Malayalam literature has evolved from a very age old time. It is a South-Dravidian language spoken in the Indian state of Kerala. The earliest known literary work in Malayalam is the Epic Poem Ramacharithm by Cheeraman in 1198 BC. Various other forms of Malayalam literature also came into being including the Pattu, Manipravalam etcetera. Malayalam novel is also another important part of Malayalam Literature. It began with the Persian Novel translations to Malayalam and Arabi-Malayalam. Later on writers like Chandhu Menon, C V Raman Pillai bought out effective novels speaking from the Kerala background and families. Malayalam novels have passed the Golden Era during the Indian Independence. Modern literary movements in Malayalam literature started in the 19TH Century with the most prominent Triumvirates consisting of Kumaran Ashan, Uloor S Parameshvara Iyer and Valathol Narayana Menon. Malayalam novels gained its peak point during the 20th Century and is now in the hands of contemporary writers like TD Ramakrishnan, Subash Chandran, Khadija Mumtaz etcetera to name a few who work with a post-modern reflection , different from that of the independence and war backgrounds.
T D Ramakrishnan aka Thathamangalam Damodaran Ramakrishnan is an Indian Novelist and the author of two bestselling Malayalam Novels- Francis Itty Cora and Sugandhi Enna Andal Devanayaki. He is a recipient of Kerala Sahithya Akademi Award and Vayalar Award. His literary career starts with the book Alpha, an imaginative island located somewhere near Sri Lanka. Spending most of his time in Tamil Nadu, he is well known for his contribution of Tamil literary characters into Malayalam Novel.
This project deals with T D Ramakrishnan’s Novel Sugandhi Enna Andal Devanayaki, a novel set on the background of Sri Lanka that discusses the death of a Tamil Human Rights activist Dr Rajani Thiranagama. The novel, not just speaks of the death of Dr Rajani Thiranagama, but has a strong relation between the South Indian myths. Moreover T D ‘S strong conviction on fantasy also creates an effective background for the novel. Depiction of various cultures, dynasties and war period is also evident.
The primary concern through this project is to deeply analyse the women characters and the manner in which they are depicted, thus creating a plot for the feministic reading. This project indents to bring out the symbolic representation of how anarchy and war offends and ill-treats women folks particularly representing the status of South Indian women. The study is conducted with the consideration of Sri Lankan background, its people and its culture as a whole. There are various studies that are presented on behalf of this novel Sugandhi Enna Andal Devanayaki. The most prominent are those on the concepts and mixing of myth and memories along with few realities that are carried worldwide. The study of this project is reading the text from the feministic perspective. Feminism is a range of political movements, ideologies and social movements that share a common goal: to define, establish, and achieve political, economic, personal, and social equality of sexes. Feminists have also worked to ensure access to legal abortions and social integration, and to protect women and girls from rape, sexual harassment, and domestic violence.
The project is divided into four chapters. The first is the introduction, giving a basic idea on the aspects of the studies on the novel Sugandhi Enna Andal Devanayaki. The second chapter deals with the detailed introduction of the five important female characters. It also speaks on the peculiarity found in the nomenclature of different characters. Chapter three is on war, feminism and fascism discussed all about the novel. The unbeatable oppressions and their urge to challenge these are taken into the matter of studies. The final chapter is the conclusion with the fact that, it is always women who are the sufferers of any kind of war or disharmony throughout the globe.
Sugandhi, Devanayaki, Dr Rajani Thiranagama
Sugandhi Anna Andal Devanayaki by TD Ramakrishnan deals with a wide variety of themes including the war, womanhood, myths, history, modernism, democracy, pseudo democracy etc. to list a few. But among all these perspectives the most important is the central female characters.
T D portrays three levels of characters or three different eras of characterisation, but sharing many common values and obligations. The novel starts with a detailed description of the Divine Pearl (D. P), a secret Sri Lankan Military Camp- a prison camp built by British colonizers to house hardened criminals. The novel is based around the pre production work of a movie, The Women Behind the Fall of Tigers. Peter Jeevanandham is a script writer who is working hard to find the truth behind the Tamil Tigers and the civil war. But at the same time the Sri Lankan Government aims to whitewash all the atrocities they had done to humanity.
This is a novel that deals with many characters at a same time and the most commonly identified peculiarity is that all these characters are described from various perspectives, particularly from different time span. Each chapter of the novel is narrated not just by the author, but is the narration and view points from that of various people associated directly or indirectly with the central characters. And all the major as well as minor characterizations are intertwined. It portrays strong women characters.
Sugandhi from Iyakkam
We are provided with the life of a Sugandhi from Iyakkam, a freedom fighter revenging against the Sinhalese who had killed her family. In fact this Sugandhi was originally named Andal Devanayaki, born in Colombo and was a Student at the London Film School. Sugandhi is lost throughout the novel, and Peter is genuinely searching for her, as he had loved her. This is the first hand description of one of the character. Sugandhi enters the main plot only in the last part of the novel, where she has become a very strong and stern personality with strict grudge towards the fascist democracy. We find that Sugandhi was the one who had written the story of Devanayaki from the Susaana Supina under the pseudo name of Meenakshi Rajarathinam. In the end of the novel Sugandhi comes back to Sri Lanka as the final chance to destroy the dictatorship and to revenge against those who had bought the ill fate to her life. She sees herself as Andal Devanayaki and says that it is her final chance to attain nirvana from Nissanka Vajran and that she had attained enlightenment when her hands were cut off just like the breasts of Andal Devanayaki was cut down. Handless Sugandhi Alias Devanayaki drove a car herself and burst into fire. She ends up like Andal Devanayaki and flies to the sky with one foot on Sigiriya and the other on Sripada.
And then we are given the life portrayal of Devanayaki. This story is quiet confusing- fictional of factual. The story of Devanayaki is narrated by Meenakshi Rajarathinam of the Karupu website. This piece of work starts in a long millennium time in AD 992 in Kanthalur Salai, which is known for its production of very special liquor called Kantha found only on the Agasthyakoodam forest. Kanthalur had become famous for its manufacturing of weapons and for its prominent martial arts techniques. It was a princely state that is supposed to have extended from the present day Vizhinjam to Trivandrum in Kerala. Periya Koyikkan was Kanthalur army general, a veteran of many wars, had travelled over the world to learn and teach the use of weapons and martial arts. Devanayaki, the heroine of this story is his fourth daughter.
Devanayaki was an extraordinary girl who had intense knowledge on any subject including the Vedas, medicine, politics, astronomy, economics, music, literature, dance and art. There was not a single person in Kanthalur who was not bewitched by Devanayaki’s beauty. It was like that her narrow waist, rounded breast, beautiful wide eyes and long black hair raced towards perfection. She was tall, slim and had the what-complexioned damsels of Kambuja. The story moves on, Mahendravarman, the then ruler of Kanthalur was impressed by her beauty and knowledge and she was made his eighth wife. And later when the nation witnessed a curfew-The Chera-Chola war, the bloodiest of all happened and Mahendravarman lost his power and was hanged to death. Different stories were prophesied on Devanayaki. Some believed that she had certain Divine powers that she vanished in the form of a light with the help of Lord Padmanabha. So she was worshipped as the Goddesses Saraswathi in music, dance and the scriptures.
Another story says that the temple guards assumed that Devanayaki is dead and took away her body in a carriage and discarded it in the forest near Malayam. Later a sage, Thanumalayan was disturbed by her naked body cursed Devanayaki with losing her memory. But Thanumalayan could no longer meditate and they married. After long years the Chola spies found that Thanumalayan’s wife was Devanayaki herself and tried to destroy her but that was in vain.
And the third story on Devanayaki is diametrically opposite. It is said that Chola army and they forced into the Kanthalur fort and found that each wives of Mahendravarman was ending up their lives in a funeral pyre and that Devanayaki was in turn next. But she was dragged away and taken before Mahendravarman and she was brutally raped breaking her chastity belt. And later then she was concluded as a bloodsucking monster called Neeli.
Meenakshi Rajarathinam then speaks on the real later life of Devanayaki. It was after the defeat of Mahendravarman and that Rajaraja Chola conquered Kanthalur, Queen Parvathy and Devanayaki heart fully welcomed the new King to their fort as it was the tradition of the Chera dynasty to accept the new ruler .Rajaraja Chola was impressed by Devanayaki and she was invited to his bedroom. The story then says that she was taken to Thanjavur as Rajaraja Cholas seventh wife ‘Kantha Madeviyar’; she was also asked by the king to teach his army men the lessons of Arthashastra and politics. On the way to Thanjavur they were planning on another war to attack and conquer King Mahinda of Eelamandalam. Devanayaki helped with intellectual ideas and plans that could prove success in the hands of Rajaraja Chola. Another important message was that Devanayaki was impregnated with Rajaraja Chola’s baby. Over a few months Mahinda’s kingdom was annexed, but Mahinda escaped. Rajaraja Chola came back o see his new born daughter and named her Kuveni. Then we find the formation of a revengeful Devanayaki after the missing and murder of her only daughter Kuveni. Out of revenge she had flee from the palace of Rajaraja on her Arab steed .She tries to get into Mahinda’s hide spot “,city of dreams where she plans the way to murder Mahinda. It is believed that Devanayaki gained supreme powers from Nissanka Vajran. Mahinda came to know about Devanayaki’s intention and his sword fell upon her with alighting speed cutting off her breasts. Devanayaki grew big placing one foot on Sigiriya and the next on Sripada. And soon Mahinda’s city of dream was completely destroyed.
Thus all these stories regarding a single person could be concluded as the different versions put forward by people from different geographic terrains or by people from various backgrounds of myths and history and life styles. This shows the interest of the author in creating an environment where the readers again interest in knowing more about a person and this concept of story forming is also common among all the generations of human life and people are always interested in stories that arouse fear. T D not just enlists the stories of Andal, but also makes studies to learn the truth. Before speaking on the real later life of Andal, this project aims to point out certain representation of women according to the South Indian culture believes and practices.
Dr Rajani Thiranagama
The next major character is Dr Rajani Thiranagama, a martyr who lost life in the Iyakkam, who fought without weapons against the violence of Iyakkam, the Sri Lankan military and the Indian Peace Keeping Force. She was a human rights activist who was allegedly gunned down by Tamil Tigers of the Liberation of the Tamil Eelam (LTTE). She was married to Dayapala Thiranagama, a revolutionary. She was working at the Jaffna Medical College. Rajani was an active participant and an activist of the University Teachers for Human Rights in Jaffna University. Rajani and her team marked each violent incident that took place, noted those who caused violence and helped out the victims. Rajani fought against the Military who argued that they had been working for the welfare of people but in fact was imposing their fascistic ideologies on the people of Iyakkam. As per the words of Bob Marley that she loved quoted” Get up, stand up, stand up for your rights” is what she always wanted to prophesy and practice. Rajani died on 21 September 1989 that became a major silence against Prabhakaran, better known as VP. It is believed that Rajani is the victim of the Peace Keeping Force’s atrocities. Rajani had the last conversation with VP and it is said that he had asked her not be an activist anymore. No More Tears Sister: Anatomy of Hope and Betrayal, a documentary directed by Helene Klodawsky is based on Rajani’s lie and is the most authentic documentary made on her. It accurately portrayed Rajani’s personal and political ideologies. Rajani Thiranagama is an icon of resistance and martyrdom. She becomes icon or a representative of ordinary women with enormous courage in wars, for all wars are essentially wars against women. This is where Rajani ends quoting” One day, a gun will silence me and it will not be held by an outsider, but by a son born in the womb of this very society, from a woman with whom I share a history.”
The next most important female figure mentioned in the novel is Poomani Selvanayagam. She was captured speaking against the Sri Lankan military and supported the documentary portraying the martyrdom of Rajani Thiranagama and had organized a meeting of ‘Women Against War’. She was seized by the Lion, a middle aged man with greying hair, a military figure. Poomani is his next prey as she had spoken against the government. Thus she is to suffer the greatest punishment of bearing the child of a man she hates. Poomani is his ninth prey and she had to surrender under his brutish arms but Poomani was so brilliant enough that she pulled a Sarong round his neck and killed him, though her body was found ashore the next day.
Devanayaki alias Juliet D’Souza, the Archaeologist
Another major figure towards the end of the novel is an Archaeologist, another victim of Lion’s brutality. She had bore a child due to his sexual harassments and was completely isolated from the society. In fact it was the hardest punishment given to any women who had tried to raise their voice against the fascist government. But due to her immense courage and stern belief she joined back at the Sigiriya Heritage Foundation and is the assistant director of the same. She had become a prey not because she had organised against the military but just a sentence from her speech made the military rage against her. She has come out to revenge against the Lion and only she could do this is by helping out Peter Jeevanandham with detailed study to script the film “Women Behind the Fall of Tigers”. She is the character that leads the story to its final part. She gets in touch with Peter Jeevanandham and is an active co-worker for the movie. She is impregnated with Peter’s baby. Juliet along with the other women personalities is getting ready for the final operation against the government, decided to be done on the inauguration ceremony of the Commonwealth Summit supposed to be held at the land of riots, Sri Lanka.
Apart from all these figures we find the real Meenakshi Rajarathinam, the host of Sugandhi at Canada, their daughters Arulmozhi Nangai and Yamuna Sridhar. All of them become the victims of the dictatorship and the cruelties they had to face. We find that it is only Rajani Thiranagama who had not faced the brutalities, but just shot down to death at once. She resembled the spirit and certain moods of the Devanayaki from the Susaana Supina. Story of Devanayaki and Thiranagama becomes the life of any women in Sri Lanka, hardened by the brutalities. Women warriors are always portrayed myths and no one really dare to accept them as the victorious and their stories are only narrated as a build-up one rather than taking to reality.
We are provided with a different representation of women throughout the novel t