Feature Article

Thangamma Appakkuddi passes away

[TamilNet, Sunday, 15 June 2008, 18:32 GMT]
Veteran religious and cultural personality of Eezham Tamils, Thangamma Appakkuddi, passed away on Sunday noon, at the age of 84, after bedridden for a few weeks in a stage of coma at the Jaffna Teaching Hospital. Apart from her religious leadership, Ms. Thangamma Appakkuddi, was a philanthropist and a social worker, caring for the much needed requirements of women and children in a war-torn society. She was an institution by herself. The funeral rites are scheduled to take place on Monday 2:00 p.m. at Kadduppeddi crematorium in her native village, Thellippazhai.

Thangamma Appakuddi
Thangamma Appakkuddi
(07.01.1925 - 15.06.2008)
[Photo courtesy: Virakesari]
Thellippazhai Thurkkai Amman Koayil Board of Trustees will take over the mortal remains of Ms. Thangamma Appakkuddi Monday 9:00 a.m. to conduct prayers and for the people to pay homage in the Common Hall outside the temple, until 2:00 p.m.

Born on 7th January, 1925, Ms. Thangamma Appakkuddi, had her early education at Ramanathan College, Chu'n'naakam, and became a trained teacher in 1945. She studied Tamil and Saivism in the tradtional schools and became a Pundit in 1952 and a Saiva Pulavar (Madras) in 1958.

She was a popular teacher for 31 years of which the last 12 years were spent at the Union College, Thellippazhai. She retired from government service in 1976.

She became inclined towards Saivism and Tamil at a much earlier age, remained a spinster and devoted her entire life for the cause of her ideals.

Known as Pandithai Thangamma Appakkuddi, she was gracing the temples of Jaffna as early as 1950's and 60's, by unique lectures in her deep and resonant voice, captivating the masses.

Early 70's marked a big transition in her life. She became involved in the construction of a temple dedicated to the martial goddess Durga in her native place Thellippazhai. The temple that existed there before her times was a humble structure with a thatched front.

It was essentially the spirit of Thangamma Appaakkuddi, which was behind the upsurge of the cult of Durga and for the temple to become a big and leading religious establishment among Eezham Tamils.

In her later years, she became known Sivath-thamizhch-chelvi (the lady of God Siva's Tamil) and Thurkaa-thuranthari (one who is in the service of Durga). She became a preceptor whom the people were looking upon for religious leadership. For the masses, she was a living embodiment of the goddess herself. But, she remained a rational person with a spiritual and social mission.

Her temple establishment became an epicentre for a multitude of social and cultural activities. The Thurkaapuram Maka'lir Illam, set up by her for destitute female children was a unique institution by itself. The temple also assisted the sick, elderly and helpless refugees.

She was also a philanthropist in establishing libraries and assisting valuable publications.

Recognising her academic achievements and service to culture and society, the University of Jaffna, bestowed her with an honorary doctorate in 1998.

The life, mission and service of Thangamma Appakkuddi and the cult of the goddess she popularised, transcend beyond the individual person of herself. The relationship between her mission and the under-currents of the society, at the level of the subconscious psyche, is a topic for structural analysis.

There is a deep relationship between the gender issues of the society and the cult she promoted, manifesting into a shade of South Asian modelled feminism.

In a Saiva society, dominated by the cults of Vairavar, Murukan, Pillayar and Siva, the popularity gained by the Durga cult of Thangamma Appakkuddi and its impact were phenomenal. No wonder, the theme attracted the doctoral research of N. Shanmugalingan, the present Vice Chancellor of the University of Jaffna.


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