Monday, November 07, 2005

Historical novel


VAMSADHARA — Parts I & II: V. Dhivakar; Narmadha Pathippagam, 10, Nana Street, T. Nagar, Chennai-600017. Rs. 100 each.

VAMSADHARA IS a historical novel based on the rich materials culled from Chola inscriptions, panegyric poems and Telugu copper plates of medieval Andhra kings besides literary sources, especially the Kalingattu Parani indited by Jayamkondar, the renowned court poet of Kulothunga Chola I. In addition, the valuable works of K.A.N. Sastri and T.V.S. Pandarathar, research articles such as Tamil Merchants in the Trade of Medieval Andhra by K. Sundaram are used in the construction of this narrative.

The matrimonial alliance between the Imperial Cholas and Eastern Chalukyas, right from the time of Rajaraja the Great (985 -1014 A.D.) resulted in the territorial expansion and consolidation of the Chola hegemony. Since Kulothunga I was paternally a Chalukya and maternally a Chola, the novel spreads over a vast area, connecting the cultures of the Cauvery and the Godavari.

The main reason for the military expedition, led by Karunakara Thondaiman, the undaunted Chola army chief to subjugate the North Kalinga ruler Anandavarma was the latter's refusal on two occasions to pay tribute to Kulothunga Chola I.

Nevertheless, the novelist puts forth an additional and plausible pretext that the Kalingas were jealous of the flourishing Tamil merchant guilds, which as a result faced troubles and tortures caused by Anandavarma. Hence, the fierce battle was successfully fought to save them at Kalinga.

In this novel, most of the characters are historical while a few are fictitious. Vamsadhara, the heroine of the romance, besides being the princess and heir-apparent to King Anandavarma is an imaginative character, suggesting that she was the star of the clan. Similarly is the character, Vinayani, the princess of Vengi country and sister of Saktivarman, the viceroy of the Chola monarch. Both these characters are the embodiment of beauty and expertise in the martial arts.

Vaanakovaraiyan, renamed as Manivaanan, another chief of the Chola army adept in warfare and diplomacy, is portrayed to prevent the calamities and to protect the welfare of the Tamils.

His reciprocal love towards Vamsadhara and Vinayani has been elegantly portrayed with twists and turns. The role of Vikrama Chola (1118-36 A.D.), the son of Kulothunga I in the maintenance of peace and prosperity in the Vengi region is vividly presented.

The part played by Aghora Sivacharya, the head of Kanchi Ghadika and the role of the Buddhist monastery in Andhra to the development of the story and solution to the crucial problems are dexterously drawn.

The dialogues between Karunakara Perumal and Vikrama Chola, Manivaanan and Saktivarman and also Vamsadhara are exuberant and interesting. The description of the festivals of the guardian deities at Srikakulam and the depictions of the Godavari region, hilly spots and natural scenes add beauty to the narration.

The novel vouchsafes to the author's creative genius, flow of language, candid style, aesthetic sense and equal reverence to different faiths, though with leanings to Nammazhvar's philosophy.


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Book Review

Historical novel
THIRUMALAI THIRUDAN - The Thief of Thirumala (Tamil): Divakar; Narmada Padhippagam, 10, Nana Street, T. Nagar, Chennai-600017. Rs. 150.

Article by
Prema Nandakumar in the Hindu dt.16-08-2005
A second novel is a slippery step for all novelists, especially when it gets published immediately after the first one which had achieved a measure of success. Divakar's Vamsa Taara brought to light a talented historical novelist.
It had an effective base provided by the destruction of Kalinga in the 12th Century A.D. by Kulothunga I. Was it a trade war that had led to such deliberate savagery as recorded in Jayamkondar's Tamil classic, Kalingathu Parani?
Thirumalai Thirudan moves to the checkerboard of religion fielding a host of characters. It is obvious that Divakar has been able to chew the socio-historical material on hand with enviable care. We move to a time immediately preceding Kulothunga I when Athirajendra ruled over the vast Chola realm for a few months.
With his death the Vijayalaya dynasty of the Cholas came to an end. Athirajendra is said to have persecuted Ramanuja in the name of Saivism. Was that all? Were there other forces like the Kapalika-Kalamukha cults and an iconoclastic zeal that moved people to take extremist stances? How about the legend that Ramanuja had a hand in declaring Venkateswara as Vishnu? There is plenty to choose from in our history, legends and folklore. Add to it the angle of love by throwing in a very brave young man and a couple of princesses in distress. You have your basket full.
Divakar's imagination takes off like a raving whirlwind with Aghorenath revealing the nasty truth hidden by the pseudo-yaga of Bilvana, the Guru of the Chalukyas. It is an action-packed tale baked in the steam and storm of political intrigues with kidnappings galore.
There is ranting fury here and there with a set of people out to make a kill. Ha! the novelist has indeed spread his wily net to catch many a contemporary echo.
Bilvana proceeds to use a variety of people (Prince Vikrama, a vengeful princess, a Kapalika leader and the rest) to spread terror among the Brahmins and traditionalists.
The Saiva-Vaishnava controversy regarding Venkateswara is aired by him and vulgar demagoguery goes around masked as practical wisdom. Bilvana finds in the end that nothing fails like excess. Divakar's linking of Narsi Mehta's "Vaishnava Janato" with Ramanuja is beautiful.
He has also merged Andal's verses addressed to the conch with the conch of Venkateswara to achieve the transformation of Kartyayani into a devotee of Krishna.
With the intense Saivite Avantika also marrying the hero, we leave Kalingaraya (a.k.a. Naralokaveera) with his two wives to face the greater problem of achieving domestic peace. And we wish him well.