Land, lyrics and the Poromboke Commons

By Dark N Light

Poromboke is a medieval Tamil word that refers to communally held commons such as water bodies, grazing lands and community forests. These lands were carefully managed, yielded value to the community, and were subject to strict regulation. But over time, they began to be perceived as ‘wastelands' and have been dismissed as worthless. In this episode, Susan speaks to Nityanand Jayaraman, a Chennai and India-based writer, social activist, and a member of the Chennai Solidarity Group — a collective that fights environmental injustice and discrimination.  As competition for access to natural resources pits powerful corporations against farmers, fishing communities and indigenous people in violent conflict, Nityanand has placed himself on the side of the latter, working to ensure that the rule of law and ideals of democracy are not buried at the altar of commerce.  Listen to Nityanand hold forth on the origins of these commons, spanning from medieval through colonial times, and touch upon industrialisation, the rise of the metropole and the role of art in protest. Carnatic musician TM Krishna's soulful rendition of Chennai Poromboke Paadal (written by Kaber Vasuki) provides a beautiful foil to Nityanand's rousing call to action.  The Subverse is the podcast of Dark ‘n’ Light, a digital space that chronicles the times we live in and reimagining futures with a focus on science, nature, social justice and culture. Follow us on social media @darknlightzine, or at for episode details and show notes.

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