Idol Politics: Knowledge and Action

by A.Nillanthan, March 25, 2023

In the North, more than three statues have been opened in the last one week alone. Along with Nataraja statue, Valluvar statue, Sangliyan statue, there is a bell obelisk in Tirunelveli market.

We looked at the politics behind these idols in last week’s article.The religious politics behind these idols should be looked at separately.

Public sculptures do not merely reflect the wishes of the institutions or individuals who install them. In a deeper sense, the art of a particular group of people should be a manifestation of the genius, aesthetic heights, political and cultural diversity. It should be a successful work of art that an outsider can be amazed by.

Based on this description we can see some public outdoor sculptures or statues or obelisks among the Tamil people.

First let’s start from Marudanarmadam Anjaneya statue. This idol has been placed at that junction to create a cult. It is obvious that the creators of this idol have created it with a cult purpose in mind. So, while making an idol of their favorite deity, they should have paid as much attention as possible to its aesthetic perfection.

For example, when a person makes a statue of his mother whom he loves very much, does he expect the statue to look like the mother? Does it expect it to be like anyone else? Isn’t it? This also applies to Anjaneya.

If the purpose of the statue is to show Anjaneya’s akruti then be prepared to spend for it. It should be done as a penance and should be approached by experts in the relevant field. But Marudhanarmadam Anjaneyar stands as a symbol of the decline of Tamil aesthetics. The proportionality between his face and body has survived. So it is a crocodile statue.

Anjaneya [Hanuman] statue in Chunnakam, Jaffna

Even so, the statue is a few hundred meters away from the campus where the Department of Art and Design of the University of Jaffna is located. But it does not seem that the statue of Anjaneya was built after taking advice from the relevant departmental officials of the University. Or at least after the development of the campus, it does not seem to have been consulted. Thus, Anjaneyar has nothing to do with the aesthetic knowledge of sculpture taught in the Department of Art and Design at the University of Jaffna. That is the gap between knowledge and action.

This interval applies to most public sculptures among the Tamil people.

There are similar criticisms not only of Marudanarmadam Anjaneya, but also of Anaiyaravuch Shiva. There is an opinion that if it is cast in metal, its beauty will be more brilliant. There is also the question of whether professional advice has been sought while designing the print.

Shiva dance is described as a cosmic dance as mentioned in last week’s article. It takes great sculptors to bring that cosmic movement into an immobile statue. An immovable statue should represent the universe. It’s an aesthetic challenge. As Sundara Ramaswamy says, it is like capturing the leap of a hound in a photograph.

But the related technical techniques do not seem to have been taken into consideration while designing the idol of Nataraja. It is also not known that there has been a discussion with the appropriate departmental experts in this regard. This applies not only to Anjaneya and Nataraja, but also to most public sculptures in Tamil, including the statue of Sangliyan under the seal market.

The situation is similar starting from the Tamil Research Conference memorial pillars to the Mullivaikkal memorial sculpture. Starting from the statue of Sivakumar in Urumbrai to the statue of Padmanabha in Vavuniya, the situation is the same. People make idols according to their aesthetic understanding according to their convenience. But it misses the basic point of expressing the artistic genius of a group of people in such a way that the rest of the country is in awe.

Sangliyan statue and Jaffna clock tower

The result of this is a decorative obelisk with a bell that was opened last week at Tirunelvelich Junction. It is a junction within the Jaffna University environment. It is also a junction where other communities flow like the farm circuit. Isn’t there a statue of someone who can be said to be the pioneers or founders of the town to be placed at that intersection, which is found very close to one of the higher educational institutes of Jaffna? Does the stupa unveiled last week reflect the beauty of the Tamil people? Does it represent the pride of the Tamil people?

Why go to Jaffna. Even the Mullivaikkal monument built in the university cannot be said to be an aesthetic perfection. It cannot be said to be shockingly modern. It is very ordinary compared to such monuments in the world.

If that is the case with a monument on a university campus, and a group of people fighting for justice against the genocide builds a memorial obelisk in their institution of higher education, then there is no need to talk much about other public displays that are a little further away from it. This is a growing trend.

Most of the sculptures show us that many people who create public sculptures among the Elamites do not approach the related field experts. It has very dark side effects. All side effects are created by experts in the respective fields.

In the background of such idol culture, in the background of idol politics, let’s look at Thiruvalluvar, which is established in the farm circle. There are already widespread debates on social media and media about the language and religious politics behind the image. Here we will only observe the aesthetic aspects of the image.

The image made of glass fiber was gifted by VGP group president from Tamil Nadu, Santosam. He has given a total of 18 images to all the districts of Sri Lanka. Among them, two in North East, one in Trincomalee and one in Jaffna. What does it look like when you put together the place and its background?

When viewed along with the plinth built for the print, the print looks faded. If the statue had been designed as a standing Valluru in the background of Muttaveli, Dachukkottai, it would have shown a grandeur. But it is pointed out that whatever is built on the road bend has traffic sector restrictions. Accordingly, nothing can be built above a certain height. So there are political and aesthetic choices in how to install a statue within the limited space available. should be. When you look at the background of the fort and Muttaveli, you get the feeling that the print is not enough.

This is the problem. No one seems to have acquired the knowledge of the experts in this field. Not only in the matter of statues, public sculptures, public buildings, etc., but in most general matters of Elamites including politics, there is no relation between knowledge and action. Knowledge is contained in textbooks. Action happens on its own.

Tamil politics is the place where this gap between knowledge and action is most exposed and where it has caused the most destruction. When idols come at angles or are built at inappropriate sizes in inappropriate places, it is only aesthetic distortion. It is only cultural distortion. We have seen for more than a century. Is a society that has failed to combine knowledge and action in appropriate ways now leaving the idols and eating the man?

New Nataraja statue at Elephant Pass

Shiva Riding on an Elephant

by A. Nillanthan, March 18, 2023

A statue of Nataraja has been installed at the Thatuwankotich Junction on Kandy Road, near Anaiyarva at the entrance of Jaffna. The 27-feet tall statue has been created with the help of migrant Tamils in the organization of the Karaisi Pradesh Sabha. It can be said that it is the tallest statue of Nataraja in Sri Lanka.

After 2009, the Elephant Pass region has been transformed into one of the playgrounds of war triumphalism. Anyone who enters the fascinating Jaffna, the cultural capital of the Tamil people, must first pass through the two war victory complexes set up at Aniyarva. It means war victory welcomes you. It means our conquered land.

On entering Jaffna, the first sight in the neck of the peninsula is a locally-made armored vehicle used in a failed LTTE operation. Near it is a memorial of a soldier who stopped the armored vehicle and a guest house. If you go a little beyond it, there is a huge war victory monument in the background of Cuddaleri on the right side. The war victory statue holding the island of Sri Lanka with two hands welcomes outsiders entering Jaffna; victory in war welcomes you.

Thus, in a region where war victory always wafts in the salty air of Cuddaleri, the installation of a statue of Nataraja, one of those worshipped by the Tamil people, should be noticed in a political sense.

War memorial at Elephant Pass

Later in a separate article I will address the aesthetic aspects of the image and whether or not it is an idol that can be worshiped immediately upon seeing it.

Similar to Navakuzhi Junction, constructions to identify the Tamil people are necessary at the entrance of Jaffna to Anaiyaru. The government has planned it and built it as a victory gate. Tamil people should make it a heritage gate.

As a Buddhist Vihara is being built in Navakuzhi, the Sivabhoomi Trust Museum and Thiruvasaka Palace are being built, Tamil people have a responsibility to create a heritage gate in Anaiyaru to face the victory gate.

But what should that heritage structure look like? Should it be one that pits Saiva symbols against Sinhalese Buddhist symbols? Or should it be one that reflects the religious diversity of the Tamil nation?

The Shivabhoomi Foundation is a religious institution. It promotes a religion that it admires. But Tamil national politicians don’t need to think like that. Also, public sculpture is different and the idol sitting in the capital is different.

New Buddhist stupa at Navatkuli Junction, Jaffna

Practical nationalism is also built on common sense.  Western scholars will say that the content of nationalism should be democratic. That is, a people should be gathered together on the basis of democracy. If we say this more deeply, people should be gathered on the basis of equality. If we say this in more practical terms, one religion must be equivalent to another religion; One territory equals another; No one by territorial, caste or religious should be superior.  A people must be brought together on the basis of not being inferior. Therefore, so-called nationalism should be built on religious diversity, not on religious dominance. Tamil people should think on this basis and protect and promote their heritage symbols.

It is not wrong for each sect to present its religious monuments. It is the right of that religion. But the problem comes when one religion insults another religion or destroys others’ religious symbols or tries to establish the predominance of a religion. That is, religious diversity is one thing; religious oneupmanship is another.

In recent years, a section of the Tamil population both at home and in the diaspora has been trying to use religion as a vehicle to approach the Indian central government, including some Tamil politicians in India. So Eelam Tamils should approach that government. But it does not mean that Eelam Tamils should follow the same agenda as the Bharatiya Janata in India’s domestic politics.

This region is in India’s sphere of influence. No power other than India can give a solution to the Eelam Tamils. Considering the regional reality, Eelam Tamils should approach the Bharatiya Janata government. But that does not mean sacrificing the religious diversity of the Tamil nation.

The so-called modern politics of the Eelamites is built on sectarianism. The Jaffna Youth Front, the first youth organization in the predominantly Hindu Eelam Tamil community, was founded (1924) by a Protestant Christian, Handy Perinpanayagam.

When the Tamil Rasuk Party [Federalist Party] was formed, its foundation ceremony took place on 13th February 1949 in front of Kandasamy Temple in District Puram with the blessings of Seelasree Duraisamy Gurus. Related information can be found in the Silver Jubilee Flower of the Tamil Rasuk Party. When Father Selva died, his body was not given a Christian burial. He was dressed and cremated in Hindu style. It is believed that Selvanayagam requested this to honor the majority of Hindu voters who recognized him as their leader and called him their father.

Therefore, the modern politics of the Eelamites was built on religious diversity. It should not be limited to one religion. In particular, so-called modern Jaffna is the cumulative result of the competition between the churches and religious leaders like Arumukhanavar and Hindu foundations. But that competition did not turn into an anti-religious conflict.

But in a vacuum where no religious leader has dared to speak after 2009, ex-bishop Rayapu Joseph, who has sounded a single voice, is seen as a conflict between Hindus and Catholics in the same parish, which is detrimental to Tamil national unity. All the forces that want to build Tamil nationhood on religious diversity should try to resolve that contradiction.

In the political and spiritual vacuum where there are no powerful civil organizations or parties to resolve such internal conflicts, on the other hand, Buddha statues have been installed as the “boundary stones” of Sinhala Buddhist nationalism, in the military government environment, statues have started sprouting overnight among the Tamil people.

The dance of Shiva has not only a spiritual interpretation but also a physical interpretation. It is described as a cosmic dance. In addition to the masculine Shiva, there is also a political dimension. Amidst the symbols of war victory in the salty air, whose bhajan is Shiva going to dance to?

Comments are disabled on this page.