West indian literature

Suicide for a cause: an age-old Tamil tradition celebrated in literature

A frequently asked question is why Tamils ​​commit suicide for reasons that cannot be understood by others.

In Tamil Nadu, people commit suicide when political leaders fall ill, they face a police case, or when a political leader or famous actor dies, among other reasons, leading to mass hysteria.

In the Tamil historical novel ‘Ponniyin Selvan’ by Kalki Krishnamurthy, which is being made into a two-part Rs 500 crore film by acclaimed director Mani Ratnam, the bodyguards of Chola Kings pledge to donate their lives to protect the king. If they don’t, they cut off their heads as an offering to the goddess Kali.

The same ideology has been transferred to members of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in the recent past. This ideology has few equals in the world or in other cultures.

R. Padmanabhan, a Tamil academic and activist who is also the director of the Socio-Economic Development Foundation, a Madurai-based think tank, told IANS: “You have this in the Tamil psyche and you can’t blame the Dravidian movement. or the ideology associated with it for such suicides.

“Tamils ​​are emotionally attached to their culture and their language and these things are bound to happen if you are too emotional to protect your language and your culture.”

He cited the example of King Kopperuncholan, who, faced with the distress of fighting his own sons for the kingdom, decided to commit suicide by performing the ritual of “vadakiruttai”, or death by starvation, facing north while time. The king did this to deprive his sons of the glory of victory and at the same time to ensure that heirs to his throne did not die at his hands.

The sacrifice is celebrated in “Purananuru”, a compilation of poems from the Sangam age dedicated to the valor of ancient kings.

R. Perumalsami, a retired academic and professor, said the cult of hero worship has led people to commit suicide in solidarity with those who have lost their lives for a cause.

During the anti-Hindi agitation in 1965, 10 people committed suicide; in the next phase of the unrest in 1981, 15 people had committed suicide.

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