Everyday, as we go about our daily commute in Chennai, we see these statues – silent sentinels of the past, standing tall and telling us their stories. Covered in bird poop or dust and often damaged, these towering sculptures are a witness to the city’s pollution and traffic snarls, apart from its history, of course. Except on occasions relating to the personalities (such as birth anniversaries) where they are cleaned up/renovated and garlanded, these statues are largely ignored in the hustle and bustle of daily life.
Statues are often the targets of vandalism, as historian Nivedita Louis rightly explained, “Statues are seen as people themselves; so when there is a controversy, they are vandalised. The recent example of destroying Periyar statue in Vellore says it all.”
How well do we know some of these statues around Chennai, that are both glorified and vilified?