Madurai A.Vaidyanath Iyer, though hailing from an orthodox family strived for the upliftment of the downtrodden throughout his life. Apart from Iyer’s involvement in the freedom struggle, the temple entry movement conducted by Iyer was the epitome of his contributions towards social harmony and the rights of downtrodden.
A. Vaidyanatha Iyer was born on 16 May 1890 at Vishnampettai village, Thanjavur district, in then Madras Presidency as the second of eight children in an orthodox family to Arunachalam Iyer and Lakshmi Ammal. He had an unblemished track record as a distinguished student throughout his education. He completed his FA in Madura College securing fourth rank at the state level. He served as a teacher for two years before qualifying himself in law and acquiring the status of Pleader.
Iyer managed the twin challenges of being an advocate as well as a political and social activist. Leaders like Babu Rajendra Prasad, Vallabhbhai Patel, Kamaladevi Chattopadhyaya, Madan Mohan Malaviya and Jamanlal Bajaj used to stay at his home during their visits to Madurai. Iyer’s wife Akilandam Ammal was arrested and imprisoned for three months in Vellore Jail when she went as a volunteer for the Satyagraha called by Gandhiji in 1940.
Inspired by Gandhiji’s call for Khadi promotion, Iyer visited numerous villages, talked to the villagers about Khadi and guided them in the production of Khadi cloth. With the help of young volunteers, he carried Khadi clothes on his own shoulders to boost the sale of Khadi. As a result, in 1924, Madurai district topped the entire state in Khadi manufacture and sales.
Vaidyanatha Iyer led the temple entry movement in Tamilnadu. He started conducting many public meetings and conferences for temple entry all over Tamil Nadu. On 8 July 8 1939 a historic event took place. On that day, Iyer went to Meenakshi Amman temple with a group of Dalits and members of other castes. At the entrance to the temple, they were honored by R. S. Naidu, who had made proper arrangements for them to worship the main deity of the temple. After this, Iyer announced that temple entry for Dalits had happened successfully. Rajaji was then the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. He thought that the temple entry movement would create a revolution in society. In September 1939, he had the bill for temple entry passed in the Legislative Assembly and it became law. Following the Meenakshi Amman temple, temple entry took place in the Azhagar temple and the Thiruparankuntram, Thiruvarangam, Pazhani and Srivilliputhoor temples before December 1939. Rajaji supported Iyer to a great extent to make the temple entry movement a great success.

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