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The triumphal return of Kannagi

Ramya Kannan

Latest in the saga of two warring Dravidian parties



BACK: The Kannagi statue in Chennai on Saturday. — Photo: S. R. Raghunathan

CHENNAI: Back on her pedestal on Chennai's expansive beachfront, as unveiled on Saturday night, Kannagi seems to have won yet another battle. No flames, however, scorch this city now, as they did Madurai at her bidding, in her legendary triumph against an erring Pandiya king.

The battle for the bronze Kannagi this time was no epic. Truth to tell, it was actually fought on behalf of the legendary symbol of `chastity' and virtue of the Tamils, by the two warring Dravidian parties of Tamil Nadu. Over the past few years, from her tall pedestal on the sands of the Marina, Kannagi rode a virtual roller coaster.

Installed by Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi during the World Tamil Conference in 1968, Kannagi stood at her designated spot until the tide turned against her. In December 2001, a truck was said to have damaged the pedestal of the statue and down she came. The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, however, alleged that it was a deliberate act, committed based on astrological calculations.

The then AIADMK Government was reluctant to re-install her in the original location. It even set up a committee, which recommended other spots to re-install it, but none of them on the beach side. Once the statue and the pedestal were removed, a service lane had sprung up on the stretch of road.

Led by the DMK, legions pledging allegiance to Tamil culture took affront at the action and launched agitations demanding that Kannagi be placed back on her old pedestal. The Government did not budge. Instead, it spoke of the virtues of the new lane, of how it would ease congestion on the road. The beleagured bronze lay on the dusty floors of the Government Museum in Egmore.

Legend has it that you cannot keep Kannagi down. Back in power, Mr. Karunanidhi kept his promise, and Kannagi, all of her 10-feet bronze person, is up again. Back where she belonged, on the beach, where the salty wind from the bay will once again caress her bronze tresses, the anklet she holds, and her outstretched arm.

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