During his ongoing ‘En Mann En Makkal Yatra’ in Dharmapuri, Tamil Nadu, State BJP President K Annamalai declared his party’s readiness to construct a Bharat Mata temple in Papparapatti. This announcement aligns with the expressed desires of freedom fighter Subramanya Siva. Paying homage to the Bharat Mata statue at Subramanya Siva’s memorial, Annamalai affirmed the BJP’s commitment to fulfilling the wishes of the revered freedom fighter. The proposed temple stands as a testament to the party’s dedication to honouring the legacy of those who played a pivotal role in India’s struggle for independence.
Speaking to the media, Annamalai emphasised the historical significance of Bharat Mata, tracing its origins to Bankim Chandra Chatterjee’s 1870 portrayal of a goddess in a saffron saree, symbolising India’s unity against British rule. He noted Abanindranath Tagore’s 1905 rendition with a lion, serving as a unifying symbol for Hindus and Muslims in Bengal’s fight against the British.
Annamalai highlighted freedom fighter Subramanya Siva’s dream of a Bharat Mata temple, conceived during a period of national uprising. Suffering from leprosy and facing British restrictions on travel and medical treatment, Siva walked from Salem to Papparapatti, securing land for the envisioned temple from Chinnamuthu Mudaliar.
Undeterred by political considerations, Annamalai declared the BJP’s commitment to realising Siva’s dream. Despite an existing temple on the 6-acre land, designated as a memorial, Annamalai emphasised the need for a dedicated Bharat Mata temple. He revealed the land’s documentation explicitly mandates its use for ideologies centred around Bharat Mata. Annamalai asserted that beyond political affiliations, building the temple is a collective responsibility. The BJP, willing to construct the temple, intends to hand it over to the government for public administration, eschewing any desire for credit.
Annamalai’s announcement reflects the party’s acknowledgment of historical legacies and a commitment to honouring the aspirations of freedom fighters like Subramanya Siva. The proposed Bharat Mata temple stands not only as a religious symbol but also as a testament to the enduring spirit of unity and resistance against colonial oppression.
We are determined to fulfil the dream of our Freedom fighter Thiru Subramaniya Siva avl’s of having a Bharatha Mata Temple in Dharmapuri district in the place earmarked for this purpose. pic.twitter.com/LgmZIv4cs3
— K.Annamalai (மோடியின் குடும்பம்) (@annamalai_k) January 8, 2024
Since its inauguration in 2021, the Bharat Mata Ninaivalayam memorial in Papparapatti, Dharmapuri district, has been at the centre of a growing demand from residents for a name change to Bharat Mata Temple. Locals aspire for public access to enable individuals to pay respects and garland the idol, aligning with the vision of late freedom fighter Subramanya Siva. This realisation comes almost a century after the conceptualization of the idea by CR Das in 1923.
In 2022, the BJP sought permission to conduct a pooja and garland the Bharat Mata idol around Independence Day. However, permission was revoked at the eleventh hour, granting access solely to the freedom fighter’s memorial for paying respects. The incident reflects the ongoing push for public engagement with the memorial and the desire to transform it into a fully accessible Bharat Mata Temple.
Another incident involved BJP leader Annamalai forcing entry into a church near Dharmapuri, despite opposition from some DMK elements. Annamalai garlanded the Mary idol, sparking controversy and accusations of attempting to mix religion with politics. The opposition, believed to be led by a DMK functionary, resulted in a viral social media campaign featuring pictures of Minister Udhayanidhi Stalin.
In separate instances, the Tamil Nadu police denied permission to install Bharat Mata statues on private patta properties and at the BJP office. Despite opposition, the authorities removed the statues, with police scaling down a wall at the BJP office to unlock the main gate for statue removal.
Critics argue that the DMK government’s actions demonstrate a non-patriotic nature and opposition to religious symbols associated with nationalistic sentiments. In 2021, an MLA from the ruling DMK alliance, ER Easwaran, declared Tamil Nadu’s regained pride due to the omission of the phrase ‘Jai Hind’ in the Governor’s address. However, Governor RN Ravi consistently concludes his addresses with the phrase ‘Jai Hind,’ highlighting the underlying ideological differences between the ruling party and the Governor.