Saturday, 30 July 2016

Crying Out Loud for the Silent Victims of Injustice


Photo by Prakash Chellamuthu

Have you ever met the legendary Kannagi, who furiously burnt Madurai avenging her husband's unjust execution for a crime that he had not committed? But, Smith, an English surveyor, who later visited the parts of the southern district on an official assignment, met the woman in the woods ! She was nude, had large eyes and seen sitting near a cascade, heaving her hot sighs after weeping aloud for ages. The frightened Englishman, despite leaving the country, says that the woman haunts her wherever he moves on.

On reintroducing such victims of injustice in 'Perungaatru' (Gale), his latest fiction, a book of short stories, Balamurugan, a city-based writer, lawyer and human rights activist, says:

“ The contexts and characters in my short stories, are the ones I have come across in my life. Being indelible in my memories, they urge me to depict their miserable lives in my fiction”

The author informs he discovered in his own short stories that women being prominent of all his characters, as he read his writings again after they came out in a book form.

On one such character, Balamurugan writes:

“ At the end of a short story, I am sure the character Valli was raped and murdered. But, don't ask me who killed her, since you and I too have taken part in that gruesome act ”

Such a blame of Balamurugan is just a hint at the people, who turn a Nelson's eye to any unjust act in a society known for its social and economic discrimination.

For the people, who love reading literature for pleasure, Balamurugan's characters could be strange, since they were silent victims of several political and social issues across the country. And by introducing them to the modern readers, the author has thrown light on how members of the marginalized section become prey to the powerful.

Oru Kadal Iru Karaikal ( One sea and two shores), a short story in his book, takes a reader to the world of Sri Lankan Tamil refugees, who suffer untold hardships in their camps.

A person's pain of pains is his survival as a refugee in a foreign land. As part of the fact-finding team of PUCL a few years ago, when I visited the Mandapam camp for Sri Lankan Tamil refugees, I stumbled upon a woman who had a paralysis. I was shocked to hear that she abstained even from drinking water and eating food to prevent herself from urinating and defecating, since she was totally dependent on others even for answering nature's call. And the woman is the one, whom you meet as 'Malar' in Oru Kadal Iru Karaikal” informs Balamurugan

In the short story Inge Sorgam Thuvangukirathu ( Here begins the heaven), Balamurugan narrates the incident of a Kashmiri man, who goes 'missing' one day, and portrays the abuse meted out to the man's aged mother and his wife. The two women seek the help of an association of parents, who similarly 'lost' their children in Kashmir. With certain human rights activists too coming forward to help them, some army men trespass their house, abuse the two women physically and warn them not to have any contacts with the human rights activists.

The Kashmiri old woman's lullaby to her little grandson merged in the murmur of river Jhelum, fell on the mountain tops and spread everywhere. And her 'lost' son could have heard it from somewhere in that cold night” Balamurugan ends the short story.

Link to my article in The New Indian Express:

Friday, 8 July 2016

Looking for the Lost Tirthankara in the Hindu Hill Shrine

The image of a Jain Thirthankara engraved on the large rock, which is believed  to have rolled down from the hill some centuries ago at the Thirumurthi Hills

Buy and offer Neytheepams for the Mummoorthies

Calls out a woman lamp vendor beside the Amanalingeshwarar Temple at Thirumurthi hills. Many devotees purchase the little earthen lamps from her, light and offer them to the Hindu trinity or ''Thir'i'murthies ' Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. But, as most believe, the name 'Thirumurthy Malai' indicates only the mountain of a Jain Tirthankara and not the Hindu trinity.

The Vedic religion followed the tactics of annihilating its rival faiths including Buddhism and Jainism just by incorporating their spiritual tradition into its pantheon. And that was how Lord Buddha, a man who campaigned against the meaningless rituals of Hinduism, was trumped up as the ninth 'avatar' of the Hindu God Vishnu! “ pointed out eminent archeologist R.Poongundran, who is also the former Assistant director of Tamil Nadu Archeology Department.

Leading a team of history enthusiasts to the places Kalandhai, Karapadi, Anaimalai and Thirumurthy Hills in the 'Varalatru Ula' ( Historical trip) organised by The Vanavarayar Foundation recently, the archeologist explained:

Lord Shiva is called ' Amana Lingeshwarar ' only at a few places in the Kongu region including Karapadi and Thirumurthy Hills and nowhere else in Tamil Nadu. With Jainism flourishing in these regions, the monks of the religion, who would stay in caves, wearing no clothes, had been called 'Amanars'. When such spots were later converted into Hindu shrines, the name indicating the nude Jain monks was given even to Lord Shiva, who, at last, came to be called ' Amana Lingeshwarar' “

A carving on a huge rock, which is worshiped by the devotees as 'Mummurthy' or 'Thir'i'murthy' at the hill shrine, is only a Jain Tirthankara and not the Hindu trinity Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva! Evident to this, ancient Jain literary works in Tamil like Soolamani and Seevaka Cinthamani describe the Jain God Aruhan as ‘Thirumurthi’ “ writes Kovai Kizhar, the first historian of Coimbatore, in his book Kongunadum Samanamum.

The huge rock, on which the carving of a Tirthankara appears slanted, is believed to have rolled down from the hill during a flood some centuries ago. When closely observed, the engraving portrays the Tirthankara with two Samendras( The ones who wave fans to the deity standing with their ‘Samarams’ or Fans on both sides to Him).

R.Jegadisan, a popular epigraphist, who organised the historical trip, said:

The carving of a Tirthankara on the huge rock hints at the fact that certain Jain monks must have lived somewhere in the forests of the hill. However, their spots of stay are yet to be discovered”

However, unaware of this history, Velayudha Pandithar, a Tamil scholar, later wrote a Sthalapurana on Thirumurthy Temple, linking it with a Hindu myth“ informed Poongundran.

Legend has it that the three Hindu deities Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, while visiting Anushya Devi, wife of sage Athari Maharishi, at her home in Thirumurthi Hills, asked her to serve them food without wearing clothes. They asked her to do so only to test her ‘Prativrathayam’ (Devotion to her husband) However, as she prayed to her husband in mind and came unclothed, the Hindu deities got metamorphosed into three innocent babies, whom she breastfed and put them to sleep in cradle. The Sthalapurana states that this was why the place came to be called as Thir’i’murthy Temple (A Shrine of three Hindu Gods)

Link to my article in The New Indian Express