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‘Celebrate Madurai Day to relive the glorious past'

S. Annamalai
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He is more worried about the need to preserve its heritage and wake up the younger generation to the glories

He is the latest literary icon from the seat of ancient Tamil Sangam. Even when he received the Sahitya Akademi award in New Delhi on Tuesday for his magnum opus, 'Kaaval Kottam,' he showcased his ancient city, Madurai.

His passion for Madurai goes beyond its literature and history. He is more worried about the need to preserve its heritage and wake up the younger generation to the glories of one of the oldest cities of the world. Forty-one-year-old Su. Venkatesan, the Sahitya Akademi award winner in Tamil for 2011, speaks about what should be done to protect Madurai's heritage.

As a story teller, Mr. Venkatesan told the audience at the award ceremony that his city, which was never tired of delivering men of letters, brimmed with stories of valour as the ancient Athens and Greece.

More stone inscriptions were found in Tamil Nadu than in any other State of India; and most of them were discovered in and around Madurai. Residents of this ancient city were literates and poetry flowed like water in the then Vaigai. His novel, ‘Kaaval Kottam,' was a consequence of this literary movement.

The novel, Mr. Venkatesan says, is based on recent 600-year history of Madurai. The over 2000-year-old history comes as a sub-plot. The big question haunting him now is how to preserve this heritage and history? "I always think of doing something to rekindle a sense of belonging to the history of Madurai among its residents.

In this task, we need to organise a movement to preserve monuments and heritage structures in and around Madurai. This can be achieved only with the involvement of all people," he says.

Starting point

Is there a starting point? He moots the idea of celebrating ‘Madurai Day' as a starting point. "Representatives of various associations and institutions can sit together to identify a day as ‘Madurai Day,' though the task will be a bit difficult for a city with such a long history." When even a city like Chennai, which came into existence hundreds of years after Madurai, can celebrate Madras Day in a grand manner every year, why not here is the question. Ten years of Madurai Day celebration will create better global awareness of the city and its history, he is confident. Simultaneously, organisations interested in the preservation of Madurai's heritage should draw up a list of 100 top heritage spots in and around the city and create awareness of their historical and archaeological importance among the younger generation. "After all, people should realise that history involves us all."

He recalled in his acceptance speech how the British rulers plundered the wealth of Madurai and surrounding areas in their attempt to downgrade native language, history and culture and promote theirs as supreme in nature. The thought of the past brings to him a concern for the present. Sustained neglect of history and heritage, he says, will make us victims of moral fury of the future generation. Mr. Venkatesan feels that there is only a poor, superficial commitment among the present generation to the history of the city. "The significance of Madurai has not been realised fully. We fail to understand why all leading travellers of a bygone era have visited Madurai. We are not doing justice to the city we belong. There is a lingering sense of guilt in all of us."

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