Student Projects/Koveru Kazhudhaigal

Koveru Kazhudaigal (Beasts of Burden) is a novel written by IMAYAM . Imayam is the pen name of V.Annamalai, who is a well known Indian Novelist in Tamil. The book was originally published in the year 19946


Savuri (Husband of Arokyam)
Arokyam (Head of the family)
Joseph (Elder son of Arokyam and Savuri)
Sagayam (Wife of Joseph)
Mary (Daughter of arokyam and Savuri)
Dhiraviyam (Husband of Mary)
Peter (Youngest son of Arokyam and Savuri)


The novel Koveru Kazhudaigal mainly focuses on the caste discrimination. The protagonist of the novel is Arokyam, the female lead of the novel around whom the novel revolves around. Arokyam is a woman who belongs to the washer-man community. The family members of Arokyam ,does not wash only clothes but also they are involved in every activity of a man’s life from birth, marriage, delivery of baby and even in death. She also does household chores of all the families in the village. The story starts with the family planning to go to their family deity Melnariyappanur, for that Arokyam has to get permission from everyone in the village and village heads. This shows how a kind of slavery is imposed on them. They are not even free to do things they wish or like to do. The villagers didn’t not allow them they object and scold and then finally she gets permission to visit the temple with the family. In every chapter we could see , how they are ill-treated and not even considered as human beings. In the very first chapter, we could see Arokyam saying that now-a-days even kids call her by the name of her community as ‘vannathi magale’. After they return from the temple there was a death in the village. Savuri, Arokyam’s husband and Arokyam was asked to come to do all ceremonies and rituals in the death house, but at the end of the day the amount they were paid was very less. When Arokyam raised voice to ask they scolded how dare you a lady raise your voice and make her silent. Simultaneously, Joseph and Peter go to collect and wash clothes. They never cook food at night. They are supposed to collect food from every house and have it. They mostly get the remaining food from the houses of the village.

During the period of Harvesting, Arokyam and Savuri have a lot of work. Arokyam and Savuri at this point of time go to everyone’s field to winnow the crops and grains, which have been harvested. This is the only time they receive or gain grains that they store for the rest of the year till the next harvesting. But this year the amount of crops they receive was very less, that will not be enough for them. Normally, Arokyam has the highest amount of crop than even the people who actually do agriculture. If there is a period of famine, people from village would come to her house and exchange grains or buy them. But she was worried of the amount of grains she received this year.

Though they were involved in every activity of one’s life from birth to death, they never received anything good or worth of all their services. They were treated as slaves. Every member of Arokyam’s family undergoes some kind of discrimination and marginalised and women especially in the novel were double discrimination. They were ill-treated for their caste and being women they were molested and eve-teased by the men of the village.

Amidst of all these things, Arokyam arranges marriage for Mary with Dhiraviyam, their relative boy. For this Arokyam has to seek the help of villagers to help in the form of money and grains. It is depicted, as literally she literally begs for the help of the villagers to borne, the money to be spent for her marriage. But people forgetting all she has done for village and object saying that she is going to live and serve some other village and not here in this village.

There are two characters that are revolting against all these actions of the people of the village. One is Sagayam, wife of Joseph and daughter in law of Arokyam. There are some instances depicting her un-liking towards the people and their activities. She suggests that they could take money instead of food at night. But Arokyam was taken aback by her words. Also she always say that we should leave this job and set up a petty shop so we could be independent and will not be slave to people.

Another revolting character is Peter. He was always against the acts of the people. He asks his mother to cook food like any other house in the village and shows his objection in taking food from others house. Also he has an interest in acting which Arokyam objects but later he leaves his house and village and goes to the city.

THEMES: edit

Caste discrimination: This is the main theme of the novel and coud be seen in every activity of the villagers.

Profession: Their profession is actually washing but they do a lot more than that. Also Arokyam’s own sons take up different professions like acting and set up shops.

Urbanisation and loss of tradition: There was a laundry set up in the village which directly affects the income of Arokyam; Also Mary used to stitch clothes of people that was another small way of income. But a tailoring shop was set up there that blocked this way of income also.

Women double marginalised or discriminated.

Language and folk songs.


The book was translated into English by Lakshmi Holmstrom in the name “Beasts of Burden” and published in the year 2001.