Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Quenching the Thirst of a Dead, Pregnant Woman

In an age, when people are caught in the rat race, they have little time to walk and frequently travel from place to place by motor vehicles. As a result, they soon fall victims to lifestyle diseases like high blood pressure and diabetes. But, just imagine the ones in yesteryear Coimbatore, who traveled even to distant places only on foot, which kept them hale and hearty.  

Though it is impossible to discover their past journeys, the district still has a few remnants of history to tell the present generation on how their ancestors walked to distant places carrying things bundled up on the head and shoulders. And one such historical remnant is the Sumaithaangi Kall.

The Sumaithaangi Kall was a platform set up with two large pieces of stone erected vertically and their tops bridged by a horizontal bar. It was set up on the shady roadsides to facilitate the tired travelers rest their burdens on it and relax for a little time between their journeys. Philanthropists, who sought happiness in carrying out several charity works in the society, practised erecting such Sumaithaangi Kalls on the roadsides of Coimbatore.

Nonetheless, it is paining to come across a five and a half- foot tall Sumaithaangi Kall at Naduvacheri near Avinashi, erected in memory of a woman who died in her pregnancy. Ironically, the travelers could have felt pity for her, who died even before resting her ‘pleasant’ burden on the earth.

The monument, which contains the bas relief of the pregnant woman, has an inscription, which reads that it was erected by one Irulappa Nadar from Karukan kattupudur in 1936. It informs that he had also set up a Thanneer Panthal (The place where drinking water and buttermilk are given free of charge to passers-by during the hot seasons). The inscription has recorded that Irulappa Nadar also dug up a well near the Sumaithaangi Kall.

While the purpose of erecting the Sumaithaangi Kall was to help travelers rest their burden for a little time during their journeys, the objective behind setting up of a Thanneer Panthal is to quench the thirst of not only the travelers, but even the  dead!

Showing the truth in the point, another stone inscription says that a Thanneer Panthal was set up at the spot where the Chozha queen Veeramadhevi bade farewell to her life by jumping into the funeral pyre of her husband, King Rajendra Chola I. The inscription also notes that the Thanneerpanthal was set up to quench the thirst of both the dead king and queen.

Learned from such sources, it seems that the dead, pregnant woman of Naduvacheri could be quenching her thirst from a Thanneer Panthal, whose location is known only to her!    

 Source: Sumaithaanki – Epigraphist D Sundaram

Link to my article in The New Indian Express:http://epaper.newindianexpress.com/c/4053631 

Monday, 24 November 2014

Step on this Stone inscription, Please!

The artistic ability for composing conventional poems filled with wit and pun seems to have been quite common among ancient Tamils, as read from a popular verse in Viveka Cinthamani, an anonymous classical work in Tamil. The poem, which is in the form of a conversation between a Tamil scholar and an indigenous medical practitioner, reminds the belief of the people on a stone inscription found at Saravanampatti in Coimbatore.

The verse in Viveka Cinthamani introduces a Tamil scholar who meets a traditional medical practitioner and seeks his advice on how to take out a Nerunchi thorn (Tribulus terrestris) lodged in his foot. But, with the pride of being a poet, the Tamil scholar expressed his complaint in a complex language, whose superficial reading would differently mean that he was, instead, bitten by a five-headed cobra while heading to the river!

The Tamil scholar said to the medical practitioner thus:

Mukkaalai Kayyil Eduthu
Moovirandukkku Ekayile
Akkaalai Aynthuthalai Naagam
Aazhnthu kadithathu Kaan

With Mukkaal meaning a staff, Moovirandu, the numeral ‘6’ (Which also means the river as Aaru in Tamil) and Aynthuthalai Naagam, a five-headed cobra (A metaphor for the branches of the thorn in Tribulus terrestris), the Tamil scholar said that the sharp thorns pierced his foot while he was on the way to the river holding his staff.

Nonetheless, the medical practitioner, who too was skilled in composing a similar poem, suggested:

Paththurathan Puththiranin Mithiranin
Saththuruvin Paththiniyin
Kaal Vaanki Thei

With Paththurathan meaning King Dhasaratha as the etymology of his name suggests that he was the possessor of ten chariots, Puthiranin Mithiran  his son Rama’s friend Sukreeva, Saththuruvin Paththini  meaning Sukreeva’s enemy Vaali’s wife and Kaal Vaanki Thei literally meaning ‘Get the foot of Vaali’s wife and brush on the floor !’

But, with the wife of Vaali’s name being ‘Thaarai’, what the native medical practitioner suggested through the phrase ‘Kaal Vaanki’, is just to shorten the long sound ‘Thaa’ in her name into ‘Tha’, Then the word would read ‘Tharai’ meaning earth and not ‘Thaarai’ signifying Vaali’s wife.

Interestingly, in the complex poem, the native medical practitioner just advised the Tamil scholar to rub his foot on earth to get the thorn removed!

Reminding this interesting anecdote, a stone inscription found at Saravanampatti reads that one would get a cure from illness, if the person places his or her leg on the epigraph and meditate for a little time. An oral tradition in Saravanampatti maintains that the epigraph was erected by an indigenous medical practitioner, who provided cure to several diseases to the people of Saravanampatti in the bygone era.

Source: Maruthuvam Sollum Kalvettu – Epigraphist D. Sundaram.

Link to my article in The New Indian Express: http://epaper.newindianexpress.com/c/3900480

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Throwing Light on Gifts Made to Big Temple

                                                                                                 Photo- S.Kamalakannan   

In contrast to the present age, when some corrupt government officials swindle public money under the pretext of carrying out certain civic works, it is surprising that the king Raja Raja Chola recorded in his stone inscriptions even a little contribution made by a poor kitchen maid for the construction of the majestic Brihadeeswarar Temple in Thanjavur.

Throwing light on this and various other glories of the king, R. Nagaswamy, Former Director, Department of Archaeology, Government of Tamil Nadu, said:

“Raja Raja Chola has mentioned the contribution made by an Adukkalai Pendu (Kitchen maid) in a stone inscription, as he wanted to document even a commoner’s gift to the deity”

Addressing the seven-day exhibition on the Big Temple of Thanjavur in the city, organized by the Coimbatore chapter of INTACH (Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage) on Saturday evening, the octogenarian archeologist pointed out:  
“Based on certain Sanskrit stone inscriptions, I do not agree with the general opinion of many other historians, who say that temples are mere institutions of social and financial administration. I am sure that they were built only for the cause of devotion” he added.

The controversial archeologist, who earned the wrath of several Tamil scholars for his opinion that Tamil got the classical language status only by the assistance of Sanskrit in his book The Mirror of Tamil and Sanskrit, noted:
“A stone inscription in Sanskrit found at Mahabalipuram reads that a king had constructed a temple for the cause of his deep devotion to God. Besides, another inscription provides a piece of information that a king built a shrine so that he would receive the blessings of his departed parents” added Nagaswamy, reciting the lines in Sanskrit.

The archeologist informed that the stone inscription on the construction of the Big Temple was first deciphered by E. Hultzsch, a German indologist and epigraphist in 1886.

“Had Hultzsch not done so, the people would not have known that the shrine was built by Raja Raja Chola” he said.

Listing the contributions made by the public to the construction of the shrine, Nagaswamy noted:

“Raja Raja Chola’s stone inscriptions provide the details of all the gifts made by the public accurately. Helping the king in building the shrine, the devout people of Thanjavur presented him gold, sardonix, emerald and pearl. And the king has recorded their details both in number and quantity. What’s surprising is that the monarch has recorded the value of gold in the ornaments, appraising it both by including and excluding its cotton strings”  

“The king got every detail of the gifts inscribed on stone, since he felt that the wealth donated by the devotees to the God was accounted clearly and the accounts should withstand the test of time”

Shankar Vanavarayar, Convener, INTACH, Coimbatore chapter, welcomed the gathering, Babaji Rajah Bhonsle, Senior prince and hereditary trustee of Thanjavur Big Temple, Vikram Sampath, Executive Director, Indira Gandhi Centre for the Arts, South Zone and Ramachandra Prasad, Co-convener, INTACH, Coimbatore chapter, spoke in the function.

Link to my article in The New Indian Express:http://epaper.newindianexpress.com/c/3860138

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Bringing the ‘Celestial Dance’ to Coimbatore

                                                                                                                              Photo by Express lensman S.Kamalakannan

As a revolution in the tradition of Kambalathu Naicker community, its folk dance form Devarattam, which is generally performed only on auspicious occasions like weddings and temple festivals, took a radical turn when it was presented by a team of dancers in the funeral of their Guru and veteran dancer ‘Kalaimamani’ Kumararaman mourning his demise on June 8, 2014

Hailing from an agricultural family at Zamin Kodangipatti, a hamlet in Tuticorin district, Kumararaman, a retired headmaster, took efforts to revive the traditional dance form and popularized it by presenting his shows in the Indian Republic Day parade in New Delhi and Wereld Kinderfestival (World Children’s Festival) in the Netherlands.

But, it is no exaggeration that Coimbatoreans felt as if they were at Zamin Kodangipatti, when they enjoyed the performance of Devarattam by Sri Sakka Devi Gramiya Kalai Kuzhu  in memory of Kumararaman here on Sunday evening. Hats off to Aruvi, a city-based art and literary forum for arranging the show

“Reviving the folk dance form, Kumararaman also pioneered the innovation in bringing girls to perform Devarattam, while it was only confined to men” averred Ramraj, a street play artiste and Tamil professor from P.S.G.College of Arts and Science

While reading out an introduction to Devarattam from an article by A.K.Perumal, a scholar in folk arts, he pointed out:

Devarattam is generally performed only in the festival nights of worshipping Jakkamma, the family deity of Kambalathu Naickers”  

Legend has it that the daughter of the sage Kalaikottu Maamunivar asked her father to provide her a boon that she would beget a child without coital relationship with a man. And the sage provided her the fruit ‘Kan Pazham’ (The artistes refer it to a lemon), through which she gave birth to a child. Hence, the descendents of the child, later, came to be called as ‘Kan Pazhathar’ which has got corrupted to ‘Kambalathar’  

A mythology behind Devarattam (The dance of Devas) discloses that the creator God Vishwakarman, made a new percussion instrument called ‘Deva Thunthubi’ and  asked the ‘Devas’ ( celestials) to play on it. As they could not do so, a Pandaram (Priest), whose job is stringing flowers to Gods, played the instrument after worshipping Lord Shiva and the Devas danced to his music. Hence, it came to be called ‘Devarattam

Performed through generations in the villages surrounding Madurai and Tuticorin, the Devarattam is a unique dance form, in which the Arunthathiars, one of the nine clans of Kambalathu Naicker community play the percussion instrument ‘Deva Thunthubi’ (Urumee) while members from the Sillavar clan dance in a row.

Now the dancers get ready to display their skills, as the percussionist rubs his stick on the ‘Deva Thunthubi’ which produces a music resembling the moaning of a wild animal.

The dance that begins with a slow tempo gradually increases its speed and becomes artistically vigorous. With the dancers pausing at a point, the ‘animal moans’ for a silent few seconds. And the little pause provides the dancers a new vigor to rock again. 

Link to my article in The New Indian Express: http://epaper.newindianexpress.com/c/3838332

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Looking for Lord Perumal’s Tribal Wife

The idioms used by Coimbatoreans in their Kongu Tamil dialect are unique, as they figuratively remark even an act of deceiving as ‘Naamam Saathuthal’ which literally stands for the Vaishnavaite custom of drawing a Naamam (trident mark) on the forehead.  Theologians of the faith say that the mark shows their deep devotion to God, since it represents the feet of Lord Perumal. Nonetheless, the religious mark has a different meaning in the culture of Irulas, who were the aborigines of Coimbatore.  

Reminding the story of Noah’s Ark and the Great Flood from the Bible, the tribal Irulas believe that their origin on earth was after a ravaging flood that destroyed all creatures of the world except Koduvan and his daughter Sambi. It is said that the duo took shelter inside a cave on Kizhavi Malai, a hill near the present day Thudiyalur and were noticed by Mallan and Malli, the creators of the Irula tribe. But, Mallan and Malli later metamorphosed the father and daughter into a young couple, from whom the tribe multiplied.

Though the tribal mythology consists of such supernatural machinery, the painful history of the Irulas losing their unique worship culture can still be heard in their tales.

When the Kongu region came under Vijayanagara rule in 16th century A.D, the kings, in order to spread their official religion Vaishnavism, built Perumal temples in places like Periyanaickenpalayam and Karamadai and brought the Irula tribe into the streamline of their faith.    

At a time when people of the present day worry over a hike in the milk price, it is surprising that the Irulas never milked their cows and believed that a cow’s milk is only for its calf. However, their myth on the arrival of Lord Perumal at Karamadai unfolds that an Irula cowherd was canned after he refused providing milk to the Vaishnavite God.

The tale also informs that one of his cows shed milk on an anthill amidst the Kaarai plants (Canthium parviflorum), after which a temple for Lord Perumal emerged there. It is also interesting to note that the place had earlier got its name ‘Karamadai’ due to the overgrowth of the Kaarai plants.  

The tribal myth discloses that Lord Perumal even fell in love with an Irula girl named Thulasilaampaal. Captivated by her exceptional beauty, the Lord forcibly carried her to His abode. But, on His way back home between Karamadai and Palamalai, the Lord felt something wet on his forehead and understood Thulasilaampaal’s attaining puberty!

The Irulas, who were forced to worship Lord Perumal, still say that the medial red mark on the Lord’s Naamam (Trident mark) is nothing but a drop of Thulasilaampaal’s vaginal discharge of blood!       

Source: Sappe Gokalu – A collection of Irula tribal songs – R.Lakshmanan 

Link to my article in The New Indian Express: http://epaper.newindianexpress.com/c/3794351

A Vanambadi Poet, Blessed with a Sense of Biting Satire

Senior Vanambadi poet Thenarasan

The Vanambadi poets of Coimbatore, who severely criticized the conventional verse for its strict prosodic rules, were on a priceless mission in taking modern poetry to the masses in 1970s. Addressing social issues in modern verse, the poets strongly believed that their creations would bring a reformation in the society. And one such veteran Vanambadi poet is 77 year old Thenarasan, whose poems are known for his exceptional satire and pleasant rhyme.

“Like all other Vanambadi poets, I too was writing only conventional Tamil verse before my entry into the poetry movement. And it was no easy task to transform myself from a conventional poet to a modern poet. I even felt that the new kind of verse called ‘Puthu Kavithai’ written without prosodic rules was like lass renounced of her beautiful clothes and ornaments” says the Pollachi-based octogenarian poet.

An author of the popular books of poems Vellai Roja and Manvaasal,
Thenarasan’s flair for writing verse is something inseparable from him. He has recently penned two more books of verse Peythu Pazhakiya Mekam (The cloud that is used to rain) and Panikaalam Mudhailya Kavithaikal - The Mist and other poems

The latter, a bilingual work, includes the English rendering of Thenarasan’s poems by his poetry peer Sirpi Balasubramaniam, eminent Vanambadi poet and a two- Sahitya Akademy awardee. A few other verses in the book have been translated by one Muthukumar and Bala, a late Vanambadi poet.

Born in an agriculture family in the hamlet Chellappampalayam near Udumalpet, Thenarasan had his schooling in Gandhi Kalanilayam Higher Secondary School at Pungamuthur, where he later worked as a Tamil teacher.

Sharing his early day interests in poetry, Thenarasan reminisces:

“My teachers Peri.Sivanadiyan and Ki.Venkatasamy, who were also poets, ignited my passion for poetry in my school days. When I was a budding poet, the school provided me an opportunity to read out a poem, welcoming the Tamil scholar Ki.Aa.Pe. Visuvanatham, when he visited our school”

Recalling his days in the Vanambadi poetry movement, Thenarasan points out:

“We, the Vanambadis, were radicals in poetry. We used to conduct our literary meetings as Kavi Raathiris (Nights of poetry) in Coimbatore. Though the pillars of the poetry movement like Puviarasu, Elamurugu and Gnani discussed and debated over ideas of poetry, I would just be an observer”

However, listening to Thenarsan’s poem in a Kaviarangam, the audiences cannot help complimenting his biting satire with a rousing applause.

Parodying a modern day love affair, Thenarasan writes a poem in the voice of an unworldly lover, as he speaks to his lady love, a practical girl:

My dear, dear darling,
You were always practical
Only I was…

When I was planning, dear,
To bring a Kamadhenu to your back-yard
You ran away with a milk-vendor!

My dear darling
I was waiting to take you in a dream-chariot
But you eloped with him
On a rickety old bicycle! 

Link to my article in The New Indian Express: http://epaper.newindianexpress.com/c/3790595

Saturday, 1 November 2014

A Vinayaga Vikraga Named after George V !

The people of Coimbatore are no exception among the ones from other districts in Tamil Nadu for creating new deities and christening them after appropriate social and political situations. Though atheists of the city ridicule the pious people for giving  funny names to deities, the devotees, unbothered about such comments, still continue worshipping the Almighty, saying that their prayers to the  God provide them solace from all distresses in life

Moreover, with God being the only path to escape pains in life, the people of Coimbatore identified the Omnipresent as their savior from all worldly woes.

For instance, the deity Mariamman, who has different tags attached to Her as ‘Muthu’ Mariamman, ‘Thandu’ Mariamman, ‘Vilayaattu’ Mariamman and so on, later, took a strange avatar as ‘Plague’ Mariamman!  

The people also built shrines for the new deity in several spots of Coimbatore like Sengaadu and Papanaickenpalayam. The Goddess was named so in the belief that She would drive out the deadly disease, which took a heavy toll of human life in the beginning of 20th century. However, with the Goddess’ name being corrupted to ‘Black’ Mariamman now, many in Coimbatore know little about the new deity’s history.  

The outbreak of plague had an influence also in the Kongu Tamil dialect, when elderly people of the yesteryear Coimbatore would curse their enemies as Avan Bethi Blaaku Vanthu Seththupokonum (Let him die of diarrhoea and plague)

Similarly, Lord Ganesha too had different tags to His name.

It may be noted that the elephant-god finds no mention in any of the pieces of the ancient Tamil literature, as He was brought to Tamil Nadu only in 7th century A.D by Paranjothi, the army general to the Pallava king Narasimavarman I. It is said that Paranjothi, who later became one of the 63 apostles of Lord Shiva, brought the idol of Lord Ganesha from Vatapi as a symbol of his victory over the Chalukkya king Pulikesi II.

The deity, who later became popular in the Kongu region too, is being called with different tags as Sidhi Vinayagar, Koopidu Vinayagar and so on.

Interestingly, the Singanallur police station comprises a different shrine for Lord Ganesha, who has been appropriately named as ‘Kaaval’ Vinayagar!  

Over a century ago, the people of Alangiyam, a village near Dharapuram in the Kongu region, erected a stone inscription on the consecration of a Vinayagar temple, but commemorating the coronation of the British King George V!

As the inscription reads that it was erected on 27th of the Tamil month Karthigai in Kaliyuga year 5013, it exactly matches the British king’s coronation on December 12, 1911 in India.

Believe it or not, the deity is appropriately named as ‘Chakravarthy’ Vinayagar!, which means Lord Ganesha, the Emperor!

Source: Pillayarum George Mannarum- Epigraphist D.Sundaram.

Link to my article in The New Indian Express: http://epaper.newindianexpress.com/c/3749064

Friday, 31 October 2014

Rediscovering a Slain Warrior of Ancient Times

History enthusiast Ponnusamy at the hero stone with eminent archeologist Poongundran

An armed warrior standing guard to the cattle of a village is attacked by a tiger. He fights against the wild cat, which at last mauls him to death. The villagers, who were grateful to the slain warrior, honour him by erecting a Nadukal (Hero stone) in his memory and inscribe on it the event of his death. They worship the monument by adorning it with Peeli (Peacock feathers), as a rule formulated in Tolkapiyam, the earliest treatise of Tamils.

Though such hero stones have withstood the path of time and still found on some village borders, the one seen at Vaanavancheri in Tirupur district, dates back to over 1200 years, as the inscriptions on the monument are in ancient Vattezhuththu (Rounded script). What’s more, reminding the instruction in Tolkapiyam, the villagers call the monument as Peelikkal (Stone adorned with peacock feathers)

“Classical pieces of Tamil literature like Purananuru, Agananuru, Aynkurunuru, Thirukural and Silapathikaram contain references about hero stones” informs Ponnusamy, coordinator, Veera Rajendran Archeological and Historical Research Centre, Tirupur, an organization, which is on the mission of bringing to light the cultural glories of Kongu’s past. 

“In those days cattle were considered as wealth that a king captured them from his opponent’s land and drove them to his country. Mentioned as Aakol in Tolkapiyam, the ‘cattle robbery’ brought wars between villages. And the ones, who died in the battle to redeem their cattle wealth, were honoured by their respective village people with the erection of hero stones in their memory” explains Ponnusamy.

After discovering the monument with inscriptions in Vattezhuthu, Kongu history enthusiasts Ponnusamy, Thooran Velusamy, Ravikumar, Nagaraj Ganesh Kumar and Sadhasivam informed Poongundran, eminent archeologist and former Assistant Director of State Archeology Department, who later deciphered the script.

Interpreting the inscription, Poongundran said:

“The script reads that Vaanavan, a local village ruler, fought against the tiger and was killed by the animal. In memory of his death, his widow, who is mentioned as daughter of Patti, another village ruler, erected this hero stone”

Pointing out its highlights, Poongundran also noted:

“Though many hero stones were discovered in the Kongu region, most of them date back just to the Vijayanagara rule of 16th century. However, this hero stone belongs to an ancient period with its inscription being in Vattezhuluthu. It is also strange, that it was erected by none other than the widow of the slain warrior” added Poongundran.
Picturizing a hero stone, the 264th song in Purananuru, reads thus in Vaidehi Herbert’s translation:

They planted a memorial stone with the name
etched, on a mound with gravel, and decorated
it with split hemp leaves, a red flower garland,
and feathers of a pretty peacock.

Will the families of bards, who do not know
of his passing, the great man who brought cows
with calves and chased away enemies, still come?

Surrounded by a pile of stones, the hero stone at Vaanavancheri also resembles the one described in the ancient Sangam lyric!

Link to my article in The New Indian Express: http://epaper.newindianexpress.com/c/3744737

Saturday, 25 October 2014

The Education of a ‘Crack’ Called C.K

C.K. Subramania Mudhaliar

C.K. Subramania Mudhaliar, an eminent Tamil scholar, who lived in Coimbatore between 1878 and 1961  and pioneered the Herculean task of writing commentary for Periyapuranam, a Shaivaite Bhakthi literature consisting of 4286 songs, was also a lover of English. He never changed his initials ‘C.K’ into Tamil as Ko. Ka.  to mean his native town Koyamputhur (Coimbatore) and his father Kandhasamy Mudhaliar respectively. Interestingly, the scholar, who was also a Vice chairman of Coimbatore Municipality once, did not worry about his friends calling him shortly as ‘C.K’ to mean him for fun as ‘madman’, since his initials C.K also stood for ‘Crack’ a colloquial expression to call an insane person.   

Beginning the first chapter in his book Piththan Oruvanin Suyasaritham ( A mad man’s autobiography), C.K. Subramania Mudhaliar writes that though his friends called him so, he is only glad about that.

An ardent admirer of Shaivaite philosophy, he writes:

“I am happy to be called as ‘Crack’ through my initials C.K. Because, Lord Shiva himself liked to be addressed as Piththan( a mad man), when his apostle, Sundramurthy Nayanar called Him so. And, how fortunate I am to get my God’s name!”   

As a boy, C.K was much reluctant in attending lessons under Vaithyalingam Pillai, a lifelong bachelor from Jaffna, who ran a Thinnai Pallikoodam ( Pyol school) in Coimbatore. His house being large in the city, used to be called as ‘Vaathiyaar Veedu’, accommodated as many as twenty students, whom the Ubaathiyaayar (teacher) hardly allowed home except for taking bath and having food! In spite of the teacher’s prescription of strict rules and regulations, C.K had high regards for him, as he says that the teacher spent much of his income on the development of his pupils.

Recalling his student days in Coimbatore College, which, later, became the Government Arts College, C.K writes in his autobiography that the alma mater was then located near the Koniamman Temple. Pursuing F.A (Fellow of Arts), a two-year course after passing Matriculation examination there, C.K reminisces that his teachers in the college had great concern for students. He avers that Krishna Iyer, the vice principal of the college, was popularly called ‘B.A’ Krishna Iyer since he was the first man to obtain B.A degree in Coimbatore!  Listing the names of his other inspiring teachers including Kumbakonam Sabapathy Pillai, who handled Tamil for him, C.K informs that the principal of the college was an Englishman by name Hunter.    

While pursuing education at a college out of town, residing in a mansion or hostel and consuming food at a mess hall or a hotel is usual in modern era. But, it is surprising that C.K, while doing B.A in the Presidency College, Madras, was taken care of by his mother, as they both lived in a rented house at Triplicane. What’s more, C.K even got married while he was a student there by the end of the 19th century!

Source: Pithan Oruvanin Suyasaritham - Sivakavimani C.K. Subramania Mudhaliar. 

Link to my article in The New Indian Express: http://epaper.newindianexpress.com/c/3707047

Saturday, 18 October 2014

The Kongu Chieftain who hanged a British Messenger

It is quite natural for any Tamil cinema buff to imagine the yesteryear matinee idol Sivaji Ganesan, whenever he or she thinks of Veerapandya Kattabomman, a brave chieftain from Panchalankurichi, who was hanged to death by the British. It was the legendary actor, who played the inspiring role of Veerapandya Kattabomman in a movie of the same title.  However, history has not recorded the name of another Kongu chieftain, who hanged a British messenger to death in retaliation to the killing of Veerapandiya Kattabomman. What’s more, the chieftain hanged the white man from a tamarind tree in the same way as the British killed Kattabomman.

The feudal chieftain Eththalappa Naicken, who ruled a Palayapattu (A group of villages) with Thali as headquarters near Udumalpet in the Kongu region, was an ally of Veerapandya Kattabomman. It is said that Eththalappan provided military support to Oomaithurai, the younger brother of Veerapandiya Kattabomman in a war against the British after Kattabomman’s death in 1799. However, Eththalappan left the battle field in receipt of a message of his father’s death at Thali.

Though Oomaithurai faced a defeat in the war, Eththalappan, later on, strengthened his relationship with Oomaithurai by integrating a total of his neighbouring 14 Palayapattus and provided him a strong military support to wage war against the British. But, sensing a danger of defeat, the British government sent a team of messengers for holding a talk with Eththalappan at Thali in 1801 However, the chieftain, who wanted to avenge the killing of Veerapandiya Kattaboomman, captured the chief envoy and hanged him to death. He also buried his body in Thali.

The oral piece of history, which was handed down through generations in the Kambalathu Naicker community at Thali, has been documented in the book Eththalappan Varalaru, authored by Rangasamy Gounder.

It is also evident from a stone inscription found at Devaraya Naicker farmland in Thali. The inscription reads that an Englishman by name ‘Angirai Kethi’ was buried on Thursday, April 23, 1801. Interestingly, the place, where he was hanged to death, is appropriately called by the people as ‘Thookku Marathottam’ (The farmland, where a tree used for hanging people, stands)    

Reminding Mahakavi Subramania Bharathi’s addressing an Englishman in one of his poems as ‘Paranki’ (White gourd), the inscription too calls him as ‘Angirai Kethi Paranki’. It also informs that he came from Tanjore and his age was 27 at the time of execution.
Though the person executed by the Kongu chieftain was his enemy, a line in the stone inscription describes his death and burial euphemistically as follows: 

The stone inscription at Angirei Kethi's grave

Thanjai Nagarathiliruntha
 Angirai Kethi Paranki
 irupathezhu vayathil
Dheiveekamaki Adingina Samaathu

(Angirai Kethi, a twenty seven year old Englishman from Tanjore ‘attained divinity’ and buried here)

Source: Eththalappa Naicker Thookilitta Aangileyanudaya Kalvettu – S. Ravi, archeologist and Epigraphist 

Link to my article in The New Indian Express: http://epaper.newindianexpress.com/c/3678029

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

A Shiva called ‘Amana’ Lingeshwara

At a time, when certain political movements raise a hue and cry against religious conversions in the country, it is a wonder they still maintain silence on the acts of their parental outfits in bringing even Gods of an alien faith into theirs. And one such 'converted' deity is ‘Amana'  Liingeshwarar’ whose shrine is located at Devanampalayam near Negamum in Pollachi.

Though the God is now worshiped as Lord Shiva, the prefix ‘Amana’ in its name not only connotes  the deity being nude, but questions whether Lord Shiva has ever been portrayed as a God wearing no clothes in any Shaivite literature.

On the other hand, the deities in the Digambara sect of Jainism were nude. Substantiating this, Soolaamani, a classical piece of Tamil literature, describes a Jain God as Aniyaathum Olithikalum Aaranangu Thirumurthy, which means the God, who possesses the natural, dazzling beauty despite being nude. Also, with the meaning of Digampara being ‘Sky-clad’ or ‘Naked’ the Jain ascetics, who belong to the Digambara sect of Jainism, shun all their properties and wear no clothes.

The Amanalingeshwarar Temple, which is located atop a rock in the middle of a dried up river at Devanampalayam, must be a Jain shrine over 700 years ago and could have been converted into a Shaivite shrine sometime during the rule of the later Cholas in the Kongu region. Moreover, as the name of the Chola king Vikrama Chola III, who ruled the Kongu region between 1273 A.D and 1303 A.D, finds mention in some of the dilapidated stone inscriptions, one can assume that the shrine was consecrated after it witnessed the conversion from a Jain temple to a Shiva shrine.

Standing witness to the consecration of the temple in 1302 A.D, an inscription reads that a Vellalan (Agriculturist) had donated a Thirunilaikaal (The chief pillar supporting the temple tower) for the shrine. Besides, an inscription starting with the word Thirukatraliyil… meaning ‘In the temple built of stone’ throws light on the history of the shrine’s development from a brick-built temple to a stone-built one.

Moreover, the inscription has also recorded the names of several people like Cholan Devan, Ekkan Kovanana Neethibalan, Devan Kesuvan, Devan Bemmaan,Santhanana Kothupichi Cholan and Kovan Poovan as the ones who made several gifts to the temple. With the mention of these people hailing from a village called Kuruneeli, the inscription proves a close relationship between the village and the shrine.

But, when you look for the village Kuruneeli near Devanampalayam, you can come across one by its name now corrupted to ‘Kurunallipalayam’. Also, in the research on the etymology of the village’s old name Kuruneeli, a definite answer is yet to be arrived,  since Neeli has different meanings as ‘Mother’  ‘Durga’ and ‘Parvathy’. What’s more, Neeli also means ‘A demoness ’ ! 

Sources: 1) Kongunadum Samanamum - Kovai Kizhar
                2) Devanampalayam Amanalingeshwarar Koyil – Epigraphist .D. Sundaram 

Link to my article in The New Indian Express: http://epaper.newindianexpress.com/c/3652184

Friday, 10 October 2014

A Shepherd’s Discovery of ‘Rajakesari Peruvazhi’

With an ancient highway running from ‘Ulku Idam’, the place where taxes being collected, ( Ukkadam)  to Walayar through a deep forest, kings, queens, soldiers and merchants from various places in India and abroad must have journeyed through it on chariots, horses and mules to reach the west coast. Since robbery was also rampant those days, the traders had to hide their valuables at certain spots on the highway and communicated their whereabouts among themselves in riddles, which could be understood only to them.  

And a folksong related to such riddles, is still narrated by the peoplof Ettimadai, a village near the ancient highway Rajakesari Peruvazhi.

Aaalaa Marathula Ambu, Velaamarathula Villu, Angundu Panam, Ingille, Ingundu Panam, Angille (Roughly translated – The arrow is in the banyan tree, the bow is in the babul tree. The money is there, but not here, the money is here but not there)”

“Though the meaning of the song cannot be interpreted exactly, it is still recited by some elders of our village to say how the merchants confused the highway robbers and prevented them from stealing their valuables” informs Anbarasu, a shepherd-turned- businessman at Ettimadai.

Pointing at the three hills Sorimalai, Thimilmalai and Attamalai in Ettimadai, Anbarasu says:

“Look, you can have a clear view of Rajakesari Peruvazhi between those mountains”

Interacting with K.R. Babu, a poet and historian of Coimbatore at Rajakesari Peruvazhi on Friday, Anbarasu informed:

“I have been to the forests of Ettimadai ever since I was a boy, as I used to take my goats for grazing on the hills. Though  elders in our family would say that there existed an ancient highway, I came to know its name as ‘Rajakesari Peruvazhi’ only after I read an article in 2002 by eminent archeologist late Karunanandham in Kalaikathir, an exclusive magazine for science in Tamil”

Anbarasu used to read books while grazing goats near the highway. But, it was a coincidence that he discovered the highway’s name as ‘Rajakesari Peruvazhi’ while reading the magazine at the same Rajakesari Peruvazhi!

“If you go deep into the forest and reach the spot Thekkanthittu between Thimilmalai and Attamalai, you can come across the highway’s name inscribed on a large rock in Vattezhuththu. You can also notice a Venba (A conventional Tamil poem) inscribed on the rock in praise of the Chola king, who strengthened the highway. The inscription, which dates back to 10th century A.D, is still safe, as it is far away from human reach” adds Anbarasu.

Pointing at the ancient highway, which runs between the long stretches of cacti along its sides, poet K.R.Babu averred:

“It is pleasant to imagine the chariot travels of kings and queens through Rajakesari Peruvazhi over 1000 years. It brings to mind the scenes from historical novels by celebrated Tamil writers like Kalki and Sandilyan”

Link to my article in The New Indian Express : http://epaper.newindianexpress.com/c/3633910

Sunday, 5 October 2014

The Dilapidated Shrine of the ‘Kongu’ Shiva

Sensing the human entry, a bat flaps its wings and escapes through a hole on the damaged roof of the dilapidated sanctum sanctorum of the Kongavidangeeswarar temple. The ancient shrine, which is in a sorry state of dereliction, is located at Kadathur, a village on the banks of river Amarawathy in Udumalpet sandwiching the districts of Tirupur and Dindigul in the Kongu region

The deity in the temple is called with the region’s name as ‘Konga’Vidangeeswarar. However, the villagers simply call the shrine as ‘Konganeeswarar Koyil’.
Though the temple is alive today only in its remnants like the Arthamandapa ( The entrance hall) and Garba Graha ( Sanctum sanctorum) after losing its other architectural grandeurs like Thiruchuttru (  Temple enclosure) and  Sannathis ( Apertures on the temple enclosure with little idols of other deities), a few inscriptions on the temple’s wall throw light on its glorious past.

Deciphering a stone inscription at the Shiva temple, one can assume that the shrine could have been built over 800 years ago, as it mentions the name of the Kongu Chola King Veera Rajendran, who ruled the northern and southern parts of the Kongu region between the years 1207 and 1256 A.D.

The stone inscriptions behind the temple wall

One of the ten stone inscriptions now available on the temple’s wall, mentions that two royal officials from Keeranur donated some lands at Kadathur to the Vageeswaramudayaar Temple in Dharapuram. The inscription also notes that the Kongavidangeeswarar Temple is located at Kadathur of the Karaivali Naadu, a division of the ancient Kongu region.

Another inscription has recorded that a man donated two coins (Kaasu Irandu Achchu) to meet the expenses of burning the Sandhya Dheepam (Lamp lit during the pooja hours) at the shrine and they were deposited in the Bandaram (Temple’s treasury). The inscription also adds that the coins were spent to buy a piece of cultivable land from the nearby village Kaaraithozhu and the income obtained from the land’s agricultural produce was used for burning the Sandhya Dheepam.

Moreover, throwing light on the  practice of providing Kaanikkai (Voluntary offering of money, gold etc) and seeking the deity’s help in overcoming  troubles in life even before 700 years, another inscription discloses that Anuthiru Pallavarayan, an officer under the Kongu Chola King Veera Rajendran, donated a piece of land at Kannaadi Puthur to the temple. Interestingly, his gift to the God was to help his king get rid of the Grahadhosham (A suffering from the malignant influence of planets).

Pointing at the dilapidated structure of the Kongavidangeeswarar Temple, Dhasappan, a 72 year old agriculturist in Kadathur, says:

“My grandfather told me that Kadathur had once witnessed a mild earthquake in his ancestors’ time. It is said that the villagers rushed to the temple, poured loads of soil alongside the bottom of its walls and prevented the sanctum sanctorum from falling”

The agriculturist also informs that large pieces of inscribed stones from the temple’s debris were later used in the construction work of a well, which is still seen adjacent to the shrine.

Source: Kongavidangeeswarar Kovil – Epigraphist D.Sundaram

Link to my article in The New Indian Express: http://epaper.newindianexpress.com/c/3600947

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Inscribing Thirukural for Eternity

Kumaragurupara Swamigal and Pulavar Se.Rasu - Picture : Shankar Narayan

The Kongu region, which is known for its copious contribution to classical Tamil literature, will have another feather on its cap, if a literary organization’s proposal of inscribing all the 1330 couplets of Thirukural on a hill at Malayappalayam in the Erode district, becomes a reality.    

The Chennai-based organization Kural Malai Sangam, which mooted the project a few years ago, submitted its proposal to the government of Tamil Nadu in 2009.

“Though our proposal was rejected in the beginning, it was accepted later and a survey has been conducted by Erode District Collector V.K..Shanmugam in this regard “said Ravikumar, founder president of Kural Malai Sangam.

Following the government’s acceptance, the organization conducted a symposium in association with Hindusthan College of Arts and Science on Sunday evening to emphasize the need of getting the Thirukural couplets inscribed on the hill.  

As part of the programmme, a book ‘Kalvettil Thirukural’ was released. The book, which speaks on the importance of inscribing the couplets on the hill, contains articles by various erudite Tamil scholars like E. Sundaramurthy, former Vice-chancellor, Tamil University, Thanjavur, Thavathiru Kumaragurupara Swamigal, Pontiff of Gowmara Madalayam, poets Sirpi Balasubramaniam and Eraniyan.

Eminent archeologist Poongundran writes in the book ‘Kalvettil Thirukural’ thus:

“Though Thirukural is a work in Tamil, it propagates the morals to the mankind in common. And documenting its couplets on the hill is historic” 

Quoting a line from Tamil poetess Avvayar’s popular work Moothurai in his address, Pulavar Se.Rasu, former head, Department of Archeology and Epigraphy, Tamil University, Thanjavur, said:

“By reading the line Nallaar Oruvarkku Seyyum Ubakaaram Kalmel Ezhuththupol Kaanume… we can understand that the gratitude of good people, who received the help, is as immortal as letters inscribed on the stone”

Informing that several stone inscriptions found on the mountains have withstood the passage of time, Rasu pointed out that inscribing the couplets of Thirukural on stone will make the greatest Tamil work imperishable in the world.

Citing the discovery of an ancient stone inscription containing musical notations on a hill at Arachalur near Erode, noted Tamil scholar and junior pontiff of Perur Mutt, Maruthalasa Adigalar said:

“The Arachalur stone inscription stands witness to the erudition of ancient Tamils in music. Similarly, the posterity will wonder at the philosophy-rich couplets of Thirukural, if they are inscribed on the hill”

K. Ramasamy, Vice-chancellor, Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, pointed out:

“Inscribing Thirukural couplets on the hill will make the greatest Tamil work eternal on earth. And Tamils, cutting across their castes and religions, should join hands in the great task”  

Saraswathy Kannayan, Correspondent Hindusthan College of Arts and Science, welcomed the gathering. V.G.Santhosham, President, V.G.P. Ulaka Thamizh Sangam, Nalla.G. Palanisamy, Chairman, Kovai Medical Centreand.Hospital and President of Thamizh Panpaattu Mayyam, Chief Educational Officer A. Gnana Gowri, Tamil scholar Pulavar Nanjappan, poet Kavidasan, Tamil enthusiasts Mathivanan and ‘Kural selvi ‘ Mangayarkarasi spoke in the meeting. 

Link to my article in The New Indian Express: http://epaper.newindianexpress.com/c/3590668

Saturday, 6 September 2014

The Aborigines’ Unexpressed’ Ire in Songs

In the present age, strict laws are implemented to prevent axing down trees in the forests of Coimbatore. And whoever that commits such a crime, including a man from the aboriginal Irula tribe, deserves the punishment awarded by law today. Nevertheless, in an age, when there were no man-made laws to protect the forest wealth, it was an irony that the government itself exploited the woods when the tribal people had traditional rights over them. But, the tribesmen, who were powerless before powerful kings and bureaucrats, could not vent their anger on them, but registered it in their proverbs, riddles and songs, which are still heard today 

The songs, which were composed by the unlettered Irula people in the bygone era, contain mention about the exploitation of forests by different governments in various periods of Coimbatore’s history. However, the meaning of the sighs and sudden pauses during the performance of those songs is impossible to be interpreted in words. However, the listener can experience a kind of pain from such non-verbal elements arising out of the injustices done to the tribe by powerful rulers.

The forests of the Irula tribe in Coimbatore were in continuous invasion right from the days of monarchy, as the powerful kings were greedy to bring the woods under their control and expand their empire by clearing the woods. Also, various religions like Jainism, Shaivism and Vaishnavism that entered Coimbatore patronized by their respective kings attempted to bring the tribe into their faith. Later on, the British government too imposed new rules on the tribal community, which deprived of their natural rights over the forests.  

An Irula tribal song Sotho Sotho Sinnaa Dhore… has a tale in its background on how numerous trees in the forests of Siruvani were felled by one Narasimalu, a rich man from Coimbatore. The story informs that Narasimmalu, using the timber from those trees, built a cotton mill near Kovanpathy (Coimbatore) in partnership with certain Englishmen.

The piece of oral literature, which could have born in the days of British rule in Coimbatore, also narrates the love of an Irula girl Vaari for Sundai, a young man from the same tribe. However, Sundai, who was hired by the mill owner Narasimmalu for felling trees in the woods of Siruvani, soon gets used to the urban life style by wearing fashionable clothes and applying cosmetics. The tale also narrates how Vaari and her aunt (Sundai’s mother) were unhappy about the Irula young man’s change in his life style.  

Another Irula tribal song Kolavanda… Kolavanda…has a tale in its background on how the two Irula men Nanjan and Onthan were searched by the British officer Solai Dhorai for their ‘crime’ of  felling  some trees for timber to roof in their huts. The tale also registers that the Irula duo goes underground inside the deep forests, whenever they were tipped-off on the British officer’s arrival to the tribal hamlet with his soldiers on horseback.

Source: Sappe Gokaalu – A collection of Irula tribal songs – R.Lakshmanan. 

Link to my article in The New Indian Express:http://epaper.newindianexpress.com/c/3447032 

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Roots of Rock Art in Ancient Kongu

An ancient rock painting at Vellarukampalayam

 It is true that every work of art on earth has its origin somewhere in the distant past. And by tracing its roots, one may conclude that art has been inseparable from human life throughout man’s long journey of evolution

“The beautiful sculptures, which we admire at temples today, have their roots from cave paintings belonging to various periods of history” said T.Subramanian, retired Assistant Director, State Department of Archeology.

Kottravai or Kannagi at Marayur?

The archeologist, who addressed on the title Kongunaattu Gukai Oviyangal (Cave paintings in Kongunadu) at the monthly lecture series of The Vanavarar Foundation on Friday, pointed out:

A cave painting at Kovanur

“The cave paintings of Tamil Nadu date back to the Neolithic age and the practice of painting images on rocks continued through Megalithic age and reached the Sangam age”

Pointing out the references on art in the ancient period, Subramanian said that many lyrics from Sangam literature mention the places, where paintings were done, as Chithirakoodam, Chithiramaadam and so on. He also noted that descriptions about how pictures were drawn are detailed in the great Tamil epic Manimekali.

Tracing the discoveries of cave paintings in Kongunadu, Subramanian said:

“The first cave painting discovered in the Kongu region was at Vettaikaran Malai in in Coimbatore

Displaying the picture of the cave painting in his power point show, the archeologist explained:

“The ancient piece of art depicts two men, one seated on the elephant and another on horseback holding a spear in his hand. The painting also shows men dancing in a row holding their hands together. The images drawn on the rock could be implying a fight between two tribes or a hunting scene.”

Displaying another cave painting discovered at Marayur on the way to Munar, Subramanian said:

“The rock art depicts a human being in a standing posture surrounded by a number of deer.  Many archeologists have opined that the human image is none but Kotravai (A Goddess of victory mentioned in the pieces of ancient Tamil literature) as deer was Her Vahanam (Vehicle)”

Nevertheless, Subramanian noted that a popular tale among the tribes of Marayur links the rock art with the events in the great Tamil epic Silapathikaram.

“The tribes at Marayur believe that numerous goldsmiths of Madurai migrated to Munar after Kannagi set the city on fire condemning the Pandya king’s killing of her innocent husband Kovalan. A wicked goldsmith in Madurai, who actually stole the Pandya king’s anklet, charged Kovalan with the theft. With his charge leading to Kovalan’s unjust execution, the tribes at Marayur believe that all other goldsmiths left Madurai and began worshipping Kannagi. Hence, the tribes say that the human being depicted in the rock art is none other than Kannagi drawn by the goldsmiths” 

Link to my article in The New Indian Express: http://epaper.newindianexpress.com/c/3406852

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Remembering Kinathukadavu's Great Elementary School Teacher

Teacher Meenakshi Sundaram

It's me, a little boy, held by my mother

It is true that not all ‘Meenakshi Sundarams’ are as great as ‘Mahavidhwan’ Meenakshi Sundaram Pillai, a renowned Tamil scholar in the Thiruvavaduthurai mutt and the teacher of eminent Tamil scholar ‘Thamizh Thatha’ U.V. Swaminatha Iyer. Though the erudition of the Mahavidhwan lay in his skills of composing hundreds of conventional Tamil poems everyday, his student Swaminatha Iyer’s reverence for him is known from the fact that he had never referred his teacher by name on any occasion.

However, there lived another ideal elementary school teacher by name Meenakshi Sundaram at Kinathukadavu, whose name is still pronounced by many of his students for his effective teaching skills and concern for pupils.

One such student of Meenakshi Sundaram is Dr. P. Kuppusamy, an 82 year old eminent lawyer, writer and president of the city’s literary organization Nanneri Kazhagam.

Recalling his student days under the teacher at the Kinathukadavu government middle school, Kuppusamy writes in one of his books that Meenakshi Sundaram was a great teacher, whose effective handling of lessons  helped him understand the nuances in  the classical pieces of Tamil literature.  

My mother M.Saraswathy

“Unlike most teachers of these days, Meenakshi Sundaram had concern for each of his students. Whenever he taught an interesting lesson in the class, he would also ensure whether his pupils had comprehended the lesson well” says Kuppusamy.

Meenakshi Sundaram also helped a brilliant, but an economically poor student Saraswathy by buying her new clothes. The student, who also became a teacher, later expressed her gratitude to Meenakshi Sundaram by christening her son after him.   

Eminent Lawyer Kuppusamy

In contrast to most present day government school teachers, who leave the campus as soon as the bell rings in the evening,  Kuppusamy notes that Meenakshi Sundaram would collect the enthusiastic students and conduct regular free classes in pieces of Tamil literature like Naladiyar, Thevaram and Thiruvasakam even after school hours.

“The 12th song in Naladiyar, taught by Meenakshi Sundaram during one of the evening classes in 1943, has got registered in my mind and I can say it by heart even today” avers Kuppusamy.

The song, which glorifies agriculture being superior to all other occupations, reads thus:

The trees on the river bank
And the people's  prosperous life under a king’s rule
Will perish any day
But, a life earned by ploughing the land
Will persist on the planet forever

With agriculture being  perfect
All other trades are defective in one way or the other

Meenakshi Sundaram’s interpretation of this song from the Tamil classic Naladiyar, is also relevant to the lives of the people in Kinathukadavu, who were all agriculturists those days. Interestingly, With Kinathukadavu being rich in rainfall in the bygone era, the place too got its name after channels (Kadavu) seen connected to the overflowing wells (Kinaru) for discharging

Sources: Maanpamai Neethipathi Avarkale – By Dr. P. Kuppusamy

Link to my article in The New Indian Express:http://epaper.newindianexpress.com/c/3334819

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

‘Welding’ Self-respect with Life

Photo:Shankar Narayan
 In a society, where women are made to believe that they are weaker sex and cannot perform challenging physical tasks on par with men, here is a lady, a welder by occupation, who expresses her ‘sparks’ of self confidence on standing on one’s own feet in life

The 42 year old Meenakshi alias Meena, who assists her husband Velmurugan in his welding workshop at Ondipudur, informs:

“I studied only up to class V in my native place Madurai. However, I was very much interested in physical work and spent the hours after school hours by weaving chair seats”

Meena, who did not have the faintest idea on welding earlier, says that she learned it from her husband after she settled with him in Coimbatore.

In contrast to the attitude of some irresponsible men, who have little concern for their family members, Meena says:

“It was my husband, who advised me to learn a trade so that I would not be dependent on anyone to earn a living in his absence”

When asked about her difficulties in mastering works in welding, Meena says:

“Earlier, I felt the work was so difficult.  I experienced painful irritation in my eyes, as particles of iron would enter them. Also, due to the inhaling of poisonous gas, I had to spend restless nights after the work”

However, Meena was soon used to the trade and now she is able to do any challenging work hands down.

“Like any other man welders, I can perfectly do works like making large iron gates for houses and factories, angle iron roof trusses, staircase handrails and so on” avers Meena.

She also recalls that she used to cut around 500 kilograms of iron manually everyday by hitting hard on the metal with a sledge hammer, when her workshop had no appropriate technical device for doing so.

Answering to a question on how she is able to play the roles of both a home maker and a working woman, Meena says:

“I find happiness in performing any work to perfection. I wake up at 6 am everyday, prepare food and get my two children ready for school. And after a whole day’s work in the workshop, I return home by 9 pm, prepare dinner and go to bed. This cycle has repeated for the last 16 years in my life”

Nevertheless, due to exigencies of work, Meena even works over night.

Pointing out that self-respect for a woman is as important as her life, Meena underlines:

“I am happy that I have the confidence to earn a living without anyone’s support. In my old age, I should not be dependent on others, you see” winds up the woman welder.  
Link to my article in The New Indian Express: http://epaper.newindianexpress.com/c/3315915