CHENNAI: Another ‘Deepavali’ and the newsstands flaunt an array of special issues by leading Tamil publications, offering a rich miscellany of chronicles and reflections on Tamil society, its mores, traditions, spiritual splendour, art, literature and of course last but not least, politics and cinema.
Each ‘Deepavali Malar’ can be seen as a ‘cultural diary’ of the year gone by, besides picturing themes, motifs and personalities who transcend the finitude of time. The special issues brought out on the eve of the festival of lights in October/Novemnber every year, unfold to inform, entertain and enlighten Tamil readership, a mirror of the times, with scores of eye-catching photographs.
The ‘Deepavali Malars’ of publications like ‘Ananda Vikatan’, ‘Kalki’, are widely known, even as there are at least a dozen other Tamil publications including literary and spiritual magazines like ‘Amudha Surabhi’, ‘Gopura Darshinam’ and the ones from leading Tamil Newspapers, showing readers the slow but evolving world of the ‘Republic of Tamil letters’, so to say. Issues also related to health, environment, lifestyle, unusual newsmakers to cookery, between the various publications, nothing is left uncovered.
As usual, ‘Kalki Deepavali Malar’ has a mix of the old and new. Rajaji’s essay ‘vimarsanam’ (broadly literary criticism) written for the magazine in September 1943 has been beautifully reproduced to underscore its contemporary relevance, even as it has featured the reflections and reportage of leading Tamil writers like Indira Parthasarathy, short stories including from Amarar Kalki, and a piece of science fiction too with robotics being the flavour of the day. The special interviews with the veteran Tamil writer and Sahitya Akademy award winner Ponneelan, and with the veteran Communist leader R Nallakannu who is active with tremendous clarity at an amazing 94, add value to this volume. A short story by Maalan, a focus on women warriors and famous queens in history, are a plus.
A convergence point for several of the Deepavali Malars this year is how they have weaved in the ‘Athi Varadar Darshan’ in Kancheepuram, even if in the form of a classic picture, and recollections/reflective pieces on aspects of Mahatma Gandhi’s life, 2019 being the year of celebrations of his 150th birth anniversary.
‘Amudhasurabhi’, edited by the well known Tamil writer Tirupur Krishnan, has a fascinating range of the literary, religious, historical and the contemporary.
His pithy editorial reminds us of the need to reaffirm India as a ‘unity in diversity’.
Interestingly, indicative of the PMK’s new fondness for the BJP, Dr S Ramadoss, founder-leader of the PMK has written a piece on global warming in this volume, even as veteran BJP leader Ila Ganesan reminds us of the importance of the ‘appointed hour’ in the Hindu order of things.
True to his subtle, polished style and well versed in the great nationalist Tamil poet, Subramanya Bharathi, Mr. Ila Ganesan finds the notion of Indian punctuality a ‘bad word’, as ‘Kuritha Neram (the appointed hour)’ has a different connotation.
He rounds off with a gentle, political reminder of how India’s destiny would have been different if only VVS Iyer had kept time to meet the Hindutva ideologue, Veer Savarkar, who tried to escape jumping off a ship when the British masters deported him to Andamans from Great Britain! “Sila Nimidangal Tamadham Tavirthu Irundhaal, Desathin Thalaividhiye Maari Irukkum,” writes Ila Ganesan.
But ‘Amudhasurabhi’s this year’s offerings has more, divining into the depths of Indian spiritualism, from Sri Ramakrishna, Swami Vivekananda to our own Cuddalore Vallalar, Ramalinga Swamigal. Classical music, particularly Tamil music, interesting pilgrimage centres and temples, modern Tamil literary movements like P Lakshmanan recalling how the forum 'Ilakkiya Sindhanai' was formed in Chennai in 1970, a project whose moving force was Congress leader P Chidambaram. Thus Tirupur Krishnan gives the reader an entire panorama of all segments of Tamils life-world, made readable with snippets and boxes, Crazy Mohan not excluded.
The ‘Gopura Darshanam’ special number this Deepavali, has naturally more of the religious and the spiritual, but also has some very fascinating pieces on Namakkal Kavignar V Ramalingam Pillai and his passion for developing the Congress part in Karur area during his times, Cuba’s ‘dream hero’ Fidel Castro, on Kannada writer Masti Venkatesha Iyengar, Subrahmanya Bharathi and scientific outlook, the Bharatnatyam genius Balasaraswathi, and a down memory lane piece on Kavignar Muthulingam, who was so much behind MGR’s success in the movie world, with rare pictures.
For the general reader, there is a very informative piece on the great Vaishnavite Acharya Sri Ramanuja’s most arduous journey he undertook to Kashmir to view the original palm-leaf manuscript kept at the Sarada Peetam there, along with few devotees like Koorathaazhvaar, on Bodhayana’s ‘Brahma Sutras’, which contains the essence of the Vedanta philosophy. Sri Ramanuja's 'Guru' wanted him to write a commentary on that and hence he made that journey.
The travails of that miraculous tour, walking the entire distance from the south and returning to Srirangam to write the ‘Sribhasyam’ (Ramanuja’s commentary on the ‘Brahma Sutras’ which refutes the ‘erroneous’ Shankarite position) forms the rest of the story, even if the author’s political aside on the Narendra Modi government’s recent moves on Kashmir is typical romanticism.
On the whole, the ‘Deepavali Malars’ continue to make very interesting reading....