Annamalai: A name resonating in Tamil Nadu


PTI, Apr 28, 2024, 9:54 AM IST

”Annamalai.” This Tamil name will be easily recognised by people as that of the name of the popular BJP leader K Annamalai. That name, however, goes beyond the Saffron party leader’s popularity as it has a deep connection to Tamil Nadu’s history and socio-cultural dimensions.

During the Quit India movement, a foot soldier of Gandhiji, a young man with patriot zeal was at the forefront of the struggle in southern Tamil Nadu. Chinna Annamalai (1920-1980), a star of the freedom movement, cast a spell on people by his oratory.

”When he was arrested in 1942 during the Quit India movement, people stormed the prison at Tiruvadanai (Ramanathapuram district) and got him released,” recalls S Ramachandran, noted epigraphist and historian, adding several people were killed in police firing in connected incidents.

Subsequently, Chinna Annamalai was jailed and it was C Rajagopalachari who appeared on his behalf in court and he was eventually released from prison. Writer and a pioneering publisher, he was opposed to the Dravidian movement.

Annamalai was also the name of legendary philanthropist and industrialist, Rajah Sir Annamalai Chettiar (1881-1948) who founded the Annamalai University in 1929, now a state government administered varsity.

Chettiar also established the Tamil Isai Sangam in 1943 to propagate Tamil music and the imposing Raja Annamalai Mandram building in downtown Parry’s corner here is noted for events aimed at promotion of Tamil music.

The name Annamalai is also an intrinsic part of the people’s faith.

President of Sri Vajragiri Vadivelan Girivala Kuzhu, a spiritual collective, M Saravanan quoting from Thevaram and Thiruvasagam, says the name Annamalai denotes the God’s greatness, magnificence and the qualities of the Almighty being unfathomable and supreme.

Thevaram and Thiruvasagam are part of the ‘Panniru Thirumurai’ a collection of twelve holy scriptures of Tamil Shaivism.

Saravanan says: ”A hugely popular name of Lord Shiva, the name Annamalai holds special significance in Shaivism. Shiva is reverentially hailed as Annamalai in Thevaram and Thiruvasagam. Annamalai immediately brings to mind Lord Annamalayar, the Tiruvannamalai temple’s presiding deity, praised as Arunachaleswara as well.” Annamalayar is a more respectful reference to the name Annamalai.

”Annamalai” has spiritual connotations like a reference to the holy Arunachala hill in Tiruvannamalai, which is revered by devotees as a gateway to enlightenment.

‘Aruna’ is a pointer to red, a colour associated with Shiva and the Lord is worshipped in the form of fire at Tiruvannamalai. On the top of the Arunachala hill, the annual Karthigai deepam is lit, and the hill is near the temple campus.

Furthermore, Saravanan says not a single prayer session is started without uttering the verse of ”Annamalai em anna potri kannar amudha kadaley potri (Thiruvasagam)” also. It is part of the most often recited verses from the Thirumurai scripture.

During the 1990s, the name was part of Tamil pop culture. Writing on the choice of the title of the 1992 Tamil blockbuster, ”Annamalai,” noted film director Suresh Krissna in his book ”Baashavum Naanum” says the title ”Annamalai” had already been decided by ace filmmaker K Balachander and Superstar Rajinikanth –even before he was roped in to direct that flick– and both of them were not inclined to change the film’s title.

Balachander’s production house Kavithalayaa produced the film, which turned out to be a huge hit. ”Malai da, Annamalai,” was a popular Rajinikanth’s punchline from that movie, in which he plays the role of ”Annamalai,” a milk vendor who goes on to become a wealthy business person trumping his friend-turned foe.

The Tamil word ‘Malai’ means mountain and it was cleverly used in that film to hint at the hero’s prowess, hardwork and success.

Like Annmalai’s spectacular win years ago at the box office, Tamil Nadu BJP workers expect a victory for their leader Annamalai in the recently held LS polls, the votes for which will be counted on June 4.

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