Friday, November 7, 2008

Hold your horses

If ever there is an award for irrelevant statues, this one (and its brother, on the other side of the flyover) will win it, time and again, in a canter. Horse racing, in one form or the other, has been around in Chennai for many years. The Madras Race Club traces its origins back to 1777, though it's formal shape was given only in 1896.

Through the 1960s, there was growing criticism about horse racing, that it was driving working class people into a cycle of gambling, debt, poverty, alcoholism and ruin. The strident demands to do something about it led to the Tamil Nadu Government issuing an ordinance on August 14, 1974, banning horse races in the state. Being very pleased with themselves, they decided to commemorate this achievement and commissioned the twin statues of a-man-and-horse. Nagappa Sculptors - then run, in all likelihood, by Jayaram Nagappa - delivered on the commission and these statues have been flanking the Gemini Flyover for the past 30 years or so.

But the original ordinance was challenged in the courts, and the implementation of the ordinance was stayed by the Madras High Court - that allowed the Madras Race Club to conduct their bicentennial races in 1978. However, it was only sometime in the early 1990s that the Supreme Court of India struck down the Government's contention that horse racing was to be banned. In some sense, racing never went away from Madras, though it was on hold long enough for these statues to be installed!

4 comments:

Abraham Lincoln said...

It looks like a nice statue.

Hilda said...

Silvery! What's it made of?

Are there many race tracks there and are the races often?

Ravindran said...

I think it adds colour to the sorroundings. It looks quite majestic.

Shantaram said...

>> Mr. President>> Hmmm, it is decent, though not very detailed...

>> Hilda>> It is a bronze statue, according to the sculptor... The Madras racing season is 42 days, usually between late October and late March; this year, it began on Nov.7!

>> Ravindran>> I've seen the colours change from bronze to black to silver over the years!