Sudharsanam's Ideas on Cultural Atlas of Tamilnadu
  • A Proposal for Compiling a Cultural Atlas of Tamilnadu

    Normally we think of only monuments when we talk about heritage. Culture
    reminds us mostly performing arts. But culture and heritage are perhaps much
    wider. It is about man, how he conducts himself, what his background is. It
    is heritage and culture which makes a common man. There are many aspects to
    heritage. Each individual is different in his/her tastes. Can we help
    individuals enjoy our heritage from her/his point of view?

    We shall also look at it slightly differently. If a person goes to some new
    place and has some time to spare what would he/she like to do. People have
    different tastes. But do we have information available about places so that
    the person can choose according to his/her interest?

    Every part of Tamilnadu has something special to offer. The place may be a
    tourist spot, a natural habitat for flora and fauna, a worshiping place, an
    ancient monument, connected with great personalities, place for special
    eateries, arts, folk traditions, rural crafts, institutions, etc.

    Here are a few examples of some unusual places, and not many people know
    about them.

    Within 90 km of Chennai is Gudiyam, which is credited to be close to a stone
    age cave. It was here found a hand-axe, made, used and discarded by the
    Stone Age man. Close by lies an inaccessible forest of evergreen and
    deciduous trees.

    Longwood Shola in Kotagiri on the Western Ghats has some of the most
    interesting evergreen trees of tropical forest.

    Places like Chettavarai, Alampadi and Kilvalai in Villupuram District are so
    rich in prehistoric rock paintings that the experts speak of them in the
    same breath as Bhimbetka. The Kilvalai paintings to 1000 B.C. Chettavarai's
    and Alampadi's paintings are believed to be even older. At Porivarai, near
    Karikkiyur, in Erode District is by far the largest rock `canvas' found in
    Tamilnadu, measuring 120 feet by 15 feet.
    Tamilnadu has 50 more such sites, with paintings as well as engravings or
    etchings, protected and unprotected, and certainly not exploited.

    It is believed that the Bay of Bengal had inundated over 350 square miles of
    land on the Padalur-Ariyalur region of Perambalur district over 100 millions
    years ago, where the giant dinosaurs sauntered majestically over 200 million
    years ago. This is one of the three sites on earth where the rare phenomenon
    of sea-ingression and regression had taken place. Billions of sea creatures
    like clams, oysters, molluscs, corals, which perished during the withdrawal
    of the sea resulted in the compression and formation of some of the finest
    deposits of limestone in the country. Some have seen recently the fossil of
    the dinosaur egg, weighing about seven kg and measuring 20cms in diameter n
    the Kallankurichi mines of the Tamil Nadu cement factory near Ariyalu.

    Chunambed and Illeedu approached through old Pondicherry road. Here is a
    school run on a different mode. It is all through the dedication of C
    Ramakrishnan in education and in farming practice. Prasad Garden managed by
    local villagers and an arboretum are great attractions for lovers of nature
    and of ancient temples.

    In the holy city of Kanchi is a museum of folk art managed by the
    descendents of CP Ramaswamy Iyer in their 400-year old house called
    Shakuntala Jagannathan Museum of Folk Art

    But presently this information is not available in a comprehensive way to
    the general public, except for some celebrated places/monuments/temples,
    etc. We feel if information connected with all the places of Tamilnadu is
    compiled we have a ��Cultural Atlas of Tamilnadu��. Such an atlas helps us
    understand our social and cultural legacies better.

    I (that is Swaminathan) mooted this idea, an idea of Cultural Atlas of
    India, to Mr Ashok Vajpayee, who was looking after the Department of Culture
    in the Government of India. (Mr Vajpayee is a poet and was associated with
    Bharat Kala Bhavan in Bhopal.) He readily agreed to consider funding it if I
    submitted a proposal. Later I developed cold feet and didn��t proceed, for I
    thought it is far beyond me.

    Preparing such a comprehensive cultural atlas for even Tamilnadu is a
    Herculean task, we are aware. But once done, this will be a great
    contribution to the Tamil society. Now I (Swaminathan) am a lot more
    confident. One reason is we are now engaged in similar task in Pudukkottai
    (I was teaching engineering in Delhi! when I was toying with the idea of
    Atlas of India!). Secondly, with involvement of a group like the PS group it
    is certainly feasible, I feel.

    We are making a suggestion that we consider the idea of compiling a cultural
    atlas of India. It is definitely ambitious. Is it then wrong to be
    ambitious? May be we give a different identification. But the important
    feature is that information is compiled with places as the basis.

    We may prepare a checklist of items, which would make a place important. We
    have made a list as below.

    Place of pilgrimage: presence of temples, churches or mosques or any other

    Location of monuments including forts and cave temples, any building of
    historical interest

    Place of tourist interest: trekking places, water falls, bird sanctuary,
    wild life sanctuary, etc; for nature lovers/ environmentalists; fossil parks

    Place of private or public art galleries and museums, centres, which
    preserve some old manuscripts, palm leaves etc

    Place of Birth or place of living of personalities: from literary field,
    film, artists, spiritual, political, social reformers, followers of some
    ancient traditions, etc.

    Location of famous regional festivals; rituals of specific region;
    interesting customs and traditions of a place; tribal and their special way
    of living

    Location of folk traditions and folk art (Satyamangalm in Pudukkottai
    district is the most important place for terracotta images of Ayyanar)

    Famous for preparation of some eatables (for example, Manapparai murukku is

    Place of depiction in well-known movies, novels, etc

    Other specialities to a place (For example, Pudukkottai is famous in the
    past as the most important place for Naturopathy)

    Existence of old book shops/libraries with some historical interest

    Handicraft; agricultural products specific to an area (Peraiyur in
    Pudukkottai district is famous for hand-fans made out of palm-leaves

  • Dear prof.Swami,
    I read through your detailed proposal and it certainly sounds very
    interesting. It is also very much in line with the group's objectives
    suits well.
    The group has individuals coming from different parts of tamilnadu -
    organizing ourselves as groups of 10 and doing the necessary research
    should very much be feasible.
    We hearby request you to send us further info and how we can
    participate in
    this noble activity.
    Deciding upon the methodology of interaction is quite important.
    Jana has proposed floating a new e-group. You decide which is most
    Let us know how we can proceed further.
  • Dear Sir,

    Yes. Certainly it is a proactive thought and would be
    our 2 cents worth contribution to Thamizh culture and

    We can form small small groups of 10-12 members in
    each district with our group members along with the
    interested ones living in that districts.

    We can have a separate e-group for our discussion on
    further developments and as a meeting point for taking
    decisions. I have the hope that this can be achieved
    with the proper guidance and by the selfless

    BTW, i am from Erode district and I am ready to take
    up the activities of my place. The porivarai near
    karikkiyur is a surprising news for me. If possible,
    can you please provide some more details and
    definitely i will visit the same when i go home next
  • For Interactions, I am just wondering whether we should have an
    e-group or
    a web based database wherein people can pour their inputs.
    The problem with e-group is that all information will be scattered
    several emails and it is a painful task culling all the relevant
    information from the mails.
    Instead, if we have a database wherein we can input our ideas, then
    it will
    be possible for the reviewing committee to edit the data straigt away
    the database and update it.
    In other words, instead of sending mails, people will be adding /
    database straight away. Others can view the same by clicking on
    Later on, if we want to present this info as a website, it will be a
    more easier to do. It will also be easy to maintain - as time goes on.

    Ofcourse, we have to decide upon the database structure etc. once the
    is acceptable.

    What do you all think ?
  • Hi
    Back after a scorching week in madras
    Sorry guys couldnt meet or call you all

    I think email is better so thatthe moderator /moderators will have editorial rights on what goes on the site to keep a standard
  • Dear Mr Swaminathan
    That would be a brilliant task and would be a crowning glory for the group.

    It may seem and is actually a himalayan task but we can do it as we have demonstrated time and again with our achievements.

    The facts you explained were very impressive and amazing

    My Thoughts on this projects would be

    1.Divide the Map into various section
    A Flora and Fauna(your evergreen trees...nagalinga poo...
    B Geographically interesting( Ariyalur...Dakshinakodi...kumarikanadam
    C.Historic Places( Vellore Fort for example..Trichy Fort..British battles versus native kings Kodikarai Uppu sathyagraham)
    D Ancient History( Mammalapuram, Poompuhar)
    E Mediaval History( Madurai Uraiyur Thanjavur
    F Permanant Arts...Painting
    Wall Murals
    G Native arts Thanjavur painting
    Sculptures eg Mammalapuram miniaturs
    Brass Work Miniatures Thanajavur art plates
    Toys Thanjavur Thalaiyatti bomai
    Wood work..Embedded painting
    Woodwork scuptures and doorwork
    H Native Arts Bharathanatiyam

    IPlaces Of Worship
    Hindu Temple
    Native Ayyanar etc
    J Eatery Native Cuisine
    Native delcacies

    K Cultures and Customs Vaikarisi in the Paradhavar to A Seervarisai home in the Nattukotai Cheetiyars

    L Myths

    M Legends Kattabomman
    Dheeran Chinnamalai

    N Tourist spots

    O Tamil maravar veera vilaiyattu

    P Tamil Pendir Vizhaiyattu
    Manjal thaneer oothuvadu(on mamana and machans)
    Thanner padalam
    Well if we decide to segercate under such topics we can pool data pictures and we sure will be able to get a spectacular result

    Just a few suggestions What do you think


    Dr Sridhar Rathinam FRCS
    Specialist Registrar
    Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery
    University Hospitals Of Birmingham
    Birmingham UK

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