Monday, 23 December 2013

Writers, Who Penned Kongu’s Fragrance

The fertile Kongu region, whose people were once inseparable from the occupation of agriculture, has gradually lost its cultural identities due to rapid urbanization at the cost of agriculture. And it sad that the region’s rural fragrance with its unique culture can be experienced only from the short stories, novels and poetry penned by the region’s popular writers.

Hence, in order to introduce the realistic lives portrayed in the works of eminent Kongu authors, the Tamil Cultural Centre of Dr. N.G.P Arts and Science College in the city has recently brought out a book Kongu Manam Kamazhum Padaipukal ( The literatures filled with the fragrance of Kongu culture) compiling articles from various research scholars on the works of as many as nine eminent Kongu writers including the yesteryear personalities  R.Shanmuga Sundaram, M.P. Periyasamy Thooran, Era Vadivelan and  Ku. Chinnappa Bharathi.

“The Tamil Cultural Centre is committed to work for the development of Tamil by bringing out such valuable books on the works of Kongu writers” says Dr. Nalla Palanisamy, President of the cultural centre and publisher of Kongu Manam Kamazhum Padaipukal.

The book, which is edited by Sirpi Balasubramaniam, popular Vanambadi poet and P. K. Ponnusamy, Former Vice-chancellor, University of Madras and Madurai Kamaraj University, introduces the Kongu writers with critiques on their respective works.

“Kongunadu was a separate region with its unique tradition and culture, though it was under the rule of Cheras, Cholas and Pandyas in different periods. This fact can be understood by reading ancient pieces of Tamil literature including Purananuru, Pathittrupaththu and Thevaram” writes P.K. Ponnusamy in his foreword to the book.

Speaking on the literary glory of Kongunadu, Ponnusamy points out that the land was also the birth place of unique pieces of Tamil literature including Perunkathai by Konguvelir, Thakkai Ramayanam by Emperuman Kavirayar and Ravana Kaviyam by Pulavar Kuzhanthai.
On the trends of writing regional literature, K. Panchangam, eminent literary critic, says:

“R. Shanmugasundaram from Keeranur in the then Coimbatore district pioneered the trend of writing regional fiction in the entire India through his popular novel Nagammal in the early 1940s. Moreover, the trend has gained momentum these days due to extensive globalization, which has created an urge in regional writers to document the disappearing cultural aspects of their respective native lands”

In his article on popular writer and editor of the ten- volume Tamil Encyclopedia M.P. Periyasamy Thooran, Sethupathy, a research scholar, writes:

“Thooran, who was born in 1908 at Manjakaattu Valasu in Erode in the then Coimbatore district, penned plenty of books from short story collections to science fiction, portraying his land and people in a realistic manner”  

Mahudeeswaran, Tamil professor and research scholar, opines on the works of the late poet Vadivelan:

“Vadivelan developed his passion for writing after inspired by the literary activities of his grandfather, who had staged several plays including Vaanaasura Natakam, Ottakootha Natakam and Silapathikara Natakam at his village Perodu near Erode.

The book Kongu Manam Kamazhum Padaipukal also contains articles on the works of contemporary Kongu writers K.Rathnam, Perumal Murugan, C.R. Ravindran, Ma. Natarasan, Suryaganthan, Patchi, Sivakumar and Pazhaman.  


Link to my article in The New Indian Express:

Throwing New Light on Bharathi’s Life

A participant in the fancy dress competition at a school, who plays the revolutionary Tamil poet Mahakavi Subramania Bharathi, wearing a white head gear, black coat and white dhoti with a long stick in his hand, may not know the reason for the poet’s covering his neck and chest with white cloth that is visible in a shape of triangle. But, ask Prof. Sethupathy, a well-known researcher into Bharathi’s life and mission, and he will tell you the story behind it.

“A popular photo, which shows Bharathi wearing a white cloth inside his coat, was taken in Madras by his disciple Kanaka Subburathinam alias Bharathidasan. Had Bharathidasan not shot his teacher without the white cloth covering his neck, the country could have understood from his weak emaciated body, the poverty he experienced in his short span of life” informs Sethupathy, a 43 year old researcher.  

Sethupathy, who is a professor of Tamil at Bharathidasan Government College for Women, Puduchery, was in the city recently to address on the poet’s birth anniversary at the literary organizations Tamil Nadu Arts and Literary Forum and Sangamam.

Sethupathi is an author of around 50 books including Bharathi Thedalil Pudhiya Parimanangal and Thamizhil Mahakavi Thondruka, which are research works on Subramaniya Bharathi.

Admiring the literary merits in the devotional writings of the poet, Sethupathy says that Vinayaga Naanmani Malai is Bharathi’s masterly work, in which he describes Lord Ganesha as an embodiment of religious harmony and sees in Him Jehovah, Jesus and Allah.   

“But, Lord Vinayaka, whom Bharathi adores in his Vinayagar Naanmani Malai, is not the present day Ganesha, which has become the symbol of Hindutva politics” underlines Sethupathy.  

Sharing interesting information from the great poet’s life, Sethupathy says that, as many believe, Bharathi was not trampled by an elephant.

“The poet, who was very weak due to abject poverty, died naturally” he informs.

In contrast to the common belief that Bharathi went underground in Pondicherry by boarding a train from Madras, Sethupathi’s discovery throws new light on the poet’s life history.

“Bharathi, who was wanted by the police for his revolutionary activities in Madras, escaped to Pondicherry by boarding a boat at the Buckingam Canal in Madras”

In support of his discovery, the scholar shows evidence from the book Glorious Years by G.K. Damodara Rao, a retired judge and the grandson of Dr. Nanjunda Rao, a medical practitioner and philanthropist, who provided shelter to Bharathi at his home Sasi Vilas in Madras.

“Dr. Nanjunda Rao, who smelled the possible arrest of Bharathi, woke up the poet in the dead of night and made him board a boat at Buckingam Canal and sent him to Pondicherry accompanied by his loyal servant Raman Nair”  

Sethupathy says that Damodara Rao collected this new information from his grandmother Mrs Nanjunda Rao and also confirmed it from Raman Nair, who accompanied Bharathi to Pondicherry in the boat.

B.Meenakshi Sundaram

Link to my article in The New Indian Express:



Sunday, 8 December 2013

Tracing Black Aborigines of Coimbatore

From the suffix ‘Pathi’ in the names of certain villages like Maruthapathi, Appachigoundenpathi, Chinnampathi, Kumittipathi and so on, begins the history of Coimbatore. Though the suffix ‘Pathi’ suggests the meaning of a tribal Irula village, many hardly know that the aborigines of Coimbatore were the Irulas and Koniamman, the sentinel deity of Coimbatore, was once their Goddess with Her name ‘Konamma’

Though the Irulas earlier worshipped their Vanadevathais (Female deities of the wood), they were later incorporated in the Hindu pantheon. Moreover, the Irulas were also made worshippers of Hindu Gods like Shiva and Vishnu.

For instance, the Irula tribe in the forests of the Nilgiris worships Lord Rangasamy at a shrine in Karamadai and Rangasamy peak in the Nilgris. However, legend has it that Lord Rangasamy, who used to live on the plains at Karamadai, came and settled on the peak after a quarrel with His wife! But, the creation of the legend must be to save the hill folk from the toilsome journey from the Nilgiris to Karamadai for attending the annual car festival of the Karamadai  Rangasamy Temple. The Irulas of the Nilgiris, in order to prove the legend, also point out the two footprints of the ‘deity’ on a rock below the Rangasamy peak.  

The shrine on Rangasamy peak, where an Irula man is a hereditary priest, is visited by other tribal groups like Kotas and Kurumbas too on festival days. During the ceremonies held at the shrine, they also follow the priest’s chanting the name of the lord as ‘Govinda! Govinda!’  At a nearby overhanging rock, which is called Kodai- Kall (Umbrella Stone) the Irulas extract a whitish clay for drawing Naamam (A Vaishnavite mark) on their foreheads.  

However, the Irula tribal people earlier worshipped only their Vanadevathais before the Cholas and the later Vijayanagar rulers ‘streamlined’ them by spreading their respective ‘official’ religions Shaivism and Vaishnavism with their aim of extracting the tribe’s forest wealth including pepper and ivory. Further, when the Cholas attempted to clear the forests of Coimbatore and construct Shiva temples there, the Irulas protested against their attempts of deforestation. Nevertheless, the kings convinced the tribe by constructing temples for their deities too. They also ‘appointed’ priests at the temples built for the tribal deities and donated lands to the shrines.                     
Interestingly, as the name ‘Irula’ takes its root from Irul or darkness, it is believed that the people emerged from the dark jungles of Coimbatore. It is also said that they  got their name for their darker complexion in comparison with any other tribes of Coimbatore.  

At a time, when the world mourns the demise of Nelson Mandela, who struggled against apartheid in South Africa, one can recall how the dark- complexioned Irulas would be criticized in an exaggerative statement, which reads thus:      

“Even charcoal would leave a white mark on the skin of Irulas “

Sources: Ithuvo Engal Kovai, Cholan Poorva PattayamBy Kovai Kizhar, Castes and Tribes of Southern India, Volume II – By Edgar Thurston

Link to my article in The New Indian Express