Murugan and Rajinikanth 5

In my 2016 exhibit for the Singapore biennale I performed a ritual offering to lord Murugan. third stanza of the nerisai venpas  (closing verses) of the “Thirumuruhaattup-padai” – a hymn, to the glory of Lord Murugan, composed by the poet Nakkirar. This verse is a veneration of the sacred weapon of Lord Murugan, his Vel.

Heroic  Vel
Radiant Vel
Valiant Vel that set free imprisoned celestial beings
Vel of the glorious one’s Sacred Hand
Vel that plunged the oceans deep
Regal Vel
Vel that pierced Suran’s breast and hill
Our extant Refuge 

Murugan and Rajinikanth 4

In the course of my performances at the Singapore Biennale 2016/2017, I offered prayers to lord Murugan (also named Skanda or Kanthan) and salutations to Superstar Rajinikanth. I recited a stanza from the ​the nerisai venpas (closing verses) of the “Thirumuruhaattup-padai” – a hymn, to the Lord’s glory, composed by the poet Nakkirar. I ended my prayer with with the exaltation “Murugmikku Arohra!” I then praised the SUPERSTAR thus, “Thalaivar Vallha!” My bringing together of Murugan and Rajinikanth in this event, foreshadows the recent Tamil Nadu media spectacle ensuing from the Periyarist Facebook Channel Karuppar Koottam‘s denigration of Lord Murugan. The State authorities swiftly shutdown the offending site and arrested two parties who were allegedly responsible. Rajinikanth praised the crackdown tweeting , “At least henceforth, let there be an end to religious hatred and demeaning of gods. It should end,” ending his tweet … “Kandhanukku Arohara!”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=2&v=Cvu3qfhQsdI&feature=emb_logo

https://koboibalikkampung.wixsite.com/kiasu/performance

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCInQup_YzESGFToU1zZ8JBg

https://www.outlookindia.com/website/story/india-news-two-tamil-nadu-periyar-activists-arrested-for-offensive-video-on-lord-muruga/357020

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chennai/rajinikanth-tweets-kandhanukku-arohara-thanks-tamil-nadu-govt-for-swift-action-against-karuppar-koottam/articleshow/77117933.cms?utm_source=contentofinterest&utm_medium=text&utm_campaign=cppst

Murugan and Rajinikanth 3

5 Valthal

Superstar Rajinikanth is one of the highest paid actors in Asia. He is a renowned philanthropist and an influential figure in Tamil Nadu public life who is respectfully referred to as Thalaiva or ‘leader’. The SUPERSTAR, who recently spoke up in the context of the Karuppar Koottam  affair, was himself the first dark-skinned (Karuppu) leading man in the context of Tamil cinema. 

Upon meeting Rajinikanth in the early 1970s, director K Balachander is supposed to have been struck by “the fellow’s fragile health and powerful eyes and his chiselled face… [a]nd of course, his skin colour, you know. The dark skin I thought was an advantage because again it is different from others. All the people who are very fair and all that, they have an easy entry into films. Why shouldn’t I take this boy, give him a good role, and see what can be drawn out of him?” While he seems today to be veering away from his promised Tamil Nadu political entry, this dark Dravidian cinema icon has thus far been showing signs of a decidedly ‘saffron’ or Hindutva leaning.  

In my 2016 exhibit for the Singapore biennale I performed a ritual offering to both lord Murugan and to Rajinikanth, thereby attempting to articulate the relationship of Traditional Hindu iconolatry and contemporary Kollywood idolatry.

https://scroll.in/reel/870652/the-colour-black-has-a-starring-role-in-rajinikanths-films-from-apoorva-raagangal-to-kaala

Murugan and Rajinikanth 2

Installing an antique terracotta icon at the Singapore Art Museum, Singapore Biennale 2016. 

The terracotta pictured above, was installed at the Singapore Art Museum as a part of my work for the Singapore Biennale 2016/17. This icon represents the Puranic myth in which Lord Ganesha wins a miraculous mango from his brother Lord Murugan by recognizing that his parents Lord Shiva and Mother Parvathy were not just a part of his universe but, also all of it. In my work, this terracotta opens up a highly liminal space between sacred icon, museum artifact and contemporary art work.

In this, the 2nd of a series of posts at the nexus of ‘Murugan’ and ‘Rajinikanth’ I share a very particular version of the Mango of Enlightenment (Nyana Pazham) myth, which is mine by matrilineal descent …. Once, as Lord Shiva, Mother Parvathy and their children Ganesha and Muruga were enjoying a moment of family bliss in their heavenly abode, the Sage Narada paid them a visit. Holding a mango in his hand, Naradha addressed the boys, “Lord this mango is sweeter than amirtham (divine elixir) it is for you, but it must be not be divided.” Shiva decided to offer it to just one of his sons by way of a challenge, “The mango goes to the one who is the first to circumnavigate the world.”​​​

Knowing that he that must win this challenge, the sprightly Murugan bestrode his glorious peacock and set off around the world. Contemplating his own gait and his most modest vehicle, the mouse, Ganesha posed his father and mother a question, “Ammai, Appan, is it not true that parents are, for a child, the world?” “Yes”, his glowing parents replied in unison. Ganesha continued, “Is it not also true that the whole universe (Prakriti) is but a manifestation (an allegory, a metonym) of your Lordly selves (Shiva/Shakti)?” “Well, yes of course!” – the only possible reply! Ganesha slowly circumambulated Shiva and Parvathy, his father and mother, his world – the world, and sure enough, he won the mango.

When Murugan came flying back, expecting to win, he saw Ganesha with the prize. Stunned and feeling cheated, he became enraged. He pierced his brothers generous belly with his Vel (this part of the story seems to be a particularity of my grandmother’s version) and abandoned his Heavenly abode. Discarding all his celestial accoutrements, he journeyed South, to stand alone on Mount Palani in a meager loin cloth.​​ To this day, he stands there and is hailed as Palani Aandi (Mendicant of Palani), a form of the Lord that is dear to the hearts of the Shivites of South India and the diaspora.

https://www.singaporeartmuseum.sg/-/media/sam/files/exhibitions/sb2016/sb2016-shortguide-lowres.pdf?inline=1

Murugan and Rajinikanth

Kiasu Cowboys Performance, Koboi Project, Singapore Art Museum 2017

In the midst of the Political storm caused in Tamil Nadu by the Periyarist Karuppar Koottam facebook chanel’s recent denigration of Lord Murugan and his Kanda Sashti Kavasam, Superstar Rajinikanth came out form his political hibernation to acknowledge the sitting AIADMK state government, itself Periyarist in inception, for the swift crackdown on the alleged provocation. Two protagonists of the disturbance were arrested and charged with ‘giving provocation intent to cause riot’, ‘promoting enmity between different groups’ and ‘deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings’ under the Indian Penal Code.

Writing on this matter based on my valid, if limited, locus standi, as a Jaffna born Tamil, I must note that while I am enamored of the ethos and charisma of Dravidian politics, I have never appreciated its central praxis of narrow communal scapegoating as a means to mass mobilization. While admiring their pioneering deconstruction of religion and myth as means to power and as forms of social control, I have always rejected their blank atheism as a window onto the truth of human existence. Without developing this sensitive, explosive even, subject further, I would like to take the opportunity of its topicality to index my own engagement with this nexus of Muruga and Thalaiva! In 2016/17, I presented an installation and performance at the Singapore Biennale which itself became the basis for 5th photographic series of the Koboi Project titled Kiasu Cowboys. Central to this work are the acknowledgement of Lord Murugan, via an antique terra cotta icon of the ‘mango myth’ and a large photographic print of a cinema hoarding of Superstar Rajinikanth.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCInQup_YzESGFToU1zZ8JBg
https://www.outlookindia.com/website/story/india-news-two-tamil-nadu-periyar-activists-arrested-for-offensive-video-on-lord-muruga/357020
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bc31a0xd1FUhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bc31a0xd1FU
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/All_India_Anna_Dravida_Munnetra_Kazhagam
https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/karuppar-koottam-hindu-peravai-members-held-under-goondas-act/article32207633.ece
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Politics_of_Tamil_Nadu
https://koboibalikkampung.wixsite.com/kiasuhttps://koboibalikkampung.wixsite.com/kiasu
https://koboibalikkampung.wixsite.com/kiasu/icon
https://koboibalikkampung.wixsite.com/kedualan