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ʅ 2004 60 -
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K.S.Sivakumaran's columns!
Yaalpaanam in undaunted environs
sustain a cultural expression!

by K.S.Sivakumaran

K.S.SivakumaranAfter 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 dtente. 

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. Emeritus
K.Sivathamby  and 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 awards.


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 in Thamil.

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.

Morning Sessions

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.

Contact: kssivan19@sltnet.lk 

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