Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Magic Vessels

Magic Vessels - a folktale from Tamilnadu
Author - Dr.Vayu Naidu
Art by Mugdha Shah

Magic Vessels is a beautiful folktale from Tamilnadu, written by Dr. Vayu Naidu. What attracts you to the book first is the colourful cover picture embellished with the intricate Kolam patterns at the bottom of the page. As you start flipping the pages, you realise it is truly a cultural journey into the heartland of the South Indian villages.

The story is about a poor playwright Muthu who lives with his wife Chellam and eleven kids in the forest, right under a big banyan tree. Chellam, worried about the future of the kids, goads Muthu to seek better fortunes in the yonder. Muthu sets off into the forest, armed with a small pot of old cooked rice. Enjoying the scenic beauty of the forest he troops on and then suddenly finds himself lost. His tiredness coupled with the soothing breeze lulls him to sleep.

It is then that the tree spirits discover that his rice is so delicious and finish it off completely. Waking up hungry, Muthu is dismayed to find the pot empty. He then notices something else near his feet - a brass vessel. With this in his hand, Muthu wishes aloud to have something to eat. Lo - behold ! A full course South Indian meal is served to him on a plantain leaf by the kind tree spirits. He is told by the spirits that it is a magic vessel (an akshayapatram) which he can take with him. Muthu is so delighted and makes the same wish for his family when he sees them. The whole family is treated to a sumptuous meal by the friendly spirits. To share their good fortune, Muthu and Chellam invite all the people who had fed them during their bad times. The village people are so amazed and delighted by the wonderful feast thrown by the couple.

As the news spreads in the village, the richest man of the village feels envious of Muthu's good fortunes. He tries to adopt the same strategy to win over the tree spirits and acquire a magic vessel of his own. Does he manage to trick the spirits and be successful in his endeavour ?

I will leave it to you to pick this book and find out for yourself the hilarious ending !!

The illustrations in this book are just awesome and complement the story so well. They have been done by Mugdha Shah. A lot of attention has been paid to the minute details, such that, the art brings out the very essence of the culture of the state. The pictures of the kolam patterns, the terracotta horse figures, the lavish lunch spread on the plantain leaf, the uruli, a lamp in front of the deity etc give scope for elaborating the customs and traditions of the people of Tamilnadu. This is a wonderful book for the kids who would love to know about the traditional practices of a South Indian household, some of which are still followed in many houses.

This book is one of the "Under the Banyan" series of Tulika books, where they have specifically used the art form of the region to do the illustrations. The characters depicted in this book's illustrations are adapted from the Ayyanar figures, the guardian deities of the villages.


utbtkids said...

Brings back old memories of when my parents and aunt told me old folk tales :)

utbtkids said...

Oh, good, I have finally caught up on all the reviews. This back to back reviews are exciting.

Poppy said...

Ok a voice of dissent here, but am just wondering if there could have been more unconentional elements in this story. As such, to my mind, it brings back the Chandamama stories of yore and that would be definitely be new for kids this generation..

Did Sooraj like this book? The review is itself rather neat - gives the story without the ending away.

Choxbox said...

Nice review Ranjani!

This comes with an audio cassette as well, right?

ranjani.sathish said...

Utbtkids : Yeah it sounds like a tale which you might hear from people at home :-)

Poppy : May be people of our age would have found similar stories in Chandamama and we might have actually witnessed a lot of things in our homes itself (like kolam patterns) or when we visited our native villages.

But for kids these days living in the Indian cities or outside of India, a lot of these things talked or illustrated about are definitely not familiar. That way, I felt that this book has plenty of scope for elaborating our traditions to a child, who hails from the South Indian background but has no clue about any of these.

Sooraj does not have any special feelings for this book, but my 3 year old daughter loves the book when we read it to her...she admires the pictures a lot !!

ranjani.sathish said...

Choxbox : Thanks ! Yes this book along with 'Eyes on the Peacock's tail' comes with an audio cd released by Karadi Tales.


Praba Ram said...

What a delightful pick, Ranjani!
The attention to details that you've zoomed into takes us to right to the "heartland of south india villages"..

We could feel the ambience of rural tamilnadu pop out. Will definitely check it out, R. Thank you!

Anusha said...

love it! especially love the Banyan series - illustrating with art of that region makes the story so much more alive.

M Ramanathan said...

Wonderful review Ranjani. I've always wanted to know about some books that are based on rural TamilNadu which is appealing to all kids and "Magic Vessels" may be the right choice. We will surely plan to get it for our kids

Poppy said...

Yes, Ranjani - I do see your point will bring this home and let my 4 yo be a fair judge :)

Meera Sriram said...

This time its easy - I can just pull this out of our 'saved for later' cache and read the climax..aha..ha ha! Ranjani, a neat attempt at bringing the South Indian artform to the spotlight! Thanks.

ranjani.sathish said...

Praba and Kodi's mom : Thank you very much !

Ram, thanks for stopping by here and I am so glad that you found the review personally useful.

ranjani.sathish said...

Poppins : Okay :-)

Meera, do you know the climax yet ?!

the mad momma said...

oh we have this one too.. and you know, the first thing that struck me too, is that it introduces our kids to so many of the traditional elements they're no longer familiar with.

Sheela said...

Oh, I have Eye of the Peacock, but not this one! I am guessing he does manage to trick the spirits and be successful... wouldn't be a good kids book with a terrible ending, methinks...

From my childhood, hearing the mythological tales has left me with a lifelong fascination for Akshayapatram, Kamadhenu, Kalpavriksham and other such magical things that came out of churning the Ksheera Sagaram...not sure how to pass it on to my kids except just keep reading to them about these.

Cantaloupes.Amma (CA) said...

We read this book last night and it felt good. My 5 yr old liked it quite a lot ...
But one thing she asked me was about the "Spirits" ... she didn't know what / who they represented. I mentioned they had magical powers ... and she seemed to buy in.

Except for that ... neat way to introduce South Indian folk tales.

adele said...

Hi from Italy,
I'm very interested in kolams and, as I work with kids, I'd like to know if there are other tales and books using kolam as part of the story and/or illustration.
Thanks a lot! Adele

ranjani.sathish said...

Hi Adele
Thanks for stopping by to comment here ! Very interesting to hear your interest in Kolams !

I can think of one Tulika book called "Rangoli", which deals with kolam/rangoli patterns. I have not seen this book myself, but remembered it now that you asked. Please do check this out and see if it be might of interest to you.


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