Kozhikode

Vadakkanpattu’s unsung heroes, heroines come alive in this book

The cover of the book Vadakkanpattu Kathakal by Sajeevan Mokeri.

The cover of the book Vadakkanpattu Kathakal by Sajeevan Mokeri. | Photo Credit: K. Ragesh

Everyone knows Unniyarcha and Thumbolarcha. But what about Karumparambil Archa? What about the lower caste women who fought with as much vigour as the Archas without any formal training? Sajeevan Mokeri's Vadakkanpattu Kathakal is all about those lesser-known heroes, heroines and stories from the Vadakkanpattu, the popular ballads of north Kerala. The author of many a book in the children's fiction category, Mr. Mokeri has put down the ballads in prose for the convenience of the new-generation readers.

Mr. Mokeri is a native of the erstwhile Kadathanadu, a princely state in north Malabar, and these ballads were part of his growing up years. When Mr. Mokeri turned to writing, he automatically took an interest in these ballads. His initial books were on Thacholi Othenan, Mathileri Kanni and Kunjuthalu, some of the popular characters from the ballads. The books were published by the Kerala State Institute of Children's Literature. It was upon the institute's demand that he came up with an anthology of 33 stories from the ballads titled Vadakkanpattu Kathakal.

“My biggest challenge was to convert the verse into prose, without losing its charm. I had to resort to using some parts of the verses as they are to keep up the feel,” Mr. Mokeri said.

The ballads of north Kerala used to be sung by people in the countryside as they performed their daily chores. The songs used to reverberate from the paddy fields, as they were sung by women who planted and harvested the crop. But all that is lost with time, and Mr. Mokeri finds it his duty to preserve these ballads for posterity.

“Many people have collected the songs and published them. However, there are still many that are not in print. We can unearth more as we dig,” Mr. Mokeri said. He fears the songs will be lost forever, if not unearthed now.

The stories in the book have been rewritten to suit the taste of children and adults alike. “I wanted to make sure that the next generation, at least in Kadathanadu, is aware of the ballads,” he said.

The illustrations of the stories have been done in the Kerala mural painting style by Manoj Mathasseril.

Even though there are demands for a second part to the anthology, the author is currently involved in the research for a book on stories connected to Theyyam and Thira in north Kerala.


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Printable version | May 15, 2022 8:23:34 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/kozhikode/vadakkanpattus-unsung-heroes-heroines-come-alive-in-this-book/article65414368.ece