Tilak Ghat, Chennai

Connection with Gandhiji
Gandhiji addressed several public meetings at Tilak Ghat between 1919 and 1933. He referred to the place as ‘dear old beach of Madras’ in his speech of August 12, 1920.

Background
A portion of Marina Beach facing the Presidency College was a well-known place for public meetings from the early days of the Independence Movement. It was named ‘Thilagar Thidal’ (Tilak Ghat) by a revolutionary freedom fighter Subramania Siva in 1908. It was to honour his mentor and radical leader ‘Lokmanya’ Bal Gangadhar Tilak.

Gandhiji’s Public Meetings at Tilak Ghat
• Gandhiji’s meetings at Tilak Ghat were attended by mammoth crowds. His first two meetings at the venue were during his visit in March 1919.
• Gandhiji’s first speech at Tilak Ghat, also known as Triplicane Beach at that time, was on March 18, 1919. He briefly addressed the audience and requested to forgive him as he was under ‘strict medical orders not to exert’ himself. Gandhiji’s speech on Satyagraha in the wake of Rowlette bills was read by his secretary and close aide Mahadev Desai. S. Kasturi Ranga Iyengar, Congress leader of Madras, presided the meeting.
• One more meeting, with C. Vijayaraghavachari in the chair, was arranged at the same venue on March 20, 1919. Due to medical reasons, Gandhiji did not speak in this meeting too. Mahadev Desai read his speech.
• The meeting held on August 12, 1920, saw Gandhiji referring to Tilak Ghat as ‘dear old beach of Madras’ and giving tribute to late Lokmanya Tilak. He then proceeded to discuss several aspects of the non-co-operation movement at length.
• In the meeting held at Tilak Ghat on April 8, 1921, S. Kasturi Ranga Iyengar presided. Gandhiji, in his speech, addressed the issues of ‘disunion of Brahmins and Non-Brahmins’ being used by the government of the day among other things.
• Like previous meetings on Tilak Ghat, the meeting on September 15, 1921, began with Gandhiji offering apologies for his physical inability to stand for the speech and gave the speech sitting on the chair. Yakub Hasan was voted as the chair for the meeting. An interval of ten minutes was declared during the speech for Muslims to offer their evening prayer. The crowd maintained silence during this time. The meeting resumed smoothly after that.
• Gandhiji regretted the audience’s inability to understand Hindi and his inability to speak in Tamil, in the meeting on March 7, 1925. He said, ‘I was looking forward to the pleasure of being able to address the audiences in the southern Presidency in Tamil if I had been allowed to finish my six years in Yeravada [Jail].’ He discussed several issues like untouchability, Hindu-Muslim unity, and spinning.
• Gandhiji was offered several purses in the meeting on September 4, 1927. He stressed the importance of Khadi in his short speech.
• Gandhiji’s last speech at Tilak Ghat was on December 20, 1933, during his ‘Harijan Yatra’. It was attended by over one lakh people.

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Tilak Ghat
Chennai, Tamil Nadu

 

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