Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Tamil Women in Tamil society, Early 1900s - Part 2

This is the second part giving a brief introduction to the role of women during the colonial times, specifically the early 1900s in the Tamil society.

Dr. Dharmambal was a qualified doctor in “Siddha medicine system”. Apart from her work, Dr. Dharmambal and Achalambikkai (conferred the title Panditai) carried on conducting classes in Tamil literature. Achalmbikkai also wrote about Tiruvamattur Puranam, a sthalapuranam of a temple located in South Arcot district in “manipravalam” style which is a mixture of Tamil with Sanskrit words. Such “Manipravalam” style texts are also famous in Malayalam. She also wrote “Gandhi puranam” and “Tilakar puranam” thus reflecting her Gandhian ideologies. It is interesting to note that she was a child widow and had not only showed enormous courage in participating in mass movements but also in overcoming social stigma associated with widows in public life.

Another child widow, Subbulakshmi Ammal left her mark by establishing a destitute home for women and a school. Most of her writings suffered the same fate of her fellow women activists. They were mostly destroyed by her relatives who were ashamed of her open views on many aspects of the society.

Ramamirtham Ammaiyar campaigned for the abolition of the Devadasi system and organized “Pottu Arupu Sangam” in opposition to the “Pottu Kattudal” process which is the initiation process of a woman into the Devadasi profession. Dr. Muthulakshmi Reddy also helped her in her door to door campaign for the “Devadasi abolition bill”. Ramamirtham Ammaiyar exhibited a zeal for abolition of the Devadasi system which is understandable since she was sold for a saree and ten rupees into the profession by her mother. Ramamirtham Ammaiyar later on married Suyambhu Pillai, a musician and then separated from him.

Kavi Malar Malai (Garland of verse/poetry) written by S. Krishnaveni Ammaiyar is a notable literary work in 1939 talking about the politics and freedom movement. Rajeshwari Ammaiyar’s “Vanakkappal” (Heavenly Ship) was another important literary work in 1945. Y.M. Kodainayaki Ammal, a devout Gandhian wrote about 115 novels during the 30s and 40s.

Ranganayaki Ammal, a devout Gandhian and a prolific writer with deep spiritual beliefs took off her “Thali” and dressed up like a widow when Ramana Maharishi passed away in 1951. This she did even when her husband was alive. Such was for dedication for religious, spiritual quest and she supplemented this with equal fervor for Gandhian ideologies and Tamil and Telugu writings about freedom struggle, plight of women, spiritual quests were burnt by her family and in-laws. This attitude of immediate family members destroying the works of the women activists persisted across the various movements and was used to effectively wipe out the literary and social contributions of many women.

1 comment:

laksh said...

this article is very good .thanks to the author .