Mahatma Ayyankali Hall (formerly VJT), Thiruvanantha puram - a fine monument


Mahatma Ayyankali Hall,Thiruvananthapuram

Mahatma Ayyankali Hall in Thiruvananthapuram

Above image: Formerly Victoria Jubilee Town Hall, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala. It was opened on 25 January 1896 by the erstwhile ruler and enlightened social reformer Moolam Tirunal Rama Varma. On the morning of  22 October  1904, the hall hosted the first ever  meeting of the Sri Mulam Popular Assembly (Sri Mulam Praja. Sabha). The objective was “solely to give the people an opportunity of bringing to the notice of the Government their requirements, wishes or grievances on the one hand, and on the other, to make the policy and measures of the Government better known to the people so that all possible grounds of misconception in regard to the action of Government may be removed.”. As for the architect, it is presumed  that Robert Chisholm might have been consulted considerting its Indo-gothic style design.........................

.Location map. Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala.

The Victoria Jubilee Town Hall  in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala was built in 1896 by Maharajah Sri Moolam Thirunal Rama Varma of the Travancore princely state to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the coronation of Queen Victoria. Popularly known as  "VJT, it has been widely used by  various communities for cultural activities, etc. Part of the expenses were met by public subscription.   Till India's independence it was a symbol  of Travancore ruler's allegiance to the Queen of England. In the early days before opening to public, the royal family members used the town hall  to throw birthday parties, etc., which were attended by Europeans and Indian elite. 

Ayyakali Hall (VJT), TV Puram, Kerala,

VJT Hall, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala.

VJT Hall, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala.

VJT hall Thiruvananthapuram.

Rich  in architectural  style and its role as a center of Kerala's rich tradition and cultural ethos, the town hall is sought by many people including those who want to hold exhibition, etc. In the 1940s and 1950s this hall was vibrant and active and many social events, public  meetings, performing arts events used to take place here. The local Kathakali Club used to stage  their monthly performances in the hall.

.Mahatma Ayyankali Hall (VJT)

In the last week of August 2019  CM  of Kerala  Pinarayi Vijayan  was inaugurating the 157th birth anniversary celebration  of  brave  social reformer  Ayyankali in the VJT Hall.  It was here in 1912 Ayyankali  made his  his historic speech  unequivocally demanding equal rights for  the oppressed community members as the first Pulaya member of the Moolam Praja Sabha.  Availing  himself of the opportunity on the same occasion  the CM of Kerala   honored  Mahatma Ayyankali  by  renaming  VJT  after the  reformer. Some  historians  were of the view that the ruling party could have  chosen some other way to honor the social reformer instead of naming. a heritage structure, that was built in honor of the British queen.  Anyway, the Dalit community as a whole welcomed the the move 

Maharaja Moolam Thirunal Rama Varma,/ 

Above image:  Sri Moolam Titunal Rama Varma (1857–1924) was  the Maharajah of the princely state of Travancore between 1885 and 1924, succeeding his uncle Maharajah Visakham Thirunal (1880–1885). He was from the Changanassery Royal Family and Maharani Lakshmi Bayi of Travancore, niece of Maharajah Swathi Thirunal...  The Travancore Legislative Council was formed in 1888,  and it was the first Legislative Council for a native state in the history of India. It was later succeeded by the Sree Moolam Popular Assembly, the first legislature in Indian history to have elected members. The portrait by famous painter Raja Ravi Varma................................

The  Town Hall since its inception has interwoven  with changing  political scenario of this city. An  important  fact that  emerges is the hall used  to host both the Legislative Council and the Sri Mulam Popular Assembly. The hall was a silent spectator to various  agitations/protests  by the Travancore State Congress party.

Brave social reformer of Kerala Sri Ayyankali.

Presently being managed by the Thiruvananthapuram corporation, the hall is widely used for conducting expos, craft exhibition, sale, etc., pushing the cultural events, etc., to the back stage. Many  historians and heritage lovers feel that if commercialization of the hall takes precedence over cultural events, at stake will be the historical importance of the hall and the purpose for which it was built.

The  city  corporation must use discretion to rent out a 100 plus year old building because care must be taken to maintain and conserve it for the posterity. Conducting cultural events native to Kerala will be appropriate and will match the majesty of this structure built in honor of the British queen.