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  • Author: C.s. Chellappa, N. Kalyan Raman
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • ISBN: 9780198096290
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Vaadivaasal, a novella published in 1949, is considered as a modern literary classic in Tamil. It describes the events of an afternoon in Periyapatti, a village in southern Tamil Nadu, where a jallikattu-contest involving the traditional sport of bull taming-is under way. The novella opens with the arrival of bulls in the village from near and far, excitement and anticipation from the crowd of onlookers, and tales of past heroics being exchanged among the villagers. Through the afternoon, Picchi, a young man from distant Usilanoor, displays his prowess at bull-taming, triumphing against several bulls. The highlight of the day is his encounter with the Kari bull, prize animal fielded by the Periyapatti zameendar, which he defeats in a show of great ingenuity and courage. After being driven mad by the frenzy of defeat, the animal is shot dead by its owner as a means of salvaging the zameendar's pride. It is revealed gradually in the course of the novella that the Kari bull had killed Picchi's father, a legendary bull-tamer, in a jallikattu held many years ago and that Picchi has come to Periyapatti with the express intention of avenging his father's death through a contest where he will be risking his own life.

The contest in a jallikattu is always between the bull tamer and a man of power, who is represented by the bull. Vaadivaasal is a masterful account not only of a traditional sport and the people who engaged in it, but also of the relations of power and how they played out in a bygone era. As a work that captures the tremors of a life-and-death battle between man and animal, it is an outstanding achievement in the annals of Tamil prose fiction.

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C.s. Chellappa / fiction / indian / N. Kalyan Raman / tamil / translation /