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Beauty of the Kalvarayan Hills captured in a book

Stones of heroes, burial sites, caves, tombs, arms, artefacts and over 170 objects or places of archaeological interest caught the attention of 65-year-old SK Mani who loves history and archaeology.

Published: 03rd November 2016 03:53 AM  |   Last Updated: 03rd November 2016 03:53 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

CHENNAI: Stones of heroes, burial sites, caves, tombs, arms, artefacts and over 170 objects or places of archaeological interest caught the attention of 65-year-old SK Mani who loves history and archaeology.

Thanks to his 35-year research career in the history of forests and villages in and around the Kalvarayan Hills in Villipuram district, he was able to pen a book and release it early this year.

The Tamil book titled Kallakuruchi Kottai Nadukarkal Varalaru (History of hero-stones of Kallakuruchi Fort) narrates the tales of lesser-known figures who feature on rocks found in the Kalvarayan Hills region. “The rest of the world seems uninterested in our history and that’s exactly why I want to show them our story through historic artefacts,” says Mani.

SK Mani at the site

The frail author, who is battling cancer, narrates his hunt for tales from his ancestry through archaeology. His eyes light up behind his thick glasses as he recalls riding through the winding roads of Kalvarayan Hills on his TVS 50. “I’ve been to places, that no other person would have visited, except the local tribes,” he says. 

The Kalvarayan Hills, home to the Malayalee Gownder tribe, has several temples and forests that where outsiders are not allowed. Mani claims that the tribal folk consider him one of their own, as his work in that community has earned him their trust. “On ecan visit the Sambai Amman temple in Erukampattu village only if the goddess herself appears and commands that in someone’s dream. In the last six years, that has not happened,” Mani describes.

There are other temples and caves whose access is strictly restricted by the Malayalee Gounder tribe and yet, Mani seems to have overcome those obstacles by building trust and carefully recording the history associated with them.

In his book, he portraits not just hero-stones but also unique Navagandasirpam (statue of nine parts), in which the protagonist cuts off nine parts of his body as an offering to a god or a king, wherein the ninth part is his head...thus killing himself. Mani has collated the hear-say history of inscriptions from Sankarapuram, Rishivandhiyam, Thyagadurgam, Chinna Salem, Kallakuruchi and Kalvarayan Hills.

Learning history from rocks forced him to learn Granthezhuthu and Vattezhuthu (ancient scripts before the present-day Tamil script was found). He also learned to trace carvings and inscriptions in the course. 
From being a social worker with Indhiya Samathana Urimaipaatu Sangam, SK Mani is now a historian.



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