Sunday, 9 August 2015

Monkey’s Worship Made Shiva ‘Sukreeswara’

Sukreesawarar Temple
Tirupur, which is now popularly called ‘The Dollar city’, accommodates a great number of migrant labourers from various states of the country by providing them job opportunities in its numerous knit-wear units. With its stupendous economic growth (Despite at the cost of its natural environment) in the recent years, Tirupur soon developed into a much-sought after destination for lucrative income.  And it is surprising that the present day knit city, which was once a nondescript village in Palladam Taluk, rose to the heights of a district and brought the latter under it. Nevertheless, few in the modern day Tirupur know the glory of its tiny locality Sarkar Periyapalayam, which, several centuries ago, flourished as a famous trade town.  And the evidence for its historical eminence is available as inscriptions on the walls of the Sukreeswarar Temple.
Though the temple is called ‘Kurakkuthali’ from the lines Kongil, Kurupil, Kurakkuthaliyai…, as the Shaivite poet Sundarar praises it in his literature Tevaram, the history of the shrine is shrouded in myths. Legend has it that the temple got its name as ‘Sukreeswarar Kovil’ after Sugriva, the king of monkeys, who carried a Shiva linga, rested it at a place and relaxed for a while. But, as he could not lift the linga from the place again, it is said he worshipped Lord Shiva there. Hence, like Patteeswara , Magudeeswara and so on, a new Eswara  appeared at Sarkar Periyapalayam as Sukreeswara  !
Throwing light on the trade activities of a large merchant guild at Sarkar Periyapalayam, whose name is mentioned as Mukundhanur in an epigraph, an inscription spread on the entire large wall of the shrine unfolds how the traders planned the expenses to conduct the temple festival Vaikasi Thiruvizha to worship the deity Kurakkuthali Nayanar. Interestingly, expressing their consent, as many as 64 merchants have ‘signed’ their names on the inscription. While four of them have given their signatures in the ancient Vatezhuthu (Rounded script) the rest have done it in Tamil script. The four merchants had hailed from ‘Malaimandalam’ which refers to the present day Kerala.  
Poongundran, former assistant director, Tamil Nadu Archeology Department, says:
“The inscription, which contains both Vatttezhuthu and Tamil scripts, throws light on the gradual development of Tamil orthography in ancient times”  
Taking a history enthusiast to the world of trade in ancient times, the inscription details the names of different commodities and the customs duty on their exports and imports.
Besides, the it also informs the names of the merchants with their native towns as Urayurudayaan Periyyayya Devan, Pandimandalathu Sundarapandiyapurathu Siriyapillai ,  Eralapurathu Vyapari Koothan Kannan and so on. 
Pointing out the mention of the place ‘Eralapuram’ in the inscription, Poongundran informs it is none other than today’s Ernakulam in Kerala!

Source: Kongil Kurakkuthali – Sukreeswarar Kovil – Epigraphist D. Sundaram

Saturday, 1 August 2015

The Kongu Woman who Triggered the Protest against Alcohol

Though a treat in wine has become undesirably inevitable even in family functions these days, it is shocking that the 'alcoholic culture' has seen its development even in a school girl's alleged consumption of liquor, which caused her to make flutter in the city some days ago. Adding fuel to the fire, when the news hit the headlines, comments poured into social networks like Facebook and WhatsApp. Interestingly, a commentator remarked that progressive thinkers and feminists should only be happy about the incident misinterpreting women's liberty as nothing but their liberty in consuming liquor on par with men!

Despite the history of consuming liquor dating back to several centuries and proofs on women drinking toddy found in ancient pieces of Tamil literature, consuming liquor in the present day brings harm to both men and women. And no progressive thinker or a feminist can demand equal rights for women in consuming liquor rather than seeking a total ban on it.
While the TASMAC outlets sell Indian Made Foreign Liquor today, the 56th song in Purnanuru, a Sangam period literature informs that the ladies in the palace of the Pandya king served him the 'fragrant cool wine brought in fine ships by the Greeks'. Though the song stands witness to the trade ties between ancient Tamils and Greeks, it throws light on the opulent lives of the Sangam age kings.

It is an old story that the Kongu chieftain Adhiyaman presenting poetess Avvayar a rare species of 'Nellikani' (emblica officinalis) - the fruit believed to provide ailment free longer life. However, a Tamil teacher will be stranded at the very first line of the 235th poem in Purananuru, since Avvayar states in it that Adhiyaman had also offered her toddy to drink!

What's more, noted Tamil writer Perumal Murugan, in one of the chapters from his controversial novel Madhorubhagan, portrays the fiction's hero Kali sharing toddy with her mother, as they discuss a family affair during a calm night.

Though many farmers associations have been demanding to lift the ban on toddy, claiming it as a non-toxicant drink, the total ban on abolishing alcohol, irrespective of it being toddy or IMFL, seems gaining moment with the demise of Gandhian activist Sasi Perumal on Friday. It may be noted that he died during his protest to shift a TASMAC outlet located in the proximity of educational institutions and places of worship at Marthandam in Kanyakumari district.

Several decades ago, in Gandhiji's non-cooperative movement, even women from the Kongu region played a key role in abolishing alcohol by picketing plenty of toddy shops. As the agitation gained momentum, even other Congress leaders Madhan Mohan Malavia and C.Sankaran Nair suggested Gandhiji to give up the protest.

However, Gandhiji is said to have told them thus:

“It is not in my hands. I have to discuss this with two women crusaders against alcohol in Erode”
The one is Nagammal, wife of Periyar E.V. Ramasamy and the other Kannammal, his younger sister!

Sources: 1) Purananuru, 2) Madhorubhagan – Perumal Murugan, 3) Muzhu Madhuvilakku Adhuve Namathu Ilakku – R. Ravikumar

Link to my article in The New Indian Express :