Wednesday, April 01, 2015

A - Agaramangudi -2009

Four generations: Three continents: Two world wars: One village 
These are tales spanning four generations spread across three continents in between and after the two world wars of people who set forth under different circumstances from one small village called Agaramangudi.   

The story line traverses through different time lines, locations or incidents with no particular order. The only order being the alphabetical one – A to Z meant purposefully for the A to Z challenge. These posts can be read as standalone posts, but would be best comprehended if you read them along with their prelude provided as a link.

Agaramangudi -2009

It was the year 2009.  Jaanu, after being laid off from her job in London in the recession of 2008 was on a career  break, back in India, biding time and tracing her roots.  A travel across her grandfather’s ancestral village, she felt would be a good way to heal her while at the same time help her trace her roots.
She rummaged about the ruins.  Amidst the thorny bushes that were scratching her all over she could recognize the rusted iron circumference of the gobar gas plant that once stood at the backyard.  
When tip toeing on the cement blocks which had slippery fungus grown all over them scattered among the weeds and thorny bushes she stumbled upon what she had been searching for.
                                              Sri Lakshmi  Nivas  -1914

Inscribed  in marble  under the green and black slush filled with mud and excreta.  She picked it up and cleaned it.
This would have made a perfect gift for Susee for her 85th birthday. But now it was too late.  

Jaanu could not have been more than 4 years old.   It was an impatient wait for her till Subbu thatha ( grandfather)  perched on that  massive oonjal  (wooden swing) gave the day’s instructions to the labourers who had assembled for the day. His darling granddaughter lay on his lap swinging on the oonjal  waiting for him to call out the day’s tasks before they would set out to the fields. 
It was the time of the year when cotton was being harvested.  It filled the huge storage room at Sri Lakshmi Nivas and was bursting over the seams filling up the front room and the veranda. The smell of freshly picked cotton permeated all over the house and they were not yet done.
Acres and acres of cotton harvest was still to be picked. The cotton harvest stretched as far as her eyes could see. Later in life when Jaanu assimilated the word ‘Horizon’ in her vocabulary this is how she visualized it.  Horizon was to her where the cotton fields possibly ended.

It was the scorching summer. Time to harvest the cotton. Jaanu set out with a small bag on her back to the fields where she would collect cotton along with the labourers.  As the Mudalali ’s  (Landownergranddaughter she was the centre of attraction among all the labourers.  After Subbu, her grandfather would leave her in their care and move on to supervise the harvest elsewhere, the labourers  would swarm around her and strike conversation with her. 
Maruthaayi, the toothless crone would hug her and nostalgically recollect how as the mid-wife she had helped her grandmother deliver her mother. Maruthaayi, looked very old for her age. Dark skinned, shrivelled, toothless and with a mouth laden with tobacco and betel leaf stains she presented a repulsive image in the eyes of a four year old. Perhaps it was years of hard labour in the fields that aged her soon. She too must have been young once.

Those were the heady days of a newly independent nation. The Zephyrs of change were gently sweeping past and pollinating new seeds of Nehruvian Socialism in the newly independent India. The promise of  green revolution brought to the Thanjavur  – Kumbakonam delta in south India,   an year long irrigation fed by the Cauvery River . Farmers were growing  three crops through the year, amply protected against pests from the subsidized pesticides and the promise by new hybrid varieties of high yielding crops .  They ushered  in wealth and prosperity that was  hitherto unknown to farmers of that region. 

Maalu was the precious child, Subbu and Susee’s first born. The best of cookies and toys from Europe  would find their way into Agaramangudi a tiny village near  Kumbakonam  through the numerous contacts, well wishers and relatives that Subbu and Susee hosted and entertained at Sri Lakshmi Nivas in the 1950’s and 1960’s    

Agaramangudi and its Agraharam* where the Brahmins lived consisted of a small street lined with houses which forked at the corner with one road branching out to Sri Anandavalli Amman Temple worshipped by the Shaivaites, the Iyers and the other to the Maha Vishnu temple worshipped by the Vaishnavites, the Iyengars. The Gurukkals (Professional temple priest) of the respective temples lived in the houses just beside the temple skirting the temple pond.

*Agraharam: A Brahmin settlement consisting of a street lined with houses surrounding the village temple like a garland around the temple. 

The temple lands and the temple pond were the common property of the temple trust for many generations. Families in the Agraharam possibly descended from the same forefather and  therefore cultivating the temple land and maintaining the temple pond was the responsibility of the current Trustees of the temple. Inevitably all the Trustees were first or second cousins to each other or were related in one way or the other. 

As adolescent boys, it was in the temple pond that Subbu and Kittu  learnt to swim.    


  1. This sounds like a novel in making. Loved the details and the pictures.

  2. Fascinating insight into Agraharam life. Looks to be a marvelous prelude to an epic tale.

  3. What a great start to your tale-I love the pics and the images you write. A shame the tablet found was too late for the grandmother(?). All the cotton as well and how much was stored-great read

  4. shruthi9:48 AM

    Loved it..ur an awesome story teller..pramadham

  5. hi are really a very good story teller... a good start. virtually you had taken me to AGARAMANGUDI.

  6. Hello Ms.JAYA, I am also from Agaramangudi, now settled in Chennai. As a mazhanadu brahacharanam Iyer, we visit the temple as and when possible. I visited the temple two years ago and wrote about the village and the temple in the Kalyanamalai Magazine in Tamil. My father used to recall our senior most ancestor as Mani Sivan and a branches of descendants after him, were prepared by him. One Iraivan Narpani Mandram takes care of the village temples administration. We regularly contribute to perform poojas at the temple. I have collected details about the village, people lived there and am planning to make an orderly write upto put it in a public domain like facebook. I am presently in Australia with my only daughter. Will be happy to interact with you. You can reach my mail id

    Thank you for sharing an excellent narration. All the best.

    With warm regards.

    A.Jyothi mahalingam

  7. Hai Jaya. I am Venkatasubramanian s/o. Jothi Mahalinga Iyer ( Grand son of Saptharishi Iyer - Chidambara Bagavathar vagayarah ) . I am now in Dubai. Thanks for your posting . It gives a chance to go into the past and recollect the old memories. I remember the incident of attending your mother's marriage reception in Agaramangudi when i was ten years old . Let us be in touch . My mail ID : mobile no : +971507813674


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