R Venkataramanan

R Venkataramanan

R Venkat's Blog

R Venkat's Blog
"To be an Inspiring Teacher,one should be a Disciplined Student throughout Life" - Venkataramanan Ramasethu



Sunday, November 27, 2011

Dallas Metroplex treated to a multicultural event

On October 8, 2011 Dallas Metroplex was treated to a multicultural event by a group of seventy-two children performing Light music, Indian classical music, folk dances to an audience of over four hundred.

This program was created and coordinated for Sankara Nethralaya by Shruthi Prabhu, a fifteen-year-old high school student. Shruthi had approached Sankara Nethralaya to help her launch this program to raise funds. Shruthi’s grandmother had Glaucoma and that made Shruthi determined to do some charity work for the needy in the vision area. Sankara Nethralaya OM Trust the US entity of Sankara Nethralaya was happy to support this program.

After three months of rehearsals, on October 8th, 2011, Small Acts of Kindness took place. It was a multicultural program including the participation of several dance and music schools throughout the Metroplex. Sruthilaya, Pranavam Music School, Nruthya Sakthi Dance School, Divya Dhwani, and many other schools participated in the performance.

The program began promptly at 4:00 PM with a welcome note by Santhanam Mullur and a piano piece composed and played by Shruthi Prabhu followed by her talk on the genesis of the program. It also included a rendition of “We are the World” by Michael Jackson and “Firework” by Katy Perry. Hindustani and Carnatic music, as well as several dance numbers, were performed. The audience was indeed impressed at the diversity of this unique event. The theme song for this event was “Ovvoru Pookkalume” from the movie Autograph. This song was auctioned (a unique concept introduced to Dallas) off to the audience and raised about $500 by itself. People responded with generous, donations, and sponsorship. All of the children performed with something that could only be described as determination, happiness, and humility. Towards the end, all the teachers of the school who participated and Shruthi Prabhu were given a Sankara Nethralaya plaque and all the children were given a certificate of participation. As a note of thanks and recognition for continued help to Sankara Nethralaya, Hema Mohan (Fun Asia), Ambreen Hasnat (Fun Asia) were given SN Plaques by Shabnam Modgil of Fun Asia. The event ended with Dr. Arvind Neelakantan thanking the patrons, audience and the volunteers.

Without a doubt, this was the program of the year, and we will look forward to similar performances in the near future.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Is this an ongoing gang war?

Sometime ago a noted writer cum activist in an interview in one of the English news channels famously said, “We are a part of an ongoing Gang War”. The speaker was highlighting about the plight of the suppressed classes being exploited by upper classes and how the affected classes retaliate when they lose anything and everything in the ongoing clash.

I do sometimes feel the same when everyday I witness the atrocities inflicted by the taxi drivers in the city of Kolkata. The other day I had a patient in his mid 90’s and his wife in late 80’s who narrated me how they were tormented by atleast a dozen taxi drivers who refused to take them from Ballygunge to Jodhpur Park in south Calcutta. Forget those days when the taxi drivers would drop you at doorstep, helping you with your luggage if you were a senior citizen or someone new to the city. I still remember vividly the first day I landed in Calcutta some 10 years ago from south of India. As I stepped out of Howrah station it was close to 3.00 am in morning and it was the coldest month, January in Calcutta. If it were in the recent times easily I would have been extorted to pay up anywhere between 500 to 1000 rupees to reach my destination in northern Calcutta’s suburb. But there was this old sardarji taxi driver who in his late 60’s took pains to carry a few of my luggage’s inspite of me requesting him not to do so, and dropped me right in front of my destination without any harassment.Beleive me it was a prepaid taxi and he refused to accept the extra money that I offered him, putting me in a tight spot.

I do remember instances in Calcutta wherein the taxi drivers had been fiercely honest in returning back the belongings of passengers in nearby police stations, if anything was left behind. Many of my patients had told me, Calcutta is the safest city for women and children at night, as there would be somebody to help out at the moment of crisis.

But all that had changed in the past few years, more so in the last one year. Passengers refused a ride for no reasons, senior citizens getting heckled and even physically hit for protesting audacity, women and children harassed and even abused on a few instances, newcomers in the city getting exploited and robbed, influential men and women and their children getting kidnapped and held for ransom all are becoming a regular affair.

There are also increasing media reports of some citizens hitting back errant taxi drivers and students burning and damaging taxis and taxi drivers who act as a cause of provocation are a regular occurrence.

In short a common citizen would feel a GANG WAR had ensued…..where would this lead to??

As I am penning this article more news in the media about possible fuel price hikes in immediate future, which means more gang wars to ensue.

Satyajit Ray - Universal Icon of Culture

Ray directed thirty-seven films, including feature films, documentaries and shorts. He was also a fiction writer, publisher, illustrator, graphic designer and film critic. Ray's first film, Pather Panchali (1955), won eleven international prizes, including Best Human Documentary at the Cannes film festival. This film, Aparajito (1956) and Apur Sansar (1959) form The Apu Trilogy. Ray did the scripting, casting, scoring, cinematography, art direction, editing and designed his own credit titles and publicity material. Ray received many major awards in his career, including 32 Indian National Film Awards, a number of awards at international film festivals and award ceremonies, and an Academy Honorary Award in 1992.

Satyajit Ray considered script-writing to be an integral part of direction. Initially he refused to make a film in any language other than Bengali. In his two non-Bengali feature films, he wrote the script in English; translators interpreted it in Hindi or Urdu under Ray's supervision. Ray's eye for detail was matched by that of his art director Bansi Chandragupta. His influence on the early films was so important that Ray would always write scripts in English before creating a Bengali version, so that the non-Bengali Chandragupta would be able to read it. The craft of Subrata Mitra garnered praise for the cinematography of Ray's films. A number of critics thought that his departure from Ray's crew lowered the quality of cinematography in the following films.Though Ray openly praised Mitra, his single-mindedness in taking over operation of the camera after Charulata caused Mitra to stop working for him after 1966. Mitra developed "bounce lighting", a technique to reflect light from cloth to create a diffused, realistic light even on a set. Ray acknowledged his debts to Jean-Luc Godard and François Truffaut of the French New Wave for introducing new technical and cinematic innovations.

Ray's regular editor was Dulal Datta, but the director usually dictated the editing while Datta did the actual work. Because of financial reasons and Ray's meticulous planning, his films were mostly cut "on the camera" (apart from Pather Panchali). At the beginning of his career, Ray worked with Indian classical musicians, including Ravi Shankar, Vilayat Khan and Ali Akbar Khan. He found that their first loyalty was to musical traditions, and not to his film. He had a greater understanding of western classical forms, which he wanted to use for his films set in an urban milieu.

Starting with Teen Kanya, Ray began to compose his own scores.

He used actors of diverse backgrounds, from famous film stars to people who had never seen a film (as in Aparajito).Robin Wood and others have lauded him as the best director of children, pointing out memorable performances in the roles of Apu and Durga (Pather Panchali), Ratan (Postmaster) and Mukul (Sonar Kella). Depending on the talent or experience of the actor, Ray varied the intensity of his direction, from virtually nothing with actors such as Utpal Dutt, to using the actor as "a puppet"(Subir Banerjee as young Apu or Sharmila Tagore as Aparna). Actors who had worked for Ray praised his customary trust but said he could also treat incompetence with "total contempt".

Satyajit Ray is a cultural icon in India and in Bengali communities worldwide.

Following his death, the city of Kolkata came to a virtual standstill, as hundreds of thousands of people gathered around his house to pay their last respects.Satyajit Ray's influence has been widespread and deep in Bengali cinema; a number of Bengali directors, including Aparna Sen, Rituparno Ghosh and Gautam Ghose in India, Tareq Masud and Tanvir Mokammel in Bangladesh, and Aneel Ahmad in England, have been influenced by his film craft. Across the spectrum, filmmakers such as Budhdhadeb Dasgupta, Mrinal Sen and Adoor Gopalakrishnan have acknowledged his seminal contribution to Indian cinema. Beyond India, filmmakers such as Martin Scorsese,James Ivory,Abbas Kiarostami, Elia Kazan, François Truffaut,Carlos Saura,Isao Takahata and Danny Boyle have been influenced by his cinematic style, with many others such as Akira Kurosawa praising his work.Gregory Nava's 1995 film My Family had a final scene that repeated that of Apur Sansar.

Ira Sachs's 2005 work Forty Shades of Blue was a loose remake of Charulata. Other references to Ray films are found, for example, in recent works such as Sacred Evil,the Elements trilogy of Deepa Mehta and even in films of Jean-Luc Godard.According to Michael Sragow of The Atlantic Monthly, the "youthful coming-of-age dramas that have flooded art houses since the mid-fifties owe a tremendous debt to the Apu trilogy".The trilogy also introduced the bounce lighting technique.Kanchenjungha (1962) introduced a narrative structure that resembles later hyperlink cinema.Pratidwandi (1972) helped pioneer photo-negative flashback and X-ray digression techniques.

The character Apu Nahasapeemapetilon in the American animated television series The Simpsons was named in homage to Ray's popular character from The Apu Trilogy. Together with Madhabi Mukherjee, Ray was the first Indian film figure to be featured on a foreign stamp (Dominica).

Many literary works include references to Ray or his work, including Saul Bellow's Herzog and J. M. Coetzee's Youth. Salman Rushdie's Haroun and the Sea of Stories contains fish characters named Goopy and Bagha, a tribute to Ray's fantasy film. In 1993, UC Santa Cruz established the Satyajit Ray Film and Study collection, and in 1995, the Government of India set up Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute for studies related to film. In 2007, British Broadcasting Corporation declared that two Feluda stories would be made into radio programs.During the London Film Festival, a regular "Satyajit Ray Award" is given to a first-time feature director whose film best captures "the artistry, compassion and humanity of Ray's vision". Wes Anderson has claimed Ray as an influence on his work; his 2007 film, The Darjeeling Limited, set in India, is dedicated to Ray.

Akananuru (Tamil: அகநானுறு)

Akananuru (Tamil: அகநானுறு), a classical Tamil poetic work, is the seventh book in the Sangam literature anthology Ettuthokai. It contains 400 Akam (subjective) poems dealing with matters of love and separation. Other names for Akananuru include Neduntogai or Nedunthokai ("the long anthology"), Ahappattu, Ahananuru, and Agananuru.

Poetic characteristics

This book comes under the Akam (subjective) category in its subject matter. Ancient Tamil poems was categorised into the broad categories of Akam(அகம்) - Subjective, dealing with matters of the heart and human emotions, and Puram (புறம்) - Objective, dealing with the tangibles of life such as war, politics, wealth, etc. The poems of this anthology are of the Akaval meter.

In the poems on Akam, the aspects of love of a hero and a heroine are depicted. The story of love is never conceived as a continuous whole. A particular moment of love is captured and described in each poem as the speech of the hero or the lady-companion or somebody else.

Akananuru contains 401 stanzas and is divided into three sections

Kalintruyanainirai (களிற்றுயானைநிறை), 121 stanzas

Manimidaipavalam (மணிமிடைபவளம்), 180 stanzas

Nittilakkovai (நித்திலக்கோவை), 100 stanzas


Surrealism is a cultural movement that began in the early 1920s, and is best known for the visual artworks and writings of the group members.
Surrealist works feature the element of surprise, unexpected juxtapositions and non sequitur; however, many Surrealist artists and writers[who?] regard their work as an expression of the philosophical movement first and foremost, with the works being an artifact. Leader André Breton was explicit in his assertion that Surrealism was above all a revolutionary movement.

Surrealism developed out of the Dada activities during World War I and the most important center of the movement was Paris. From the 1920s onward, the movement spread around the globe, eventually affecting the visual arts, literature, film and music of many countries and languages, as well as political thought and practice, philosophy and social theory.

While Surrealism is typically associated with the arts, it has been said to transcend them; Surrealism has had an impact in many other fields. In this sense, Surrealism does not specifically refer only to self-identified "Surrealists", or those sanctioned by Breton, rather, it refers to a range of creative acts of revolt and efforts to liberate imagination.In addition to Surrealist ideas that are grounded in the ideas of Hegel, Marx and Freud, Surrealism is seen by its advocates as being inherently dynamic and as dialectical in its thought.

Feminists have in the past critiqued the Surrealist movement, claiming that it is fundamentally a male movement and a male fellowship, despite the celebrated women surrealists such as Leonora Carrington (1917-2011), Leonor Fini, Kay Sage, Dorothea Tanning, and Remedios Varo. Feminist critics believe that it adopts archaic attitudes toward women, such as worshiping them symbolically through stereotypes and sexist norms. Women are often made to represent higher values and transformed into objects of desire and of mystery.

One of the pioneers in feminist critique of Surrealism was Xavière Gauthier. Her book Surréalisme et sexualité (1971)inspired further important scholarship related to the marginalization of women in relation to "the avant-garde."This perspective was anticipated and cretiqed as misunderstanding surrealism's point in being a social critique and a reflection the individual's presuppositions so that they may be critically questioned.

Freud initiated the psychoanalytic critique of Surrealism with his remark that what interested him most about the Surrealists was not their unconscious but their conscious. His meaning was that the manifestations of and experiments with psychic automatism highlighted by Surrealists as the liberation of the unconscious were highly structured by ego activity, similar to the activities of the dream censorship in dreams, and that therefore it was in principle a mistake to regard Surrealist poems and other art works as direct manifestations of the unconscious, when they were indeed highly shaped and processed by the ego. In this view, the Surrealists may have been producing great works, but they were products of the conscious, not the unconscious mind, and they deceived themselves with regard to what they were doing with the unconscious. In psychoanalysis proper, the unconscious does not just express itself automatically but can only be uncovered through the analysis of resistance and transference in the psychoanalytic process.

Postmodern feminism - Article by Sanjay Nair

Postmodern feminism might have began somewhere in the early 1980s with the coinage of the term post-feminism which in fact looks critically at the various feminist theories of the past especially from the second wave of feminism. It also coincides with the third-wave feminism which began in the yearly 1990s. Postmodern feminist thought challenges and avoids the essentialist definitions of femininity that was propagated during the period of modern feminism. Modern feminism worked with the existentialist view on women which establishes the argument that “one is not born a woman, but becomes one" and thus here the focus is on the social and cultural construction of women by the system.

On the other hand postmodern feminism tries to break away from this thinking which overemphasized the experience of upper middle-class white women in America. According to the thinking that originates in post modern feminism "woman" is a debatable category, complicated by class, ethnicity, sexuality, and other facets of identity and therefore gender is performative based on our natural heterosexuality rather than socially or culturally constructed. This argument leads to the conclusion that there is no single cause for women's subordination and no single approach towards dealing with the issue.

Based on the above principle postmodern feminist thought addresses broad range of issues related to gender based bias and discriminations. It tackles global issues such as rape, incest and prostitution and culturally specific issues like female genital mutation in some parts of Africa to infanticide leading to murder of the girl child before birth in some parts of Asia and glass ceiling practices that impede women’s advancement in developed countries. Postmodern feminism has in fact tried to understand that how gender inequality interacts with other issues like racism, homophobia, classism and colonization to produce and establish a “matrix of domination” by the patriarchal society.

Postmodern feminism cannot be considered as some sort of monolithic entity which is purely based on generalizations. Postmodern feminist thought is highly individual oriented and it relates to specific issues of women in a particular culture and society. Today women might broadly agree to the goals of feminism that is gender equality and end of gender discrimination but they might not identify themselves as traditional feminists.

Postmodern feminism is therefore experience oriented and women participate in the movement purely based on their practical personal experience in life and that is one of the reasons why the core identity of feminism has to be highly elastic. Postmodern feminist thought represents an incredible diversity of individual lives. Often a woman who otherwise won't align herself with feminism will seek it out when she is confronted with an abusive relationship, or if her boss is paying her less than her male counterparts, or, on a positive note, if she needs credit to start her own beauty salon.

Further women who identify themselves with postmodern feminism are not tied up or concerned with just one issue. They might align themselves with the self-determination and human rights implicit in feminism, but they also organize their life around race, religion, or class, rather than solely around gender. They might also be involved with other social justice movements, environmental movements, peace movements, human rights movements and cultural movements like the hip-hop.

Further to understand postmodern feminist thought in detail we need to study the following topics in depth

1.French feminism or post-structuralist feminism
2.Postmodern feminism as a construct from postmodern theories and post-structuralist theories

Postmodern feminism should look at issues from the principle that “women are people” and in this context it should propagate views that unite the sexes with equality of gender and liberation of the individual rather than accept views that separate the sexes. Postmodern feminist thought should move away from being labelled as misandrist in disposition. In fact gender feminism which is one of the main tenants of postmodern feminism should help it work for gender equality through "equity feminism" which is an ideology that aims for full civil and legal equality among genders. It is far better and liberating than the premise where women are always portrayed as victims needing preferential treatment.

Michael Madhusudan Dutt - In His Own Words

Michael Madhusudan Dutt or Michael Madhusudan Dutta (Bengali: মাইকেল মধুসূদন দত্ত ( Maikel Modhushudôn Dôtto 25 January 1824 – 29 June 1873) was a popular 19th century Bengali poet and dramatist. He was born in Sagardari (Bengali: সাগরদাঁড়ি), on the bank of Kopotaksho [কপোতাক্ষ] River, a village in Keshobpur Upozila, Jessore District, East Bengal (now in Bangladesh). His father was Rajnarayan Dutt, an eminent lawyer, and his mother was Jahnabi Devi. He was a pioneer of Bengali drama. His famous work Meghnad Bodh Kavya (Bengali: মেঘনাদবধ কাব্য), is a tragic epic. It consists of nine cantos and is quite exceptional in Bengali literature both in terms of style and content. He also wrote poems about the sorrows and afflictions of love as spoken by women.

From an early age, Madhusudan desired to be an Englishman in form and manner. Born to a Hindu landed gentry family, he converted to Christianity to the ire of his family and adopted the first name, Michael. However, he was to regret his desire for England and the Occident in later life when he talked ardently of his homeland as is seen in his poems and sonnets from this period.

Madhusudan is widely considered to be one of the greatest poets in Bengali literature and the father of Bangla sonnet. He pioneered what came to be called amitrakshar chhanda (blank verse). Dutt died in Kolkata, India on 29 June 1873.

Where man in all his truest glory lives,
And nature's face is exquisitely sweet;
For those fair climes I heave impatient sigh,
There let me live and there let me die

Madhusudan embraced Christianity at the church of Fort William in spite of the objections of his parents and relatives on February 9, 1843. Later, he escaped to Madras to escape persecution. He describes the day as:

Long sunk in superstition's night,
By Sin and Satan driven,
I saw not, cared not for the light
That leads the blind to Heaven.
But now, at length thy grace, O Lord!
Birds all around me shine;
I drink thy sweet, thy precious word,
I kneel before thy shrine!

On the eve of his departure to England:

Forget me not, O Mother,
Should I fail to return
To thy hallowed bosom.
Make not the lotus of thy memory
Void of its nectar Madhu

Kundalakesi (Tamil: குண்டலகேசி)

Kundalakesi (Tamil: குண்டலகேசி) is a fragmentary Tamil epic written by Nagakuthanaar. Tamil literary tradition places it among the five great epics, alongside such works as the Manimekalai and Cilappatikaram. Its time period has been estimated to be before fifth century C.E.

Verse 19:

வேரிக் கமழ்தார் அரசன் விடுக என்ற போழ்தும்
தாரித்தல் ஆகா வகையால் கொலை சூழ்ந்த பின்னும்
பூரிட்தல் வாடுதல் இவற்றால் பொலிவு இன்றி நின்றான்
பாரித்ததெல்லாம் வினையின் பயன் என்ன வல்லான்

Verse 9:

பாளையாம் தன்மை செத்தும்
பாலனாம் தன்மை செத்தும்
காளையாம் தன்மை செத்தும்
காமுறும் இளமை செத்தும்
மீளுமிவ் வியல்பும் இன்னே
மேல்வரும் மூப்பும் ஆகி
நாளும்நாள் சாகின் றாமால்
நமக்குநாம் அழாதது என்னோ

The story of Kundalakesi killing her husband has been used as a sub-plot in the 1951 Tamil film Manthiri Kumari.

Kundalakesi is an adaptation of the story of the Buddhist Bhikṣuni (lit. female monk) Kunḍalakeśi from the Dhammapada.The protagonist Kundalakesi (lit. The woman with curls) was born in a merchant family in the city of Puhar. Her birth name is "Bhadra". She loses her mother during childhood and lives a sheltered life. One day she sees a thief being paraded in the streets of Puhar and falls in love with him. The thief, Kaalan has been sentenced to death for banditry. Besotted with Kaalan, Kundalakesi implores her father to save him. Her father petitions the king for the thief's release. He pays Kaalan's weight in gold and 81 elephants to the treasury to secure Kaalan's release. Kundalakesi and Kaalan are married and live happily for some time. One day, she playfully refers to him as a thief. This enrages the mercurial Kaalan and he decides to kill his wife in revenge. He tricks her into visiting the summit of the nearby hill. Once they reach the summit, he announces his intention to kill her by pushing her off the hill. Kundalakesi is shocked and asks him to grant a final wish – she wishes to worship him by going around him three times before she dies. He agrees and when she gets behind him, Kundalakesi pushes him off the summit, killing him. Repenting her actions, she becomes a Buddhist monk and spends the rest of her life spreading the teachings of Buddha.

Red earth and pouring rain - குறிஞ்சி - தலைவன் கூற்று

குறிஞ்சி - தலைவன் கூற்று
யாயும் ஞாயும் யாரா கியரோ
எந்தையும் நுந்தையும் எம்முறைக் கேளிர்
யானும் நீயும் எவ்வழி யறிதும்
செம்புலப் பெயனீர் போல
அன்புடை நெஞ்சம் தாங்கலந் தனவே.
-செம்புலப் பெயனீரார்.

Red earth and pouring rain[2]
What could my mother be
to yours? What kin is my father
to yours anyway? And how
Did you and I meet ever?
But in love
our hearts have mingled
as red earth and pouring rain

~Translated by AK Ramanujan (Kuruntokai - 40)

A poem from the Eight Anthologies collection.

Popular Fiction & New Media in Tamil Culture

Crime and detective fiction has enjoyed wide popularity in Tamil Nadu since the 1930s. Popular authors in the years before independence included Kurumbur Kuppusami and Vaduvur Duraisami Iyengar. In the 1950s and '60s, Tamilvanan's detective hero Shankarlal carried readers to a variety of foreign locales, while using a pure Tamil with very few Hindi or English loan words. From the 1980s to the present, leading authors include Subha, Pattukkottai Prabakar and Rajesh Kumar (who also writes science fiction and other genres). These writers are often extremely prolific, with hundreds or even thousands of short novels to their credit, and one or more short novel published in a monthly periodical. Indra Soundar Rajan, another popular modern author, writes supernatural crime thrillers usually based around Hindu mythology.[11]
In the 1950s and 60s, Chandilyan wrote a number of very popular historical romance novels set in medieval India or on medieval trade routes with Malaysia, Indonesia and Europe.

Modern romance novels are represented by the current bestselling author in the Tamil language, Ramanichandran.

Though sales of Tamil pulp fiction have declined since the hey-day of the mid-1990s, and many writers have turned to the more lucrative television serial market, there remains a thriving scene.

New Media

The rise of the Internet has triggered a dramatic growth in the number of Tamil blogs and specialist portals catering to political and social issues.[13] Even Tamil literature is available as mobile books.

Tamil Journalism Culture

The first Tamil periodical was published by the Christian Religious Tract Society in 1831- The Tamil Magazine.

The increasing demand of the literate public caused a number of journals and periodicals to be published and these in turn provided a platform for authors to publish their work. Rajavritti Bodhini and Dina Varthamani in 1855 and Salem Pagadala Narasimhalu Naidu's fornightlies, Salem Desabhimini in 1878 and Coimbatore Kalanidhi in 1880, were the earliest Tamil journals.

The first regular newspaper in Tamil was Swadesamitran in 1882, started by G.Subramaniya Iyer, editor and sponsor of The Hindu and founding member of the Indian National Congress. He created a whole new Tamil political vocabulary. He) was conscious that those with a knowledge of English are a small number and those with a knowledge of Indian languages the vast majority. He felt that unless our people were told about the objectives of British rule and its merits and defects in the Indian languages, our political knowledge would never develop. When Subramania Aiyer quit The Hindu 1898, he made the Swadesamitran his full-time business. In 1899, the first Tamil daily. It was to enjoy this status for 17 years.

Subramania Aiyer's "pugnacious style, never qualifying words to soften the sharp tenor of a sentence," his use of words "dipped in a paste of extra pungent green chillies," made the Swadesamitran sought by Tamils wherever they lived in the world. And the daily became even more popular when Subramania Bharati joined it in 1904. The next year, when Lala Lajpat Rai was arrested and agitation followed in the Punjab, Subramania Aiyer's attitude to the British changed and he became a trenchant political critic of the Raj. His whole political gospel can be summed up in these words: `Peaceful but tireless and unceasing effort.' Let us sweat ourselves into Swaraj, he would seem to say." Swadesamitran is credited for coining new Tamil words to deal with science, politics and administration. It had the most comprehensive budget of news among all the regional language papers of that time.
In 1917, Desabhaktan, another Tamil daily began with T.V. Kalyansundara Menon as editor. He was succeeded by V.V.S. Iyer, a colleague of the Savarkar brothers. These two editors were scholars with a natural, highly readable but polished style of writing.

The freedom movement and the advent of Gandhi also impacted Tamil journalism. Navasakthi, a Tamil periodical edited by Tamil scholar and freedom fighter V. Kalyanasundaram. C. Rajagopalachari began Vimochanam, a Tamil journal devoted to propagating prohibition at the Gandhi Ashram in Tiruchengode in Salem district.
In 1926, Dr P. Vadarajulu Naidu, who was conducting a Tamil news-cum-views weekly ‘Tamil Nadu’ started a daily with the same name. Its forceful and colluqial style gained it a wide readership but after the paper failed to take sides with the 1930 Civil Disobedience Movement, the Congress Party decided to bring out a new Tamil daily- India, edited by renowned poet Subramania Bharati. India showed great promise but could not establish itself financially, and folded up soon after Bharati was exiled to Pondicherry. All these papers were published from Madras.

In 1933, the first Tamil tabloid- the 8 page Jayabharati began at a price of ¼ anna. It closed in 1940 as the price could not sustain even its postage.

In September 1934, S. Sadanand (who was running the Free Press Journal) started the Tamil daily Dinamani with T. S. Chockalingam as editor. It was priced at 6 pies, contained bright features and was fearlessly critical. It was highly successful and its circulation eclipsed the total circulation of all other Tamil dailies. Soon ‘India’ was incorporated into Dinamani. Dinamani made a studied and conscious effort to make the contents of a newspaper intelligible even to the newly literate. In 1935, Viduthalai was begun, but it was more of a views-paper than a news-paper. The Non-Brahman Movement also gave an impetus to Tamil journalism. Newspapers like the ‘Bharat Devi’ were strong supporters of this movement.

Many magazines began in Tamil Nadu during the 1920s and '30s. The humour magazine Ananda Vikatan started by S.S. Vasan in 1929 was to help create some of the greatest Tamil novelists. It is still running successfully after 80 years and the Vikatan group today also publishes Chutti Vikatan, Junior Vikatan, Motor Vikatan and other special interest magazines. R. Krishnamurthy serialised his short stories and novels in Ananda Vikatan and eventually started his own weekly Kalki. The name Kalki denotes the impending tenth Avatar of Lord Vishnu in the Hindu religion, who it is said, will bring to an end the Kali Yuga and reinstate Dharma or righteoueness among the worldly beings. He used the name because he wanted to bring about liberation of India.

In 1942, Dina Thanthi (Daily Telegraph) was started in Madurai with simultaneous editions in Madras, Salem and Tiruchirappalli. It was founded by S.P. Adithanar, a lawyer trained in Britain. He modeled Thanthi on the style of an English tabloid- The Daily Mirror. He aimed to bring out a newspaper that ordinary people would read, and which would encourage a reading habit even among the newly literate. In the past, the daily newspaper which was printed in Madras reached the southern Tamil region after at least one day. Thanthi used the public bus system to distribute the paper throughout the south Tamil region and capitalized on the hunger for war news that arose after Singapore fell to the Japanese. Due to financial constraints, its Salem and Tiruchirappalli editions had to be closed down for a while. Thanthi emphasized local news, especially crime and the courts. It used photographs extensively and brought banner headlines to Tamil journalism. It could fit one story on an entire broadsheet page, mainly filled with large easy-to-read headlines. One of its biggest scoops was the murder of the editor of a scandalous film magazine by two actors. Thanthi covered the trial in Madras in detail, and its reporters phoned the daily account to the printing centre in Madurai. Thanthi was the first Tamil paper to understand the people’s fascination with crime and film stars. The paper was popular and it was said that Tamils learned to read in order to read the newspaper.

Dina Thanthi became one of the largest Tamil language dailies by circulation within a few years; it has been a leading Tamil daily since the 1960s. It has today 14 editions. It is the highest circulated Tamil daily in Bangalore and Pondicherry. It issues a book called 10th, +2 Vina Vidai Book, on every Wednesday during the second part of the year. The model question papers of all the subjects of Standard 10 and 12 are provided with answers along with the question papers of board exams that are conducted previous year.

Periodicals in Tamil Culture

The increasing demand of the literate public caused a number of journals and periodicals to be published and these in turn provided a platform for authors to publish their work. Rajavritti Bodhini and Dina Varthamani in 1855 and Salem Pagadala Narasimhalu Naidu's fornightlies, Salem Desabhimini in 1878 and Coimbatore Kalanidhi in 1880, were the earliest Tamil journals. In 1882, G. Subramaniya Iyer started the newspaper Swadesamitran. It became the first Tamil daily in 1889. This was the start of many journals to follow and many novelists began to serialise their stories in these journal. The humour magazine Ananda Vikatan started by S.S. Vasan in 1929 was to help create some of the greatest Tamil novelists. Kalki Krishnamurthy (1899–1954) serialised his short stories and novels in Ananda Vikatan and eventually started his own weekly Kalki for which he wrote the enduringly popular novels Parthiban Kanavu, Sivagamiyin Sabadham and Ponniyin Selvan. Pudhumaipithan (1906–1948) was a great writer of short stories and provided the inspiration for a number of authors who followed him. The 'new poetry or pudukkavithai pioneered by Bharathi in his prose-poetry was further developed by the literary periodicals manikkodi and ezhuttu (edited by Si Su Chellappa). Poets such as Mu Metha contributed to these periodicals. Tamil Christian poets also added to the body of Tamil literature. Tamil Muslim poets like Pavalar Inqulab and Rokkiah too have made significant contributions to social reforms. The pioneering fortnightly ournal Samarasam was established in 1981 to highlight and cater to the ethnic Tamil Muslim community's issues. Another remarkable work was done in Tamil novel field by Mu.Varatharasanar.[Agal vilakku] [Karithundu]. And last but not least Akilan the unique Tamil novelist,short story writer and a social activist is famous for his works like 'Chithirapavai' 'Vengayinmaindan' 'Pavaivilaku'.

Tamil novel culture - An Overview

The novel as a genre of literature arrived in Tamil in the third quarter of nineteenth century, more than a century after it became popular with English writers. Its emergence was perhaps facilitated by the growing population of Tamils with a western education and exposure to popular English fiction. Mayuram Vedanayagam Pillai wrote the first Tamil novel Prathapa Mudaliar Charithram in 1879. This was a romance with an assortment of fables, folk tales and even Greek and Roman stories, written with the entertainment of the reader as the principal motive. It was followed by Kamalambal Charitram by B.R. Rajam Iyer in 1893 and Padmavathi Charitram by A. Madhaviah in 1898. These two portray the life of Brahmins in 19th century rural Tamil Nadu, capturing their customs and habits, beliefs and rituals. Although it was primarily a powerful narration of the common man's life in a realistic style spiced with natural humour, Rajam Iyer's novel has a spiritual and philosophical undertone. Madhaviah tells the story in a more realistic way with a searching criticism of the upper caste society, particularly the sexual exploitation of girls by older men.Mr.D.Jayakanthan - the real trend setter in modern day Tamil novels.He has not only enriched the high traditions of literary traditions of Tamil language but has also made outstanding contribution towards the shaping of Indian literature. His literature presents a deep and sensitive understanding of complex human nature and is an authentic and vivid index of Indian reality. His famous novel Sila Nerangalil Sila Manithargal notable one.

Since the 1990s the post modernism writers emerged as a major figures, including Jeyamohan, S.Ramakrishnan, Charu Nivedita. The critically acclaimed works include Vishnupuram by Jeymohan, Ubapandavam by S.Ramakrishnan, Zero degree by Charu Niveditha, Konangi ( Paazhi), yumaa vasuki - Ratha vurvu (Blood Relation), Lakshmi Manivannan ( appavin Thottathil neer payum idangal ellam ...), nakulan - ninivu-p-padhai. ,[10] and Konangi, who mixes classical Tamil inflections with experimental sound poets.

There is another less recognized , but rich literary work - novels translated from other languages, which are ignored by Tamil pundits. The works include " Urumaatram" (Translation of Franz Kafka's Metamorphosis), Siluvayil Thongum Saathaan ( Translation of "Devil on the Cross" by Ngugi wa Thiango),Thoongum azhagigalin Illam ( Translation of "House of Sleeping Beauties"- by Yasunari Kawabata). The writers like Amarantha, Latha ramakrishnan are contributing for these works.

Modern era in Tamil Literature

During the eighteenth and the nineteenth century Tamil Nadu witnessed some of the most profound changes in the political scene. The traditional Tamil ruling clans were superseded by European colonists and their sympathisers. The Tamil society underwent a deep cultural shock with the imposition of western cultural influences. The Hindu religious establishments attempted to stem the tide of change and to safeguard the Tamil cultural values. Notable among these were the Saiva monasteries at Tiruvavaduthurai, Dharmapuram, Thiruppananthal and Kundrakudi. Meenakshi Sundaram Pillai(1815–1876) was a Tamil scholar who taught Tamil at one of these monasteries. He wrote more than eighty books consisting of over 200,000 poems.[citation needed] He is more famous however for encouraging U.V.Swaminatha Iyer to go search for Tamil books that have been lost for centuries. Gopalakrishna Bharathi lived during the early nineteenth century. He wrote numerous poems and lyrics set to tune in Carnatic music. His most famous work is the Nandan Charitam on the life of Nandanar who having been born in a sociologically lower caste, faces and overcomes the social obstacles in achieving his dream of visiting the Chidambaram temple. This work is a revolutionary social commentary considering the period in which it was written, although Gopalakrishna Bharati expanded on the story in Periyapuranam. Ramalinga Adigal (Vallalar) (1823–1874) wrote the devotional poem Tiruvarutpa is considered to be a work of great beauty and simplicity. Maraimalai Adigal (1876–1950) advocated for the purity of Tamil and wanted to clean it of words with Sanskrit influences. One of the great Tamil poets of this period was Subramanya Bharathi. His works are stimulating in their progressive themes like freedom and feminism. Bharathy introduced a new poetic style into the somewhat rigid style of Tamil poetry writing, which had followed the rules set down in the Tolkaappiyam. His puthukkavithai (Lit.:new poetry) broke the rules and gave poets the freedom to express themselves. He also wrote Tamil prose in the form of commentaries, editorials, short stories and novels. Some of these were published in the Tamil daily Swadesamitran and in his Tamil weekly India. Inspired by Bharathi, many poets resorted to poetry as a means of reform. Bharathidasan was one such poet. U.V.Swaminatha Iyer, was instrumental in the revival of interest in the Sangam age literature in Tamil Nadu. He travelled all over the Tamil country, collecting, deciphering and publishing ancient books such as Cilappatikaram, Kuruntokai, etc. He published over 90 books and wrote En caritham, an autobiography.

Vijayanagar and Nayak period in Tamil Literature Culture

The period from 1300 CE to 1650 was a period of constant change in the political situation of Tamil Nadu. The Tamil country was invaded by the armies of the Delhi Sultanate and defeated the Pandya kingdom. The collapse of the Delhi Sultanate triggered the rise of the Bahmani Sultans in the Deccan. Vijayanagar empire rose from the ashes of the kingdoms of Hoysalas and Chalukyas and eventually conquered the entire south India. The Vijayanagar kings appointed regional governors to rule various territories of their kingdom and Tamil Nadu was ruled by the Madurai Nayaks, Thanjavur Nayaks and Gingee Nayaks. This period saw a large output of philosophical works, commentaries, epics and devotional poems. A number of monasteries (Mathas) were established by the various Hindu sects and these began to play a prominent role in educating the people. Numerous authors were of either the Saiva or the Vaishnava sects. The Vijayanagar kings and their Nayak governors were ardent Hindus and they patronised these mathas. Although the kings and the governors of the Vijayanagar empire spoke Kannada and Telugu they encouraged the growth of Tamil literature as we find no slowing down in the literary output during this period.

There was a large output of works of philosophical and religious in nature, such as the Sivananabodam by Meykandar. At the end of the fourteenth century Svarupananda Desikar wrote two anthologies on the philosophy os Advaita, the Sivaprakasapperundirattu. Arunagirinathar who lived in Tiruvannamalai in the fourteenth century wrote Tiruppugal. Around 1,360 verses of unique lilt and set to unique metres these poems are on the god Muruga. Madai Tiruvengadunathar, an official in the court of the Madurai Nayak, wrote Meynanavilakkam on the Advaita Vedanta. Sivaprakasar, in the early seventeenth century wrote a number of works on the Saiva philosophy. Notable among these is the Nanneri which deals with moral instructions. A considerable par to the religious and philosophical literature of the age took the form of Puranas or narrative epics. A number of these were written on the various deities of the temples in Tamil Nadu and are known as Sthala Puranas, based on legend and folklore. One of the most important of the epics was the Mahabharatam by Villiputturar. He translated Vyasa's epic into Tamil and named it Villibharatam. Kanthapuranam on the god Murugan was written by Kacchiappa Sivachariyar who lived in the fifteenth century. This work was based broadly on the Sanskrit Skandapurana. Varatungarama Pandya, a Pandya king of the period was a littérateur of merit and wrote Paditrruppattanthathi. He also translated into Tamil the erotic book known as Kokkoha from Sanskrit.

This period also an age of many commentaries of ancient Tamil works. Adiyarkunallar wrote an annotation on Cilappatikaram. Senavaraiyar wrote a commentary on the Tolkappiyam. Then came the famous Parimelalagar whose commentary on the Tirukkural is still considered one of the best available. Other famous annotators such as Perasiriyar and Naccinarikiniyar wrote commentaries on the various work of Sangam literature. The first Tamil dictionary was attempted by Mandalapurusha who compiled the lexicon Nigandu Cudamani. Thayumanavar, who lived in the early eighteenth century, is famous for a number of short poems of philosophical nature.

The seventeenth century also saw for the first time literary works by Muslim and Christian authors. The population of Muslims and Christians were growing in Tamil Nadu with the influences of the Delhi Sultanate and the growing European missionaries. Syed Khader known in Tamil as Sithaakkathi, lived in the seventeenth century and was a great patron of all Tamil poets. He commissioned the creation of a biography on the Islamic prophet Muhammad. Omar known in Tamil as UmaruPulavar, wrote Seerapuranam on the life of Muhammad.[9] Costanzo Giuseppe Beschi (1680–1746), better known as Veeramamunivar, compiled the first dictionary in Tamil. His Chathurakarathi was the first to list the Tamil words in alphabetical order. Veeramamunivar is also remembered for his Christian theological epic Thembavani on the life and teaching of Jesus Christ.

Medieval Tamil literature

The medieval period was the period of the Imperial Cholas when the entire south India was under a single administration. The period between the eleventh and the thirteenth centuries, during which the Chola power was at its peak, there were relatively few foreign incursions and the life for the Tamil people was one of peace and prosperity. It also provided the opportunity for the people to interact with cultures beyond their own, as the Cholas ruled over most of the South India, Sri Lanka and traded with the kingdoms in southeast Asia. The Cholas built numerous temples, mainly for their favourite god Siva, and these were celebrated in numerous hymns. The Prabhanda became the dominant form of poetry. The religious canons of Saiva and Vaishnava sects were beginning to be systematically collected and categorised. Nambi Andar Nambi, who was a contemporary of Rajaraja Chola I, collected and arranged the books on Saivism into eleven books called Tirumurais. The hagiology of Saivism was standardised in Periyapuranam (also known as Tiruttondar Puranam) by Sekkilar, who lived during the reign of Kulothunga Chola II (1133–1150 CE). Religious books on the Vaishnava sect were mostly composed in Sanskrit during this period. The great Vaishnava leader Ramanuja lived during the reigns of Athirajendra Chola and Kulothunga Chola I, and had to face religious persecution from the Cholas who belonged to the Saiva sect. One of the best know Tamil work of this period is the Ramavatharam by Kamban who flourished during the reign of Kulottunga III. Ramavatharam is the greatest epic in Tamil Literature, and although the author states that he followed Valmiki, his work is not a mere translation or even an adaptation of the Sanskrit epic. Kamban imports into his narration the colour and landscape of his own time. A contemporary of Kamban was the famous poetess Auvaiyar who found great happiness in writing for young children. Her works, Athichoodi and Konraiventhan are even now generally read and taught in schools in Tamil Nadu. Her two other works, Mooturai and Nalvali were written for slightly older children. All the four works are didactic in character. They explain the basic wisdom that should govern mundane life.

Of the books on the Buddhist and the Jain faiths, the most noteworthy is the Jivaka-chintamani by the Jain ascetic Thirutakkadevar composed in the tenth century. Viruttam style of poetry was used for the first time for the verses in this book. The five Tamil epics Jivaka-chintamani, Cilappatikaram, Manimekalai, Kundalakesi and Valayapathi are collectively known as The Five Great Epics of Tamil Literature. There were a number of books written on Tamil grammar. Yapperungalam and Yapperungalakkarigai were two works on prosody by the Jain ascetic Amirtasagara. Buddamitra wrote Virasoliyam, another work on Tamil grammar, during the reign of Virarajendra Chola. Virasoliyam attempts to find synthesis between Sanskrit and Tamil grammar. Other grammatical works of this period are Nannul by Pavanandi, Vaccanandi Malai by Neminatha, and the annotations on the puram theme, Purapporul Venpamalai by Aiyanaridanar.

There were biographical and political works such as Jayamkondar's Kalingattuparani, a semi-historical account on the two invasion of Kalinga by Kulothunga Chola I. Jayamkondar was a poet-laureate in the Chola court and his work is a fine example of the balance between fact and fiction the poets had to tread. Ottakuttan, a close contemporary of Kambar, wrote three Ulas on Vikrama Chola, Kulothunga Chola II and Rajaraja Chola II.

Narrative epics of Tamil Literature

Cilappatikaram is one of the outstanding works of general literature of this period. The authorship and exact date of the classic Cilappatikaram are not definitely known. Ilango Adigal, who is credited with this work was reputed to be the brother of the Sangam age Chera king Senguttuvan. However we have no information of such a brother in the numerous poems sung on the Chera king. The Cilappatikaram is unique in its vivid portrayal of the ancient Tamil land. This is unknown in other works of this period. Cilappatikaram and its companion epic Manimekalai are Buddhist in philosophy. Manimekalai was written by Sattanar who was a contemporary of Ilango Adigal. Manimekalai contains a long exposition of fallacies of logic which is considered to be based on the fifth century Sanskrit work Nyayapravesa by Dinnag.[8] Kongu Velir, a Jain author wrote Perunkathai based on the Sanskrit Brihat-katha. Valayapathi and Kundalakesi are the names of two other narrative poems of this period written by a Jain and a Buddhist author respectively. These works have been lost and only a few poems of Valayapathi have been found so far.

Hindu devotional period in Tamil Nadu

After the fall of the Kalabhras around 500 CE saw a reaction from the thus far suppressed Hindus. The Kalabhras were replaced by the Pandyas in the south and by the Pallavas in the north. Even with the exit of the Kalabhras, the Jain and Buddhist influence still remained in Tamil Nadu. The early Pandya and the Pallava kings were followers of these faiths. The Hindu reaction to this apparent decline of their religion was growing and reached its peak during the later part of the seventh century. There was a widespread Hindu revival during which a huge body of Saiva and Vaishnava literature was created. Many Saiva Nayanmars and Vaishnava Alvars provided a great stimulus to the growth of popular devotional literature. Karaikkal Ammaiyar who lived in the sixth century CE was the earliest of these Nayanmars. The celebrated Saiva hymnists Sundaramurthi, Thirugnana Sambanthar and Thirunavukkarasar (also known as Appar) were of this period. Of Appar's verses 3066 have survived. Sambandar sang 4,169 verses. Together these form the first six books of the Saiva canon, collected by Nambi Andar Nambi in the tenth century. Sundarar wrote Tiruttondartokai which gives the list of sixty-two Nayanmars. This was later elaborated by Sekkilar in his Periyapuranam(4,272 verses). Manikkavasagar, who lived around the eight century CE was a minister in the Pandya court. His Tiruvasakam consisting of over 600 verses is noted for its passionate devotion.. These Saivite Hymns collectively called Thirumurai (திருமுறை) is described as SIXTH VEDA next to Bhagavath Geetha in Hindu Tradition.

Along with the Saiva Nayanmars, Vaishnava Alvars were also producing devotional hymns and their songs were collected later into the Four Thousand Sacred Hymns (Naalayira Divyap Prabhandham). The three earliest Alvars were Poygai, Pudam and Pey. Each of these wrote one hundred Venpas. Tirumalisai Alwar who was a contemporary of the Pallava Mahendravarman I wrote such works as Naanmugantiruvadiandadi. Tirumangai Alvar who lived in the eighth century CE was a more prolific writer and his works constitute about a third of the Diyaprabhandam. Periyalvar and his adopted daughter Andal contributed nearly 650 hymns to the Vaishnava canon. Andal symbolised purity and love for the God and wrote her hymns addressing Vishnu as a lover. The hymn of Andal which starts with Vaaranam Aayiram (One Thousand Elephants) tells of her dream wedding to Vishnu and is sung even today at Tamil Vaishnava weddings. Nammalvar, who lived in the ninth century, wrote Tiruvaimoli. It comprises 1,101 stanzas and is held in great esteem for its elucidation of the Upanishads. This corpus was collected by Nathamuni, around 950 CE and formed the classical and vernacular basis for Sri Vaishnavism. These Hymns 'Naalayira Divya-p-Prabhandham' is respected at par with Vedas by Sri Vaishnavites in sanctity and holiness and hence referred to as 'Dravida Vedam' (திராவிட வேதம்).

Post-Sangam period - Didactic age

The three centuries after the Sangam age witnessed an increase in the mutual interaction of Sanskrit and Tamil. A number of words and concepts relating to ethics, philosophy and religion were mutually borrowed and exchanged between the languages. Around 300 CE, the Tamil land was under the influence of a group of people known as the Kalabhras. The Kalabhras were Buddhist and a number of Buddhist authors flourished during this period. Jainism and Buddhism saw rapid growth. These authors, perhaps reflecting the austere nature of their faiths, created works mainly on morality and ethics. A number of Jain and Buddhist poets contributed to the creation of these didactic works as well as grammar and lexicography. The collection the minor eighteen anthology was of this period.

The best known of these works on ethics is the Tirukkural by Thiruvalluvar. The book is a comprehensive manual of ethics, polity and love, containing 1,330 distichs or kural divided into chapters of ten distichs each: the first thirty-eight on ethics, the next seventy on polity and the remainder on love.[7]

Other famous works of this period are Kalavali, Nalatiyar, Inna Narpathu and Iniyavai Narpathu. The Jain texts Nalatiyar and Pazhamozhi Nanuru each consist of four hundred poems, each of which cites a proverb and then illustrates it with a story.

Sangam age

Sangam literature comprises some of the oldest extant Tamil literature, and deals with love, war, governance, trade and bereavement. Unfortunately much of the Tamil literature belonging to the Sangam period had been lost.[3] The literature currently available from this period is perhaps just a fraction of the wealth of material produced during this golden age of Tamil civilization. The available literature from this period has been broadly divided in antiquity into three categories based roughly chronology. These are: the Major Eighteen Anthology Series comprising the Eight Anthologies and the Ten Idylls and the Five Great Epics. Tolkaappiyam, a commentary on grammar, phonetics, rhetoric and poetics is dated from this period.[3]
Tamil legends hold that these were composed in three successive poetic assemblies (Sangam) that were held in ancient times on a now vanished continent far to the south of India.[4] A significant amount of literature could have preceded Tolkappiyam as grammar books are usually written after the existence of literature over long periods. Tamil tradition holds the earliest Sangam poetry to be over twelve millennia old. Modern linguistic scholarship places the poems between the first century BC and the third century AD.[5]

Sangam age is considered by the Tamil people as the golden era of Tamil language. This was the period when the Tamil country was ruled by the three 'crowned kings' the Cheras, Pandyas and the Cholas. The land was at peace with no major external threats. Asoka's conquests did not impact on the Tamil land and the people were able to indulge in literary pursuits. The poets had a much more casual relationship with their rulers than can be imagined in later times. They could chide them when they are perceived to wander from the straight and narrow. The greatness of the Sangam age poetry may be ascribed not so much to its antiquity, but due to the fact that their ancestors were indulging in literary pursuits and logical classification of the habitats and society in a systematic manner with little to draw from precedents domestically or elsewhere. The fact that these classifications were documented at a very early date in the grammatical treatise Tolkappiyam, demonstrates the organized manner in which the Tamil language has evolved. Tolkappiyam is not merely a textbook on Tamil grammar giving the inflection and syntax of words and sentences but also includes classification of habitats, animals, plants and human beings. The discussion on human emotions and interactions is particularly significant. Tolkappiyam divided into three chapters: orthography, etymology and subject matter (Porul). While the first two chapters of Tolkappiyam help codify the language, the last part, Porul refers to the people and their behavior. The grammar helps to convey the literary message on human behavior and conduct, and uniquely merges the language with its people.

The literature was classified in to the broad categories of 'subjective' (akam) and 'objective' (puram) topics to enable the poetic minds to discuss any topic under the sun, from grammar to love, within the framework of well prescribed, socially accepted conventions. Subjective topics refer to the personal or human aspect of emotions that cannot be verbalized adequately or explained fully. It can only be experienced by the individuals and includes love and sexual relationship.

Recognizing that human activities cannot take place in vacuum and are constantly influenced by environmental factors, human experiences, in general, and subjective topics in particular, are assigned to specific habitats. Accordingly land was classified into five genres (thinai): kurinji (mountainous regions), mullai (forests), marutham (agricultural lands), neithal (seashore), paalai (wasteland). The images associated with these landscapes – birds, beasts, flowers, gods, music, people, weather, seasons – were used to subtly convey a mood, associated with an aspect of life. Kuruntokai, a collection of poems belonging to the Ettuthokai anthology demonstrates an early treatment of the Sangam landscape. Such treatments are found to be much refined in the later works of Akananuru and Paripaatal. Paripaatal takes its name from the musical Paripaatal meter meter utilised in these poems. This is the first instance of a work set to music. Akaval and kalippa were the other popular meters used by poets during the Sangam age.

Tamil literature (Tamil: தமிழ் இலக்கியம்)

Tamil literature (Tamil: தமிழ் இலக்கியம்) refers to the literature in the Tamil language. Tamil literature has a rich and long literary tradition spanning more than two thousand years. The oldest extant works show signs of maturity indicating an even longer period of evolution. Contributors to the Tamil literature are mainly from Tamil people from Tamil Nadu, Sri Lankan Tamils from Sri Lanka, and from Tamil diaspora. Also, there have been notable contributions from European authors. The history of Tamil literature follows the history of Tamil Nadu, closely following the social, political and cultural trends of various periods. The early Sangam literature, starting from the period of 2nd century BCE, contain anthologies of various poets dealing with many aspects of life, including love, war, social values and religion. This was followed by the early epics and moral literature, authored by Hindu, Jain and Buddhist authors, lasting up to the 5th century CE. From the 6th to 12th century CE, the Tamil devotional poems written by Nayanmars (sages of Shaivism) and (Alvars, sages of Vaishnavism) heralded the great Bhakti movement which later engulfed the entire Indian subcontinent. It is during this era that some of the grandest of Tamil literary classics like Kambaramayanam and Periya Puranam were authored and many poets were patronized by the imperial Chola and Pandya empires. The later medieval period saw many assorted minor literary works and also contributions by a few Muslim and European authors. By having the most ancient non-Sanskritized Indian literature, Tamil literature is unique and thus has become the subject of study by scholars who wish to delineate the non-Aryan and pre-Aryan strands in Indian culture.

A revival of Tamil literature took place from the late nineteenth century when works of religious and philosophical nature were written in a style that made it easier for the common people to enjoy. The modern Tamil literary movement started with Subramania Bharathi, the mutli-faceted Indian Nationalist poet and author, and was quickly followed up by many who began to utilize the power of literature in influencing the masses. With growth of literacy, Tamil prose began to blossom and mature. Short stories and novels began to appear. Modern Tamil Literary criticism also evolved. The popularity of Tamil Cinema has also interacted with Tamil literature in some mutually enriching ways.

Purananuru (Tamil: புறநானூறு)

Purananuru (Tamil: புறநானூறு) Samples

யாதும் ஊரே, யாவரும் கேளிர்,
தீதும் நன்றும் பிறர்தர வாரா,
நோதலும் தணிதலும் அவற்றோ ரன்ன
சாதலும் புதுவது அன்றே, வாழ்தல்
இனிதுஎன மகிழ்ந்தன்றும் இலமே, முனிவின்
இன்னாது என்றலும் இலமே, பின்னொடு
வானம் தண் துளி தலைஇ ஆனாது
கல் பொருது இரங்கும் மல்லல் பேர்யாற்று
நீர்வழிப் படுஉம் புணைபோல் ஆருயிர்
முறைவழிப் படுஉம் என்பது திறவோர்
காட்சியின் தெளிந்தனம் ஆதலின் மாட்சியின்
பெரியோரை வியத்தலும் இலமே,
சிறியோரை இகழ்தல் அதனினும் இலமே.
(கணியன் பூங்குன்றன், புற நானூறு, 192).

The Sages

To us all towns are one, all men our kin,
Life's good comes not from others' gifts, nor ill,
Man's pains and pain's relief are from within,
Death's no new thing, nor do our blossoms thrill
When joyous life seems like a luscious draught.
When grieved, we patient suffer; for, we deem
This much-praised life of ours a fragile raft
Borne down the waters of some mountain stream
That o'er huge boulders roaring seeks the plain
Tho' storms with lightning's flash from darkened skies.
Descend, the raft goes on as fates ordain.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !
We marvel not at the greatness of the great;
Still less despise we men of low estate.

Kaniyan Poongundran, Purananuru - 192

(Translated by G.U.Pope, 1906)

"இனி நினைந்து இரக்கம் ஆகின்று! திணிமணல்
செய்வுறு பாவைக்குக் கொய்பூத் தைஇத்
தண்கயம் ஆடும் மகளிரொடு கைபிணைந்து
தழுவுவழித் தழீஇத் தூங்குவழித் தூங்கி
மறை எனல் அறியா மாயமில் ஆயமொடு
உயர்சினை மருதத் துறை உறத் தாழ்ந்து
நீர்நணிப் படிகோடு ஏறிச் சீர்மிகக்
கரையவர் மருளத் திரையகம் பிதிரக்
குளித்து மணல் கொண்ட கல்லா இளமை!
அளிதோ தானே! யாண்டுண்டு கொல்லோ,
தொடித்தலை விழுத்தண்டு ஊன்றி நடுக்குற்று
இருமிடை மிடைந்த சிலசொல்
பெரு மூதாளரோம் ஆகிய எமக்கே?"
(தொடித்தலை விழுத்தண்டினார், புற நானூறு, 243.1 )

The Instability of Youth

"I muse of YOUTH! the tender sadness still
returns! In sport I moulded shapes of river sand,
plucked flowers to wreathe around the mimic forms:
in the cool tank I bathed, hand linked in hand,
with little maidens, dancing as they danced!
A band of innocents, we knew no guile.
I plunged beneath th' o'erspreading myrtle's shade,
where trees that wafted fragrance lined the shore;
then I climbed the branch that overhung the stream
while those upon the bank stood wondering;
I threw the waters round, and headlong plunged
dived deep beneath the stream, and rose,
my hands filled with the sand that lay beneath!
Such was my youth unlesson'd. 'Tis too sad!
Those days of youth, ah! whither have they fled?
I now with trembling hands, grasping my staff,
panting for breath, gasp few and feeble words.
And I am worn and OLD!"

Thodithalai Vizhuthandinar, Purananuru - 243

(Translated by G. U. Pope, 1906)

Purananuru (Tamil: புறநானூறு) is a Tamil poetic work in the Pathinenmaelkanakku anthology of Tamil literature, belonging to the Sangam period corresponding to between 200 BCE – 100 CE. Purananuru is part of the Ettuthokai anthology which is the oldest available collection of poems of Sangam literature in Tamil. Purananuru contains 400 poems of varying lengths in the Akaval meter. More than 150 poets wrote the poems. It is not known when or who collected these poems into these anthologies.
Purananuru is a source of information on the political and social history of pre-historic Tamil Nadu. There is information on the various rulers who ruled the Tamil country before and during the Sangam era (200 BCE – 100 CE).

Nature of Purananuru

There are 400 poems in Purananuru including the invocation poem. Poems 267 and 268 are lost and some of the poems exist only in fragment. Of the poets who wrote these poems, there are men and women, kings and paupers. The oldest book of annotations found so far has annotations and commentary on the first 266 poems. The commentator Nachinarkiniyaar of the eleventh – twelfth century Tamil Nadu has written a complete commentatry on all the poems.


It is not known exactly how many authors wrote the poems in Purananuru. There are 147 different names found from the colophons. However some of these could denote the same author. For example, Mangudi Kizhaar and Mangudi Maruthanaar could denote the same person. We don't know the authors of around 14 poems. Fourteen of the authors are kings and chieftains. Fifteen of the authors were women, one of whom was Auvaiyar who is credited with 33 poems. Some of the authors of the poems such as Kapilar and Nakkirar have also written poems that are part of other anthologies.
Some of the names of the authors such as Irumpitarthalaiyaar and Kookaikozhiyaar seem to be nicknames based on words from the poems rather than proper names. This suggests that those who compiled this anthology must have made up these names as the author's names must have been lost when these poems were collected.

Subject matters

As its name suggests, Purananuru poems deal with the puram (external or objective) concepts of life such as war, politics, wealth, as well as aspects of every-day living. Some of the poems are in the form of elegies in tribute to a fallen hero. These poems exhibit outpourings of affection and emotions.
There are also a few poems in Purananuru, which are classified as attruppatais. Attruppatai poems read like travelogues in which poets who were returning with gifts received from a king, encourage other poets to do the same by describing in glory of the king and his country. This gives the opportunity to the poet, among other topics, to describe in great detail the natural beauty, fertility, and resources of the territory that has to be traversed to reach the palace of the patron.


There seems to be some definite structure to the order of the poems in Purananuru. The poems at the beginning of the book deal with the three major kings Chola, Chera and Pandya of ancient Tamil Nadu. The middle portion is on the lesser kings and the Velir chieftains who were feudatories of these three major kingdoms with a short intervening section (poems 182 - 195) of didactic poems. The final portion deals with the general scenery of war and the effect of warfare.


Just as the akam (subjective) poems are classified into seven thinais or landscapes based on the mood of the poem, the Tamil prosodical tradition mentioned in the ancient Tamil grammatical treatise Tolkappiyam also classifies puram (objective) poems into seven thinais based on the subject of the poems. These are vetchi when the king provokes war by attacking and stealing the cattle of his enemy, vanchi when the king invades the enemy territory, uzhingai when the king lays a siege of the enemy's fortress, thumbai when the two armies meet on a battlefield, vaakai when the king is victorious, paataan when the poet praises the king on his victory and kanchi when the poet sings on the fragility of human life.

The Purananuru does not, however, follow this system. The colophons accompanying each poem name a total of eleven thinais. From the subject matter of the poems they accompany, each can be said to represent the following themes:

vetchi - the provocation of war through attack and cattle raids

karanthai - defending against cattle raids

vanchi - invasion of the enemy's territory

kanchi - transcience and change, the fragility of human life, against the backdrop of war

uzhingai- attacking the fort

nochchi - defence of the fort or territory

thumpai - the frenzy of battle

vaakai - victory

paadaan - praise of a king's heroism or generosity, asking for gifts

pothuviyal - general heroism (mostly philosophical musings and elegies for heroes)

kaikkilai - unrequited love

perunthinai - unsuitable love

The last two themes are traditionally associated with akam poetry. In Purananuru, they occur in the context of the familiar puram landscape of warfare. Thus songs 83, 84 and 85 are classified to belong to the kaikkilai thinai, which denotes unrequited love, and describe a noblewoman's love for King Cholan Poravai Kopperunarkilli.

Similarly, songs 143 to 147 are classified as perunthinai or perunkilai thinai, which denotes unsuitable love, and deal with King Pekan's abandonment of his wife. Pothuviyal is described in commentaries as a general thinai used for poems that cannot be classified in any other manner but, in the context of Purananuru, is used almost exclusively for didactic verse and elegies or laments for dead heroes.
Tolkappiyam does not mention several of Purananuru's themes. Also, Tolkappiyam's oozhinai theme does not occur in Purananuru, its role being filled to some extent by the nochchi theme, whilst other themes described as having a particular function in Tolkappiyam are utilised differently by Purananuru. The thinais for 44 poems have been lost due to the deterioration of the palm-leaf manuscripts.

The poems are further classified into thurais. A thurai denotes the locale of the poem giving the situation under which it was written. Some of these are parisil thurai when the poet reminds the king or patron of the reward that he promised to him, kalitrutanilai in which the hero dies with the elephant he killed in battle, and so on. Some of the poems are too damaged in the manuscripts to determine their thurais. It is not known whether the authors of the poems made these classifications. It is more likely that those who collected the anthology applied these classifications. Poem 289 was not assigned any classification for reasons unknown.

Realism and fantasy

Purananuru songs exhibit a unique realism and immediacy not frequently found in classical literature. The nature and the subject of the poems lend us to believe that poets did not write these poems on events that happened years prior, rather they wrote (or sang) them on impulse in situ. Some of the poems are conversational in which the poet pleads, begs, chides or praises the king. One such example is poem 46. The poet Kovur Kizhaar address the Chola king Killivalavan to save the lives of the children of a defeated enemy who are about to be executed by being trampled under an elephant. The poet says, "… O king, you belong to the heritage of kings who sliced their own flesh to save the life of a pigeon, look at these children; they are so naïve of their plight that they have stopped crying to look at the swinging trunk of the elephant in amusement. Have pity on them…" The almost impressionistic picture the poem paints cannot be anything but by someone who is witness to the events present in the poem.

Along with such realism, Purananuru shows glimpses of fantasy as well. The second poem by Mudinagarayar addresses the Chera king Uthayan Cheralaathan and praises him for his feeding the armies at the Kurukshetra war. This is an obvious anachronism suggesting a king of the early common era Tamil country had a role to play in a mythological battle of the Mahabharata epic. Based on this one poem, there have been attempts at dating the Purananuru poems to around 1000 BCE or older.

Historical source

Each Purananuru poem has a colophon attached to it giving the authorship and subject matter of the poem, the name of the king or chieftain to whom the poem relates and the occasion which called forth the eulogy are also found.
It is from these colophons and rarely from the texts of the poems themselves, that we gather the names of many kings and chieftains and the poets and poetesses patronised by them. The task of reducing these names to an ordered scheme in which the different generations of contemporaries can be marked off one another has not been easy. To add to the confusions, some historians have even denounced these colophons as later additions and untrustworthy as historical documents.

A careful study of the synchronisation between the kings, chieftains and the poets suggested by these colophons indicates that this body of literature reflect occurrences within a period of four or five continuous generations at the most, a period of 120 or 150 years. Any attempt at extracting a systematic chronology and data from these poems should be aware of the casual nature of these poems and the wide difference between the purposes of the anthologist who collected these poems and the historian’s attempts are arriving at a continuous history.
Although there have been attempts at dating the poems of Purananuru based on the mention of the Mahabharata war, a more reliable source for the period of these poems is based on the mentions one finds on the foreign trade and presence of Greek and Roman merchants in the port of Musiri (poem 343) give us a date of between 200 BCE to 150 CE for the period of these poems. This is further strengthened by the mention of Maurya in poem 175 and a reference to Ramayana in poem 378.

Ramavataram (இராமாவதாரம்) - Kamba Ramayanam (கம்ப இராமாயணம்)

Ramavataram (இராமாவதாரம்), popularly referred to as Kamba Ramayanam (கம்ப இராமாயணம்), is a Tamil epic that was written by Kamban during the 12th century. Based on Valmiki's Ramayana in Sanskrit, the story describes the life of King Rama of Ayodhya. However, Ramavatharam is different from the Sanksrit original in many aspects - both in spiritual concepts and in the specifics of the story line. This historic work is considered by Tamil scholars as well as the general public as one of the greatest literary works in Tamil literature.

Kamban wrote this epic with the patronage of Thiruvennai Nallur Sadayappa Vallal, a Pannai kula chieftain (திருவெண்ணை நல்லூர் சடயப்ப வள்ளல்). In gratitude to his patron, Kamban references his name once in every 1000 verses.
The epic is quite well known, both in the Tamil literary world and in the Hindu spiritual world, for the colorfulness of its poetry and for its religious value.


The book is divided into six chapters, called Kandam(காண்டம்) in Tamil.
Bala Kandam (Chapter: Childhood; பால காண்டம்)
Ayodhya Kandam (Chapter: Ayodhya; அயோத்யா காண்டம்)
Aranya Kandam (Chapter: Forest; ஆரண்ய காண்டம்)
Kishkinta Kandam (Chapter: Kishkintha; கிஷ்கிந்த காண்டம்)
Sundara Kandam (Chapter: Beautiful; சுந்தர காண்டம் )
Yutha Kandam (Chapter: War; யுத்த காண்டம்)
The Kandams are further divided into 123 sections called Padalam (படலம்) in Tamil. These 123 sections contains approximately 12,000 verses of the epic.


As with many historic compilations, it was very difficult to discard the interpolations and addendum which have been added over a period of time to the original. This task was taken up a committee of scholars headed by T P Meenakshi Sundaram called the Kamban Kazhagam (Kamban Academy). The compilation published by this committee in 1976 is what is used as the standard today.

Literary significance

Kamban's use of Virutham (விருத்தம்; Tempo) and Santham (சந்தம்; Tune) in various verses is effective in bringing out the emotion and mood for storytelling. He achieves the Virutham and Santham by effective choice of words.

Religious significance

This epic is read by many Hindus during prayers. In some households the entire epic is read once during the Tamil Month of Aadi. It is also read in Hindu Temples and other religious associations. This epic is evidence that worship of Rama started in Tamil Nadu. On many occasions, Kambar talks about surrendering to Rama, who is a manifestation of Vishnu himself.
The chapter Sundara Kandam is considered quite auspicious and is the most popular. The chapter talks about the hardships faced by the main characters in the epic, their practice of restraint, and their hopes for a better tomorrow.

Friday, November 18, 2011

XXIII graduation day at the Sri VD Swami Auditorium Saturday, October 22nd, 2011

Thunderous applause, vigorous handshakes, joy and jubilation marked the XXIII graduation day at the Sri VD Swami Auditorium on Saturday, October 22nd, 2011. It was a day of fulfillment and pride for the passing out students, faculty members and most importantly the visibly elated parents and other family members gathered in good numbers to participate in the momentous occasion. The proceedings of the evening got off to a grand start with the ceremonial march of the dignitaries to the dais led by Chief Guest Dr Chandrasekhar Shetty and Dr S.Bhaskaran, Chairman, Sankara Nethralaya followed by a brief introduction of the eminent Chief Guest by Dr.S.Bhaskaran.

Dr S. Meenkshi, Director Academics, Medical Research Foundation extended a warm welcome to the cross section of audience, thanked the dignitaries for their gracious presence and proudly declared that Sankara Nethralaya has made available a sum of rupees 100,000 US dollars for the joint research program in Nanobiotechnology between Missouri University and the Medical and Vision Research Foundations. This was followed by an in depth and well researched address by the Chief Guest Dr Chandrasekhar Shetty, covering a broad spectrum of topics from self-reliance, global competitiveness, role of private sector in education, ethical responsibility of the educated class etc. Shri Chandrasekhar Shetty commended the role of Dr SS Badrinath, Chairman Emeritus and Sankara Nethralaya for their significant contribution to the betterment of society through the vehicle of higher education.

While it was a day of honour and recognition for students of the Medical Research Foundation, Vidyasagar Institute of Biomedical technology and science and the Elite school of optometry receiving their Bachelor, Master and Doctor of Science in Optometry and Medical Laboratory Technology the day also witnessed the awarding of prestigious institutional awards like the Swarnalatha Punshi award, Kanthimathynathan Endowment award, Ruby Banik Award, Dr. Major S. Srinivasan Memorial prize award and best publication award for papers presented on various branches of ophthalmology.

Dr L.S Varadarajan, Associate Professor, Elite School of Optometry proposed the Vote of Thanks and the function concluded with the rendering of the national anthem.

We take great pride in giving below the names of winners of the special recognition awards

1. Ms.S.Srilekha
– Bangalore Genei Pvt. Ltd. Endowment award for Clinical Genetics
– Hi Media Laboratories Pvt. Ltd Endowment award for Medical Microbiology
– Dr.S.Ramaswamy & Dr. S. Narasimhan Endowment award for Human Anatomy & Human Physiology
– Ranbaxy Laboratories Ltd. Immuno Diagnostic Division Endowment award for Clinical Immunology
– Biochemistry Research Dept Silver Jubilee year – Endowment Award for Biochemistry intern
– Sankara Nethralaya Silver Jubilee award in Microbiology for Diagnostic Microbiology
– Dr. H. N. Madhavan Endowment award for Best Outgoing student

2. Ms.V.Annapoorni
– Wipro Biomed Pvt.Ltd. Endowment award for Bio chemistry

3. Sheela Evangeline K
– Luxottica Excellence Award for Research Methodology
– Sri R Sivaraman Memorial Endowment Prize for Best Research Project of the year

4. S Karpagavalli
– Sri V R Ramanatha Iyer Memorial Prize for Optometric Optics
– Dr M M Cooper Memorial Prize for Anatomy

5. H.Praveen Singh
– Luxottica Excellence Award for Law and Optometry

6. Dr. Marian Anne Jacob
– “Jayaben Chamanlal Shah” Endowment Award for Best Outgoing Sub specialty Fellow

7. Dr. Sudipta Das
– Dr. V T Doshi Memorial Award for Best Outgoing Vitreo Retinal Fellow- Award

8. Dr Lala Akhundova
– The Indian Society for Prevention of Blindness Endowment Award for Best Lady Fellow in Vitreo-Retinal Sub- Specialty Award

9. Dr. Kankaria Vardhaman Prakash
– Sri. K. Vasantha Madhavan Memorial Award & Cash Prize instituted by Mrs. K Saraswathy for Best Outgoing Post Graduate Student of Diplomat of National board of Examination

10. Dr. Maneesh Singh & Dr.Parthapratim Dutta Majumder
– Dr. T L K Row Memorial Endowment Award for Best Associate Consultants in Ophthalmology

11. Dr. Debmalya Das & Dr. Nair Akshay Gopinathan
– Dr. Kantimathynathan Endowment Medal” Instituted by Dr. Jaganathan for Best post graduate D N B candidate in Neuro Ophthalmology

12. Dr. Sabyasachi Somnath Sengupta
– “ Swarnalata Punshi” Award for Best Research Fellow

13. Dr. N Angayarkanni
– Swarnalata Punshi Prize Award for Best Research Worker

14. Dr. B Shantha
– Ruby Banik Memorial Award for Best Research in Clinical Sciences in Ophthalmology Award

15. Abhay D.Shah
– Sri V R Ramanatha Iyer Memorial Prize for Ocular Diseases

16. Sabiha N Jamal
- Dr (Maj) S .Srinivasan Memorial Prize for Best Senior Faculty

17. Mr. S Ve Ramesh
– Dr (Maj) S .Srinivasan Memorial Prize for Best Junior Faculty

‘Thank You Sir, you are always with us”

The opening statement of Dr Pratik Ranjan Sen presenting the day’s proceedings, that it was a day of reminiscing, thanksgiving and honouring captured the essence of the XVI Sri Venugopal Endowment Lecture being held on the 12th of November 2011 at the Sri VD.Swami Auditorium most aptly. The Sankara Nethralaya family was honouring one of its principal architects and guiding lights and the statement ‘Thank You Sir, you are always with us” was evident at every point of the function right from calling upon the proud members of Shri Ram Mohan Rao’s family to light the auspicious Kuthuvilakku to the end of the day’s proceedings.

The playing of the invocation song rendered by late Shrimathi M.Subbulakshmi at the Afro-Asian Congress of Ophthalmology back in 1976 was a tribute to the memory of Sri V.Venugopal and treated the gathering to the divinity and timelessness of a voice that has captivated listeners the world over like none other. Distinguished guests of the evening and close friends of the man being honoured, Sri Govindarajulu, Sri MK Kumar and Sri Krishnamurthy paid rich tributes to him through their recollections of a long and close association with him. What surfaced was the diverse traits of an enterprising businessman with a great acumen for business and commerce, an authority and pioneer in the fields of banking and insurance and a charitable individual who donated all his family lands to the Bhoodan movement of Sri Vinobha Bhave. Sri Venugopal’s philanthropy, patronage of fine arts and commitment to ethics in public and private life and the true gentleman that he was were recalled by friends who seemed to be dearly missing his absence.

Another surprise ‘down memory lane’ experience that held the audience in awe and rapt attention and reiterated the power of ‘divine will’ was a video clipping of Dr Puram Prakash from Boston, a relative of the Mohan Rao family recalling the sequence of events that culminated in the dispatch of a much elusive CT Scan machine to its divine destination the Kanchi Mutt. It all started with a rather simple sounding request from Dr SS Badrinath, Chief Emeritus, Sankara Nethralaya to Dr Puram Prakash that a CT scan machine was needed at the Kanchi Mutt to perform a medical examination of His Holiness the Kanchi Periyaval. Dr Puram Prakash to quote his own words was at the end of his wits as to where he should begin his search. What followed were exciting events which could make interesting stuff for a thrilling paper back. It was the peak of the US-Iraq war and there seemed to be an embargo on CT scan machines from being dispatched to anywhere else other than the war front. After frenetic calls to the 4 leading manufacturers of CT Scan equipment, a call to the White House and a call to the Chief of the US armed forces camping in the Iraqi deserts a formal request was made by Shri R.Venkatraman the then President of India through the diplomatic envoy at Washington, the CT Scan equipment was finally delivered at the Kanchi Mutt.

The Chief Guest for the evening was Justice Shri Shivraj N.Patil, Honourable Justice of the Supreme Court, a man rightly described by Shri NDJ.Renganath, Member SSSN Trust as a man of truth, fairness and trust, well-known for his jurisprudence, air of advocacy and dispensation of Justice. A learned man of great eloquence he delivered a speech on a topic most relevant to the present and the future ‘Spirituality and Ethics for the future of India’. The learned Judge started with a warm reference to the services of Shri Mohan Rao’s family and the Medical Research Foundation. He had a special word of praise for Dr SS Badrinath, Chairman Emeritus, and described the Sankara Nethralaya which he heads as a place which has the 3 key attributes needed to help humanity1.Talent 2.Environment and 3. Equipment, in abundance. He touched on many burning issues of the day like whether to ban capital punishment, should the constitution be amended to should we have the right to recall our elected representatives etc while clearly underlining the need for spirituality and ethics in everyday life from public governance to education and corporate world. He exhorted that spirituality be made a part of the curriculum to attain high spiritual standards in life.

The day’s proceedings closed with the rendition of the Sankara Nethralaya anthem and the gathering dispersed with a lot of food for thought provided by the Chief Guest’s speech and the highest regards for Late Sri V. Venugopal.

‘Act on Diabetes now’

The M.V Hospital for diabetes and the Prof. M. Viswanathan Diabetes Research Centre organized a human chain in association with Sankara Nethralaya in observation of World Diabetes Day on 14, November, 2011. A total of 400 volunteers, from students of the Women’s Christian College, staff members of Sankara Nethralaya, MV Hospital, Prof M.Vishwanathan Research Centre and other organizations and popular Tamil film star Shri Prashanth stood as a chain with placards, banners and T-Shirts bearing awareness slogans on the need for leading a lifestyle inclusive of healthy food habits, exercise and a stress free life highlighting this year’s theme ‘Act on Diabetes now’

A brisk walk it is said is the best bet for keeping sugar levels well under control, so it was only apt that the volunteers took out a procession from the Women’s Christian College which culminated at the Sankara Nethralaya, their messages educating the general public on the need for early detection and prevention of one of the most dangerous pandemics of today. As an eye care centre Sankara Nethralaya used the occasion to draw public attention to a rather less known physical condition that unchecked diabetes could lead to in patients called ’Diabetic Retinopathy’ an ailment which could damage the most important faculty the ‘sense of seeing’ and cause blindness. Dr SS. Badrinath, Chairman Emeritus, Sankara Nethralaya observed that an alarming 25% of all diabetics have diabetic retinopathy, he added much to the relief of listeners that if detected at an early stage there are numerous treatment modalities available to cure diabetic retinopathy.

Multi colour posters with messages and illustrations educating people on the need for a balanced diet and physical exercise to keep diabetes at bay were placed at the Sankara Nethralaya campus. Participants were provided biscuits, snacks, coffee and tea at the closing of their walk by Sankara Nethralaya which also conducted an on the spot free random blood sugar test.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

MY SCHOOL - By Rabindranath Tagore Lecture delivered in America; published in Personality London: MacMillan, 1933

I started a school in Bengal when I was nearing forty. Certainly this was never expected of me,
who had spent the greater portion of my life in writing, chiefly verses. Therefore people naturally
thought that as a school it might not be one of the best of its kind, but it was sure to be something
outrageously new, being the product of daring inexperience.

This is one of the reasons why I am often asked what is the idea upon which my school is based.
The question is a very embarrassing one for me, because to satisfy the expectation of my
questioners, I cannot afford to be commonplace in my answer. However, I shall resist the
temptation to be original and shall be content with being merely truthful.

In the first place, I must confess it is difficult for me to say what is the idea which underlies my
institution. For the idea is not like a fixed foundation upon which a building is erected. It is more
like a seed which cannot be separated and pointed out directly it begins to grow into a plant.
And I know what it was to which this school owes its origin. It was not any new theory of
education, but the memory of my school-days.

That those days were unhappy ones for me I cannot altogether ascribe to my peculiar temperament
or to any special demerit of the schools to which I was sent. It may be that if I had been a little less
sensitive, I could gradually have accommodated myself to the pressure and survived long enough
to earn my university degrees. But all the same, schools are schools, though some are better and
some worse, according to their own standard.

The provision has been made for infants to be fed upon their mother’s milk. They find their food
and their mother at the same time. It is complete nourishment for them, body and soul. It is their
first introduction to the great truth that man’s true relationship with the world is that of personal
love and not that of the mechanical law of causation.

Therefore our childhood should be given its full measure of life’s draught, for which it has an
endless thirst. The young mind should be saturated with the idea that it has been born in a human
world which is in harmony with the world around it. And this is what our regular type of school
ignores with an air of superior wisdom, severe and disdainful. It forcibly snatches away children
from a world full of the mystery of God’s own handiwork, full of the suggestiveness of personality.
It is a mere method of discipline which refuses to take into account the individual. It is a
manufactory specially designed for grinding out uniform results. It follows an imaginary straight
line of the average in digging its channel of education. But life’s line is not the straight line, for it is
fond of playing the see-saw with the line of the average, bringing upon its head the rebuke of the
school. For according to the school, life is perfect when it allows itself to be treated as dead, to be
cut into symmetrical conveniences. And this was the cause of my suffering when I was sent to
school. For all of a sudden I found my world vanishing from around me, giving place to wooden
benches and straight walls staring at me with the blank stare of the blind.

The legend is that eating of the fruit of knowledge is not consonant with dwelling in paradise.
Therefore men’s children have to be banished from their paradise into a realm of death, dominated
by the decency of a tailoring department. So my mind had to accept the tight-fitting encasement of
the school which, being like the shoes of a mandarin woman, pinched and bruised my nature on all
sides and at every movement. I was fortunate enough in extricating myself before insensibility set

Though I did not have to serve the full penal term which men of my position have to undergo to
find their entrance into cultured society. I am glad that I did not altogether escape from its
molestation. For it has given me knowledge of the wrong from which the children of men suffer.
The cause of it is this, that man’s intention is going against God’s intention as to how children
should grow into knowledge. How we should conduct our business is our own affair, and therefore
in our offices we are free to create in the measure of our special purposes. But such office
arrangement does not suit God’s creation. And children are God’s own creation.

We have come to this world to accept it, not merely to know it. We may become powerful by
knowledge, but we attain fullness by sympathy. The highest education is that which does not
merely give us information but makes our life in harmony with all existence. But we find that this
education of sympathy is not only systematically ignored in schools, but it is severely repressed.
From our very childhood, habits are formed and knowledge is imparted in such a manner that our
life is weaned away from nature, and our mind and the world are set in opposition from the
beginning of our days. Thus the greatest of educations for which we came prepared is neglected,
and we are made to lose our world to find a bagful of information instead. We rob the child of his
earth to teach him geography, of language to teach him grammar. His hunger is for the Epic, but
he is supplied with chronicles of facts and dates. He was born in the human world, but is banished
into the world of living gramophones, to expiate for the original sin of being born in ignorance.
Child-nature protests against such calamity with all its power of suffering, subdued at last into
silence by punishment.

We all know children are lovers of the dust; their whole body and mind thirst for sunlight and air
as flowers do. They are never in a mood to refuse the constant invitations to establish direct
communication which come to their senses from the universe.

But unfortunately for children their parents, in the pursuit of their profession, in conformity to
their social traditions, live in their own peculiar world of habits. Much of this cannot be helped. For
men have to specialize, driven by circumstances and by need of social uniformity.
But our childhood is the period when we have or ought to have more freedom-—freedom from the
necessity of specialization into the narrow bounds of social and professional conventionalism.

I well remember the surprise and annoyance of an experienced headmaster, reputed to be a
successful disciplinarian, when he saw one of the boys of my school climbing a tree and choosing a
fork of the branches for settling down to his studies. I had to say to him in explanation that
‘childhood is the only period of life when a civilized man can exercise his choice between the
branches of a tree and his drawing-room chair, and should I deprive this boy of that privilege
because I, as a grown-up man, am barred from it?’ What is surprising is to notice the same
headmaster’s approbation of the boys’ studying botany. He believes in an impersonal knowledge of
the tree because that is science, but not in a personal experience of it. This growth of experience
leads to forming instinct, which is the result of nature’s own method of instruction. The boys of my
school have acquired instinctive knowledge of the physiognomy of the tree. By the least touch they
know where they can find a foothold upon an apparently inhospitable trunk; they know how far
they can take liberty with the branches, how to distribute their bodies’ weight so as to make
themselves least burdensome to branchlets. My boys are able to make the best possible use of the
tree in the matter of gathering fruits, taking rest and hiding from undesirable pursuers. I myself
was brought up in a cultured home in a town, and as far as my personal behaviour goes, I have
been obliged to act all through my life as if I were born in a world where there are no trees.
Therefore I consider it as a part of education for my boys to let them fully realize that they are in a
scheme of existence where trees are a substantial fact, not merely as generating chlorophyll and
taking carbon from the air, but as living trees.

Naturally the soles of our feet are so made that they become the best instruments for us to stand
upon the earth and to walk with. From the day we commenced to wear shoes we minimized the
purpose of our feet. With the lessening of their responsibility they have lost their dignity, and now
they lend themselves to be pampered with socks, slippers and shoes of all prices and shapes and
misproportions. For us it amounts to a grievance against God for not giving us hooves instead of
beautifully sensitive soles.

I am not for banishing footgear altogether from men’s use. But I have no hesitation in asserting
that the soles of children’s feet should not be deprived of their education, provided for them by
nature, free of cost. Of all the limbs we have they are the best adapted for intimately knowing the
earth by their touch. For the earth has her subtle modulations of contour which she only offers for
the kiss of her true lovers—the feet.

I have again to confess that I was brought up in a respectable household, and my feet from
childhood have been carefully saved from all naked contact with the dust. When I try to emulate
my boys in walking barefoot, I painfully realize what thickness of ignorance about the earth I carry
under my feet. I invariably choose the thorns to tread upon in such a manner as to make thethorns exult. My feet have not the instinct to follow the lines of least resistance. For even the
flattest of earth-surface, has its dimples of diminutive hills and dales only discernible by educated
feet. I have often wondered at the unreasonable zigzag of footpaths across perfectly plain fields. It
becomes all the more perplexing when you consider that a footpath is not made by the caprice of
one individual. Unless most of the walkers possessed exactly the same eccentricity such obviously
inconvenient passages could not have been made. But the real cause lies in the subtle suggestions
coming from the earth to which our feet unconsciously respond. Those for whom such
communications have not been cut off can adjust the muscles of their feet with great rapidity at
the least indication. Therefore, they can save themselves from the intrusion of thorns, even while
treading upon them, and walk barefooted on a gravelly path without the least discomfort. I know
that in the practical world shoes will be worn, roads will be metalled, cars will be used, but during
their period of education, should children not be given to know that the world is not all
drawing-room, that there is such a thing as nature to which their limbs are made beautifully to

There are men who think that by the simplicity of living, introduced in my school, I preach the
idealization of poverty which prevailed in the mediaeval age. From the point of view of education,
should we not admit that poverty is the school in which man had his first lessons and his best
training? Even a millionaire’s son has to be born helplessly poor and to begin his lesson of life from
the beginning. He has to learn to walk like the poorest of children, though he has means to afford
to be without the appendage of legs. Poverty brings us into complete touch with life and the world,
for living richly is living mostly by proxy, and thus living in a world of lesser reality. This may be
good for one’s pleasure and pride, but not for one’s education. Wealth is a golden cage in which the
children of the rich are bred into artificial deadening of their powers. Therefore in my school, much
to the disgust of the people of expensive habits, I had to provide for this great teacher — this
bareness of furniture and materials — not because it is poverty, but because it leads to personal
experience of the world.

What tortured me in my school-days was the fact that the school had not the completeness of the
world. It was a special arrangement for giving lessons. It could only be suitable for grown-up
people who were conscious of the special need of such places and therefore ready to accept their
teaching at the cost of dissociation from life. But children are in love with life, and it is their first
love. All its colour and movement attract their eager attention. And are we quite sure of our
wisdom in stifling this love? Children are not born ascetics, fit to enter at once into the monastic
discipline of acquiring knowledge. At first they must gather knowledge through their life, and then
they will renounce their lives to gain knowledge, and then again they will come back to their fuller
lives with ripened wisdom.

But society has made its own arrangements for manipulating men’s minds to fit its special patterns.
These arrangements are so closely organized that it is difficult to find gaps through which to bring
in nature. There is a serial adjustment of penalties which follows to the end one who ventures to
take liberty with some part of the arrangements, even to save his soul. Therefore it is one thing to
realize truth and another to bring it into practice where the whole current of the prevailing system
goes against you. This is why, when I had to face the problem of my own son’s education, I was at
a loss to give it a practical solution. The first thing that I did was to take him away from the town
surroundings into a village and allow him the freedom of primeval nature as far as it is available in
modern days. He had a river, noted for its danger, where he swam and rowed without check from
the anxiety of his elders. He spent his time in the fields and on the trackless sand-banks, coming
late for his meals without being questioned. He had none of those luxuries that are not only
customary but are held as proper for boys of his circumstance. For which privations, I am sure, he
was pitied and his parents blamed by the people for whom society has blotted out the whole world.
But I was certain that luxuries are burdens to boys. They are the burdens of other people’s habits,
the burdens of the vicarious pride and pleasure which parents enjoy through their children.
Yet, being an individual of limited resources, I could do very little for my son in the way of
educating him according to my plan. But he had freedom of movement: he had very few of the
screens of wealth and respectability between himself and the world of nature. Thus he had a better
opportunity for a real experience of this universe than I ever had. But one thing exercised my mind
as more important than anything else.

The object of education is to give man the unity of truth. Formerly, when life was simple, all the
different elements of man were in complete harmony. But when there came the separation of theintellect from the spiritual and the physical, the school education put entire emphasis on the
intellect and the physical side of man. We devote our sole attention to giving children information,
not knowing that by this emphasis we are accentuating a break between the intellectual, physical
and the spiritual life.

I believe in a spiritual world, not as anything separate from this world, but as its innermost truth.
With the breath we draw, we must always feel this truth, that we are living in God. Born in this
great world, full of the mystery of the infinite, we cannot accept our existence as a momentary
outburst of chance, drifting on the current of matter towards an eternal nowhere. We cannot look
upon our lives as dreams of a dreamer who has no awakening in all time. We have a personality to
which matter and force are unmeaning unless related to something infinitely personal, whose
nature we have discovered, in some measure, in human love, in the greatness of the good, in the
martyrdom of heroic souls, in the ineffable beauty of nature, which can never be a mere physical
fact, nor anything but an expression of personality.

Experience of this spiritual world, whose reality we miss by our incessant habit of ignoring it from
childhood, has to be gained by children by fully living in it and not through the medium of
theological instruction. But how this is to be done is a problem difficult of solution in the present
age. For nowadays men have managed so fully to occupy their time that they do not find leisure to
know that their activities have only movement but very little truth, that their soul has not found its

In India we still cherish in our memory the tradition of the forest colonies of great teachers. These
places were neither schools nor monasteries in the modern sense of the word. They consisted of
homes where with their families lived men whose object was to see the world in God and to realize
their own life in Him. Though they lived outside society, yet they were to society what the sun is to
the planets, the centre from which it received its life and light. And here boys grew up in an
intimate vision of eternal life before they were thought fit to enter the state of the householder.
Thus in the ancient India the school was there where was the life itself. There the students were
brought up, not in the academic atmosphere of scholarship and learning, or in the maimed life of
monastic seclusion, but in the atmosphere of living aspiration. They took the cattle to pasture,
collected firewood, gathered fruit, cultivated kindness to all creatures, and grew in their spirit with
their own teachers’ spiritual growth. This was possible because the primary object of these places
was not teaching but giving shelter to those who lived their life in God.

That this traditional relationship of the masters and disciples is not a mere romantic fiction is
proved by the relic we still possess of the indigenous system of education. These chaluspathis,
which is the Sanskrit name for the university, have not the savour of the school about them. The
students live in their master’s home like the children of the house, without having to pay for their
board and lodging or tuition. The teacher prosecutes his own study, living a life of simplicity, and
helping the students in their lessons as a part of his life and not of his profession. This ideal of
education through sharing a life of high aspiration with one’s master took possession of my mind.
Those who in other countries are favoured with unlimited expectations of worldly prospects can fix
their purposes of education on those objects. But for us to maintain the self-respect which we owe
to ourselves and to our creator, we must make the purpose of education nothing short of the
highest purpose of man, the fullest growth and freedom of soul. It is pitiful to have to scramble for
small pittances of fortune. Only let us have access to the life that goes beyond death and rises
above all circumstances; let us find our God, let us live for that ultimate truth which emancipates
us from the bondage of the dust and gives us the wealth, not of things but of inner light, not of
power but of love. Such emancipation of soul we have witnessed in our country among men devoid
of book-learning and living in absolute poverty. In India we have the inheritance of this treasure of
spiritual wisdom. Let the object of our education be to open it out before us and to give us the
power to make the true use of it in our life, and offer it to the rest of the world when the time
comes, as our contribution to its eternal welfare.

I had been immersed in literary activities when this thought struck my mind with painful intensity.
I suddenly felt like one groaning under the suffocation of nightmare. It was not only my own soul,
but the soul of my country that seemed to be struggling for its breath through me. I felt clearly
that what was needed was not any particular material object, not wealth or comfort or power, but
our awakening to full consciousness in soul freedom, the freedom of the life in God, where we have
no enmity with those who must fight, no competition with those who must make money, where weare beyond all attacks and above all insults.

* * * * *
In conclusion, I warn my hearers not to carry away with them any false or exaggerated picture of
this ashram. When ideas are stated in a paper, they appear too simple and complete. But in reality
their manifestation through the materials that are living and varied and ever changing is not so
clear and perfect. We have obstacles in human nature and in outer circumstances. Some of us have
a feeble faith in boys’ minds as living organisms, and some have the natural propensity of doing
good by force. On the other hand, the boys have their different degrees of receptivity, and there
are a good number of inevitable failures. Delinquencies make their appearance unexpectedly,
making us suspicious as to the efficacy of our own ideals. We pass through dark periods of doubt
and reaction. But these conflicts and waverings belong to the true aspects of reality. Living ideals
can never be set into a clockwork arrangement, giving accurate account of its every second. And
those who have firm faith in their idea have to test its truth in discords and failures that are sure
to come to tempt them from their path.

I for my part believe in the principle of life, in the soul of man, more than in methods. I believe
that the object of education is the freedom of mind which can only be achieved through the path of
freedom--though freedom has its risk and responsibility as life itself has. I know it for certain,
though most people seem to have forgotten it, that children are living beings -- more living than
grown-up people, who have built their shells of habit around them. Therefore it is absolutely
necessary for their mental health and development that they should not have mere schools for
their lessons, but a world whose guiding spirit is personal love. It must be an ashram where men
have gathered for the highest end of life, in the peace of nature; where life is not merely
meditative, but fully awake in its activities; where boys’ minds are not being perpetually drilled
into believing that the ideal of the self-idolatry of the nation is the truest ideal for them to accept;
where they are bidden to realize man’s world as God’s Kingdom, to whose citizenship they have to
aspire; where the sunrise and sunset and the silent glory of stars are not daily ignored; where
nature’s festivities of flowers and fruit have their joyous recognition from man; and where the
young and the old, the teacher and the student, sit at the same table to partake of their daily food
and the food of their eternal life.