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Thaadaka- The Dravidian Princess

Acrylic on 14x16' canvas

A strong influence of the Brahmanical (read: post-Aryan invasion) system in India that I identified early in my adolescence was the portrayal of negative mythological characters and ‘demons’ with dark skin. Rooting the convoluted case of caste-ism and racism within the Indian sub-continent and elsewhere, this has been the subject of many artists and writers for a very long time.

One of them, Vayalar Ramavarma, portrays Thaadaka (referred to as a demon in Hindu mythology) as a Dravidian princess in west-central India, at the foothills of the Vindhya (who later gets killed by the Aryan prince, Ram, in the Ramayana as she was ‘obviously’ the cause of unfortunate events and destruction happening in the Aryan world). Traditionally not thought of as a beautiful dark-skinned woman, but an ugly wretched of a demon, Thaadaka’s story was re-told in Vayalar’s poem, which has been and continues to be, a part of my growing up experience. Here’s my attempt at painting this complex thought with inspiration from the said poem (opening lines below), in a style adopted from Kerala mural art.

The excerpt from the poem in Malayalam that the artwork is based on:

താടക എന്ന ദ്രാവിഡ രാജകുമാരി

വിന്ധ്യ ശൈലത്തിന്റെ താഴ്‌വരയിൽ,

നിശാഗന്ധികൾ മൊട്ടിടും ഫൽഗുന സന്ധ്യയിൽ,

പാർവതീപൂജക്ക് പൂ നുള്ളുവാൻ വന്ന,

ദ്രാവിഡ രാജകുമാരിയാം താടക.

– വയലാർ

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