Criticisms on PS
  • All

    I was reading a collection of stories from 'Kanaiyazhi'. This book
    takes some fine stories from the first 10 years of Kanaiyazhi (1964-
    74) and the selection is by Asokamitran.
    There is a very funny, satirical take on Kalki, Sandilyan's style
    of writing called 'Mazha naatu magudam' by Nagupoleon. Apparently
    this is his only story. The story is two episodes (Episode 300 and
    301) of a long running historical ovel in a weekly and a piece of
    the writers letter apologizing for the late turnover of the
    episodes. But it is hilarious and it got me into thinking about the
    literary criticisms levelled at PS.
    Although when I read PS in eighth standard I was enamoured by the
    romanticness of it, I actually moved away from it during my college
    days(I studied in GCE, Tirunelvely).
    For what reasons? because it is a romantic novel and reading it
    doesnt alter one thing in your soul. Ofcourse, there are those of us
    who got interested in their history but I think the percentage is
    much lower . But being a romantic novel, there is no point in
    looking for things to improve upon the soul also. I dont read,
    say, 'Three musketeers' to get any insight. If I want to do that I
    will be reading a Balzac or Hugo. Similarly, you read PS for the
    sheer joy or it and if I want to read to improve upon the soul, I
    will be reading a 'Moga mull' or a 'Nizhal mutram'.
    One book I read page by page for about a month with lots of
    thinking is 'JJ sila kurippugal' I still remember the mocking words
    by JJ to the protoganist in the first part of the novel 'Sivagami
    ammal than sabathathai niraivetri vittala?' This scathing remark
    criticizes romanicism at its extreme and questioning the escapism in

    The point here is not to throw mud on PS. You can simply call this
    between any romantic novel vs a much realistic one. I chose to call
    it PS because this a PS group. My question is this

    What, if any, is the literary value of PS/SS?

    Muthu Prakash R
  • Hi,

    The criticism that Kali's writings and historical romances are escapist fares are nothing new. They are age-old. But my point is who are guys like asokamitran to decide on the literary status of a novel. It's upto the readers to decide on this. And talking of Moha Mull, I have tried to read it any no of times but was unable to go beyond page two. What do you have to say about this. All I, and many readers for that matter, look forward to is an interesting story, well-told. Criticisms can go to hell, for all I care!

  • My question is this

    > What, if any, is the literary value of PS/SS?

    Hi Muthu
    you do raise thought provoking quesions.

    I think first you ought to define what a piece of literature is.
    if only the works of salman rushdie and vikram seth are considered
    literature what about "twinkle twinkle little star."
    in fact it is read by more people, remembered longer and has a much
    more impact on us.{how bad we felt when humpty dumpty couldnt be put
    together again, or when jack( of jill fame) broke his crown.}
    in a movie we are shown scenarios visually and thats why either most
    people like it or most people dont like it.
    very little left for the movie goer to visualise in his mind.
    but definitely - a piece of literature will not be judged alike by 2
    people. i think it stirs some emotions deep down in the heart for
    some and it doesnt for others. that would evoke differing reactions
    and different visualisations.
    most successful writers like archer have traced that success formula.
    if you read archers twist in the tale or quiver full of arrows we
    would definitely see something in common with us. the same formula
    was used by r.k narayan. a mischievous boy, a nagging wife, etc.

    satires are rib tickling. dont we see satires on the most succesful
    movies ever coming on television. of course we have enjoyed the
    movies and now enjoy the satires too. its the creativity behind both
    that appeals to us.

  • I had the same thing when I read Oru Puliyamarathinn Kadhai. I have heard
    thats the best book ever written. I read three fouth of that book, but
    couldn't appreciate why it is known as the best book ever written. Probably
    I am not in the same plane of connoisseurs

    ~ Udanx
  • One of the easiest way out to read romantic fare is to dub everyone
    else as connoisseurs/elitist. Probably thats because of a inferior
    feeling assciated with it or guilty pleasure associated with the
    reading itself.

    "Who is Asokamithran?" - Probably you didnt read my mail clearly. He
    just chose the stories to be published. May be you should be
    asking "Who is Nagupoleon?" because no one actually know where this
    guy is. And FYI, Asokamithran has written some real good novels
    depicting life as it was lived and is considered one of the great
    novelists of our time. Not knowing him is one thing, abusing him
    actually shows ignorance.

    Again, I dont want this to degenerate into a personal duel. If you
    cannot read past two pages of 'Oru puliyamarathin Kathai' or 'Moga
    mull', that is understandable but that does not anyway depletes the
    place of that novel in contemperory literature.

    By that scale, my wife never read past a few episodes in PS but has
    read 'Paradise lost' completely (which I find it difficult to read
    even the title page). Thus, 'easier to read' criteria does not make
    anything great or add any literary value.

    Also the argument that it is likes by more people does not hold
    good. We elect guys whom most people vote for and look at our
    assembly and parliament to see what we get.

    Coming back to Venkatesh's point that we need to define what
    literature is, I would think any good literature to record life as
    it is lived and should let you think beyond the reading. Ofcourse,
    this is one person's view. What say you?

    The question still holds, What, if any, is the literary value of

    Do answer the question without going into rage against Asokamithran,
    Moga Mull, Oru puliyamarathin Kathai etc.

    Muthu Prakash R
  • hi sirs,

    to anyone who has read kalki's works - the first thing you realise,
    is that you are transported into the respective era. you live the
    novel - the characters appear in life and blood to you. that is the
    foremost achievement of his works - not too many writers can do
    that, that too in todays age of multiple tv channels and dime a
    dozen movies released everyday - the fact that ss and ps still hold
    their own.

    the second most important thing - is the amount of work and
    background research that has gone into the historic fiction ( i dont
    think you can straight away classify ps as a romance to some
    extent) - to think of a novel written from the remanents of three
    culverts - and to spin a web that had ( and is still is) capturing
    the awe of audiences is proof to the genius behind and in these

    lastly, the depth of characterisation - be it the historic
    characters or the fictional ones - Kalki's portrayal of each and
    every character - developing a mental sketch of each of them is the
    crowning glory. no too people are alike, men /women are not
    glorified into being super humans - they are shown in life and
    blood, with emotions, temper /tantrums - some women are shown to be
    calm, while some others are shown as wild spirits.

    if you poll in this site - how many people picked up ps or ss and
    finished it without a break when compared to other works is but
    enough proof.
  • Hi
    one man's wine is another's poison

    the main reason kalki quit the employment under thiru vika was
    because as his biographer sunda said " couldnt cope with his karadu
    muradaana language'

    imagine a sub editor whose whole time job is to edit language he
    feels is too high sounding and complicated like thiru vika's

    this does not undermine the literary genius of thiru vka. but it was
    not kalki's cup of tea.
    kalki wanted to write like a common man for the common man.
    I think the literary value of ps and ss was that it proved that tamil
    was a language for the common man too.( perhaps his experience in
    Thiru vika's employ made kalki make the flow as simple as possible)

    I wonder how translators feel when they translate ps and ss . Could
    Pavithra share with us how she felt about the language part of it
    when she took ss head on.

  • Hi,

    I know whom is Asokamitran and have read his novel "pathittavadu atchakkodu" too. I am not questioning his literary standing in Tamil, but only his view that Kalki's writings are escapist. Like Venkatesh said someone's poison is another's manna from heaven.
  • In a preface to one of his novels, Sandilyan wrote "
    what literature is will be decided by future
    generations, for now let us help make books."

    How true!
  • In a preface to one of his novels, Sandilyan wrote "
    what literature is will be decided by future
    generations, for now let us help make books."

    How true!

    True said. Kalki's writings were targeted for a common reader.
  • Read this somewhere

    "A Classic is something which everyone adores but no one reads"

    So if anything is difficult to read, its branded as a classic and
    moved to the library for archival purpose. :)
  • The important question that is being raised again is whether
    literature should serve any purpose. The school is divided here.
    There are those who think literature should serve to lift your soul
    and others who think it should do nothing of that sort.
    I agree that Kalki's characterizations and narrative style are
    exemplary. But what is being served is escapist fare which helps to
    refocus your thoughts to a fictional world which has no relevance to
    the life you live. I am not saying this is bad. This is true from
    the Count of Monte Cristo to LOTR to the Harry potter novels of
    today. They succeed in lifting you to a world which is magical and
    but has little relevance to you or your life.
    The question is not about Kalki's skills as a writer. He has proved
    it to a large extent and his social commitment is well-known.
    When I read 'Crime and Punishment' I was able to connect directly
    with the trails of the protoganist and was able to look life as it
    will be lived in a vice-ridden world. It affects the inner workings
    of your heart to such an extent that you change a little bit inside
    having read it. While the joy of reading PS is not questionable,
    there is no way it can change the inner workings of the soul.
    This is because PS is written primarily as a escapist fare. The
    entire story premise is simple and can be written as a short story.
    Moreover, the writing is formulaic (I believe Sujatha
    wrote 'kanthalur vasanthakumaran kathai' more as a satire on the
    workings of Sandilyan/Kalki than as a story). You have a social-
    climber hero, a half-mad prince/king, a bit complicated heroine (who
    swoons on seeing the hero), a villainess who also falls for the
    hero, some medieval comic element(preferably a saivite/vaishnavite)
    and some inscription as base. Mix these in different proportions you
    get 99% of all the stories in the history novel portfolio.
    The formula is the reason why these novels are churned out in a
    larger rate than the 'classics' as they are derisively called.
    The 'classics' are difficult because they are unique life
    experiences and cannot be repeated. Take Asokamithran.
    Read 'Pathinettavathu Atchakodu', 'Kanavu
    Thozhirchalai', 'Manasarovar', 'Agaya Thamarai', 'Thaneer' etc. Each
    is a unique experience and cannot be repeated. While there is no
    comparison between Asokamithran and Kalki, the literary worthiness
    of the former is much higher than the later. I consider 'Thyaga
    boomi' and 'Alai Osai' on a higher plane than PS for exactly the
    same reason.

    Muthu Prakash R
  • Hi
    literature like costume and cuisine will not have the same effect on
    different people.

    when we encounter literature not to our taste some choose to ignore
    it and some calling it decandent literature take the law into their
    hands along with a flaming torch.

    the destruction of the Library of Alexandria, the Burning of books
    and burying of scholars under China's Qin Dynasty, the destruction of
    Mayan codices by Spanish invaders, and in more recent times the book
    burnings by the Nazis.

    The Ray Bradbury novel Fahrenheit 451 is about a fictional future
    society that has institutionalized book burning. In Orwell's Nineteen
    Eighty-Four, the euphemistically-called "memory hole" is used to burn
    any book or written text which is inconvenient to the regime, and
    there is mention of "the total destruction of all books published
    before 1960".

  • to me, before i read PS, the greatest king in india was Asoka, the
    greatest act an indian king did was kalinga war, his greatest
    contribution to the kingdom was planting trees... jainism was from
    distant northindia followed by a few white clad monks wearning face
    masks, or yearly rituals to a huge naked statue of sravanabelagola,
    srilanka was a battle torn wilderness ( ok ten years ago i would
    look forward to the lux soaps n body spray bought by visitors from

    PS opened my eyes to the greatness that has been forgotten ( or
    bulldozed) by north indian versions of indian history compulsorily
    infused into our school dwell deeper and realise the
    real greatness - lets call it true fame..meikirti. before that south
    indian kings were shivaji, gemini ganesh, mgr wearing grandeose
    costumes, buxom queens ...- singing songs around flower beds in the
    nandavanams/andahpurams, some sword fighting holding the heroine in
    one hand ( enjoyed it though) - some poor kavalali shouting raja thi
    raja, raja marthanda...

    to look at tanjore big temple, mahabalipuram in new light - not just
    taking an occasional visitor on a sightseeing trip - gawking at all
    the white skins there ` appreciating the stone work" a days
    its more a spiritual feeling, its no longer just stone or a statue.
    each one has a story to tell.

    when you read of the conquests of these kings 1000 years ago and
    finding proofs of their conquests in far away be able to
    administer their vast country, to be just, to be loved by their
    subjects, to be ferocious in battle, to wage war across the seas...i
    can roll back my eyes and hear the battle cries of chozam chozam and
    payum vengai kodi bearing troops capturing forts in distant lanka,
    malaysia and indonesia - victoriously proclaiming to the world the
    greatness of the tamilnadu.

    i would give an arm and a leg to have chola/pandya history to be
    more correctly portrayed in our primary and secondary educational
    material than just a passing mention. i would love my son ( he is
    just learning to read and write) to read PS and understand the
    greatness of the land he hails from.

  • Yeah, You are absoulately correct. Atleast from now on, children od TN must read about our great Kings. TN government must take some actions to acheive the feet.
  • Hi

    Although I have been lurking here for a while, I havent participated directly in the discussions here. Its probably because I have a lot to say as well. The below post by Vijay Kumar has propelled me to take the first step and hopefully time permitting, I look forward to regular contributions.

    First of all, I cant read or write Tamil well and I was introduced to PS through the excellent english translation by C.V Karthik Narayanan. I have been reading a lot of English fiction from say my 8th standard till now (Im 40!). I am generally attracted to Historical fiction but my ultimate writing and sense of life will be the works of Ayn Rand.

    I studied in a CBSE school and there would not have been more than a page or 2 about the South Indian Kings. It is such a terrible state of affairs that the only Indian kings who ruled kingdoms across the seas is hardly known in present day India. What has caused this? I think we have to take the blame ourselves for it.

    Even the great Ashoka who ruled most of India did not rule the Tamil kingdoms.After the British, we just let us be dominated by others mostly due to the absence of good leaders. This continues to this date so much so that a society is completely corrupted.

    Is there a hope for revival? Countries and nation states are fluid. Every century throws up new challenges and structures. We have to start by knowing and believing in our ancestry and building credible societies that have pride and dignity.

    More later
  • I think literature should exist in all forms. It will be difficult to compare say Ayn Rand's Fountain Head or Atlas Shrugged with for instance the works of Kalki but then again I feel both present the same sense of life.

    Kalki has in very simple words created a beautiful sense of life, portrayed the period in a simple yet eloquent way and as a result has given these unique characters in our history a new life and 'due' that they truly deserve.

    I feel his work is absolutely essential for our society as it is easy and interesting for many to like, as well as, get the greater picture. I think we really need the greater picture in today's world.
  • Thank you.

    I feel that it is absolutely essential to have the works of all similar authors of Tamil historical fiction to be translated to English. This is crucial to show the world, what we can call, our treasures and our unique history.

    PS and Cilapathikaram are excellent translations. These translators should be commended a lot for their efforts and hopefully this should inspire them to translate more works. Parthiban Kanavu has a good translation as well. Can anyone tell me of available translations of all other works of Tamil Historical fiction.
  • Hi all,

    I am truly amazed by Mr Sandeep's posting. Is it true that even in South India the South Indian history is dismissed in just two pages.

    I thought it's the situation only in north, west and east of the country. Why didn't anyone, from the south who is an academic/scholar in Indian history, try and correct this inequality or even injustice? As far as I am concerned I have read mostly about Indus valley civilisation, Alexander the Great's forays, Gupta and Maurya periods, Mughal period including Shivaji, the British period and the fight for independence. The most detailed study concerning SI kings was about the Vijayanagar empire in the 15th century AD.

    The Pallavas used to be dismissed in two paras and as far as I can remember there was next to nothing about the Cholas, let alone Raja Raja and Rajendra! That's the reason I was quite suprised to learn through this forum that Rajendra and Mohd of Gazni were contemporaries! And their paths could have crossed had Rajendra shifted his attention westwards from the Gangetic plains instead of going straight on the East coast.

    And I also never knew from the history lessons in school that he had defeated the Palas of Bengal. For that matter I have hardly learned anything in detail about the kingdoms of Bengal, Orissa, Karnataka or even Gujarat except that Gazni had plundered Somnath with repeated raids. Maharashtra escaped only because it produced a warrior like Shivaji and the long line of the Peshwas. I had not learned of even the kings who
    had built the magnificent temples in Kajuraho.

    And strangely I never learned in school that Malik Kafur had come deep down into South and attacked Madurai. Why, I did not know the name of Kafur till much later in life.

    Perhaps had I taken history in college I might have studied these in some more detail, but school is the place where the entire Indian history, and not only of Bihar, UP, Delhi and Punjab, should be taught. No wonder the northerners know so little about SI languages and culture! What a shame!

    What about the Dravidian parties who shout from the roof-tops about their love for Tamil and Tamil culture? They have done precious little to correct this serious anamoly.

    In fact only through PS did I learn a bit about the later Chola history and through SS some part of Pallava period. We need to salute Kalki for the yeoman service he has done to open the eyes of at least some readers of historical romances (dismissed as escapist fare by some people) about the achievements of some Tamil kings!

  • hi happy to see the post has touched a few chords and evoked a string
    of stirring responses. On one side english translations are wanted to
    give a global reach for these works, but then its not often that you
    can get the essense of tamil completely into another language. maybe
    we should also look at the great work put in by the podcasters - i did
    listen to SS by sashi vaidyanathan

    Its quite easy to do this, ( though the reach is only to the tamil
    population - you do reach the fringes where they understand tamil but
    do not know how to read....) - podcasting is much easier than
    translating and you could do it at leisure - one chapter at a time and
    keep the interest alive...all you need is a computer with some basic
    mike/speakers and a decent internet connection. the audience can
    download these and listen via mp3 players, mobile phones instead of
    drab ear jarring tunes of today..

    Maybe, it would be easier for teachers to play these mp3 tapes to
    their students and make them learn tamil faster....proper tamil not
    the anglicised versions of today....or madras tamil.
  • its true - ask anybody to give you a list of great kings of india

    chandragupta maurya
    shivaji ( now maybe he will be in top of the count down thanks to
    akbar !!!
    prithivraj chauhan
    Jansi rani laxmi bai

    thanks to the convoluted versions of indian history ( i have seen
    some posts which attribute these to romila tappar!!!), the works of
    these great chola/pandya/pallava kings despite raising edifices in
    stone which have stood the test of time - never find mention -
    except in travellogues /guide books targeted at the firangi crowd
    who spend millions to come and appreciate these, whereas we go to
    these places for different reasons ( say mahabs to any chennaite
    and his eyes light up for all the wrong reasons)

    Its but ironical that the very people in power ( since 1967 only
    regional parties have held power) who epitomise tamil culture cannot
    do anything ( even to bring back the archives from mysore ) - let
    alone the volumes which are in private collections of art buffs in
    europe and america - these kings had the fortitude to leave behind
    documented proofs of their conquests etched into stone n leaf - and
    they too have done their duty by carrying their message to this day -
    but they sit alone in dusty rooms of archives/museums/art
    collectors attics - silently mocking at us.....we are truely kan
    irunthum kurudargal.

  • Really an eye opening mail. Can something be done about this?
  • I think this thread has had its run and now the topic is completely
    off from what was intended.

    Can we close this thread?

    Muthu Prakash R
  • Can those estempages last for such a long time? Wont
    they get faded/crumbled?

    Why cant we do something about things in our own
    control ?

    Here is a open challenge:

    I will sponsor printing of a previously unpublished
    palm leaf book, if the contents are proven to be from
    the cankam era and validated by Tamil scholars from
    our universities.

    Anyone having access to such a palm leaf book, give me
    a call anytime.
  • repeating an old post:

    South Indian palm-leaves used for writing are of
    two types, a thin papery leaf ("talipot") that can,
    in optimal conditions, be preserved for centuries
    (some Nepalese manuscripts of this type survive
    from the ninth century), and a thicker, stiffer,
    usually smaller leaf found in the South and of
    which we are aware of no surviving examples
    more than three centuries old.

    Further closer to home, read about how difficult the job is, even
    for trained professionals

    check out this link

    a 950 year old yet-to-be-published palm-leaf translation - that has
    been put on project madurai directly!!!!
    if my memory serves right, my uncle mentioned that mr na ganesan is
    a philosophy scholar in taiwan. also read his foot note - some 3000
    palm leaf manuscripts are there in various private collections in
    europe - sure they are being kept there just like the ones in
    mysore - waiting for the next RRC to come along.

  • Thanks VJ. I'm pre-occupied for the next 3 years with
    my current job responsibility and have very little
    time to run around / follow up with people. If
    somebody already has access to the right content, I
    can facilitate that to get published.

    Once I'm done with the major tasks in my current job,
    I will be stepping down and take a low profile job.
    That will enable me to run around!!!
  • The most important works in this are - collection of the material,
    preserving them as such and archieving via some medium, translating
    them and converting them to current text. The task is enormous and a
    lot of people /univ/institutions have tried/are trying this, they
    have the infrastructure to do the tasks exceptfor the first. this is
    where groups like us can contribute.

    to collect /spread awareness - as of now the bulk of the palm leaf
    scripts are stuck in govt archives ( inside india), art collectors
    and museums ( in europe), private collections ( both in india and
    the problems is that some of the collectors do not know what they
    are holding. meaning they know that its an old manuscript, but do
    not have any way of knowing what they hold

    (7th C pallava script etc), / PUT IT INTO A PDF FILE AND HOST IT ON
    to asssist in atleast co ordinating in obtaining a copy.

    We also need to tie up with a institute/organisation who can then
    take over the rest of the work. Publishing them is the last task and
    am sure once the other tasks are done, getting these works of great
    literary value to be published cab ne easily acomplished.
  • > to collect /spread awareness - as of now the bulk of the palm
    > scripts are stuck in govt archives ( inside india), art collectors
    > and museums ( in europe), private collections ( both in india and
    > abroad)-

    Workshop organized by IIAS. Convenor: Saraju Rath

    Our access to ancient Indian texts, many of which have a history of
    more than a millennium, is based on manuscripts whose lifespan is
    efforts have been made to collect, store and preserve the
    manuscripts in libraries inside and outside India[1]. In the second
    half of the 18th century, a few British officers such as Sir William
    Jones (1746-1794), Sir Robert Chambers (1774-1779), Colin Mackenzie
    (1782 - 1806) took a deep interest in Indian culture. They tried to
    get acquainted with the Sanskrit language and literature, and
    started collecting inscriptions, epigraphs, and manuscripts
    privately. An institution named as "The Asiatic Society of Bengal"
    was established in 1781 with as one of its aims the collection and
    preservation of valuable manuscripts, a huge number of which was
    lying in the houses of scholars, in schools and pâøhaåâlâs, in
    religious maøhs, monasteries, chaityas, temples, palace and village
    libraries in Bengal and different parts of India. Later on, in the
    latter half of the 19th century, the then Government of India took
    an active part and allocated funds for the collection of
    manuscripts. Scholars such as G. Bühler, A.C. Burnell, R.G.
    Bhandarkar, R.L. Mitra, F. Kielhorn, G. Oppert, G.B. Malleson and
    few others were deputed to tour in different provinces of India in
    search of manuscripts, to make a list of the available ones and to
    purchase the more important of them. Since then the mission of the
    collection, preservation, and cataloguing of manuscripts, and the
    preparation of critical editions of important texts conserved in
    them, is going on in and outside India by scholars world wide with
    an interest to protect and study this rich cultural heritage.

    To get a better understanding of the ancient texts these manuscripts
    contain, it is important to know the history and pedigree of the
    manuscripts and of the collections to which they belong. In South
    India, manuscripts were till relatively recently produced and
    preserved according to ancient procedures and on traditional
    materials, namely palm leaf. Moreover, in South India a large number
    of regional scripts have remained in use for writing Sanskrit texts.
    A detailed knowledge of these scripts and their mutual stylistic
    influence is of primary importance for the attribution of a date and
    place of origin to the manuscripts.

    The aim of the seminar is to study the production, distribution and
    collection of Sanskrit manuscripts in ancient South India in order
    to get a better picture of the history of currently available
    manuscripts such as those in the enormous collections of the
    Sarasvati Mahal library in Tanjavur (containing the collections of
    Maharaj Serfoji, Jambhunâth Bhaøøa, Kagalkar and Patanga Avadhuta
    families of Tanjore and many others[2]), of the Adyar Library and
    the Government Oriental Manuscripts library in Chennai (containing
    the vast collections of Colonel Mackenzie[3], Dr. Leyden and Mr. C.
    P. Brown), but also those in collections outside India, for
    instance, the Van Manen collection of palm leaf manuscripts of the
    Kern Institute, Leiden.
  • Do you know anyone that has the list of such
    collectors ?

    We can hire students to follow up and persuade the
    collectors to grant permission to make a scan of the
    palm leaft text.

Howdy, Stranger!

It looks like you're new here. If you want to get involved, click one of these buttons!

Top Posters