Court: Tamil Thai Vazhthu is a prayer song, not an anthem

Justice G.R. Swaminathan of the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court was hearing a case related to an incident in 2018, when the Pontiff of the Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam, Shri Vijayendra Saraswathi Swamigal was reportedly seated when the ‘Tamil Thai Vazhthu’ was played

December 10, 2021 04:37 pm | Updated December 11, 2021 03:27 am IST - Madurai

Madurai, Tamil Nadu, 22/10/2019: A view of Madurai Bench of Madras High Court, in Madurai. Photo: R. Ashok / The Hindu

Madurai, Tamil Nadu, 22/10/2019: A view of Madurai Bench of Madras High Court, in Madurai. Photo: R. Ashok / The Hindu

‘Tamil Thai Vazhthu’ is a prayer song and not an anthem. There is no statutory or executive order requiring attendees to stand up when ‘Tamil Thai Vazhthu’ is sung. But the highest reverence and respect ought to be shown to ‘Tamil Thai Vazhthu’, observed the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court.

Justice G.R. Swaminathan took into account the fact that a government order issued in 1970 stated that the song, written by P. Sundaram Pillai, should be sung as a prayer song at the commencement (and not at the end) of all functions organised by government departments, local bodies and educational institutions.

In 2018, the then Tamil Nadu Governor Banwarilal Purohit released a Tamil-Sanskrit dictionary at a function held in Music Academy, Chennai, in the presence of the Pontiff of the Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam, Shri Vijayendra Saraswathi Swamigal. When the invocation song to Mother Tamil ‘Tamil Thai Vazhthu’ was played, the pontiff remained seated. This had triggered considerable outrage.

The judge observed, “I cannot help asking as to whether the whole controversy was justified in the first place”, while taking cognisance of the government order issued in 1970. A memo was also issued in 1970 directing the prayer song to be sung in Raaga Mohanam and in Thisra Thaalam as composed by musician M.S. Viswanathan. Thus, ‘Tamil Thai Vazhthu’ is a prayer song and not an anthem.

“It is true that members of the audience conventionally stand up whenever ‘Tamil Thai Vazhthu’ is sung. But the question is whether this is the only mode in which respect can be shown. When we celebrate pluralism and diversity, insisting that there can be only one way of showing respect reeks of hypocrisy. One should not forget that a Sanyasi occupies a special place in our social and cultural life. Emperors and Kings have prostrated before Sanyasis and Fakirs. In the epics, whenever a Sanyasi enters the royal court, the King will step down from his throne and pay his respects”, the judge said.

Further the judge observed, “On becoming a Sanyasi, the person suffers a civil death. He must be taken to have a re-birth. A Sanyasi primarily leads a life of piety. When in prayer, he is invariably found in a meditative posture. Since ‘Tamil Thai Vazhthu’ is a prayer song, a Sanyasi is certainly justified in sitting in a state of meditation. In the instant case, the pontiff is seen sitting in a Dhyana posture with his eyes closed. It was his way of expressing his reverence and respect for Mother Tamil.”

The court was hearing a petition filed by Kan. Ilango who sought the quashing of an FIR registered against him. Following the incident in 2018, Kan. Ilango and a dozen other people assembled before the branch of the Kanchi Mutt in Rameswaram and raised provocative slogans. They had allegedly entered the mutt wearing footwear and intimidated the Manager of the mutt. An FIR was registered by the Rameswaram police based on a complaint by the manager.

The judge took note of the fact that the petitioner was ready to make amends for his conduct and had approached the complainant with a letter expressing his regret. The complainant also informed the court that the petitioner was well known to him and the matter can be treated as closed.

The petitioner and the complainant do not appear to have any ill-feeling or rancour towards each other. The whole occurrence appeared to be more of an emotional outburst, the judge said.

Considering the fact that the petitioner and the complainant have shaken hands, no purpose would be served in keeping the prosecution alive, the judge said and quashed the FIR against the petitioner. The judge said that the benefit of the order would enure in favour of the non-petitioning accused also.

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