Thursday, October 22, 2015


This next clip begins with a view of the neat layout of eighteen ritual offerings on a large cloth. Soon several artisan arms (that we know belong to the artisan’s side in this contest) are then seen picking up the four swords lying there. But now the scene is interrupted by a brief conversation. In this exchange, the words spoken between two lead artisans, both holding swords, provides reinforcement for several points made in my last blog. In this conversation we hear the artisan who is closest to the viewer express anxiety by saying “Oh, this will be tough!” He then asks his associate sword thrower what plan he thinks Lord Vishnu has in mind. Of course his query implies that there may already be some grand scheme or outcome in place. The second artisan then replies, “I don’t know, but whatever it is, it must be for the good of all!” This settles the issue. As anxious as they may be, the artisans’ have now expressed their consent. Whatever will happen in the contest ahead they will not question it, let alone voice any suspicion that the outcome has already been “fixed.” These men are trapped by circumstance. Perhaps “fate” is the right word to use here. Vishnu will steer this event to its conclusion. The will of this great god is going to rule, no matter what. The artisans will try to cut off Kolatta’s head as he rises out of the earth, but realistically, their heroic efforts are very unlikely to affect the outcome.

Next we see Kolatta being placed in the earth by Vishnu. He uses a magical beam emanating directly from his right hand. A crack opens in the center of a cleared ground ringed by observers. Now the lead farmer is made to appear in the soft light of that shinning beam, deep down inside the soil. Kolatta is seen in a praying position, with his hands placed together and his eyes closed. He knows that only Lord Vishnu can determine the outcome of this fearsome test. His life is now in the Lord’s hands. As he starts to rise and his head appears above ground the four artisans throw their swords, one by one. But all four weapons stop short of cutting his neck. Instead they come to rest in a way that forms a neat square that is almost a garland. They also come to rest on four neatly defined sides of their intended victim, as if dangers emanating from having come from all four cosmos by some magical force. The farmer is safe! All the preliminary signs have pointed to something like this. We viewers knew it would happen.

The narrator interposes an explanation here. He articulates a perspective that falls in line with the general biases of this legend. Vishnu feels there should be a “balance” achieved between artisans’ existing rights and those now to be given by the Chola king to a group of newly arrived immigrant farmers. Vishnu declares that the artisans have lost their bid and that they will now have to accept food from the farmers, in return for the fruits of their own skilled labor. The outcome seems fair. But is it really? We will see how the artisans’ discomfort with this new arrangement will surface several times in later story episodes. What seems to have been put “to rest” by a great ceremony will simmer underground for a long time. A revolutionary socio-economic system has just been imposed on the Ponnivala area. It is to the farmers’ benefit, no doubt. But the artisans will continue, throughout the story, to feel that they have unfairly had to cede both status and power to a much of immigrant rivals, due to a most unfair twist of fate.

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 

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