Jnanodaya Samaj Mandir celebrates 100 yrs

Jnanodaya Samaj Mandir celebrates 100 yrs

The 100-year-old Jnanodaya Samaj Mandir in Hoige Bazaar, Mangaluru.

The saying, ‘Tell the truth; do good,’ is etched prominently in Kannada and Sanskrit on the front wall of the Jnanodaya Samaj Mandir at Hoige Bazaar.

It has been a 100 years to Jnanodaya Samaj Mandir on February 22, 2019.

The building with leaking roofs might appear dilapidated, but it is steeped in history. “About 120 years ago, my grandfather Mohanappa Thingalaya was saddened by what he witnessed in villages,” says Premachandra K Thingalaya, Mohan Thingalaya’s grandson and president of the Mandir.

“As an employee of the British-India government, Mohan Thingalaya used to regularly visit the villages near Mangaluru city. He found fishermen, whose community he belonged to, addicted to alcohol. Their addiction to the bottle not only made them poorer but also destroyed their health. He therefore launched the Jnanodaya Samaj in 1910 with the objective of propagation of abstinence from alcohol. On February 22, 1919, the Jnanodaya Samaj Mandir was completed,” said Premachandra Thingalaya.

Letter to Gandhiji

In order to boost the campaign, Mohanappa Thingalaya invited Mahatma Gandhi to address the fishermen at the Mandir. “My grandfather, using khadi as a medium, wrote an appeal to Gandhiji in both Kannada and English. In the letter, he said that a majority of the one lakh fishermen were addicted to alcohol. If the fishermen were freed from the habit of drinking, the fishing industry, which is like a cottage industry, would flourish, he had explained,” Premachandra added.

He remembers his grandfather saying that people from distant places had come to the Mandir to listen to Gandhiji speak about abstinence from alcohol. “As there were no chairs then, ‘jamakhanas’ were spread on the floor. Gandhiji came in a car and delivered a powerful message to the fishermen,” said Premachandra, adding that the building was utilised not only for anti-liquor campaigns but also as a school.

As the struggle for freedom intensified, the building became a centre for freedom fighters – in particular, for women freedom fighters. When Gandhiji was assassinated in 1948, all shows in film theatres were cancelled as a mark of respect.

“I was eight-years-old, when the ashes of Gandhiji arrived in a train. The vessel was placed in the government college for public viewing. The ashes were then immersed at the point of confluence of Gurupura and Phalguni rivers,” said Premachandra.

‘Direction lost’

He also said that most Independence issues like education and temperance work have taken a back seat. “We have also failed to attract young leaders to continue the campaign. Now, the building is being used to conduct bhajan sessions and staging a drama once a year,” he added.

Deputy Commissioner Sasikanth Senthil S said that the building, given its rich history, needs to be protected like a temple.

Excerpts from Gandhiji’s speech on alcohol on Feb 24, 1934

I thank you for the purse (donation) and for your address. I am glad that you have frankly admitted the existence of the drink evil among fishermen. I myself belong to a fishermen’s village. And therefore I know what fishermen do. And I suppose, it is from their habits that we have got the phrase, ‘he drinks like a fish’.

I am glad that your sabha is tackling this drink evil and that your effort is being crowned with some measure of success. Having worked at prohibition, I know how difficult it is to deal with this drink curse.

I would leave with you one suggestion: that you must not be satisfied with merely asking the people not to drink. I have found that many people drink because they have nothing else to do. Therefore, you must find a variety of ways whereby you may occupy their attention, their minds, their hands and their feet.

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