Tamil Lion

An outstanding historical Tamil novel Tenpantic Cinkam is set in the southernmost parts of Tamil Nadu, wherein a large amount of historical material is expended to make the tale come alive. Dealing with the intricate web of the political and personal saga of two states Pattamankalam and Pakaneri in opposition with each other and commonly, against the growing powers of the British, this narrative relies upon carefully researched historical evidence to weave its absorbing magic of fiction. Located in time immediately after the tragic fall of Virapantiya Kattapomman and the Marutu brothers, this novel can claim to be an exercise in revisionist history, with its elements of patriotism and political revolution.

The hero Valukku Veli after whose ruling attribute the novel is named – the Lion of Southern Panti – dominates the imaginative canvas of one of the most prolific Tamil writers of today. Valukku Veli’s heroism, uprightness and honour etch on the hearts of the readers as deeply as they do on his beloved sister Kalyani's heart. The story of this cultural hero, in fact, revolves around the truth of human bondage, of love, trust and its concomittant betrayal, daring, reverence for motherland, the joys of conquest and the sorrow of defeat in the hands of treachery.

The novelist is the ex-Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, Mr M Karunanidhi, a poet and littérateur of no mean achievement. Indeed, given the sheer volume and weight of his output, makes a compulsive demand on us that he be studied and given his due. Bharathiar University, Coimbatore – named after the nationalist Tamil poet Subramanya Bharathi, who exhorted the Tamils to identify things worthy in their language, and give them unto the world for enjoyment and edification – conceived a project to translate Mr Karunanidhi's extraordinarily rich and varied literary works into English. The publishers are Macmillan India.

In depicting the sociocultural past, Karunanidhi not only retrieves its glory but as a conscientious author of a historical novel, he strikes a balance between history and literature. The shadow of sorrow that admits the loss of greatness and generosity to deceit and greed makes the novel almost a fable that is of contemporary value. Benedetto Croce's conclusion that ‘a sense of the present is the truest characteristic of all living history as opposed to a mere chronicle’ may be truly invoked to describe ‘Tenpantic Cinkam’, an aesthetic marvel of timeless appeal.

Another book in the series is The Flower-garden of Tolkãppiyam the compilation of one hundred selected verses of Tolkappiyam, the pre-Christian Tamil work on linguistics and poetics, reinterpreted, explicated and illustrated in the idiom of contemporary Tamil. The work brings in a variety of interpretive techniques that are informed by M. Karunanidhi's wisdom of the world, scholarly equipment, scientific temperament and his unfailing sense of wit and humour. Running through the text, albeit unobtrusively, are his attempts at propagating his cherished rationalist ideals and principles, as also his passionate feel for and pride in the greatness of the Tamil language and Tamil culture.

This work is a testimony to Karunanidi's grasp of the intricate linguistic and literary theories embodied in Tolkappiyam, some of which seem to mystify many academic scholars. His baring out the misperceptions and fallacies that have crept into the commentaries on Tolkappiyam, his new historicist reading of this ancient work of scholarship in Tamil, and his reader-oriented approach should make this study a valuable non-academic criticism of Tolkappiyam.

ISBN: 9780230639317 and 9780230639348 respectively.