CHENNAI: Kundrakudi was once asked if he was a theist (aathigan) or an atheist (naathigan). The DMK chief quipped: “Naanaathigan.” This Tamil phrase combines two words: Naan (I) and naathigan (atheist). Split, it can mean “I am a theist” or “I am an atheist”. Though Karunanidhi had long declared himself a staunch atheist, his opponents always questioned his beliefs, some seeing his stance as hypocrisy. But a close look at his writings and speeches clarify that his opposition to Hinduism was due to Varnasrama Dharma, that lays the framework for caste system.
Still, he was close to non-Brahmin Hindu leaders. Satya Saibaba, the heads of Kundrakudi Adheenam, and Kripananda Variyar are among those with whom he was associated. At the same time, he criticised the Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam. He had a soft corner for religious leaders, such as Swami Vivekananda, who stood for revolutionary ideas. He also hailed Islam, Christianity and Jainism. For this, he was often a target of Hindu outfits.
On 24 October, 2002, when the then AIADMK government enacted a law against forcible conversions, he presided over a meeting organised by minority communities against the move. When the Sethusamudram project was being debated, Hindu leaders argued Rama Setu was built by Rama to reach Sri Lanka and rescue his wife Sita and should not be disturbed. Karunanidhi ridiculed them: “Was Rama a civil engineer? At which engineering college did he study?” The remarks aggravated the situation. His daughter Selvi’s house in Bengaluru was attacked. The project is yet to take off.
In 1996, the then Minister Anthiyur Selvaraj took part in a firewalk as an offering for the longevity of the DMK government. CM Karunanidhi, who was Chief Minister at the time, termed it a barbaric act and demanded a public apology from him. AIADMK general secretary J Jayalalithaa was among the many who took exception to his words.
Curiously, Karunanidhi has never hesitated to worship his language, Tamil, as a deity. Accepting the suggestion of Sa Ganesan, his friend and expert in the works of poet Kamban, Karunanidhi, in his second term as CM, gave `10 lakh to build a temple for Thamizh Thaai (Mother Tamil). Interestingly, members of his family, specifically his wives — Padmavathi Ammal, Dayalu Ammal and Rajathi Ammal — and daughter-in-law Durga Stalin are practising Hindus. When asked about this, Karunanidhi said he did not interfere in their beliefs.
Temple for Thamizh Thaai
Curiously, Karunanidhi has never hesitated to worship his language, Tamil, as a deity. Karunanidhi had given Rs 10 lakh to build a temple for Thamizh Thaai