Tamil Nadu

A vow of revenge steeped in history

AIADMK general secretary V.K. Sasikala at the Jayalalithaa memorial in Chennai on Wednesday before leaving for Bengaluru to surrender before a special court. According to the party’s official Twitter handle she took a vow to “overcome the conspiracy, treachery and crisis against” her.   | Photo Credit: K.V. Srinivasan

There is a scene in Kalki’s Ponniyin Selvan in which the loyalists of the Pandya king meet at midnight at Pallipadai temple—a temple raised over the body of the leader—and take a pledge to destroy the Cholas. The action of AIADMK general secretary V.K. Sasikala slamming the memorial slab laid in honour of late Chief Minister Jayalalithaa’s Tuesday morning, invoked this ancient Tamil ritual of “Vanjinam Uraithal” (Avenging).

V. Arasu, former head of the department of Tamil, Madras University, said Vanjinam Uraithal was very common in villages during the reign of the kings. In fact, in some villages in Tamil Nadu, it is still being practised, he added. “They would slam the ground as they treat it as Mother Earth. Mr. Panneerselvam observed a vow of silence at the memorial; Ms Sasikala has taken a different kind of vow,” he said.

“Such pledges would take place in graveyards or in the battlefield to avenge the killing of a king or a warrior. In Tamil Nadu, families of warriors would perform the ritual of vaaikkarisi poduthal (filling the mouth of the dead with rice) before they leave for war. It means they are prepared to go to any lengths to fulfil their revenge,” said Sahitya Akademi winner Su. Venkatesan.


The Chola kings had special bodyguards—Velakkara Padai—who would take a vow before the war Goddess Kotravai to chop off their own head if they failed to protect the king. They enjoyed special privileges, and another scene in Ponniyin Selvan depicts the behaviour of this Velakkara Padai. People would throw blind eye to their excesses as they know their dedication.

“There is another ritual called Navakandam. The warriors would assemble before the temple of Kotravai and one solider will cut his throat and offer his blood. Others would vow to complete their mission, and eventually, erect a statue for the martyr,” said IAS officer M. Rajendran, who has rendered into modern Tamil the epigraphs that belonged to the period of Cholas, Pandyas and Pallavas.

Tamil folklore is full of such stories of people pledging revenge at the grave. “The loyalists of the dead would collect his bones and ash and would take a vow to avenge his death,” said folklorist A.K. Perumal.

He said as per the diary notations of Saveri Rayapillai, after hanging Veerapandiya Kattabomman, the British took his body and the rope used to hang him in a bullock cart and destroyed them in an unknown place. “The idea was to prevent his followers from taking a vow over his dead body. In a similar manner, they destroyed the body of Chembulingam, a Robin Hood kind of dacoit in Tirunelveli,” he said.

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Printable version | May 14, 2021 3:32:03 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/A-vow-of-revenge-steeped-in-history/article17309136.ece

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