Friday, May 2, 2008

A day later

Chennai has a claim to have had the first ever May Day rally in India, in 1923. The Marina Beach was Chennai's equivalent of London's Hyde Park and therefore a natural spot for Comrade Singaravelar, a labour union leader, to have a meeting there, calling for recognition of workers' rights; a demand that's still repeated every May Day in different parts of the world.

Until the installation of the 'Triumph of Labour' statute in 1959, there was probably no focal point for the various labour unions and workers' federations to rally around; since then, every May Day has seen the statue being cleaned, polished, garlanded and being the backdrop for speeches and rallies. The statue itself shows four men toiling to move a rock and was sculpted by Devi Prasad Roy Choudury, who was the first Indian principal of what is today the Tamil Nadu Government College of Fine Arts (then the Government of Madras School of Arts and Crafts). It is quite fitting that the statue is installed close to the site where the country's first commemoration of May Day was held.

Obviously the photo does not do it justice - but if it did, you might not need to go over and see it on the Marina!

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