Statues are set up to commemorate something. But the one that will be unveiled on Thursday in Jeeva Park in Aynavaram has something more to do than just commemorating the poetic genius of Sarvajna, the Kannada thinker and saint. It has political, cultural and linguistic dimensions.
The installation of the statue of the man whose name many here have not hitherto heard of, marks the turning of a new leaf in inter-state relationships between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu and opens up avenues for improving the goodwill between the people of the two States.
For, its unveiling is intertwined with the inauguration of the statue of Tamil poet-savant Thiruvallvar at Bangalore on Sunday.
Though Tamil Nadu is replete with statues of Thiruvalluvar, the tallest one standing on a rock amidst the waves in Kanyakumari, the newly unveiled one near the Tamil Sangam office in Bangalore commemorates the people’s wish for linguistic tolerance in both the states. Chennai alone has two big statues of Thiruvalluvar - whose image and couplets are a common feature in every government bus - though worldwide statues of Gods, religious heads, political leaders and symbolic figures like the State of Liberty dominate the skyline.
So, is Chennai paying its due to poets, writers and people associated with literature and arts? With the governments of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu seeking to bridge the linguistic gap and forging better ties by evoking the names of literary figures rather than political leaders, we checked out the statue scene in Chennai and found that literature has got its due.
Sarvajna’s will be the first statue of literary figure in the city not associated with
Perhaps no other character in an epic has left a lasting impression on the Tamil mind as Kannagi. She is hailed here as the symbol of Tamil culture. A statue of the protagonist of Silappadhigaram was originally unveiled in 1968, during the World’s First Tamil Conference in the presence of M Karunanidhi, who was then the Minister for Public Works. Almost 38 years later, when he became chief minister, Karunanidhi reinstated the Kannagi statue in her place after it was rammed down by a lorry in 2001
Her’s is the first statue after Gandhi’s that you will encounter on the Marina Beach Road. Popular Sangam poetess, Avvaiyar’s statue was among those unveiled during the first World Tamil Conference in 1968. S S Vaasan, popular director and producer, who made a feature film on the Tamil poetess, Avvaiyar (1953), unveiled this statue, in the presence of Sathyavanimuthu, the then minister for Harijan welfare
At Mylapore, the statue of this 2,000-year old poet who wrote the Thirukkural is itself a landmark. There’s another statue dedicated to him in Marina Beach Road. The one on the Marina was presented by Sivaji Ganesan and unveiled during the first World Tamil Conference in 1968 by scholar K A P Viswanathan in the presence of the then Educational Minister R Nedunchezhiyan
This prince-turned-ascetic’s statue greets you at while entering the Anna Samadhi in Marina Beach Road. He was the creator of Tamil Nadu’s popular epic, the Silappadhigaram. Ilango Adigal gave up his throne and sword for the palm leaves that rest on his left hand. Former Union Minister Murasoli Maran presented this statue, which was unveiled by his uncle and Chief Minister M Karunanidhi in November 1971
Not far from his Bharathiyar Illam in Triplicane is the statue of Tamil’s revolutionary poet, Subramaniya Bharathi, on Marina Beach Road. V Ramalingam, popularly known as the Namakkal Kavignar, unveiled it in 1968, in the presence of the then Law and Cooperation Minister, S Madhavan
His is the first statue you’ll come across while driving from the War Memorial towards Marina Beach. Close to the Marina Swimming Pool is the statue of this Britisher, regarded as an Orientalist and a Dravidian linguist. Caldwell is credited for having proclaimed that South Indian languages were part of a separate linguistic family, and coining the term Dravidian families for them. His statue was unveiled as part of the World Tamil Conference in January, 1968
With the trademark intricately worked shawl over him, popular Tamil poet Bharathidasan’s statue stands tall on Marina Beach Road. A rationalist, Bharathidasan’s works dwelt largely on the Dravidian movement and helped its growth. His statue was unveiled as part of the first World Tamil Conference in 1968, in the presence of writer M Varadharasanar and the then Minister for Local Administration, M Muthuswamy.
G U Pope
The then Bishop of Madras, C P Lesslie Newbigin unveiled the statue of Rev George Uglow Pope, a Christian missionary largely credited for taking Tamil literature beyond the Tamils, through his translation of Tamil works like Thirukkural, Naaladiyar and Thiruvasagam into English.
Litterateur C P Adhithanaar participated in the function to unveil the statue on January 2, 1968
Former Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa paid her tributes to the most popular writer-lyricist of his generation, Kannadasan, with a statue in his honour. Located in T Nagar, the statue was unveiled in 1994.