It is doubtless that no other literary work in the world has glorified agriculture as much as Thirukural. And the people of the ancient Tamil land had high regards for the farmers' service to mankind , as read from a couplet in the great work, which points out that even ascetics would long for their wants, if farmers failed to till their lands. Though the Tamil classic dedicates an exclusive chapter on farming and its key role in shaping mankind, the credit of authoring a comprehensive work on agriculture goes to a 19th century Tamil poet from the Kongu region.
According to a tale in Greek mythology, Hades, the king of the underworld, fell in love with Persephone, the beautiful daughter of Demeter, and abducted her to his dark land. Though it was a common belief that one who ate anything in the underworld could not reach the earth again, Persephone, unable to bear the pangs of hunger, tasted and swallowed six seeds of pomegranate in the land of Hades. As she did so, the logic behind the tale informs that Persephone must live the first six months in the underworld and the following six months on earth.
When Persephone appeared on earth, the planet witnessed blooming of flowers and growing of crops, as the joy of her mother Demeter, the Goddess of vegetation, knew no bounds. However, when the time came for Persephone to bid adieu to earth, Demeter worried a lot and the earth turned unproductive. Legend has it that this was the reason behind seasonal changes.
But, the Vellala Puranam, a literary work on agriculture by Mahavidwan Kandasamy Kavirayar, links the origin of agriculture with Hindu mythology.
Kandasamy Kavirayar, who was born at Veerachi Mangalam near Dharapuram in the Kongu region, penned the work in the 19th century. The book was first published in 1907 at Nithya Kalyanasundaram Printing Press in Erode by Naa. Muthusami Pulavar, who was also a traditional medical practitioner and astrologer in Kongarpalayam.
Though Vellala Puranam narrates the legend of Marabalan or Vellalan, the first agriculturist said to be born from river Ganga, flowing from the matted hair of Lord Shiva, the work admires the virtues of farming and provides information on everything related to agriculture like suitable seasons for cultivating crops, methods of irrigation and so on. Being a handbook even for today's organic farming, Vellala Puranam provides valuable information on a variety of traditional agricultural equipment and the use of manure to improve the soil's fertility.
The book, which consists of 1373 songs under 29 chapters, says that Marabalan was married to Aintree the daughter of Indira and Tharaniyavathi, the daughter of Kubera in heaven.
Vellala Puranam notes that the four-faced God Brahma created Marabalan to save human beings from hunger and his descendants spread across the world as agriculturists.
However, noted epigraphist and Kongu historian R.Jegadeesan says:
“ With the portrayal of people ploughing lands in the lyrics of Pathitrupaththu, a Sangam period work and the excavation of rain-fed grains in places like Kodumanal and Porunthal, the history of agriculture in the Kongu region dates back to the later years of the Neolithic period, when people experienced the transition from nomadic life to settled community life”
2) Kongu Kalanjiyam - Volume II
Link to my article in The New Indian Express : http://epaper.newindianexpress.com/c/6527533