Well, after one failed attempt on blogspot, finally got to start another blog on WordPress. Hope this one works out better.
I couldn’t think of anything worthwhile to write, before it dawned on me that there’s never going to be a time to find something worthwhile. So, here goes…
Thought I’d start off my first post with my impressions of the book I just finished reading (or re-reading, if a desultory attempt at reading a decades-old bound novel during a lazy summer vacation counts).
Tararara- (drum roll)சிவகாமியின் சபதம்
I know most of you are going – huh! So, let me transliterate and then translate. It’s a novel called Sivakamiyin Sapatham or Sivakami’s Vow, a historical novel by the Tamil writer, ‘Kalki’ Krishnamurthy.
The novel is mainly about a particular period of Indian history that interests me the most, the period of transition from the Ancient to the medieval period of Indian history. The story spans a decade or so in the middle part of the 7th Century CE. It is a pretty long novel, with many characters and stories running through it.
It’s broken into 4 parts, with a specific theme running through each of them. Each of them cannot really be read as a separate story, though.
The chief protagonists are the eponymous Sivakami, a young women who happens to be the master Bharatanatyam exponent of the time and one of the beauties of the age and Narasimha Varman, the young Pallava king. Their young love and the way their love story plays out is the primary theme of the novel.
The novel is set against the backdrop of the time. It was a time of great empires in the Indian sub-continent and of the transition from a period of intense religious discourse and ferment. Buddhism and the Jaina faith were far more prevalent at the time in India. The great religious schisms within Hinduism, Shaiva, Vaishnava and the earlier Vedic religion were being reconciled and the time was full of new thoughts, new ideas and much intellectual curiosity.
The entire Gangetic plain,which had emerged a millenium ago as the centre of the political power in India, had been united, after many centuries of incursions from the North-West. The Shakas, Yavanas, Yaudheyas, Abhiras and Hunas had gradually been assimilated into the main stream of Indian culture.
The Uttara-Patha Chakravartin or Emperor of the Northern Path, Harsha Vardhana had established his rule at Kanauj. The monastries established during Mauryan times were actively creating new scholars. The Vedic schools at Kanyakubja were turning out the new insights into ancient scriptures, among which would be the seminal commentry on the Mandukya Upanishad by Gaudapada, which would break new paths in Vedantic thought.
The central region of India – Madhya Bharata – had been consolidated into a single political structure under the rule of the first Chalukyas. For the first time in Indian history, the two major agrarian regions of central India, the fertile Krishna-Godavari Vengi region and the Raichur doab, had been united under Chalukyan rule.
The southern part of India – Dakshina Bharata – had been mostly brought under the reign of the Pallava dynasty. They had emerged in the early years of Christian Era and had gradually brought the traditional chieftains of the South -Ganga, Kadamba – and the three kings of old Tamilaham – Chera, Chola, Pandya – under their overlordship.
Their capital, Kanchi had emerged as a center of learning and culture to rival the great centers of Kashi, Nalanda and Takshashila. Their core power center was Tondaimandalam, the region comprising the northern districts of present-day Tamil Nadu.
We will go on to discuss a little bit more of this period, which was the beginning of a millenium-long struggle for supremacy in the South. The struggle would always be between the rulers of the Raichur Doab, who controlled the fertile plain between Krishna and Tungabhadra, and the overlords of the lower Kaveri plain.