Cultural & Social Studies
The 26 animated episodes of this story are full of cultural details that students will greatly enjoy. Most of the details are embedded in the animation and graphics. Ask students to observe carefully and then describe what they have noticed. There is scope to discuss types of food, food preparation, food serving, food taboos, and more. Even drinking patterns are covered. Who drinks and who does not in this story and why?
Ask students to observe what the main characters are wearing. Are there differences by generation or by age? What about the jewellery used by men, and by women? What about hair styles and turbans? Carefully observe the women’s saris. How do they differ from the saris women wear today?
Life Cycle Ceremonies:
There are naming ceremonies, weddings, and also funerals depicted in the animation. One can use the opportunity to discuss the importance of life cycle ceremonies across cultures. Also, both marriages are very “odd” in a couple of ways. Why is this and what is the story trying to say? What about the wedding that takes place in a forest, outside the village boundaries? There are blind goats and dried up skinny cows given as gifts. Why is this? What is the bard trying to say and what larger social issues are being symbolized? Such materials can be used to address something as broad as “Peoples of the World” or something as specific as “Cultural traditions in South India.”
Kinship and Family Patterns:
This legend is chock full of social information. It details everything from kinship patterns to the interrelations (and rivalries) between multiple social groups. The story focuses on one core family over three generations. As a result one can pull out insights related to sibling relationships and also examine important parent-child bonds. Also look for information on inheritance patterns. Here again the story can be used as a “foil” and contrasted with, for example, European kinship traditions, or simply read for its direct in-depth descriptions of traditional family life in South India.
Skin Color and Social Status:
This is a sensitive topic a teacher may want to discuss, or may wish to skirt around. Note that a darker skin color in the animated illustrations for this story does not always indicate a character’s lower status. Indeed, the favoured hero in the Ponnivala epic is darker skinned than his elder brother. This is also true in movies and comics that depict either of India’s great epics, the Mahabharata or the Ramayana. There Arjuna is traditionally depicted as having a darker skin color than Bhima and Rama is darker in color than is Laksman. An essay by the animation’s executive producer is available to any teacher who would like to review some background information before tackling this sensitive skin color issue with students (contact us for details).