The poet says his speech was intentionally twisted and that he has expressed regret for a mistake he did not commit.

My words have been twisted Emotional Vairamuthu hits back on Andal controversy
news Controversy Sunday, January 21, 2018 - 13:02

Caught in the middle of the Andal controversy which refuses to die down, Vairamuthu has once again issued a clarification – this time in the form of a video.

Vairamuthu in his speech at the Srivilliputhur Andal temple had quoted a researcher, saying, “Andal herself is a Devadasi who lived and died in the Srirangam Temple.”

Seated in what appears to be a balcony overlooking farmlands, the poet’s voice is choked with emotion and anger.

Vairamuthu begins by saying, “Tamils all over the world, I greet you. My heart lies broken. The bird that perpetually sings in my heart is lying unconscious for the past 10 days. Why? What could be the reason? Whose mistake is this? Is it my mistake that I wished to sing the praises of Andal? Or is it my mistake to research on Andal for three months and gather research articles? Is it my mistake to speak of her glory in Srivilliputhur, the land of her birth, with so much love and the music of Tamil in my words?

You may ask me, ‘Why should you write on Andal alone?’ This is not a series focussing on Andal alone. Tamil literature spans over 3,000 years. In this expanse, I wanted to highlight the pathbreakers of this language and bring them to this new, young, internet generation. From Tholkappiyar to contemporary poets, I wished to offer a bird’s eye view from a research perspective.

So far, I’ve written on Thiruvalluvar, Ilango Adigal, Kambar, Thirumoolar, Appar, Vallalar, UV Swaminatha Iyer, Bharathiyar, Bharathidasan, Kannadasan and Pattukotai Kalayanasundaram. So vast is the field of literary expertise in Tamil. I, who chose to write on Appar among the Nayanars decided to write on Andal among the Alvars.

For the past 40 years, it is Andal’s voice that has been singing in me. As I, a person with no religious faith, read her verses… am filled with power. Tamil blooms in me. In that voice resides true feeling. These verses shine with luminescence. Immense beauty adorns those words. I thought all this of Andal’s words. I celebrated her. I spoke of her literary glory at length there. I registered in the minds there that the first voice of women empowerment in Tamil literature was that of Andal.

‘Only I have the right to choose my groom’, proclaimed Andal, the first Tamil female voice to do so. ‘I shall live not, if I am to be a mere mortal’, she said. ‘My bosom lies in wait only for Lord Vishnu’, she said. This liberated voice of Andal is the one I registered there.”

Vairamuthu then quotes Andal’s verses describing her dreams of her wedding with Lord Vishnu. He also quotes her question to the conch in Lord Vishnu’s mouth, wondering about the taste of the Lord’s mouth and yearning to be one with it.

Vairamuthu continues, “I celebrated all these verses of Andal. Ancient Tamil, young Tamil and rich Tamil seemed to burst forth from Andal’s Tamil like the flowers of spring. This is what I celebrated on that stage. I saw her with the eyes of sociology. And the eyes of religion. I placed her in the age she was born in. After understanding that she belonged to the 8th century, I understood that it was a patriarchal, religious and landowning society. In this society, Andal’s voice sounded unique. That she was an individual in her own right and not a slave to man. I wondered how this unique voice came to be. I came up with many, many references. I have quotes from Karikannanar, Bhoothath Alvar, Thondaradippodi Alvar, Nammalvar, Swamikannu Pillai, M Raghava Iyengar, S Krishnaswamy Iyengar, and Osho too.

I, who brought so many people to support my thoughts, in the end quoted a line from an article. It was a research article from a sociological point of view. The 86-year-old Indian professor who wrote that article is alive today. He said, ‘Andal, herself a devadasi, who lived and died in the Srirangam temple’. This was his perspective.

Why did I record his viewpoint? Devadasi was a customary birth right accorded to women of high birth. ‘I will never marry any man. I shall only marry the Lord himself. I shall not be controlled by any man. I have reached a higher plane. I have come near the Lord himself. I shall not bow to a mortal’: this proclaimed Andal’s liberated voice. How did that voice come to be? It could only be the voice of someone who had freed herself from the clutches of mankind and reached the footsteps of God. This was the proof I was trying to quote.

Foreseeing that that word may be misunderstood, I said, ‘Devotees will not accept this’ out of concern and with caution. I never said it was my opinion. It is the opinion of professors Narayanan and Kesavan. In the words of the authors… I referred to the word in a positive connotation. The authors who wrote that line have also handled it with high regard.

If the authors who wrote the original line are free of blame and have looked at the whole thing in a good light, I, who referenced it, will I look at the same in poor light?

The original speaks highly. How can a reference degrade that? Andal is my mother too. She is a Tamil woman. Angammal, who fed me milk, is my birth mother. The mother who fed me the milk of Tamil is Andal, the mother who taught me. Am I not the one who treats these two women as the same?

Can Tamil society be suspicious of my intentions? Will I ever think of bringing disgrace? If I wanted to find fault with Andal, if it was a mistake, why would I go to her place of birth and orchestrate this? I’m humbled when I think of the audience there. All the women who were there celebrated my words on Andal. The audience surrounded me on the stage quoting and praising my words. It took me 40 minutes to reach my car after hearing the approbation of the audience.

Such a celebrated article has been maligned by a few either for religious politics or political religion. My words have been twisted and spread. The have secretly scissored out the word Deva (God) from the word Devadasi. The news spread saying Vairamuthu has called Andal a dasi. Then, people down the line twisted dasi into vesi. I feel ashamed when I think I have to nurture Tamil in such a crowd. How is it just to twist my high words into the wrong meaning.

I have had to bear numerous abuses because of this. Abuses, in actions, in words, in writings, and in media. I have borne all these insults. I will drink every drop of venom. Let the Tamil society drink the elixir alone. If you accept this explanation, you will understand Andal as well as Vairamuthu did.

I had already said, ‘I regret if anyone’s sentiments have been hurt’. That was my humanity. I wanted to ensure that no one is hurt because of my Tamil. With a wounded heart, I conveyed my regrets too. The newspaper Dinamani in which I wrote has also published this on the first page. Dinamani has also expressed its regrets.

For a crime that was not committed, for a word that was not there, accepting these unfair accusations we have expressed our regrets.

After we have tried to bring this to a closure, respecting society, they are continuing to distort my words. They are trying to bring about casteist violence and religious violence.

Tamil society, you are a knowledgeable society. You will understand. Thank you. Vanakkam.”

The Madras High Court on Friday passed an interim order staying all criminal proceedings against the lyricist and restraining the police from acting on complaints against him regarding the Andal controversy.

Passing the interim order on Friday, Justice Ramesh observed that the remarks leading to the controversy were not Vairamuthu’s personal opinions and that he had merely quoted an American researcher. The judge said that prima facie no case has been made out against Vairamuthu.

Watch the video here: