Gita Hariharan is moved by Priyadarshini’s bharathanatyam performance on Silappadikaram. Hence she writes about this Illangovaidgal epic. Silappadikaram is one of the five epics of tamil(name the other 4 ?) and is clearly a poetic masterpiece, considering the story, the characterization, the magical charm of tamil usuage(thera manna seppuva thudaiyen) and ofcourse the genius of Illangovadigal.
Though the column starts a rehash of the the epic, goes on the compare the practicality of the epic to derive storyline from the commoners and how it clearly stands out as a true epic just like Ramayana and Mahabharatha. This is a superbly written column, that reminds of how Kannagi was made into merely a goddess of chastity by the hypocrites. Mr. Illango would be upset now for his protagonist Kannagi is now used a weapon to wage political wars.
From the column, Another Epic, Another India –
The route of the Silappadikaram does not take us to the usual epic battlefield where power struggles are played out. It considers, instead, some other important businesses of life — not only trade and commerce, but also the practice of music and dance. A good life, a civilized life, is not just a matter of honour. It is also a matter of putting together several less exalted ingredients — from prosperous trade and good sewage in the city to excellence in the arts and harmony among different religious communities.
In contrast, Kannagi uses her just cause to strip herself, not of her clothes, but of something more radical — a part of her body that signifies nurturing womanhood. It is possible then to read Kannagi’s story as a striking down of a “patriarchal-ruled” city; it also reminds us of how a complex story can be reduced, in official memory, to a convenient label — the goddess of chastity.