ANAMIKA

'(The Blog) With No Name', perhaps best described as a stream of notes and thoughts - 'remembered, recovered and (sometimes) invented'.

Friday, February 17, 2012

The Song of the Dam

The Kanikkar tribe of Trivandrum district in Southern Kerala have a famously rich folk culture. Several of their ballads extol Veerappan, a legendary chief (this Veerappan must have been a real person who lived sometime before 1750). Part of his saga is a certain 'Song of the Dam'. The story goes:

Veerappan invites some nobles from the Pandi country (Madurai and surrounding areas of Tamil Nadu) for a feast. The nobles decline the invite and an angry Veerappan swears revenge; he plans to build a dam on a stream flowing from his dominion into the Pandi lands and cause acute water scarcity there.

Things get complicated when the construction fails repeatedly. The oracle of 'Kalamaadan', a local divinity, prophesies that the dam will get 'set' only if Veerappan sacrifices his own sister. Nothing but vengeance matters to our hero; the poor girl meets a bloody end - and the dam rises. Faced with never-ending drought, the Pandis complain to the king of Attingal to whom Veerappan's tribe owes allegiance. The king sends Mathukkutti, a Christian (judging from his name) minister of his, to subdue Veerappan and they have a violent confrontation. Veerappan, employing his powers of sorcery, kills the unfortunate Mathukkutti...

My sources are a book on folk songs of Kerala by Vishnu Nambudiri and the following online article (in English) by the same scholar: http://www.old.kerala.gov.in/keralcalljuly04/p31-34.pdf.

Curiously, neither the book nor the above page reveals the eventual fate of Veerappan, his dam and the suffering Pandis. Maybe nobody knows!

And Nitpicker says: Trivandrum district does not share borders with proper Pandi territory; and it has no major river flowing east.

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