This month, 79 years ago an important event took place in Tamil Nadu that brought about great social changes in Tamil Nadu. It was A Vaidyanatha Iyer, an eminent lawyer, social reformer and freedom fighter from Madurai city led four Harijans (Dalits) into the famousMeenakshi Sundareswarar Temple for the first time on July 7, 1939, despite hurdles, thus breaking the social barrier being faced by the Harijans and other marginalized people in the name of religion. Prior to that period, it was quite disgusting people from the so called low caste community were denied entry into any temple by caste Hindus for worship. This social evil had been there for centuries at that point of time. Denying equal rights to other humans in a society that too in matters related to temple worship was and is preposterous and is against human decency and dignity. Vaidhyanatha Iyer, with help from like-minded people, broke the shackles on the unfortunate people' s democratic rights and daringly entered the temple premises with the oppressed people.
|Freedom fighter A. Vaidyanatha IyeriStampGallery.Com|
|madurai -regional map. S. IndiaWeather-Forecast.com|
The events held at Madurai and earlier in the 1920s and 1930s in areas like Mayladudurai, Tiruch and Suchindram, Kanyakumari district, etc., created a big impact on the public. So was Vaikom (Kerala) agitation headed by EVR in 1924 where Dalits were not allowed to walk through the streets where high-caste Hindus were living. The successful temple Entry Movement led by Iyer in 1939 at Madurai impacted well and enabled the Government of Madras to pass the Temple Entry Act in 1939. It changed the social ethos of not only Tamil Nadu but also other states.
Madurai had a special place in Gandhi’s heart because it was here he shed the cloth of the upper part of his body and took a new avatar with a loin-cloth below the waist. His transformation into a half-naked fakir was to impress on the Britain and other countries that India had been rendered poor by the British and the poor suffered a lot under the oppressive British regime. Though Gandhiji visited Madurai earlier, he never visited Meenakshi temple because Harijans / untouchables were not allowed to enter the temple. It was on a visit to Madurai in 1946, he worshiped at the temple as it allowed the Dalits to enter the temple for worship.
Seventy seven years have passed since that landmark event at Madurai, still Dalits are denied entry into some temples in remote places of Tamil Nadu. Despite Tamil Nadu Un-touchability Eradication Front had organized more than 50 temple entry agitations between 2008 and 2016, the situation in many temples controlled by caste Hindus has not changed so far. For unknown reasons, the major political parties in Tamil Nadu have lost their reformist zeal and their main focus is on the votes and to stay in power.