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Sense of history

By N. Bhanutej

The Week, March 6, 2005, Page 10.

It is amazing how every village in our country seems to have a memorable history to speak for itself. Unfortunately, we never had it in our culture to record it. What little ‘indigenous’ history (history as seen by us) we know is either handed down to us through oral tradition (grandma’s tales, which contain a liberal dose of mythology) or given to us by some westerner.

It was during my visit to Coim-batore and Satyamangalam for the story on the Third Anglo-Mysore War (History Untold, The Week, February 27), that this thought came through louder than ever. We would never have heard of a local hero named Venkatanarayana Iyer. Education (on account of being Brahmins) allowed his descendants to record his history in a notebook. Those words, read years later, resurrected his legend. Had it remained in the notoriously short public memory, the tale would, by now, have been simplified or complicated into a proverb!

Meeting C.G. Venkataramanan, a 78-year-old accountant in Coimbatore, was a revelation. A direct descendant of Iyer, he had read the manuscript 50 years ago, but had lost it. When vacating his grandfather’s house in Coimbatore, he came across a sword belonging to his great-great-grandfather Iyer, in the attic. On it is inscribed a crescent and stars, conclusive proof of its service in Tipu’s army.

Another piece of stunning history was engraved on one of the 100 pillars of the Venugopalaswamy temple in Satyamangalam: Tipu holding a parrot in his hand.

We are bad at recording history. Shouldn't the history that is preserved, deserve our attention?

Legacy: Venkatanarayana Iyer's sword Srinagar