Friday, 31 May 2013

Eazhilai Kizhangin Maamisam

Chinnasamy - a Poet and Police Officer

Most urban Coimbatoreans, who have tasted cakes of steamed Tapioca
(Maravalli Kizhangu), could have hardly seen the edible root with its beautiful leaves divided at the top into seven forks when it is extracted from the ground. It is suitably called ‘Eazhilai Kizhangu’ in Tamil. But, Chinnasamy, an IPS officer and contemporary modern Tamil poet, who hails from an agricultural family at Pullagoundenpudur in Coimbatore, has seen the tuber, fresh from the ground, that he even titled his recent book of poems as ‘Eazhilai Kizhangin Maamisam’                   (The Meat of the Tapioca).

“I call tapioca, which is a vegetarian dish, as meat, since it is dead as soon as it is extracted from the earth. The plant, which requires little water for its growth and was eaten by the people during famines in Coimbatore, has become a symbol in many of my poems” explains Chinnasamy, an innovative poet, agriculturist and superintendent of police ( Battalion) at Manimuthar in Tirunelveli.

Chinnasamy got introduced to the writings of Mahakavi Subramania Bharathi and Pavendar Bharathidasan by his Tamil teacher Shanmugam while he was a student at the Government High School, Devarayapuram near Thondamuthur.

“Also, my father Kavingnar Vetrivelan, who is an agriculturist and poet, used to take me to listen to a great number of Pattimandrams in my school days. Later on, when I became an orator, I spoke even against my father’s views in a Pattimandram” recalls the poet and police officer.

Chinnasamy, who also edited and circulated ‘Thendral’ a hand-written literary magazine in his student days at the Government Arts College, Coimbatore, later, kept himself off  literary activities, as he sincerely prepared for IPS.

The poems of Chinnasamy have been widely published in serious literary magazines like Kalachuvadu, Theeranathi,Pudhuvisai,Yadhumaki, Neetchi and Pasumai Vikadan.

Answering a question on how he balances to be a poet and police officer, Chinnasamy discloses:

“Writing poetry refreshes me from great work stress. Whenever I write a new poem, I obtain a new strength to approach the social issues afresh”

Besides, Chinnasamy is also doing PhD on the title                                                              Caste Conflicts in Tamil Nadu-Issues & Resolutions’ at Manonmaniam Sundaranar University in Tirunelveli.

However, the soft-natured poet in the police officer is felt, as he writes thus in one of his poems in his book Eazhilai Kizhangin Maamisam:

The air-conditioned vehicle
With its blaring siren
Takes me anywhere…
A spring drips its wet drops
On the wall of my farm well

When asked about his flair for becoming a police officer, hailing from an agriculture family, Chinnasamy compares the similarities between the profession of a farmer and a police officer:

“Like a farmer, who de-weeds the ground and converts it to be a cultivable fertile land, I believe a police officer’s duty is to eradicate crimes in the society and make it a haven for peaceful living”

B. Meenakshi Sundaram

Link to the article in The New Indian express:

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

A Brimming Noyyal's Autobiography

  • River Noyyal at Perur
    “ 'Noyyal' People could have named me so, as I was smaller than all other rivers like Ganges, Yamuna, Godhavari, Cauvery and Krishna. Since ' Noy' literally means 'little thing' I must have been christened so, on account of my being a small river. However, various kings, who ruled Coimbatore, constructed several dams, tanks and canals for the purpose of agricultural in Coimbatore. Do you know a dam called Athi Rajaraja Vaaikal in Perur? It is from this dam I pass through 16 other canals irrigating the paddy fields of Coimbatore and drain into Periyakulam at Ukkadam.

    Despite people calling me 'Noyyal' , my name is 'Kanchimanathi' in many Shaivite literature with 'Kanchi' referring to a deity.

    Well, let me tell you where I originate from and which other waters join me in my journey.

    You should have heard about the hill Vellingiri in Coimbatore. Shouldn't you ? Being equaled with Kailash in North India, Vellingiri is the hill abode, which is visited by a great number of people, who are unable to visit Kailash. Pilgrims of Coimbatore hike through the seven hills of Vellingiri from the Tamil months Masi to Chithirai. On the seventh hill, they bath in a spring called 'Aandikalai' whose waters come down from a height of 6000 feet to join me at the foot of Vellingiri. Further, Siruvani water gushing from a spring in Porathi Hills hugs me up in the south. A cascade on Karimalai by name Kodunkai Pallam branching into Periyar and Chinnar, meets me at Chadivayal. At Muttam, water from the Neeliamman Canal drains into me and water from Maruthamalai flows into me at Vadavalli. Also, cascades in the forests of Anubavi, Mangarai, Palamalai and Kuridimalai come down the hills and join my journey through the woods.

    On my way through the forests, I used to come across tribal people like Malasars, Irulars and Kadars, who drank from me and worshiped me as a God. I know these tribal people were once peaceful inside their woods consuming honey and millet flour and worshiping their hill chieftain Muruga. However, in due course, they lost their land and produce when people living in plains intruded into their forests . Worse still, the government failed to protect their natural rights and culture, in the name of ' modernizing' them “

    Note: Noyyal did not know that she too would be a victim of modernity, at the time she was narrating her story in a book written over five decades in Coimbatore

    Compiled by : B Meenakshi Sundaram

    Source : Kanchimadhevi – An Autobiography of Noyyal - By Kovai Kizhar - 1957

Yama, Give Us Longer Life

True to the meaning of the Kongu proverb, Saatchi Karan Kalil Vizhuvatharkku Sandaikaran Kalil Vizhunthidalam (It is better to apologize to the enemy than begging to the witness), a certain section of the people in Coimbatore worship a particular God to provide them longer life. However, the irony is that the deity, they worship is not Shiva or Vishnu, but Yama, the God of death!

Perhaps, they knew that Lord Shiva, who protected the young Shaivite devotee Markandeya from Yama and provided him the gift of immortality with everlasting youth hood in puranas, would not do the same for them. Hence, instead of worshipping Lord Shiva, it seems, they directly pray to Lord Yama, the deity of death, asking Him not to take away their souls soon!

However, the story of worshipping Yama began in Coimbatore after the construction of a shrine to Him as ‘Yama Dharmaraja Temple’ at Vellalore by a member of the Agamudayar or Thevar community almost three centuries ago.

Known for their brave nature in battle fields, the Agamudayars were appointed as commanders and soldiers in the armies of King Sethupathi and Thirumalai Naicker in the southern districts. However, they arrived at Coimbatore as soldiers in Thirumalai Naicker’s army and settled at places like Sulur, Irugur, Vellalore, Ramanathapuram, Kurichi, Perur and Boluvampatti when the Kongu region came under the rule of Madurai Thirumalai Naicker.

But, the ‘settlement’ of Yama, the deity of death, in Coimbatore, was just after an Agamudayar gentleman’s dream. It is said that almost three centuries ago, Nanjappa Thevar, a resident of Ramanathapuram in Coimbatore, had a vision of Lord Yama in his dream, in which the God ordered him to construct an exclusive temple for him at a spot on the banks of river Noyyal. Later, when Thevar located the spot at Vellalore, he learnt that it came within the agricultural fields of a Brahmin priest. However, after Thevar narrated the vision to the Brahmin priest, he was only glad to allot him the piece of land, on which the Yama Dharmaraja Temple has been built.

Unlike in the shrines of different deities, the poojas at the Yama Dharmaraja Temple are performed not during the auspicious timings, but at 12.30 pm every Sunday, which is the Yama Kanda, an inauspicious timing marked in the almanac.

Facing south, his favorite direction and holding his loop of rope (Pasa Kayiru), Yama is seen seated on his Buffaloe inside the sanctum sanctorum of the shrine. When the Pooja begins, musical instruments like Sangu (conch shell) and Sekandi (A kind of gong) are performed, as if it were in a funeral!

Compiled by: B. Meenakshi Sundaram
Source: Kongu Kalanjiyam – Vol 1

Link to The New Indian Express:

A Tamizh Scholar, Who Disproved Astro Prediction

Pulavar Aadhi
 Pulavar Aadhi alias Rasiannan, a septuagenarian Tamil scholar and poet, will be forever grateful to his mother and the buffaloes, she reared at home. Because, it was his dedicated mother Karuppaathal, who got him educated into a Tamil Pulavar, spending the hard- earned money by selling the buffalo’s milk at her native village Karukanpalayam near Somanur.

“My father, who was a staunch believer in astrology, made me discontinue school  after class V and put me to graze sheep for three years after an astrologer told him that I would never be good at studies” recalls Pulavar Aadhi, an author of numerous books and retired Tamil teacher.

In contrast to the present context, where most students aspire to study Medicine and Engineering, Rasiannan studied Tamil after great economic struggles both at school and college. With a quest for studying Tamil, Aadhi wrote a letter to A. Chidhamparanatha Chettiar, who was then a Tamil professor in Annamalai University, requesting him on how to go about the entrance test for Tamil Pulavar course.

“Understanding my flair for studies, Chettiar not only wrote me a reply, but also sent me the necessary books for the entrance test. Moreover, when I later went to the University for writing the test, he arranged me even food and accommodation at the hostel” avers Aadhi. 

With his passion for poetry, Aadhi versified the life history of Thavathiru Santhalinga Adigalar, a 17th century Tamil scholar and Shaivite saint, who founded the Perur Mutt. He also performed it through a Villupaattu while he was a student of Tamil Vidhwan course in the Perur Tamil College.

“However, later I became a rationalist after reading magazines like C N Annadurai’s Dravidanadu, Nedunchezhian’s Mandram, M. Karunanidhi’s Murasoli and Mathiazhagan’s Thennagam. When Kaviarasu Kannadasan was in DMK, I also wrote poetry in Thendral, a magazine edited by him” says Aadhi.

But, when Aadhi got the friendship of noted communist leader and Tamil scholar Jeevanandham, he read books like Saminatha Sharma’s Biography of Karl Marx, Maxim Gorky’s Mother and many other progressive literatures and became a Marxist.

As a socialist activist and writer, when Aadhi wrote poetry and articles expressing his support for Communism in China, he was jailed in 1969 and many of his writings were seized by the police.

With his love for dialectics, Aadhi penned Thamizhil Iyangiyal -Oru Paarvai, a book discussing the logic behind the structure of social life of ancient Tamils, depicted in Tholkaappiyam, a very old Tamil treatise. He also penned Keezhaikaattru a book of Tamil poems and wrote commentaries on Thirukural.

“I could have penned many more books, had the police not seized several of my poems and articles” observes Aadhi.

Link to The New Indian Express:



Monday, 27 May 2013

A Compliment to Nourish Nature

Vaikom Muhammed Basheer

Yusuf Siddique, a septuagenarian ailing fakir (A mendicant Muslim monk), who is lying under a tree beside the road, requests a little water from the teacher couple Rasheed and Azma. The couple gives him the water, which he pours to a mango seedling beside the road. Having watered it, the fakir drinks the remaining water, blesses the couple in the name of Allah and dies in front of them. The couple takes his dead body to a mosque, bathes it and gets buried according to Muslim rites. They also transplant the seedling at their home. It is now grown up into a tree yielding plenty of mangoes, which are as sweet as honey. The couple offers some slices of a mango to their guest and tells him the story of planting the tree. The only son of the couple gives the guest some more of the fruit.

“Mone, are you studying?” asks the guest

“Yes, in a college” answers the boy.

“Your name?”

“Yusuf Siddique”

Thus ends the short story, penned by the famed Malayalam writer Vaikom Muhammad Basheer. The short story has been included in a book Manitharkalum Marangal Pol Vazhum Kaalam Varum (Will come a day, when humans live like trees), whose copies were distributed as mementoes along with two saplings to every guest at Kurinji Illathirappu Vizha a house warming ceremony held at Sulur recently. Besides this wonderful short story by Basheer, the book also contains writings by famous authors and scholars like Nammaazhwar, Theodre Baskaran, Vannadasan, Arivumathi, Devathatchan, Ponnambala Adigalar, Marudhayyan, Victor Louis Anthuvan and Tho. Paramasivan.

Dubai-based Aranga Vijayakumar of Sulur, the proprietor of the newly built house presented the copies of the book to their guests to spread awareness on the importance of saving nature.

“Ancient Tamils had fool proof natural methods to cultivate crops. The native paddy variety cultivated from the seed Maduvu Mazhungi helped the crops grow tall that they survived even during floods. However, the ancient lore of agriculture was lost after foreign seeds entered our country” rues Nammazhwar, noted organic agriculturalist, in his article.

Disapproving the rapid changes in food culture, writer and cultural anthropologist                       Tho. Paramasivan says in his article:

“Buying a bottle of soft drink produced by a multinational company is nothing but annihilating our own food culture”   

Well-known ecologist Theodre Baskaran rues that many of us hardly know the vocabulary for our native wild life.

“The wild animal, which can be differentiated according to its species as Pidi, Vezham, Komban and so on in Tamil, is just called by a single word as ‘elephant’ in English. The dolphin, which we believe to be a foreign breed, is a native of Tamil Nadu. Ancient Tamils called the fisherman’s friend as ‘Ongil’” avers Theodre Baskaran in his article.  

Link to The New Indian Express:


Thursday, 23 May 2013

A School Teacher on Green Mission

Teacher Selvi discussing environmental issues with her students at a village  

During these days, it's a question how many school teachers have love for educating students on the threatening environmental issues.But, Mrs Selvi, a biology teacher at Kadhri Mills Higher Secondary School, Coimbatore, who is also a green activist, arms her students to battle the issues threatening the environment.
Selvi planting a sapling with her students

A visit to Nandankarai check dam

A School Teacher on a Green Mission

Selvi's students on a campaign at a village
Selvi, who is a biology teacher and environment enthusiast, recalls that she could hardly recognize any birds, while she was studying post-graduation in zoology at the Government Arts College, Coimbatore decades ago. The teacher, who exemplifies herself for the theory that mere academic education cannot impart practical knowledge, often takes her students out of their classrooms to provide a practical knowledge on the issues of environment.

“As an M.Sc student in zoology, when I took part in ‘Spot the Bird’ a competition held at Government Forest College, I was ashamed that I could hardly recognize any birds except sparrows and crows” says Selvi, who is now working as a biology teacher at Kadri Mills Higher Secondary School in Coimbatore.

But later, having become a green enthusiast, Selvi has provided valuable guidance to her students on various environmental issues and made them bag five state level awards and one national level award in the competitions conducted by National Children’s Science Congress. She made her students do projects on different titles like Flying Patterns of Little cormorants, The Life cycle of Butterflies and Moths, The origin of river Noyyal and the present status of its check dams, Treatment of Sewage water by planting Kalvaazhai (canna indica), Hazards of Using Plastic and Energy Uses in Agriculture.

Answering a question on how she could find time to train her students to counter environment issues practically amidst teaching the prescribed curriculum, Selvi says:

“I usually reach school by 45 minutes earlier in the morning and discuss the current issues of environment pollution with a team of students, who also love to debate the issues with me”

Selvi also frequently takes the students to the villages around Coimbatore and makes them explain to the residents on the dangers of using plastic and the methods of protecting the environment from getting polluted.

When asked about the present trend of educational institutions converting students into mere mark-scoring machines, providing them little practical knowledge on history, environment and society, Selvi says:

“In contrast to the belief of many, academic toppers with little practical knowledge on social issues cannot excel even in tests like job interviews and group discussions. Because, a mere reproduction of the prescribed lessons in exams cannot make them wise enough to counter the challenges in the society”

Answering a question on what made her take interest in the mission of protecting the environment, Selvi discloses:

“When I saw for the first time water being sold in plastic bottles at shops, I feared that soon oxygen too would come for sale. As a school teacher, then I thought it should be my duty to create awareness in my students on the crying need of protecting the environment”

B. Meenakshi Sundaram

Link to my article in The New Indian Express -

Sunday, 12 May 2013

The Magic Ritual of Ancient Kongu

The Magic Ritual of Ancient Kongu

The ancient cave painting at Kumittipathy
Art is as old as human history and it has coexisted with the lives of people being an outlet for the release of their pains and pleasures. A lullaby to put a baby to sleep, a song while planting seedlings on a paddy field  and an ‘Oppari’ ( A wail in the form of song) on the death of a person – all are examples to prove that human life cannot exist without art.

While tracing the pre-historic period of Kongunadu, it has been proved how various genres of art like singing, dancing and painting were a great solace to the people. Since art is also an element being inseparable from human labour, the aborigines of ancient Kongunadu performed certain magic rituals, which included singing, dancing and painting to signify their hopes in search of food. As hunting was their prime source of food, they staged the ritual in the form of a group dance, in course of which, a mock killing of a man was performed. The man, who symbolized a wild animal and his mock killing by the dancers, signified their hope of a successful hunt shortly inside the forest. The aborigines of Kongunadu used to perform this ritual before they headed for hunting.

The aborigines, who were called Vettuvars, had hunting as their prime occupation before the advent of agriculture in the Kongu region.

The centuries-old cave paintings discovered at various places like Anamalai, Marayur, Marudhamalai, Vettaikaranmalai, Vellarukampalayam, Kumittipathy and Palamalai depict the hunting rituals of Kongunadu. The paintings reveal human images dancing with their weapons like javelins and bows and arrows surrounding a wild animal.

Expressing his views on the objects of such cave paintings, well-known historian                     D. D. Kosambi says that these art works are not just something to delight the viewers but they are reflections of the magic rituals performed by the aborigines centuries ago.

Unlike the superstitions of today like the performance of ‘weddings’ to donkeys or frogs in order to seek rain in the drought-hit areas, the magic rituals of ancient Kongunadu were meaningful with their symbols and they artistically revealed the human mind.

Compiled by: B. Meenakshi Sundaram

Sources:  Kongunadu – Volume I, V. Manickam,
 Thenkongunadu – Durai Angusamy.  

How could Pugezhenthi draw the hot sighs arising out of pains from the heart?

Bringing out Pains in Hues

As a young school boy, well known artist Pugazhenthi developed his passion for painting by drawing images like scorpions and crabs playfully on the wet sands of water channels, as his parents worked on the agricultural fields at their village in Thanjavur.

“All children are naturally interested in drawing and there was nothing special that I had a passion for it” reveals artist Pugazhenthi, who is a professor of painting in the Govt.College of Fine Arts, Chennai.

However, he continued his passion for art and bagged a great number of prizes during his school days and displayed an individual painting show at Thanjavur in 1983, when he was just 16 years old.

But, Pugazhenthi’s world of art is not of dreams and fantasies.

As he says that the goal of his art is total human liberty, most of his paintings reflect the pains of the people, who became victims of oppression, war and famine.

Answering to a question on how he could bring out the expression of pain distinctly in his drawings, Pugazhenthi discloses:

“While drawing certain images from the cruel realities of life, I myself have wept aloud many times. I am sure that the love and concern I naturally have for mankind, make my drawings vivid”

Pugazhenthi’s art shows, which were displayed in countries like Australia, Switzerland, Canada, Malaysia and Singapore, include The Shattered Nest on thousands of deaths in Gujarat earthquake, Storming Colours and Soul- Frozen Hues on the cruelties in Sri Lankan war and Faces in Direction, a portrait of rationalist Periyar E V R in 25 different angles.

Besides being an artist, Pugazhenthi is also an author of numerous books on paintings like Eriyum Vannangal (Burning Hues), Uranga Vannangal (Restless Hues), Thoorikai Siragugal     (Wings of the Brush) and many more.

Pugazhenthi was recently in the city for the introduction of his recent book                               M. F Hussain – Indhia Samakala Oviya Kalayin Munnodi (M F Hussain – The Pioneer of Contemporary Indian Art)

Lauding Coimbatoreans for their passion for art, Pugazhendhi says:

“I have conducted art shows in Coimbatore for the last two decades. As the city has plenty of art lovers, my works are well received here”

On a question about the two schools of art - ‘Art for Art Sake’ and Art for People’s Sake’ Pugazhenthi underlines:

“Art is always for people. Only the creations of an artist, who loves mankind, can transcend generations” 


Friday, 10 May 2013

The Lord who became the Town

Avinashi is not a name of place, but the name of a God

“ What is wrong in christening our children after place names like Moscow, Russia and Cuba, while it is correct for you to name your kids as Vellingiri or Palani ? “ argue atheists with believers of God. But,  the God-fearing parents christen their children so in order to show their deep devotion to the abodes of  their favourite deities. Strangely, villages too sometimes get their names after the Gods. And one such village in Kongunadu was Avinashi.
 ‘Avinashi’, which is rather a town in the present day Kongu region, takes its name from the word ‘Avinasam’ literally meaning ‘No greater evil’. It is an opposite of the word ‘Vinasam’ which means ‘Greater evil’. Avinashi, being also the name of a deity, is interpreted in chaste Tamil as ‘Perungediliyappar’ implying” Killer of all greater agonies of mankind’
Avinashi Temple, which is one of the famous seven Shiva shrines of Kongunadu              ( Kongu Eazhu Sivalayangal) is celebrated much in the Tamil devotional literature Thevaram. However, the Shaivite saint Sundaramurthy Nayanar, who penned the work, addresses the deity in one of his lines as ‘Thiruppukoliyur Avinashiye’                          (Oh Avinashi of Thiruppukoliyur) Hence, it can be understood from the lines of Sundararar that the old name for the present day Avinashi was Thirupukoliyur, a village, where the temple of Lord Avinashi was located. However, in due course, the village itself came to be called as ‘Avinashi’ after the deity’s name.
Thirupukoliyur or Pukkoliyur was once near the temple of Avinashi, as per old records of the town. Also, it could have got its name as ‘Pukkoliyur’ due to a unique geographical feature of the area, which was abounding in the wild growth of a grass called ‘Vizhal’ (Cuscus grass). Moreover, the village, which was located in the downs, could have appropriately come to be called as ‘Pul Kuzhi Oor’ or ‘The village in the downs abounding in grasses’ It may be noted that there was always a trend in Kongunadu naming localities as ‘Alandurai’ Marudhur’ Panayur’ Suralur’ ( Sulur) and so on after the flora found aplenty in the respective regions.
Nevertheless, Cholan Poorva Pattayam, a later period work on the history of Kongunadu, notes that Avinashi got its name after ‘Aavan’ an Irula chieftain, who once ruled the region. This too could be true, as there was also a trend in Kongunadu naming villages as Kodumudi and Kavayanputhur after their respective chieftains.  
What is more, even the name ‘Coimbatore’ is a corruption of ‘Kovanputhur’ which was once a tribal hamlet named after the Irula chieftain Kovan!

Compiled by: B. Meenakshi Sundaram
Sources: Cholan Poorva Pattayam Kaattum Kongu Naattu Oorgal – Dr. K Nachimuthu, Kongu Eazhu Sivalayangal – Dr. Pulavar Maniyan.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Taking Soviet Classics to Malayalam

Professor, writer and journalist Mrs Mini Menon at class

It is said that the German philosopher and revolutionary socialist Karl Marx had so much love for the plays written by William Shakespeare that he would narrate the tales from them to his children. However, it is unclear whether Marx’s children did anything on Shakespearean plays in future. But, Mini Menon, an Assistant professor of Malayalam at Hindusthan College of Arts and Science, has authored around ten books, after inspired by her communist father Rajan Menon, who used to narrate her tales from revolutionary literatures like Maxim Gorky’s Mother, Ethel Lilian Voynich’s The Gadfly and Alexander Dumas’s Three Musketeers, when she was a little school girl.  

“I took interest in translation literature after reading the epic Mahabharatha in Malayalam, a prose translation that came out in 40 volumes, while I was studying just class VII in Kerala” recalls the 47 year old Mini Menon, who was also a journalist once, working as a sub-editor in the Malayalam daily ‘Kerala Kaumudi’ in Calicut.

“My colleagues, who are all Tamils, greatly encourage me to translate valuable works into Malayalam. But, it is painful when they say that they only cannot read my writings” avers Mini.

Mini informs that as she hails from a communist family in Kerala, she got interested in translating left literatures into Malayalam.

She has so far translated Lev Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Mikhail Sholokov’s famous novel And Quite Flows the Don, Alexander Dumas’s The Count of Monte Cristo and so on. Her translation works also include Homer’s Illiad, Jenny Marx’s letters, Biography of Helen Keller, Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karmazov and many more. Lauding her contributions in translation literature, the Kerala Cultural Centre of Coimbatore, has recently honoured her with an award.

When asked what her readers, particularly, her students say about her books, Mini’s answer is optimistic:

“I still remember one of my students admired me after reading volumes of my books in a short time. But, at the same time, some even wonder why I should waste time in writing”

Mini does not know to read Tamil. She has just begun to learn it.

“I have heard Thirukural is an unparalleled literary work.  I wish to translate it into Malayalam soon after learning Tamil” she winds up.

B. Meenakshi Sundaram



Sunday, 5 May 2013

Rediscovering Muttam from the Ruins

The ruins of Muttam Nageshwarar temple

Read my article on ' Muttam Nageshwarar Temple' in my regular column Kovai Reconnect today ( 5.5.2013) in The New Indian Express. It's an ancient shrine located in the foot of Vellingiri Hills. I feel proud that I have recalled the mission of the late Tamil scholar and archaeologist Pulavar I Ramasamy of Ikkarai Boluvampatty, who discovered the historical shrine and brought to the notice of the archaeological department. It is glad that the temple was rebuilt and consecrated later.

Rediscovering Muttam from the Ruins

It is still a surprise to learn that the pillars of a dilapidated ancient temple, which were adorned with beautiful carvings, were used to construct drainage channels in Coimbatore!  It happened in the year 1862, when Thomas, an Englishman was the collector here. As the city badly needed construction of drainage facilities, the contractors were given permission to use the debris of the ancient temple Muthuvaliammai Udanamar Muttathu Nageshwarar Thirukovil, located at the foot of  Vellingiri Hills.

However, the shrine, which deserves great historical importance for its antiquity, was rebuilt by the measures taken by the late Tamil scholar and archaeologist Pulavar I. Ramasamy of Ikkarai  Boluvampatty, the students and teachers of Thavathiru Santhalinga Adigalar Tamil College and the archaeological department in Coimbatore. The consecration of the temple was held on 14.06.1998.

“When I came across the temple at an age of 12, I felt pained to notice the dilapidated condition of the shrine. The God’s abode was covered by wild growth of cactus. The sanctum sanctorum of Goddess Muthuvaliamman was in ruins. The temple had been in the same state even during the days of my ancestors” recalls Pulavar I Ramasamy in his book Muttam Thala Varalaru.

However, he introduced the neglected state of the temple to the Department of Archaeology and worked for decades to restore it. At last, with his labour bearing fruit, he could witness the temple’s consecration at the age of 75 before his demise.

‘Muttam’ meaning ‘A plain stretch of land, which ends at a point not to continue thereafter’ is a general term in Tamil. Thirukuranganil Muttam in North Arcot district and Eraniya Mutta Nadu of the Pandya country are other examples of  Muttams in Tamil Nadu. The one in Coimbatore is called Vellimalai Muttam, as it is located in the foot of Vellingiri Hills. The place was also called by different names like Ravi Varma Sathurvethi Mangalam, Amarabuyanga Nallur and so on when Kongunadu was under the rule of different dynasties. Located on an ancient highway leading to the west seashores, Muttam flourished as a famous trade centre.

The stone inscriptions discovered in Muttam Nageshwarar Temple contain the names of traders as Vyapari Nangan Puliyan, Muttathu Vyapari Dhanabalan Vizhamipattiyan, Mandradi Kavan Kuttan endra Vaniga Narayana Chakravarthi and so on. Another epigraph dating back to the period of king Veerarajendran of 13th century AD, records a gift made to the temple by a Thevaradiyal (A woman dedicated to the temple) by name Boomavili Enra Eazhavaar Kuzhali.

However, the residents of Muttam, later abandoned their town due to some political turmoil and natural calamities. Also, the temple, which once enjoyed the wealth of plenty of lands donated by various kings, lost everything later, as some people took away its lands. Evident to the shrine’s unpopularity, a stone inscription of the Hoisala king Veera Vallalan III (1292 - 1343) reads thus:

“Considering the poor state of Muttathu Nageshwarar Temple, the Sabhas (Courts) of Ravivarma Sathurvethi Mangalam and Amarabuyanga Nallur, allotted it a piece of land”


Compiled by: B. Meenakshi Sundaram
Source: Muttam Thala Varalaru – By Pulavar I Ramasamy.