The Grand Anicut - Veena Muthuraman

The Grand AnicutWhen I first saw this book, what interested me was that the books is about the people of Tamil Nadu in the first century AD. It is a period where there is not much fiction about this period in Tamil of English. If there is, it is primarily about the Kings and Princes and it got so boring that I stopped reading those in my school days. So I thought it is worth trying it out.

And the book didn't disappoint. It is the Sangam period and there is no clear timeline of the kings and the epics available. So it is a bit convenient to draw the timeline the way it is needed. The rich corpus of poems in this period - 'Kurunthogai', 'Natrinai', 'Agananooru','Purananooru' - talks a lot of the people who lived in this period. So, it is very clever the way the author uses these to weave an interesting tale.

The book uses the above and other literary sources to tell a tale about an assassination plot. However it is told through the tale of the people of the kingdom. We get to see a cross section of the inhabitants of the kingdom, their customs, the social conflicts and importantly, we get to see a few of the people from all strata of the society. To me, the interest lies in the fact that the story interjects a lot of the Epics and songs of yore.

The story starts with a young Roman trader, Marcellus landing in the legendary Puhar. From there the plot goes through a lot of twists and turns, moving the story along. We also meet a Buddhist monk, Zhang, the religious conflicts of the day is told through the way the plot develops. along with it we also see the conflicts within the kingdom. However a lot of things are not what it seems.

The story ends with the failure of the assassination plots failure(of course) and ties of the loose ends neatly. There is no glorification of the kings or the kingdom but a more realistic depiction of the conflicts and issues of the day. It may be fiction but for a change, it is fresh because of that. Especially if you are tired of reading about the exploits of kings and princes and stale romances with dull-witted princesses.

Overall, a different book with a refreshing perspective on the ancients times of Tamil history. Recommended read.

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The Grand Anicut - Veena Muthuraman

When I first saw this book, what interested me was that the books is about the people of Tamil Nadu in the first century AD. It is a period ...