More than a century after the sensational excommunication of Kuriyedathu Thatri and a very large number of men whom she allegedly reported to be her paramours shook the aristocracy of the Hindu kingdom of Kochi, the story continues to haunt the imagination of Malayalis. Her story of revenge has invited many interpretations. These interpretations take place in both high literary forums as well as in popular culture.
Lalithambika Antharjanam, one of the earliest women to gain recognition in the field of Malayalam literature, retold Thatri’s story, hailing her as the Goddess of Retribution who struck at the roots of the rot that had beset traditional Malayali Brahmin life. There have been prurient retellings that exploited the pornographic possibilities of the tale, turning it into a series of sexcapades of a cloistered, high-caste woman.
Modernist retellings, which include Madambu Kunhukuttan’s Outcaste, have cast Thatri as the embodiment of cosmic female energy sweeping away the decadence of the Brahmins and preparing the ground for new beginnings, or as the embodiment of aesthetic refinement whose lust was for art, not the male body.