July 16, 2019

The Statue of Gandhi's Mentor in Chennai

Gopal Krishna Gokhale was a freedom fighter and social reformer. He was a senior leader of Indian National Congress and Mahatma Gandhi considered Gokhale as his mentor. Gokhale was the founder of the Servants of India Society.

What was Gokhale's connection with Chennai? Apart from his few public speeches in the city, I am not sure about any other connection. However, similar to Gandhi, there were few in Chennai who considered Gokhale as their mentor. V. Krishnaswami Aiyer was prominent among them. The senior and leading lawyer of High Court, Aiyer, became very close to Gokhale. Whenever Gokhale visited Chennai, he stayed in Aiyer's bungalow, which was known as the "Ashrama".

V. Krishnaswami Aiyer was the first Indian to have statue on the Marina Beach Road. His statue stands in front of the Senate House in the Madras University Campus. Next to this statue, Aiyer's professional mentor Sir S. Subrahmanya Aiyar's statue is found. The next statue is of Gopal Krishna Gokhale, the political mentor Krishnaswami Aiyer.

Who erected the statue of Gokhale and when was it erected? I am not sure. I assume it might be after 1935.

Happy travelling.







July 15, 2019

The Statue of First Indian Public Prosecutor

The first Indian to have statue on the Marina Beach Road is V. Krishnaswami Aiyer. After Aiyer's death, when it was decided to put up a statue for him, there were many who opposed this idea. Thanks to the emotional speech of his mentor, Sir S. Subrahmanya Aiyar, in a public gathering, which ensured that the majority of people favored towards erecting the statue. Thus, the statue of V. Krishnaswami Aiyer was  erected in 1912 in front of the Senate House in the Madras University campus. In another 23 years (in 1935), the statue of his mentor was erected next to him in the same campus. This statue of Subrahmanya Aiyar is one of the historic statues of Chennai.

(To read about the statue of V.Krishnaswami Aiyer, click here.)

Aiyar was born in 1842 and passed away on 6th December 1924. He was the first Indian to become the Vice Chancellor of Madras University. He was a great freedom fighter and was a founding member of Indian National Congress. He returned his knighthood to the British Government.

Known as the Great old man of South India, he founded the Home Rule Movement along with Annie Besant. He was also a member of the Theosophical Society.

Aiyar was an eminent lawyer and was the mentor for many other senior lawyers that includes V.Krishnaswami Aiyer. He was the first Indian to be appointed as Government Pleader and Public Prosecutor. He was the first Indian to act as Chief Justice thrice.

This eminent person's statue is found in front of the Senate House in the Madras University Campus.

Happy travelling.





July 14, 2019

The First Indian to have statue on the Marina Beach

V. Krishnaswami Aiyer, when he died on 28th December 1911 CE, was merely 48 years old. Although he had passed away in his early age, he led a very active social life. If one has to list down the great personalities of Chennai, the list would be incomplete without his name being mentioned.

V.Krishnaswami Aiyer was apparently not allowed in Cosmopolitan Club. He along with his friend started a similar facility called the Mylapure Club. He was an active member of the Congress party and became a prominent leader in the city. Aiyer was involved in the Arbuthnot bank crash case and he was later instrumental in starting the Indian Bank. He founded or co-founded many institutes/organizations such as Venkataramana Dispensary and Ayurvedic College, Ranade Public Library and the famous Madras Sanskrit College.


When the Kanchi Shankaracharya, Sri Chandrashekharendra Saraswathi Swamigal became the pontiff of Kanchi Mutt in his younger age, it was Aiyer who intervened personally to ensure that the administration did not fall in wrong hands.

Aiyer played an important role in raising funds for Swami Vivekananda's Chicago trip and for the Benaras Hindu University. It is said that he funded for the first publication of Subramania Bharati's songs.

A prominent lawyer, who rose up to the post of Judge of Madras High Court in 1909, had Subramania Iyer as his mentor. During his tenure as the lawyer, there were two other equally successful lawyers in Madras High Court, Alladi Krishnaswami Iyer and T.M. Krishnaswami Iyer, who had shared his first name and surname.

When it was decided to erect the statue of Muthuswami Iyer in the High Court complex, it was V. Krishnaswami Aiyer, who had opposed it. He had stated that it was not justifiable for the Hindus to have statues. After Aiyer's death, when it was decided to put up a statue for him, there were many who opposed this idea. They used his own statement as their main point for argument. However, the emotional speech of his mentor, Subramania Iyer, in a public gathering, had ensured that the majority of people favored towards erecting the statue.

The statue of V. Krishnaswami Aiyer was thus erected in 1912 in front of the Senate House in the Madras University campus. It faces the Marina Beach and it should be noted that he was the first Indian to have statue on the Marina Beach Road.

The statue's pedestal records that it was put up by public subscription and there was no mention on the date. The inscriptions are found in four different languages, English, Tamil, Telugu and Hindi.

Happy travelling.