Transcreating part of 'Kantha Puranam'
- K S Sivakumaran -
back to the genre of the ancient 'Purana' literature in Thamil, one finds
Kachchiappa Sivachariar's Kanthapuranam holding a prestigious place
particularly among the Thamilians of Yaalpaanam. In fact a scholar from that
region the late Pandithamani Kanapathillai eluded that "Kanthapurana
Kalasaram" (The Culture of Kantha Puranam) is the Culture of the people in the
North. "Kantha" is the Thamil word for the Sanskrit "Skanda" and it refers to
the deity in Kathirkamam (Kataragama) who the Thamilians call Murugan or
Kanthasamy and other names.
To introduce part of the original work in Thamil to readers in English,
particularly the children of Thamilian parents living in foreign climes a
book has been published. These children do not know Thamil as they study the
languages of the west where they live. But if they could read
in English, then they may be able to know something about their language,
religion and culture. To facilitate this task a scholar V
Sivarajasingam transcreated suitably some sections of the original work in
lucid and clear language. The title of the work is "The Divine Exploits
of Skandakumara" and it is published by the Department of Hindu Culture and
Religious Affairs in Colombo. The book was launched last Friday
(May 29, 2009) at the Ramakrishna Seminar Hall in Wellawatta.
Chaired by the Director of the Department Shanthi Navukkarasan, two prominent
scholars - Vidwan Kalabooshanam Vasantha Vaithianathan and
Prof. K Shanmugavel from Thamilnadu - spoke at the launch.
Yours truly was asked to review the book apart from the respected author, M.
Shanmuganatahan also spoke. Departmental officials sang hymns
and presented the programme.
The author V. Sivarajasingam was an Assistant Commissioner of the Official
Languages Department, and visiting English Lecturer in the
University of Yaalpaanam.
What follows is an abridged version of the review presented for the occasion.
The book in English is titled 'The Divine Exploits of Skandakumara' and I
would have liked either Skandakumar or Skandakumaran used instead
of Skandakumara to refer to the Thamil Deity Lord Murugan.
This book is primarily addressed to non-Hindus in all communities in Lanka as
well as the Hindus of all sects. As such, the identity of Skanda
as in Sanskrit or Kanthan in Thamil could have been better related to
Kachiyappar's Kanthapuranam in Thamil.
But this is only a minor observation of mine. However the writer must have had
the Lankan Sinhala community in mind, particularly the
Buddhists when he wrote this book. Of course the sylvan deity Lord Murugan is
enshrined in the southern locality Kathirkaamam also known as
Kataragama. Leaving aside the concern for the nomenclature, let us see what
the book is all about.
The thin volume is really an exposition and elucidation of the quintessence of
Kachiyappar's Kanthapuranam, which all knowledgeable people
know as one of the source books to know more about Saiva Siththantham,
followed by the majority of Lankan Thamilians as well as a great
number of Thamilians elsewhere in the globe, particularly in Thamilnadu.
The Hindus in the North, East and elsewhere in the country consider Lord
Murugan or Kanthan as one of the primary divinities of the Saivaite
Thamilians. The famous Nallur Temple in the North, Mandoor Temple in the East
and Kathirgamam in the deep southwest of the island are
standing testimony of the reverence most of us have for Skanda or Kanthan as
we call in Thamil.
S. Vinaykamoorthy in his foreword to the book also refers to the poetic
quality of the Purana or Kanthap Puranam, besides informing us that
the writer V. Sivarajasingam has "written an interpretation of one section of
the work titled 'Soora Pathman Shashti Vathaipadalam' in 1992 for
the benefit of devotees who recite it during the Kanthar fasting period." As S
V says in his foreword, the writer, V S, has followed the
sequential of the work concerned. I agree with the observation of High Court
Judge R T Vigna Raja's pronouncement that Hindu social
reformers turned to religious texts with different purposes in mind. Some
sought inspiration from them; some simply wanted to highlight the
golden moments in Hindu philosophy, but the author of this book wanted to
bring to light the nuances of Puranic thoughts". The author of this
book V Sivarajasingam intended: "The work by Kachiyappar is better termed a
transmogrification rather than translation, for he has made many
changes structurally and substantially. Kanthapuranam among many other things
speaks predominantly of the glory, grace and prowess of
At this point I suggest to the author that instead of using
'transmogrification', he could have used a now accepted term 'transcreation'
that are inspired by some text but creatively interpreted as Kambar's
Ramayanam from Vaalmiki's Ramayana.
I agree with the writer as many of us would endorse, when he says that
"Kanthapuranam has poetic excellence, depth of knowledge, beauty of
language and above all the depiction of divine grace of Lord Skantha and of
God's ways of effusing it to those who seek it."
Quoting Sivarajasingam's Prolegomenon as it underlines the essence of the
original work and the author's own interpretation: "Though it is
preeminently considered a religious 'epic' ('epic' because an epic largely
belongs to another genre) it deals with all kinds of thoughts,
philosophical and metaphysical concepts necessary for spiritual and material
lives. It deals with the four cardinal values of dharma, Artha, Kaama
and Moksha (Virtue, pleasure and salvation) and expounds ways and means of
Lord Siva's grace
Next is the author's other points: "It upholds the greatness of Saiva Saints
and devotees and the profuseness of Lord Siva's grace." The book
is interspersed with hymn - like verses that are suitable for reciting during
daily prayers." In Kasipa Muni's sermon to his sons are
encapsulated the tenets of Saiva Sithantha. "Maya's advice to her son-
Surapathman- has its base in Charavaka philosophy. In this manner the
book abounds with information pertaining to every aspect of life, knowledge
Having seen what the theme of the book is from an authentic voice, we shall
next see briefly what attracted me most. In arranging the content
structurally, the author has divided the book into the following Cantos or
'chapters'. There are six cantos in the 118 page book. The book
begins with Siva and Uma on Mount Kailas and ends when Skanda weds Valliamma.
The six cantos
Admittedly I need not comment on each of the items in the six cantos, because
the book is for your reading pleasure. But I shall comment on
the author's presentation and quote a relevant passage which pleased me.
Before I do that, I should substantiate my understanding that the writer
Sivarajasingam is not only a scholar in his field but also an admirable
translator from Thamil to English.
Adoration to Vinayaga
Adoration to the holy feet
of the lord
With ten arms and
Adoration to him
in whose waist band
The sun-god rests
as diamond stand
Adoration to him
who bears the name
Obeisance to Subramania
Obeisance to the twice
three faces of Kumara
Obeisance to the
from the six faces
Obeisance to the showers
held in admiration by all
Obeisance to the shying
spear resting in his hand
Obeisance to the Lord
residing at Kanchmango
Obeisance to the
cock banner and
Let me conclude that Sivarajasingam has done a good job in giving us in
English the beautiful poetic prose of Kaachiapar Sivachariar in a simple but
highly polished and equally poetic language and he deserves to be
congratulated. I shall read out the first passage only to invite your
attention to his flowing and flowery language.
"Mount Kailas stands majestically- aloft licking the sky with its snow capped
peaks. It is the abode of Siva the omnipotent Lord. It abounds with
innumerable Rishis and Devas. Around it are the cities of Indira and other
regents of the spheres"
The style is suitably in tune with the serenity of the tone of the passage.
The book is recommended for all who want to know about Thamil Literature and