rawat then asked for an alternative site from the Haridwar district administration, which suggested a spot near Shankaracharya Chowk, named after Adi Sankara.

The grand installation, planned for June 29, in the presence of governors, politicians and bureaucrats, was cut short as local holy men protested and said they would not allow a Thiruvalluvar statue near one of Adi Sankara.

“What is Thiruvalluvar’s connection with Haridwar? The people here know nothing about him,” Swaroopananda Saraswati, who is the Shankaracharya of the Dwarka-Sharda Peeth and the Jyotish Peeth, said.

Ujjawal Pandit, president of the Akhil Bharatiya Yuva Teerth Purohit Mahasabha, who is also associated with the BJP Yuva Morcha, said, “We had no objection to it being installed in Haridwar, but our objection was to keep it at Har Ki Pauri.”

Disappointed with the outcome, Mr. Vijay told The Hindu, “I had started the Thiruvalluvar Ganga Payanam [journey] from Kanyakumari to Haridwar and decided that the statue would be unveiled at Haridwar during the celebrations marking the completion of his journey.”

Politics behind protests

The priests charge that Mr. Vijay was “projecting Thiruvalluvar as a Dalit icon for political mileage,” after campaigning for entry of Dalits in temples of Uttarakhand’s Jaunsar-Bawar region. In Haridwar, the consent of priests and the ‘saints’ for a statue is seen as vital. Mr. Vijay had failed to familiarise such influential sections with Thiruvalluvar’s legacy, the Thirukkural, which describes the virtuous life in 1,330 couplets.

Congress leader from Haridwar and a former MLA Ambrish Kumar said, “Mr. Vijay, who was in a haste to unveil the statue in Haridwar before his term as the Rajya Sabha member ends in July didn’t take the priests into confidence.”

However, Mr Vijay said the protests could have been “orchestrated.”

The statue now rests at Mela Bhawan. Mr. Vijay has written to Uttarakhand Governor K.K. Paul and the Chief Minister to find a new place. “I haven’t received any response,” he said.

*This article has been corrected for a factual error

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Printable version | Feb 24, 2020 11:22:39 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/Thiruvalluvar-finds-no-welcome-in-Haridwar/article14495916.ece

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