Perumal Murugan

Arts Research and Documentation

Grant Period: Over two years

Perumalmurugan’s literary concerns have centred on the town of Tiruchenkode in Salem District, Tamil Nadu. In particular, Perumalmurugan wishes to weave the recent history of the town’s planning and industrial development into his proposed novelized local history. These references are extensive in the literature of Tamil’s Sangam period (roughly 200 BCE to 300 CE).

Perumalmurugan would like to examine a claim that there is a reference to Tiruchenkode in the most famous Tamil epic, Silappaddikaram. He intends to pursue all the debates about the reference. Further, he wishes to see how the strong local conviction (in legend and folklore) that the Ardhanareeswara deity consecrated in the hill temple is but the form of Kannagi, who lost a breast, might have an impact on a vibrant, yet credible, historical account of the town. He believes his documentation may help to reconstruct what he calls ‘the local’.

The novel will deal with the many groups that make up contemporary Tiruchenkode society. Apart from the dominant and lower castes, it will also work in the experiences and beliefs of the town’s eunuchs, who are present in large numbers because of the worship of Ardhanareeswara, the half female, half male Shiva-Parvati deity. Perumalmurugan indicates that he may use the industrialized landscape of present-day Tiruchenkode as the base for his story. He also hints that, in its form, the narrative will travel backwards in time. It may not be too optimistic to expect that this project will be something of a magnum opus, bringing his many concerns to bear on one broad sweep of a large canvas.