Manufactured Outrage

This post similar to an earlier post on Capital Punishment is inspired by an comment by a TV journalist on twitter. I have always been pleasantly surprised by the level headedness of this young boy (roughly half my age, don’t think he would mind when I call him a ‘boy’). His comment “at the risk of inviting attacks, we overdid with MF Hussain also” helped crystallize what I have been mulling over in the last few days.

Recently a friend of mine reacted strongly when I said my children enjoy the song ‘Jambuligame Jadadara’. The hindi version of the song featuring Kishore Kumar is Guni Jano.  But he was upset. He said such songs such be protested rather than appreciated. There are any number of such scenes in Movies that spoof Hindu Gods. In fact whole movies have been based on them. As Krishnakumar Chief of NCERT writes in his book, Hindu children learn about their Gods at home, not in School (or in movies.)

It might look childish to compare a simple movie song with M F Hussain’s paintings. But read the passages extracted from an article on Kambarasam    a book revered by most tamilians.

I should acknowledge that, as of now, I have not enjoyed the pleasure of reading the entire corpus of Kambar’s ultra 10,000 quatrains. At most, I have been introduced to four or five dozen. But I have read the two volumes of the Kamba Rasam polemic, penned by Anna. Volume 1 of Anna’s Kamba Rasam (96 pages) provides only 13 quatrains (of which 8 are presented in full) that Anna had selected for criticism for their erotic content. Mention is made in the text that 34 quatrains describing the physical attributes of Sita, the heroine, border on eroticism. I have in my possession only the 13th edition of this tract, published in 1970. I’m somewhat uncertain on when the 1st edition of Kamba Rasam appeared in print. If I’m not wrong, I presume the 1st edition of Kamba Rasam should have appeared in the early or mid 1940s, before Anna founded the DMK.

Volume 2 of Anna’s Kamba Rasam (1st edition 1961, 84 pages) presents another 8 quatrains considered to be of an erotic nature, with an added mention that 67 quatrains display such erotic taste. In Volume 2, Anna also informs the readers that his frontal attack on Kambar’s literary taste in Volume 1 elicited three rebuttals from the epic poet’s admirers. These would have appeared between the mid 1940s and 1960. The three rebuttals which Anna had acknowledged were entitled, (1) ‘Death Bell to Kamba Rasam’ [ Kamba Rasathukku Saavu Mani], (2) ‘Head Strike on Kamba Rasam’ [Kamba Rasathukku Mandaiyil Adi], and (3) ‘A Wedge to Annadurai’ [Annathuraikku Aappu]. Of these three, I have in my possession the first named, Kamba Rasathukku Saavu Mani, consisting of only 32 pages. Probably due to the eminence of Anna, the author of this rebuttal identifies himself only with the pseudonym ‘Karpanai Piththan’ [literally translation: ‘Imagination Lover’].

That Anna was a ranking Tamil scholar is not in dispute and, as such, one can be certain that he would have scrutinized the entire corpus of Kamba Ramayanam, before committing himself to pick on Kambar’s penchant for erotic poetry. If this is so, by Anna’s count, one can infer that about 100 quatrains among the total corpus of 10,500 produced by Kambar border on eroticism. Percentage-wise, 100 out of 10,500 equals <1%. As such, even this admirer of DMK’s founder-leader has to admit that Anna was way off balance in his frontal attack on Kambar. It may not be inaccurate to consider this as one bad patch in Anna’s stellar career as a reformer of the Tamil literary tradition.

Could it be that this was a mischievous literary prank of Anna’s (who never questioned Kambar’s great merit as an epic poet, in his tract) which he undertook to bolster his then provocative political plank of pan-Dravidianism tinged with popular elements of Marxism?

Kamban has outlived Anna and will outlive his disciple who asked “In which College did Rama do his Engineering”. Similarly in recent years there was a series of articles denigrating Hinduism written by an eminent Hindu scholar – Agnihotiram Ramanuja Thathachariar – in (where else) Nakkeeran. A little known magazine “Geethacharian” published a brilliant rebuttal written by Shri Joseph. By our extreme reaction what we have achieved is made “Hussain” a stick to beat Hindus with.

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