Date:19/12/2008 URL: http://www.thehindu.com/thehindu/fr/2008/12/19/stories/2008121951030200.htm
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CHAT CORNER

‘Questioning instinct is sharp now’


Today’s child has to be convinced with reason.




Nagai Mukundan

Recently honoured with Gowri Manohari award by Sruthi Laya Kendra of Guru Karaikkudi Mani, Nagai Mukundan has been charting his growth up the graph as an expert in religious discourses from a relatively small beginning by sheer hard work, with no god father to help him. Contrary to the opinion that imitations never shine, Nagai Mukundan who adopts Pulavar Keeran’s style to a T is growing popular by the day. He reminisces in Mukundan style at his office, late night...

Initiation into religious discourse...

I hail from Nagapattinam. My father Doraiswamy Bhattachariar was an archakar at the Sri Krishnan sannithi in Sri Soundararaja Perumal temple there. During festival days many religious discourses were arranged at the temple which I never missed. Pulavar Keeran’s lectures were featured regularly. Attracted by his style, as a school boy, I decided that he will be my guru. Thereafter I never missed his programmes whenever they took place in and around Nagai. I approached him to help me hone my skills in debating and oratory. This continued even during my days at AVC College. Though a student of BSc Zoology I found dissecting Tamil literature to bring out the hidden pearls more interesting. I had won many competitions both in school and college. After moving to Chennai, joining the Kamba Ramayanam course conducted by Kamban Kazhagam, free of cost enabled me to get a better understanding of the epic. Sri Kachaliswarar Temple, Armenian Street, George Town was where I got my first break for a week long discourse on Kamba Ramayanam in 1983. Simultaneously I started learning other works in Tamil such as Alwargal puranam, Sri Abirami Andhadi, Peria Puranam, Villi Bharatham and Kanda Puranam.

Days of development...

I still remember those initial days at Astika Samajam, Alwarpet, and other organisations in and around the city. The halls would be virtually empty but I never got bogged down. I saw people’s interest grow and today my discourses are packed, which I would attribute to sheer hard work and His Grace. People in general attend these programmes as a good diversion from their daily chores and also to de-stress themselves. I am the first recipient of Kalaimamani award of the Tamil Nadu Government for religious discourses. I attribute my sustained development to Karur Vysya Bank, I’m their PRO. Sukhi Sivam and I are planning to start a school for training interested youth in this art of public speaking and religious discourses.

Acquaintance with A.P.J.Abdul

Kalam…

My first ever meeting was slated for only fifteen minutes when he was the president of India, but it got extended beyond forty five minutes as we both got immersed in the beauty of Kamba Ramayanam. Thereafter it has been a regular exchange of ideas and interpretations till date. He particularly was impressed with my explanation of why Kambar had compared Guhan with a dog (‘Naai Guhan Endru Yesuvaaro’) towards the end of the epic when Lord Rama returns to Ayodya. In a literary gathering he has gone on record saying that it was Iyam Perumal Konar who gave him an insight into Kamba Ramayanam and that I kindled his interest in it further. This, I would cherish forever.

Religious discourses then and now...

After the late 1960s, the questioning instinct has sharpened and we have to be armed with answers for all sorts of queries from the audience. Those days when my father asked me to fall at some one’s feet, with implicit obedience I would just do so. But today’s child has to be convinced with reason.

Accolades from seers…

Srirangam Periasramam Srimad Andavan Swamigal, a scholar both in Tamil and Vedas, would always offer fresh interpretations and meanings of various concepts whenever I went over to receive his blessings. Very enlightening ones they are. Jayendra Saraswathi calls me a banker by day and bhagavathar by night. I owe my acquaintance with Swami Dayananda Saraswathi to vidwan Padma Subrahmanyam and Sheila Balaji, industrialist. “You have shown me the heart of Kambar” were his words of appreciation after listening to my discourse on Kamba Ramayanam at his native village Manjakkudi. In combination with Sudha Ragunathan a disc has been released, where she sings Kamba Ramayana pasurams and I offer explanations to each one of them.

Further forays...

I am on the verge of completing a book titled ‘Mahabharatham — Andrun, Indrum Endrum.’ This book explains how Mahabaratham is connected with our daily life.

V. BALASUBRAMANIAN

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