At a time when the learned few failed to address social and political issues in their conventional Tamil poetry, it was the Vanambadi poets of Coimbatore, who used their modern verse to boldly address issues from the objective world.
“Despite the pride in calling Coimbatore as The Manchester of South India for its fabulous revenue through numerous textile and spinning mills, the exploitation of labourers at the mills could be one of the reasons for the birth of Vanambadi Poetry Movement here“ said J. Manjula Devi, author of the book Manudam Paadiya Vanambadi
Addressing at the 264th monthly literary meeting of Tamil Nadu Ilakkiya Peravai, on Saturday, Manjula pointed out that the Vanambadi poets, who wrote verses in the early 1970s, dared to question power and capitalism even during the Emergency period.
“Vanambadi poets like Puviarsu, Sirpi, Gnani, Pulavar Aadhi and many others are still active in the world of literature, though they are nearing 80 now” noted Manjula Devi, who researched their lives and mission for her PhD.
“At a time when the contents in classical Tamil literature were confined just to propagate ethics and devotion to God, the revolutionary Vanabadi poets addressed day to day social and political issues in their verse” she averred.
Tracing the history of the modern poetry movement, she noted that poets like Mullai Aadhavan, Agniputran, Gnani, Puviarsu, Pulavar Aadhi and many others drew inspiration from the Naxalbari movement in West Bengal and founded the organization in Coimbatore.
“As how Tamil women could not have obtained liberty from the clutches of the conservative culture, had Periyar E. V. Ramasamy not fought for their rights, Tamil verse could not have been liberated from the learned few, had the Vanambadis not founded their poetry movement here” she compared.
Manjula Devi, who is working as the Headmistress of a primary school at Kallapuram in Udumalpet, is an author of various other books like Paapavin Natchathira Kavithai, a children’s literature, Kannadasanin Kavi Mozhi, a collection of articles on the poetics of popular poet Kannadasan and Nadhikarai Sirpangal, a collection of Sirpi Balasubramaniam’s verse.
Citing the famous poems found in Vanambadi magazine, Manjula read out a humorous one penned by eminent Tamil poet Erode Thamizhanban, which was published in one its issues:
The bridegroom, who tied the golden mangalsutra
Around his bride’s neck, knows its value
The bride too knows the auspicious jewel’s worth
But, the one, who knows more about its value
Is the Marwari pawn broker!
Link to my article in The New Indian Express: