Saturday, 24 December 2016

Temple Entry

(via T.R. Raghunandan)

This, ladies and gentlemen, is an autorickshaw.
Look closely, and you will find two large cooking vessels inside, filled with food for a large feast.
'So what?', you will ask. 

'We were very excited, all of us,' she said. 'We started walking from our house in Karthigapalli and went straight to the Subramanya Swami temple in Haripad. He was there; he had come along with a Harijan, to visit the temple. He sat cross-legged on a high table, and looked just like his pictures. I sat in the front row; I could not understand a word of what he said, because he spoke in Hindi. But there was a Malayalam translation.'

That was how my mother described
 her unforgettable memory of meeting Mahatma Gandhi, in 1936. She was sixteen years old then.
Gandhiji had visited the Haripad temple, to celebrate the occasion of the Temple entry proclamation issued by the King of Travancore, Chithira Thirunal, earlier that year. This was in the aftermath of a long drawn out, but peaceful, decade long agitation, to persuade the Travancore government to throw open temples to all Hindus. During the Vaikom Satyagraha, Gandhi had met the king, then a minor and asked him whether he would throw open temples in the kingdom, to all communities. The King's answer was an unhesitating, 'yes'. He did not wait for long, once he was fully in charge. His proclamation spoke his mind fully.

'Profoundly convinced of the truth and validity of our religion, believing that it is based on divine guidance and on all-comprehending toleration, knowing that in its practice it has throughout the centuries, adapted itself to the needs of changing times, solicitous that none of our Hindu subjects should, by reason of birth or caste or community, be denied the consolation and the solace of the Hindu faith, we have decided and hereby declare, ordain and command that, subject to such rules and conditions as may be laid down and imposed by us for preserving their proper atmosphere and maintaining their rituals and observances, there should henceforth be no restriction placed on any Hindu by birth or religion on entering or worshipping at temples controlled by us and our Government.', proclaimed the King of Travancore.

So what does my mother's visit to a temple to witness Mahatma Gandhi speaking in Hindi, have to do with an autorickshaw filled with large vessels of rice, sambar and curry?

The food was arranged by my good friends Jayalakshmamma, Administrator for the Grameena Mahila Okkoota and M.V.N. Rao, who runs Grama Vikasa, at Honnashettihalli village in Mulbagal Taluk, Kolar district.

The autorickshaw was carrying the food to Kadenahalli village, where, last Sunday, the Chowdeshwari temple was thrown open to the Dalits of the village.

This time, there was no Gandhi to herald that event. Only the Deputy Commissioner of Kolar district was present.

A distance of just over 600 kilometers separates Kadenahalli from Haripad.
It takes seventy eight years for a revolution to travel that far.

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