The Pride of Madurai -Councilor Smt.Thayammal (1933)


(Note: This post is about a document accidentally I have seen it in the district documentation center. The document was about the proceedings of the then Madurai Council in the year 1933 – about a resolution brought by a woman councilor. I was really moved by the words and vision of the resolution. Since I was not permitted to xerox it, I copied it and made a translation. This translation is nothing before the original in Tamil – the handwriting, the phrasing – it was really beautiful and nothing in Madurai stand before the beauty of that document - it was a love and vision personified.

I used the document in one of my monograph published for limited circulation. I was trying my level best to trace out the lineage of that great woman who brought the resolution with some of the Madurai elders, but they could not recollect her. I will be thankful if any one helps me to trace out the origin of that great woman – to simply pay my respect to her lineage.)


It is an irony when women themselves were not empowered there was a woman in Madurai, some 75 years before, laid the foundation for a dignified living of thousands who were not even considered as human beings at that time.

That woman achieved it not by fighting; she did it with her maternal love and persuasive skills.What she was intended for thousands at that time had now grown into millions.

Here is a story to emulate….and this piece of writing is a humble attempt to propagate the glory, maternal love and affection shown by an ordinary Madurai woman to the neglected…

This piece of writing is an attempt to sustain her vision….an attempt to introspect the past …an attempt in renovating the path on which an ordinary but visionary a Madurai woman walked.

73 years back – in the year 1933: June 6

It was a hot summer day.

As usual Madurai Municipal Council meeting was held. Sriman V.Muthramier was adorning the chair. Eminent Madurai citizens like Sriman E.M. Gopalakrishna Konar, Sriman L.K. Thulasiram and Sriman. Nallathambi Pillai was adorning the council as members. Among these doyens, there was a women member by name Srimathi. Thayammal.

Even today there are calls for emancipation of women and reservation for women in legislatures. Think about 75 years before. They were literally chained. At such a time, a woman, hailing from an ordinary family gave her voice not for herself, nor for her community, nor for the people whom she represented but for the whole community, which was leading a life about which she felt hurt.

Sriman Muthramier looked at Srimathi Thayammal, who asked permission from the Chair, to move a resolution, signaling to read the resolution. She raised more in sorrow than in anger and read the resolution. Her voice was choked with emotion. But the fire in her and the healing touch of a motherly love and care with which she read the resolution seemed to echo the voice of Meenakshi, the very Goddess of the temple city, feeling for the sad plight of her children whose confidence of leading a honorable life at her abode was being shattered to pieces at her own feet.

Any one who has a sensitive ear can even now hear the resolution that Smt. Thayammal read on that day, 7.6.1933

(Translation of the original resolution.Please take some time to read the original resolution)

Hon’ble Chairman and dear brothers!

All of us are well aware that all the cheris (slums) in our municipal area are unfit for human habitation due to improper maintenance, lack of basic facilities like water, electricity, toilets and even housing. And all of them require our immediate attention. But the financial crisis through which our municipal council passes at present, --- forbids us from taking up the work of improvement of all the cheris (slums) simultaneously. I request the honorable members of this august assembly to accord sanction of funds for the improvement of at least two of the following cheris (slums).

1. The scavengers’ colony adjacent to Raja Mill.

2. The cheri (slum) on the west of Police Parade Ground in TPK road[1].

These cheris (slums) should be so modernized by providing basic amenities like housing, hygienic surroundings, water taps / wells, public conveniences, day schools or night schools so as to deserve the title of modern cheris.

Now kindly let me elaborate this issue. It is crystal clear that all the cheris (slums) in our municipal limit sail the same boat and all of them require our immediate care and attention. But taking into consideration the economic condition of the council, I feel reluctant to pressurize the council to start work in all the cheris (slums) simultaneously. But at the same time I’ll be much pleased if the council generously accord sanction of necessary funds to make a beginning at least. When the financial condition of the council improves it is our duty and responsibility to uplift all the cheris (slums). But the work should begin to modernize at least in two cheris (slums), which will act as the model cheris (slums) in future. This is the most pressing work on our hand this year. I need not educate my learned colleagues that this work has to be carried out everywhere without any obstacle and without anybody’s reminder. Postponement of this noble task on the grounds of shortage of funds will only tarnish the image of our city. The shortage of funds may be over come by austerity measures and transfer of funds from various heads like chairman’s salary, cholera staff salary, anti hukewarm fund, purchase of bleaching powder etc to this head of modernization of cheris (slums). Or the honorable chairman may allocate funds from any other means. The point is that the thing should be done and that too, at once. If necessary, the council may seek the financial assistance from the state govt. for the fulfillment of this noble deed.

What we are going to do is not an act of mercy but it is our duty and responsibility to free our fellow human being from the intolerable suffering due to lack of water for drinking / bathing / cleaning which makes the poor people living place a breeding ground of diseases.

I do solicit the cooperation of all members in shouldering the responsibility of uplifting the living conditions of the down trodden, an act which is nothing short of worship to god. Kindly extend your utmost support in passing this resolution unanimously, for true manliness lies not in self-advancement but in selfless service to society. Thank you.

While she completed reading the resolution, the most respected members of the council stood-up spontaneously in order to second it and Sriman E.M.Gopalakrishna Konar was quick enough to second it. Sriman Nallathambi Pillai felt extremely sorry for having missed a god gifted opportunity of seconding this historic resolution. Reading his mind, another member Sriman L.K. Thulasiram asked him to wait for a minute. He brought an amendment to Srimathi. Thayammal’s resolution. By the first, the nomenclature was changed from “modern cheris” to “model cheris” and by the second the number of such model cheris as per the wish of Srimathi. Thayammal should be raised to as many as possible. Shri.Nallathambi Pillai seconded the amendments and the resolution with the amendments was unanimously passed as per the wishes of Smt. Thayammal.

The resolution Smt.Thayammal brought was no doubt a world-class resolution. It was basically a swedeshi resolution thought by the people of Madurai for the people of Madurai. The resolution was put into action and 180 houses were constructed to the down trodden in the following five places at that time.

1. Sangili Thoppu 2. Simmakkal 3.Moolakarai 4.Subramaniyapuram 5.Melavasal

These five habitations are not the physical structures. It was the reflection of the conscience of Madurai city. But what is the present state of these habitations. It looks opposite to the original intention. The present condition of these colonies will definitely prick the conscience of right thinking Maturities. Not only these five, there are more than 200 habitations in Madurai, which is longing for Maduraites love as Smt. Thayammal showed 75 years before.

The occupants of these model cheris at present lead a worse life than their forefathers for whom these colonies were made. Such degeneration in the standard and upkeep of the colonies certainly tells upon the image and glory of this ancient city.

What can we do for these habitations at present?

First of all sincere efforts should be made to renovate these model cheris, the occupants of which do belong to low-income group. The clauses in the original resolution should be fulfilled to the letter, keeping in mind the spirit of the resolution. The living conditions of these colonies should be improved upon so as to meet the basic requirements and comforts of the dwellers.

With a view to glorify and perpetuate the memory of a noble soul, this initiative is should be named after her, as Councilor Smt.Thayammal Memorial Habitation Improvement Program.

Every Maturities should be proud of Smt. Thayammal for her broad social outlook. Even before 75 years, she put forth her vision in such a persuasive way and got succeeded in her mission. Smt. Thayammal was a concrete example to show what the representatives of local self-governments can achieve.

The fact that her descendants are not immediately traceable indicates that didn’t belong to any affluent family. Hence she deserves much more praise.

[1] The present Melavasal Slum. Police Parade Ground was called as Kavaathu Maidanam

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