The story of Telangana martyrs memorial

Photo: Aekka Yadagiri Rao standing in front of the Telangana Martyrs Memorial

By: Mahesh Avadhuta

Aekka Yadagiri Rao…This name might not be familiar to everyone but his creation will be etched in the first page of Telangana history forever. In the last two and half years since Union Government made an announcement on Telangana and then retracted its stand soon after, not even a day goes without taking mention of his creation by pro-Telangana activists, intellectuals, students etc.

This is the most-sought-after visiting place for politicians of Telangana, who kickstart their bus yatras, protest programmes from this very location. This masterpiece finds a regular mention even in daily newspapers and news channels of our state.

These hints are enough to guess that we are talking about one of its kind Telangana martyrs memorial statue that is right amidst the picturesque background of the state Assembly. This creation is a tribute to the Telangana students, who were killed during the separate state agitation of 1969.

This statue, a 25-feet tall one is the handiwork of Aekka Yadagiri Rao, 74, a nationally acclaimed sculptor, who retired as Professor in Department of Sculpture from JNTU (Fine Arts) in 1999-2000. It is ironical that the Telangana martyrs memorial built by him in 1974 is yet to be inaugurated till date. If that was not enough, authorities still owe him some money for the work, which when calculated with interest comes anywhere close to Rs.25 lakhs, according to Yadagiri Rao.

While the costs incurred for making it was around Rs 1.5 lakh in those days, the authorities just paid him Rs 90,000 and washed off their hands. He was told that the rest of the amount would be paid at the time of inauguration, which never happened till date. The sculptor even waged a legal battle in different courts for over 30 years and his plea was ultimately rejected in the High Court early this year, informs Yadagiri Rao.

When questioned about the inauguration which never took place, he replied, “I was entrusted with the job of creating this structure in memory of Telangana martyrs in 1972. The work was completed in just over two years. In the meantime, the Congress high command made sure that all Telangana leaders listen to its diktats.

After that, nobody dared to talk or utter a word about Telangana which led to indefinite postponement of the inauguration. Still I knocked the doors of the then MCH (Municipal Corporation of Hyderabad office) which gave me the contract, countless number of times for five years in between 1975 and 1980, with the hope of getting my due amount. However, I gave up my hope thereafter.”

He is however elated with the fact that his excellent creation is being given the proper recognition post December 2009. Even my family members, well-wishers, friends feel very happy when the statue finds a regular mention in different news media these days.

Statues of horse and flag at Indira Park, Durgabhai Deshmukh on Tank Bund and Ambedkar statue in Karimnagar are some of Aekka Yadagiri Rao’s creations.

Granite is my favorite material because it never gets eroded or never dies out. It stays on forever with no maintenance required at all. Even the Telangana martyrs memorial was made from this same material, stated Yadigiri Rao and reminded that centuries-old temples in our country were still strong and fine because they were made from granite.

Aekka Yadagiri Rao, who was born in 1938 in the old city, started his artistic journey in the early 1960s. His inspiration was his uncle Raghava, who himself was a sculptor. Under his tutelage, Yadagiri Rao who was in his teens then started making Ganesh idols from plaster of paris for Vinayaka Chavithi festivals.

His passion for art fetched him a teacher job in College of Fine Arts department in JNTU in 1971 from where he retired as Professor 30 years later. He was awarded the gold medals by AP State Lalit Kala Akademi(1974) and Hyderabad Art Society(1975). Yadagiri Rao also received honours from state government, various universities, organizations (state and national) during his journey.

Well-known art critic Jayappa Swamy had compared this sculptor’s works to the creations of world renowned Picasso (France) and Henry Moore (United Kingdom).

Art historian and Padmasri Jagdish Mittal commented that this trendsetter sculptor is adept in creating notable three-dimensional images in all media, be it terracotta, plaster of paris, metal sheet, wood, granite or bronze.

Unknown facts

The then Municipal Corporation of Hyderabad commissioned him for the work after zeroing in on his name from various noted competitors like Khairuddin Siddique, R B Raju, Chawla etc. Though this 25-feet sculpture appears like a one single piece, it consists of five different art forms (each one conveying a meaning about the sacrifice of the students) clubbed to make this large structure.

The basement in black polished granite has bullet impressions (small holes) of nine each on four sides. These 36(9×4) bullet impressions were carved to salute the 360 odd students who were shot mercilessly to suppress the movement. Since youth from nine districts of Telangana received bullets at that time, nine impressions were marked on each side. The reason for choosing black colored granite was to express mourning to the heroes. If one may recall then Telangana consisted of only 9 districts and Ranga Reddy district was formed much later.

The mythological sun-arch above the base was inspired from Sanchi Stupas. The plaques embossed in it on four sides represent the greatness of the cause. Normally this type of plaque is placed on the head of the gods like Balaji, which means that they are “Puja Arhulu”. Here the sculptor wrote few lines below the plaque and paid respects to Telangana martyrs. He wanted to convey that even the martyrs were up there on highest level for their sacrifices

Above the sun-arch, nine strips or columns were carved denoting nine districts of Telangana. The specialty of this art piece is one can spot these nine strips from any side view. The meaning conveyed through it was nine districts of Telangana were united and nobody can disintegrate them.

Next is the trapezium structure that has a dharma chakra, representing tolerance and truth, on four sides. The red granite represents sacrifice and the chakra for peace and love. The meaning conveyed through this was that Telangana youths sacrificed their lives while fighting for dharma, rights and justice.

The white lily flower art piece on top of the memorial symbolises freshness of youth and immortality of the soul. Normally flowers are kept near memorials, but due to the unpredictable nature of the then Telangana leaders (afraid of the Congress high command diktats regarding separate state), I doubted whether they could make sure that fresh flowers were placed at the martyrs statue regularly.

It realized that instead of depending on the others, why not make a flower myself and keep at the statue forever. Therefore, I carved a white lily flower and placed it on top of the memorial, Yadagiri said. [The Hans India]

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