The SPB statue story adds fuel to the myth that can’t be ‘busted’

Updated by admin on Saturday, October 24, 2020 04:04 PM IST

Chennai: Is a statue for a living person unlucky? Does it bring in bad luck, bad days for such a person? Did it happen in the case of singer SPB who ordered a statue for himself? In a world full of superstitions even in the 21st century, such questions do crop up.
After his 74th birthday celebrations, SPB, who initially asked a sculptor to make statues of his parents (Sambamurthy and Sakanthulamma) to be unveiled at his Nellore house, subsequently wanted him to do a statue of himself, perhaps in anticipation of his 75th birthday celebrations. SPB had sent his photos to the sculptor, D Rajkumar Vudayar, who runs a fine arts institute in Kothapet village near Amalapuram in East Godavari district. Rajkumar was an ardent fan of the veteran singer and made a bust, which looks life-like. .

(Read also : https://thefederal.com/the-eighth-column/how-spbs-statue-added-fuel-to-a-spooky-superstition/?doing_wp_cron=1603535822.6286499500274658203125)
The statues should have been ready and unveiled in August but the Corona pandemic had caused a delay. SPB himself was down with the infection, resulting in hospitalisation and eventual death on September 25.  The death has come as a huge shock to his fans and the sculptor too who was hoping to see the joy on SPB’s face.

Some fans of SPB have posted blogs saying SPB perhaps had a premonition about his death and wanted to see the statue before he passed away. From all accounts, SPB had no such premonition. In fact, he told interviewers even recently that he wanted to live long and did not want to die!
Be that as it may, the death of SPB has triggered speculation over the superstition that it is not advisable for a person to have his statue done when alive.
Is there any connection between statues of a living person and bad days? At least three prominent personalities of Tamil Nadu seemed to have a decline after their statues were put up during their lifetime.
C N Annadurai: fondly called as Anna, had his moments of glory in 1967, leading the party that he founded, the DMK, to power in Tamil Nadu.
The DMK government put up a statue of Annadurai on Anna Salai on the eve of the Second World Tamil conference in Chennai in January 1968. A few months later, his health took a turn for the worse, sought treatment for cancer, and died on February 3, 1969.
Periyar: E V Ramaswami Naicker (called Thanthai Periyar), founded the Dravidar Kazhagam. The tallest leader of the Dravidian movement which catapulted the DMK to power despite differences between the DK and the breakaway DMK, Periyar was overshadowed by the meteoric rise of DMK leaders like Anna, V R Nedunchezhiyan and M Karunanidhi among others. Periyar appealed to the public to bring back the Congress and K Kamaraj to power in Tamil Nadu but could not prevent DMK victories. He also appealed to Karunanidhi and MGR to patch up and prevent a split in the DMK, Here too, his attempts failed.
The Periyar statue was unveiled on September 17, 1967, when Periyar was alive, at Trichy bus stand by then chief minister Annadurai, in the presence of former chief minister K Kamaraj.
“The purpose of installing my statue is to propagate my ideas (about rationalism),” said Periyar while participating in a function to unveil his statue at Dharmapuri on May 24, 1969.
Periyar died an unhappy man in 1973.
K Kamaraj : In October 1961, the then PM, Jawaharlal Nehru, made an exception to his policy of not unveiling statues of living persons, came to Chennai and unveiled the Kamaraj statue.  “Kamaraj was the first chief minister to allow a statue to be unveiled for himself, “ Nehru remarked then. ““I wish Kamaraj many more years despite a statue being put up for him.”

Shortly thereafter in Tamil Nadu, the Congress went through a period of turbulence, witnessing a sharp rise in the DMK and growing resentment against the Congress. In 1963 Kamaraj gave up chief ministership, and the Congress decline was rapid in Tamil Nadu. It suffered serious setbacks in 1964-65 due to anti-Hindi agitations and rice scarcity, and Kamaraj himself lost the election in 1967. The Congress could not come back to power in the State though 53 years have lapsed.
M Karunanidhi: When the Karunanidhi bust on Anna Salai in Chennai was damaged during rioting after the death of MGR in December 1987, and the DMK made no fresh attempt to put up a new statue of the DMK leader there, DK leader K Veeramani offered to repair the bust. Karunanidhi declined stating that he was not keen on a bust for himself. Veeramani countered by stating that believers felt it was not auspicious for living persons to have statues of their own. So, if Karunanidhi did not refurbish the bust, it would strengthen the case of those who spread such superstitions and weaken the stand of rationalists, Veeramani argued. However, MK did not relent, and the bust still remains so, a vandalised figure.
So, the question arises whether MK was conscious of the stories on the superstition, and saw in the desecration an opportunity to set things right for himself? 

Periyar wanted to erect a statue of MK in 1968 and again in 1971 but the latter put it off saying it could be done after the DK agreed to a Periyar statue to be provided for by the DMK.
Thus, the Periyar statue came up in front of the Simpsons building on Anna Salai and Karunanidhi later agreed to have his statue unveiled.
Periyar’s statue was installed in front of the Simpsons building on Anna Salai. Later Karunanidhi’s statue was unveiled by Kundrakudi Adigal in 1975. The statue was desecrated in the rioting that broke out after MGR’s death in December 1987.
After the MK statue was unveiled, he and the DMK lost power in 1977 and lost successive elections. In December 1987, his statue was vandalised. In the elections to the State Assembly in 1989, MK managed a comeback and thereafter did have several terms as chief minister (1989, 1996, 2006).   
Veeramani said his efforts to reinstall the statue failed to materialise in 1987-88 because Karunanidhi, his family members and many DMK leaders were against the idea.

After Karunanidhi’s death, DK leader Veeramani said in August 2018 that Karunanidhi’s statue would be installed at the very spot on Anna Salai where it once stood, before it was desecrated.

“Since there is an order against installation of statues on public roads, we will get the support of the government to install the statue,” he said in a statement.
“Now we will install a bronze statue and we need the support of all,” he said.
However, a new Karunanidhi statue was installed in the Anna Arivalayam compound after his death.
Coming back to the SBP statue story, it would probably be unveiled by his family in the ancestral property at Nellore or the memorial that is to come up in Tamil Nadu’s Thiruvalluvar district, depending upon the family decision.
The myth regarding statue of a living person will probably never get ‘busted’. The SPB story only serves to strengthen the belief of those who believe in superstitions that a living person ought not to have his statue unveiled during his or her lifetime.  
By R. Rangaraj 


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