Coimbatoreans in the bygone era were doubtlessly familiar with the legendary story Annanmar Kathai, which was about the Kongu Vellalar twin brothers Ponnar- Shankar. Decades ago, the story was so popular and enacted as Therukoothu ( Street theatre) for several nights in various spots of Coimbatore . Inspired by the tale, even former Tamil Nadu chief minister M. Karunanidhi penned it as a novel titled Ponnar Shankar, based on which a Tamil film was made in 2011.
The story, which portrays the battles between the two Kongu clans Vellalars and Vettuvars, is generally considered as a pro- Kongu Vellalar work with its ending in the defeat of Thalayoor Kali, a Vettuvar chieftain. But, it is a surprise that another beautiful piece of literature in praise of the Vettuvars has survived in palm leaves for many hundred years and now come into a book. Kudos to Pulavar Se. Rasu, a popular Kongu historian and Former Head of the Department of Epigraphy and Archeology, Tamil University, Thanjavur, for publishing the short epic Appachimar Kaviyam.
The story says that Periyamarayyan, who ruled Pillaikarayaatroor, a place in Vaazhavanthinadu, which was one of the 24 divisions of the ancient Kongu region, had four younger brothers and they had 70 children in all. Interestingly, at a later stage, all the 70 got married on the same day after their parents chose 70 respective brides from Odapalli in Poonthurainadu, another division of the Kongu region.
But, soon after the mass wedding, a messenger called on Periyamarayyan and gave him an Olai ( Letter), which was sent by the people of Poonthurainadu, requesting his help to defeat Pothirasan, the ruler of Poovaniyanadu, with whom they were at war in Aalathur.
Accepting the people's request, Periyamarayyan led his army and fought against Pothirasan. In the battle, many were killed from both sides including Periyamarayyan and the 70 bridegrooms. Unable to bear their death, the brides too killed themselves by jumping into the fire, which they set in a large pit.
The short epic Appachimar Kaviyam, which portrays the valour and sacrifice of the Vettuvar clan in a grand poetic language, is an elegant piece of Kongu literature, whose author is unknown.
Link to my article in The New Indian Express: http://epaper.newindianexpress.com/c/3074213