The dedication ceremony of the Rajiv Gandhi Memorial
A Special Event

Programme Note

India's former Prime Minister, Sri RAJIV GANDHI, was assassinated in May 1991 at Sriperumbudur, Tamilnadu.

Twelve years later, a splendid memorial in his memory was dedicated to the nation by His Excellency, The President of India, Sri ABDUL KALAM on October 10, 2003.

With contributions from professionals in various disciplines, the landscaping, the monolithic stone memorial with an inset portrait of Rajiv Gandhi in pietra dura and the seven majestic pillars that encircle the memorial, invoke Indian craftsmanship and design at its best.

The formal ceremony was choreographed by ANITA RATNAM and involved school students from Padma Seshadri, Sishya, students from city colleges, as well as sloka students from the city's Vedapadasalai, members from Koothu-p-pattarai and south Indian nadaswaram and conch artistes.

Beginning with the national anthem by noted singer JAYASHREE RAMNATH, an interfaith prayer was sung, followed by "bhoomi" slokas by the Vedapadasalai students. A long citation on Rajiv Gandhi in Tamil, English and Hindi moved on to a short speech on him. Students representing the seven pillars - the seven ideals of humanity, Satya, Dharma, Nyaya, Vigyan, Tyaga, Shanthi and Samriddhi - then spoke in English and Tamil of the qualities they upheld and embodied.

The President of India then formally dedicated the memorial to the nation, amidst the sonorous blowing of the conch. After a short speech by him, another group of students holding a red fabric, enacted the last walk of Rajiv Gandhi, with pulsating drumming by the Thudumbu drummers from Koothu-p-pattarai. Two students then ran around the arena holding aloft the national flag. Jayashree Ramnath wrapped up the show with another rendition of the national anthem.

"It was a challenge that sprung up unexpectedly. When Romi Chopra, a consultant who handles major outdoor events first broached the subject, it was supposed to be a very quiet and small affair. But then it became much larger with the President of India accepting the invitation to open the memorial," acknowledged Anita, while speaking about the project. "I was honoured to choreograph the details for the ceremony but it was a real nightmare of logistics with security detailing being the biggest one! We had only 5 days to rehearse and I must say the students cooperated so well with the daily travel to Sriperumbudur and the blistering heat to beat! We enjoyed it completely and I'm sure it will remain a striking memory in the whole team's minds..."

The solemn and moving ceremony won appreciation from all the dignitaries present. Mrs Sonia Gandhi, Ms Priyanka and Mr Rahul Gandhi were especially touched and made it a point to meet the entire team and thank them individually, followed by exclusive photo shoots with the group!

Critics Speak

There was not a dry eye in the audience... the young voices of the future, proudly and clearly recited the sacred ideals of democracy... the resonance of the young voices brought a lump to every throat... lofty ideals of our democratic ethos recited by youg boys and girls, fired with unsullied hopes and ideals.

At Sriperumbudur, when the President of India dedicated the Rajiv Ninaivakam to the nation, the young children gathered there gave me fresh hope. Indian democracy will live for a thousand years and what my generation could not achieve, namely communal amity and social justice, will be the stepping stones and bench mark with which the coming generation will prove its worth.
- Jayanthi Natarajan, Sunday Express, October 19, 2003

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