Charcoal on textured 250gsm paper Navarasam series: Roudram (Anger)
The year was 1946, when CP Ramaswamy Iyer was the Diwan of British government in the princely state of Travancore, facing threats of riots from the public over brutal land reforms. Two groups of trade unions from the coir, fishing and farming led communities of Punnapra and Vayalar, in present day district of Alappuzha, gathered in the hundreds, when forces of the state faced them with gunfire and weaponry. The protesters who made history through martyrdom fought back, to be killed and buried amass in a common water pit in Vayalar as well as Punnapra. Statues of the martyrs of the Punnapra-Vayalar uprising later erected in the Rakthasakshi mandapam (translated as the abode of martyrs) is the basis of this sketch, to also add to my navarasam series, for Roudram or anger. In my sketch, the martyr is coming alive and in angst, with strokes indicative of his motion- let me know below if you think I’ve succeeded in this!
In this age where any kind of protest against the state (especially in the largest democracy in the world, India) is life-threatening, I place this as a reminder to the battles fought in the past to fight against the system. They were killed, but not defeated and let’s gather inspiration from the past, ours and theirs.
This is based on what I’ve read from newspaper articles and tales from my dad, born and grew up in Vayalar in the 60s. Everytime I’ve passed through the Rakthasakshi mandapam in Vayalar or Punnapra, there was a distinct feeling of rebellion that ran in my arms. The thousands whose ancestors were part of it, must feel the same. Blood and lives spilt never go unanswered or forgotten, I guess.