The Legend of Ponnivala is a vast epic story, once widely celebrated in the Kongu region of South India. It is a gem of Tamil storytelling, and a tale normally sung by bards. The Sophia Hilton Foundation of Canada, in association with Soft Science, has produced a twenty-six episode animated DVD series with accompanying print and digital comic books and teaching guides.
Although there is no "real" place in India called "Ponnivala," we have chosen to use this poetic name to refer to our retelling of this ancient Tamil epic. But how did we arrive at this title?
Traditionally our story is known by the name "The Elder Brothers' Story," which refers to the brothers Ponnar and Shankar, who are the elder brothers of a third triplet: their sister Tangal. The story, however, is vast, and includes the history of the land in which these hero-brothers were born, and their lineage from the founding of their family line with their grandparents Kolatta and Aryanacci.
In traditional cultures, the tales people pass on from one generation to the next do more than preserve religious teachings. In fact, most often the religious elements are merely threaded through these stories, with gods and goddesses acting as intercessors in the affairs of humans. The stories themselves become classrooms for everything from political and social standards to regional and cultural history, from mathematics and trading systems to herbology and food lore.
It’s a strange fact of modern life that we like to sanitize whatever we can to avoid offending people. This is necessary for the most part, of course, because when dealing with research and writing about another culture or belief system it’s paramount that the subject be treated fairly and sensitively.