The 216-foot-tall statue, unveiled by Prime Minister Modi in February 2022, is one of the tallest metal seats statues in the world. This is a resemblance to the 11th-century Vaishnavaita Ramanuja, housed in the Chinna Jeeyar Trust in Muchintal, Hyderabad. Namrata Koli spoke with Sri Sri Sri Tridandi Devanadha Ramanuja Jiar Swami, a member of the SRS committee Sri Ramanuja Sahasrabdi, about what this monument means to the cultural landscape of the country and the essence of this statue. Edited excerpts:
The Statue of Equality is dedicated to Ramanujacharya. What was he trying to promote?
“In the eyes of God all are equal” – Ramanujacharya lived all his life, adhering to this faith. The statue teaches us to value each person and love him regardless of caste, religion and status in society.
The idea of caste was misunderstood. Caste is nothing but an activity that you perform in the service of the people. Initially, certain activities were assigned to the division of roles and groups of people. Whether it is making pots to store water and quench the thirst of passers-by (kumhar), or washing and ironing clothes (dhobi), or cutting hair (barber), etc. In all villages the streets were taken by separate communities or castes. In Telangana we call it Kumharvidhi, which is a place given to one particular bone. People were given activities on behalf of this caste.
Even in central America, all major companies, such as banks and financial companies, are in the same cluster. In big cities you will find streets dedicated to hospitals, jewelry paths to vegetable markets – all done for the convenience of society, convenience of transport and travel. But it’s very frustrating when people start associating caste with status. Each activity has its role in society or its own pattern of things. Can we survive if the dhobi stops working tomorrow? We consider people big and small, powerful and powerless. The Statue of Equality is a reminder of Ramanujacharya’s teaching that all are equal in the eyes of God.
The inauguration was a big deal with the presence of Prime Minister Modi. Tell us a little about the whole project
The inauguration was part of a 12-day celebration of the 1000th anniversary of St. Sri Ramanuja Sahasrabdi Samaroham.
This project, worth 1,000 crore rupees, which covers about 334 hectares, was fully funded by donations from devotees from around the world. The inner deity of Sanctorum Sri Ramanujachary is made of 120 kg of gold in memory of the 120 years when the saints walked this earth. The 216-foot-tall statue of the Equality in the open air, the second tallest in the world with a sitting position, consists of a “stocking”, a combination of five metals: gold, silver, copper, brass and zinc. The complex has identical recreations 108 Diva Dessam, 108 richly carved Vishnu temples mentioned in the works of Alwar, mystical Tamil saints.
The 54-foot-tall base building called Bhadra Veda has special floors for the Vedic Digital Library and Research Center, ancient Indian texts, a theater, an educational gallery and a robust multilingual audio tour detailing many of Sri Ramanuja’s works. Acharya.
The statue was built by a Chinese firm and after completion was sent to India. Did we not have the experience of the indigenous people?
In this universe, there is no harm in using the right technology wherever it is available for a good cause. But if this technology is used to destroy society, even if it is ours, then it is wrong. But using the right technology in the right way for the right cause, wherever it is available, is the perfect thing.
Everything else, for example, sculptor, architect, designers, workers from native sources.
How do people perceive this? Are they able to absorb and appreciate the idea that is spreading – the idea of equality?
Just last week there were three buses from Gujarat and one from Bihar. Even in this heat, people plan special trips. I noticed that at first people come mostly tourists. But upon arrival, they reflect on the principle of equality and develop curiosity. No one understands Swamiji’s vision from the first time. But when people come here and come back, they try to think about it. There is some influence of Ramanuja on modern minds.
How does this grand project connect these thoughts of Ramanujachary and what should be the biggest takeaway for the viewer or visitor in this modern era?
The temple is just a copy of society. Ramanuja introduced people of every caste to the service in the temple. In the temple created, you have everything from a potter to a dhobi to a wood master. This activity is supported by heads of state, brahmanas who perform mantras, merchants who give finances, etc. Ramanuja has set up more than 30 departments to provide service activities that include all of these roles.
God is in the whole universe and is present in every particle. In the materialistic world, man can create limitations, but in the universe, everyone has equal opportunities to reach God.
How did you rate the tickets? The money should go to the maintenance of the facility. Is the maintenance of the monument a monumental task?
We have a nominal access fee for all of Rs 150. We also charge a fee as we need to maintain the premises and maintain a comfortable atmosphere. We have more than 150 people on security and more than a hundred on the farm. Since we have 108 temples, we actually need 108 * 2 priests, but now we only have 100 and we are gathering the right set of faithful people. Then we need 25-50 cooks to sacrifice to God and devotees. With so many employees working in this organization, we need to give some fee, although the salary is not yet called.
We did not want to impose money on society, but we believe that if everyone shares the money a little, that would be a devotee who comes with the family on behalf of darshan, or gave, this money can be used for maintenance.