Matter relates to alleged inclusion of story in syllabus with controversial content on the poet-saint of Srivilliputtur

The Manonmaniam Sundaranar University has categorically denied media reports that the curriculum for first semester Tamil language contained a short story maligning Andal, the poet-saint of Srivilliputtur, and that it was removed following opposition from various quarters.

Andal, the only woman poet among the 12 Alwars, composers of Vaishnavite devotional poetry, is revered as a saint and worshipped as a deity in Vaishnavite temples.

A report on Monday alleged that ‘Nonbu,’ a collection of short stories, which was approved by the Board of Studies , had offensive and sacrilegious remarks against Andal. Even as various organisations started warning that they would go on an protest, the MSU authorities received a large number of e-mails condemning the university “for including controversial information” about Andal in the syllabus.

A senior faculty member of the MSU said the Board of Tamil Studies, which met here recently to finalise the curriculum for first semester Tamil Language, decided to include writer D. Selvaraj’s ‘Nonbu’, a compilation of 14 short stories, including a story on Andal, published by New Century Book House (NCBH) seven years ago. After a couple of members expressed reservations over the inclusion of ‘Andal’ in the curriculum owing to certain views expressed in the story, it was decided to include ‘Saraswathi’ in its place.

Since the Board of Studies had to seek permission from the publisher for replacing ‘Andal’ with ‘Saraswathi,’ a formal letter was sent to NCBH and the publisher accepted the proposal. Now, the curriculum does not contain ‘Andal’ and, in its place, ‘Saraswathi’ has been included.

“Against this backdrop, rumours are being spread with ulterior motive that the MSU curriculum had maligned ‘Andal’ by including a controversial story in the syllabus,” the faculty member said.

Ten copies with the story of ‘Saraswathi’ had been printed and one copy was recently sent to the Chairman of MSU Conveners’ Committee and Law Secretary G. Jayachandarn. “He is satisfied with the content of the curriculum as there is no reference in any place maligning Andal,” said the faculty member.

Endorsing the faculty member’s views, Registrar S. Manickam said ‘Nonbu’ was not published by the MSU and instead, it had included it as a portion of the syllabus after obtaining permission from the NCBH.