Wednesday, 28 January 2004  
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Gleanings: 

Thiru Koana Malai - An ancient town of historical importance

by K. S. Sivakumaran

An epigram from a celebrated poem in ancient Thamil Sangam Literature (3rd century B.C. to 3rd century A.D.) is from 'Aha Nanooru' (meaning an anthology of 400 personal poems) is 'Yaathum oorae yaavarum kealir'.



Sitar maestro Ravi Shankar

The essence of this line is that all countries are the same (as mine) and all are (my) relatives. I consider this one of the sublime thoughts of a rich Thamilian civilization of one of the golden ages of this community. However, coming back to the present, I cannot help identifying myself with my roots. Although I was born in Mattakalappu, (I lived there only for 11 years in my boyhood) my father and spouse were born in Thiru- koana- malai.

So, I have an inborn interest in the culture and development in the eastern region of Sri Lanka. That does not mean that I am regionalistic or parochial. I am interested in the overall usefulness of the humankind.

Having said that, let me introduce a book in English, which I feel is a valuable documentation that deserves to be studied, commented and evaluated by all scholars as an indispensable reminder of the actualities of the past. The author is Dr. Ramalingam Vigneswaran.

He was formerly, Consultant Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon. He was also member and Chairman of Board of Study for Dental Surgery, Post Graduate Institute of Medicine, University of Colombo. The title of the book is 'Rock Cave Temple of Thirukoneswaram and Sequel' Publishers: Victoria Court, 1 Victoria Place, Colombo 08.

The book consists of 240 pages with colour photographs, maps, illustrations and a glossary.

Well-known academic and political analyst, Emeritus Professor, Bertram Bastiampillai considers the work as an 'expertly crafted treatise'.

He also certifies that the book' is a remarkable thesis which fully merits serious reading and incisive reflection.... his many references have been thoroughly investigated and assiduously thought about and his findings rest upon immense learning and probing inquiry 'What more can I say except that hitherto unknown details and facts are researched in this 'magnum opus' of Vigneswaran. Please read this book yourself and I am sure most of us who are unenlightened on this subject, can be reawakened to emerging facts.

I wish that our scholars who specialize in various fields take this book seriously in ascertaining real evidence and erasing a few misconceptions regarding Thiru Koana Malai. I have in mind particularly, Senaka Bandaranaike, Sasanka Perera, Sarath Amunugama, Susantha Goonathilake, Rohan Gunaratne, Pathmanathan and Sivathamby tell us what they think about the new finds in the book. These intellectuals, I am sure, will have very interesting comments to make. Please note the author's humble statement: "Knowledge is collective with so many forbears contributing to the pool. This has guided me in my search."

Glossary

In a succinct manner, the author gives a list and summary of the book. And this helps an average reader and so is the glossary, especially to non-Thamil speaking readers. The author, Dr. R. Vigneswaran had lived in Thirukoanamalai (known as Trincomalee in English) in his childhood. Coming back to the present Thirukoanamalai, we have the 'Koneasar Temple' (Swamy Rock).

This temple has been referred to in the 'Theavaarams' (Garlands of Songs in Praise of the Divine) by Saiva saints of the 7th century A.D. But its existence dates ages and ages ago. Then we have one of the natural harbours in the world and the Bay of Bengal washing its shores.

The British Navy employed a vast number of people before Sri Lankan navy took over. Trinco, as it is known in English, is a quaint little town with a few Hindu temples and places of worship for other religions. As Colombo, Thirukoanamalai is also a cosmopolitan in population.

Moothoor (it is spelt wrong in English as Muttur giving a different meaning) is in the south of the district bordering the Mattakalappu district. This part of the region has a lot of affinities with the eastern capital and its environs. This is so particularly in the dialect used, whereas in the northern town of the eastern province, the speech pattern is more 'Yaalpana' style of dialect. But one could say, a mixture of both Yaalpana dialect and Mattakalappu dialect. Proximity, the reason.

Contemporary Arts Centre

Cincinnati, a city in the state of Ohio in the U.S. became a showcase recently by the opening of new building of the Contemporary Arts Center there. The city itself is known as 'the jewel city', and now a new Jewel is crowned on it.

It was in mid-2003 that this new art museum was enshrined. The Art Centre is in existence for the past 64 years, but the new majestic building now named as the Lois & Richard Rosenthal Center was designed by the London architect Zaha Hadid. It has six stories and 17,000 square feet gallery space plus 150-seat performance space.

A children's Education Centre is there for participatory art installations and other programmes. There are various galleries amidst solid structures and open spaces. As the New York Times dubbed, this centre is 'the most important building to be completed since the end of the cold war in the U.S. 'The architect is considered as 'the most admired female architect in the world'

I was transported to a new world when I visited this Centre once. But you need to make frequent visits to understand its significance. The imaginative display of contemporary works of art is breathtaking. Painting, sculpture, photography, new media - all fresh in substance and display. The visual arts are truly contemporaneous.

Music CDs

Music is divine. It's soothing. I enjoyed listening to some new CDs providing an exhilarating experience. May I recommend a few for your discerning tastes? Sitar maestro, India's Ravi Shankar's CD is called' Bridges '(Sandhya Raga and Shanti-Mantra among 11 items are soul -soothers).

Then there is Derek Bell, the Harpist's, 20 items of scintillating melodies are recorded in 'Mystic Harp 2'. Devotional love songs in Bengali and Sanskrit by Westerners - (Kim Waters, vocal and Hans Christian, sounds) provide mellow and soft music in their recording titled 'Rasa Shelter'.

Although Kim's soothing voice is accentuated by her accent it is not truly Sanskrit or Bengali, yet the music is sublime. We've heard Rohan and Druvi De Sarams on the cello. Here is another- a Japanese.

Under the title of 'Classic Yo-Yo ', he brings Bach, Gershwin, Brahms, Rachmaninoff and others to life. I liked his Tango sensations particularly. 'The Very Best of Yanni' is another fantastically rejuvenating CD with 16 numbers. Also there is another soothing music CD called Delta Sleep System developed by Dr Jefrey Thompson. I enjoyed thoroughly Maurice Ravel's interpretation of ' Bolero' in a CD titled 'For a Summer Evening' Enjoy.

Murali Jayadeva

The death of Murali Jayadeva brings me a spate of past memories. He was earlier known as Muralidharan. Like the pioneer film critics such as the late L.O.de Silva, Neil I.Perera, Sali Parakrama, Sita Parakrama, Donald Abeysinghe, Mervyn de Silva, A. J.Gunawardena, Fred de Silva, Denzil Pieris, Jayavilal Wilegoda, Leslie Boteju and others and the living Lester James Peries, Vernon Abeysekera, Gamini Haththotuwegama, Tissa Abeysekera, Ajith Samaranayake, and (other film journalists like Neville de Silva, Gaston Rozario, to mention a few) and a number of other contemporary film critics, Murali discerned artistic cinema from a heap of commercially made blockbusters. He and the late Neil I. Perera organized the now defunct 'Cinema 16 Society', which screened international films in the 16 MM format for discerning filmgoers.

'The Colombo Film Society', one of the oldest film societies in the Indian subcontinent (also defunct now) were instrumental in bringing to Lankan audiences the best of the world cinema during the late 1950s and the 60s and 70s. Muralidharan, later turned out to be a business journalist.

He was also one of the pioneer radio film critics in the Thamil language is not widely known. Inspired by his approach to the understanding the Thamil films, I began to develop a taste for 'artistic cinema'. It wouldn't be inappropriate to say that Murali and K.S.Sivakumaran brought in a fresh air to film criticism in Thamil via the Thamil Service of the then Radio Ceylon and the SLBC some 40 years ago. As pioneer members of the then FIlm Critics and Journalists' Association of Sri Lanka (FCJAC), the late Sillayoor Selvarajan and I from the Thamil community joined a battery of dynamic film critics from the English and Sinhala language critics of the film as an art form.

It was a happy union of several ' beautiful minds ' ( to borrow a title of a film ) from various communities that strove to create good taste amongst us.

Contact: [email protected]

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