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First Maaveerar Naal - மாவீரர் நாள் 1989



அணையாத தீபங்கள்

From Death of the First Hero by T. Sabaratnam 25 February, 2004

"Rajani, who was on the verandah of the main house, saw the army jeep entering their compound. She ran through the house to the back door and shouted, �Nirmala Akka, army jeep is coming.�

She warned her elder sister because she knew an LTTE fighter, Shankar, was in her house. Shankar had gone to Nirmala�s house to convey the message Seelan had sent from Tamil Nadu that he had reached India safely. Seelan had also informed Shankar to convey his thanks to Nirmala, her husband Nithiyananthan and Rajani for treating and caring for him for nearly two weeks after he was injured.

Nirmala insisted that Shankar should have lunch. �Today I have cooked chicken. You must taste it and say whether it is tastier than your leader�s (Pirapaharan�s) preparation,� she said. Seelan had told her repeatedly that Pirapaharan�s chicken curry was �tops.� Nirmala served two pieces of chicken and Shankar was biting the first piece when Rajani shouted about the arrival of the army jeep.

Shankar slipped through the back door and ran towards the rear wall and the commando who ran to seal off the back entrance of Nirmala�s house fired at him. Shankar was hit in the stomach. Holding the bleeding stomach tightly Shankar ran nearly three kilometers to reach a safe-house where he handed his revolver to his comrades and collapsed due to excessive loss of blood, thus avoiding capture by the army and saving the weapon, both priority items in the LTTE's code of conduct.

Shankar�s condition deteriorated fast and his senior colleague, Anton, whose real name was Sivakumar, undertook the perilous task of taking him to Tamil Nadu by boat. Anton took Shankar to Kodaikarai, one of the landing points of Tamil militants on the Tamil Nadu coast, kept him in a safe-house and arranged for a doctor to attend on him. Anton rushed to Madurai to arrange for his treatment, then he took Shankar to a private hospital in Madurai. Doctors there declared that his condition was too serious.

Pirapaharan, who was in one of the LTTE training camps, was informed. He returned immediately. Baby Subramaniam, who was at the hospital when Pirapaharan walked in, called the occasion poignant. Pirapaharan was highly emotional, he said. Pirapaharan, took Shankar�s hands into his, lifted them and pressed his cheeks on them. He put them back softly, went and sat near Shankar's head and took it to his lap. Then he gently stroked Shankar�s hair. Shankar looked up. He seemed to have realized that his leader had arrived. He started muttering �Thamby. Thamby. Thamby�� Pirapaharan was �Thamby� (younger brother) to all, even to those younger to him. Shankar was six years younger.

Nedumaran was another who witnessed that moving scene. He has given a graphic description of that event in many interviews. In one interview he said, �They kept gazing at each other. It was impossible to guess what was going on in their minds. Pirapaharan kept looking at him intently, as if he was silently pleading with him not to go away.�

Pirapaharan was visibly shaken. He was seeing the death of one of his cadres for the first time. A 22-year old youth, blossoming into manhood, was dying sacrificing his life for the sake of the honour and dignity of his nation. Tears rolled down Pirapaharan�s plump cheeks. The flame of life in Shankar gradually quenched.

Shankar, who was reading the Russian novel One True Man�s Story when he set out to Nirmala�s house at Nallur on that 20 November morning died after seven days of agony on 27 November, the day which has become a day of remembrance of valour and self-sacrifice for the cause of freedom of the Tamil Nation and the man, Shankar, became another �One True Man�s Story� of courage.

Shankar�s body was cremated in one of Madurai�s cemeteries. Pirapaharan wanted to attend it. Others prevailed on him and prevented him from doing so. Pirapaharan's security was paramount, they argued. Baby Subramaniam, Ponnaman, Kittu and a few others attended. Nedumaran was one of them. That was a momentous day. The Sri Lankan Tamil freedom struggle had paid its first price with the life of an energetic youth.

Shankar's death was not announced publicly. Pirapaharan felt the announcement of the death would encourage the army and the police to hunt the militants. The LTTE then was a tiny organization. It had not more than 30 cadres. Announcement of Shankar�s death would demoralize the Tamil public and discourage youths from joining it. Shankar's father was informed, however. His father, Selvachandran Master, told me that two �Tiger boys� had visited him one night and told him about his son�s death.

The LTTE announced Shankar�s death on his first death anniversary. Jaffna�s walls were plastered with his photograph. Leaflets giving details about his life and exploits were distributed. Munasinghe told me that they knew about Shankar�s death a few months after it had occurred. The Defence Ministry, in its records, entered Shankar as the first Tamil militant to be killed by the army

Maveerar Nal

Pirapaharan waited for seven years to proclaim the day Shankar died as Maveerar Nal (Hero�s Day). Pushed into the Vanni woods and surrounded by the Indian army, Pirapaharan needed more cadres and required a mode to motivate those who had stuck to him braving immense hardships and personal danger. Pirapaharan, well versed in classical Tamil literature and traditions, resurrected the well-treasured custom of honouring heroes fallen in battle and paying homage to them by erecting tombstones, the custom known as nadugal valipadu-nadugal means tombstone and valipadu worship or paying homage. Pirapaharan revived this tradition, well cherished in Tamil Sangam literature, as one of his motivation strategies.

The revival of nadugal valipadu has had the intended effect. It has transformed the attitude of the wives, children, parents and relatives of the fallen cadres from the feeling of deprivation and wailing to that of participation and pride. It brought the families of the dead fighters closer to the LTTE rather than estranging them from it. It gradually restored the martial culture of the ancient Tamil society. The uppermost aspect of this culture surfaced in the eastern province in the year 2000, when LTTE propaganda reminded the tradition of mothers sending their sons to battle, anointing their foreheads with sandalwood paste, veera thilagam, to replace their killed husbands. And many mothers were roused to do it.

Sinhalese and non-Dravidian Indian policy planers and commentators fail to understand and appreciate the roots of the martial culture of Tamil Dravidians. The spread of Aryan Hinduism and culture blunted the militaristic character of ancient Tamil society. Pirapaharan had gone to Dravidians' roots and brought out their inborn militaristic talents.

In 1989, Pirapaharan declared 27 November, the day Shankar died, as Maveerar Nal (Hero�s Day) and six hundred LTTE cadres, men and women, dressed in battle dress, assembled at a secret location in the Nithikaikulam jungle in the Mullaitivu district to pay homage to the 1307 martyrs who had till then laid down their lives for the cause of liberating the Tamil people.

Photographs of those who had fallen were placed on a pedestal, flowers were sprinkled at their foot and coconut oil lamps were lit following the lighting of the main lamp by Pirapaharan.

The ceremony, called Eekai Sudar Ettal, was the simple beginning of what has now grown into an elaborate ritual. Pirapaharan was moved by what he had initiated and, in that emotion-charged atmosphere, he delivered his first Maveerar Nal address extemporaneously.

In that brief address, meant to explain the reasons for originating the ceremony, Pirapaharan said: �Today is an important day in our struggle. Today we have started the Hero�s Day in order to pay homage to the 1307 fighters who had sacrificed their lives to attain our sacred objective of Tamil Eelam. We have started this for the first time. You know that many countries in the world honour their freedom fighters by remembering them. We too have decided to proclaim a day of remembrance. We have done so today, the death anniversary of the first hero who attained martyrdom.

�Our people are used to remembering only those who held high posts and who lived comfortable lives. We have decided that leaders should not be given a special treatment. We consider all combatants who sacrificed their lives in this sacred struggle equal. By remembering all those who sacrificed their lives for the struggle on the same day, we will be able to give the credit for the achievements of the struggle to every combatant. Otherwise, with the passage of time, the credit would be given to only a few persons and the sacrifice of others would be neglected and ignored. Any nation that fails to honour heroes, wise men and wise women would be a nation of barbarians. Our nation, more than the others, gives great respect to women. But it has not given similar respect to heroes. Today we have initiated a change. We have begun to give respect to our heroes.

�Till now, we failed to pay respect to the heroes. Today we have changed that. Today, we have allocated a day to pay homage to them. If our nation is able to keep its head high in the world, it is because 1307 heroes sacrificed their lives. It is because they fought without thinking of their lives we have won the respect of the world. Let us from today, observe the Maveerar Nal as an important day every year in our lives.�

That extemporaneous speech gave rise to the tradition of Maveerar Nal Perurai which means Hero�s Day Address. The annual address assumed importance and significance over the years, especially in the past few years; it has acquired immense political import. The celebrations, too, expanded from 1990 when, with the departure of the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) and the start of the Second Eelam War, Jaffna peninsula fell into the hands of the Tigers. From that year to 1994, the observances were held for a week, while from 1995, when LTTE lost the control of the peninsula, they was restricted to three days.

Activities connected with the Maveerar ceremonies commence at the beginning of November. Literary, cultural and sports competitions are held at village and district levels. Families of heroes, known as Maveerar kudumbamgal are given important places in these activities. The graveyards known as Maveerar thuyilum Illamgal (Houses where heroes are in eternal sleep) are cleaned and painted and readied for the final day ceremony. In a main location, Pirapaharan would take part and in others, area leaders conduct the rituals.

Members of the maveerar kudumbamgal would stand in a line with flower trays and small earthen coconut oil lamps or candles depending on whether they are Hindus or Christians. The torch to light the main Flame of Sacrifice, the thiyaga sudar, is brought by LTTE cadres in a relay and handed over to Pirapaharan at the main location or to area leaders at other places. The Flame of Sacrifice is to be lit at 6.04 p.m., the time Shankar died. Then family members light lamps or candles they carried and place them at the foot of the graves of their dead relative."

1989 - First Maaveerar Naal Nihalvu  - From 'Tamil Eelam',  November 1989 - A journal published by the Political Section of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. English translation. [courtesy Eelamweb.com]

"27 November 1989 was the first time the Tamil people commemorated Heroes' day.

So far, 1,307 LTTE fighters have sacrificed their lives for the advancement of the Tamil Eelam liberation struggle and for drawing world attention to it. The courageous death of each and every one of these fighters is a heroic chapter in the story of the Tamil Eelam liberation struggle.

In this, the death of the first fighter Lt. Shankar is a unique chapter.

27 November 1982 is the day in which Lt. Shankar (Sathianathan) gave his life for the liberation struggle. That was an unforgettable day. Today, LTTE fighters are giving their lives almost daily. Daily events in their memory are also being held.

But Shankar's death was unique. There was a sacrifice even in his death itself.

Regrettably it was a situation when the LTTE was not able to publicly announce his death, the first in the organisation's history, to the outside world. The news of his death, had it been announced by the LTTE, would have put many LTTE supporters in danger of being hunted by the oppressive Sinhala government.

So his death was not made public immediately and it was only on the first anniversary of his death, was it announced to the outside world.

LTTE fighters have died in different circumstances; on the battlefield, by taking cyanide to avoid capture, killed by the enemy after a traitor's acts, killed by a traitor's hand, succumbing to battle injuries when treatment has failed.

In all these ways, 1307 fighters have laid down their lives for the ideal of Tamil Eelam and a dawn for the Tamil people.

To commemorate these fighters together, the LTTE has decided to declare November 27, the remembrance day of Lt. Shankar (the first LTTE fighter to die), as Maveerar (Heroes) day and to celebrate that day annually as a rising day. "



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