Monday, May 16, 2011

The Grand Old Man Of Mysore

The doyen of journalism in Mysore, thought-provoking writer, leader among freedom fighters, staunch nationalist — these are some of the words used to describe M. Venkatakrishnaiah, fondly known to all as Thathaiah.
Magge Venkatakrishnaiah (1844-1933), credited with pioneering work in the field of journalism in Mysore, wrote inspiring articles during the British reign which helped sow the seeds of nationalism. He had protested the Newspaper Regulation Act of 1908 that imposed restrictions on media. Thathaiah started newspapers like Hita Bodhini (1883), Sadhvi (1899), Vrittanta Chintamani (1885), Mysore Herald, Poura Samajika Patrike, Mysore Patriot, Mysore Review, Wealth of Mysore, Nature Cure and Sampadabhyudaya.
As a leader of the freedom fighters from city, he took lead in hosting the first session of Congress in Mysore amidst resistance. He had berated the British Raj when Bal Gangadhar Tilak was convicted of sedition in 1897. He also founded the Mysore unit of the Indian National Congress and led the Satyagraha Movement in the Princely State. Thathaiah took a lead in establishing the Mysore State Railway Labour Union to fight for the rights of the workers and supported Pinjarapole, the animal care centre. For all these and much more, Mahatma Gandhi gave him the title 'Grand Old Man of Mysore.'
Thathaiah also worked for the cause of female education and started the Maharani's School with help from Ambil Narasimha Iyengar. He took the lead to establish Anathalaya for the needy. He supported Dewan Rangacharlu to set up the representative assembly and took active interest to ensure that many social reform measures were implemented.
It is said that a few veteran freedom fighters including M. N. Jois and Agaram Rangaiah wanted to build a memorial for Thathaiah. On hearing this, Jayachamaraja Wadiyar gifted them an imported Italian marble stone which was used for the statue. Tagadur Ramachandra Rao, a veteran freedom fighter from the erstwhile Mysore State, who was popularly known as Mysore Gandhi, supervised the statue work.
The statue, in which Thathaiah is seen holding a walking stick in one hand and a book in the other along with three books placed on a stand next to him, was sculpted by S. Nagendra Sthapathi of Shilpa Kala Kendra on Ramanuja Road in city. The sculptor has shown perfection in his work right from Thathaiah’s attire, lines and wrinkles on the face to the fingers and the nerves on the hand. This life-size statue, now located in the Thathaiah Park in front of Lansdowne building, was unveiled by the then President V.V. Giri, a staunch follower of Thathaiah, on September 19, 1969. The then Chief Minister Veerendra Patil and the Acting Governor of Greater Mysore A.R. Somnath Iyer were present on the occasion.

Thathaiah Park in front of City Bus Stand
The park surrounding the statue was later developed under the aegis of Mysore City Corporation and was inaugurated by the then Education Minister H. Vishwanath on March 18, 2000.
Though daily thousands of people walk along this park in front of the Lansdowne Building and city bus stand, very few among them know the significance of the place. The statue of Thathaiah goes almost unnoticed in the hustle and bustle of city life and unfortunately, the only time it may be remembered is on the occasion of his birth anniversary.

(Published in Star of Mysore dated May 15, 2011)


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