At U of T Scarborough’s first Tamil Heritage Month celebration earlier this year, 18 performers made history by illustrating parts of the legend. It was the first time two ancient Tamil arts came together – an ancient tale told in a musical storytelling form too old to accurately date.
The U of T Scarborough performance was the first time The Legend of Ponnivala, an ancient, oral folk epic from South India had been performed as a Villu Paattu, or bow-song, an ancient musical technique that combines narration and a 10-foot bow-string struck for rhythm.
The legend is as difficult to summarize as the Iliad or Beowulf. The story spans roughly two centuries, set in the post-Sangam era in the Kongu region, now part of modern-day South India.
The story begins with the Goddess Parvati, who created nine farmers and told them to cultivate a vast, forested land. It follows these men and their families across three generations – through victory, defeat, famines, curses, power struggles and interfering gods.
(Written by Alexa Battler)