Friday, August 13, 2010

Historic event of temple entry by Harijans at Madurai - Rare pictures

PodUniversal Edition 105 - Independence Day Special Podcast
Independence Day Greetings to all.  Jai Hind
Prior to 1940, Harijans, otherwise considered as low caste persons were not allowed into any Hindu temples by customs and usage.  In those days, if any Harijan entered into a temple, he could be prosecuted for violating the customs and punished as a trespasser.  Mahatma Gandhi wanted to eradicate this un-touchability from the country and tried to change the mind-set of upper caste people through persuasion.
Mr Vadiyanatha Iyer
Mr Vaidyanatha Iyer, a leading lawyer at Madurai was very closely associated with Mahatma Gandhi and the freedom movement.  He and his wife spent their time for the upliftment of the poor Harijans and downtrodden.  In those days of acute orthodoxy, he was inviting harijan childen to his house and taking food with them.

After Congress party assumed power in 1936 in Madras Province under the Prime Minstership (in those days, the post was called as Prime Minister) of Mr C Rajagopalachari (popularly known as Rajaji), the mvement for eradicating the untouchability grew up.  Mr Vaidyanatha Iyer started persuading upper caste people in Madurai to change the customs and to allow Harijans also inside the temple.  Though many accepted the suggestion, some of the radical people were opposing the entry of Harijans into temples.

Rare picture -
 Harijan entry into Madurai temple on
8th July 1939 
On 8th July 1939, Mr Vaidyanatha Iyer took 4 Harijans (including Mr Kakkan, who later became Minister in Mr Kamaraj ministry) and one Nadar community person.  (see the rare photo).  The temple entry was opposed by a group of radical people.  Since entry of Harijans was prohibited in those days by custom, the radical people filed criminal complaint against Mr Vaidyanatha Iyer and the Harijans for 'trespassing into temple'.  This was punishable under law then.

Immediately, then Prime Minister of Madras Province Mr Rajaji issued an ordinance permitting Harijans into all temples retrospectively  and it was made as a law subsequently.  This historic event and the ordinance by Rajaji were pioneers in Indian history.  Mahatma Gandhi was running a magazine called 'Harijan'. In the issue dated 22nd July 1939, Mahatma Gandhi praised Mr Vaidyanatha Iyer and his team for the temple entry. (See the photo slide show)

Mr Vaidyanatha Iyer was arrested for his participation in the Quit India Movement.  He was released from the prison in 1945, after nearly 3 years.  He was one of the leading practising lawyers at that time.  The Government filed a case against him to prevent him from practising as an Advocate, as he had undergone imprisonment under criminal charges.  The case came up before Justice Sir Lionel Leach, who advised him to seek an apology so that he could continue to be an advocate.  But Mr Vaidyanatha Iyer refused to apologise in the Court for all his acts and said that he would prefer not to practise as an Advocate, rather than apologising.  Impressed with his conviction, the Judge acquitted him and permitted him to continue as an Advocate as a special case.
Mr Sthanunathan
On the 64th Independence day, PodUniversal wanted to remember and pay respects to such great Heroes and bring out their courage and conviction to the new generation.  In an exclusive conversation with K. Srinivasan, Editor of Poduniversal, Mr Sthanunathan, (now 90), son-in-law of Mr Vaidyanatha Iyer shared his memories.

Please listen to the exciting podcast interview by clicking play button (14 minutes).  The audio streaming will be smooth in broadband connections.  If the streaming is not smooth, you may download the audio (13 mb) by right clicking this link and saving to your desktop in mp3 format.

Mr Sthanunathan may be reached at sthanunathank (at) 
The audio may also be listened from


Post a Comment

Please give your feedback. You may also send
your comments to

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...