Sunday, September 11, 2011



One of my former hospital officers, Mr.Cheong is an ardent Buddhist. Recently he made a pilgrimage to many of the Buddhist shrines in Thailand where the state religion is Buddhism. 
Since he had also gone to northern Thailand, I asked him whether he visited Kanchanapuri. 
Kanchanapuri is the starting point of the Thai/Burmese Japanese Railway. This railway is otherwise known as the DEATH Railway. Because it was built with a huge cost of human lives and human suffering and toil. It was built by forced labour of the prisoners of war from belonging to Britain, Australia, and to a less extent NewZealand and Holland. A few Americans and Canadians were also there. They were captured by the Japanese. 
The main bulk of the worker force was made up Indian and Malay labourers from Malaya.
Here is the breakdown - 

180,000 Asian labourers and 60,000 Allied prisoners of war (POWs) worked on the railway. 
Of these, around 90,000 Asian labourers and 16,000 Allied POWs died as a direct result of the project. 
This railway was made famous by the movie, 'Bridge On The River Kwai'.
They have a Museum of war relics from the railway.
Mr Cheong said that he visited the JEATH Railway War Museum. 
I was puzzled.
I asked him, "You mean the Death Railway War museum.
"No", he said. "It is JEATH railway. Its called by that name now. 
Then he explained, "JEATH stands for the five countries - Japan, England, Australia, Thailand, and Holland".
I shouted, "Thats not fair. 80000 Malaysian Tamils worked in the railway and most of them did not come back".
He agreed, "Yes, its not fair. But thats how it is".
The following is the Wikipedia article about the JEATH War Museum.
There are other museums related to the railway. But JEATH is the main one.
Thats that.
Tamils fought in the INA against the British. They are unsung although heroes. 
Tamils lost their lives in that infamous notorious Death Railway. 
Their memory is eradicatd and nothing is known about them.
Not even Nam Ke VAstE.

Now the article - 

JEATH War Museum
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The JEATH War Museum is one of two war museums in Thailand about the Death Railway built from 1942 to 1943 by Allied POWs under the direction of the Japanese. The museum was founded in 1977 and is located on the grounds of a temple at the junction of the Khwae Yai and Khwae Noi rivers in Kanchanaburi. The acronym JEATH stands for the four main nationalities involved in the construction of the railway: Japanese, English, Australian, and Thai.

The portion of the museum depicting the construction of the Death Railway is meant to recreate the quarters used by Allied POWs. It includes a prehistoric view on the province as well as the Miss Thailand contest room.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011



Tamil rule in Tamilnadu came to an end in 1313 AD when the Pandya regime was destroyed by the Turks from Delhi. After the Turks, Tamilnadu passed under the rule of the Kannada/Telugu rulers of Vijayanagar. They had governors and war-lords who ruled over parts of Tamilnadu under the Vijayanagar Emperors. The governors and war-lords were called Nayakkars and Palayakkaarars. Tamilnadu was ruled by the Nayakkars of Gingee, Thanjavur, and Madurai. Of these, Madurai Nayakdom was the biggest and strongest.
The most prominent Madurai Nayaks, was Tirumalai Nayakkar.
During the times of the Nayakkar rule, Tamil literature was cast into darkness. The country was parcelled out among war lords and military leaders and feudal chieftains. They did not have much interest in literary pursuits. Only once in a while, we come across patrons who would sponsor some poet. Poets were generally poor and had no other means apart from composing poems to make a living. And the rich people in those days did not have any taste for poetry.
And most of them had Telugu or Kannada as their mother tongues.
This was the time that a great many literary pieces from ancient times were lost.
Very few new great masterpieces took shape.
Poets had to pander to the taste of the war lords and feudal chieftains. The war-lords 
 were more tasteful towards pornographic writings and self-aggrandizements. Small pieces which involved intricate word jugglery were the order of the day. The other field that was in vogue, was the Sthala PuraNas - puranic works which were dedicated to certain towns and temples. 
The times of Tirumalai Nayakkar were not exceptional. Although a great works called ThiruviLaiyaadal puraaNam, Meenatchiyamman PiLLai Thamilz, Kandhar KaliVeNba and such like, it should be noted that they were divinely inspired and were composed by poets who were sagelike in outlook. And Father Beschi was making reformations in Tamil script. 
But they were all more exceptions than rule.

One of the poor poets was one named Supradeepa Kaviraayar.
There are 96 types of poetic compositions in Tamil. They are known as 'prabhandha's. Of these, there is one class called 'thuudhu'. This would mean a mission, embassy, sending a message. The love-lorn damsel sends a message about her plight to her lover. She has to choose a suitable messenger. According to the grammer guiding the composition of a 'thuudhu', certain objects and persons are specified. 
A maid, a cloud, a dancer, a bard, a kuyil, and a few others. Even the language Thamilz has been made the subject of thuudhu called 'Thamilz vidu thuudhu'. 
Another class of prabhandham is the 'kaadhal'. This class deals with all aspects of love and its preludes and follow-ups. It has romance and porno mixed. 
Supradeepa composed two pieces - a kaadhal and a thuudhu.
He made Tirumalai Nayakkar as the hero of the 'kaadhal'. Hence he named it, 'Thirumalai Naayakkan Kaadhal'. 
One day, he sought audience with Tirumalai Nayakkar early in the morning.
At that time, Tirumalai was brushing his teeth and washing his mouth and gargling. 
When Supradeepa told him that he had composed a prabhandham, Tirumalai asked what language it was in. 
Supradeepa answered 'Tamil'.
Tirumalai retorted contemptously, "Telugu tenugu; kannaram kasthuuri; aravam adhvaanam".
'The language Telugu is like honey; Kannada is like kasturi; Tamil is forsaken, discarded language'. 
Supradeepa got very much taken aback and upset. 
But who could argue with a most autocratic militaristic sexist despot?
Certainly not a half-starved hand-to-mouth poet like Supradeepa. 
So he left the presence of Tirumalai.
After sometime he went to another minor ruler called KuuLappa Naayakkar. With his consent, he made him the hero of the kaadhal and named it 'KuuLappa Naayakkan Kaadhal'. 
He wanted to take vengence on Tirumalai.
He created a scene where two prostitutes quarrel in public.
During the quarrel, one prostitute derides another, pointing out her very low professional qualities, standards, connections, and clientele. She compares herself to the other and says, "Would I ever let a pot-bellied vadugan to screw me; a pot-bellied Vadugan  who was born because of a very publicly displayed intercourse of a maami?"
The thondhi vadugan was Tirumalai. 'Vadugan' is a derogatory term for a Nayakkar. Vadugan literary means a 'Northerner' - the Andras who lived to the north of Tamilnaadu.
Tirumalai was pot-bellied. This can be seen clearly in many of his statues, especially the one at ThirupparanggunRam.
Tirumalai got wind of this and had Suprdeepa caught. In those days, there were many types of punishments. One was imprisonment inside a small cage. Sometimes this is shaped like a human figure with limbs. The victim is placed inside and the cage is locked. It is then hung. The victim cannot move his limbs and starves to death. Another type was a simple cage where the victim is placed and locked. This is known as the 'kiLi-kuudu' or 'kiLi-kuuNdu' - the parrot-cage.
Supradeepa was placed insde a parrot-cage and suspended.
He was there for three days and finally sang a poem depicting himself as a caged and starved parrot and apolologised to Tirumalai.
Tirumalai at last let him out. 
Later on, Supradeepa became the Tamil tutor to Father Beschi alias Veera Maa Munivar - the Man who made changes to and standardised Tamil script.
And the twin kaapiyams of KuuLappa Naayakkan Kaadhal and ViRali vidu Thuudhu remained popular until about fifty years ago.