The Ponnivala legend stands side-by-side with declarations of identity expressed in many other epic legends around the world. This sense of “who we are” is part and parcel of the story itself, but it is also an important dimension of how the epic is discussed by people who reference the story in today’s modern “political” world as they discuss and re-tell it. With “ethnic identity” being a key issue in many countries of the world today, this provides an interesting and relevant approach to studying this complex story. It is also a story about immigrants, population movements, migration and resettlement... a understudied theme in Indian history. The same theme, of course, is also very relevant in Canada as a landing place for many different Asian Diasporas.
The Legend of Ponnivala has epic literature status. This itself is an important aspect of a society’s identity. We are speaking here of a foundational epic – something similar to an Icelandic saga. The Legend of Ponnivala records the identity and early history of the Kongu region of Tamilnadu and of its varied peoples. It can stand proud and tall as an epic masterpiece as significant as an Icelandic Saga, a story like King Arthur or a Greek epic like the Iliad or the Mesopotamian Gilgamesh. There is a blog, accessible, via the Ponnivala website, that details these similarities. The story represents what Is basically an ancient oral tradition and it provides a very significant example of the beauty and fresh perspective provided by spoken and sung oral literatures. For those familiar with Tamil literature, this epic can be used to open an entirely new window on Tamil culture, one that has barely been appreciated or recognized to date.