Yaalpaanam in undaunted
sustain a cultural
nearly 15 years, I set up on an unimaginable journey on Friday night (October
08, 2004) to the northern capital of Sri Lanka, where the indomitable,
hardworking, intelligent and characteristically unique people live and
formidably face challenges that are so hard on them both prompted by nature
and people. There was a time that a man coming from Yaalpaanam was lampooned
as a comical personage by playwrights both in English and Thamil, as they
called him 'He Comes From Jaffna ' and 'Kolumbilae Kandiah '. Basically
the Thamilians whether they lived in the north, east, centre or west were
peace loving and harmonious people, although they were calculative and
economically conscious people again prompted by the arid surroundings in
which they lived. But they are nomore sluggish in militancy to face the
inevitable onslaughts on them politically and otherwise by ill-advised
successful powers that were for more than half a century.
Yes, I boarded a luxury
bus paying Rs.1000 for a seat to travel an arduous journey of more than
300 kilometres from Wellawatta around 10.30 in the night and reached Yaalpaanam
around 12.30 noon on Saturday.
Living in comfortable Colombo
and had never experienced the hard and sorrowful experiences the people
in the north and east had been facing for decades now, I was metamorphosed
into seeing reality, which has seen some favourable changes only now with
the cessation of hostilities and détente.
This is not the occasion
for me to give you graphic description of my entire journey, but there
was one thing I like to mention: the thoroughly organized manner the respective
checking points executed their functions - particularly the Tigers. Young
kids with intelligence written on their face as paramilitary forces and
the hardened arms carrying militants were courteous, polite and efficient.
And so were the Government police women and men. And the armed forces were
no more a threatening and striking outfit. A police woman seeing my NIC
and the ID card of the SLBC, with a smiling face expressed surprise and
told me in a musical voice and lilting Sinhala that she has heard me on
the air. I asked her, her name so that I can play a song for her in the
Choice of the People programme which I host on certain days over the English
commercial service. She only giggled as she was not expected to tell her
name to the civilians. That was a pleasant moment for me because it was
an indication for relaxation of tension. This was much pronounced
when I noted that one passes through the SL Army Camps and in between therwas
a Tiger camp indicating coexistence and continuity.
It is a microscopic mono-racists
and ultra-nationalists who are preventing the healthy relationship between
people of different nationalities. There was a place on my journey, an
entire Muslim hamlet amidst Sinhala villages living in perfect harmony.
How people live and let live without encroaching on the rights and comfort
of the respective people was very evident. Most of all it's nothing like
allowing the respective people to administer their regions of living entirely
by themselves as it would give quick transformation of development which
had been neglected for more than half a century. And it is needless to
say amidst diversity there would be unity because there would be necessities
to cooperate with each other.
NE Province Governor's Award
Let me explain why at this
point of time I visited Yaalpaanam. I went there to receive a covetous
literary award for more than 45 years of my writing and contribution towards
Lankan Literature, primarily Thamil Literature and the Arts. I was one
of the eight persons receiving this award for this year given away by the
Ministry of Education, Culture,Sports and Youth Affairs of the North East
Province headquartered in Thirukoanamalai. This is known as the Aalunar
Vituthu, meaning the Governor's award. Besides me, the following were also
given this accreditation: Vyramuttu Sivasubramaniam (he hails from Mattakalppu
and a scholar on the late Swami Vipulananda - he didn't turn up because
he is a little old and fragile to travel), M.Kanagasabi (from Yaalpaanam
- a painter and educationist -not noticed by the connoisseurs of Art in
Colombo ), P.Stanislaus ( from Yaalpanam - a painter, makeup man and a
photographer - another artiste who had been unsung so far), Atiyan Poikai
K.Sellathurai ( from Yaalpanam ,an exponent of folk arts -songs, plays,
acting and scripting ), Kulanthai M.Shanmugalingam (from Yaalpaanam - an
important dramatist and theatre personality and an educationist) He didn't
turn up either for some reason or other. I was looking forward to meet
him and interview him. Another person I missed seeing in my three day visit
was the illustrious A.J.Canagaratna. Because of the crowded programme,
it was impossible for me to visit their places and see them partly due
to transportation difficulties. Ira.Sadadcharadevi (whose nom de plume
is Kunthavai, also hails from Yaalpaanam and was the only woman writer
and educationist) and S.L.M.Hanifa (the only Islamite to receive this award
this year.) Healso hails from the east like me, specifically Oddamavadi,
a few miles away from the eastern capital. He is interested in research
and is also a creative writer.
I was proud to receive
this award on the soil of Yaalpaanam, the citadel of Lankan Thamil Culture.
For your information, I was born to parents from Thirukoanamalai and Mattakalppu,
and their ancestors have come from the north. In my living of 68 years,
I have lived in Mattakalappu for only 11 years and am presently living
in Colombo, the metropolitan capital of the country with its multi-dimensions.
Special mention should
be made of the amiable and knowledgeable secretary of the Education Ministry
of the NE Province, R.Thyagalingam and his staff, particularly the Assistant
director of the department of Culture, N.SriDevi and other writers like
N.Vilvaratnam and Nandhini Xavier who formed the committee to select the
award winners. The awards - cash, plaque, garlanding, garbing with a colourful
shawl salutation, citations- were distributed with pomp and pageantry
in the presence of the respected Lankan intellectual widely known all over
the world as a great scholar in all fields of Thamil studies, Prof.
the Chief secretary of the provincial administration, Mr. Rangaraj.
On the same evening, Monday,
October 11 literary awards for different categories of writing that have
won best award prizes for the year 2003 were also given. I do not have
the full list of the winners, but among them I noticed a few well-known
writers like, So.Pathmanathan, Chokkan (on behalf of his daughter, Pathma
Somakanthan, Aruna Selladurai, Thaamatai Chelvi, Prof.Saba Jeyarasa, O.K.Gunanathan,
and Mullai Mustapha. Congratulations to all recipients of these two distinct
Prior to the awards ceremony,
there was a cultural pageant starting from the sacred shrine of Nallur
temple which went through Arasadi Veethi, Knatharmadam junction and reached
the Yaalpaanam Hindu Ladies College premises, where the three day, literary
event took place. I learnt that this was the first time that such a pageant
had marched through after several years in a war-torn Yaalpaanam, without
any inhibitions or suppressed feelings of exposure. Yes, it was a cultural
expression amidst undaunted environment atmosphere. The armoured vehicles
of the SL army passed through and gave patronage to the event. Thamil symbolizedas
a Mother was depicted in an appropriate manner in a painted placard. And
was in procession with children from different schools with their teachers
marched along with depiction of different cultural performances and replicating
Thamil scholars for the enrichment of a proud Thamilian civilization. On
could see the residents along the path greeting the pedestrians in the
march with glee and showing their respect to Thamil culture and those who
patronizes such a culture. Music all along was provided. There was an unbridled
enthusiasm right throughout the ceremony. Inniyam was Periyapulam Maha
Vidyalayam and KaranavaiPonnambala vidyalayam. The performing part of the
pageant included Kummi, Koalattam, Kuthirai Aatam, Kaavadi,Sembu Natanam,
Kataka aatam,Kurangu Natanam, Silambam,Vasnthan Aatam, Oyilattam, Bommalattam,
Nattuva Meala Kaavadi and Anumanattam
Scholars in Thamil
School children garbed
in different costumes depicted scholars in Tamil which included Thiruvalluvar,
Avvaiyaaar, Kambar, Bharathi, Somasundara Pulavar, Vipulanandar, Arumuga
Naavalar, Siddique Lebbe, Gnanaparagasar, K.Kailasapathy, S.Vithiyananthan,
Bandara Vanniyan, Sinnathambu Pulavar,Vivekanandar, BNharathidasan, Sankili,
Veerama Munivar and Umaru Pulavar.
Back in the main hall,
Nallur Pichaiappa Raju provided Nagaswaram music with percussion accompaniment.
Traditional Theatre songs were sung by Paramparai Meampattu Kalagam and
a dance performance titled ' Seetha Apakaranam' was performed by Urumpirai
Kalaikovil Aadat Kalaiatangam.
A video presentation on
some parts of the life and career of Prof.K.Sivathamby via interviews was
also shown. Regrettably what I have said of him, though videoed was conveniently
deleted for reasons known to the producer of the video on behalf of the
NE Province's cultural department.
As for my pleasure, I enjoyed
the musical rendering of east and west orchestration by S.Kannan and his
orchestra. The synthetic fusion of east and west came out well particularly
in interpreting Mozart 40.
Another noteworthy and
innovative performance was on the previous Sunday, October 10. It was called
' Koothu Layam ' and presented by fine arts students of the eastern university
in Mattakalappu and Kannankudah Matapuvalik Koothu Kalaignarkal (Traditional
theatre Artistes). I shall write about separately when I write about Prof.
S.Maunaguru, who is trying to form an indigenous Lankan Dance Ensemble
There was another item
called Guru Bakthi in the style of Thaala Layam performed by Vasavilan
Maha Vidyalayam students. It was a story narrated
by verse and singing -
a satire. I tremendously liked the effective expression in the performance
of the tall girl who played the role of the mother. Such talent is rarely
found in Colombo. S.Kumarasamy, lecturer in music at Koappai Training College
gave a classical music recital singing the Thamil pathams instead of thecustomary
Telugu Kerthanais, which I appreciatred.
There was also a dance
item by Kokuvil Kala Bhavanam under the direction of Shanthini Sivanesan.
And finally there was a Vadamodi style of a folk
play by Vaddukoadai Naatu
Koothu Abiviruthik Kulu (Folk Play Development Group)
Then on the first day,
October 09, I could see only a few items in the entertainment segment as
I arrived late that day in Yaalpanam.
The dance performance by
the students of the fine arts faculty of the University of Yaalpaanam was
exquisite to say the least. I liked it. The Mulliyawela Thamil Vidyalayam
presented Bandara Vanniyan Naatu Koothu with fine rhythm and movements
of the heroic role played by the protagonist against the alien invaders.
They might have been influenced by the direction of Madras Mail, a leading
exponent of Thamil folk play in the country. There were items of Raban
music by Akkaraipattu Muslim artistes, an opera BY Thirumalai Kala Mantram
of Yaalpaanam and a Musical variety presented by the Fine arts faculty
of the YaalpaanamUniversity.
In the mornings of the
three days, papers on various subjects were read. Leading writer Kokila
Mahendran coordinated these discussions and talks,debates, poetry reading
and the like. There was a release of a book called 'Eelathu Matapuvali
Tamil Pulamaiyalarkal (Lankan Traditional Thamil scholars). The speakers
included Professors K.Sivathamby, A.Shanmugathas, S.Maunaguru, Saba Jeyarasa
and Doctors K.Raghuvaran, S.Jebnesan, Manonmani Shanmugathas, S.Yogarasa
and Sembian Selvan,Ramees Abdulla and E. Kumaran.
I must say that I was not
in a mind to assimilate everything that the learned speakers
spoke, but I could gain some information from the speeches. Manonmani Shanmugathas'
analysis the four aspects of the style of writing by Arumuga Naavalar and
Saba Jeyarasa's rendering lucidly his topic was also appreciable.
Despite some inadequacies
in the overall coordination and management of the literary festival due
to factors that were understandable, it was a success because it was held
in Yaalpanam in the first place after a long spell of time And Yaalpanam
is coming out of its shell gradually.