As their parents have little time to read the interesting tales in Kongu history and introduce them to their wards, yesteryear popular Tamil stories like Sankagiri Kottai Marmam ( The secrets of Sankagiri Fort) and Kalingarayan Kodai ( Kalingarayan's gift) penned by the versatile scholar M.P. Periyasamy Thooran have lost their popularity.
Thooran, a teacher at Sri Ramakrishna Vidhyalaya, Coimbatore, and later the editor-in-chief of the ten volume Tamil Encyclopedia, penned his story Sankagiri Kottai Marmam in 1978. The Macmillan published Tamil fantasy is written in a child centric language and centers round the child characters Thangamani, Kannagi, Sundaram, and Jinka, a pet monkey, as they discover a treasure of gold coins hoarded by Mysore ruler Tipu Sultan at the Sankagiri fort, when it was under his rule. The children do so, when they are on a trip to Sankagiri near Salem in their summer holidays and stay at the home of ' Kannupaatti' one of their grandmothers.
The people of the Kongu region called the fort as 'Sankagiri Dhurgam' with 'Dhurgam' meaning a fort. Also, as the peak of the mountain looked like a conch shell, they called the hill as 'Sanga' Giri. However, the British mispronounced it as 'Sankari Drug' and the English landscape painter Thomas Daniel, who drew the picture of the fort in the 18th century, titled it as 'Sankaridroog'.
The fort, where the popular freedom fighter Dheeran Chinnamalai of the Kongu region was hanged to death, was under the British rule after the death of the Mysore ruler Tipu Sultan. But, earlier in the 17th century, it was under the Madurai Naickers and later captured by the Mysore Wodeyar king Chikka Deva Raja.
Besides being a strong military base during different dynasties, the Sankagiri fort is known for the myths surrounding the places in it. A tale about a cave on the fort notes that once a Muslim monk by name Sha-Ha-Mardan- Gazi, entered the cave and never returned, but was strangely seen on the same day at another cave near Shivasamudra Falls on the banks of river Cauvery in Karnataka !
The fort, which has many entrances with strange names like Ranamandala Vaasal ( The gate of bloodshed) and Vellaikaaran Vasal ( White man’s gate), contains another entrance named after an agricultural woman's carrying buttermilk to the British soldiers atop the mountain. Interestingly, the entrance is called Morthitti Vasal ( Buttermilk Gate) !
Sources: Sankagiri Kottai Marmam – M.P. Periasamy Thooran, Thamizhaga Kottaikal – Vittal Rao
Link to my article in The New Indian Express : http://epaper.newindianexpress.com/c/2941928