South Asia

Organized Panel Session

3 - Reconfiguring the Sacred: Valluvar Kottam as a Public Monument in Chennai

Friday, July 6
10:20 AM - 11:50 AM
Location: Tamarind, New Building

Valluvar Kottam, located in the heart of Chennai, is a unique piece of public monument. Built in the early seventies by the ruling DMK at the behest of the then Chief Minister M.Karunanidhi, the monument testifies to the possibility of fusing the notions of sacred and ethos of the secular through architecture. The paper aims to elucidate this feature in the broader historical context that made it possible. 


Thirukkural, allegedly written two millennia’s before playing a key role in Tamil renaissance. The text was popularized by many orientalist scholars and was translated into European languages. In colonial modernity, the identity of its author became moot. While it was widely felt that the author should have been a Jain on the basis of some textual evidence, the Saivites made a popular assimilation of the figure into a Saivite savant with folkloric renditions of his life.


The Dravidian movement found Thiru Kural, the key to its claims of the antiquity of Tamil civilization and its egalitarian outlook. In spite of its chapter on the all-powerful unnamed alterity as God, the text of Kural made no mention of any particular God. This helped the DMK, a major Dravidian, to make Kural a secular scripture of sorts. M.Karunanidhi, the leader of DMK since 1972, was particularly invested in the text and its author. By taking the model of the temple chariot of his hometown to construct a monument in Chennai, he created an architectural attempt to fuse sacred and the secular.

Jayashree Venkatadurai

Avinashilingam Deemed University for Women, India

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3 - Reconfiguring the Sacred: Valluvar Kottam as a Public Monument in Chennai



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