Kothainayaki Ammal

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Vaithamanithi Mudumbai Kothainayaki Ammal
Born (1901-12-01)1 December 1901
Chengalpattu, Tamil Nadu
Died 20 February 1960(1960-02-20) (aged 58)
Tamil Nadu
Occupation Novelist, writer, publisher, singer, composer, social activist
Nationality Indian
Genres Novel
Spouse(s) Parthasarathy

Vaithamanithi Mudumbai Kothainayaki Ammal (1 December 1901 – 20 February 1960) was a Tamil writer, novelist and journalist who is remembered as the first woman to occupy the editorial board of a Tamil magazine. She wrote 115 books and she published monthly Tamil magazine, Jaganmohini.

Vai. Mu. Kothainayaghi was the first female writer in Tamil, to write a detective novel. She had a multifarious personality and she excelled in fields like public speaking, social service, fiction writing and was a keen Freedom Fighter too. She was hailed as "Queen of Fictions" by her contemporary authors. However she was not well recognized in the books on the history of Tamil literature.

Brief Life history[edit]

Kothainayaki, was born on 1 December 1901, in a devout Vaishnava family in the village of Nirvalur in the then Chengleput District of Tamil Nadu, to N S Venkatachary and Pattammal. She was named Kothai after the great child Saint Andal. Her mother died when she was aged one and thereafter she was raised by various relatives.

Child marriage being then customary, five-year-old Kothai was married to a nine-year-old, Parthasarathy. Her husband's familyHydropism is a characteristic nature of the roots of a plant grow only towards the moist soil or any water under the soil or only where water got stagnant. Plants like lotus, lily may show hydropism. used the prefix of Vai. Mu. with their name, and Kothai assumed this practice, Vai referred to the family deity of Vaithamaanidhi, while Mu referred to Mudumbai, which was the name of their ancestral village. Kothai had no formal schooling and she could not read or write at the time of her marriage. Parthasarathy was insistent that Kothai should be educated. She also learnt Telugu language from her mother in law. he live on a sall property etc marshal

Her literary service[edit]

Even though Kothai could not read or write, she often used to sing verses from Thiruvaimozhi at home. This helped her to a great extent to become proficient in Tamil Language. Kothai was also very fond of telling stories to small children. Parthasarathy admired her skills and encouraged her by taking her to many dramas and plays, which became the seed for her future career as a playwright.

She was a great supporter of issues like, Women's emancipation, Social/societal Reforms. Her passion for this coupled with her imaginative skills, kindled her desire to become a writer herself. Ironically she could not read or write. So she used to dictate to her close friend Pattammal and thus was born her first play-Indira Mohana which was published by Noble Press in 1924. Not surprisingly she received rave reviews for her play in Celebrated Newspapers like The Hindu, Swadesamitran (Tamil) and New India. The great success of her first play spurred Kothai to continue her literary Journey. She also learnt to read and write, thanks to her friend Pattammal. Kothai tried her hand in directing plays and as expected succeeded in her venture. Many of her plays with the themes of Social Reforms were staged a number of times. Amongst them Arunodayam, Vatsa Kumar and Dayanidhi caught the attention of the public in a great measure. Kothai also published several short stories and three plays and two books.

As a magazine editor[edit]

After the overwhelming success of "Indira Mohana", Kothainayaki wrote her second Novel "Vaidehi". This was published by Vaduvur Doraiswamy Iyengar in his Magazine, Manoranjini. On his advice, Kothainayaki purchased the rights of the (then defunct) magazine Jaganmohini in 1925 and resumed its publication, and her Novel Vaidehi was serialised in this magazine for over a year. As this magazine started becoming very popular among its readers, Kothainayaki introduced several changes and published the latest works of celebrated writers. Soon Jaganmohini came to be considered as one of the front line magazines of that era. And Kothainayaki, propagated her views on social issues like Hindu-Muslim unity, Women's emancipation, Patriotism,Prohibition and Widow Remarriage through her novels in her magazine. Overall, Kothainayaki wrote 115 novels during her literary career and in 1937 she established a printing press also.

As a public speaker[edit]

Her finesse, in public speaking came to be well known by her participation in many political meetings along with renowned leaders. She used to intersperse her speeches with short stories to entertain the audiences. She was inducted as a front line speaker by (the then) the Congress Party and leaders like Dheerar Satyamurthy, Kamaraj . And elder statesman Rajaji, impressed by Kothainayak's Public speaking skills, regularly asked her to participate in all his public meetings.

As a classical music singer[edit]

Kothainayaki was a very talented singer of classical carnatic music. Her mellifluous voice, diction and knowledge of music and its nuances contributed immensely to her becoming a wel known musician. Her singing of patriotic songs in Congress meetings was a great crowd puller. It is said that the celebrated singer (of later years) Ms. D.K.Pattammal, was greatly encouraged by Kothainayaki to give public performances. Mahakavi Bharathiar was also said to be a great fan of Kothainayaki's singing. Young Kothai regularly sang for All India Radio and also released several gramophone records.

She was also a good composer of classical music. A book titled Isai Margam containing her several compositions in rare ragas was published recently. Bharatiar also composed his song "Aduvome, Pallu Paduvome" exclusively for Kothai and in later years D K Pattammal became a star by singing this song.

As a freedom fighter[edit]

In addition to being a Magazine editor, author, singer and a playwright, Kothai wore one more cap also, that of a Freedom Fighter. Through Anne Besant, Kothai befriended social worker Ambujam Ammal. She met Mahatma Gandhi and Kasturbai in 1925. This meeting produced a great impact in the mind of Kothai. Impressed by the simplicity of the Mahatma, and his powerful oration, Kothai renounced her interest in luxurious living and started wearing only Khadhi Sarees, discarding silk dresses and gold and diamond jewelleries. She plunged into social service activities, along with Ambujam Ammal, Rukmany Lakshmipathy and Vasumathi Ramaswamy. Responding to the Mahatma's call in 1931, she participated in the satyagraha agitation against Toddy and Liquor shops and was arrested by the Police and received a prison sentence for 6 months which was increased to 8 months when she refused to pay the fine that was imposed on her by the court. In 1932 she was again sentenced for participation in the agitation against Lodhi Commission and the stir for the boycott of foreign clothes.

While serving her sentences in prison, she continued her passion for writing novels, many of which contained the true life incidents of co-prisoners as themes and main plots. Her husband Parthasarathy managed the magazine Jaganmohini during her imprisonment periods.

In the service of world of cinema[edit]

Kothai was a member of Film Censor Board for 10 years. It is said that she used to go to Cinema Halls, incognito, to check whether the scenes censored by the Censor Board were reintroduced on the sly and were being screened. And in one such incident, she directed that the offending film be sent to the Censor Board for fresh certification. Her novels were made into films also. Notable among them were Anadhai Penn, (Jupiter pictures), and Dayanidhi retitled as Chiththi, Rajmohan and Nalinasekaran. Chiththi brought her the Award as the Best (cinema) Story Writer, albeit posthumously.

In public service/social service[edit]

Kothainayaki was good in midwifery. She used to help needy women irrespective of caste or creed, free of cost in attending to their deliveries. After Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated in 1948, to commemorate his memory she started an association called Mahatmaji Seva Sangam to help the poor and orphaned children. When the then congress Government gave 10 acres of Land in recognition her of public service spirit, and patriotism she handed over all the 10 acres of land to Sri Vinobha Bhave for his Bhoodhan Movement.

Her last days[edit]

When her only son, Srinivasan, suddenly died in 1956 she was greatly upset and could not come to terms with the tragic blow dealt to her by fate. She lost interest in life and did not care for her health properly. Tragedy struck her again when she was diagnosed with Lung T B. She died on 20 February 1960.