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Southern Slice | This Pongal, Not Milk But Emotions Boil Over in Tamil Nadu as Governor Ravi Stirs Identity Pot

By: Rohini Swamy

Edited By: Apoorva Misra


Last Updated: January 14, 2023, 17:50 IST

Chennai, India

Governor RN Ravi celebrates Pongal by cooking rice in a traditional pot. (Twitter @rajbhavan_tn)

Governor RN Ravi celebrates Pongal by cooking rice in a traditional pot. (Twitter @rajbhavan_tn)

Governor Ravi's suggestion of renaming Tamil Nadu as ‘Tamizhagam’ and Raj Bhavan's Pongal invites addressing the Governor as ‘Tamizhaga’ Governor instead of the regular Tamil Nadu Governor have started a war of words in the state

Southern Slice
Pongal, which literally means spilling over in Tamil, is an important festival for the southern state. The ritual involves boiling over of milk to which freshly harvested rice and jaggery are added in a new clay pot, marking new beginnings and abundance.

But this Pongal, one can see emotions boiling over in Tamil Nadu as Governor RN Ravi stokes a series of controversies.

The Raj Bhavan sent out Pongal invites (Tamil version) to Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin and other VIP dignitaries addressing the Governor as ‘Tamizhaga Aalunar’ or ‘Tamizhaga’ Governor instead of the regular usage of the signature — Tamil Nadu Governor.

Interestingly, the English version of the invite addresses him as just Tamil Nadu Governor.


This comes close on the heels of Governor Ravi’s suggestion of renaming Tamil Nadu as ‘Tamizhagam’ while addressing a felicitation programme of organisers and volunteers of the Kashi Tamil Sangamam at the Raj Bhavan.

The controversial Pongal invite also replaced another tradition. It dropped the state government’s emblem, which is the gopuram (temple tower) of the Srivilliputhur Andal Temple, from the invite and kept just that of the Union Government.

Usually, invitations on previous occasions have both emblems printed as per the rules. Even the invite for Udhayanidhi Stalin’s swearing-in ceremony had both emblems.

This clash of Tamil terminology is not new. In 2021, the ruling DMK government in Tamil Nadu decided to stop using the term ‘Mathiya Arasu’ for the central government and began referring to it as ‘Ondriya Arasu’, meaning Union government.

Governor Ravi, however, refused its usage during his addresses as he felt that the term ‘Ondriya’ belittled the Union government and was disrespectful.

So, let us come to the crux of the problem. What is the difference between ‘Tamizhagam’ (written Tamilakam in Tamil script) and Tamil Nadu?

Apart from the fact that it is massively difficult for people to pronounce, the word ‘Tamizhagam’ literally means the “abode of the Tamil people" and was often used to describe the region in ancient times.

Tamil Nadu means the land or country of the Tamils. Governor Ravi believes that ‘Tamizhagam’ would be more appropriate as the word ‘Nadu’ was more indicative of the state being an autonomous region rather than part of India.

In a meeting on January 4, he said: “For over five decades, efforts had been made to reinforce the narrative that Tamil Nadu is not an integral part of India. Tamil Nadu is the soul, an idea, and identity of a nation and we should keep it alive to erase some falsehood and fiction of negative approach prevailing in the state.”

However, the issue took a political turn when a day before the Pongal invite was given out, Governor Ravi skipped some portions of his inaugural address in the state assembly before walking out in a huff even before the national anthem was played. This was not only an insult to the nation but could also be termed ‘unconstitutional’.

During his speech on January 9, Governor Ravi skipped references to Dravidar Kazhagam founder Periyar, former Tamil Nadu chief ministers K Kamaraj and CN Annadurai, father of the Indian Constitution BR Ambedkar, and words like Dravidian model of governance which were mentioned in the 65th paragraph of the printed speech copy.

The Governor also did not read the reference to how law and order are being managed in Tamil Nadu which again was part of the printed copy of his speech. The line he skipped was — “Tamil Nadu continues to be a haven of peace and is attracting numerous foreign investments and is becoming a forerunner in all sectors.”

This has left the people of Tamil Nadu if he was acting on his own — which would seem an absolutely foolish move — or was making a point on the behest of powers that control politics from the national capital.

While the ruling DMK and its allies have openly accused the Governor of pushing the agenda of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) by stoking a controversy over the name ‘Thamizhagam’, they also attacked the opposition BJP for motivating such statements.

The ruling DMK asked the Governor to be recalled and social media began trending with the hashtag #GetOutRavi which was also converted into posters that were seen across Chennai. However, as the pitch of the protests began to gain pace, CM Stalin in a quick — and wise — move asked the DMK legislators not to make any “distasteful comments" about the Governor or put up any posters against him.

The BJP’s ally AIADMK disagreed with Governor Ravi’s move and in unison said - “It will always be Tamil Nadu for us!”

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first published:January 14, 2023, 16:18 IST
last updated:January 14, 2023, 17:50 IST