all towns are
one, all men our kin.
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Selected Writings by Sachi Sri Kantha
"Your son has died'', the messenger spilled the sad news. "Is that so? How did he die? Where did he receive the fatal wound?", the mother asked.
"From what I heard, he was fleeing from the battle field and one of the enemy's spears pierced through his back", murmured the messenger.
"A fleeing son; and a spear in his back! What a shame?", fumed the mother, her sadness turning into anger.
"I have lost my father, brother and husband in the on-going battle and nothing is worse for me than to lose my son. What I'm ashamed is that his fatal wound was in his back", the Tamil mother screamed. The messenger was dumbfounded.
"Now I'll leave for the battle field to search for my son. If your words prove to be true, I'll mutilate the breasts which fed him with life" thundered the mother.
And, after a while, there she was in the middle of the battle field, turning the bodies of soldiers, horses and elephants in search of her departed son.
Had he brought fame for his family or shame for his mother ? That was the question. Finally she located his smiling, youthful face, spattered with blood.
Anxiously, she turned his body to look for the fatal wound. There was no wound in his back. The messenger was wrong.
Her son had received the fatal wound right in the centre of the chest. The mother's eyes shed tears. Those tears told the story of a heroism that she had fed him with the milk from her breasts.
What I have set out here, has been told many times by Tamil poets in diverse forms. The story has also been enacted in numerous Tamil folk plays, in the theater, in dance dramas and even in Tamil movies. Though the poets and actors may have changed, the central theme remained the same....
To the international audience, Professor. K. Kailasapathy succinctly summarised these themes in his 1968 classic work, Tamil Heroic Poetry (Oxford, Clarendon Press)...
From the poets who lived in the Sangam Age (two millenia ago) to our contemporaries like Subramanya Bharathi and Kavi Arasu Kannadasan, Tamils have extolled the virtue of heroism in the battle field.
Pura Nanooru poetry is all about the bravery and chivalry of the Tamil people. The flags of Chera (Flower), Chola (Tiger) and Pandiya (Fish) were considered as venerable objects and it was the duty of Tamil youth to safeguard the dignity of these flags. Their energies were harnessed to raise these flags in the far corners of India, Eelam and South East Asia. Verses of great Tamil poets like Kambar, Auvayar and Jeyam Kondaar praised the virtues of fighting for a noble cause.
In one of his popular songs for children (Papaa Pattu), Subramanya Bharathi provides the following advice:
Kavi Arasu Kannadasan expressed similar sentiments in a lyric for one of the MGR's great movies, Mannnathi Mannan in mid 1950s:
In our times, it was MGR himself, by his more than 120-odd movies spanning four decades (1936-76), who became a role model for many young Tamils in Tamil Nadu. MGR was well versed in the traditional martial arts of Tamils such as horse-riding, fencing, wrestling and silambam. ... As one journalist put it:
"He created the image of an action hero who used his fists more than his tongue. He showed the masses through his films the importance of fighting to help themselves." (Far Eastern Economic Review, 4 February 1988)