He is the one king who is both revered and feared. Revered for his glorious rule and feared because of a superstition that he could unseat those in high positions, Valvil Ori, who ruled the Kolli Hills and is hailed for his magnanimity and expertise in archery, is remembered every year during the festival organised in his name by the State Government.
Yet, on Thursday when it came to garlanding his statue none of the senior Government officials, including Collector J Kumaragurbaran chose to do the honours. Even politicians, who would normally love to pose while garlanding statues, were not to be seen in the vicinity.
Curiously, Industries Minister P Thangamani and Legislative Assembly Deputy Speaker P Dhanapal, whose names were printed on the official invitation, stayed away from the function for various reasons.
Instead two officer assistants working at the local Panchayat Union office were allowed to hog the limelight by garlanding the tribal king’s statue. What apparently drives away politicians and officials is past instances which have come to be seen as proof of Ori’s ‘unseating prowess.’
Locals recall that the Karunanidhi Government was dismissed in 1976 barely a year after he had unveiled a statute of Ori in September 1975. In the subsequent elections he lost power and the DMK was out in political wilderness for 13 years.
Again in 1990 when the DMK veteran Veerapandi M Arumugam from the neighbouring Salem district visited Kolli Hills, where the statue is located, he lost his plum Local Administration portfolio. “Arunachalam, a minister in the MGR Cabinet was also said to have lost his position after paying a visit to the hills,” says K Kaliappan of Kolli hills.
Interestingly, two senior IAS officers, who accompanied Tourism Minister S Gokula Indira, on her recent visit to the hills were transferred from their respective positions lending credence to the ‘bad omen’ theory.
However officials refused to be drawn into the superstition controversy. One of them merely said that Minister Thangamani was away in Erode where he attended the festival organised in memory of Dheeran Chinnamalai.