U Muthuramalinga Thevar

Every year on October 30th, a remarkable event unfolds in the heart of Kolkata, India, as hundreds of people from West Bengal’s Thevar community gather for Thevar Jayanthi Guru Puja. This occasion marks the anniversary of U Muthuramalinga Thevar’s birth, a prominent politician and leader of the Thevar community. The celebration is a vibrant blend of religious reverence and cultural significance, honoring a man whose contributions to India’s freedom struggle and fight against untouchability left an indelible mark on the nation.

Thevar’s Remarkable Life and Legacy

U Muthuramalinga Thevar was not only a politician but also the secretary of the Harijan Sevak Sangh in Ramnad district, Tamil Nadu. He staunchly opposed untouchability and, in 1939, led Harijans into Madurai’s Meenakshi Temple, challenging the prevailing discriminatory practices. Moreover, he vehemently opposed the oppressive Criminal Tribes Act of 1920, which he played a pivotal role in abolishing.

The Thevar Community in West Bengal

The Thevar community in West Bengal comprises over 3,000 individuals scattered across the state. In Kolkata, they reside in areas like New Market, Janbazar, and Lake Gardens, often running businesses or working in catering. A significant number of roadside stalls selling idli and dosa are operated by the Thevar community in central Kolkata.

The Birth of a Tradition in Kolkata

The presence of a 10-foot-tall golden statue of U Muthuramalinga Thevar in central Kolkata is a testament to the community’s history in the city. In 1949, some Thevar individuals found themselves stranded in Bengal after returning from Burma due to financial constraints. They laid the foundation for the community’s growth in the region, inviting family members and acquaintances from their Tamil Nadu villages to join them.

Thevar Jayanthi Guru Puja: A Cherished Tradition

The preparations for Thevar Jayanthi Guru Puja commence eleven days prior to the event. The highlight of the celebration is the offering of tall pitchers of milk and other religious offerings to Thevar’s statue. The smaller three-foot-tall fibreglass statue, stored throughout the year, is specially prepared for the ceremony. A ritual cleansing involving lemon, coconut water, milk, sandalwood, and vibhuti is performed, followed by garlands, bananas, coconuts, and sweet pongal offerings. The community dedicates itself to fasting until the ceremony concludes.

A Solemn Journey Barefoot to Pay Homage

Those traveling from outside Kolkata reach the city and cross the Vidyasagar Setu by bus, disembarking near Fort William. From there, they embark on a barefoot journey to Central Avenue, following the customs of entering a temple without footwear. Even children participate in this sacred pilgrimage.

An Inspiring Leader Remembered

U Muthuramalinga Thevar’s legacy mirrors that of B. R. Ambedkar, and he is commemorated in a manner akin to the latter’s remembrance in India. His influence grew post-1980, marked by the deification of Thevar and the erection of statues in his honor. Today, he remains an important figure in Tamil Nadu’s political landscape.

The Thevars and Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose: Kindred Spirits

Thevar’s affiliation with Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose’s All India Forward Bloc in 1939 was a turning point in his political journey. Their shared beliefs in social justice, anti-caste activism, and staunch opposition to imperialism forged a deep bond. The Thevar community pays respects to Netaji before revering Thevar, emphasizing the significant role both leaders played in their lives.

Honoring a Shared Legacy

In 2009, the Netaji Pasumpon Muthuramalinga Thevar Tamil Sangam collaborated with the All India Forward Bloc to erect a statue of Thevar in Kolkata, reflecting the community’s wish for his presence alongside that of Netaji. This initiative cost the community Rs 20 lakh, collected through donations and support.

Celebrating Across India and Tamil Nadu

Beyond Kolkata, Thevar Jayanthi Guru Puja celebrations are conducted on a grand scale in Tamil Nadu, particularly in Ramanathapuram, Thevar’s birthplace. In these events, security arrangements are rigorous, given the participation of political leaders from various parties.



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