Sunday, 25 September 2016

Elucidating Ancient Greek Art in Tamil

Gyges watches the unaware nude queen in her royal bedroom - A  painting by William Etty 

In a male-dominated world of a bygone era, stigmatized was a woman, who discovered that a man had spied on her nude body. As she was betrayed so by none other than her husband, she was left with two options – either to kill the man and live with her husband or to kill her husband and live with the man. The ancient Greek tale, which is depicted in a piece of art by the English painter William Etty, throws light on how women were unjustly treated as slaves of man's lust even several centuries ago.
William Etty -the English painter

On a night, Candaules, the king of Lydia in ancient Greece, betrayed his beautiful wife Nyssia, by showing her in nude to his bodyguard Gyges. The king devised a plan that Gyges would hide behind a door in the royal bedroom and watch on the nude, unaware queen while she undresses herself before going to bed.

But, Nyssia soon discovered that she had been betrayed by her husband. The next day she summoned Gyges and left him with two options – Either he should meet the doom for his crime of watching her nude, or kill the king and marry her. And Gyges rather chose the second. Therefore, Nyssia engineered a plan the same way the king did earlier. She told Gyges to hide behind the bed room door and stab the king while he was sleeping” explains Stalin, a retired Assistant Director of All India Radio, in his newly- written book Grekka Kalai Marabu ( The tradition of Greek art).

The tale, which is from the accounts of the ancient Greek historian Herodotus is the root for the psychological term 'Candaulism' which denotes a man's sexual practice of exposing his wife to a peeping Tom.
Stalin with his book Grekka Kalai Marabu 

Led by my passion for Greek history, philosophy and art, I purchased a plenty of books and enjoyed reading them. When I thought their new ideas would interest readers, I decided to write a book on them” says Stalin, who has penned a number of Tamil books on Greek literature and philosophy.
Leda and the Swan

Nevertheless, his new book Grekka Kalai Marabu is the first of its kind in Tamil to depict the world of ancient Greek painters, sculptors and architects. The articles in his work were already serialised in Om Sakthi, a Tamil monthly magazine founded by the late industrialist and philanthropist 'Pollachi' N.Mahalingam

The magazine's editor and popular 'Vanambadi' poet Chidamparanathan of Coimbatore encouraged me to write in the periodical every month, for he felt my write-ups on Greek art would interest many Tamil readers” he informs.

Stalin's book explains a number of pieces in Greek art in the background of interesting tales and mythologies as Echo and Narcissus, Leda and the Swan and Hercules' freeing of Prometheus.

The book has been published by 'Agaram' a Thanjavur-based publishing company, run by Kathirarasan, a son of the late 'Vanambadi' poet Meera, popular for his collection of modern Tamil poems Kanavugal+Karapanaikal= Kakithangal, which appeared in 1971.

Narcissus loves his own image reflected in a stream
The tradition of Greek art dates back to over 2000 years. Though its roots are from Phoenicia, an ancient region corresponding to modern Lebanon, with adjoining parts of modern Syria and Israel, the Greeks later theorized and systematized them” Stalin informs.

In Tamil, there are many books on Greek thinkers and philosophers including Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. But, my new work is an attempt to introduce ancient Greek painters, sculptors and architects to Tamil readers” he avers. 

Link to my article in The New Indian Express: 

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