The Chola king is faced with a difficult political problem. He wants to send a group of his best plough-wielding farm workers to Ponnivala, an outlying area where he has little control. He wants them to settle there and bring the land under cultivation by cutting down trees and creating a wide open, fertile landscape. Essentially he wants to create a new area yielding economically valuable crops that he can tax. But the artisans who are living in the area now (and probably have been there from time immemorial) are refusing to allow this. They currently control the territory and they want to keep it that way. Short of going to war and trying to conquer the area, what can this Chola king do? Answer: He calls upon Lord Vishnu for support!
Lord Vishnu appears to the praying king, riding his conventional vehicle of choice, his personal Garuda (a mythical man-bird combo). He has all the traditional attributes of the great Hindu Vishnu. The Lord has bluish skin, four arms that hold several items that clearly state his identify, and more. There is no need to discuss his importance further at this moment. What is clear is: a) Vishnu comes immediately at the ruler’s call, b) he listens to the Chola’s explanation of the problem, b) he listens sympathetically and says that he understands, c) he proposes a solution via the use of a ritual. The nature of that ritual and its stunning outcome will be the subject of my next blog post.
The king’s main motive is to “reward” his favoured labourers with land and to benefit from their potential ability to open up a new area. But one could also add that the king, too, sees these ploughmen as essentially outsiders. They have come to him from the Vellivala area, as strangers. He now wants to move them on, by sending them to Ponnivala. These men are true “migrants.” They have had to move from their first area on account of drought and famine, now they are being asked to move from a second and start “all over again” for a third time. This is a theme one can use to link this story to present-day problems. Can the students identity with these farmers as skilled workers, migrants for years together, who are now in search of a homeland where they can to settle, apply their skills, gain respect and raise families in peace?
Signing off for now,
“Blogger” Brenda Beck
The Sophia Hilton Foundation of Canada
Have you experienced The Legend of Ponnivala on TV or in print? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
To find out more about The Legend of Ponnivala -- the legend, the series, the books, and the fascinating history behind the project, visit www.ponnivala.com.