Kamaraj was an erstwhile Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. He was an honest and upright man, a freedom fighter, and a very popular figure in the state. He was called ‘Thennattu Gandhi’ or the Gandhi of the South among Tamilians.
It was here that the ashes of Shri Kamaraj were immersed. The Manimandapam or Memorial was inaugurated in 2000 by the Chief Minister J. Jayalalitha. It contains a statue of the late Chief Minister and some rare photographs depicting the life and times of Kamarajar. The memorial also has a library.
The Memorial is a fitting tribute to a person who was among the first Chief Ministers to introduce the ‘free meal scheme’ in schools in 1962 to encourage the poorest of the poor to send their children to school.
We’re talking about times when there was so much poverty that the poor sent their children to work, rather than schools, so that they could feed themselves. To encourage parents to send their wards to schools, the government under the leadership of Kamarajar started the free midday meal scheme. Today, this scheme is implemented in many states including Kerala, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan.
When it initially started, milk powder, rice and rava were distributed as dry ration to schools. The schools had to provide cooked meals with these supplies and feed them to poor and downtrodden children in government schools.
Thiru Kamarajar is also credited with reforming the education system in Tamil Nadu. Not only did he scrap the Hereditary Education Policy (Kula Kalvi Thittam), but he also ensured that there was a school in every village. Under his leadership, literacy rate increased from a mere 7% to an astounding 37% in Tamil Nadu.
Visitors to Kanyakumari often do not leave the place without paying obeisance to Kamarajar.