As news of tight security in Tamil Nadu's Ramanathapuram for Thevar Jayanthi floats in, we wonder why the celebrations are given so much importance. Also known as Guru Puja, the celebration commemorates the life and time of a freedom fighter cum spiritual leader Muthuramalinga Thevar. But aren't there many more such leaders in India? Why is it that close to 8,000 police personnel have been deployed for this celebration here?
As we dig deeper, we discover facts that do not readily meet the eye. For instance, according to a report by NDTV, it has become a destination for political pilgrimage in Tamil Nadu for the very fact that this is the only occasion when parties can woo the Thevar community. This community, presumably, has a strong hold across the Southern districts of Tamil Nadu. What more, it is also said that till a few years ago, participants in the celebrations also included some of the top notch political leaders.
This year too, the birth anniversary would be attended by some of the top bosses in state politics, including Chief Minister E Palaniswami, his deputy O Panneerselvam, DMK's MK Stalin, sidelined AIADMK leader TTV Dhinakaran, MDMK Chief Vaiko and State Congress Chief Thirunavukarasar.
On Friday, the statue of Muthuramalinga Thevar was adorned with 13-kg gold armour, which was donated by the late CM J Jayalalithaa. The function was held at the freedom-fighter-cum-spiritual leader's memorial in Pasumponn in Ramanathapuram district in the presence of the Madurai collector.
Such is the importance of the festival that it had even led to clashes between the community and the Dalits in the past, which is why heavy security was required.
The caste dynamics
According to a report by The Hindu, the most culturally and politically dominant castes in the areas Theni, Thirunelveli, Madurai, Sivaganga, Ramnad is the ‘Mukkulathor’ community, collectively known as Thevars. These consist of three sub sects that include Kallars, Maravars and Agamudaiyars. So, if these communities are wooed, any political party would lead the elections by notches.
The caste dynamics has always worked in favour of AIADMK since the era of the late CM J Jayalalithaa (no wonder, she had donated a golden armour to the temple in 2014). The celebrations, if observed like any other year, could also be a turning point for the divided factions of the AIADMK. As per the article, social activist A Marx said, “Historically speaking, Thevars took an anti-Congress stand. They slowly turned against the DMK after the party failed to recognise them. They found common cause with the AIADMK.”
While that defines the rush of the AIADMK leaders (divided or undivided) to the destination, it is also true that this time the dynamics would function in a different manner, given the multiple existing sub-sets in AIADMK. It, however, remains to be seen whether the Thevar celebrations really works in favour of the party, ahead of the elections in the state.