Saturday, April 8, 2023

Old society

The Madras Mahajana Sabha's building on Anna Salai today seems to reflect an organisation that has always been interested in providing reasonable accommodation for its members (and maybe others) who are visiting the city. But those 8 characters below the building's name should be a clue to the antiquity of the association itself. It is considered a catalyst to the founding of the Indian National Congress, which came up a year after the MMS was established. However, it seems to have been more of a parallel organisation, supporting the Congress when it was proscribed, and fronting for it on occasion. 

The founders of the Madras Mahajana Sabha, M. Veeraraghavachariar, G. Subramania Iyer and Panapakkam Anandacharlu were concerned about the British hold over India and had in their own ways been agitating against the colonisers. Subramania Iyer and Veeraraghavachariar were two of the co-founders of "The Hindu" and therefore the initial office of the Sabha was at the premises of The Hindu

Over the first couple of decades of the 20th century, the Sabha grew closer to the Indian National Congress; today, many of the Sabhas early leaders are described as stalwarts of the Congress. It was convenient to have this kind of a twin identify, for whenever the Congress had to go quiet, the Mahajana Sabha stepped up to fill the breach, at least within the Madras town and other parts of the Madras Presidency. Today, this building is the most visible reminder of the Sabha!

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