Conflict among Hindus, divided by caste, over the right to worship their preferred deity can be found all over modern Indian history. But at the height of Indian independence struggle, the last Maharaja of Travancore, Sree Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma, stunned the rest of the country with a royal proclamation.
The decree, issued on November 12, 1936, removed restrictions on dalit entry to Hindu temples. The announcement had a profound impact on the Madras Presidency, where despite the efforts of Dravidar Kazhagam founder Periyar E V Ramasamy entry for dalits into temples was still not a reality.
Three years later, to commemorate the radical declaration, a statue of Chithira Thirunal was erected near Esplanade Road. Funded by public subscription, the statue was sculpted by M S Nagappa, then the official sculptor to the British Crown. On October 28, 1939, then Governor of Madras Lord John Erskine unveiled the statue.
“It is the only statue erected for a king in Chennai,” said historian R Venkatesh. A park around the statue was taken up for Broadway bus terminus expansion, leaving the statue exposed to the elements. The Travancore royal passed away in 1991, and a few years later the statue was shifted to the Sree Anantha Padmanabha Swamy temple in Gandhi Nagar, Adyar by well-wishers.
Today, 81 years since the decree, the statue stands among discarded materials in the corner of the temple premise, having lost its place and significance in transition. “The Maharaja’s decree brought out reformist tendencies in Hindus. It is another thing that the decree did not find favour among dalit leaders like Ambedkar and Rettamalai Srinivasan who only saw it as an appeasement, and not a solution,” said political commentator D Ravikumar.
source: http://www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com / The Times of India / News> City News> Chenna News / by Pradeep Kumar / TNN / November 14th, 2017