EVENT Thiruvilayaadal Thriveni Sangamam, a musical discourse, presented mythology for children in the present-day context

Over 100 students on a Saturday evening assembled to listen to episodes from Thiruvilayaadal Puranam. It was not the usual fairy tales, superhero stories or magical fiction but myths and tales of gods and goddesses. The shruti petti was tuned and singer Sudha Eshwaran started off with a song in praise of Lord Shiva.

In a five-day musical discourse organized by INTACH Madurai Chapter, the 64 divine plays of Thiruvilayaadal Puranam were vividly described for school children. Modern-day kids know nothing of our puranas, culture and heritage, parents often say. But Harikatha exponent Kausalya Sivakumar says, “Children should be given the roots first and then the wings to fly.”

Kausalya experiments by combining various forms of communication. In the programme, she presented a blend of Tamil verses, Sanskrit shlokas and songs from Shiva Leelaarnamam, Haalasya Maahatmyam and Thiruvilayaadal Puranam. “Telling tales is an art, and for children mythology should be packaged differently. I use lots of English quotations, simple vocabulary and body language. I even pick up some cinema songs and anecdotes to explain a certain chapter from the puranas,” she says.

The programme threw light on the mythological importance of Madurai and the Meenakshi Temple. “Such programmes teach children old Tamil words,” says Amsaraj, a school teacher. “Reading the puranas will also help us to learn many unknown facts about our town and little interesting tales. Listening to puranic stories will also instil compassion towards birds and animals in young minds. Myths in Hinduism speak of God taking animal forms and it’s a way of respecting all creatures.”

Aravind, Convener of INTACH Madurai Chapter, says, “Stories and values have always gone together. Stories if told and described in an engaging way can have a good impact on children.” Nearly 14 schools and 3000 students took part in the event. Aravind adds, “Participants have been asked to paint or write an essay on any of the stories and the entries will be judged and awarded. We aim to promote history and mythology among school goers. We also plan to compile all the works into a book on Thiruvilayaadal.”

Kausalya says that listening to tales will promote reasoning and logical thinking among children. “In our myths, a single scene of the Raja going on a hunt is portrayed through 20 shlokas. Reading such puranic accounts will enhance imagination and creativity,” she says. “These days, kids question a lot and it is challenging to present them a convincing, logical answer.”

Music, songs, body movements and visuals are essential components of story telling. Yet Kausalya believes that modification of performing patterns is vital to reach the audience. “Rigid traditional performances wouldn’t be appropriate for school audience. You need to be understandable and simple,” she says. “For example, Brahmahathi dosham symbolises guilty feeling and characters like Hemanathan in an episode in Thiruvilayaadal symbolize ego. Hidden meanings in the stories need to be brought out in order to make children imbibe those in practical life.”

A. SHRIKUMAR

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