Paula Richman

Mon Jun 30 16:52:34 UTC 1997


       Political Uses of Ramayanam

Sreenivas posted a query seeking whether Dr. Paula Richman
has written a paper on the political uses of Ramayanam
in Tamil Nadu. I don't think she has written any as of yet.

She is probably busy translating and studying piLLaiththamizh genre of
literature. Where a god, goddess, leaders or king is treated
as a child and sung, usually to about 100 aaciriya viruttams.
Pakazhik kuuththar and Kumarguruparar are the greatest
of Pillaittamil authors on Tiruchenduur Murugan, 
Meenakshi, Vaidheesvaran Koil Muthukumarasamy respectively. 
Eagerly waiting to see:

Paula Richman, Extraordinay child: poems from a South Indian
devotional genre. Univ. of Hawaii press, 1997.

In 1950s, leaders of the Dravidian movement waged a public 
debate saying that Kamban's epic must be burnt because it has
so many erotic passages. C. N. Annadurai quoted few
songs and said jokingly "This is the reason why scholars come
back to Kamban again and again! Now, I understand".
He told, "Kamban's work is totally irrelevant for today 
and is full of Aryan propaganda material."

There was a debate in Madurai where C. N. Annadurai (later
he founded DMK, became CM of TN) argued against Kamban.
Scholars like Navalar Somasundara Bharatiyar, T. P. Meenakshisundaram
were on the otherside. There were few books, booklets coming from
both sides. Recently, somebody has written a Tamil Hindu response
to Anna's Kamba Rasam, refuting each point. Illustrated Weekly of
India had an article by RKG(?) titled 
"Sri. Rama versus Tiru. Ravanan".

Once, I sent a photocopy to Dr. Richman of this work:
C. N. Annadurai, Kamba rasam
For a recent addition:
CNA, kamparacam (I & II),
pArati patippakam, cennai, 1993, 160 p.

Also see,
C. N. Annadurai, tii paravaTTum (Let the flames spread
(to consume Kamban etc))

mullai nilavazakan, kampanin kAmak kalacam, 1969, cennai.

A hindu/traditional Tamil response:
Sankarlal, centii paravaTTum

Pulavar Kuzhanthai of Erode penned "iraavaNa kaaviyam".
Here Ravanan is the hero, leader of Dravidian people.
gifted in music, patron of arts etc.,
Rama could win the battle only by cheating. There are South Indian
folk versions where Sita is Ravanan's daughter.
The style of RaavaNa kaavyam imitates Kamban.
One should say Pulavar Kuzhanthai succeeds in this aspect.
Ravana Kavyam, the anti-epic has never been studied
critically. It was banned during the Congress rule in Tamil Nadu.
One of the first acts of DMK govt. in 1967 is to remove the
official ban and Anna, the CM presided over a conference
discussing the literary merits of Pulavar Kuzhanthai's masterpiece.
Last year, there was a function/souvneir from Singapore
on Ravana Kaviyam.

Pi. Sri. (P. Srinivasacharya) was a Tamil scholar who wrote 
Chitra Ramayanam series in Ananda Vikatan magazine. This erudite
Srivaishnava brahmin was aware of Pulavar Kuzhanthai's talents.
When asked of Pulavar, he quipped "Kuzhanthai thaanE! vaLara
iDam uNDu". ("After all, he is a Child! There is still room for growth.")
I would think Pi. Sri. meant growth of ideas/ideology.

Kuzhanthai means a Child in Tamil. Pulavar was named Kuzhanthai
referring the child god, Murugan. Pi. Sri. intentionally puns
on the word Kuzhanthai - Child as well as Personal name of the
anti-epic's author.

Because of Dravidian Kazhagams, KaraikkuDi S. Ganesan founded
Kamban Kazhagam. There was a resurgence of interest in Kamban
among the public. Murray S. Rajam and Kamban Kazhagam
brought out a critical edition of Kamban's epic. With proper
punctuation marks and sandhi exploded between words.
All of about 11000 Kamban's viruttams in a SINGLE volume
at an inexpensive price. Reprinted many times.
This edition's editors told me: "After that effort, several Kamban
manuscripts have come to light. Only the Govt. can come
with enough resources to update that edition".

Ravana kaaviyam, the reasons for burning Kamban's work as advocated
by Anna, the +/- responses that it evoked will form a 
major PhD topic. If done soon and with deep interest, 
we have the advantage of talking to atleast some of key 
players when they are alive!

N. Ganesan
nas_ng at

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