Got to know a lot of interesting things, my roots and also realized that the ASI should visit there soon. Have some interesting pictures as well. Will post as soon as I can wheedle sometime.
I had a concert this weekend at Madurai with Anuradha Sreeram, Vijay Yesudas and Harish Raghavendra for Vasan Eye Care celebrating their 25th hospital. Finance Minister P Chidambaram was the chief guest. The concert was a super time cos more than the action on stage, these are the times when we share some time together. Harish and Vijay are super good mimics and have enough to say to keep your ROTFL for hours together. I had to be reminded not to laugh so much because sadly enough it affects the singing voice. After the concert we returned to the hotel and went to Meenakshi temple the next morning and headed straight to Paramakudi. It so happened that I dreamt of a Goddess more than a decade ago, she told me to come and visit her. The only thing she did not do is give me her address. Only said that she is near Madurai. Ever since we have been searching and looking at several places, several towns, several cities, with no clue so far. Someone told me about a Goddess some 20 kilometers from Madurai. We decided to hit Paramakudi first anyway and drove into our hometown - Thiruvarangam. Mom had an idea that it was a very small village spanning say one or two hundred acres but once we went in is when we realized that it spanned more than a 1000 acres. The village belonged to my family until the Zamindari act was passed. My granddad was extremely close to the then Ramnad Raja - our ties with the family continues to this day - mom told me stories on how the Raja family would not call my Granddad by name as a mark of respect. They either referred to them as 'saami' or gave them nicknames. My grand-dad was called Kurali Iyengar. There is some weird story of how while they were playing cricket thatha fell down like a kurali vidhai kaaran, hence the name Kurali Iyengar.
On the way to Thiruvarangam, asking for directions, we stopped at another village, I forget the name now, the Pujari in that temple asked who we were and once Mom told him, he said "then you must be the odamaikaaraas of the village" and gave us the directions. The people in Thiruvarangam remembered our family only too well.
Once in the village there was a swayambhu Kaali temple. The priest there seemed to know quite a bit.
There is a Ranganatha Swamy temple which had been razed to the ground by the Nawabs and the people there asked us to do something to bring the temple back. A lot of times they have dug in the area and have found something or the other. The locals say that everything from the idols to the Golden chariot remain buried there. The temple originally stood over a sprawling 18 acres and the locals pointed us to where it was and the area is a bushy karuvelankadu now. They also showed us where our house once was. There is an arasa maram as a mark of where our house was situated.
If there is one thing I hate about all the different rulers India has had, its how they had systematically razed so many of our beautiful structures to the ground. None of the architectural brilliance or the brains can be seen today. The imagination, the execution. I wonder how that wisdom did not get passed on, or was it the irreverent youth who failed to see the value, the wonder that was India?
When the locals told us "indha graamam ongaludhu dhaane" (This village was yours) that is when it started sinking in. Several times Paatti had spoken about the village. Talking of the life there and how it had been. I guess when a family loses 1000s of acres it definitely does pinch. My Thatha was in the army at that time (he was also part of the freedom struggle, produced a movie which never saw the light of day, started a paper and so many things I have heard), he gave up his post and rushed back to settle the dealings of our land in Thiruvarangam. The family had the property and cultivable lands in Thiruvarangam. The children of the family had their primary education in Ramanathapuram for which there was a house in the agraharam area, then one more establishment for higher studies in Chennai. The family had to eventually move to Madras with the Zamindari abolition bill. When the people of Thiruvarangam in spite of so much time having passed by , said "inda gramam ongalodaduthane", we felt as if someone punched us in the gut.
While it felt really good during our brief visit to the village, as we drove back to Madurai airport the heaviness in our heart could be described. Nothing like setting foot on your own soil. But if you do, nothing can ever describe the way it pulls you to it. I am now in the process of knowing the history of that place, my roots and God willing, Lord Ranganatha willing, its time to bring the temple back. Lots to be done.
And I miss Thatha more than anything else now. Wish I had heard all this from. And wish he was here.
P.S.: At the Hindu Cinema Plus party Mr Vikram kept calling me "Paramakudi" or "Paramakudikaari". I was pretty embarrassed. I requested him, rather begged him not to mention that in public. For one, there are two super people that I know, who belong to Paramakudi, at least as long as filmdom is concerned. Padmashri Kamal Hasan and Mr Vikram. I said I'd rather not stake my claim so early, would love to make a greater name and then bring speak about it more. That was when Mr Vikram told me to assert that I was Paramakudi. He took it upon himself to tell quite a few people that we were from the same hometown. I guess now that I have been there, it doesn't feel all that weird anymore.