close up shot of a hindu goddess


(Author: Ki. Rajanarayanan Translation: Radha Soundar & R.S. Saha )

(Original Novel : கோபல்ல கிராமம்)

No one knew if he properly listened to the song and the kummi. But the girls’ harmonized voices and the song’s lyrics clearly did something to him.

He whimpered and moaned quietly. In his mind’s eye, Mariamman’s fierce eyes appeared.

He thought of his family who spent their lives bending, breaking, and wringing their bodies for their work. His mother would wail, “You wretch. Don’t you have any mercy? I ground my bones like sandalwood and struggled to raise you and you hit me?!”

He first learned how to steal in his own home. After a normal playful childhood, he did not go to work like the others and instead lazed around the village. When no one was home, he would sneak in and eat all the food. He had begun a life of leeching off the hard work of others. He never listened to what his parents or others had to say.

He hung around rogues and became like them. He began to gamble and smoke ganja. He began to take things from his home. Developing a brutish temper, he would simply beat up anyone that got in his way.

Unable to bear him any longer, his relatives all banded together, tied him up, then beat him. After that, they starved him for three days. Then they freed him and chased him out of the village.

He knew nothing of the labor the people of Gopalla Gramam had put in to transform the land of cacti and thick forests into what it was today. Mother Earth glowed and smiled now, like a freshly bathed woman with turmeric paste rubbed on her. Bottle gourd and bitter gourd grew abundantly in a land that used to grow only red kovai gourd. But the village was unable to grow rice. A song from some faraway land had mixed into this one.

He recalled his own faraway land. There were people there too and they were like the ones here. It had been a land that could only be used to make bricks. It had been changed into one that could grow seeraga samba rice. The quarry had turned into a beautiful place filled with the cries of parrots.

Amidst those hard workers, he had sprouted like a weed. A parasite that never toiled and instead lived by stealing. These thoughts drifted in and out as he approached death. The kummi song thrummed with the joy of honest people. In the happiness of that song, he was going to die separated from his family. 

His face brightened with the clarity that came before death. He eagerly looked at the children. Perhaps he wanted to jump from the stake and dance with them. His body shook. And with that, he was relieved of the agony he was in.


They realized he was dead long after. The guards sent the children away. As the girls left, they repeatedly looked back. It was later said that some of those girls got a fever that night. One of them, supposedly, died of her fever. Another got so close to death that her parents prayed to the kazhuvan. They vowed that if their daughter got better and grew up, she would get married and name her first born child Kazhuvan.

Instead of being called the neem tree hill, that place was now known as Kazhuvan Hill.

The dead kazhuvan’s body was pulled off the state and buried near the Kammala woman he had killed. A stone was placed on his grave as well. The pacheri people now prayed to them both as deities, cooking and offering pongal on special occasions and naming girls Kammalachi and boys Kazhuvan. 

The man’s determination to remain silent during his trial and after he was put on the stake became known as the Kazhuvan Saathanai – the Kazhuvan’s Triumph. Now, whenever a criminal refused to confess or if someone refused to speak their mind people would liken it to the Kazhuvan’s Triumph.

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