Five interesting things you didn't know about Jayalalithaa

AIADMK chief J. Jayalalithaa recently demanded a reality TV vote-counting. Babu Babu/Reuters

Babu Babu/Reuters

Incoming Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa's life history — or 'herstory' as she used to insist on calling it — is well chronicled.

Even so, there are a few lesser-known elements in her life that you probably didn't know (in the times when she was known as Jayalalitha). Here are five.

1. Growing up, she had a fan-girl crush on MAK Pataudi.
She’s on record as saying that she used to go for matches with her binoculars “just to look at Pataudi and Pataudi alone.” She also had a crush on Nari Contractor, and collected photographs of Rock Hudson.

2. Her name is in the Guinness Book of World Records
But not in a good way. She holds the record for hosting the “largest wedding banquet/reception". In 1995, during  her first term as Chief Minister, she organised an obscenely lavish wedding for her ‘foster son’ Sudhagaran. The Guinness record book notes that  over 1,50,000 guests were invited to the wedding at a 50-acre ground in Chennai.

In the breathless prose of the The New York Times, the reception featured “a cardboard and papier-mache ‘fort’ that covered an area as big as several football fields...

"For miles between Jayalalithaa’s official residence and the wedding site, streets were decorated with Grecian statues and gilded lions. Shrines were erected, with icon-like images of Jayalalithaa in place of Hindu Gods. Fountains played, and the turmoil of daily street life was hidden from view by walls of banana leaves.”

The Income Tax Department estimated the wedding cost at Rs 10 crore, but she said it was all paid for by "the people".

3. As Chief Minister, she bathed in public...
...and nearly 50 people died in a stampede. In 1992, Jayalalithaa attended the mahamakam festival in Kumbakonam, the Kumbh Mela of South India. Sections of the ghats where she was to have a ritual bath were cordoned off, but the crowds that thronged to see her were caught in a stampede, in which nearly 50 people were killed.

4. As Chief Minister, she drew a salary of just Re 1
A distinction she serves with several others. When she became Chief Minister, she was given a cheque as her first salary. She said  she had “abundant sources of income and did not need the salary.” On being told that she should receive salary as a public servant, she accepted Re 1 as salary.

5. A Governor once ‘misbehaved’ with her
The incident in the Tamil Nadu Assembly in which she said she was nearly disrobed by DMK MLAs is well chronicled. But what’s less known is that when she was Chief Minister in 1992, she accused the then Governor of Tamil Nadu, M. Channa Reddy, of having “misbehaved” with her. That’s a charge anyone could readily believe of Channa Reddy, who shared with another infamous Congress Governor the reputation of performing sexual athletics inside the Raj Bhavan.


Updated Date: May 16, 2011 12:51 PM

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