|Thomas Munro equestrian statue with no sirrrup. thehindu.com|
|Memorial Sir. Thomas Munro, St. Mary's Church, Madras. wikiwand.com|
|Sir. Thomas Munro's Statue, Madras (MacLeod, p.124, 1871,en.wikipedia.org|
To begin with, let us take a look at his biography in brief. Major-general Sir Thomas Munro, KCB (27 May 1761- 6 July 1827), a Scottish army man and colonial administrator was popular among the natives when the East India Company was ruling the Indian subcontinent as a proxy government for the British Crown in the 18th century. Educated at the university of Glasgow in 1779, he joined as an infantry cadet ship in Madras, India; he was barely 18 years of age then
|The Stirrup-less Majesty. Sir Thomas Munro. commons.wikimedia.org|
|Gov. of Madras, EI company Sir. Thomas Munro en.wikipedia.org|
Thomas Munro and his party, while on an official tour of present day Andhra, camped at Gooty on 4 July 1827 where some of his men were afflicted with cholera. In those days it was a dreaded disease and proper medication was not yet perfected. A couple of days later at at Pattikonda, Munro contracted cholera from his men and had to be taken care of. His condition having become serious, he died on 6 July 1827.
Upon hearing Munroe's death near Gooty, at Madras a pale of gloom descended on the city and all classes of people were in pain to accept his unexpected demise. The Madras Presidency government issued a Gazette Extraordinary on 9 July 1827. The message praised his vast knowledge of various fields, his keen interest in the welfare of the natives and in oriental studies, his affable manners, equal justice in his sphere of activities, his ability to establish tranquility of the places where he served, etc. Hence, he was known a with the appellation of the ''Father of the People.''
At a public meeting held in his memory in the city, a proposal had been made to have a statue erected there through public subscription. In the place of death Pattikonda, the Madras government opened a memorial for Munro and a choultry called "Munro Choultry" in Gooty in his honor.
As for the statue, a total of £8000, was collected through public subscription. The British sculptor Francis Chantrey was put in charge of making a statue worth Monroe's name. It was in 1834, Chantrey completed the stunning and impressive equestrian statue - one of the three equestrian statues sculpted by him. The statue, weighing six tonnes, was shipped to India in three parts and erected at The Island, Chennai in 1839 atop a granite plinth made by Ostheider & Co of Calcutta. On 23 October 1839 the statue was ceremonially opened. It was a public commemoration in appreciation of his integrity and honesty in his line of duty. According some sources, the Duke of Wellington, on seeing the completed statue, had exclaimed, 'A very fine horse; a very fine statue, and a very extraordinary man'.
If you take a careful look at the statue, you will be surprised by the absence of stirrups for the rider. Is it a deliberate omission or just overlooked by the sculptor? It is a much-discussed oddity of this eye-catching statue. The explanation is that the sculptor knew that Munro had a passion for bareback riding, so Chantrey avoided the stirrup. The statue is also referred to as ‘The Stirrup less Majesty. Besides, the sculptor was quite aware that the native adored him very much because he championed their cause, in this respect he was careful about the choice of steed and he preferred an Arabian horse over the war horse. It is based on the model of his own work on an equestrian statue of King George IV at the Trafalgar square, London. Chantrey emphasized the commemorative aspects of the Monroe statue in Madras to bring out the close rapport he had with the natives and avoided the authoritative aspects of western practices. The sculpture of Thomas Munro, considered to be the finest among Francis Chantrey's works and the horse, his worst ever, even to day attracts the daily users of the locality where it stands now. The combined height of the horse and the rider is more than 15 feet. While the horse gazes calmly, ever active and energetic Munro presents a thoughtful pose; both motionless yet ready to gallop.
In Munroe's sudden death The EIC lost a distinguished administrator and the natives lost a great human being who lived with a true Christian spirit till his last days. Right from Indian soldiers to farmers every body liked him and the Madras Presidency never had a governor of his caliber since then. In 2010, the Tamil Nadu Govt_ had a proposal to remove this statue in view of the World Classical Tamil Conference held in Coimbatore. Later the proposal was given-up for good as there was a big protest from monument lovers and conservationists against the removal of a colonial statue.