Rights activists hit out at attacks on Sri Lankans


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By V.P. Raghu

March 20, 2013 – Deccan Chronicle

Chennai: The attacks by fringe groups on Sri Lankans arriving in Tamil Nadu, in the name of protests against human rights violations against island Tamils, has drawn criticism from rights activists in the state.

At least five cases of attacks on visiting Lankans were reported in the state in the last one month. This is apart from the attack on Sri Lankan institutions in Tamil Nadu. “I condemn such acts. Such kind of violence cannot be justified. These acts of terror against individuals should not be tolerated,” noted Dr. V. Suresh, national general secretary, PUCL.

Echoing Suresh’s views, another human rights activist, A Marx, said nothing could be gained by attacking visiting tourists and Buddhist monks. “While students are taking the protest in the right direction, some groups are indulging in violence,” noted Marx. These violent groups fear that the students will push them out of the protest arena, he said, adding, “So, to stay in the picture, they indulge in violence, which is highly condemnable.”

Attack on Buddhist Monks from Sri Lanka

Tamilnadu Police accompanying Buddhist monks and pilgrims from Chennai Central railway station up to Gudur in the state of Andhra Pradesh to ensure their safety. (Photo: dinakaran.com)

Pointing out that all Sri Lankans of Sinhalese origin, are not anti- Tamil, Suresh said many Sinhalese human rights activists had been fighting for the Lankan Tamils’ cause for years. “The house of senior lawyer J. C. Weliamuna was bombed for supporting Tamils in Lanka,” he recalled.

A senior official from Tamil Nadu police said almost all the accused in these cases had been arrested. “11 persons were arrested in the case of February 21 attack on Sri Lankan MP’s vehicle in Nagapattinam.

In connection with the attack on the Lankan monk on March 16 at Thanjavur, 12 persons were arrested. All the three persons connected with the attack on the Buddhist monk at Chennai central station on Monday, were secured,” the official pointed out.

In Trichy on February 26, the police had to intervene when a bus carrying Sri Lankan nationals was targeted. Similarly on March 3, vehicles carrying Sri Lankans from Chennai airport to Egmore were blocked on GST Road by a group. The police had to escort the Lankans to their destination.

Re-posted from Deccan Chronicle

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Politically Motivated Activists Bring Shame to Tamils of Tamilnadu


Here is the news that appeared in the Deccan Chronicle on March 17, 2013.
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Lankan monk roughed up in Thanjavur temple

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Student Monk  from Sti Lanka roughed up at Brihadeeswarar temple in Thanjavur, Tamilnadu, India.

Student Monk from Sti Lanka roughed up at Brahadeeswarar temple in Thanjavur, Tamilnadu, India. (Photo: Deccan Chronicle)

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Thanjavur: A Buddhist monk from Sri Lanka, currently pursuing archaeological studies in Delhi University, was rou­ghed up by some activists of pro-Tamil Eelam outfits at the world renowned Big Temple here on Saturday.

The Lankan had come here as part of a 20-member team, comprising students of postgraduate diploma in archaeology in Delhi University, on a study tour to the 1,000-year-old Brahadeeswarar temple.

As the students were going around Big Temple, a group of activists belonging to various outfits, including the MDMK and Naam Tamizhar Katchi, singled out the Sri Lankan national, clad in saffron robes, and beat him up, the police said. The attackers also raised slogans demanding that he leave Tamil Nadu immediately.

Besides the lone Sri Lan­kan, four Myanmaris were also part of the team while others were Indians, sour­ces said.

The monk was escorted safely to the local archaeological office from where the students left in a van to Tiruchy en route to Chennai. But, when the van was nearing Tiruchy, some unidentified persons pelted stones and slippers on it near Ariyamangalam. Though the van was damaged, the occupants escaped unhurt.

The police escorted the visiting students to the airport. Later, the Sri Lankan national left for Chennai by flight.

Twelve activists were taken into custody in connection with the incident.

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Video – Here is a video clip posted on Nakkheeran Web TV:

 

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Deccan Chronicle – Monday, March 18, 2013

Attack on Mahabodhi society warded off

Police personnel deployed in front of Mahabodhi society in Egmore after a group of men tried to attack the building. (Photo - Deccan Chronicle)

Police personnel deployed in front of Mahabodhi society in Egmore after a group of men tried to attack the building. (Photo: Deccan Chronicle)

Chennai: In yet another attack on Sri Lanka-linked establishments in Tamil Nadu, a group of men tried to vandalise the Mahabodhi society in Egmore on Sunday.

The police arrested 18 cadres of Naam Tamilar Katchi in connection with the attempt to break into the society office in Kennet Lane opposite the city police commissioner’s office. Anticipating trouble, city police had deployed a small team of armed police to guard the society.

According to eyewitnesses, a group of around 20 people reached Kennet Lane around noon and broke open the lock of a gate of the society.

“There were three only policemen who, however, prevented the protesters from doing further damage even as they sought additional personnel to handle the situation. Over 50 policemen were rushed to the spot.

The agitators were picked up before they could enter the society building where a number of visiting Sri Lankans, mostly Buddhist monks, stay on their visits to the city,” the police said. All arrested were remanded to judicial custody.

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The Interview – Reel to Real !!!


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Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj

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This is Indian politics

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The Tamil movie titled “Muthalvan” (Tamil: முதல்வன், English: The Chief) a political thriller produced, co-written and directed by S. Shankar features Arjun Sarja, and V. Raghuvaran in the lead roles. This film was Shankar’s production debut. The film features an award-winning soundtrack composed by maestro A. R. Rahman.

Pughazhendi, an ambitious TV journalist (played by Arjun Sarja) working for “Q TV,” interviews Aranganathan, the Chief Minister of the state (played by Raghuvaran) after a spate of communal riots. The questions posed by the journalist are tough, and the flabbergasted Chief Minister challenges the journalist to occupy his seat and be the Chief Minister for a day to understand the enormity of the office. After a slight  hesitation, Pugazhendi agrees to be the Chief Minister of the state for a day.

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The young journalist Pugazhendi after taking over the mantle of the Chief Minister for a day does a great job, and subsequently orders the arrest of the unscrupulous Chief Minister Aranganathan.

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This high-budget film released on November 7, 1999, won positive reviews and was successful at the box office.

The film was dubbed and released in Telugu titled “Oke Okkadu.

Two years later, in 2001, it was remade in Hindi as “Nayak: The Real Hero” (Hindi: नायक, Nāyak) starring Anil Kapoor as the journalist Shivaji Rao and Amrish Puri as the Chief Minister Balraj Chauhan and once again directed by S. Shankar.

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After viewing the films “Muthalvan” and “Nayak” most Indians, including me, lauded the superb characterization of the Chief Minister enacted by the veteran actors Raghuvaran in Tamil, and Amrish Puri in Hindi; after that, we never gave them a second thought for the next six years.

On Friday, October 19, 2007, Karan Thapar interviewed Narendra Modi, the Chief Minister of Gujarat on CNN-IBN’s “Devil’s Advocate” program. Thapar questioned Modi about the Godhra Train Burning incident that occurred in the morning of February 27, 2002. In this incident, 58 passengers were burnt to death due to a fire inside the Sabarmati Express train near the Godhra railway station in Gujarat. Sensing that the question cornered him, the Chief Minister abruptly walked out of the interview.

Director Shankar is indeed a prophet of the modern Indian cinema proving that incidents depicted on films could become real.

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Unicode Technical Note #21: Tamil Numbers


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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Recently, I found the Unicode Technical Notes that provide information on a variety of topics related to Unicode and Internationalization technologies. The website stresses that these technical notes are independent publications, not approved by any of the Unicode Technical Committees, nor are they part of the Unicode Standard or any other Unicode specification and publication and does not imply endorsement by the Unicode Consortium in any way. These documents are not subject to the Unicode Patent Policy nor updated regularly.

Being a Tamil, Unicode Technical Note (UTN) #21: Tamil Numbers by Michael Kaplan, fascinated and impressed me.

Originally, Tamils did not use zero, nor did they use positional digits. They have separate symbols for the numbers 10, 100 and 1000. Symbols similar to other Tamil letters, with some minor changes. For example, the number 3782 not written as ௩௭௮௨ as in modern usage but as ௩ ௲ ௭ ௱ ௮ ௰ ௨.

This would be read as they are written as Three Thousands, Seven Hundreds, Eight Tens, Two; and in Tamil as மூன்று-ஆயிரத்து-எழு-நூற்று-எண்-பத்து-இரண்டு.

௧ = 1
௨ = 2
௩ = 3
௪ = 4
௫ = 5
௬ = 6
௭ = 7
௮ = 8
௯ = 9
௰ = 10
௰௧ = 11
௰௨ = 12
௰௩ = 13
௰௪ = 14
௰௫ = 15
௰௬ = 16
௰௭ = 17
௰௮ = 18
௰௯ = 19
௨௰ = 20
௱ = 100
௨௱ = 200
௩௱ = 300
௱௫௰௬ = 156
௲ = 1000
௲௧ = 1001
௲௪௰ = 1040
௮௲ = 8000
௰௲ = 10,000
௭௰௲ = 70,000
௯௰௲ = 90,000
௱௲ = 100,000 (lakh)
௮௱௲ = 800,000
௰௱௲ = 1,000,000 (10 lakhs)
௯௰௱௲ = 9,000,000
௱௱௲ = 10,000,000 (crore)
௰௱௱௲ = 100,000,000 (10 crore)
௱௱௱௲ = 1,000,000,000 (100 crore)
௲௱௱௲ = 10,000,000,000 (thousand crore)
௰௲௱௱௲ = 100,000,000,000 (10 thousand crore)
௱௲௱௱௲ = 1,000,000,000,000 (lakh crore)
௱௱௲௱௱௲ = 100,000,000,000,000 (crore crore)

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Sri Lankan Tamils Are Better Off ….


By Shenali Waduge

When Tamils in Sri Lanka were not eating together, allowing others to educate themselves because of Tamil caste, it was the Social Disabilities Prevention Act 21 in 1957 that enabled low caste Tamils to gain education – this was opposed by all elite Tamils who even wrote to the British Government against this.Sinhala and Tamil are official languages in Sri Lanka and both are declared languages of administration(16th amendment – to communicate, publications, translations, records).

Sinhala and Tamil are the language of the Courts throughout Sri Lanka.In addition, Sri Lanka’s national flag depicts both Tamils and Muslims through the colors orange and green.

All public documents – marriage certificate, death certificate, immigration forms etc. are all in Sinhalese and Tamil, so too is currency and notes.

All public events are presented in all 3 languages [Sinhalese, Tamil, and English].

Tamils have no restrictions on owning property, starting business ventures, obtaining state loans, owning land – whereas Sinhalese and Non-Vellalas are denied from obtaining land in the North (thesavalami a law).

Tamils have access to all state services and public utilities – hospitals, schools, healthcare services, public transport (at no stage did Tamils suffer as the blacks did in the US and in South Africa).

Tamils have access to all forms of sports with Tamils even representing national teams.

All road signs, buses etc. are all in both languages.

While Tamils will not allow low caste Tamils to enter hotels or restaurants of high castes, there is no hotel, restaurant, shop that says “Tamils are not welcome”.

Those that accept false propaganda and lies may like to visit Sri Lanka to realize that Tamils in Sri Lanka are better off than Tamils in any other part of the world.

Can we then please know where Tamils are being discriminated against in Sri Lanka?

As for Tamil Nadu – close to 20% of its population are Dalits and 80% of this number live in villages where illiteracy is over 60%. 62% of these Dalits suffer from some type of abuse ranging from physical assault, sexual harassment, verbal abuse to even rape. This is how Tamils appear to be treating their own in India where the Indian Government is telling Sri Lanka to treat Tamils with “dignity and respect”.

— Excerpt from “Shouldn’t Tamil Eelaam Be In Tamil Nadu? – OpEd” By Shenali Waduge, October 18, 2012.

To read the full article click here —>“Shouldn’t Tamil Eelaam Be In Tamil Nadu? – OpEd” By Shenali Waduge 

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Festival of Our Lady of Good Health, Vailankanni, in Washington DC


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj .

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The Oratory of Our Lady of Good Health, Vailankanni, at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC.

The Oratory of Our Lady of Good Health, Vailankanni, at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC. (Photo: T.V. Antony Raj)

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On Saturday, September 8, 2012, devotees from Washington DC, Maryland, New Jersey and other parts throughout the country, and from Canada, undertook the pilgrimage to Washington DC. They celebrated the feast of “Our Lady of Good Health,” Vailankanni at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC. The Most Revered Antony Devotta, Bishop of Tiruchirapalli, India, officiated as the main celebrant for the Pilgrimage Mass.

The members of the Indian American Catholic Association (IACA) – Tamils, Keralites, Anglo-Indians, Mangaloreans, Goans, Bengalis, Sinhalese, Asian Pacific Catholics, and other devotees organized the annual pilgrimage.

In 1997, the IACA realized its dream of establishing an oratory to “Our Lady of Good Health,” Vailankanni, at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, in Washington, DC. This year marks the 15th anniversary of the inauguration of the Oratory. This beautiful chapel at the nation’s principal Marian Shrine has become one of the most visited at the Basilica.

The devotees prayed and sang hymns in a variety of Asian languages – Tamil, Malayalam, Hindi, Marathi, Konkani, Bengali, Sinhalese, etc.

It turned out to be a valuable experience for me and my family members. We participated in the celebrations that conveyed the vibrant Indian traditions mingled with spiritual, cultural and ethnic heritage in a spirit of cooperation and harmony in Washington DC., United States.

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Sri Lankan Catholic Pilgrims Attacked by Pro-LTTE Outfits in Tamilnadu


Shrine Basilica of Our Lady of Health, Velankanni. Photo: J.T. Leo Fernando

Shrine Basilica of Our Lady of Health, Velankanni. Photo: J.T. Leo Fernando

On Monday, September 3, the government of Sri Lanka issued the following advisory for its citizens visiting Tamilnadu:

“The Government of Sri Lanka is constrained to request Sri Lankan nationals in the interest of their security to desist from undertaking visits to Tamilnadu until further notice.”

The Sri Lankan Government posted the advisory after a group of 184 Sri Lankan Catholics who included 75 women and 36 children, were inconvenienced during their annual pilgrimage in Tamilnadu, India.

On Monday evening, members belonging to pro-LTTE Tamil outfits mobbed the pilgrims worshiping at the Poondi Madha Catholic shrine near Thanjavur. The pilgrims took refuge in the church. The protestors were members of Naam Tamizhar Iyakkam headed by film director Seeman, Tamizhar Desiya Poduvudamai Katchi led by P. Nedumaran, and the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi led by Thirumavalavan. They raised slogans and asked the pilgrims to go back to Sri Lanka, immediately.

Early Tuesday, the group of pilgrims arrived at Velankanni to offer worship at the holy Shrine Basilica of Our Lady of Health. After prayers, they left for Tiruchirapalli airport, to board a special flight home. Then, once again, they faced the rage of pro-LTTE groups. Their convoy of buses was once again blocked and attacked by the protestors who used two wheelers to block the road. The protesters shouted, “Sinhalese go back”.

A tire of a bus got punctured and the convoy halted. The protesters attacked three buses. Windowpanes of some buses were shattered in the attack; however, no passenger suffered any major injury.

Police personnel on security duty for the ongoing annual festival at Velankanni rushed to the spot. They arrested nine activists of the Naam Tamizhar Iyakkam and brought the situation under control within a few minutes.

The pilgrims later proceeded to Tiruchirappalli safely from where they are expected to leave for Sri Lanka.

The government of Sri Lanka has assured its citizens that all steps had been taken through the government of India to ensure the safety of the pilgrims.

The Sri Lankan government has also said in its advisory that if anyone has a “compelling reason to visit Tamil Nadu, such a visit should take place following prior timely intimation to the Sri Lanka Deputy High Commission in Chennai.”

The External Affairs Ministry of Sri Lankan says it regrets the growing number of incidents of intimidation of Sri Lankan nationals visiting Tamil Nadu for the purposes of tourism, religious pilgrimages, sporting and cultural activities, and professional training.

Meanwhile, the ruling AIADMK, DMK, and other political parties in Tamilnadu have joined hands in opposing the training of Sri Lankan military personnel in India. These parties allege that during the last phase of the war against LTTE, the island Republic’s forces had committed “war crimes” against Tamils.

Last Friday, a football team from Sri Lanka played a friendly match against the Chennai Customs Department. On Sunday, the Tamilnadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa gave orders to send the team back to Sri Lanka. She criticized the Central Government for allowing the Lankan football team to come to India.

Ms. Jayalalithaa also gave orders to send back the students from a Sri Lankan school and their coach, who had come down to Chennai for a tournament with a city-based school, to their homeland.

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The Art of Storytelling by Enid Still


July, 2012

I arrived at the end of June in flurry of auto-rickshaws, an epic train journey and an all night Kattaikkuttu performance, just as the month of storytelling was about to begin at Kattaikkuttu Gurukulam. It began with the arrival of professional storyteller Craig Jenkins on the 5th of July on his forth pilgrimage to the school. The excitement and exhilaration of everyone at the school (not just the children) told me this was indeed a special visitor and this month would indeed be one to write about.

Craig Jenkins – professional storyteller

I had to admit to Craig that I never realised Storytelling was a profession and not only that but an intricate and important art form, which like dance, acting, writing or painting must come from the heart and with a passion for the meanings and truths behind what is being told or addressed.

There is a vast oral and written tradition of storytelling here in India and many Middle Eastern countries, a lot of which will now have been translated for the western world and so, will be familiar to many. For example, I’m sure most people will know of the Middle Eastern epic – One Thousand and One Nights (or Arabian Nights) famously popularised and americanised by Disney. Perhaps their knowledge of the roots of Aladin or Ali Baba The Forty Thieves is a little vague however. What Craig brings to Kattaikkuttu Gurukulam is by all means not a westernised version of the Mahabharata or the Ramayana, neither is it simply the beautiful oral tradition passed down to him through his much loved Guru Vayu Naidu; it is an exciting, enticing and educational experience through which he applies his successful mantra of taking old, traditional stories and bringing them into the contemporary. This allows students of all ages to deconstruct the stories they have heard their whole lives, look at them from a different angle, redesign their meanings and use them to examine contemporary issues such as gender and prejudice. This is complimented by learning new stories through which students can learn for themselves how to create, construct and perform these stories.

As I write this I realise how much I have already learnt about this art and I am excited to learn more. Our storytelling workshop ‘Mun Oru Kalattil,’ taking place at the end of this month will provide me with the perfect opportunity. It will be a truly educational and eye opening experience for everyone involved, whatever their profession or reason for attending.

However, learning about this art has made me wonder why we have lost the presence of this tradition in our own culture. Undoubtedly it is still there but I think its importance and meaning within society has been lost, especially in an educational sense. Perhaps I am wrong however and it is simply my own ignorance to the art which has denied me to see it in its full light and capacity back in my corner of the world. And with that thought, the will in me to learn more about storytelling and the stories which have been kept alive in India through this oral and written tradition, has grown all the stronger!

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Theru Koothu – The dying folk art of Tamilnadu, India – Karna Motcham


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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This is a sequel to my article “Theru Koothu – The dying folk art of Tamilnadu, India” published on July 3, 2012.

The art of Theru Koothu is handed down from one generation to the next. The performers hail from poor down trodden families of the lower echelon of society. They know no other trade. Theru Koothu is now virtually a dying art – dying because of the popularity of cinema, dying for want of patronage.

In earlier times these artists were held in high esteem for their artistry and talent. They entertained the village folk on invitation by the respective village elders. But nowadays they are a forgotten lot and perform during temple festivals in villages of their own accord and live on hand-outs.

This Tamil short film “Karna Motcham” directed by S. Murali Manohar is a real life depiction of a day in the life of a rural Theru Koothu (Street Play) artist who comes to a school in Chennai City to dance for the children at a function to be held there.

The emotions of disappointment, pain and anguish of the artist are well brought out by the actors, the director and in the dialogues written by S. Ramakrishnan.

This film has won more than 60 awards including National award by Government of India, Best short film awarded by Tamilnadu Government , Best Director award at the Canadian International Tamil Film Festival.

 

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Theru Koothu – The dying folk art of Tamilnadu, India.


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Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj

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Not only species of animals are vanishing from the face of our earth, forms of folk art too; and many are no more a part of the ethnic tradition of the people in most regions of this world. The present generation is not even aware that those forms of folk art did exist. One such ethnic folk art indigenous to India is the Street Play. It is now virtually a dying art – dying because of the popularity of cinema, dying for want of patronage.

Photograph by Balaji Maheshwar

In Tamilnadu, we call this folk art “Theru Koothu” (Tamil: தெருக்கூத்து). It is a folk theatre performed in the open mostly during temple festivals in the villages of Tamilnadu.

The art of Theru Koothu is handed down from one generation to the next. The performers hail from poor down trodden families of the lower level of society. They know no other trade. They travel as a troupe that include the actors, dancers, musicians, make-up artists, stage-decorators, cooks and sometimes a few family members. They are always on the move travelling from one village to another.

In earlier times these artists were held in high esteem for their artistry and talent. They entertained the village folk on invitation by the village elders. But today they are a forgotten lot and perform during temple festivals in villages of their own accord and live on handouts.

The Koothu (Tamil: கூத்து) or performance is held in an area about 16 feet long and 14 feet wide called ‘sabai’ (Tamil: சபை) meaning assembly or court.

In those good old days when there was no technology such as microphones and loudspeakers, the artists trained to sing at a high pitch to reach the entire crowd. There were not much dialogues and the artists enacted whole plays via singing with the accompanying musicians seated in the background on stage. Now, most of the Theru Koothu troupes have their own sound equipment or rent them for their performances; even then, the actors still sing spilling their guts out.

The musical instruments used include Harmonium, Mirudangam, Mugaveena, Kanjara and Thaala vaadyam.

The dress of the artists are a complex lot – wide colorful skirts, sparkling shoulder plates and elaborate wide head-dress, and of course thick bright heavy makeup.

All actors are males – even female characters are performed by males except in few instances.

They enacted mostly mythological stories already familiar to the villagers.. The themes are usually drawn from Mahabharata. Some popular items on the Theru Koothu repertoires include Harichandiran (Story of King Harischandra who never told an untruth), Draupathy Vastraparanam (Disrobing of Draupathy, the wife of the Pandavas), Karna Motcham (Defeat of Karna, the half-brother of Pandavas), Praghalada Charithram (Story of Praghalda), Bagiratha Prayathanam (Bagiratha’s efforts to bring River Ganges to Earth), etc.

Nowadays, students and activists perform Theru Koothu based on themes that create social awareness.

     

 Koothu is performed mostly late in the evenings, after 8 pm. There are no entrance fees.  No chairs provided for the audience except for the dignitaries, if there be any present at the venue. The public are at liberty to stand, sit, recline or choose whatever stance or manner in which they wish to see the play.

All the photographs I have used to augment this article were taken by my friend Balaji Maheshwar, a talented photographer. Below are some photographs of the artists and the members of a troupe caught by Balaji in their relaxed moments …

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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