An Oral Folk History of Kongu Natu: Dr.Brenda Beck

About the talk
The talk will discuss the oral Tamil folk epic known as the Annanmar Kathai and detail the extraordinary contribution this story makes to our understanding of Tamilnadu on many levels.  The speaker will interpret this rich and long legend as a broad metaphor couched in the format of one family’s life experiences over three generations, but which can also be understood as a tool helpful in telescoping about 500 years of local history. Dr. Beck’s own life-long immersion in Kongu natu culture will be woven into the story with photos of her first of many visits to the area in 1954. The themes discussed will include local myths, star lore, temple layouts and more. It will also suggest possible trade contact both with ancient Babylon and with the early Indus Valley civilization. This heavy illustrated presentation will conclude by linking all of the above to a discussion of the significance of the Patti Pongal in the Kongu area, to the Pleiades and to Siva’s great bull, Nandi.
About the Speaker
Brenda Beck is an Oxford-educated Social Anthropologist who has spent a lifetime studying South Asia and, in particular, the Kongu nadu area of Tamilnadu. She has published eight books, two of which are double-volume works, and she has contributed to and/or edited many more. She has also authored over sixty journal articles. Dr. Beck has a passion for South Asian mythology. She has written a number of articles related to divine figures including Indian goddesses and animal figures like the wild boar. She has also examined a number of human epic characters, detailing their stories and describing their related festivals. One unique folk epic, the Legend of Ponnivala Nadu, has held her interest for over fifty years. Brenda is an Adjunct (Full) Professor of Anthropology at The University of Toronto and President of The Sophia Hilton Foundation of Canada, a charitable foundation that promotes the use of storytelling in education at all levels. Her earliest ethnographic work, Peasant Society in Kongu has just been translated into Tamil by Adaiyaalam, a South Indian educational publishing house. In the past three years alone Brenda has received twelve awards from Tamil community groups based in the US, in Canada, in Tamilnadu, and also one in Malaysia for her work in helping to deepen a worldwide appreciation of Tamil folk literature, especially by those living in the Diaspora.
About Prof. M. Anandakrishnan
Prof. Anandakrishnan obtained Ph.D in Civil Engineering (1960) from the University of Minnesota, USA. He served as Professor of Civil Engineering at IIT, Kanpur between 1963 and 1974. He served the United Nations  in the UN Centre for S&T for Development(1978-1989); as the Vice-Chancellor of Anna University (1990-96); and as Vice-Chairman of the Tamil Nadu State Council for Higher Education from 1996-2002.  Currently he is the Chairman,  Board of Governors, Indian Institute of Technology  Kanpur and Rajasthan; President, Ranganathan Centre for Information Studies (RCIS), Chennai; President, Tamil Nadu Academy of Sciences,  Chennai; Member, Board of Management, NUEPA, Delhi; Member, High Power Committee on Renovation and Rejuvenation of Higher Education in India and Chairman, Executive Council, Science City, Chennai. He was Chairman, MIDS between 2003 and 2008. He has served as Chairman or Member of several high level committees of MHRD, UGC, AICTE and NAAC. His honours and awards include Padma Shri from the President of India (2002); the Order of Scientific Merit from the President of Brazil (1996); Distinguished Leadership Award of the University of Minnesota (2003); Honorary Fellow of the Indian Society for Technical Education (2005); UGC National Swami Pranavananda Saraswati Award in Education (2006); Fellow of the Institution of Engineers, India and Fellow of the National Academy of Sciences, India. 

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