A History of Indian Literature, Volume X: Dravidian Literature, Fasc. 1: Tamil Literature

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A History of Indian Literature, Volume X: Dravidian Literature, Fasc. 1: Tamil Literature


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VOLUME X Fasc. 1






Vol. X: Dravidian Literatures Fase. 1: K. V. Zvelebil G. L. Hart

Tamil Literature Relations between Tamil and Classical Sanskrit Literatures R. E. Asher Malayalam Literature K. Mahadeva Sastri Telugu Literature H. M. Nayak Kannada Literature J. Filliozat/F. Gros/ Scientific Literatures in Dravidian J. R. Marr and others Languages

© Otto Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 1974 Alle Rechte vorbehalten Photographfsche und photoraechanische Wiedergabe nur mit ausdrticklicher Genehmigung des Verlages Gesamtherstellung: Allgauer Zeitungsverlag GmbH, Kempten Printed in GermanyISBN 3 447 01582 9


I am indebted to all my Tamil friends and colleagues who have helped me during the past three decades to understand Tamil culture and literature. "The only end of writing is to enable readers better to enjoy life or better to endure it," said Dr. S. Johnson. I dedicate this book to Tamil poets and writers, past and present, who enabled the Tamil people both; and to the Tamil people themselves.

Wassenaar, Nederland, 31. 12. 1973

Kamil V. Zvelebil


Note on transliteration and pronunciation




1. The solitary stanza 1.1. Classical Tamil poetry of the two superanthologies 1.1.2. The Bardic Corpus 1.1.3. Beginnings of Tamil poetry 1.1.4. The anthology-poems and the songs 1.1.5. The structure of the Tamil bardic poems 1.1.6. Language and prosody 1.1.7. Poetics and rhetorics 1.1.8. The bardic poet 1.1.9. The achievement of classical Tamil poetry 1.1.10. Late classical poetry 1.2. Medieval anthologies and occasional stanzas 1.3. Pre-modern and modern poetry

7 7 9 11 12 26 31 34 42 44 47 51 58

2. The literature of devotion


3. Didactic heresy


4. The 4.1. 4.2. 4.3. 4.4. 4.5. 4.6. 4.7.

epic poetry The Jaina cycle The Buddhist cycle Hindu epics Christian epics Muslim epics Modern Tamil narrative poetry Tamil puranas

128 131 140 142 159 162 162 170

5. Pirapantam 5.1. Older and traditional genres 5.2. Late and non-traditional genres

193 194 220

6. Literature in prose 6.1. The fonts of prose 6.2. Foreigners 6.3. Printing and journalism 6.4. Subrahmanya Bharati; V. V. S. Aiyar 6.5. Short forms 6.6. Novel 6.6.1. Beginnings 6.6.2. Interlude 6.6.3. Historical novel 6.6.4. Didactic novels

231 231 234 236 239 242 267 267 273 274 276

VIII 6.6.5. 6.6.6. 6.6.7. 6.6.8. 6.6.9. 6.6.10.

The contemporary situation Realistic and regional writings. Naturalism Interest in social change Autobiography and documentary writing Male-female relationship Experimental novel

. , 277 278 282 283 286 291

7. Dramatic writing




Kamil Veith Zvelebil TAMIL LITERATURE


The transcription used for Tamil words in this book is a strict transliteration as a system adopted by the Madras University Tamil Lexicon. The only exception are names of modern and contemporary Tamil writers (and their literary heroes) where I follow in addition their own anglicized spelling, e.g. Subrahmanya Bharati (Cuppiramaniya Parati), Jeyakanthan's heroine Ganga. The following Roman letters are used for the Tamil characters: Vowels Short


a i u e o

a i

u e 5

ai au Teeth

Lips Stops Nasals Liquids





Consonants Ridge behind upper teeth n

r r




Hard palate t c n fi

Soft palate k





The Tamil long vowels are, unlike their English diphthongized counterparts, simply long vowels. Final—ai is pronounced approximately like—ey. Tamil has two series of consonants unfamiliar to English speakers: the dentals t, n and the retroflexes t, n, 1, 1. The dentals are pronounced with the tongue at the teeth, the retroflexes are produced by curling the tongue back towards the roof of the mouth (cf. the American pronunciation of girl, sir). In the middle of words, long consonants occur frequently. In transliteration, they are indicated by double letters (cf. pattu, Nakkirar). English has long consonants between words, e.g. in hot tea, or Mac Kinley.


Tamil Literature

The Tamil r is flapped or trilled like in Spanish, Italian or Czech. The peculiar, typical sound 1 is somewhat like the American variety of r—a voiced retroflex vibrant or fricative; r and r are not distinguished by most modern Tamil speakers, but long rr is pronounced like tr in English trap or tt in hot tea; nr is pronounced ndr as in laundry. p, t, t, c, k are pronounced differently according to their position in the word: initially, p, t, and k are voiceless stops, t does not occur, and c is pronounced as s or sh. Between vowels, p, t, t are voiced into b, d and d and pronounced rather like lax voiced stops; k and c are pronounced as gh or h and s or sh. After nasals, all stops are voiced into b, d, d, j , g. Examples: akam is pronounced usually aham, cankam is pronounced sangam, Kuruntokai as kurundohey, Narrinai as natriney or nattiney, Alai Ocai as aleyoosey.


It is not worth while remembering that past which cannot become a present. S0EEN KIERKEGAARD

Probably the first among European scholars who dealt with the history of Tamil literature was Bartholomaeus Ziegenbalg who, in 1708, composed the Bibliotheca Malabarica, a description of Tamil books in his possession. In its third part, he gives a relatively complete account of Tamil literature containing remarks on the contents and literary form of 119 Tamil texts. More than two centuries after Ziegenbalg we still have no adequate evaluative treatment of Tamil literature in its entirety, from its beginnings to its present shape. It is very difficult, and perhaps unnecessary, says Agehananda Bharati, to be humble about a work of objective importance. Whether this book will evoke praise or censure from professional audience, it is clear that an evaluative study of Tamil literature in its totality was long overdue. Tamil can claim one of the longest unbroken literary traditions of any of the world's living languages. This book was conceived as based, in the first place, on the critical and evaluative approach (distinct from, but not opposed to, a strictly historical approach)1, and as such, it appeals primarily to the structures which may be designed as major literary types. Tamil literature is here classified principally not by time, but by specifically literary types of organisation or structure. It is viewed as a simultaneous order, and the book is concerned 1 We believe to have performed at least in fundamental outlines some of the preliminary historiographic tasks in our work on Tamil literature in the Handbuch der Orientalistik, Leiden 1975, which was compiled as annals of Tamil literature, abstaining almost completely from value judgments, and arranging comparatively neutral facts in their proper patterns and historical perspective.

Tamil Literature


with the interpretation and analysis of the works of literature themselves. There are several reasons for this approach. In India, to some extent, the whole of its literature has a simultaneous existence, and composes a simultaneous order. The dates of composition are in many cases not as important as in Western literature since in many cases literary works are far less historically conditioned. The world is seen as a hierarchically ordered society, in which individuals have their existence: in the dharmic view, these individuals are not regarded as unique, self-identical, irreplaceable human beings, of one time and one place, but as incumbents °* positions which survive them2. The Hindu has a cyclical theory of successive yugas, coming over and over again in the same order, and experiencing the same quality and pace of deterioration. According to the Hindu view, history1S working out a cyclic purpose. This view is contrastive to the modern theory of progress which is the belief in a steady advance towards human perfection, and is largely a product of Darwinism. The 'unhistorical' Hindu mind conceived the yuga concept to explain social change and development. Society passe8 through four stages of diminishing morality until in the final stage, at the end of the Kaliyuga, in which we are supposed to be now, there is a complete destruction of man and this universe, and a new beginning will be made. The Hindus have a concept of time in which the short spans of time (like millennia or centuries) with reference to human events of no cosmic significance are naturally rejected as useless. They have the law of karma which has an allpervading influence on man's duties and responsibilities. And, finally, they have the concept of divine interference in mundane affairs in the shape of avataras, and the concept of maya: empirical experience is unreal, the real truth, eternal and divine, lies beyond this truth, which is unreal, apparent, temporal, historical. In the static nature of the Hindu society with a rigidly determined order, a society theoretically immutable, speculation about the nature of historical and political theories was impossible and the faculty of social criticism was almost undeveloped. The Hindus possessed in abundance the scientific bend of mind, and the metaphysical, speculative mind. The first is concerned with drawing conclusions from observed data: two instances—Panini's grammar, or the Tamil grammar Tolkappiyam. The metaphysical, speculative mind belongs to the realm of abstract thought usually incapable of empirical control: the examples —Sankara, or the authors of the Saiva Siddhanta philosophical texts in l The faculty of criticism is concerned with imaginative interpretation of within the empirical limits. The truly critical function was singularly absent from ancient Indian scheme of speculation, and the Hindu thinking proct-sSi was dominated by the metaphysical and the scientific methodologies. Hence the traditional theory of poetic invention: a poet could express only the o^e and unchanging truth in a traditional form. India had a literary theory whica J. A. B. VAN BTJITENEN, Introduction, Two Plays of Ancient India, 1968, p. '*


Tamil Literature

stressed the unchanging truth and the traditional rules, and this literary theory produces and reflects another type of literature than a theory which makes difference, i.e. novelty and modernity, the most important criterion. Traditionally, an Indian poet was not expected to be different from his predecessors, but had to follow as closely as possible the age-old rules of poetic conventions. This high degree of conventionality, of stereotyped language, of rhetoric and poetic properties, traditional themes etc.—all these typical properties of 'objective' poetry are constantly present in every work of Tamil literary art with the exception of modern and contemporary prose and poetry. Hence, the person of the author is sometimes almost entirely obliterated, and, inevitably, we know almost nothing of the "hidden" author, and the work itself, in its particular slot within the development of a particular type or genre, is much more important than its exact historical placement and the personality of its author. It is only at the end of the 19th and in the beginning of the 20th century that things change, with such poets and prosateurs as Subrahmanya Bharati (1882-1921), Vedanayagam Pillai (1826-1889), V.V.S. Aiyar (18811925) and a few of their contemporaries and immediate followers; in many respects, however, it is only in the poems, novels and stories of the last one or two decades that things have changed radically. For the Tamil theoretician, the fundamental dichotomy of all works of literature was that between ilakkanam and ilakkiyam. Ilakkanam which may approximately be translated as 'grammar' provided a system of norms which had to be followed by ilakkiyam, roughly translatable as 'literary works'. Thus, ilakkanam was a complex of rules imposed upon ilakkiyam. By extending the notion of 'grammar' systematically to literature as something on which a structure of norms is imposed, and even to other social and cultural phenomena which are structured, like e.g. the love-behaviour of cultured pairs, ancient Tamil theoreticians had 'discovered' that the construction and understanding of poetic structures (and even of human behavioural patterns) is subject to structural rules similar to those of primary linguistic structures. A 'grammar of poetry' describes poetic competence just as the grammar of a language describes linguistic competence. And, more importantly, the structure of such grammar takes account of many extralinguistic phenomena. Analogous principles of patterning (contrast, parallelism, repetition and the like) determine games, etc., but above all erotic (akam) and heroic (puram) behaviour. The grammar of poetry is thus a special case of a general theory of poetic competence, and we must distinguish in it between universals, and specific conventtions. At the same time, the Tamil theoretician stressed the primacy of ilakkiyam: "Literature yields grammar," says an aphorism of the Akattiyam; "there is no grammar without literature, just like there is no oil without the sesamum-seed" .3 In this book, this basic dichotomy is accepted in the sense that this book 3

Ilakkiya minrel ilakkana minre / ejlin rdkil enneyu minre / eljininru enney etuppatu pola / ilakki yattininru etuppatu milakkanam.

Tamil Literature


deals only with ilakhiyam, i. e. with literature as the corpus of texts upon which rules are imposed, ignoring ilakkanam, i. e. the theoretical, eruditory, normative texts imposing these rules. Man's pleasure in a literary work is composed of the sense of novelty and the sense of recognition. A totally familiar and repetitive pattern is boring; a totally novel form will be unintelligible, indeed unthinkable. The literary type, form and genre represent a sum of aesthetic devices at hand, available to the writer and intelligible to the reader. A good writer partly conforms to the genre as it exists, partly stretches it4. In Tamil literature, the continuity of forms and genres is safeguarded in a special and prominent manner—until approximately the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, and, in some ways, until very recently ago. totality of texts



ilakkanam 1

. tokainilai the poet's own persona present directly (as in heroic poems and devotional hymns) or indirectly in a cast of conventional characters (as in erotic poems)

1. ianippdtal 'isolated poem' 1.1. classical bardic poems in akam and puram 1.2. medieval / anthologies , 1.3. premodern and modern lyrical poetry

1 /



3. anomaly "didactic heresy" (gnomic maxims, - Spriichenliteratur)

2. devotional poetry (bhakti) 2.1. Saiva 2.2. Vaisnava 2.3. Christian 2.4. Muslim

iyal ( = recited or read) bardic stanzas epics, purdnas prabandhas, lyrical/epical poetry short story novel

totarnilai connected narrative and descriptive discourse 7. drama

4. epic and narrative forms 4.1. kdppiyam 4.2. purdnam

5. prabandha The 96 varieties of Tamil pirapantani3

6. prose 6.1. short forms 6.2. novel

icai ( = sung) devotional hymns

ndtakam ( = mime) street plays ritualistic 'dramas', some prabandhas, modern plays and dramas


Tamil Literature

On the following pages, Tamil literature is viewed as total structure in terms of types, forms and genres, the development of which is followed up within the coordinates of time. The following diagram will indicate the approach to Tamil literature adopted in this book and the plan of its treatment. Observe that, following the basic dichotomy of ilakkanam : ilakkiyam, the next binary division, according to the Tamil conceptions, runs between tokainilai, i.e. solitary, isolated, individual poem (prone to anthologization, tokai), and the totarnilai, i.e. a connected poetic discourse composed of elements of narration and description. These fundamental divisions, based on indigenous Tamil theoretical thinking, with the didactic maxims, and the drama, as probably 'imported anomalies,' are criss-crossed by another trichotomous division (very obviously imported and ascribed to the Aryan culture hero Agastya) into iyal, literature, prose or poetry, intended to be recited or read, icai, literature intended to be put to music and sung, and ndtakam, literature intended to be enacted by mimetic performance. The bardic stanzas, the epics and the purdnas, and most of the prabandhas belong to the first type (iyal); in modern literature, these developed into lyrical and epical poetry, into short story and novel; devotional hymns, ancient and more recent (e.g. kirttanai), belong to the second type (icai); street-plays, ritualistic and panegyric 'dramas,' a few later prabandhas and modern plays and dramas belong to the third type (ndtakam)5. It is of course extremely difficult to separate oral from written tradition, particularly in India. But the methods of study of the two kinds are essentially different. Oral tradition, folklore, handed down by word of mouth and subject to a very different set of norms, presents different problems from those of literary history, a different theory, a different metholology. In this book, Tamil folklore had to be ignored. In this book all translations, unless indicated otherwise, are by the present author. References to editions of texts are incomplete, the bibliography containing mainly such books and articles as have a bearing on problems, evaluation, critical points etc. For editions and questions of philological or textcritical interest see the author's brief history of Tamil literature (Handbuch der Orientalistik, Leiden 1975).

4 6

R. WEIXEK—A. WARREN, Theory of Literature, 3rd. ed. 1963, p. 235. I am indebted for the final version of the diagram to my student Saskia C. Kersenboom.


1.0. The subject of this chapter is the isolated, independent, solitary poem, Ta. (tanip)pdtal, (tanip)pdttu, in ancient, medieval, and modern Tamil poetry. It is distinct and detached from other poems1, self-sufficient and self-contained, and can be comprehended and enjoyed by itself. It is fit to be anthologized in collections (Ta. tolcai, DED 2861, Jcottu, DED 1741, cf. Skt. kosa), and it roughly corresponds to occasional and lyrical poetry of Western literatures, though the Tamil concept is somewhat different and wider than either. The detached poems will be dealt with in the following historical sequence: first, the classical Tamil poetry of the bards of the two great genres, akam and puram; second, the occasional stanza of the medieval epoch, and the medieval anthologies; third, premodern and modern poetry of this type. 1.1. Classical Tamil poetry of the two superanihologies—Ettuttokai and Pattuppdttu. The akam and puram genres. 1.1.1. Rediscovery of classical Tamil poetry. The classical bardic poetry of the literary Academies (cankam, Sangam) ceased to be a living literature and became part of an "extinct" classical heritage sometime in the 6th-8th cent. A. D. It gave way to the religious hymnody of the Saiva and Vaisnava bhakti movement. In that period, everything changed: in the evolution of language, this was the time of the transition from Old Tamil to Middle Tamil; in prosody, this was the period of the first strong impact of Sanskritic aksara-mdtrd oriented metres on indigenous Tamil structures; secular, anonymous love and war poems gave way to religious, highly individual hymns; the itinerant bard moving from court to court quitted the scene and his place was taken by a Saiva or Vaisnava poet-saint, visiting shrine after shrine and singing the mercy of £iva and Visnu. The classical heritage was preserved almost exclusively by learned poets, commentators and scholiasts. After ca. 1450 A. D. even the scholiast ceased to be interested, and with the exception of a few anthologies which still contained ancient matter, the classical poetry faded into oblivion. Medieval, especially late medieval militant brahminical Hinduism apparently branded as taboo and irreligious all secular texts of the ancient era and the study of Jaina and Buddhist literature was forbidden. Even great scholars were unaware of the existence of the earliest and greatest of Tamil literary texts. The rediscovery of the classical heritage occurred in the transition period of 1 Though it may combine into thematic cycles (like in the Ainkurunuru anthology) or into corpora united by a common set of conventions etc.


Tamil Literature

the second half of the 19th century. The two men, who were probably most active in the unearthing and editing of ancient Tamil texts, were Dr. U. V. Swaminatha Aiyar (1855-1942)2 and S. V. Damodaram Pillai (1832-1901 )3. One must not forget either the great role played by their immediate predecessor, Mahavidvan Meenakshisundaram Pillai (1815-1876)4, and by their contemporaries and successors, scholars, editors, literary historians like P. Sundaram Pillai (1855-1897)5, V. Kanakasabhai Pillai (1855-1906)6, R. Raghava Iyengar (1870-1946)7, M. Raghava Iyengar (1878-1960)8, J. M. Nallaswami Pillai (18641920)9 and others. In 1901, the Fourth Tamil Academy (Sangam) was founded at Maturai, and it soon developed into a publishing house of various texts and an important journal, the Centamil. By the beginning of the 20th century, the classical bardic poetry was rediscovered though many texts were lost for ever10. With this added time-depth, Tamil literature and Tamil literary history obtained entirely new perspectives, and Tamil emerged as one of the two classical languages of India (the other being of course Sanskrit) and, indeed, as one of the classical languages of the world. 2

$ri Makamakopattiyaya Taksinatya Kalaniti Dr. U. Ve. Caminat' aiyar was born on Febr. 19, 1855 in a &aiva Brahman family at Uttamatanapuram near Tanjore, and died on April 28, 1942 in Madras. While a Tamil pandit at the Government College in Kumbakonam, he met a liberal law-official, S. Ramaswami Mudaliar (on Oct. 2, 1880) who, being a rare lover and connoisseur of ancient poetry, made the young scholar aware of the existence of the great classical heritage, and even gave him an old manuscript to take home and study. From that day on, Swaminatha Aiyar devoted the rest of his life to unearthing and editing ancient Tamil literature. The first important text he edited was the Jaina epic Clvakacintamam (1887), his last important edition was that of Kuruntokai (1937). Cf. his autobiography En. carittiram 'My story,' Madras 1950; FRANCIS MOBAES, Dr. Swaminatha Aiyar, Editor and Writer, TC 4 (1955), 40-52. 3 Ci. Vai. Tamotaram Pillai was born in Sept. 1832 in Ciruppatti near Jaffna, Ceylon, and died in Madras on Jan. 1, 1901. His most important editions are Kalittokai (1887) and some ancient grammars. 4 A learned, prolific scholar-poet who drew a circle of disciples to Tiruvavatuturai matha (monastery) which became the centre of a large gathering of poets, musicians and scholars. U. V. Swaminatha Aiyar was his most outstanding student. 5 Professor at Maharaja's College, Trivandrum; author of a number of historical and literary papers, translator of Tamil classics into English, editor of inscriptions, author of Manonmamyam, Madras 1881, a metaphysical drama. 6 Author of The Tamils Eighteen Hundred Years Ago, Madras 1904, collector of manuscripts and inscriptions. 7 Research lecturer in Tamil at Annamalai University, first editor of Centamil, author of a commentary on Kuruntokai, editor of Akananuru; cf. his Tamil varalaru, Annamalainagar, 1st ed. 1941, 2nd ed. 1952. 8 Sub-editor of Centamil, from 1912 on the staff of the Tamil Lexicon Committee as the Tamil pandit (cf. JAOS 44,2, 134-7), professor of Tamil, University of Travancore, author of many research articles (cf. Arayccittokuti, 2nd ed. Madras 1964), editor of Peruntokai, Maturai, 1935-6. 9 Translator of many !§ai va Siddhanta texts, editor of Siddhanta Deepika from 1897. 10 For lost Tamil texts cf. Mayilai Cmi. Venkatacami, Maraintupona tamil nulkaj, Madras 1959, and K. V. ZVELEBIL, Tamil Literature (Handbuch).

Tamil Literature

1.1.2. The Bardic Corpus. The earliest corpus of Tamil literary texts may be dated roughly between 100 B. C. and 250 A. D. This dating was arrived at on the basis of both internal and external evidence: the main internal evidence is of linguistic and prosodic nature, and comprises also quite a number of historical clues11 based on historical or quasi-historical allusions in the texts and colophons. The external, positively corroborative evidence is based on archeology, on numerous finds of Roman coins, on rich data provided by Graeco-Roman authors, and has been lately clinched by epigraphy12. Nowadays, no serious scholar would doubt the dating which is thus based on a combination of data arising from different and independent sources—a dating which will stand easily any critical scrutiny13. The earliest corpus of Tamil literature (100 B.C.-250 A.D.) comprises the following texts: an Urtext of the Tolkappiyam, i.e. the first two books of the oldest Tamil grammar extant; most of the poems in the anthologies Ainkurunuru, Akananuru, Kuruntokai, Narrinai, Patirruppattu and Purananuru: these collections were later classified and gathered into one superanthology termed Ettuttokai 'The Eight Collections'14; and the so-called lays of the other superanthology, Pattuppattu 'The Ten Songs': Kurincippattu, Cirupanarruppatai, Netunalvatai, Pattinappalai, Perumpanarruppatai, Maturaikkaflci, Malaipatukatam, Mullaippattu, and possibly Tirumurukarruppatai15. According to the best edition of the poems which is available16, the total number of stanzas in the corpus is 2381. They were ascribed to 473 bardic poets who are known by their names or epithets. 102 poems are anonymous. 16 poets out of 473 are responsible for about 50% of the total production (1177 11

The most important historical clue is the so-called Gajabahu synchronism based on Cilappatikaram XXX. 160 which establishes the contemporaneity of the Ceylonese king Gajabahu I (A. D. 173-195) and the Chera king Cenkuttuvan. celebrated in the Vth decade of Patirruppattu and in Puram 369. The date of Cenkuttuvan was thus fixed at ca. 180 A.D. The Gajabahu synchronism is corroborated from other sources, and the general historical trend strongly favours its acceptance. Most scholars do accept it nowadays, cf. K. A. N. SASTRI, A Comprehensive History of India, II, 1957, 614-5, and K. ZVELEBIL, The Smile of Murugan, Leiden, 1973, 174-5; K. V. ZVELEBIL, op.cit. 12

Thanks to the labours performed by K. V. SUBRAHMANYA AYYAR, H. K.

KRISHNA SASTRI, K. K. PILLAY and others, but especially to the recent brilliant work of I. MAHADEVAN, we now know of the existence of 76 rock inscriptions in the

Tamil -Brahmi script from about 21 sites in Tamilnadu; the data contained in them establish obvious correlations with the data contained in early bardic poems. Cf. I. MAHADEVAN, Tamil Brahmi Inscriptions of the Sangam Age, Proceedings of the Second International Conference Seminar of Tamil Studies, I, Madras 1971, 73-106. 13 For a detailed discussion of the various problems concerning the dating of ancient Tamil literature, cf. K. V. ZVELEBIL, op.cit. 14 Which comprised, besides the six collections mentioned above, the two most probably later collections Kalittokai and Paripatal. 15 The dating of Tirumurukarruppatai is an open matter. See below, p. 50. 16 Es. VAIYAPTJRI PILLAI (ed.), Canka ilakkiyam (Pattum tokaiyum), Pari Nilaiyam, Cennai, 1st ed. 1940, 2nd ed. 1967.


Tamil Literature

out of the 2279 non-anonymous poems). The sixteen most prolific poets (i.e. those who have at least 20 pieces to their credit) are Kapilar (253 poems), Ammuvanar (127), Urampokiyar (HO), Peyanar (105), Otalantaiyar (103), Paranar (85), Marutanilanakanar (79), Palaipatiya Perunkatunko (68), Auvaiyar (59), Nallantuvanar (40), Nakkirar (37), Uloccanar (35), Mamulanar (30), Kayamanar (23), Perunkunrur Kilar (21) and Pericattanar (20)17. In terms of time dimensions their poetry covers about 250-300 years: Paranar, the earliest great and important poet, may probably be dated ca. 150 A.D., and Nallantuvanar, possibly the last great bardic poet, in ca. 400 A.D. The Tamil bardic poetry is the only example of Indian secular, non-religious literature dating from a period that ancient. The most popular theme of the literature of Tamilnadu from about the 6th cent. A.D. onwards has been Liberation (Skt. moksa, Ta. vltu). However, in the early classical poems, which have been termed hedonistic and egalitarian in spirit, whose length varies from three to over eight hundred lines, and which often go under the now 'popular' term Sangam poetry18, the religious inspiration, and the philosophical reflection are almost totally absent19. These were poems of 'sentiments' and of 'exploits,'20 of the 'noumenon' and the 'phenomenon,'21 in Tamil terminology, of akam and puram; in a somewhat simplified manner we may also say, poems of a total human erotic experience, and of heroism and public activity. A continuous epic is conspicuously absent, and this is the great difference in form between the earliest Tamil poetry and the beginnings of other national literatures: in the latter, heroic conventions were developed in conjunction with epics22. What we have in the two superanthologies are discontinuous poems of breath-taking sophistication and of thrilling subject-matter, a literary corpus of great homogeneity of language, diction, prosody and themes. To a great extent, the key to this poetry is provided by a structure of conventions as set up in the Tolkappiyam, the most ancient grammar of the Tamils, and as commented upon by the great medieval scholiasts. This homogeneity, and this constant presence of a set of conventions 17 For detailed discussion of the biographies and dating of these poets, cf. K. V. ZVELEBIL, Tamil Literature (Handbuch), Appendix, 18 For a detailed discussion of the legend of the Sangam, cf. K. ZVELEBIL, The Earliest Account of the Tamil Academies, I I J 15,2 (1973) 109-35; T. G. ARAVAMTJTHAN, The Oldest Account of Tamil Academies, JORM (1930), pp. 188 and 289, and T. G. ARAVAMUDAN, The Madurai Chronicles and the Tamil Academies, JORM (1932), pp. 89,275 and 322. 19 Though seven of the anthologies begin with the invocation of Siva or Visnu; but these invocations were provided later and have nothing in common with the texts that follow. 20 P. MEILE in L. Renou and J. Filliozat, L'Inde classique II, Paris 1953, p. 98. 21 T. P. MEENAKSHISUNDARAM, Tolkappiyar's Literary Theory, Proceedings of the First International Conference Seminar of Tamil Studies, II, Kuala Lumpur 1969, 3-9. 22 J. R. MARK'S review of K. KAILASAPATHY, Tamil Heroic Poetry, BSOAS 34,1 (1971), p. 165.

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stimulates, and, at the same time, in a truly dialectical tension, stifles the creativity and 'originality' of the bardic poet. This academism could hardly exist without an institution which resembles an academy—and, indeed, everything points to the conclusion that such an academy (termed cankam, Sangam 'fraternity, community') did exist in Maturai at the beginning of the Christian era23. If not, then the "spurious name Cankam . . . for this poetry is justified not by history but by the poetic practice" since this is truly a group poetry. In the texts as they have reached us we must distinguish among four components which very probably represent four different chronological layers: the introductory stanzas (invocations of Siva, Visnu and Murukan); the texts themselves; the colophons; the commentaries. The poems began to be edited and anthologized with the cessation of a living bardic activity; first they were collected into individual anthologies which are mentioned for the first time in Nakkirar's commentary on Iraiyanar's Akapporul (ca. 8th cent. A.D.) and in Ilampuranar's commentary on Tolkappiyam (ca. 12th cent.). Finally, these anthologies were codified in the two great corpora, Ettuttokai and Pattuppattu; their names occur for the first time in Peraciriyar's commentary on Tolkappiyam Porulatikaram 362 and 392, and in Mayilainatar's commentary on Nannul 387 (both 13th~14th cent.). 1.1.3. Beginnings of Tamil poetry. About 250 B.C. or somewhat later, Asoka's (272-232 B.C.) Southern Brahmi script appears to have been adapted to the pre-literary Tamil phonological system. Slightly earlier, a number of linguistic developments indicate that pre-Tamil evolved into Proto-Tamil and pre-literary Tamil. This stage of the language is reflected in its earliest inscriptions which show some peculiar features in phonology and morphology, and a strong influence of Prakrit on their vocabulary. In a somewhat but not much different language, and in a very different diction and style, the earliest bardic poetry transmitted orally during the pre-literary stage, now refined and transformed into a court-poetry, began to crystalize around certain nuclei which became later, upon the application of a lively criticism by a body of scholars, the core of the anthologies. This literary language was taken as the basis of the description found in the earliest extant grammar Tolkappiyam. Where the standard literary language developed is still a matter of dispute; but it is probable that it had been based on the dialect considered correct (centamil), and it is quite probable that this standard, 'correct' dialect was spoken in and around Maturai, and cultivated and controled by a kind of academy. 23

Cf. F. GROS, Le Paripatal, Pondichery 1968, p. VIII; also, J. R. MARK'S review of F. GROS, Le Paripatal, BSOAS 32,2 (1969) p. 408; V. NARAYANA IYER, Sangham Literature, JORM U928), 149-51.


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Maturai2* on the river Vaikai25 has since times immemorial been connected with the beginnings of Tamil culture and literature, and with the cultivation of the language. An assembly of scholars is a cultural institution of much antiquity and great popularity in India26. But as far as we know, it has always been a casual body, never assuming the character of a permanent corporation. The literary assemblies we know about were gatherings convened occasionally, ad hoc. In contrast, the three Academies (cankam) at Maturai are said to have been permanent institutions which, under the patronage of the Pandya kings, controled and criticized the literary output of entire Tamilnadu. The tradition of a literary Academy appears in both literary and epigraphic sources, and it is obvious that it cannot be dismissed as pure fiction. Normative and critical activities in the field of early classical Tamil literature are an established fact27. 1.1.4. The anthology-poems (tokai) and the songs (pdttu). The individual collections will be described in detail in the Tamil alphabetic order. The poems as such will be analysed for their language, diction, organization and structure of content and of metre in §§ 1.1.5.-1.1.7. The theory of classical Tamil literature will be dealt with in § 1.1.7. Subsequently, the function and the position of the bard will be discussed; in 1.1.9, the achievement of classical Tamil poetry will be dealt with, and § 1.1.10. will describe late classical poetry (Tirumurukarruppatai, Kalittokai, Paripatal). Ainkurunuru 'The Short Five Hundred' is a collection of 500 stanzas in the akaval metre ranging from 3 to 6 lines. It is divided into five groups of 100 stanzas each according to the five basic situations of love which are in 24 The name of Maturai has obviously some connection with Mathura in the North of India; what this connection is remains to be established. According to indigenous Tamil sources, there are two etymologies of the name: one is connected with the beautiful marutam trees on the banks of the Vaikai (cf. Paripatal VII. 83, XI. 30, XXII. 45, DED 3862 Terminalia tomentosa); but the city venerates rather the katampu which is the sthalavrksa of its temple (cf. Katampavanapuranam); another etymology connects the name of the city with maturam (Skt. madhura) 'sweetness,' cf. TiruviJaiyatarpuraNam XXXVI. 15, with the drops of ambrosia oozing from Siva's serpent. Another name of Maturai is Kutal, lit. 'the junction' (of different items: four large streets, temples, etc.). This is a name charged with legends. 25 Vaikai is a river 52 km long, of uncertain, even capricious climatic conditions; it has enough water only about two weeks in a year. It finished its course in the early days in a sea-delta (cf. Paripatal), but already according to Takkayakapparani (12th cent. A.D.) and its commentary, it did not join the sea (cf. Swaminatha Aiyar's ed. 1960, st. 212, and Tiruvijaiyatarpuranam 58.2). Today it ends its course in the great reservoir of Ramnad. 26 Cf. MACDONELL-KEITH, Vedic Index 1.117 (Rsi) and 1.497 (Parisad); cf. Brhadaranyakopanisad VI.I.l, Jaiminlyopanisad BrahmaNa 11.11.13,14, SatapathabrahmaNa XI. 1-9 etc. 27 For a detailed discussion of the Tamil academies, cf. K. V. ZVELEBIL, § 5.4. of Tamil Lit. (Handbuch).

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Chart I The corpus of Tamil classical poetry arranged according to subject-matter Poems of the akam genre 1. Narrinai 'The Excellent Love-Settings' 2. Kuruntokai 'The Collection of Short (Poems)' 3. Ainkurunuru 'The Five Hundred Short (Poems)' 4. Kalittokai 'The Anthology in the Kali Metre' 5. Akananuru 'The Four Hundred on Love' 6. Kuriricippattu 'The Mountain Song' Poems of the puram genre 7. Patirruppattu 'The Ten Tens' 8. PurananUru 'The Four Hundred on Heroism' 9. Porunararruppatai 'The Guide for the War-Bards' 10. Cirupanarruppatai 'The Short Guide for the Bards with the Lute' 11. Perumpanarruppatai 'The Long Guide for the Bards with the Lute' 12. Maturaikkafici 'The Advice (Given in) Maturai' 13. Malaipatukatana 'The Mountain-Echoes' Poems of mixed akam and puram genres 14. Pattinappalai 'On the City and Separation' 15. Mullaippattu 'The Jasmine Song' 16. Netunalvatai 'The Good Long Northern Wind' Poems of mixed akam, puram and devotional (bhakti) moods 17. Paripatal '(The Composition in) ParipdtaV Devotional poems 18. Tirumurukarruppatai 'The Guide to Lord Muruku' correlation with the five regions (ain tinai) in this order: marutam 'riverine,' neytal 'littoral,' kurinci 'montane', pdlai 'arid' and mullai 'pastoral.' Stanzas 129 and 130 are lost. Orampoki, Ammuvan, Kapilan, Otalantai and Peyan are said to be the respective authors of the five portions. There is a brief invocatory stanza of 3 lines by Paratampatiya Peruntevanar. The poems, highly formalized, and connected by a network of situational conventions, have each a later colophon appended which explains the appropriate erotic theme dealt with in the stanzas. In spite of the connection mentioned above which is often indicated by formal means, too, each single stanza is a typical tanippdtal which can be to a great extant understood and appreciated on its own. Thus e.g. the tenth stanza of the first decad on the marutam 'riverine' landscape and setting by Orampoki says:


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Long live Atan Long live Avini Let the rains fall Let wealth increase Such was her wish And we desired He of the town in whose cool pools do swim the smelling fish and bloom the mango trees Let him come and go and take her along

An old brief anonymous commentary was supplemented by a detailed commentary of U. V. Swaminatha Aiyar. Some lines from the poems of this anthology reappear in Paripatal, Cilappatikaram, Nalatiyar and other later works. In stanza 202 we hear, probably for the first time, about the pigtails worn by Brahmans. There are only 17 allusions to historical events in the anthology. Ainkurunuru is considered by some scholars to be the earliest of the collections28, by others a late one because of its sophisticated arrangement. Akanarmru 'The Four Hundred in the Akam Genre,' known also as Akappattu 'Songs in the Akam Genre,' as Netuntokai 'The Collection of Long [Poems]' or simply as Akam, contains 400 stanzas in the akaval metre, ranging from 13 to 31 lines, ascribed to 145 poets. There is an invocation of $iva by Peruntevanar. Poems 114, 117 and 165 are anonymous. The poems are arranged according to a peculiar schematism: those bearing odd numbers (1, 3, 5 . . .) belong to the pdlai 'arid' setting; poems bearing numbers 2, 8, 12, 18, 22 . . . relate to the kurinci 'montane' themes; those bearing numbers 4, 14, 24, 34 etc. deal with the mullai 'pastoral' setting; those numbered 6, 16, 26, 36 . . . with the inarutam 'riverine' situations, and those having ten or its multiples (20, 30 . . .) relate to neytal 'littoral' situations. The relatively long poems of Akam allow scope for references to heroic episodes; there are 288 historical or quasihistorical allusions. We have references to the Nandas (251, 256), to the Mauryas (69, 281, 375), to the Yavanas (148), to many kings and chieftains of Tamilnadu; there are echoes of purdnic legends, and a number of Indo-Aryan loanwords. The poems are quite self-sufficient, totally independent of each other, true occasional bardic songs. Some of them manifest admirable gift of observation and minute, deep acquaintance with psychology. Thus e.g. the following stanza (110) ascribed to a poet known only from this one poem (Pontaip Pacalaiyar): One evening we bathed in the sea with our playmates standing in a line like flowers arranged in a garland. We cooked little dishes of food. We built castles of sand in the groves by the seashore. 28



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As we were sitting for a while resting our tired limbs, a man came and asked us: "Good sweet ones of graceful, broad, and soft shoulders, the day has set and I am tired. Why don't I partake of the food spread out on these leaves and stay for the night in this village with its busy drone ?" Our heads sank in modesty at what we heard and saw; we stood there, hiding ourselves behind each other, and cried in a small voice: "This food is not fit for such as you; it's just a low diet of cooked fish!" "Behold!" cried he, "don't you see the ship with its long proud flags fluttering in the wind ?" And he kicked away our castles of sand and said, singling me out among all those friends and turning away as if to go: " 0 you of beaming forehead, shall I be off?" And as he went, casting long glances at me, he said, "Good-bye," and grasped the top of his high chariot— and there he stands even today before my mind's eye. Kuruntokai 'The Collection of Short (Poems)' contains 401 stanzas in the akaval metre ascribed to 205 bards. The poems range in length from 4 to 8 lines. There is an invocation of Murukan by Peruntevanar. Poems 307 and 391 have 9 lines. According to tradition, Peraciriyar wrote a commentary on all but 20 stanzas, and Naccinarkkiniyar either supplied the gloss or wrote a complete commentary; neither is extant. There is a fine and detailed commentary by U. V. Swaminatha Aiyar (1937). The subject-matter of the poems is love. Almost each of the stanzas is classically perfect, entirely self-contained, a gem of sophisticated and yet fresh love poetry. Thus a royal bard of the Pandya dynasty bursts into a song about the pleasures of reunion: O mighty cloud Please yourself today And flash the lightning to sunder night's darkness in twain


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And send down heaviest rain And rain and rain And sound forth in full blare like the drum shattered by the stick— For we rest sweetly with the silken hair fresh with the fragrance of kuvalai flowers our hearts lordly with the joy of deeds achieved (Kuruntokai 270)

Some phrases occurring in Kuruntokai reappear later in Tirukkural and Cilappatikaram. The collection contains 27 historical allusions. Narrinai 'The Excellent Love Settings,' traditionally mentioned as the first among the Eight, is an anthology of 400 poems in the akaval metre, ranging from 8 to 13 lines, ascribed to 175 poets. There is also an invocatory stanza to Visnu by Peruntevanar. Song 234 is missing, and 385 is fragmentary. No ancient commentary is available, but there is a good modern one by P. A. Narayanaswamy Aiyar (1862-1914). The topic of the poems are the five settings of love-conduct. The collection contains 59 historical allusions. A great number of lines reappear in later texts, notably in Tirukkural, Cilappatikaram, Manimekalai. The allusion to the legend of a woman who tore off her breast (Karmaki) occurs quite obviously in poem 216, and its echo probably in 312.' A woman deserted by her lover sings in Narrinai 153 composed by a poet whom we know only by the pseudonym Tanimakanar 'The poet of the lonely guard': Like clouds which, drinking of the eastern sea spread westwards, darkening the sky, and raining all around flash with lightning-strokes like sparks that fly from copper pots when shaped by smiths, and, rumbling, turn round to the South, so has my heart gone where my lover is. My body, fed, stays on: like a lonely guard who waits and watches great town desolate whence the people fled in dread of the hordes of a vengeful king. Patirruppattu 'The Ten Tens' is an anthology of poems in praise of Chera kings. Originally, the collection consisted often sections; it seems that

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in the present arrangement the first and the tenth decades are lost29. Each decade is accompanied by an epilogue in verse (patikam) and by a prosecolophon and, also, by its own brief commentary which, according to U. V. S. Aiyar, appears to have been written in the 13th cent, or later30. The glosses appended to each poem of this chronicle in verse, giving its theme, title and prosodic properties, were provided either by the authors or by the compiler(s) of the anthology, the patikams (epilogues) are definitely of later origin. Both the poems and the epilogues provide abundant historical and sociological material. As to their diction and style, the poems are identical with the rest of the bardic poetry in the akaval metre, but a few peculiar regional expressions do occur. The second decade by Kumatturk Kannanar is in praise of king Imayavarampan Netuficeral Atan, the son of Utiyaft Ceral and the father of Cerikuttuvan (ca. 150 A. D.). The third decade by Palaik Kautamanar is dedicated to a younger brother of Imayavarampan, king Palyanaic Celkelukuttuvan. The fourth decade by Kappiyarruk Kappiyanar is in praise of Kalankaykkanni Narmuticceral (ca. 180 A.D.), one of the sons of Imayavarampan. The fifth decade by Paranar sings of the mighty Cenkuttuvan, son of Imayavarampan and contemporary of Gajabahu I of Ceylon (ca. 180 A.D.). The sixth decade by the poetess Kakkaipatiniyar Naccellaiyar is dedicated to Atukotpattuc Ceralatan, another son of Imayavarampan (ca. 180 A. D.). The seventh decade by Kapilar is a panegyric on Celvakkatunko Valiyatan Kuttuvan Irumporai (ca. 170 A.D.). The greatest king of this line was perhaps Takaturerinta Perunceral Irumporai, praised by Aricil Kilar in the eighth decade (ca. 190 A.D.). The ninth decade is dedicated to Kutakko Ilaficeral Irumporai (ca. 200 A.D.), the cousin of Peruficeral and the grandson of Celvakkatunko, composed by Perunkunrur Kilar. Decades II-VI deal thus with three generations of the Imayararampan line of the Ceral kings of what is today's Kerala; decades VII-IX deal with three generations of the Irumporai line of the same clan; both lines were interconnected through marriages31. Patirruppattu is obviously of tremendous historical importance; both the poems and the patikams were used by K. A. Nilakanta Sastri and other historians as mines of dependable historical data. Apart from that, the collection contains some superb examples of the heroic genre, the best being pro29 Cf. however, J. R. MARK, The Lost Decades of Pattirruppattu, Proceedings of the Second International Conference-Seminar of Tamil Studies, Madras 1971, pp. 19-24. For a detailed description of Patirruppattu, cf. also J. R. MABR, The Eight Tamil Anthologies with Special Reference to Purananuru and Patirruppattu, PhD thesis, Univ. of London, 1958. 30 It seems that this commentary quotes from Neminatam (if cinnul indeed refers to this grammar) and thus could not have been composed before Kamavlra-

paNtiyar. Cf. U. V. S. AIYAR'S ed. 1920, p. 4. 31 For the genealogical data of the Cheras and the historical importance of Patirruppattu, cf. K. A. NILAKANTA SASTRI, A Comprehensive History, pp. 50518, and M. A. THIAGARAJAH, Ceranat>u during the Cankam, 1963.


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bably poems by Paranar in the fifth decade. Thus, for instance, Cenkuttuvan's horses are more numerous than the many cooling waves with heads of white foam spraying coloured drops from surging, heaving, dark and many-billowed seas. (Patirruppattu V. 42.21-3) Purananuru 'The Four Hundred in the Puram Genre,' traditionally the last of the anthologies, may indeed have been compiled as the last but contains undoubtedly some of the earliest bardic poems and covers thus about 2-3 centuries. It also goes under the names Purappattu 'Heroic Songs' or simply Puram 'Heroism,' and contains 400 stanzas in the akaval and vanci metres of different length, besides an invocation of $iva by Peruntevanar. Stanzas 266 and 268 are lost, some poems are fragmentary. Fourteen poems are anonymous, the rest is ascribed to 157 poets. An old anonymous commentary is available up to stanza 266. Auvai S. Turaicami Pillai wrote a modern commentary. One hundred and thirty eight stanzas praise 43 kings belonging to the three great dynasties (27 poems on 18 Chera rulers, 74 poems laud 13 Chola kings, 37 poems praise 12 Pandya rulers); 141 poems are in praise of 48 chieftains, 9 of them regarded prominent enough to have more than 4 poems each. The redactor(s) of the anthology tried perhaps to group the poems on the basis of kings or chieftains praised in them, but also on the basis of many different situations (turai) of the heroic genre. 121 poems have defective colophons; hence their heroes are unknown. Poems 248-357 were classified into 30 turais; their heroes are anonymous. This section of Puram may contain a very early, indeed pre-Christian strata of Tamil bardic poetry. There are among these songs poems about widowhood (248-56), elegies (Puram contains 43 elegies, e.g. 260-1,270) etc., but from 358 to the end, the poems again refer to kings and chieftains. 141 poems belong to straight panegyric type termed pdtdn 'praise.' There are also a few—probably later—stanzas containing elements of reflection, the central idea being mostly the impermanence of this life, and ths stoic acceptance of death. Life's way is like the raft's when the restless descending waters lash on the rocks as lightening skies pour down the rains— we know this very well . . . So we do not marvel at those big with excellence, nor scorn the little ones. (Puram 192 by Kaniyan Punkunran, transl. A. K. Ramanujan)

Most poems, however, glorify what is termed pukal 'fame' of the ideal hero who while alive lived in the battle-ground to attain victory, and after a heroic death passed into the verses of the bards. Longing for battle, thirst for fame, and praise of the ruler—the heroic poems of the puram genre are replete with these motifs:

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Not food is the soul of life Nor water is the life's soul It is the king who is the life of this wide expanse of the earth Therefore this is the duty of the kings with armies stocked with mighty spears: To know: I am the soul! (Puram 186 by Mocikiranar) Kurincippattu 'The Song of the Mountains' alias Perunkurinci, ascribed to Kapilar, contains 261 lines in the akaval metre, and became part of the other superanthology of early Tamil classical poetry, the Pattuppattu or 'Ten Songs.' The only difference between the tokai or anthology-stanzas of the Ettuttokai and the songs of this other collection is quantitative; the songs of the Pattuppattu range from 103 to 782 lines. In other features, the two are identical: the same metre (akaval or vanci or a mixture of both), the same language of symbols and the same structure of conventions, the same limited set of dramatis personae, the same themes and situations, the same imagery, the same diction, the same ideology, and, in some cases, the same poets. Thus, the songs of Pattuppattu (sometimes called rather incorrectly 'idylls') are just a quantitative extension of the shorter bardic stanzas. The increased number of lines results sometimes in an unfolding and expansion of the dramatic or narrative element; however, there is no development of a plot, no real fiction in verse at all. Relatively short or relatively long, the poems of the akam genre imply or evoke or enact dramas in monologue, and the reader overhears as it were what the characters say to each other, to themselves, or, occasionally, to the moon. No poet speaks in his own voice overtly in the akam genre; and no poem is addressed to the listener. In the puram genre, on the other hand, the poet speaks frequently for himself, and poems are often addressed to the listener (king, chieftain, any patron). Thus the poems of the Pattuppattu anthology deal, too, with akam 'love' and puram 'heroism' and are part of the early classical heritage of the tanippdttu or 'detached songs.' Kurincippattu was composed—according to the colophon accompanying the commentary32—by Kapilar in order to instruct the Aryan king Pirakattan (Prahasta ?) in Tamil poetry. This tradition and the fact that the poem contains a catalogue of 99 flowers typical for montane poetry appear to substantiate the suggestion that the poem had been composed as a model33. In the poem, a 32 Ariyavaracan Pirakattanait tamilarivittarkuk Kapilar patiya Kurincippattu: "This is the Kurincippa^tu sung by Kapilar to instruct the Aryan king Pirakattan in Tamil." 33 Cf. P. L. SAMY, The Plant Names in KuriNcippattu, JTS 1 (Sept. 1972) 78-103. It is not true that "once in the course of the narrative Kabilar yields to a rather inartistic freak, the enumeration of wild flowers that makes a tedious list" (C. and H. JESUDASAN, HTL, 1961, p. 23). Catalogues do occur elsewhere in Tamil bardic.


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chieftain of the hills falls in love at first sight with a fair maiden. His love is reciprocated. The girl's foster-sister helps the lovers to meet and enjoy their passion. The parents find the change in their daughter suspicious and invite exorcists to treat her illness; but the cleverness of the foster-sister overcomes all obstacles and when the parents are told that the young man saved their daughter twice (once from the danger of drowning and once from a rogueelephant), they give their consent. These events are not unfolded in an epic, narrative manner, but are put in the mouth of the foster-sister and companion of the heroine who speaks out, revealing the true nature of the maiden's 'illness' to her mother, the heroine's nurse. The poem which may be dated ca. 150-200 A. D., is a love poem par excellence, conforming to the principle laid down for the akam genre in the kurinci 'montane' region: punartal, i.e. love at first sight followed by immediate sexual union. It is one of the finest of the ten songs, with its magnificent description of the sunset, with its elaborate similes34, and the ever-present god Murukan of the hills. Cirupanarruppatai 'The Short Guide for the Minstrel with the Lute' is one of the earliest and probably the best of the 'guidance' poems. This type of poem, originally one of the panegyric kinds of the pur am or heroic genre, developed rather early into a specific and productive genre, the drruppatai or guide poem35, in which one who has been rewarded with gifts directs another person to the chief (or god) from whom he may receive similar award. 'The Short Guide' was composed in 296 lines in the akaval metre by Itaikkalinattu Nallur Nattattanar, and honours Nalliyakkotan of the Oy tribe (cf. Puram 176, 376, 379). The poet declares himself to be among the last of the classical poets when he mentions Kuttuvan of the Imayam (Himalaya) fame, the seven vallals (chieftains noted for their liberality), and the story of Auvai poetry. We fully agree with X. S. THANI NAYAGAM and K. KAILASAPATHY (Tamil Heroic Poetry, 1968, of the latter, and Nature in Ancient Tamil Poetry, 1961, of the former author) that the presence of the catalogvie should cause no surprise since bardic training included information pertinent to flora and fauna. Also, the catalogue has high phonaesthetic qualities; the plant names have been arranged according to the principles of euphony and alliteration. 34 E.g. the maiden is taken aback when her lover embraces her without warning and trembles with passion and confusion like the staggering peacock drunk with toddy (first-level simile); the peacock staggers like a dancing girl tired after a tightrope dance (second-level simile). There are also less elaborate similes: the girls stand trembling like the plantain tree on the edge of a foaming river; the swelling clouds over the mountains shine like Murukan's leaf-shaped spear; or, consider the following lovely verses: We rinsed the water from our braided locks / and let them dry, shining on our backs / like sapphire that is set on gold, / our eyes all red . . . 35 For the etymology of the name of the genre cf. Paripatal V.10 malaiyarruppatutta 'pour pratiquer un chemin dans cette montagne' (transl. F. Gros), but especially Paripatal IV.2 onrdrruppatutta 'guides sur une unique voie'; drruppatutta 'guided'; drruppatai 'guide.' For further details on the genre, cf. Chapter V.

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getting a myrobalam fruit from Atikaman Afici, as events of the past. The most acceptable date would be 250-275 AD. Thus it may be the last poem in the anthology besides Tirumurukarruppatai which is almost certainly even later. There is a very powerful description of the poet's poverty: the starved bitch laying in the ruined kitchen near a cold hearth with her blind and helpless pups refusing to suckle them; the pdnar woman—the wife of the poet—who cooks without salt (which she cannot afford) some herbs gathered from refuge heaps. Lines 14 to 40 contain one of the most detailed and most charming descriptions of a woman's body found in classical Tamil literature: there is a string of similes (known technically as mdlaiyuvamai 'garland of similes'): the locks are compared to rain-clouds; the small feet are similar to the tongues of panting dogs (cf. Porunararruppatai 16-17); the close-set thighs are like the trunks of elephants; the matted hair is like the unopened flower of plantain bunches; the beauty-spots on the skin like venkai blossoms; the teeth shine like the pulp (nunlcu) of the breast-shaped young palmyra fruits. There is one additional feature found here which does not occur in any of the pdttu poems: orraitnanimdlai 'a single-necklace simile' whereby a word in one phrase is taken up and carried on to the next with a different meaning; the off-set of one simile is repeated as the onset of the next36. Netunalvatai 'The Good Long North Wind,' implying by metonymy the cold season, is a poem in the alcaval metre of 188 lines ascribed to Nakkirar. It is a subtle and complex work of literary art, regarded as the best of the pdttu poems. According to the commentator, the hero is a Pandya king, Netuficeliyan (ca. 215 A.D.). But the hero is in fact anonymous, and the theme is the pain of separation: the wife of a warrior has put away her splendid dress and ornaments and bewails the absence of her lord who is away in the battlefield. Her attendants try to console her, and pray to the War-goddess, Korravai, that her husband may return soon after conquering his enemies. The poem contains exquisite description of the cold season in the country and in the city (probably Maturai), and a marvellous scene of the king's winter-camp at night, as he walks through the camp and consoles wounded soldiers by kind words: he leans on the shoulder of a youth, his other hand holding up his costly robes; a captain armed with lance points out the wounded men; behind, a saddled war-horse shakes off the raindrops. Though the poem does not contain any elaborate or long drawn-out similes, some of the simple metaphors and comparisons are indeed striking: the lonely queen looks like a colourless picture (punaiyd oviyam, v. 147); the tent-poles are like milkless breasts (urdvarumulai, v. 158)37, while the rounded knobs of the leg of the queen's bed are like the 86 37

E.g. kurankena / malvarai olukiya valai vdlai / puvenap polintu oti oti / . . . The Tamil phrase signifies figuratively the pots which are shaped like female breasts; the tent-poles are curved so as to have the appearance of the pots.


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breasts of pregnant women38. Observe that these similes are suggestive of the queen's loneliness, separation and longing. Pattinappalai 'The City (and) Separation' is a poem by Katiyalur Uruttirankannanar about the expected separation of a lady from her lover who is about to go to Kavirippattinam, to the Chola king Karikala, a great patron of poets, to receive a reward from him. The poem contains 301 lines, 153 in vanci and 138 in akaval; only a few lines contain the akam or subjective element of the poem (on pdlai, separation); the rest is devoted to the puram or objective element of two themes: the Chola capital, and the Chola king. The poem is also known as Vaficinetumpattu 'The Long Song in the Vanci Metre' and may be dated ca. 190-200 A.D. It gives a vivid portrait of the life in the harbour mentioning big ships, warehouses, piles of merchandise, describing the life of fishermen, popular feasts, dancing, wine-drinking, cock and ram fights, but also Buddhist and Jaina monasteries and the worship of Murukan. The next section deals with the reign and exploits of Karikala, his victories, his patronage of the arts, and as a song glorifying a celebrated Chola king this poem was still rather popular at the court of imperial Cholas (850-1200 A.D.) since it is mentioned in their inscriptions and the literature of the time. An interesting passage (lines 185-90) gives us an idea of the trade of the great port: (Here are brought) swift, prancing steeds by sea in ships, bales of black pepper in carts, gems and gold born in the Himalayas, sandal and akil wood born in the Western hills, the pearls of the southern seas and coral from the eastern ocean, the yield of Ganga, and the crops from Kaviri, foodstuffs from Ceylon, Burmese ware and other rare and rich imports . . . The poem attains high literary excellence in its imagery and similes; striking is the poet's partiality for astronomical similes: a pond on whose banks grow flowers looks like the moon girdled with stars in a cloudless sky; fishermen wrestle like stars that move in the blue expanse and mix with planets; and the waters of Kaviri mingle with the waters of the ocean like when the red sky meets the mountain dark, like the child clinging to its mother's breast— so are the ocean's waters clear 38 Tunkiyal makalir vihkumulai in v. 120, lit. swelled breasts of pregnant women. The bed is interesting: it is forty years old (and the numeral forty is expressed here most oddly by a Sanskrit-Tamil mongrel word tacandnku, i.e. taca < Skt. dasa 'ten' + Ta. ndnku 'four,' in fact a loan-blend, since the syntax of this compound is adapted to the Tamil patindnku), constructed with smooth-chiselled elephant tusks, decked with leaves (carved with sharp chisels); around the bed hang pearlstrings like lattice-work, above are boards portraying hunting scenes, and the mattress is made of pure white down of mated swan.

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that mingle with the streams and roar with mighty waves. Perumpanarruppatai 'The Long Guide for the Minstrel with the Lute' is attributed like the previous poem to Uruttirankannanar. It contains 500 lines in the akaval metre praising the chieftain Tontaiman Ilantiraiyan, ruler of Kaflci (ca. 190-200 A.D.). A special feature of this poem is a detailed description of the five physiographic regions (tinai) which one can see in Ilantiraiyan's territory: the Jcurinci or montainous region whose robbers live in fortified villages; the pdlai region inhabited by hunters; the mullai land where herdsmen tend their sheep and cattle; the marutam where farmers cultivate their fields; and the neytal region where fishermen thrive. There is also a splendid description of the capital city of Kanci, of its sea-port and suburbs; and a mythical account of the origin of the Tontaiman clan. The poem provides much detailed information about the life of ancient Tamils (the king and his duties, trades, taxes, a good account of various kinds of food, life of women, games, religious customs etc.). Porunararruppatai 'The Guide for War-bards' is probably the earliest of the songs collected in Pattuppattu, and thus also the earliest of the extant guides (drruppatai), apart from the 18 pieces of this genre found in Puram and Patirruppattu. The author, Mutattamakkanniyar39, may be dated ca. 180-190 A. D. The poem consists of 248 lines in the akaval and vanci metres. The poet meets a war-bard (porunar) and his wife, and sends them to the Chola king Karikala, giving biographical data about the king, describing his prowess, conquests, benign rule, the wealth and fertility of his land, the valuable gifts he had received from him. There are two rich strings of similes in the poem, one about the lute, the other relating to the wife of the bard. Each part of the lute, and each part of the female body have an appropriate comparison: thus the head of the lute is like the smooth hoof of the deer, the leather cover is as red as a lamp's bright flame, and its surface is "like the fair belly of a pregnant woman with its ordered hair"; its handle looks like the spread hood of the cobra; in general, the lute looks like a bedecked bride. The virali, the danceuse, has "small feet of great beauty similar to the tongue of a panting hound40," and "young fair breasts set so close that a nib could not part them41"; her "navel is like a water ripple," and "her mound-of-venus seems to be the seat of bees42." There is also a very realistic description of the poor minstrel whose clothes swarm with lice and mites, are soaked with sweat and much patched-up (lines 79-80). 39

The name, probably a nickname, means literally The Lame Weaver of Garlands. Some critics think that the poet was a woman. 40 Varuntundy ndvin peruntaku clrati. 41 Irlcku itai pokd er ila vana mulai. 42 Nirp peyar culiyin nirainta koppul . . . vantu iruppu anna pal kdl alkul.


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There are some hyperbolic statements (robbers are said to renounce their work when they hear the music of the yal 'lute,' and the beauty-spots on the songstress' body agitate men's minds while her waist, unable to support her body, is almost invisible) and a touch of humour (the teeth of the meat-eater are blunted like plough-shares). Maturaikkafici 'The Good Counsel (Given to the King) at Maturai' is the longest of the pdttu poems, containing 782 lines in the akaval and vanci metres; it is ascribed to Mankuti Marutanar, a poet who is also the author of a number of stanzas in the anthologies, and its hero is Netuficeliyan, the victor at Talaiyalankanam (ca. 200-215 A.D.); it also goes under the name Peruvalamaturaikkafici 'The Great (and) Excellent Counsel at Maturai.' The heart of the poem is its graphic description of the city life which makes a full circle of 24 hours and shows the poet as a keen observer of men and their behaviour. There is no love element at all in the poem; at the end, the poet holds up the king's predecessors as worthy examples, and wishes his patron prosperity, giving him the good counsel to try to be happy throughout the allotted portion of his life. There are some exceptionally vivid and realistic pictures: e.g. of the ghouls devouring the corpses of heroes fallen in battle; the peymakalir 'demonesses' drink the blood of tuskers that fell in war; they dance on heaps of men's heads; the demon cook boils blood of fallen kings, stirs the carcass food with ladles that were once men's arms, and the female devils serve this food to victorious warriors43. Another striking picture is that of a furious elephant run amok, breaking its pegs and killing its keeper like a ship that furious winds lash, breaking the cordage strong which bounds the sails, tearing the sails, breaking down the mast, making the anchor roll about and drive the vessel into whirlpools. There are also arresting and picturesque descriptions of the harlots of the city, of the burglars and night-watchmen, of the activities of the people in the early hours before dawn. Malaipatukatam. The title is not quite clear. It either means 'The Secretion Oozing from the Hills,' or 'The Sound of katdm Which Arises in the Mountains,' i.e. 'The Echo of the Mountains.' Its author, Perunkunrur Perunkaucikanar, celebrates Nannan son of Nannan in 583 lines which describe various aspects of life of different communities in the hero's land. The title itself is taken from a striking phrase found in line 348 where the echoes in the mountains are compared to the noise made by roaring elephants in rut. Hence, 43 Is this an allusion to cannibalism ? The text says (37-8): pirpeyardp / pataiyorkku murukayara '[the female-devils . . .] perform muruku to the warriors who do not retreat'; this may be interpreted either as 'offer sacrifice' (in fact, there is a v.l. which says pataiyor murukayara 'the warriors perform sacrifice'), or 'distribute as food' (coru valanka) which goes well with the dative pataiyorkku.

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the title meaning literally the secretion (katdm) oozing (patu) from the mountain (malai) may be interpreted as 'The Echo of the Mountains' since the secretion may be taken as metonymy for sound; the mountain resembles the elephant in heat, from whose head flows a secretion. The poem has another name, Kuttararruppatai 'The Guide for the Dancing Minstrels (kuttar).' It repeats some striking similes from earlier texts: thus the strings of the lute could be loosened or tightened like a lady's bangle; the feet of songstresses are like the tongues of panting dogs, etc. There are some very fine pictures of nature, especially the arresting passage with the central theme—the mountain echoes which, blended together, are the malaipatukatdm, and this composite noise is like the roar of the elephant in rut. And there are some lovely short similes like the avarai blossoms compared to drops of curd and their fruits to sickles; the varaku's double stalks are like fingers joined together when a man is arguing, etc. Dated ca. 210 A. D. Mullaippattu 'The Forest Song' is the shortest and one of the most beautiful of the songs. It contains 103 lines in akaval; its hero is anonymous; its poet Napputanar may be dated ca. 230 A. D. or somewhat earlier. The subjective element or akam is the patience and self-control shown by the heroine who is separated from her warrior-husband when he is away on a military campaign (lines 1-28 of the text). A warrior goes away during the summer promising to return home before the rains set in. The rains come; he has not returned. The wife is plunged in grief. She waits for her lord in patience, in an alternation of passionate grief and selfcontrol. Suddenly, hearing the march of the hero's victorious troops, she is filled with joy. The puram or objective element deals with the expedition of the chieftain: his temporary camp in the forest, his chamber specially constructed by the fierce-eyed Yavanas (line 61) clad in toga-like garments. At midnight before the day of the battle, the hero is sleepless thinking of his soldiers and animals wounded in previous engagements. After a victorious battle he returns swiftly home in triumph. Like in some other pdttu poems, the akam and puram genres are inserted one within the other in a blend which is technically known as mdttu 'joining, linking, hooking (of the erotic and heroic elements).' There is a lovely description of different flowers, and a few striking similes (the quivers hung on bows are like the cloth of an ascetic hung on a tripod; the wife trembling with grief resembles a peahen struck with arrows; the severed trunks of elephants writhe in pain like snakes). There is an outstanding commentary on the entire collection of Pattuppattu by the great Naccinarkkiniyar (14th Cent. A.D.).


Tamil Literature Chart II 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

kurinci pdlai mullai neytal marutam

Erotic and heroic settings montane: sexual union vetci arid: separation vdkai pastoral: patient waiting vaiici tumpai littoral: pining ulinai riverine: sulking

cattle-raid victory invasion pitched battle siege

1.1.5. The Structure of the Tamil Bardic Poem. Before discussing the hierarchic structure of content and form of the classical Tamil poem we have to face the fact that there are at least two if not three distinctive groups or circles of the classical poetry, the distinction most probably conditioned chronologically. In other words, within the bardic corpus, one may distinguish three evolutionary types: one is the tokai or 'anthology' poem and the pdttu or 'song' poem of the early classical age forming the heart and the bulk of the bardic poetry of the akam and puram genres; another is represented by the late classical collection Kalittokai in which new dramatis personae, new themes, and a new metre appear (though of course the continuity with the early poetry is quite unbroken, and the overall system of conventions is the same); yet another is represented by the late classical collection Paripatal and probably also by Tirumurukarruppatai manifesting very important innovations in themes as well as in the motive and function of literary activity, and in the case of Paripatal in prosody. As to the extent of the poems, we have to distinguish between the shorter tokai pieces, and the longer pdttu songs. As stressed above, the distinction is primarily quantitative. A process of elaboration set in; the occasional stanza grows in length; but each song still continues to be the solitary, occasional poem, only somewhat longer. In all basic properties, both semantic and formal, the longer poem, the pdttu 'song' of the second anthology, is almost or quite identical with the shorter poem, the tokai 'anthology' piece: the metre and other prosodic features are the same; the personnel is the same; the conventions, the diction, the imagery, the themes are the same. There is only one structural feature which is more prominent in the longer songs but may be found in the shorter poems, too: the mdttu or blend of the akam and puram elements in one single poem; thus e.g. in Pattinappalai, there are five lines belonging to the akam or subjective, erotic genre; they occur in lines 218-20 and 299-301 of the text; the rest is devoted to the puram or objective genre (the Chola capital and the Chola king). However, even the shorter poems know of this blend of the two: thus e.g. Puram 83 by the poetess Nakkannaiyar is really 'more of an akam piece than of a puram one44. 44 JOHN R. MAER, Letterature dravidiche (in Storia delle letterature d'Oriente), Milano 1969, p. 564.

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Structurally, though the longer songs have preserved the main properties of the shorter poems: thus e. g. Mullaippattu, a poem of 103 lines, divides itself into only three sentences, three "movements" as it were, and together they form a higher unity of a progressive movement, just like in the other solitary stanzas45. From the point of view of formal structure, the single line (ati) is usually emphasized as the largest single unit. According to Peraciriyar, one of the commentators on Porulatikaram, in the commentary on aphorisms 347 and 390, "the syllables (mdttirai), metrical units (acai) and feet (clr) make up the line which gives meaning and pleasure . . . The poet completes his intended meaning (kuritta porul) in each line, without needing another line." To illustrate what he says he gives the following four lines of a four-feet akaval: Mayon mdrpi Idram pola manivarai yilitaru manikila raruvi nanpon varanru ndta nanpuperi tutaiya ninne celine Like the garland on the breast of the dark-coloured god The tinkling stream falls from the side of the hill The chieftain of the country where gold is hoed He is full of love and of sweet words

The poems are hierarchically structured. Apart from purely formal structural properties (such as metrical patterns, phonaesthetic structures, other patterned prosodical features like monai 'alliteration' and etukai 'assonance'), each stanza is hierarchically organized in terms of form-meaning composites. This hierarchy may be set up as follows: tinai 'setting' I turai 'situation' I kolu 'theme' I motif I


There are seven 'ideal' settings (tinai) dealing with subjective or erotic (akam) situations and themes, and seven settings of the heroic (puram) genre. Thus there are seven types of love, "of which the first is unrequited love, and the last is mismatched love46." Most of the poems of the akam genre belong to the "middle" five phases or types of love, the so-called aim tinai > aintinai 'five settings.' These are the subject of true love poetry. The tinai is thus the most inclusive structural form-meaning component; each stanza belongs to a tinai 'setting' (or to more than one tinai which is then designated as tinaimayakkam or 'blend of settings'); the 'setting' comprises thus the entire stanza. 45


T. P. MEENAKSHISTJNDARAN, Mullai-p-pattu, Madras 1958, pp. 70-3.

Tolkappiyam Porujatikaram 1.


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Next in the hierarchy is the turai or 'situation' since each tinai 'setting' comprises several decades of 'situations47.' The turai or 'situation' may be defined as a stereotyped and conventional structural level, indicating the conjunction of circumstances for the development and climax of an event in the heroic and erotic life of the dramatis personae. The turai encloses, too, the entire stanza. On the next lower level, there are the themes (Ta. kolu): the underlying action or movement which is the subject of a particular poetic discourse under one of the basic erotic or heroic situations. The turai 'situation' is composed of a number of motifs and formulae which constitute the kolu 'theme' frequently stated at the end of each poem. The motif is a recurring reflex of experience, which is as a rule more expanded and more inclusive than a formula. A formula is the basic and the least inclusive element in the structure of the bardic poem: in contrast to motif, the formula is a structure which apart from a complete or almost complete semantic identity manifests a high degree of identity of diction and total identity of metre vis-a-vis other formulae; motifs are usually not clad in identical or nearly identical linguistic and prosodic material. To see how this works in the poems, let us once more consider Narrinai 153 by Tanimakanar: Like clouds which, drinking of the eastern sea spread westwards, darkening the sky, and raining all around flash with lightning-strokes like sparks that fly from copper pots when shaped by smiths, and, rumbling, turn round to the South— so has my heart gone where my lover is. My body, fed, stays on: like a lonely guard who waits and watches great town desolate whence the people fled in dread of the hordes of a vengeful king.

The tinai or over-all setting is pdlai which is denned as separation from lover or parents. The turai or the situation of this poem is given as 'What she said, weakened by separation' (one of the several decades of situations coming under 47 Thus, e.g. under the setting in the puram genre termed vetci 'cattle-raid' there are 14 situations (according to Tolkappiyam Poru]atikaram) or 20 situations (according to Purapporulvenpamalai). According to Tolkappiyam, the 7 heroic settings (tinai) comprise 138 situations (turai); according to the later grammar of poetics, there are 13 heroic settings comprising 327 situations.

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the palai setting). The theme (kolu) is described as follows: 'The lover has left and the heroine speaks: My heart has gone where he is, and my body was left behind.' There are at least two motifs in this stanza which recur elsewhere: one is the motif of the clouds drinking from the Eastern sea and spreading westward; another the motif of the sparks flying from the smithy: this second motif may be compared with the beautiful lines in Narrinai 13 by Kapilar: The vengai shakes its blossoms down, as sparks Of fire that in the smithy fly48. The simultaneous occurrence of the Eastern sea and of the western direction is also a recurring motif; one could call it 'the motif of an east-west movement.' Thus e.g. in Kuruntokai 128 by Paranar (which begins with the same words as our poem, i.e. kunakatal 'Eastern ocean'), the heron moves from the Eastern sea to the port of Tonti on the west coast. One of such frequent motifs is e.g. the motif of the snake and the thunder occurring in Kuruntokai 158.1-2, Akam 92.11, 323.10-11, Puram 17.38-9, 37.1-4, 58.6-7, 126.19 etc. Or, there is a recurrent theme, in both heroic and erotic poetry, to describe the flourishing sea-port of Tonti on the west coast (known to Greek and Latin sources as Tyndis): Kuruntokai 128 by Paranar which was mentioned above, contains this theme (speaking of the 'front harbour of Tonti belonging to the Poraiyan of mighty chariots')49. Within this theme, which "occurs at least twenty-two times in the Anthology poems50," we find a recurring motif in the love poems to compare Tonti, the beautiful, flourishing sea-port, with the heroine (e.g. in Kuruntokai 238.4, Akam 60.7-8, 171.4, 173.3-4,174.1-2, 180.4 etc.). And the description of Tonti is often coined in recurrent formulae, e.g. "Tonti of seaside groves" in Puram 48.4, Narrinai 18.4, 195.5. A motif is a word or a group of words, a pattern of thought that recurs in a similar situation, or to evoke a similar mood, within a single work or in various works of a type or genre51. It is, however, the formula which is the most important structural element in the Tamil bardic poem. This was shown brilliantly by K. Kailasapathy52 who described how the oral bard, reciting his themes, had 48



p. 25.

The setting of this poem is marutam, infidelity and sulking scenes in the agricultural, riverine landscape. The turai or situation is described as 'What the hero said concerning the fact that there were no signs of conciliation after a love-quarrel.' 50 K. KAILASAPATHY, Tamil Heroic Poetry, p. 212. 51 I make obviously a distinction between the motive of a literary work (i.e. the cause and purpose of a creative action, its motivation), and the motifs as characteristic features of a literary work's design. 52 K. KAILASAPATHY, Tamil Heroic Poetry, Oxford 1968, especially the pathbreaking and detailed chapter on the technique of oral verse-making (pp. 135—86). Long before KAILASAPATHY made the formula a subject of an explicit analytic treatment, M. S. PURNALINGAM PILLAI wrote (in his Primer of Tamil Literature,


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to work rather fast in the midst of an enthusiastic, thrilled and demanding audience; hence formulae had such a great functional value for both the audience and the minstrels. The formulae of the simplest structure are just attributehead constructions of two parts, like valvil 'strong bow' (Kuruntokai 100.5, Akam 120.12, 152.15, 281.5, Puram 150.7, 152.6 etc.). Such bipartite constructions are further slightly expanded: ven talai punari > ventalaippunari 'the white-headed sea' occurs e.g. in Pur. 1.10, 31.14 and Cilappatikaram XXVI.81; porkottimayam 'the golden-peaked Himalaya' occurs in Pur. 1.24, 39.14-15, 369.24, Narrinai 356; netumen panaittdl 'the large, soft, broad shoulders' occurs in Kuruntokai 185.2 and 268.6. Quite frequently such simple formulae reappear in slight variation: either the word-order is changed, or the exponents are substituted for each other: thus aruvin kan mukai (Kuruntokai 95.1-2) 'eaves in rocks with waterfalls' reappears in Puram 141.1 as kanmukai aruvi 'waterfalls in rocky caves.' Smaller or larger portions of formulae are substituted, and the variations which thus arise play an important part in the bard's skill of improvisation: thus e.g. pacuventinkal 'greenish-white moon' in Kuruntokai 129.4 reappears as pacuvennilavu 'greenish-white moonshine' in Kuruntokai 359.28 and Narrinai 196,2; puppolunkan ponpdnmeni, a double formula meaning 'gold-like shape with darkened eyes similar to blossoms' (e.g. Kuruntokai 101.4) reappears partly in Kuruntokai 377.1 where we have malarerunkan 'blossom-like darkened eyes' and in Kuruntokai 319.6 where we have ponnermeni 'gold-like shape.' This substitution of one exponent for another with identical meaning is frequent especially in such formulae which may be followed through whole centuries of literary development: thus e. g. the elephant who is similar to the god of death and strong like wind appears once as kurrattanna . . . kdlkilarntanna velam in Tirumurukarruppatai 81-2, and centuries later in Civakacintamani 973 where the same simile is expressed by kdrrenakkatunkat kurrena . . . katdkkaliru53.

The hierarchically structured components—formula, motif, theme, situation and setting—are parts of a given traditional material54, and the bardic practice depends strongly on this material. This traditional material means at once an inspiration and a restriction for the poet. According to Ilampuranar, the earliest and the most sensible commentator on Tolkappiyam, unity should prevail among the details of a theme and situation, and themes and situations should themselves be in harmony with tradition. Thus the fact that the poet is 1904): "The recurrence of certain ideas and images in some of these idylls by different authors bespeak the stock-in-trade and no literary theft. Broad streets are river-like, rice stalks finger-like, women's soft soles the gasping dog's tongue-like etc." Cf. also J. GONDA, Old Indian, Leiden 1971, p. 14. 53 The elephant, compared to the wind and to the god of death because of its swiftness and strength, and its destructive power, occurs also in Paripatal XXI. 1—2 and later in MuttoUayiram; much later in the Tamil version of Bhagavatapurana X.17.14. However, we cannot classify these occurrences as variations of a formula any more, but as the occurrences of one and the same motif. 84 More about this traditional material in § 1.1.7.

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greatly restricted by the hyperstructure of conventions and by the language stereotype results in our inability to point out, in most cases, individual authorship. But then, the problem of the 'originality' of a poet, of an 'independent,' 'creative,' 'original' personality, is alien to the Tamil tradition. The notion that a poet should create his own plot, ad hoc and ex nihilo, is anyhow relatively modern, typically Western, and possibly misguided55. The Tamil bardic poet is consciously and "effectively traditional56," exploring all possibilities of his tradition, like the austerely orthodox Indian philosopher who wants to show that his ideology is derivative from canonical texts57. Therefore, the question of 'imitation' does not at all arise; there is no problem of plagiarism and copyright. And yet we may distinguish between what is truly conventional and stereotype in the sense of uninventive repetition, and what is 'creative' and 'original' in our sense58. Thus, to quote an instance, again from Narrinai 153: the comparison of the deserted woman to the lonely guard left behind in the desolate city is, as far as we can say, not a part of the conventional stock of motifs or formulae, and was considered so striking, that is, unique (in other words, 'original'), that the poet of this song was nicknamed after it (Tanimakanar 'The Poet (who said) Lonely Guard'). 1.1.6. Language and prosody. The classical bardic poetry is composed in Early Old Tamil, a language which is unintelligible to a modern Tamil speaker without a special study. The formal, standard, written variety of modern Tamil is more conservative than the informally spoken style, and hence closer to earlier-Tamil. The language of the early poetry is formalized and highly standardized. It has a great facility to compound its elements irrespective of their grammatical affiliation; nominal and verbal terminations are deleted so that chunks of utterances stand as large-unit compounds59. This compact texture of the original is a great problem when translating this poetry. Compared to the wonderfully concise constructions of the original, almost any translation will sound clumsy and verbose. Often, the text withstands any straightforward translation, and what remains to be done is only an interpretation. Cf. e.g. a line from Kuruntokai 290.4-6 perunirk j Jcalporu cirunurai pola / mella mella villa Jcutume, lit.' 'I become nothing 85 HARRY LEVIN, Refractions, Essays in Comparative Literature, Oxford 1966, p. 21. 56 K. KAILASAPATHY, Tamil Heroic Poetry, Chapters IV and V. 67 AGEHANANDA BHABATI, The Ochre Robe, New York 1970, p. 130. 58 More on the creative personalities among ancient Tamil bards in § 1.1.8. 59 This fusion of elements permits different break-ups of the compounds (anvaya) resulting in the suggestion of alternative meanings. This feature, together with the symbolism, results in different interpretations, and the elucidation of such nuances has naturally become "a veritable mine in which the commentators of successive centuries have laboured to produce many a gem of interpretative insight" (J. PARTHASARATHI, in Agra University Journal XIX, II, p. 47).


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little by little / like small foam fighting the rock / in large water 60 .'' The structure of perunlrk kalporu cirunurai, lit. "large-water rock-fight small foam" is peru nlr

kal poru

ciru nurai

The utterance involves, incidentally, an important rhetoric device, the socalled muran 'contrast' (perunir 'large water:' cirunurai 'small foam'). In the beautiful English version by A. K. Ramanujan 61 we read and like a streak of foam in high waters dashed on the rocks little by little I ebb and become nothing.

Though indeed an excellent translation, this is more an interpretation than a straightforward translation of the wonderfully concise original62. The entire corpus of earlier classical poetry is composed in two metres 63 : akaval (later called dciriyappd) and vanci. It is necessary to stress the fact that the underlying principles of Tamil prosody are quite independent of Sanskrit metrics and entirely sui generis. While Sanskrit metres are based on the conception of syllables (aksara) and moras (mdtrd), Tamil metres are based on the unit called acai which is of two types: simple, long or short (w or —, neracai), and compound, made up of two syllables (v_/«^ or v^—, niraiyacai). In other words, ner may be quantitatively long or short, whereas the first syllable 60

Cf. J. PARTHASARATHY, Agra University Journal XIX, II. A. K. RAMANUJAN, The Interior Landscape, 1967, p. 86. 62 Sometimes the untranslatability is given by the linguistic material itself: thus e.g. in Paripatal IV. 33 atanal, ivvu muvvu mavvum piravum I . . . "Therefore, this and that (intermediate) and that (remote) and the rest" (. . . all have parted from you who are the protection . . . etc.). The highly significant play upon the three demonstratives i (proximate), u (intermediate) and a (remote) cannot be translated into English. There are other, more general problems, as e.g. the different semantic range and field of various expressions (e.g. of the classical Tamil alkul, a word which primarily means mound-of-venus but also pudendum muliebre, besides 'waist,' and 'side') or the sound associations (e.g. Ta. mulai 'female breast' is almost homophonous with mullai 'jasmine' to the buds of which the breasts are compared). For the language of bardic poetry, cf. S. V. SHANMUGAM, Canka ilakkiya moli amaippu, Araycci, July 1971, 326-34. For the problems of translation, cf. K. ZVELEBIL, Translating Old Tamil Poetry—Some Suggestions, TC 5.3 (1956) 261-73; J. R. MARR, The Translation of Cankam Literature, Proceedings of the First ConferenceSeminar of Tamil Studies 841-6, and A. K. RAMANUJAN, Translator's Note, in The Interior Landscape, 1967, 11-2. 63 For short descriptions of Tamil classical metre, cf. J. R. MARK, Letterature dravidiche, in Storia delle letterature d'Oriente, p. 564; K. ZVELEBIL, The Smile of Murugan, pp. 65—6; also J. VINSON, Manuel de la langue tamoule, Paris 1903, pp. 225—31. For a more detailed recent treatment of the subject, cf. K. ZVELEBIL, An Introduction to Classical Tamil Prosody, Hoe and Co., Madras 1974. 61

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of nirai is always short; ner is always a macron, while nirai may be either pyrrhic or iambic. Akaval6* is based on disyllabic feet, each line consisting of four feet; the internal linkage of the line is strengthened by monai, the alliteration of the first sounds between the first and third or other non-initial feet; line-to-line linkage is provided by etukai, the agreement of the second sound-component of the first foot in each line. A typical akaval line: ciruvel laravi navvarik kurulai (Kuruntokai 119.1) / / / — / — / —/ — nirainer nirainer nernirai nirainer The metre is adapted to a narrative flow; its metrical effect is similar to that of stanzas in iambic verse of varying length (since an akaval stanza may have an unlimited number of lines; the standard line has four feet, i.e. eight acai; the penultimate line has regularly three feet, in a subtype of akavalpd four feet). The movement of longer poems in akaval (like those in the collection Akam, or the pdttu poems) has the sweep of English blankverse. The vanci metre (which occasionally occurs with the akaval in the songs of Pattuppattu) has a somewhat different scheme based on identical principles: the foot is made up of three acai units, e.g. — = — nernirainer. The usual vanci line has two feet, so that it.has usually six acai. Stanzas in akaval were recited (not sung) by the bards, who were probably accompanied on a stringed lute-like instrument (yal) and / or by drumming, and it is possible that some of the stanzas were enacted by female dancers


'* The etymology of akaval is interesting and perhaps suggestive: it means the call, the peculiar strut of the pea-fowl; dciriyam (cf. Skt. dcdrya-, DBIA p. 13) is 'the master's metre.' It would seem that two conflicting hypotheses could be set up with regard to the earliest metres in Tamil. One prefers the akaval as the 'original' Tamil metre since this is obviously the most favoured metrical medium of both genres, and structurally the least complicated; also, its name may be connected with mantic origins of poetry (cf. K. KAILASAPATHY, Tamil Heroic Poetry, 61-9). The other prefers the kali and the paripdtal metres as 'original,' since these are the suitable metrical forms prescribed for akam poems by Tolkappiyam Porujatikaram Akattinai 53 which says: "The scholars say that the literary tradition of the bardic poetry (pdtal cdnra pulan eri valakkam), based on the usages of dancing (or dramati c usage, ndtaka valakkinum) and on the customs of the world (ulakiyal valakkinum), has as its proper [metres] the two—kali and paripdttu." I would prefer the first view since the two other metres, kali and paripdtal, are almost certainly structural developments of akaval, since the vast majority of the bardic poetry was composed in akaval, and since kali and paripdtal occur only in the two undoubtedly later collections. This would, incidentally, indicate, vice versa, that Porujatikaram of Tolkappiyam may also be regarded as relatively late, coinciding in time with those two later bardic collections which prefer the kali and the paripdttu metres.


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1.1.7. Poetics and rhetoric. Theory of classical poetry. Poetry—like the Greek poiesis—is, in the Tamil theory of literature, neither more nor less than 'making', ceyyul85; and it is significant that the ancient Tamils have developed a highly sophisticated and, as far as we can say, quite independent and original theory of literature, a poetics and a prosody which have their important place in the great literary and theoretical achievements of mankind in this field. What is so immensely attractive about this classical Tamil attempt is that what they have achieved is a structuralist vision of the poetic universe: for the system of conventions constitutes a kind of metalanguage of the poetry; each poem presupposes the existence of the entire system; each situation and theme have a true meaning only in relation and reference to all other themes and situations; each symbol, each image derives from a thematic whole. It is an inventory, not of an enumerative type, but well-organized in a system of interreferences66. This system is recorded in three relatively early works and in a number of derivative, later works and commentaries—in the third part of the earliest extant Tamil grammar, the Porulatikaram 'Subject-Matter' of Tolkappiyam67, Iraiyanar's Kalaviyal 'Treatise on Secret Love' (alias Akapporul 'The Subject Matter of Akam' 4th-6th cent. A.D.) with its magnificent commentary by Nakkirar (700-800 A.D.), and Aiyanar Itanar's Purapporulvenpamalai 'The Garland of Venpd-Stanzas on the Subject Matter of Puram' (early medieval). It is evident that Tolkappiyam was preceded by centuries of literary culture68. 85

ceyyul 'poem; poetry' < cey (DED 1628, PDr *Jcey) 'to do, make, create'; ceyyul means lit. 'doing, making; action, deed.' 66


Cf. F. GBOS, Le Paripafcal, 1968, p. IX.

The dating of Tolkappiyam is still a matter of dispute, as well as its integrity and homogeneity. It would appear that the grammar was rather the work of several scholars or even a school than of one man; and, in particular, the third part, Porulatikaram, may be later than the first two parts (after all, it was not exceptional, in the framework in which indigenous grammarians worked, to present only the two parts, eluttu and col, as complete grammars: cf. exactly this arrangement of the Nann.u.1!). It would also seem that the great creative age of bardic poetry preceded the third part of Tolkappiyam rather than followed it, or was contemporary with it. The most probable date of this third part, in the shape in which we have it today, would be ca. 450 A.D., though the nuclear portions of it were probably born round 150 B.C. or somewhat later, and carried on orally. For the problems of the dating of Tolkappiyam, cf. K. ZVELEBIL, The Smile of Murugan, 1973, 130-54, K. V. ZVELEBIL, Tamil Literature (Handbuch), Leiden 1975, and V. CHELVANAYAKAM, Some Problems in the Study of Tolkappiyam in Relation to Sangam Poetry, Proceedings of the First International Conference-Seminar of Tamil Studies, 38-44. 68 Cf. K. ZVELEBIL, The Smile of Murugan, 1973, 138-45. In many respects, the cultural and linguistic situation in Tamilnadu after the beginning of the Christian era was similar to the state of affairs in Occitania of the 12th Cent, when the poets and grammarians began to codify the facts and to fix the language. Iraiyanar's Kalaviyal may be compared with the Leys d'Amor (before 1356) which, just like the Tamil classical treatises, "est un recueil de regies concernant l'orthographie, la phonetique, la grammaire, la stylistique, de la langue romane; c'est aussi un recueil de pre'ceptes de metrique et de rh^torique" (P. BEC, La langue occitane, Paris, 1963,

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A proper understanding of the system of conventions employed in the poems requires a basic knowledge of these sources and the commentaries, though it seems that the commentators had only an imperfect understanding of the origin, nature, and function of the conventions69. As a source book not only of grammatical and literary study, but also of human geography, social anthropology, culture ecology and psychology, Tolkappiyam. contains very valuable data, and its importance for the study of Tamil culture, and of cultures in general, can hardly be exaggerated70. However, one must beware of taking the literary conventions as a kind of direct report or, even worse, as an objective, explicit and 'scientific' treatment of 'real life.' In some works it was assumed that the bardic court-poetry reflected directly and with utmost fidelity and realism the conduct of men and women of that age in love and war71. But the poetry, based on conventions, reflects 'real life' only obliquely, since a literary convention was a pattern of fictional (or 'ideal') behaviour. The poets and the theoreticians had a clear understanding of the relationship between 'real life' and its reflection in literature, since they clearly differentiated between the two: ulakiyal valakku denoted things said and done in 'real life;' ceyyul valakku (or pulaneri valakku) denoted the practice in poetry of reflecting it72. A literary convention is an agreement between writer and reader that certain themes will be represented in a certain way. The reader is thus truly able to appreciate the poet's skill in handling a familiar theme by means of improvisation. The poetry of the 'interior,' the subjective akam poetry is totally anonymous in the sense that akam poems never mention the hero or heroine by name, not in a single stanza73. Hence they "embody what is typically human rather than what is merely individual and particular74." The objective, 'external' puram poetry is partly impersonal, partly personal75. Thus e.g. the elegies are highly personal tributes to dead patrons and friends, genuine and spontaneous, exp. 76). This cultural situation is typical for 'objective' poetry as such, and for any 'classicist' poetry based on conventions. 69 M. MANUEL, The Use of Literary Conventions in Tamil Classical Poetry, Proceedings of the First Internationa] Conference-Seminar of Tamil Studies, 63-9 j. cf. also M. VABADABAJAN, Literary Theories in Early Tamil—Ettuttokai, Proceedings, I, 45-54, and V. CHELVANAYAKAM, Tradition in Early Tamil Poetry, Proceedings of the Second Conference-Seminar of Tamil Studies, 1971, II, 3-8. 70 X. S. THANI NAYAGAM, Tolkappiyam—the Earliest Record, JTS 1 (Sept.. 1972), p. 68. This journal also prints, beginning with its first issue (1972), K. ZVELEBIL'S translation of Tolkappiyam into English. 71 Notably earlier secondary works, like P. T. S. IYENGAR'S History of the Tamils; from the Earliest Times to 600 A.D., Madras 1929. 72 Cf. Tolkappiyam Porujatikaram 53 (56). 73 This practice which is scrupulously adhered to is explicitly prescribed by Tolkappiyam Porulatikaram 54 (57) which says: "In the five phases of akam, no names of persons should be mentioned." 7 * W. H. HUDSON, An Introduction to the Study of Literature, London 1946, p. 97. 76 Tolkappiyam Porujatikaram 55 (58) says: "Particular names are appropriateonly in puram poetry."


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pressing intimate and personal grief, "free from any conventional bucolic machinery76." Porulatikaram of Tolkappiyam has nine chapters: the first two deal with the basic division of the phenomenal world and its literary reflection in the akam and puram genres; chapters 3 and 4 deal with erotic themes, dividing love-life into kalavu 'pre-marital, secret love' and karpu 'wedded, chaste love.' The fifth chapter deals with subject-matter of erotic poetry, the sixth chapter with the theory of meyppdtu, comparable to Sanskritic rasa 'flavour,' the seventh with rhetoric (chiefly simile), the eighth with prosody, and the ninth with traditional poetics. The basic and primary division of all poetry is in terms of the two genres, of which akam is dealt with first. There are 'seven settings' or elu tinai in akam; among them, five settings (aintinai) are central, two peripheral. The tinai has been frequently described in a rather one-sided and incorrect manner as 'landscape,' 'region' etc., i.e. as a geographic category, a 'place' where events take place. This, however, is only one face of the tinai, since tinai is a unity of behaviour-patterns and the appropriate landscapes. Chart III akam

puram peruntinai



patdn aintinai




vetci natuvunilai (palai)


There are two basic coordinates: one in terms of the division into settings and phases of love (tinai), another in terms of porul or structured content organized in strata. According to the 3rd aphorism of Akattinaiyiyal of Porulatikaram, the 'meaning,' the content of poetry comes under mutal or 'first elements,' given in aphorism 4 as space (nilam) and time (polutu), karu M. VARADARAJAN, Literary Theories, p. 50.

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or native elements, and uri or human elements. Thus we may say that human (erotic, and, as we shall see, public, heroic) activity takes part within the framework of different strata structured as mutal (time and space coordinates), karu (basic physical, material manifestations), and uri (psychosomatic behaviourpatterns of people). Now a tinai comprises both the stage, the appropriate landscape, and the conduct of people, their behaviour77. In the hierarchy of the components, of the materials of a poem, the human element—the appropriate over-all mood expressed as pertinent psychosomatic behaviour—is the most important of all, the central thing. These behaviour-patterns may be arranged in a time-sequence —in fact the commentators tend to do so: first comes the sudden meeting of the lovers, their falling in love, and their immediate sexual union (punartal); then anxiety before marriage, symptoms of love, the elopment (pirital), a possible marriage, the lover's infidelity and reconciliation (utal), the going away of the lover in search of wealth or fame, the pining and anxiety of the wife or the beloved (irankal) and her patient waiting (iruttal) as well as the return of the hero. Chart IV Ain tinai 'Five settings' landscape

mullai 'pastoral' kurinci 'montane' pdlai 'arid' marutam 'riverine' neytal 'littoral'


iruttal 'staying, remaining, waiting' punartal '(sexual) union' pirital 'separation, elopment' utal 'feigned quarrel, sulking' irankal 'anxiety, pining'

Each landscape and behaviour, i.e. each setting, has its appropriate season of the year and time of the day (the mutal stratum), cf. Chart V. Karu or the native, inborn elements which are important in that they provide clues for the listener (reader) as to the pertinent setting, are enumerated in Porulatikaram as deity, food, beast, tree, bird, drum, occupation, lute, and 'others.' Later scholiasts and commentators added some more of these clues. However, the determination of tinai and even of turai 'situations' is not always easy; there is room for assigning different settings and situations to the same poem. Also, the procedure of marking the poems by their tinai affiliation was not universally followed, though two later collections (Ainkurunuru and Kalittokai) were anthologized on the basis of the five sections, each devoted to one tinai type. Thus there is no uniform adherence to the tinai classification even by the redactors of the collections. 77

Cf. Cut>amani nikantu 11.5. which says tinai nilan kulan olukkam "tinai [comprises] land, class [and] behaviour."

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Chart V tinai


time year

mullai kurinci pdlai marutam neytal

forest mountains

kdr 'rainy season' kutir 'winter' and munpani 'early dew' — mutirvenil 'summer' and pinpani 'late dew' cultivated fields all seasons all seasons (i.e. all the five above sea-shore and ilavenil 'pre-Summer')


evening night noon dawn sunrise

Aphorism 5 in Porulatikaram gives four regions (and their appropriate deity): midlai 'forest' (Mayon 'The Dark One'), kurinci 'mountains' (Ceydn 'The Red One' or 'The Distant One'), marutam 'rivers and fields' (Ventan 'The King') and neytal 'sea-shore' (Varunan, cf. Skt. Varuna); aphorism 9 adds the natuvu nilaittinai, the middle landscape, pdlai (the deity sometimes given is goddess Korravai). The next five aphorisms assign the elements of kdlam 'time' in terms of the seasons and day-times to different landscapes, and aphorism 12 is important in that it accounts for the mixed types: tinaimayakkuor 'confusion,' mixing of types is not prevented, and, indeed, we have a number of poems in a mixed tinai. Porulatikaram 19 also adds that elements of the karu strata (e.g. fauna, avifauna, flora) may be found in other regions than those to which they are strictly ascribed78. The later convention that literature should deal with the four goals of life, i.e. virtue (Ta. aram, Skt. dharma), wealth (Ta. porul, Skt. artha), pleasure (Ta. inpam, Skt. kdma) and salvation (Ta. vitu, Skt. moksa) is totally absent from the entire corpus of the early poetry. The conventions concern a limited number of stock characters—the hero, lover or husband; the heroine, his beloved or wife; the hero's friend; the heroine's companion, usually her foster-sister; her foster-mother or mother; the concubine; and passers-by. They also concern standardized scenes, recurrent themes and situations, standard devices of presentation, modes of stylization, restrictions on form. These conventions, which form a 'collective style,' are less evident in the puram genre, though there, too, there is a definite set of situations and themes: vetci, the cattle-raid, as prelude to war; vanci, preparation for war and the beginning of the invasion; ulinai, the siege of a fortified settlement; tumpai, pitched battle; and vdkai,victory. 78

Cf. Kuruntokai 68 which is a mixture ofkuriUci 'montane' and mullai 'pastoral' settings; in fact, this confusion of settings is employed by skillful poets so as to achieve a special effect; thus e.g. in the quoted poem (see A. K. RAMANUJAN, The Interior Landscape, p. 46 for its English version), lovers' union (kurifici) and patient waiting (mullai) brings out effectively the exact nuance of the girl's mood, "mixing memory and desire."

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The peripheral, in a way, the 'abnormal' settings in the akam genre are the kaikkilai, unreciprocated love, one-sided relationship; in the heroic genre, its counterpart is the pdtdn, which is praise or elegy, as well as asking for gifts; and the peruntinai or mismatched love, and the defeat in mismatched love, corresponding to the heroic setting of kdnci or struggle for excellence and endurance which, however, also describes the transience of the world, and defeat. In a way, we should not speak of development within this corpus of poetry at all since poetry was regarded as a timeless pattern of meaning, as 'always contemporary.' It is also true that there is not a single poem extant among our earliest literary or epigraphical records which would be a genuine piece of a preliterary bardic song. However, there are a few poems, e.g. by Auvaiyar, which are as it were echoes of a very early stage, possibly in imitation of what sounds almost like invocations or magic formulas: O daughter of akaval O daughter of akaval Your hair is long and fine and silver like a string of shells O daughter of akaval Sing a song And again sing a song The song of the long and shapely mountain

(Kuruntokai 23)

It is interesting and significant that the Tamil term akaval makal 'daughter of akaval' may be interpreted not only as poetess, but also as woman diviner; and the theme suggests that the underlying function of the song is magical: a woman soothsayer is invited to diagnose the malady of a girl (the illness is of course love); she is requested by the foster-sister of the stricken girl to go on singing. The form is almost that of a folk-song with its repetitions, and in its relative simplicity. The earliest form was obviously a single bardic stanza in akaval metre forming a typical self-contained occasional tanippdtal; this gives way to ten verses forming a kind of unit as they occur in Ainkurunuru which seems to be the first departure from the simple tanippdttu on the road to complicated structures of the various prabandhas. Two very specific and characteristic aspects of the content of this poetry should be mentioned at this point: the place of nature79 in the poems, and the conception of eros. 79

Two important books are dedicated to nature in old Tamil poetry: M. VARASangam Literature, Madras 1957, and X. S. Tamil Poetry, Tuticorin 1953; cf. also his Nature Poetry in Tamil. The Classical Period, Singapore 1963; and Landscape and Poetry, A Study of Nature in Classical Tamil Poetry, Bombay 1965. Cf. further D. NADARAJAH, The Gloriosa Superba in Classical Poetry, TC 11 (1963) 280-90; P. S. SAMY, The Plant Names in Tholkaappiyam, Proceedings of the Second Conference-Seminar of Tamil Studies, 1971, II, 41-54; P. L. SAMY, The Plant Names DARAJAN'S The Treatment of Nature in THANI NAYAGAM'S Nature in Ancient


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Nature has a prominent, but not a primary place in the poems. It is always an integral but subordinate component; it is never, not in one single poem, the goal of the poet's activity to praise or describe nature for its own sake. It is also never dealt with unimaginatively in a detailed description, but only in a forceful and typical abbreviation; these concentrated and abridged pictures of nature remind one of the Japanese painter who had to concentrate on the bamboo for many years to be able to paint it properly80. Nature serves as a symbol-complex, manifold, and conventional: thus e.g. the struggle of the birds and animals for survival in the arid desert symbolizes and emphasizes the hero's struggle for sustenance during his travels across the pdlai region81. The bird anril, makanril which never separates from its mate symbolizes true wedded love (karpu)sz. When Paranar says To eat the silver fish, the stork, as though afraid its steps were audible, moves soft— a burglar entering a guarded house (Akarn 276)

he tries to describe the behaviour and the character of a faithless lover. The waters of rain pouring down on red soil in Kuruntokai 40 are the symbol of two loving hearts blended with each other in passion; but also of the rain of male sperm on the parched red soil of the woman's body. Similar erotic comparison is involved when the hero, impatient to embrace his beloved, says: I am like the ploughman with his single plough in haste to plough his vast virgin land fresh with the rains (Kuruntokai 131)

There is a great feeling for shade: all kinds and degrees of shade are mentioned—the 'rich fat* shade of luxuriant trees, the 'filigree shade of the branches and trees which have shed their leaves', 'the dotted shade' of sun flecks falling through dense leaves, the 'net-like shade' or the 'slender shade' of bare leafless twigs and thin leaves83. There is also great feeling for the sea in Tamil poetry which is absent from Sanskrit literature. And the use of flowers in love as well as in war is another characteristic feature of these poems. The Tamil dynasties, too, had their (totemic?) flowers: the Pandyas had white margosa flowers, in Kurincippattu, JTS 1 (Sept. 1972) 78-103; JOHN R. MABB, An examination of some plant-names and identities in India, JRAS 1972, 40-56. 80 K. AN AND A COOMABASWAMY, The Transformation of Nature in Art, Cambridge 1935, p. 41. 81 Cf. L. SAMBAMOOBTHY, The Psychological Symbolism of PacUai in Kutunthokai, Proceedings of the Second International Conference-Seminar of Tamil Studies, 1971, III, 25-33. 82 Cf. Paripatal VIII.42, Kalittokai 129. Cf. the sarasa and krauflca of Sanskrit poetry.

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the fig's flowers were reserved for the Cholas, and the flowers of palmyra palm for the Cheras. As far as eros is concerned, one can only point out certain striking and unique features of the conception of love and sex found in the texts 84 . Naccinarkkiniyar's definition ofakam first: "The inward stir of emotions caused when a pair of lovers, well-matched in all respects, meeting for the first time in the solitude of nature, give their hearts away to each other and celebrate their union in secret, without the intervention of parents or elders; this stir of feeling being purely subjective, cannot be communicated in words to others 85 ." Of the two types of love-union, the clandestine, pre-marital, and rich in passion, was considered superior, and the regular inferior86. There was a difference between Jcdmam, physical love, and kdtal, affection: cf. Paripatal IX. 14: kdtar kdmankdmattuc cirantatu, lit. "that what is splendid in kdmam that is the kdmam determined by kdtal", where kdmam means pleasure, passion, sexual love, and kdtal affection in love. Another key-idea was karpu 'chastity' which is capable of setting fire to a town (Kannaki in Cilappatikaram) or of bringing about rain (Tirukkural 55, Cilappatikaram XV. 142-9), cf. also Paripatal XX. 68 and Nalatiyar 385 and chapter 3987. There are some interesting classifications relating to the erotic sphere: e.g. there are at least three basic types of love quarrel—tuniyal, protracted love quarrel; pulavi, dislike, sulkiness; utal, feigned dislike; there were two main types of courtesans: kdtarparattai, lit. 'the courtesan in love,' the maitresse; and irparattai, lit. 'the domestic courtesan,' the concubine. Very interesting are the two peripheral erotic settings, kaikkilai and peruntinai. The first which is the one-sided affair, unrequited love, occurs when the man feels a desire for a girl unawakened by sexual impulses and dwells hopelessly on his infatuation. The second, mismatched love, has several forms: when a man and a woman are unfit for sex-life, because they are too old; when they are mismatched in age and come together for duty, convenience, or lust. One-sided and mismatched love may finally result in matal or riding the palmyra stem, or in an act of suicide prompted by rejection or depression. According to Tolkappiyam, these two types may be considered as extremes, 83


According to X. S. THANT NAYAGAM, sources in ftn. 79.

Cf. V. Sp. MANICKAM, The Tamil Concept of Love in Akattinai, S.I. S.S. Works Publishing Society, Madras 1962; P. S. SUBRAHMANYA SASTBI, Kajavu in the Tolkappiyam, JORM 1938, 240-42. 85 Tolkappiyam Porujatikaram Akattinaiyiyal 1, Naccinarkkiniyar's comm. translated by J. PABTHASABATHI, Agra University Journal XIX, II, p. 18. 86 Cf. Paripatal XI.41—2 maraiyir punar maintar / katnah kalavittuk kaikolkar purrena "laissent 1'amour clandestin et adoptent le mariage regulier qui lui est infe'rieur" (F. GROS' transl.). 87 What exactly was meant by the term karpu 'purity, chastity, virtue; marital love'—whether it has a magical background rather than purely ethical quality, whether it indeed means conversion of sexual abstinence and moral correctness into some power in the form of fire or fain etc.—is at present becoming the topic of discussion, cf. BRENDA E. F. BECK, The Study of a Tamil Epic, JTS 1 (Sept. 1972) 23-38.


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as transgressions and aberrations from established norms. They are fit only for slaves, servants, menial workers. As such, they were unsuitable for proper poetic treatment within the akam genre; and, indeed, they were left practically untouched by the bardic poets88. Only rarely, the treatment of sex was coarse and crude89. As a rule, sex was handled in a delicate way, never vulgar or obscene, though the akam poems are sometimes very sensuous, charged with eroticism, and containing sexual allusions; but always reserved and elegant. As a telling instance one may quote Kuruntokai 62 by Ciraikkuti Yantaiyar. The theme is 'What the hero said to his heart longing for embrace at the place where they had made love': Like a royal garland of kotal flowers is she, like budding golden jasmines with fragrant water-lilies intertwined, her body far more fragrant, soft and smooth to touch, and sweeter to my fond embrace90.

1.1.8. The bardic poet. A number of sociological questions concerning the Tamil bardic poet remain still to be answered: the economic basis of bardic literature and the social status of the poet, his social ideology, the questions of his audience etc. It is mainly due to the path-breaking work of K. Kailasapathy that we are able to give 88 Strictly speaking, only fourteen poems in the late bardic anthology Kalittokai (4 in kaikkilai, 10 in peruntinai setting) relate to these themes. A great poet, though, was able to deal with these themes in a rather touching and quite marvellous way, as, e.g., in the poem about the hunchback woman (kun) and the dwarf (kural), both slaves (atiyor), making love, in Kalittokai 94 (cf. A. K. RAMANUJAN'S translation in K. ZVELEBIL, The Smile of Murugan, 1973, pp. 121-2). 89 As e.g. in the following text (Kalittokai 60): "Embracing each other and displaying strength, young women, filled with love, with flowers full of petals and eyes painted black, together with young men perform (a dance ?) at the manram (common meeting ground) [covered with] cow-dung and semen (tdt-eru manrattu)." 90 The original poem is a wonder of "orchestration" (cf. the Russian formalist term instrumentovka) of the phonic structure (Lautmalerei). The allusions are many and subtle. Kotal flower is the white species of kdntal (Gloriosa superba). The name of jasmine (mullai) which is of golden and well-shaped flowers, freshly budding, is suggestive of the term for female breasts (mulai), as are the connotations just mentioned (budding, golden, well-shaped). It is also a climbing shrub. The motif of intertwining (itaippata viraii) has sexual connotation; water-lily (kuvalai, Pontederia) with fragrant petals (narital): the term ital is also used for the lips of the mouth and the lips of the vulva; the garland itself (kotai) with its connotation of embracing the throat is suggestive; also, kotai means 'woman' and 'female hair.' The 5th line: muriyinum vayvatu muyankarku minite: her body (menij is more excellent (in fragrance, softness and flexibility) than a budding sprout (muri) and sweeter 'to sexual embrace' (muyankarku). Observe, however, one important feature: the delicacy of the poet; the great respect fot the reader's imaginative potency; the poet never does our imagining for us. Cf. in this connection the marvellous essay by G. STEINER, Night Words, in Language and Silence, Penguin 1969, 91-101.

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at least partial answers to these and similar querries. Thus it is more or less clear that the poets were a professional, vocational group, held generally in high esteem, and belonging to all classes and strata of society, as their names and nick-names indicate. These men and women (there are more than twenty women minstrels) recruited from many different communities, received bardic training and became professionals. They travelled about in groups, some of them rather poor, some quite influential and even affluent, seeking patrons. Patronage always means control and supervision; in a few cases, though, the poets were not only highly respected, but also very influential with their patrons, especially since the idea of wisdom, knowledge and learning was connected at least with some classes of poets (pulavar). Other bards functioned probably as heralds (akavunar), as war-bards (porunar), as dancing minstrels (kuttar), as singing minstrels (pdnar). It would also seem that poets were associated with mantic powers and the cult of Murukan. According to X. S. Thani Nayagam, the degeneracy of the bards set in when, with the advent of a more complex society, the poet outshone the bard as the representative of literary and intellectual life, and the functions of the bardic troupe were differentiated and new types of professional solo dancers, musicians and artistes appeared. On the stage of the 'internal' or akam poetry, the poet had no place as an individual person. He did not express himself in a straightforward manner as is the case in subjective poetry; he spoke only through the actors in the form of dramatic monologues or, rarely, in the shape of very brief dialogues. The autobiographic material was totally suppressed in the akam genre. The subjective element pertains to some imagined, ideal characters, and the poet remains anonymous, though the poetry is 'subjective' and personal in spirit. The 'anonymity' of this poetry, caused, on the one hand, by the over-all convention of the absence of the poet's own personality from his work and, on the other hand, by the pressure of the structure of partial conventions, found its expression in the legend of the Academy as narrated in Pararicoti's Tiruvilaiyatarpuranam LI. 30-37: The forty-eight poet-academicians in Maturai composed innumerable beautiful poems which, however, were BO much alike that those who wanted to comment upon them could not ascribe them to individual poets, unable to recognize any difference (verupdtu ariydtu) and being much amazed (viyantu); not only that: the poets themselves could not recognize their own poems, and were bewildered. It was Siva-Sundara himself who appeared in their midst in the guise of a poet, sorted out their works, and accepted the chair of the president of the Academy. In spite of such uniformity one can point out to certain poetic personalities: Kapilar, Nakkirar, Paranar, Auvaiyar, Nallantuvanar, and a few others stand out clearly as great individual artists91. However, the only bard who has insert91 Cf. C. JESTTDASAN, A Study of Kapilar, the Sangam Poet, TC 3, (1954) 18-35; Paranar, TC 3 (1954) 269-84; T. P . MEENAKSHISTTNDARAM, Nakkiirar the Earliest Tamil Mystic, TC 6 (1957) 309-18.


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ed appreciable autobiographic data into his poems so that his life-story can be reconstructed is Kapilar. He was a Brahman born probably in TiruvatavUr (Pandya country), a friend of his older contemporary Paranar. In his younger days he praised a Chera king (ca. 165 A.D.). He then became a life-long friend and advisor of chieftain Pari and lived in his hilly fortress of Parampumalai. It is possible that he composed his Kurincippattu to instruct an Aryan prince in the beauties of Tamil poetry while living there. Then a tragedy occurred: Pari's fortress was besieged by the three Tamil kings. Kapilar remained loyal to his patron, Pari was killed and his hill taken. It became the duty of Kapilar to find suitable husbands for Pari's two daughters. But two chieftains to whom the poet took the girls refused to marry them. We do not quite know what happened next since there are several contrasting accounts. It would seem that after Pari's death the bard found his way back to the Chera court and composed the 7th decade of Patirruppattu. There was also some relationship between Kapilar and another chieftain, Kari. He died sometime before 210 A.D. The democratism of ancient Tamil poetry was somewhat exaggerated. The idealized types of the akam genre are representative of men and women of conventionalized geographic regions, irrespective of caste or class. However, they represent well-matched, cultured pairs, to the exclusion of uncultured, ignorant, unfit people, who cannot become heroes of akam poems proper. "Servants (slaves) and workmen are outside [the poetry] for they do not have the necessary strength [of character]," according to Porulatikaram 969. The heroes of the puram poems are exclusively aristocratic in their style of life, behaviour and character; the social spirit of this genre is clannish and heroic. Life is considered pleasant and joyful, death an inevitable end. There is no attempt to obtain release from life. Liberality and goodness are indulged in without motives of penance or recompense. About old age there is a note of nostalgic resignation. Life after death is represented as an abode of permanent happiness for the brave and good, and permanent suffering for the wicked. The happiness of future life is a reward of those who by their bravery and altruism established their glory (pukal) in this world. Love and courtship, marriage and children are considered necessary modes of personal perfection. If at all anything remains after death, it is the glory and honour, the praise due to the memory of the days passed in heroism and in the service of fellow men. 1.1.9. The achievement of classical Tamil poetry. One of the more subtle features of the poems is what Tolkappiyam terms ullurai or 'the inner substance.' These are symbolic statements which mention the behaviour of animals and other objects of nature belonging to the region ascribed to the hero and which stand for the behaviour of men. Thus ullurai is an implication by means of a metaphor or a simile, a technique of using the scene to describe the act or agent: e.g. in Kuruntokai 8 where the fresh-water shark in the pool catching with its mouth the ripe mango falling from the tree stands for the lover, and the mango falling into the shark's mouth for the

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concubine. Or in Narrinai 26 where the unfaithful hero having an affair with a concubine is represented by the buffalo grazing on waterlilies and despising the lotus (the heroine); moreover, not content with staying in the house of a parattai (concubine) he goes to the houses of public harlots (ceripparattai), and this is implied by the image of the buffalo who does not stay on the spot where he grazed but, ignoring the place where the lotus grows, wallows in heaps of wet sand. Among other frequent rhetoric devices one should mention parallelism and antithesis. Consider the following instances of parallelism taken from one poet, Paranar: minstrels he crowns with lotuses of gold, gold necklaces he gives the dancing girls. (Patirruppattu 48) the bamboo fades; the rainclouds fail; the hills are dry; rages the sun. (Patirruppattu 43)

And for antithesis, cf. Patirruppattu 45: The sea that is not shrunk up by the clouds that drink and is not swollen by the river-streams. The similes are sometimes captivating, striking, simply beautiful: Palaipatiya Perunkatunko in Kuruntokai 16 compares the clucking sounds of the lizard calling to his mate to the highway robber's fingernail testing the point of his iron arrow—the poem being in the pdlai (arid) setting, its hot desert infected by highway robbers. In Kuruntokai 399 which had been called "the crest of all Paranar's achievements" (C. Jesudasan), the bard compares the pallor of the beloved to the persistent moss on the surface of a pool, which "with every touch gives way / and spreads back with each estrangement." The bias of the classical bard's diction towards synthesis, and the inventory of stock epithets have promoted a technique of listing a few suitable epithets instead of using the detailed description found in later. Tamil poetry. Unfortunately, the compact texture of the original with the technique of suggestive mention is an untranslatable feature. To demonstrate this, let us now analyse one single original bardic poem in all its aspects: ydru millait tdne kalvan tdnatu poyppin ydnevan ceyko tinaittd lanna cirupacuh Jcdla olukuni rdral pdrkkum

kuruku muntutdn mananta ndnre

(Kuruntokai 25 by Kapilar)

The tinai or setting is marutam: the cultivated fields at dawn with the heroine in sulking mood. The theme is 'What she said to her companion on the spot where he took her.'


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The prosodic pattern of the 5 lines (each of them four feet, the penultimate three feet) is /


= _/_=/ = _/ The stanza is a nericai dciriyappd in the ahaval metre. The word-by-word translation results in Who-ever [was] not [there] only-he the thief he that if-denies I what shall-I-do millet-stalk-like small-green leg[s]-of running-water aval (fish) seeking heron was alone [he] took [me] day

In terms of the three strata: Mutal or time and place are not explicitely given. Karu or native elements: the heron (kuruku) seeking the dral fish, both typical for the marutam region; the millet (tinai), and the running waters are also typical features of marutam; thus these 'native elements' give us a clue as to the landscape-setting. Vri (psychosomatic behaviour): the fear that he will deny having 'taken' her, since there was no other witness but the heron searching for the fish. In terms of motifs and formulae: The motif of the lover's perfidy is found elsewhere (e.g. Kuruntokai 318, Akam 286, Kalittokai 41, Narrinai 200); he is a liar in Kuruntokai 30. 2. The motif of a heron being present at the place of the tryst is found e.g. in Kuruntokai 113, 103, Narrinai 35. There is one formula used by Kapilar in this poem: the heron with legs like millet-stalks; the same occurs elsewhere, and is taken over by later poets, e.g. Cuntarar. The technique of suggestion (ullurai) is of course present, first of all, in using the term thief (kalvan) for the lover, found also elsewhere (e.g. Kuruntokai 318); and the heron, eyeing the araZ-fish, represents the lover's action and character. He takes the fish, without asking its consent, hidden in ambush, a solitary, selfish, predatory robber: the lover-thief. The English version: None else was there but he, the thief. If he denies it, what shall I do ? Only a heron stood by, its thin gold legs like millet stalks eyeing the dral-fish in the gliding watter on the day he took me.

The classical Tamil poet offered an art which was already familiar to the listener, something which assured him of a continuity with the past but, at

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the same time, he added his individual experience and imagination, manifesting supreme skill in handling familiar themes. It was a disciplined poetry, the aim of which was not to express the poet's own ego, but to create a pattern of meaning which would be timeless. Hence it is a classical poetry in the true sense of the term. This is true to a great extent of the heroic (puram) poems, too. A mother says of her warrior-son (Puram 312): It is my duty to give birth and growth. The father's duty is to make him wise. The duty of the smith to hand a shapely spear. The duty of the king to be his guide in fight. To force his way into the fray with his glittering sword and kill the elephants and then return is my young son's duty. The great achievement of the ancient Tamil poet was recognized recently even by Sanskrit-oriented scholars like K. A. Nilakantha &astrl who writes that "we have in the Sangam classics a superb literature of incomparable force and beauty coupled with economy of telling expression92." We certainly agree with A. K. Ramanujan when he says: "In their antiquity and in their contemporaneity, there is not much else in any Indian literature equal to these quiet and dramatic Tamil poems. In their values and stances, they represent a mature classical poetry: passion is balanced by courtesy, transparency by ironies and nuances of design, impersonality by vivid detail, leanness of line by richness of implication. These poems are not just the earliest evidence of the Tamil genius. The Tamils, in all their 2,000 years of literary effort, wrote nothing better." Ancient Tamil poetry is multivalent: it is so rich and comprehensive that it includes aesthetic structures and values which give high satisfaction to later ages and periods. It is conceived so that rather a community than a single individual could and can realize all its strata and systems. That is why it has survived generational tastes, and has acquired a permanent and universal position. 1.1.10. Late classical poetry. Kalittokai 'The Anthology in the Kali metre' contains 150 poems of unequal length in the kali metre93 dealing with different phases and details of love-experience. The first part (2-36) relates to the pdlai setting, the second (37-65) to the kurinci themes, the third (66-100) to the marutam situations, Cultural Contacts between Aryans and Dravidians, Bombay 1967, p. 65.


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the fourth (101-117) to the mullai setting, and the fifth (118-150) to the neytal division. The peruntinai 'mismatched love' and kaikkilai 'unrequited love' are handled as additional situations to the five settings. The poet of neytal, Nallantuvanar, probably the most outstanding personality of the late classical age, was also the compiler of the anthology and the author of an invocation to &iva. The other four portions were ascribed according to a (late ?) quatrain to four different poets. The entire collection is permeated with allusions to purdnic legends, but, surprisingly, no name of any king is mentioned other than the Pandya and his capital, and no poets, chieftains, events etc. known from the other collections find place in Kalittokai. This, and some other indications (metre, diction, themes, the over-all tone and spirit of the poems) seem to suggest a later date—somewhere between the 4th-5th cent. A.D. for these stanzas. There exists a detailed, excellent commentary by Naccinarkkiniyar. In many ways, this anthology, which contains some wonderful poetry with spicy dialogues and broad jokes, and which has introduced some new folk-types (e.g. the matchmaker), means a break with the early classical tradition and conventions. There is an even stronger departure from the world of early bardic poetry in Paripatal, traditionally enumerated as the fifth of the tokai 'anthologies'. According to F. Gros94, who has dedicated more time and thought to Paripatal than any other modern scholar, lines XVII. 42-46 which stress the fact that "fetes religieuses et festivites profanes alternent a s'y meprendre et c'est bien ainsi" are the essential key-verses for the understanding of the poem: the union "jusqu'a la confusion" of the religious and the profane, of worldly pleasures with religious observances. The strict dichotomy between alcam and puram is certainly not applicable to Paripatal. The text was only partially exhumated: out of the original 70 poems (8 on Tirumal, 31 on Cevvel, 1 on Durga, 26 on Vaiyai, 4 on Maturai) we possess only 24 (7 on Tirumal, 8 on Cevvel, 9 on Vaiyai), two great and eleven very short fragments. The poems on Tirumal, 'The Blessed Dark One,' are the most clearly religious parts of Paripatal. It is also these hymns that have branded Paripatal as a Sanskrit plagiat within the so-called Cankam texts and their authors as the "fifth column" of Cankam literature (V. Raghavan). These hymns are very probably the first full-fledged bhakti or devotional poems in Tamil literature95, and they are saturated with well-known Vaisnavite legends; Tirumal has a pronouncedly Krsnaite character and appears as Vasudeva-Krsna, albeit—and that may be important—the erotic aspect, and the life of Krsna as cowherd, are totally absent. As F. Gros points out, it is not the religious-philosophical 93 The kali line is based on trisyllabic feet with a rippling and swinging movement; the kali stanza has introductory parts followed by repetitive refrains. It is suitable for dramatic lyrics and dialogue-like situations. 94 Le Paripatal, texte tamoul, introduction, traduction et notes, Pondichery 1968. 95 J. GONDA, Aspects of Early Visnuism, Utrecht 1954; Les religions de l'lnde: Vedisme et hindouisme ancien, Paris 1962.

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speculations in themselves which are important but the fact that here we have, for the first time in the spiritual history of India, basic philosophical speculations of Hindu theology quoted in a language other than Sanskrit and, in addition, with an admirable formal perfection. Cf. e. g. the wonderful verses in III. 63-8: In fire, you are the heat; in blossoms, the fragrance; among the stones, you are the diamond; in speech, truth; among virtues, you are love; in valour—strength; in the Veda, you are the secret; among elements, the primordial; in the burning sun, the light; in moonshine, its sweetness; you are all, and you are the substance and meaning of all.

The other god invoked in Paripatal is Murukan-Cevvel. Whereas Tirumal is more distant, Murukan is more concrete; Tirumal is ageless, Murukan eternally young and very personal: We pray you not for wealth, not for gold, not for pleasure. But for your grace, for love, for virtue, these three, O god with the rich garland of katampu flowers with rolling clusters! (V. 78-81)96

Thus Paripatal, apart from giving us the first Tamil litanies of Vaisnavite devotion, also gives us the first hymns to Murukan, and it may indeed have been in Maturai, on the banks of the Vaikai, that bhakti was born. Music and poetry are intimately connected in Paripatal97. Most of the colophons give the name of the poet, of the musician, and of the melody. The form is defined in the text itself (XI. 137) as a combination of refined music (icai) and sweet poetry (in-n-iyal). It is almost certain that the singing of Paripatal was accompanied by mimic performance (avinayam < Skt. abhinaya, cf. Peraciriyar on Tolkappiyam Ceyyuliyal 242). The paripatal metre is a difficult one, and was soon abandoned by poets. There is a commentary on the text by Parimelalakar (end of 13th-14th cent. A.D.). The first devotional poem per se in Tamil literature is Tirumurukarruppatai 'The Guide to Divine Muruku' ascribed to Nakkirar and containing 317 akaval lines of a carefully planned text which directs the devotee to various 96 The paraphrase published in N. KANDASWAMI PILLAI'S A Garland of Tamil Poetry, Tanjavur 1949 (and reprinted elsewhere, e.g. in Pearls in Tamil Ocean, 1968) translates the commentary of Parimelalakar, not the text itself: We pray Thee not for gold / The gold that gives us wealth; / We pray Thee not for wealth / The wealth that gives us pleasure; / We pray Thee not for pleasure / The pleasure we enjoy; / We pray and pray Thy grace / The grace that comes of love, / We pray Thee for the love / The all embracing love; / The love that comes of Righteousness; / We pray Thy grace to lead us all / In the path of Righteousness / Oh! God of Kadamba Wreath! (Cf. F. GBOS, Le Paripatal, p. 199). 97 Cf. the celebrated passage in XVII.9—21 which establishes correspondences between the sounds in nature and the sounds of various instruments and singing.


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shrines of the god. While we may tentatively date Paripatal between ca. 400550 A.D., this guide-poem may possibly be dated ca. 250 A.D. if its author is the same Nakkirar who composed Netunalvatai and the bardic poems in the anthologies. The Guide to Divine Muruku has six parts of unequal length. It contains much old, presumably pre-Aryan material, but also much if not more of what is Sanskritic, puranic. Murukan appears in the poem as a blend, as a syncretic god, and the poem manifests a welding of two cultures, the indigenous Tamil with the Sanskritic and Brahmanic. Apart from its tremendous importance for our understanding of the evolution of Hinduism and the nature of bhakti, it is also a marvellous work of art98. Right at the beginning we get a glimpse of Murukan, the Red Desire (Cevvel), riding on his blue peacock, the killer of time: Like the sun seen in the sea the delight of the world praised by all men, he is the dazzling light visible from afar even with eyes which are closed.

Then a picture of the lush forest in the rainy season: The forests, cool and fragrant after first showers, pouring down from gigantic clouds, pregnant with waters sucked up from the sea, scattering heavy drops upon the firmament whose darkness is dispelled by the sun and the moon. The forests, darkened and overspread by the dense leaves of the red katampu tree. He has a garland of its flowers on his chest.

Typically a poem of transition, it marks the end of the classical age and the beginning of the period of bhakti—of devotional literature. The unknown compiler of Pattuppattu included it probably as its invocatory poem. But it had also been included into the 11th book of Tirumurai, the Saivite canon. What is so strikingly attractive about this poem is the mystic vision of Nakkirar who sees the whole universe deified and appearing as Youth and Beauty (Muruku, the abstract, neuter form of Murukan means honey, beauty, fragrance, youth, as well as eternity, divinity); in other words, the poem has recognized a 98

Cf. P. S. SUBRAHMANYA SASTRI, Tirumurukarruppatai and Kathopanisad,

JORM 1931, 179-82; T. P. MEENAKSHISTJNDARAM, Nakkiirar, the Earliest Tamil Mystic, TC 6 (1957) 309-18; C. A. KELLER, A Literary Study of the Tirumurukarruppadai, Proceedings of the First International Conference-Seminar of Tamil Studies, 55-62.

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very fundamental truth: the tremendous role played by the aesthetic factor in religious experience. 1.2. Medieval Anthologies and Occasional Stanzas. In subsequent development, the isolated stanza assumed the form of the occasional single-stanza poem. Some of these occasional poems were anthologized rather early, some of them, on the other hand, were preserved mainly in oral tradition, and were anthologized comparatively recently (in the 19th or early 20th cent.). 1.2.1. One of such very early anthologies of heroic poetry is Muttollayiram 'Three Times Nine Hundred' which was recovered as a fragmentary but continuous text from a later anthology, the Purattirattu, in 1892, by U. V. Swaminatha Aiyar. A slightly shorter version of the same collection was published in Centamil 1905. The original number of stanzas might have been 2700 as the title implies. The fragment which has been preserved has, according to the 1958 edition, an invocation, 60 stanzas on the Pandya king, 46 on the Chola, and 23 on the Chera. The poems are composed around the insignia of royalty (the king's drum, horse, elephant, titles, flag etc., but also his mountain, river and cities). Much of the vocabulary is still classical, and there is some delicate poetry among these stanzas". It is very difficult to point out a definite date. Anything between the 6th-10th cent, might be possible100. 1.2.2. In terms of purely literary evaluation, Tattuvarayar (ca. 1425-1475 A. D.) is probably the most powerful medieval poet of solitary stanzas, apart from being an immensely prolific author of various genres ('prabandhas) with Saiva and Vedantic ideology101. At this point we are concerned with three anthologies which go under his name. Patuturai is a unique collection of 1140 songs in 138 chapters of very different form and tunes: all of them full of ardent Vedanta-oriented Saivism; in some way or other they praise, besides extolling the poet's preceptor Corupanatar, other teachers of Saiva Jcuruparamparai (succession of gurus) which, according to the poet, begins with Mahes'vara and Uma and runs down to Tattuvarayar himself. Apart from some stanzas gathered from other texts (there are e.g. Saiva and even Vaisnava. bhajanas), the book contains mainly Tattuvarayar's own poetry, partly in the form of such structures as ammanai 'the ball-song,' palliyelucci 'the morning; 99

Cf. M. S. H. THOMPSON, Muttollayiram, TC 9 (1961) 335-42. Cf. T. V. SADASIVA PANDARATHAR, History of Tamil Literature (250-600 A.D.) (in Tamil), Annamalai 1955, p. 87. 101 He composed three venpd collections, two antdtis, six malais, two ulds, two paranis, one on the annihilation of Ignorance, one on the killing of Illusion, a pillaittamil, and a number of other prabandhas almost all in praise of his guru. A portion, of Mokavataipparam 'The parani about the killing of Illusion' includes 110 stanzasin which the Devi instructs her demons in Vedanta: this part of the poem is sometimes considered as an independent work, and is in popular use as the fundamental, introduction to Vedanta in Tamil. 100


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song of awakening,' palldntu 'many years' (a benedictory song), derived from ancient forms of bhakti poetry (q.v.), partly in the very simple form of ditties, and there are enormously important stanzas for our understanding of Tamil folk-poetry in the medieval period: thematically, these poems deal with various occupational groups and castes (e.g. carpenters, barbers, Brahmans, washermen, Paraiya women, religious beggars, Cettiyars), with members of the family (father, mother, sister etc.) and with animals (parrot, lizard, snake, cock etc.), all praising Siva and the gurus. The two other very important works of his are the Peruntirattu or 'Great Anthology' of 2821 stanzas, and the Kuruntirattu or 'Short Anthology' in 1340 stanzas; they conserve the religious and philosophic output of what was termed "the silver age of Saivism" in Tamilnadu. 1.2.3. Irattaiyar 'The Twins' or Irattaippulavar. 'The Twin Poets' (14th cent.) were brothers born in the cenkunta (weaver) caste: the elder, called Mutucuriyar 'Old Sun' was born lame; the younger, Ilafieuriyar 'Young Sun/ was blind. They went about, the blind man carrying his lame brother on the shoulders, begging and composing occasional stanzas, besides a number of prabandhas102. Their occasional verses are witty comments on daily life and extempore poems composed to meet various emergencies; they are all in venpd form and may be found in various anthologies. 1.2.4. A number of solitary stanzas have been ascribed to Auvaiyar 'The Old Lady'—very probably a term applied to more than one author; one of them composed didactic collections (q.v.), another was a medieval poetess composing extempore verses. Most of these stanzas in venpd form are witty, sometimes slightly ironical, often poignant and even profound comments and reflections, immensely popular; in fact, their authoress is a true people's poet, dealing with the common experiences of the masses. It is, though, quite possible that Auvai the authoress of these stanzas is identical with the poetess of the gnomic collections. It is of course almost impossible to set up a date of these stray stanzas. There are many popular stories concerning her life, her relationship to Kampan and Ottakkuttan, the great poets of the Chola court, and she has become so popular that today films are made about her. In fact, as a person, she "has passed into a dearly cherished myth103." Here is her answer to the four basic questions of Hindu moral philosophy (virtue, wealth, pleasure, release): To give is virtue. That which is earned without foul means is wealth. 102 E.g. the Tillaikkalampakam of 100 stanzas on Lord Nataraja of Citamparam which is important and interesting for the history of Tamil language, and the Ekamparanatarula in 556 verses in which they refer to a ruler of North ArcotOhingleput who is dated 1331-1381.

103 c. and


1961, p.


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The constant love of two who help each other and whose tastes agree is pleasure. To give up these three, in the contemplation of the Supreme, is heavenly bliss.

1.2.5. Another well-known impromptu stanza has been ascribed to the son of the great Kampan, Ampikapati. The young man, a poet at the court of KulSttunka Chola, carried on an amorous intrigue with the king's daughter; betraying it in one of his poems, he was, by the king's command, impaled alive, and died after having suffered on the stake for a couple of days, repeating incessantly the following stanza: What can I do ? The fire which the divine maid with her venomed eyes kindled in my heart104 burns within me, it burns, it burns without extinguishing.

1.2.6. There is a number of solitary stanzas found in later anthologies going under the name Oppilamanippulavar, 'The Incomparable Jewel-Poet' (ca. 1375-1425). But the best known, and the most interesting poet among all who composed extempore stanzas, was Kalamekappulavar, "the only Tamil writer of the past who can claim the name of satirist105." The name which means 'Hailpouring Cloud' was given to him by Sarasvati who endowed him with the gift of poetic improvisation. His date is easy to fix since he was patronized by a Vijayanagara viceroy of the Chola country who ruled in 1453-1468 A.D. Kalamekam has flooded Tamil with torrents of stanzas, some of them witty and sharp, some of them mere word juggleries, or, at best, palindromes and acrostics which were so current in late Sanskrit poetry after Magha. In later medieval Tamil poetry, under the decisive impact of Sanskritic prosody and rhetoric, ciletai (Skt. Mesa), yamaka and cittirakavi (Skt. citrakavi) poems became

quite current. Kalamekappulavar became famous for his collection of stanzas entitled Yamakantam; each stanza contains a description of two entirely different things. Thus e.g. the following poem may be interpreted in two ways: nancirukkun tolurikkum ndtarmutimelirukkum vencinattirpar pattdl milatu—viricupukal ten pdyuncolai tirumalairayan patiyir pdmpdkum vdlaippalam 1. It has poison, it sheds its skin, it sits on the crown of Siva's head, its bite when irritated cannot be cured. Such is the case with the cobra in the city of the renowned Tirumalairayan where groves flow with honey. 2. It is easily bruised, its skin peals off, it hangs from the top of the parent tree, and it will not recover its former state if it comes into contact with teeth. Such is the case with the plantain-fruit in the city of the renowned Tirumalairayan where groves flow with honey. 104 The verse neficileiyttaneruppu 'fire kindled in the heart' has become so popular that it is used until today as title of poems, short stories and novels.

«* c. and H. JESUDASAN, HTL,

1961, p. 230.


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Kalamekam is said to have made Visnu's idol at Kannapuram fall down by the occult power of his couplet106; to have driven serpents out of a village with the magic of his verses; to have won many poetic contests due to his wonderful ability of rapid verse-making. Hence, he is the dcukavi 'extempore poet' of Tamil literature par excellence101. Some of his stanzas attack even gods; thus one day he went to a temple of Skanda; he found it difficult to push his way through the crowd of people and have darsan (the vision of the god); vexed and disappointed, he said, O Kumara! Why this vain parade for you ? Your father is a mendicant, your mother an ogress, your uncle a professed thief, and 108 your brother a glutton, as all the world knows . Some of his poems, however, are quite beautiful in a very different manner, as shown by the following stanza on Visnu-Tirumal: The immense blue ocean, a mountain of blue sapphire, a rising cloud of magnificent shape, or the blue blossom of the kdyd tree, a dark-blue mellow fruit— o Dark One, bewitching the eyes, which is indeed your shape ?

1.2.7. The Siddhas. From the point of view adopted in this book, the Tamil Siddha (cittar) poets will be dealt with at this point since most of their writings consist of typical solitary stanzas. It is necessary to stress that the Tamil Siddhas do interest us here as poets, and as poets only, not as religious thinkers, yogis, physicians or alchemists. And, from this point of view, the most important 106

O Lord of Kannapuram! You are greater than Siva, but I am greater than you! For hear me: You had ten births, and Siva had none, but my births are too many to be counted. 107 How inordinately proud he was of his talents may be gathered from the following lines—one of his poetical epistles to Tirumalairayan: "It is I the poet Kalamekam who has hoisted a flag proclaiming thereby that I shall compose a tutu in five ndlikai-houxs (i.e. 5 times 24 minutes), a mdlai in six ndlikais, an antdti in seven ndlikais, a mated, or kovai, in ten ndlikais, a parani in a day; and all kinds of epics (kdviyam) in a couple of days. I will cut off the ears of the poets who, stealing the compositions of others, parade them as their own, and bluster and puff in the presence of the ever-renowned Tirumalairayan of the race of the placid moon. I will whip them on their backs, slap them on their cheeks, and saddle and ride on them, bridling them with a hard bridle." This charming stanza gives us also a clue to the estimation of progressive difficulty in composing different prabandhas; the most difficult is of course the epic. 108 This reminds us of a solitary stanza by the Iratt-aiyar in which they attack Pi]]aiyar (GaNesa) calling his younger brother a stealer of maidens and Mayan. (Visnu) a stealer of butter. The mendicant father of Kumara is Siva, the mother Parvati. The thieving uncle Krsna, and the gluttonous brother is Ganesa.

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Siddha-oriented Tamil mystical poets are Tirumular, who has been called the greatest Tamil poet of symbolism, Civavakkiyar, Pattinattar, and Pampattic Cittar. The works of these poets, and of other Tamil cittar, have been only partly, and very inadequately, published109. Among the better-known, and rather interesting Siddha poets one should mention in addition to the four names cited above, are Pattirakiri (cf. Skt. Bhadragiri), "the Jeremiah of Tamil literature110," Itaikkattuccittar 'The Siddha of the Pasture-Forest'111 and Kutampaiccittar 'The Siddha with the Earthen Ring112.' Tirumular might have lived in the 7th cent. A. D. and his work Tirumantiram (cf. Skt. Srimantra) became part of the 10th book of the Saiva canon. It is the greatest treatment of Yoga in Tamil literature, and the source of Saiva Siddhanta philosophy; it also contains almost all typical features of the Tamil Siddha movement. It consists of more than 3000 quatrains in the kaliviruttam metre which, though they are connected by a fundamental unity of thought and motivation113, and divided into nine sections (called tantras), may yet be considered as self-contained, solitary stanzas. In many ways, Tirumular is the Tamil poet who, by expressing his mystic and occult experiences, lingering on the border-line between speech and wordless thought, trained the Tamil language to express the ineffable. To a lesser extent this is true of all Siddha poets. Some of the stanzas are simple enough, as e.g. the well-known quatrain which says The ignorant say: Love and Godhead are two different things. They do not know that it is Love that becomes Godhead. When they realize that it is Love that becomes Godhead, they will themselves rest in Godhead which became Love.

Or another in the same vein: Knowledge comes not but for balanced minds. For balanced minds there is no hell. Like the great gods will be balanced minds. I too cling to the path of balanced minds.

However, there are different stanzas, full of occult symbolism, which are rather like mantras (defined, incidentally, by Tirumular as "perfect concentration of the mind on anything"114): 109 jr o r historical and textual problems pertaining to Tamil Siddha works, cf. K. ZVELEBIL, The Smile of Murugan, 1973, pp. 218-20, K. V. ZVELEBIL, Tamil Lit. (Handbuch), K. V. ZVELEBIL, The Poets of the Powers, London, 1973, pp. 15-24. Cf. also A. V. STJBEAMANIA AIYAB, The Poetry and the Philosophy of the Tamil Siddhars, Tirunelveli 1957. "o Cf. K. V. ZVELEBIL, The Poets of the Powers, pp. 88-90. in Cf. K. V. ZVELEBIL, The Poets of the Powers, pp. 107-109. us Cf. K. V. ZVELEBIL, The Poets of the Powers, pp. 111-112. ii3 Which may be denned as the effort at an integration of Upanisadic knowledge, Yogic technique, and bhakti, all coloured strongly by Tantric thought. in Ta. manam oruvalippattatu mantiram.


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A huge drunk elephant hid the Tree; the huge drunk elephant disappeared behind the Tree; the base elements of the universe hid the Absolute; the base elements of the universe disappeared in the Absolute. At the junction of six roads the sweet sap oozes of the four palmyra palms. I placed a ladder so that I could climb. I climbed the palmyra, and saw the seven oceans.

Civavakkiyar (difficult to date; before the 10th cent.) is a poet of a very different style and diction: simple, often crude, always forceful. He is probably the most typical of all Tamil cittar poets, and, measured by purely literary criteria, certainly a greater poet than Tirumular. Like a lightning arising spreading receding and concealed so the Lord of my heart arose and spread and is concealed within. Like the eye which does not know its own straight sight, I do not know the Lord who is within me. As if he were not there! (St. 121)

Among his 527 stanzas called simply Patal (Songs) there are, apart from ripe mystical poems like the one above, shockingly direct and crude poems like, e.g., st. 38: What does it mean—a Pariah woman ? What is it—a Brahman woman ? Is there any difference in flesh, skin, or bones ? Do you feel any difference when you sleep with a Pariah or a Brahman woman ?

Pattinattar who may probably be regarded as the greatest Siddha poet, lived sometime in the 14th-15th cent., and his work goes into several hundreds of stanzas in different metres, most of them characterized by relativism, pessimism, hatred of women, a peculiar mixture of cynicism with pathetic helplessness, of utter resignation with utter disgust. Some of his images and metaphors are truly great: When the Carpenter of Time will fell, like trees which are broken and bruised,

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the bodies of men and women who clasp each other in close embrace, they will cry out and weep like a stricken drum. Among his 'beggary' stanzas are some which are real jewels of Indian mendicant poetry. There is the loin-cloth for my dress and for my pillow the outer porch. To eat—areca-nuts and betel-leaf. Cool water to drink. For precious help— the holy names, names of the Lord who rides the Bull. What is there higher in this world than the northern horn of the waning Moon ? What is there lower in this world than the southern horn of the waning Moon ?

Pampatticcittar or 'The Siddha with the Dancing Snake' is the most outspoken among all Siddha poets. His most probable date would be 1400-1450 A.D. Many of his stanzas—some rather vulgar, even obscene, some deeply symbolic—have become widely popular: Pus and filth and thick red blood and fat All together making up an ugly-smelling pitcher Now if that breaks Dog and jackal and large goblins and hawks will cry: It belongs to us And they will gobble it (63) Like a bubble that arises on the surface of water and perishes so indeed perishes this unstable body Therefore adhere to the Creator of so many lives in so many worlds Begin by loving Him And dance, O snake (64)

1.2.8. Anthologies. Innumerable occasional, extempore poems, mostly single-stanza poems, on a wide variety of topics and in many different metres (most frequently, though, in the venpd) have found their way, either anonymously, or ascribed to dozens of more or less well-known poets, into a number of anthologies (tirattu, kottu). Probably the earliest, and certainly the most important of the medieval anthologies is Purattirattu which contains 1570 stanzas gathered from 30 books, beginning with the classical bardic pieces and ending with Kampan. 473 poems deal with aram (dharma), 1032 poems with porul (artha); 65 stanzas on kdmarn were also recovered. Apart from stanzas out of well-known works,


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Purattirattu contains dozens of stanzas from texts which had been totally lost. According to S. Vaiyapuri Pillai, its editor, the anthology was compiled in the first half of the 15th cent. An abridged version entitled Purattirattuccurukkam was prepared late in the 17th cent. A.D. In the 19th and early 20th cent., traditionally-oriented Tamil scholars compiled dozens of anthologies, arranged along many different principles. Probably the most useful of all is I. Mu. Irakavaiyankar's Peruntokai 'The Great Anthology' (1935) which contains 2214 poems gathered from texts, commentaries, inscriptions115, and oral transmission (these are denoted as tanippdkkal 'stray stanzas'), and arranged topic-wise116. There are copious notes and two indices. Another important anthology is Tanicceyyutcintamani partly compiled by Karuppaiya Pavalar (b. 1844) in 1904 and edited by Mu. Ra. Kantacami Kavirayar in 1908. It contains many tanicceyyul 'solitary poems' which were current thus far only in oral tradition, or gathered from different old manuscripts in the library of the Fourth Tamil Academy in Maturai. Among the prabandhas there are some which may be considered as anthologies in a very broad sense of the term. These are of two kinds: either collections of poems of identical form on one specific subject by different authors, or collections of poems of identical form on different subjects by one author. A typical example of the first alternative is the well-known Tiruvalluvamalai, a collection of 53 quatrains in the venpd metre ascribed to gods, goddesses, and poets-academicians, all in praise of the Tirukkural and its author. The date of this malai or 'garland of stanzas' is probably the 10th cent. A.D. The second type may be exemplified by Palamolivilakkam 'Elucidation of Proverbs' alias Tantalaiyarcatakam, a cento of gnomic stanzas by Cantalinka Kavirayar of Tantalai (18th cent.); there is a popular saying or proverb (palamoli) quoted in each stanza. However, the obvious difference between anthologies proper and such genres as catakam 'cento' or malai 'garland' is in the degree of integration and formal and structural as well as semantic cohesion, though the basic material is, in both, the solitary stanza. 1.3. Pre-modern and Modern Poetry.

1.3.1. The individual, detached poem reappears as the most productive form in the modern period, after centuries of relative decay when Tamil poetry was us There is a slender but important modern anthology of poems recovered from inscriptions by MAYILAI CINI. VENKATACAMI, CacanacceyyuJ mancari, Madras 1959. n« The anthology is divided into three large sections: Katavulvalttiyal or 'The Chapter of Invocations' (contains 220 invocatory stanzas dedicated to various Hindu and Jaina gods and goddesses), Araviyal or 'The Chapter on Virtue' (dharma, stanzas 221-346), and Porujiyal or 'The Chapter on Worldly Matters' (the rest, on such topics as e.g. kingship, war, different poets, their patrons, various historical personages, literary works, Tamilnadu and its provinces, etc.).

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under the spell of the 'great' epic and narrative forms, and when it produced the ninety-six and odd prabandhas. On the other hand, the solitary, occasional stanza has of course never quite disappeared, and even in the late medieval and the pre-modern periods, it was a favourite with many poets and their patrons. One of the more prominent among these poets was Anantaparati Aiyankar (1786-1846) known as kavirdjasvdmi for his impromptu verses; he also composed many hymns in honour of various Saiva shrines117. The individual poem, however, degenerated in the hands of the 18th and 19th cent, poets into a mere occasional, extempore verse mostly with panegyric function118, or became a mere pastime in addition to more 'serious' preoccupation with 'prabandhas, pitranas, devotional hymns, dramas, and novel. Thus e.g. Ci. Tiyakaraca Cettiyar (1826-1888), one of the disciples of Minatcicuntaram Pillai, and a scholar and professor of Tamil at Kumbakonam, composed funny extempore verses together with his young friend U. V. Swaminatha Aiyar119. A prolific author of occasional stanzas was Mayavaram Vetanayakam Pillai (1824-1889), the well-known first Tamil novelist who in fact began his literary career by writing verse120. Some of his stanzas manifest freshness and happy choice of diction: Sung in the rainy season O you large cloud, you are like the miser who will say* yes and will do nothing! You run swift on the azure sky, stopping, thundering, stretching and flashing, but then you will not pour. You! (Tanippatarrirattu 35)

He praised in his stanzas his teacher Minatcicuntaram Pillai, his colleague Ci. Vai. TamStaram Pillai, and at the same time scolded flesh-eating Brahmans, and commented on such events as a cholera epidemy. In his interest in the simple life around he was a predecessor of Bharati. One of the very popular themes dealt with in the pre-modern poetry of the 19th and early 20th Cent, was Tamil. Without exception, the poems glorified 117 He was important as dramatist, and among his poetic compositions one should mention Uttararamayana kirttanai, Mupparrirattu, and Maruturvenpa. 118 As e.g. Maturakkavirayar (18th cent.), a dramatist who composed many panegyric poems mainly on Pirampur Anantarankam Pillai. 119 Cf. R. P. SETHTJ PILLAI, Tamilk kavitaik kajanciyam, Delhi 1960, p. 175. 120 p o r ^ 3 novel, cf. § 6.6.1. For his devotional poetry with Roman Catholic content, cf. § 2.13. For his didactic works, cf. § 3.4. He also wrote a collection of poems entitled Penputtimalai 'The Garland of Female Wisdom' which deals in a lighter vein with the need for education and social emancipation of women. Two other poets of the last decade of the 19th cent, should be mentioned: Kumarakuruparataca Cuvamikal (1850-1929), a typical traditionalist who has composed most of his poetry in the decade 1893-1903 (a total of 6666 stanzas in 6 volumes), cf. Kumarakurutaca Cuvamikal Patal and Tiruvalankarrirattu, both 1901, Tiruppa (1899), Cuppiramaniyamenpataikkuritta viyacam (1899) etc.; and Atinarayana Aiyar, who was so impressed by the introduction of steam-locomotive to India that he published a 'song' entitled PukaivaNtippirayajiappattu 'The Song about the Journey in a Train,' Madras 1896.


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past greatness of Tamil literature, extolled the excellence of the language, and dwelt on the beauties of Tamilnadu. They were largely composed by men who were not primarily poets but scholars, by Minateicuntaram Pillai (1815-1875), the great master of U. V. Swaminatha Aiyar, by P. Cuntaram Pillai (18551897), the editor, historian and dramatist who praised Goddess Tamil (tamilananku) as the fragrant essence of the tilakam 'beauty-spot' (which is the fair Dravida land) on the crescent-like forehead of India; by Ra. Irakavaiyankar, scholar and editor, by Tiru. Vi. Kalyanacuntara Mutaliyar, essayist, orator, scholar and politician, etc. This praise of Tamil culminated in the patriotic songs of S. Bharati (cf. § 1.3.2.) who, however, looked rather into the future than into the past, and saw wider and deeper contexts than any of his predecessors. It is characteristic of contemporary modern poets that their outlook is much more critical. 1.3.2. Subrahmanya Bharati as poet of short forms. The double "revolution" in the history of Tamil poetry—one formal, one thematic—has been accomplished by the time Bharati appeared on the scene: prosody based on the aksara and mdtrd of Sanskrit poetry has found its way into Tamil literature, and has stayed; and the mass-oriented poetry with some new popular themes, partly influenced by folk-poetry, remained an important factor in the pre-modern period. Also, poetry and music were now intimately connected. What remained was to deliver the diction of poetry from the fetters of traditionalism and classicism, and to apply poetry to the contemporary political and social themes and to a vision of the future. The man who accomplished this was makdkavi Ci. Cuppiramaniya Ayyar alias Subrahmanya Bharati (11. 12. 1882-12. 9. 1921)121. When he died, only about twenty people 121 Born in Ettayapuram, near Tirunelveli, in a Saiva Brahman family as the son of Cinnacami Ayyar and Latcumi AmmaL When he was five, his mother died. In 1889, his father remarried. The title Bharati (Tamil Parati = Sarasvati) was conferred on him in 1893 in the sabhd of the court-poets at Ettayapuram and became his nom de plume. 1894-97 studies in the Hindu College, Tirunelveli; in 1897 marriage with Cellammal (seven years old). 1898, death of father. 1898-1902, stay in Banaras; he learned Hindi, Sanskrit etc. 1902-4, court-poet at Ettayapuram. Disliked the job. 1904, August—November, Tamil teacher at Sethupati High School, Maturai. Nov. 1904: on the staff of Cutecamittiran, a well-known Tamil daily published in Madras. Since 1905 took active part in political life. 1906 on the staff of the radical weekly Intiya. In 1907 meets Tilak, Aurobindo Ghosh, L. Lajpat Ray. Composed patriotic songs, published as his first book in 1908. In the same year had to take refuge in Pondicherry to escape arrest by British authorities. 1909, second volume of poems (Janmapumi). In subsequent years, in the Pondicherry exile, wrote for different papers and journals, studied the Vedas, translated the Bhagavadgita (1912), wrote KaNNa]&pattu, Kuyil, Pancalicapatam. 1917 first edition of Kannanpattu. 20. 11. 1918 left Pondicherry, arrested, released at once, went to Kilkkataiyam where he stayed between 1918-1919 in great poverty. In March 1919 returned to Madras, met Gandhi in Rajaji's house. In 1920, again on the staff of Cutecamittiran. Wrote many essays. In Sept. 1921, attacked by a temple elephant, and by dysentery. Died in the early hours of Sept. 12, 1921, aged 39. The best and

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accompanied the funeral bier122. Within the next two decades, he has become the national poet of Tamilnadu, acknowledged as a true mahdkavi123. In 1963, Jawaharlal Nehru has called for a translation of Bharati's poems into all Indian languages124; and, indeed, there now exist translations of his poetry into Hindi, Telugu, Malayalam, Sinhalese, Russian, German, Czech, and English125, and possibly some more languages. We shall be concerned here with the evolution of Bharati's poetic personality, and with Bharati as the poet of short forms126. It was Bharati who in fact made the occasional, individual poem what it is today in Tamil literature, and infused new vigour into it, having influenced its content and form in a lasting manner. Bharati's creative beginnings were under the impact of pedantic, traditional most reliable biography is in Tamil by RA. A. PATMANAPAN, Cittira Parati, Cennai 1957 (published after 30 years of solid research). Cf. also PREMA NANDKUMAE, Subramania Bharati, New Delhi 1968; C. VISWANATHAN, Bharati and his Works, Madras 1929; P. MAHADEVAN, Subramania Bharati—A Memoir, Madras 1957; V, KAMASWAMY, Makakavi Paratiyar (in Tamil), Madras 1944; S. PREMA, Bharati in English Verse, Madras 1958; K. S. RAMASWAMI SASTRI, Subramania Bharati— His Mind and Art, Madras 1951; A. SRINIVASA RAGHAVAN (ed.), The Voice of a Poet, Calcutta 1951; K. N. SUBRAMANIAM, Bharati, Madras 1959; PERIYACAMI TtiRAN, Parati Tamil, Madras 1954; K. MEENAKSHISUNDARAN, A Study on the Poetical Works of Subramania Bharathi, Madras 1965; V. SACHITHANANDAN, The Impact of Western Though on Bharati, Annamalainagar, 1970. There is a number of papers by different scholars on various aspects of Bharati's life and writings to be found on the pages of journals like TC, Indian Literature, and elsewhere. 122 Cf. P. C. Nellaiyappar's testimony, quoted in Cittira Parati, p. 132. 123 The first appeal to Bharati's friends to publish his works came from S. Satyamurthi. In 1921, Bharati's wife CellammaJ and his brother-in-law K. R. Appadurai founded the publishing house Parati Aciramam, and in 1922 they published a few books, but had to close down in 1923. In 1924, Harihara Sharma, C, Viswanathan (the poet's brother), and Natarajan (his son-in-law) founded the Parati Piracuralayam which went on publishing the poet's works for over 20 years. In 1949, the government of Madras bought the editorial rights and in 1954 published Bharati's poems, in 1959-63 four volumes of prose. The copyright was released in 1963. It is almost certain that, so far, not all of Bharati's works have been published, cf. R. KANNAN, Putuneri kattiya Parati, Cennai 1965, foreword, and KalaimakaJ, Tipavah'malar, 1966, p. 27; also according to personal communication by R. A. PADMANABHAN in



Cf. Paratiyarukku Neru pukalmalai, Navamani, 12. 12. 1963, p. 5. 125 Translations into English: Agni and Other Poems and Translations by C. Subrahmanya Bharati, Madras 1937; S. PREMA, Bharati in English Verse, Madras 1958; R. P. SETHU PILLAI, Bharati's Poems, Ind. Lit. 2,1,46-56; C. RAJAGOPALA-

CHARI, Bharati the Tamil Poet, Young India, 13. 12. 1928, 3. 1. 1929, 17. 1. 1929, 24. 1. 1929; T. G. NARAYANASWAMY, Bogus Patriots and Other Poems, Madras 1960; P. S. STJNDARAM, Kannan Pattu, TC 8 (1958) 350-4; HAKI VALAM, Panchali Sapatam (The Vow of Panchali), Devalali 1957; H. JESUDASAN, The Song of the Cuckoo and other Poems, Trivandrum 1950; A. SRINIVASA RAGHAVAN (ed.), The Voice of a Poet, Calcutta 1951, 2nd ed. 1956; RAMA STTBBIAH, The Song of the Kuyil, Tamiloli 1966-7,8,158-84. 128 jPOr the epic poems of Bharati, cf. § 4.6.1. For Bharati's prose, cf. § 6.4.


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medieval poetry; he wrote such genres as ulds, matals, yamaka poems etc. His first short poems (composed before 1904) are a simple erotic poem, a kdvaticcintu on Murukan, and two poems possibly in imitation of Shelley whom he admired127. He deals critically with his own beginnings in a later autobiographic poem of his and in the fragment of an autobiographic story. The fact that he took part, between 1905-8, in the national movement, influenced strongly his poetry which received a decisive political and social stimulus, as may be seen in his first two published collections, Cuvateca kitankal (1908) and Janmapumi (1909). The poems are dedicated to Sister Nivedita128 who converted him to Saktism of the then fashionable Bengali variety, including the worship of Mother India as Sakti. He then considered Nivedita as a goddess and as his guru. She also influenced strongly his thinking on the caste system, and his attitude towards women. In the beginning of 1906, he obviously resolved to compose patriotic songs and poems129. Indeed, all his poems but two, written round 1906-8, are passionate nationalistic propaganda (e.g. Tayin manikkoti in Intiya, 11. 7. 1908, Enne kotumai, 4. 4. 1906 in Cutecamittiran); some are comments on political events (e.g. on the fate of L.Lajpat Ray), some are praises of contemporary political leaders (e.g. of B. G. Tilak), some are visions of future India, and glorifications of its past. These poems, or most of them, have only a limited, historical importance today; but in the evolution of Tamil poetry they had their important place because in them Bharati introduced modern political and social reality into poetry and bridged the abyss, prevalent until then, between literature and the socio-political problems of the day. They are mostly composed with heroic pathos; sometimes they are ironical or elegiac in tone130. Rather powerful are those which are satirical (e.g. Natippucutecikal 127

Tetakkitaiyata Cormame, Paccaittirumayil viran, Celvattut pirantanama, p.61 Tanimai irakkam. The last poem, published in Vivekapanu, Maturai, in July 1904, shows experimentation with the sonnetform, and so do his other early poems, Yan (1906) and Cantirikai (1906). 128 Sister Nivedita (1869-1911), an Irish woman, Margaret E. Noble, disciple of Swami Vivekananda, joined the Ramakrishna Order. Cf. e.g. the following litany of Bharati: Nivedita, Mother, / Thou, Temple consecrated to Love, / Thou, Sun dispelling my soul's darkness, / Thou, Rain to the parched land of our lives, / Thou, helper of the helpless and lost, / Thou, Offering to Grace, / Thou, divine spark of Truth, / My salutation to Thee! (Transl. S. PREMA). The vision of India as the Mother, as Siva's Sakti, is as widespread in space and time, and as deeply ingrained and lasting as the hero and heroine worship, and there are moments in India's history when the two conjoin: this is precisely what has happened very recently to Mrs. Indira Gandhi, the Prime Minister of India, after the victorious war with Pakistan, cf. P. L. SHARMA'S book World's Greatest Woman (1973) in which Mrs. Gandhi is not only designed as 'the warrior queen' and 'greater than the greatest,' but also 'Brahma the creator of the new India, Vishnu the preserver of its democracy and Shiva the destroyer as she destroyed the army of Pakistan.' According to the author, she represents 'time and eternity, both.' la* Cf. Cutecamittiran, 13. 2. and 28. 2. 1906. 130 It is interesting that in Cutecamittiran, 29. 1. 1906, a poem by Bharati appeared in honour of the Prince of Wales and, in fact, in praise of the British

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on 'false patriots'), and also some of the revolutionary-heroic songs have more than ephemeral validity (e.g. Cutantirappallu). Even more important is possibly the formal experimentation in prosody and rhetoric, and the increase of spoken forms in Bharati's poetry. Thus he adopted Tayumanavar's rhythmic pattern of Anantakkalippu for a number of his poems (Tamilttay, Tayin manikkoti), Gopalakrishna Bharati's metres (Cutantirapperumai etc.), and he also used genuine folk-songs as source, and the literary usage which followed folk-songs (i.e. pallu, cintu etc.): thus Enkal tay is formally a kdvaticcintu, the satirical poem on false patriots is a kilihkanni etc. He has also used Ramalinga Svami as model. He adapted these folk forms to political themes and revitalized them. Most of these poems were intended to be sung; and they are being sung until this day, though naturally with lesser impact than thirty years ago. In his poem Cutantira teviyin tuti he sings: Although divorced from the joys of the hearth And consigned to dungeons dark; Although forced to exchange A time of cheer for days of gloom; Although ten million troubles raged To consume me entire; Freedom! Mother! I shall not forget To worship Thee. (Transl. S. Prema)

Another large group of Bharati's'solitary poems are inspired by his Saktism which passed through several stages: the first was rather impersonal and cool (his poems of 1909-10, not much worth poetically). Until about 1908-9 he considered Mother India as "the natural and concentrated symbol of this allmaking Goddess," and as the goddess of freedom. In the days of his Pondicherry exile, iSaktism became Bharati's personal religion (ef. his poems Kalikkuc camarppanam, Cakti tiruppukal, Munru katal, Kalippattu etc.). He became engaged in the search of immortality in this life. Finally he understood mukti or liberation as a state free from all worries, fears and needs, as the overcoming of the feeling of duality, as the union ofjivdtmd with paramdtmd and the ethical perfection in the sense of the Gita. (Saktism became for him the religion of immortality to be achieved by mankind in this existence131; also a religion which rejects external asceticism. He composed a number of philosophical poems (Katci, Poyyo meyyo) in which he says, e.g.: All we see, they are all real . . . All we see are Shakti eternal, All we see are forms eternal.

(Transl. A. Muthusivan)

After 1914, his poems reflect his intimate mystical visions and experiences; there is a mystic-spiritual interpretation of nature and the universe in a number achievement in India (Nalvaravukurutal). This is, however, the only instance of Bharati praising the English. 131 Cf. the Introduction to his version of the Gita; also C. Subrahmanya Bharati, Essays and other Prose Fragments, p. 10, and KatturaikaJ, Tattuvam, p. 11.


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of his poems of this period, some of which belong to his best creations. Thus in the amazing Ulikkuttu 'The Dance of Doom' he sings: When the demon-hosts clash Hitting head against head, When the knocking and the breaking Beat the rhythmic time, When the sparks from your eyes Reach the ends of the earth, Then is the doomed hour Of universal death! Mother, Mother, You've drawn me To see thee dance! (Transl. S. Prema)

In Para^akti he says: Here comes the rain; The clouds huddle in the sky and it is dark; The Lightning flows in a flashing curve, And the north wind is a bark. I turn to sing of this, this miracle of the descent of Heaven's waters, And my words stray away. They sing 'Victory to her! The wind and the rain, they are the Mother's play.' The Mother! Beyond the bourne of the word she lies; And yet all words to her she ties. They who can see light in the womb of darkness, Consciousness in stone, A moment at rest in the ceaseless flow of time, And the flash thrown of Indra's vajra from a blade of grass, They, only they, can see. And yet, strange!she calls: 'Poet, sing of me.' (Transl. A. Srinivasa Raghavan) Another magnificent poem of his ripe years is dedicated to rain (Malai), the second stanza of which runs as follows: Lightning leaps in a clap, And the sea Dashes its mane against Heaven's dome; The clouds break and rumble; The wind tears at the sky as at a trap, And the sky beats a tattoo and laughs in mad spree. The corners of space crumble. Oh, the mighty rain! Dham tarikita dheem tarikita dhom! (Transl. A. Srinivasa Raghavan) Bharati was very very Indian in believing to be able to evoke !§akti and induce her to grant him boons by the magic, mantra-like power of his own

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songs (cf. his Caktikkuttu, Navarattirappattu, Civacaktipukal etc.). There are groups of poems addressed to &akti to grant him knowledge, firmness of will, ethical perfection (cf. Petai neiice, Vitutalai venpa, Canku, Accamillai etc.). He was greatly influenced by &aiva bhakti poets and by Ramalinga: thus Accamillai 'There's no fear' is a pantdra-like song. In 1915-16 he was much under the influence of three non-Brahmin svdmls who instructed him in Vedanta. Under this influence he composed his "Vedantic" songs, like Jayaperikai, Nan, Anpuceytal, etc. He says:' 'Well, brother, if I wear this thread, you brand me a Brahmin forever; but I am as much a Christian, a Mussulman or a Jew as I am a Brahmin. Humanity is my community and Love is my creed." During these years, though, he did not forget contemporary events either; and thus arose typically occasional poems—on women's freedom and equality, political comments, etc. Of these, the best are Putiya konanki 'The New Soothsayer,' and Muracu 'The Drum'—the vision of new, happy India of the future. The second poem is also interesting and important because of its form: it is the song of a religious beggar, accompanied by drumming; the drumming rhythm is suggestive, the use of colloquial forms most apt; the vision of Indian future assumes the power of prophecy. Muracu 'The Drum' is a message of freedom, equality, and brotherhood132. Another group of Bharati's poems is centred around one single theme: the worship of Krsna. His collection Kannanpattu (1912), strongly influenced by the Vaisnava poet-saints, illustrates Bharati's own words: " . . . the Indian mind has turned all forms of human life and emotion and all phenomena of the universe into symbols and means by which the embodied soul may strive after and grasp the Supreme. Indian devotion has especially seized upon the most intimate human relations and made them stepping stones to the superhuman. God the guru, God the master, God the friend, God the mother, God the child, God the self, each of these experiences—for to us these are more than mere ideas—it has carried to its extreme possibilities133." The collection of 23 poems contains gems of mystical poetry, but also some of the best love-lyrics in Tamil literature, composed in the ndyaka-ndyaki bhava under strong influence of Antal 134 : . . . somebody softly stole to me, And behind me standing, closed my eyes. I felt the soft hands and in a flash was wise; I knew her by the fragrance of her silk saree, 13

« Cf. K. ZVELEBIL, Bharati's Poems, TC 3, pp. 297-314. Essays, p. 58. 134 There are twelve of these poems in the collection. For Bharati, this bhava was the summit of the symbolism of the relationship between God and human soul, cf. "It would seem as if this passionate human symbol were the natural culminating point for the mounting flame of the soul's devotion." Essays, p. 58. According to V. V. S. AIYAR (Introduction to the 2nd ed. of Kannanpattu), "our Poet . . . has in delineating this 'Bhava' dwelt more on the physical side of love than on the spiritual." 133


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I knew her by the joy that within me welled, I knew her by the beat of our kindred hearts. 'Oh, take thy hands away, Kannamma. Thy arts,' I cried,' are of no avail.' Her hands I held. And then, while her laughter tinkled, I freed my eye, And turning, drew her to me and said 'Behave.' (Kannamma-en katali. Transl. P. N. Appuswami) Hot is my body; and my head Is all in a whirl; The madding moonlight clasps the sky With arms of pearl. The world is wrapt in a quiet, Steeped in sleep; I alone writhe in a hell Of agony deep . . . To meet and never to part; And all the night, To be thrilled again and yet again With thy body bright . . . (Kannamma-en katali. Transl. A. Srinivasa Raghavan)

Bharati wrote other songs on Krsna, besides the above quoted collection— one of the loveliest and yet very simple is Nantalala135. Another simple love song is Cantiramati136, and, in a similar tune, Kilivitututu or the 'ParrotMessenger137.' Bharati's romantic-mystical visions of Aryan gods were inspired by his own translations of a few Rgvedic hymns (on the instigation of Shri Aurobindo, who also in 1912 induced him to translate the Bhagavadgita into Tamil). These poems are of relatively small importance. Of the poems of his last period (1918-1921), the most important in terms of literary evaluation are those dealing with immortality (e.g. Jayaperikai, Cakavaram). His Intiya camutayam is a synthesis of his nationalistic and social ideas. In his last years, Bharati returned to classical and traditional forms; his language became Sanskritized and highly formal138. One of his last poems, 135

In the crow's dark feathers, Nandalala, your black colour appears, Nandalala. In the leaves of all trees, Nandalala, your divine green is seen, Nandalala. In all the sounds which I hear, Nandalala, it is your song that resounds, Nandalala. When my finger feels the flame, Nandalala, I am thrilled with your sweet touch, Nandalala. 136 The third stanza says: I see in the ocean / Your long winding tresses: / I see in the moon / Your beautiful face: / I see in the world's expanse / The light of your mind: / I see in the march of time / The glow of your Love (Transl. S. PREMA). 137 The message is of a love-lorn maiden to Murukan, the son of the dancer at Tillai. 138 He also employs traditional classical forms: a pancakam in Mahatma. Kantipancakam, a ndnmanimalai in a poem on Vinayaka, a navarattinamalai in PAratamata navarattinamalai.

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Puldkakumari on the goddess of Katayam temple, is written entirely in Sanskrit. There is no doubt that Bharati revived in a decisive way the occasional, solitary poem (tanippdtal) and revomtionalized it both in form and in content. With Ms political comments in verse (such as e.g., on the Russian revolution— though it is not certain which one he had exactly in mind—or on the Belgian bravery vis-d-vis the German occupation) he paved the way for modern and contemporary poets of the type of N. Piccamurtti or C. Mani, Ci. Rakunatan or P. Kalyanacuntaram. In his philosophical and mystical poetry, he showed the road leading to contemporary intellectual poets, and in the field of prosepoetry (vacanak kavitai) he also was the great innovator139. Without S. Bharati and his poetic heritage, much of what contemporary Tamil poetry has achieved would have been quite impossible. In his poetry, the modern, the topical, the temporary and contemporary encounters 'the eternal.' He was the great pathbreaker, and, thus far, none greater than Bharati has appeared in modern Tamil poetry. But some of the contemporary poets are more interesting. 1.3.3. Kavimani Tecikavinayakam Pillai (1876-26. 9. 1954)140 was one of the first Tamil authors to write poetry for children. These verses belong to his best, and he paved the way for the most important children's poet in Tamil, Ala. Valliyappa. His tragicomical satire on the matriarchal system prevalent among the velldla community of Nancilnatn141 had a role to play rather in the social set-up of modern Tamil society than in Tamil literature. Kavimani's kind humour, his concern for women and children, and his supreme command of the venjpd form are the most typical features of his occasional pieces composed in a very simple, flowing language, and influenced, on the one hand, by S. Bharati, on the other by his own translations142. Thus e.g. in a poem entitled 'It ia sweet to live' he echoes his beloved Omar Khayyam: There's cooling shade for the heat of the sun. There's the sweet southern wind. 139 Ci. Rakunatan tried to show that Bharati did not write any prose-poetry, butsimply 'beautiful' poetical prose. But Bharati himself calls such pieces as Kami 'Wind' or Katci 'Spectacle' (which inspired, by the way, N. Piccamurtti to his first attempts at free verse) vacanakavitai, lit. poetry (in) prose, prose-poetry. His prosepoetry was evidently greatly influenced by R. Tagore, but does not at all achieve Tagore's heights. These experiments were induced by Bharati's desire to express himself naturally, forcefully, and effortlessly; in ideology, this prose-poetry (not free verse!) is mostly Vedantic-oriented. Some of it sounds very modern, and indeed opens new vistas in Tamil literature: Mind is the enemy within / And cuts our roots / Parasite Mind alone is the enemy / Let us peck at it / Let us tear it / Come let us hunt in down (Transl. S. PREMA). 140 Born in Terur in Nancilnatu. Received English education, made some research in epigraphy. By profession teacher in a women's college. i« MarumakkalvaJimanmiyam, a satiric kdvya. "* Translated Sir Edwin Arnold's Light of Asia (Aciyajoti) and Omar Khayyam's, quatrains (Umarkayyampa^alkal).


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There's Kamban's poem in my hand and a cup full of wine. There's plenty of divine songs and you, who know how to sing! What other paradise is there but this, this our life to live ?

1.3.4. Namakkal Ve. Iramalinkam Pillai (19. 10. 1888-1972) was proclaimed the official 'national' poet of Madras (Tamilnadu) after 1947, since he took an active part in the Gandhian struggle for Independence. His best work is his charming Autobiography143, not his poems, which lack the necessary multivalence and linguistic stylization of true poetry. One of his songs, though, which begins with the words Kattiyinri rattaminri 'Without knife and blood' became quite famous; it is a message of ahimsd in suggestive rhythm and full of assonances and alliterations, which inspired the masses in their march for freedom. 1.3.5. A very different, and a much greater poet was Ca. Tu. Cuppiramaniya Yoki (S. D. S. Yogi), a tdntric and a devotee of Kali, probably the greatest mystical poet of modern Tamil literature. Apart from translations (Omar Khayyam again), he composed a longish poem on Mary Magdalene, and published a collection of pieces entitled Tamilkkumari patalkal 'The Songs of the Damsel Tamil.' He has not written in abundance, but each of his poems is an important, even striking contribution to Tamil literature, with their suggestions, incantations, employment of connotative meanings of words and phrases, in short, with their use of the reverberative potency of words (Skt. dhvani). Some of his poems are of lasting merit, as e.g. the magnificent vision of time in fifteen stanzas: In the deep expanse of your swelling ocean the years are its waves, months the foaming globes, the days are its bubbles, hours the breaths of air buried in the spume, and the rolling seconds tiny trembling drops. (3) You, indestructible, man has shattered; but every fissure with every break have been coupling and copulating to be joined again. That man does not know. (10) The clouds of past create the torrents of the future. And yet the present, time, windless, drags in sultry heat. (13) Surprisingly enough, Yogi has also composed film-songs; equally surprisingly, he has written a few poems which show deep concern about the utter misery of 143 p o r jjjg Autobiography, cf. § 6.6.8. He also wrote a kdvya entitled Avanum ava]um 'He and She,' and published a collection of poems entitled Tamilan itayam 'The Tamilian's Heart.'

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the impoverished masses in modern Indian society; one of these poems ('Penniless Kanakarattinam') begins Heat hurled headlong glows and burns like a flame, the tar in the long, endless street melts like butter in fire. Cars. And trams. All on the move. Waves of burning heat. There's not a single pipe with running water in that shadeless Madras

and ends His heart in boiling rage, his whole mind on suicide he prowls about through all the streets of the grand city of Madras.

In terms of aesthetic evaluation, Yogi is, besides Bharati and Bharatidasan, the greatest poet of modern Tamil literature. The 'monastic' tradition in modern Tamil poetry is represented mainly by two writers. Cuvami Cuttananta Parati is a yogi who spent many years in Aurobindo's a&ram. He knows a number of languages, has travelled widely, and is the author of a large number of poems, reviews, and of the voluminous Paratacaktimakakaviyam, a blend oT traditionalism and progressivism. He is also responsible for a number of translations. Vipulananta Atikal (1892-1942), a monk of the Ramakrishna Order, is more important as the author of scholarly books144 and as translator (e.g. Tagore's Gitanjali) than as original poet. 1.3.6. When, in 1938, Bharatidasan (Kanaka Cuppurattinam) published the first volume of his poems, he was hailed as the first really great poet after Bharati (K. P. Rajagopalan), as one of the great modern world-poets (T. J. Ranganathan); V. Ramaswamy and Puthumaippittan, both of whom were rather sharp and critical men, accepted Bharatidasan's poetry as exceptionally outstanding. He undoubtedly was the best-known, the most popular, and the most forceful and influential personality in Tamil poetry after the second world-war145. He was born on 29. 4. 1891 in Pondicherry and died on 21. 3. 1964 in Madras. By profession a teacher of Tamil, he had imbibed the French cultural and political atmosphere of Pondicherry, but soon adopted the anti-Brahman and anti-Hindi struggle as his own and has in fact become the bard of the Dravidian movement. He was, to some extent, influenced by Bharati whom he knew personally. However, unlike Bharati, he tried to revive the rich classical heritage in its i*4 Very useful is his Yalnul on Tamil music, Tanjore 1947. He was very active as 145 teacher at the universities of Ceylon and Annamalai. A fine bon mot of Curata is quoted in Tipam, Jan. 1972, p. 8 by Rajentiran: "There was only one Bharatidasan ('slave of Bharati'). But there are many slaves of Bharatidasan."


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entirety, in form and content, revolting against the more recent past. Also unlike Bharati, he was in most of his works violently antireligious; and, again quite contrary to Bharati's vision of one free united India, Bharatidasan became in many of his poems a fierce propagandist of Dravidian separatism. Though he has composed dozens of short solitary poems (collected and published in Paratitacan kavitaikal, 1938-1955, 3 vols., Alakin cirippu 'The Smile of Beauty,' 1940, Katal ninaivukal 'Thoughts about Love,' 1944, Tamiliyakkam 'The Tamil Movement,' 1945, Amaiti 'Peace,' 1946, Icai amutu 'The Nectar of Songs,' 2 vols., Tenaruvi 'The Honeyed Waterfall,' etc.), his most important contributions comprise narrative poetry, epic and dramatic poems146—and, in fact, there is a strong dramatic and narrative element even in his short solitary pieces. He says, in a poem entitled Tamilpperu 'The Tamil Fortune,' that he has chosen rather to sing about the suffering Tamils than about the beauties of nature since his people in Tamilnadu "were stuporous in their sufferings." The solution for their troubles consists in removing social and economic evils and their root-causes: Aryan and Brahman domination over the Tamils, and religion, its main tool. A better society should be built on the model of the glorious, secular, un-Aryan past of Tamilnadu. The basic prerequisite is an ardent, absolute love of Tamil which is, for Bharatidasan, the very essence of his being, his life, for which he would not hesitate to sacrifice everything, even his flesh and blood. Like moonlight and the sky, like the warrior and his sharp sword, like the beautiful blossom and its fragranoe, like the crocodile-shaped lute and its music, like the eye and its lustre, so is my sweet Tamil and I.

Beyond the borders of Tamilnadu is the land of the Dravidians. If a stranger asked me, what was the name of my tribe, an inexpressible joy would arise in my heart. "I am a Dravidian," I'd say, and my tongue would be all honey, and my pride and glory would reach the skies. Brahmins, their rituals, their religion, their gods, and the very idea of god should be removed. In one poem (Katavul maraintar) god disappears when asked the following question by the poet: "You honourable god—show me, who is the sculptor that made you ?" In the same poem Bharatidasan says: He looked at me and kept repeating: "I am God. I am God." "Some say that you don't exist. Some say that you do. I don't care about god." In a similar poem ('God has a tail') Bharatidasan unfolds his vision of religion in this series of forceful metaphors: 148 Cf. § 4.6.3.

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God invisible is, in fact, a black monkey. A cloddy bangle hangs on the tail of the ape. And an ass called Religion rocks in that ring to and fro. And in the claws of the tail of that useless ass hangs a miserable vagabond of a bat— the hateful system of the castes . . .

And Bharatidasan proclaims his simple thesis against the thesis of the 'bellystuffing theist:' cut off the tail of that monkey-god before he burns and scorches the earth. From the classical ipre-bhakti literature he takes not only some themes and motifs, but similes, diction, and metric form. Some of his songs and poems in Icai amutu, Tenaruvi, and other collections, are direct adaptations of bardic poetry (e.g. of Narrinai 284, Kuruntokai 61.2-6), some are simplified paraphrases of classical poems (e.g. of Kuruntokai 186, 189); he also directly quotes from the Tirukkural. His Manimekalaivenpa and Kannakipuratcikkappiyam are modified versions of the two epics. He often uses classical metres (akaval etc.). Many poems are replete with pathos, their diction is consciously 'purified' and the vocabulary classical. To his own poems, he has frequently assigned the tinai (situation) and the turai (theme) of classical poetry of the alcam and puram genres. The poems range from lyrical pieces on love and the beauty of nature through narrative poems with 'revolutionary' message147 to radical political songs and propagandist harangues. Thus he has become a very controversial poet of many works of uneven and problematic quality. Unfortunately, his missionary zeal gets the upper hand and often, especially in later years, stifles the poet in him148. And that is the great tragedy of Bharatidasan, though he would have probably not admitted it (or would he ? he certainly was not a happy man): this true master of modern Tamil uses his powerful and striking imagery in the service of propaganda and political oratory, and many of his poems become a series of hollow slogans. 1.3.7. Mutiyaracan (Ke. Es. Turairacu), professor of Tamil in a high school at Karaikkuti, is a romantic revivalist who writes poems in traditional metres and classical diction, singing about the beauties of nature; noble feelings, some ethical preaching, and occasional apt images are characteristic of his poetry149. Vanitacan (Etiracu Arafikacami), a French-educated student of Bharatidasan, by profession a Tamil teacher in Pondicherry, is another romantic poet; he was hailed as a direct successor of Bharati and Bharatidasan, even as a Tamil 147

He got the title puratcikkavi 'the poet of revolt.' "8 Cf. S. J. GUNASEGARAM, The Poet of Revolt, TC 8 (1959) 71-80; CALAI ILANTIRAIYAN, Paratitacan kavitai, in Putiya tamilk kavitai, Madras 1966, 71—87; L*. NANNITHAMBY, Traces of Earlier Literatures in the Poetical Works of Bharati Dasan, Proceedings of the First International Conference-Seminar of Tamil Studies, II, 1969, 278-87. 149 Collection of songs entitled Kaviyappavai; two slender volumes of poems.


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Tagore, which is a gross exaggeration. His poems are pleasant pictures of nature in choice diction of the classical type with a few beautiful images, though his ideology is occasionally very progressive, and might even be termed leftist humanism150. The well-known short-story writer Ki. Va. Jakannatan, a student of U. V. Swaminatha Aiyar and editor of the popular literary monthly Kalaimakal, has also published a number of poems in a collection entitled Mekamantalam 'The Region of Clouds.' Ala. Valliyappa is well-known as the children's poet (kulantaik kavinar). His poems are not only for children, but also about children, composed in a very simple, sweet language, and full of gentle pathos, teaching the 'good traditional' values151. 1.3.8. Ma. P. Periyacamit Turan, an eminent scholar, discoverer and editor of Bharati's unknown poems and prose-pieces152, chief editor of the Tamil Encyclopaedia, and a well-known short story writer and dramatist, is also a sensitive poet of Tamil country-life, inspired by folk-songs and folk-stories. Mi. Pa. Comacuntaram (born 1921), better known under his nom de plume Somu, is an educated poet and prosateur, who has been active in broadcasting as well as a keen student of art, editor of the well-known journal Kalki, and short-story writer and novelist153. He has received a number of literary awards, one of them for a collection of poems entitled Ilavenil 'Early Summer' (1948). The rhythm of his poems is inspired by medieval poetry, by Ramalinga, Bharati and the folk-songs. However, he also has a keen sense of humour and a sharp eye for contemporary life. In a poem about London he says: And Piccadilly Circus— a pakka shopping centre, I'd say! The abundance of things they sell there— There's not a thing they wouldn't sell! I don't really know Soho— a corner with a crore of universal belles. There are there many additional oho's which I leave better to your fancy's swells!

The most interesting feature of Kottamankalam Cuppu's poems is the fact that he has introduced a truly colloquial, spoken, even vulgar, language into his poetry which deals with the simple life of the masses (without preaching any 150

Collections of poems Eliloviyam (1954), Ko^imullai, Inpa ilakkiyam, Tamilacci, To^uvanam. 151 The best-known collection is Malarum ujjam 'Blossoming Heart.' 152 Paratittamil, Cennai 1963 (2nd ed.). Cf. also E i . A. PATMANAPAN (ed.), Parati putaiyal, 2 vols., Madras 1958, 1959. 153 Born in Tirunelveli. Studied Western art, lived in England. In 1961 received a prize of the Madras Government for Kelatakanam (collection of short stories), in 1963 the Sahitya Akademi prize for his travelogue Akkaraiccimaiyil. Apart from Ilavenil (1948), his poems were collected in Manapparavai 'The Bird of Mind' (1965).

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definite political ideology, though). His long narrative poems, too 154 , are composed in the form and diction of rough folk-songs. He is one of the popular writers of film-songs. To give an instance of his diction: I don't understand nothin', mum— I don't understand nothin' of the great show what goes on in the world, mum When a big man tells a lie he'll get into the papers When a small man tells a lie he'll get into jail When the educated fuck it'll be called love When a lout from a village has a go they'll say it's a sin (From Puriyatavanpattu 'The Song of the One who doesn't understand') Kampatacan (Rajappa) is a left-oriented poet who sees in sharp contours the life of the working classes; for him, the thing worth while singing about is the hard work of the masses which creates material values, and the injustice which the poor have to suffer in capitalist society. There is a remedy for all kinds of fatigue; but there is no appeasement of the hunger, the thirst, the worries, the desires of beggars and exploited workers155. In 1959, premature death snatched away the 29-year old people's bard, Pattukkottai Kalyanacuntaram, who has had seventeen different jobs (peasant, cowherd, miner, driver, dancer, vendor, actor etc.) but only one real profession —poetry, inspired, in its form and language, by Tamil folk-songs, in its sujets by the life of villagers and workers, and in ideology by revolutionary Marxism. As poetry, judged by purely literary criteria, his songs are not much more than versified leftist slogans—with the exception of the simple idyllic pictures of village life, composed on the model of folk-songs. Another premature loss in the field of modern poetry was Tamiloli, a truly gifted, and exceptionally sensitive poet, whose powerful long poem Virayi on Harijans and untouchability, and another poem entitled 'Kannappan's Parrots,' manifest a great beauty coupled with extraordinary skill, a promise of greater things to come, unfortunately unfulfilled. 1.3.9. There is a host of modern and contemporary poets who should at least be mentioned by name: Kavi Ka. Mu. Serippu (Sherifu, Sharif), a well-known author of film lyrics; Es. Kantacami alias Turaivan, the author of a kdvya on Gandhi; Je. Tankavelu alias Curapi, the author of many songs with patriotic feelings and socialist leanings; Ra. Ayyacami, Ka. Appalinkam alias Kalaivanan 156 , Ke. Pi. Kanapati (Maran), the humorist Pe. Ko. Cuntararajan alias 154

Kantimakankatai 'The Story of Mahatma Gandhi,' Paratiyarcarittiram 'The Life of Bharati' etc. 155 Collection of poems Arunotayam 'The Dawn.' 156 A kdvya on Gandhi; collections of poems: Jivanantam, Nivetanam, Manaccimil.


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Citti, Vi. Ra. Rajakopalan (Calivahanan) who has paraphrased in verse the stories of Pancatantra, Ke. Ke. Naracimman alias Cakticaranan, Vidvan Vi. Turaicami, Kuyilan, Murukaiyan and Navarkuliyur Nataracan, both from Ceylon, Tamilalakan, En. Es. Citanaparam, the author of popular radio songs, Mu. Annamalai, Cami Palaniyappan, the well-known dramatist Puttaneri Ra. Cuppiramaniyan, K5vai Ci. E. Ayyamuttu. One of the truly gifted modern poets is the leftist Ke. Ci. Es. Arunacalam, whose collection Kavitai en kaival 'Poetry is my sword' contains some very good pieces. One of the most interesting contemporary poets is Na. Kamaracan157; exceptionally gifted and intelligent, he stands ideologically on the socialist platform, though, unlike so many of his comrades, he does not produce versified harangues but true poetry. In a longish poem entitled 'We are just ordinary people' he says: You and me . . . The ultimate off-shoots of the middle classes Two confused swoons in the evening of the first day of the month Friends in the train of wages You are no Menaka But I am Visvamitra You and me . . . Camels carrying children in the children's park of the Marina I am the lover for your bed-time We are just ordinary people, sweetheart We . . . are not asleep nor are we awake just dumb dreams

While Kamaracan does not hesitate to use many Sanskrit loanwords (and was attacked for this), Turai. Manikkam is one of the most ardent adherents of linguistic purism158. A very different modern poet of the older generation is the scholarly A. Cinivaca Rakavan (A. Srinivasa Raghavan) who, in addition to his rich essay istic writings, criticism, translations (undoubtedly the best translator of Bharati's and Kampan's poetry into English), one-act plays etc., published a few interesting poems of his own under the nom de plume Nanal159. 1.3.10. Apart from Ke. Ci. Es. Arunacalam, the other Tamil Marxist poets are not very distinguished in terms of literary evaluation of their works: Jlva 157

KaruppumalarkaJ 'Black Blossoms,' Curiyakanti 'Sunshine.' Cf. his kdvya Aiyai composed in tanittamil 'Tamil only' diction. 189 He is the editor of English renderings of Bharati's poems entitled The Voice of a Poet, Calcutta 1951. The majority of the translations are his. Also the author of an outstanding, critical study on the beginnings of Tamil modern poetry (Oru nurrantut tamil kavitai, Coimbatore 1970) in which he deals with the works of Gopalakrishna Bharati, Ramalinga Svami, H. A. Krishna Pillai, Vetanayakam Pillai and S. Bharati. I gladly admit my great indebtedness to this book. 158

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and Ve. Na. Tirumurtti were not really true poets at all; and To. Mu. Citampara Rakunatan, who has been writing and publishing poetry under the pen-name Tiruccirrampalak Kavirayar is definitely a better story-teller and essayist than poet. His most important achievement in the field of poetry is his excellent edition of Putumaippittan's free-verse poems (1954) with a thought-provoking introduction and valuable notes160. In this introduction, he points out that Putumaippittan was among the first to write, in Tamil, prose-poetry or vacanakkavitai, i.e. poetry in prose, which he obviously equals with free verse (ilaku kavitai). As we shall see in a moment, we would nowadays distinguish between the two and maintain that Putumaippittan's poems are written as vers libre, free verse, but not as prose-poems. Among the five or six men161 who have dealt with the problems of modern Tamil prosody including the questions of vers libre and of poetry in prose in their discussion, I would tend to agree with M. Rajentiran (Mira)—himself a very promising poet—in making a sharp distinction between vacana kavitai or 'prose poetry,' and (i)laku kavitai (alias cuyeccakavitai, or kattarra kavitai) or free verse. These two are opposed to the 'traditional poetry' or marapukkavitai. Within the context of Tamil, prose-poems (vacana kavitai) need not have the basic prosodic features of etukai (assonance, initial rhyme) and monai (alliteration), and they are not and should not be bound by any of the traditional rhythmic patterns. Free verse (ilaku kavitai), on the other hand, operates in a lesser or greater degree with the alliterations and assonances, and frequently within stanzaic structures, but does not follow the basic traditional metrical patterns of Tamil poetry. Putumaippittan's poems are written typically in free verse, while Bharati has written some prose-poetry162. To exemplify the difference, here is Putumaippittan's poem 'God has an eye' which begins as follows: God indeed has an eye, an eye to set fire; he has the crescent moon on his head— and burning embers in his hand! (1) And when he lifts his leg to dance, with Ganga in his locks, who will forget that he holds in his hand his murdering axe! 160


Putumaippittan kavitaika], Star Publications, Madras 1954. N. Piceamurtti and Rakunatan, Ci. Cu. Cellappa and Ka. Na. Cuppiramaniyam, Celvam and MI. Rajentiran. 162 So has, e.g., Bharatidasan (in his Amaiti 'Peace', 1946), or Kannatacan (e.g. Poyvarukiren 'Good-bye'); there is prose-poetry also in Kamaracan's 'Black Blossoms,' and in Mi. Rajentiran's own very interesting collection 'Dreams + Fantasies = Letters.' 163 According to Rakunatan, this poem is akin to a medieval quatrain by Kajamekam with similar message of warning about God's dangerousness. Putumaippittan (1906-1948) had a most influential role to play in the development of Tamil prose (cf. § 6.5.4). However, the three decades or so of poems he left show that he was also an original and gifted poet. 161


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The whole poem is composed in seven quatrains; there occur almost entirely regular assonances (etukai) in the Tamil original, and there are a few alliterations (monai); what is absent is any regular prosodic structure in terms of any accepted Tamil metre. Compare with this poem in vers libre Bharati's prose-poem no. 7: The snake-catcher plays the flute. Was the song born in the flute ? Was it born in its hollow ? Was it born in the breath of the snake-catcher ? It was born in his heart; it came out through the flute. The heart alone does not generate sound. The flute alone does not create songs. The heart itself does not approach the flute. The heart clings to the breath. The breath approaches the flute. The flute sings. This is the sport of Sakti.

Bharati's prose-poems (like the prose-poems of L. S. Ramamirtham, or Mira, to quote some contemporary instances) have a rhythm and a structure of their own which is different from the rhythm and the structure of ordinary prose. 1.3.11. The two most popular poets of today's Tamilnadu are undoubtedly Curata and Kannatacan. Curata is the nom de plume of IracakSpalan from Palaiyanur (Tanjore Distr.). His poems are typical for apt similes, pleasant diction, great skill in versification. He is well aware of this skill, and of his popularity164. To a great extent his popularity is due to kdmarasa or the erotic flavour which pervades almost all his poems in the fashion of late medieval erotic genres (the socalled cirrilakkiyankal). This eroticism165 is present in his collections 'Untouched Youth' (Totatavalipam), 'Lip on Lip' (Utattil utatu), but in 'Nectar and Honey' (Amutum tenum) it is only the sex-play that counts. Kannatacan (an assumed name for Muttaiya, born 1926), the editor of Tenral, and the author of many long narrative poems, became most popular as "the poet of the silver screen," and as the author of hundreds of occasional verses in which he would comment on political issues, often with disastrous lack of any principles: thus he would for instance both scold and praise Nehru, and, in fact, change sides so that an adherent of Kamaraj became an admirer of Karunanidhi. He is very popular; in a way, almost a folk poet, a poet of the masses who know his songs from the innumerable films which they enjoy so much. He entered literature in 1944; since then he must have composed well over a thousand poems, many of them to be set to music (icaippdtal), some of them, Bharatidasan-like, adaptations of classical poetry (of Narrinai 130, Muttollayiram 38, 103 etc.) or classical sujets (Matavi, etc.). More topical are those which were written in praise of important political and cultural figures (e.g. on the death of the proletarian bard Pattukkottai Kalyanacuntaram; or on the death of the great scholar Dr. Somasundara Bharati; or to praise the late 164 In one of his poems he says: "I won't write songs without greatness; there is a crowd of those who will be my epigons." 165 Sometimes there is some wit (of doubtful taste) illuminating this erotic atmosphere, e.g. in an invective against untouchability, since "we, men and women, were born to touch."

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Annadurai, the then chief-minister of Tamilnadu and leader of the DMK party) and as comments on important events (most of them connected with political evolution in Madras over the period before and after the DMK's ascendency to power). Kannatacan has been a passionate adversary of Hindi: for him, Hindi is a demonness (peyppen) to be driven away, a bitch to be killed. However, there are among his poems, too, touching songs about children, skillful poems on love, and, lately, Kannatacan, disillusioned with all ideologies, has become what has been termed the poet of questions166. In a poem entitled En 'Why' he asks: And thus millions have disappeared; and yet, among those millions, in all those aeons of time within the history of this earth, standing like lasting words— the steps of stone— a few will ever be; while others become fantasy and mirages of summer heat. And why ?

It is in these poems that Kannatacan, the author of popular, pleasing, and a little cheap folk-songs and political slogans, reveals himself as a true poet; in fact, as one of the most genuine modern poets. There There There There

are mirages one may see but not reach. are spinsters who have beauty but no life. are fruits of this soil that one cannot eat. are thoughts in the mind which one can't catch in words.

And he concludes: "So are we born on earth, just to live among questions." 1.3.12. Most of the modern Tamil poets before roughly 1959 wrote either on classical and traditional sujets, themes and motifs in rather traditional diction and in a kind of language sanctioned by centuries of poetic usage (like Mutiyaracan or Vanitacan), or on modern, frequently revolutionary subjects and very contemporary, often politically and socially relevant themes, but in the same classicist and traditional diction (like e.g. Bharatidasan). Tiruloka Citaram is a poet who applied modern though very polished diction, and even some free-verse experimental structures, to very traditional, orthodox subjects and motifs. Apart from a lengthy poem called Kantaruvakanam 'The Gandharva Garden' (originally broadcast by the Tiruchi radio station) he published a slender but important volume of poems (1967) and prepared a selection of modern Tamil poetry written by 55 authors, under the title Pututtamilk kavimalarkal (1957). Tiruloka Citaram is a well-educated and sophisticated poet. His thinking is rooted in the Upanisads, but is obviously influenced by Platonism, by Francis Thompson, and some other Western poets and thinkers. 166 H. JESTJI>ASAN, The Achievement of Modern Tamil Literature, Religion and Society. Bangalore 1965.


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Like T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound, Citaram is a mystic poet: poetry is a window of the soul, and a specific way how to comprehend and express the mysteries of the universe; a poet is a seer, a sage; to compose poetry means to perform penance (tavam), to praise the divine, to philosophise. Cltaram created a few very apt metaphors in his poems, which are never dull and never stale: the sun is the bridegroom destroying earthly darkness; the poet speaks of the two reins of shadow and light; and he "will attack the pinnacle of the gopura groping for the radiating sky like a pointing finger." But why setting fire to the two wooden blocks which have seen so much rain, so much heat in the wood ? He spilled honeyed heat and laughed glowing ripe in the lustre of life, and increased. But why did you rouse the truth which was deep, which was soundly asleep in that pair of hearts ? The two logs of wood are tender and ripe, ablaze with pure love—and placed to be charred.157 (Virakum tlyum 'Fuel and fire' in Kantaruvakanam, p. 138)

1.3.13. Deep and decisive changes took place in modern Tamil poetry within the decade 1930-40, but it took almost another twenty years for them to ripen into the first significant fruits. The very roots of these changes—as almost everything in modern Tamil poetry—may be found in S. Bharati's prose-poems as well as in a few stray poems of his which are quite striking in their content. After Bharati, it was the versatile Putumaippittan who deviated from traditional poetry in his free-verse experiments. K. P. Rajagopalan (1902-1944) died too young to exert any lasting influence on these developments. But his close friend, the distinguished short-story writer Na. Piccamurtti (N. Pichamurti, born 15. 8. 1900), has carried the experimental fires of the Thirties to the postwar period. In the introduction to his recent collection Kuyilin curuti 'The Cuckoo's Key-note' (1969) he discusses his developments as a poet: he was drawn to modern poetic forms after reading Walt Whitman, and S. Bharati's prose-poem Katci. Traditional prosody became like fetters to him (yappu = vilanlcu); in his desire to write uninhibitedly and with ease about everyday life, and to introduce the very recent limits of Western poetry, he began writing, since about 1934, free-verse and prose-poetry, mainly under the pseudonym Piksu. At first his poems were 'tame' enough, and indeed strongly influenced by Bharati's and Whitman's vision of nature; but they had an attractive freshness of their own : 167 There are some suggestive overtones in this poem based on the polysemy of such words as tecu which means both lustre and seminal fluid (uyirttecu is thus 'lustre of life' as well as 'life-giving fluid'), and tilai meaning both 'increase' and 'copulate.' T. N. RAMACCANTIRAN, in his introduction to Cltaram's anthology Kantaruvakanam (1967) points to some affinities in similes and metaphors between the Tamil poet and Francis Thompson, Broome, T. S. Eliot. Some of the parallels are striking; but they almost certainly are not a proof of direct influence, rather of deep fundamental affinity between Cltaram and these Western poets.

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Have you seen the wonder ? Have you heard the wonder The dance that chanced in the dead of night ? The clouds rolled down flock on flock The clouds unfolded like leaves like rocks


The year 1959 may be considered as a critical moment in the development of 'new poetry' (putukkavitai) in Tamil. In this year, C. S. Chellappa (Ci. Cu. Cellappa, born 1912), himself a significant prose-writer and a poet, and one of the two most unorthodox and modern-oriented literary critics, founded his review Eluttu 'Writing' which opened its pages to everything new and creative. In its issue no. 53, Piccamurtti published his Valittunai 'Fellow-traveller,' which together with his Kattuvattu 'Wild Duck,' and Pettikkatai Naranan 'Petty Shopkeeper Naranan' (publ. in the 1st issue of Eluttu in January, 1959) marked the real beginning of 'new poetry' in Tamil. Putukkuralkal 'New Voices,' a path-breaking, all-important anthology of poems, was published by C. S. Chellappa in Madras in 1962. Besides five poems by Piccamurtti and K. P. Rajagopalan, it contains poems composed only between 1959-62, altogether 63 pieces by 24 poets, a selection made out of about 200 pieces published on the pages of Eluttu till then. It also contains Piccamurtti's Piikkari 'Flower-girl,' part two of which begins as follows: In the darkness of rain In the streets No bird Not even a fly flying. The clouds Grew heavy. The fish of rain Jumped. Laughing lightning Set clouds afire. Beautiful women, Frightened and trembling, Assembled near the fire Embracing its warmth.

Piccamurtti's recent poem 'The Fox-Hole' (Narippallam) is basically a political poem which, as he himself says168, grows out of the 'seminal symbol' of the well-known children's play in the river bed of the Kaviri river when dry in Summer. The poem was the result of Piccamurtti's feelings about India "placed in unexpected situations by seemingly friendly countries." When the evening crept in and the slumbering ford of the Kaviri fading in swoon scorched by the heat stirred opening its eyes, when the leaves with drowsy faces 168 Personal communication dated July 1st, 1972.


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shut their eyes and went to sleep, when the red-haired reeds rustled in the South wind, when the sweet invitation to idle pleasures spread everywhere around, we walked on the sands of the Kaviri. Pleasure and delight. But then, all of a sudden, like a clap of Summer thunder one of my legs—bang!— right in the fox-hole! It was a trick contrived in the sand by digging a hole and setting the stems and spreading the sand— "Who was the traitor ? Was it you, or you ? Oh no, it was you! I tried to find out the truth. They laugh as I fall into the hole— is it just ? As the evening grew ripe the trap to catch the elephants opened in my mind's eye. Even though they went hand in hand, village to village, city to city, land to land— they're fox-holes! The cloth spread to walk on is the red cloth of tricks and deceits. But, in fact, hatred will devour itself. Fraud and deceit will bear no fruit, I hope. We shall go on and won't stop. In the South wind, when the green banners of reed danced, and the flute sang, we went on. The authors, most of them young, whose poems were published in Chellappa's anthology, wanted to dissociate themselves from stock phrases and stock content, as well as from the formulas prescribed by traditional forms. They refused the explicativeness and verbosity of medieval poetry. They refused to remain limited to the traditional, conventional stuff of the Indian poet: love, nature, moralizing, and panegyric. They also ceased to use the alamkdra, the ornamentation, to the extent, and in the same manner and function, as it had been used in traditional poetry. They mostly disregarded traditional prosodic structures, and utilized in a new way the basic prosodic properties of Tamil, though traditional metres like alcaval, vanci, venpd etc. did not cease to be used by them. There was and is a great amount of experimentation with

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language and form of poetry, based on intellection, and on some acquaintance with modern English, American, French, German, Russian and Japanese poetry. There is an intentional distortion of language just like it is practiced by the poets of the Hindi nayi kavitd 'new poetry' movement. There is much imitation of the provoking style of modern Western lyrical poetry. Most importantly, there is a preoccupation with quite contemporary matters and the inclusion of new subjects and themes hitherto ignored. If traditional subjects are handled (like, say, describing a moonlit landscape) they are treated from a new, nontraditional angle. The 'new poetry' movement in Tamil has been fiercely attacked from various quarters, chiefly for its apparent linguistic incomprehensibility and seeming thematic unintelligibility, and for its radical break with the traditional; one of the assailants was K. Alagiriswamy, the well-known conservative prosaist, another S. Raghunathan, the equally well-known Marxist writer and critic. Eluttu 43 published another important poem of the new kind, C. Mani's (Ci. Mani) Narakam 'Hell,' a true mile-stone in modern Tamil poetry. The minor theme—of an unfulfilled relationship between man and woman—is embedded within the major theme of corruption in the city (nakaram). Raw naturalism and surrealism blend in Mani's pessimistic and cynical poem of 334 lines; there is not much rhetoric, but there is powerful hyperbolic abbreviation and lively phantasy in his description of the hellish city of Madras169. Two of Mani's recent poems manifest the two greatest achievements of his: one, the dark symbolism of his modern-oriented stanzas, another the severe classicism he is capable of. Inside: Outside I woke up with the feeling that I escaped. I looked around: the sky was Up above; tremendous darkness all around. The walls, the ceiling were gone. There were roads, too, running on all sides. An open plain, a void—this is not my room: my mind jumped for a while on this thought. I I I I I

walked west—and was hit by a wall. walked south—and was hit by a wall. walked north—and was hit by a wall. walked east—and was hit by a wall. jumped up—and was hit by the roof.

(Natai, 5, 1969)

The second poem is Mani's adaptation of two classical songs, Kuruntokai 136 and 204 by a bardic poet (Milaipperun Kantan; both begin with the words kdmam kdma menpa kdmam 'They say love, love; love is . . .'). 169 For short extracts of Mam's Narakam, cf. pp. 320-1.


The Smile of Murugan,


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Love They say love, love. Love is not malady or fury. Rather a stream of water flowing to a ford; the light of moon bestowing heaven on the life eager on death.

(Natai, 1, 1968)

Besides Chellappa, it is mainly Ka. Na. Cupramanyam (K. N. Subrahmanyam) who is the theoretician of modern Tamil prose and poetry. This widelyread and extraordinary sarcastic critic who speaks with equal ease about Fielding, Thackerey, Dickens, Swift, Cervantes, Tolstoy, T. Mann, T. S. Eliot, E. Pound, J. Joyce, Rilke, Kafka and Freud, as about classical Tamil poetry, Sanskrit grammar, and modern Tamil novel, and is something of a controversial figure and a fright for mediocre entertainers in the field of writing, is also a poet of sharp, sagacious, terse stanzas like the following: Ascent and descent Lizard is also a crocodile Grass is also bamboo Man is also god God is also man Bamboo is also a grass Crocodile is also a lizard


Tarmu Civaramu (Dharmu Sivaramu) is the pseudonym of a Ceylonese poet who first published in Eluttu and became rather well-known for his surrealistic sensitivity and strong sense of form170. His own name is Tarmu Arup Civaram; he lives now in Madras and is composing a novel. The following philosophical poem was published in July, 1972: Old age The hunger of the body left me; it's gone. My life grows weary. In the lines of fate a cut—seven and a half— the final portion. I seek the soul. The Vedas which sing about the soul. Atma, the soul, that which goes beyond duality. Duality: Opposition. That which is beyond reach: the space beyond. Weakness, Weakness. Moss of darkness covers the eyes, tottering, staggering tat tvam Four of his poems may be found in ZVEUEBIL, The Smile or Murugan, pp. 321-2.

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Atma, Self, you, who go beyond duality, Pish! The hunger of the body, left alone, is a false hunger. The hunger of the soul alone remained. This, too, a false hunger, a hungry lie left, a new lie. I bow to the duality: In you, opposition of two, I take refuge.

It is difficult to make choices among the more recent groups of the 'new poets': there is the intellectually inclined T. K. Turaicami171, there is the witty V. Mali with his puns and sometimes rather bizarre experiments172, there is S Ramaswami, a very gifted prosaist173, and others who were represented on the pages of Chellappa's revue and in the anthology New Voices. Hari Srinivasan's Moon-shreds (1968)17* is a lovely recent piece: The skies rained Mud in the footprints Holes of hoofs and Wabbling water Sherd of Moon Moon Shreds Pulverized by the soles of feet In the skies Moon

There is the very promising, highly gifted Nanakkuttan who seems to be much preoccupied with Tamil as such; witness the following two stanzas of his: A great many poets forced Tamil, fettered, pushing it inside a cave, blindfolding everyone's eyes with akam and puram and KuraJ and Cilampu. Fo me, too, Tamil is my very breath. But I don't let it breathe down others'necks.

(Oct. 1970)

(Sept. 1972)

This is a far cry from the reverent and idolizing attitude of Bharatidasan and Kannatacan. Another contemporary poet says on the same theme: m 172 173 i7i

Cf. Cf. Of. Cf.


Smile of Murugan, p. 323. Smile of Murugan, pp. 333-4. Smile of Murugan, pp. 318-19. The Smile of Murugan, p. 333.

84 A blind bird fluttering in the darkness fainted and fell. I took it and saw that it was— Tamil.

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Nefcumifcal, in Kacafcatapara, Febr. 1973

Recently (1973) a handsome collection of Nanakkuttan's poems has appeared in Madras, entitled Anru veru kilamai 'That Day the Other Week.' 1.3.14. Among the younger generation of well-established 'new poets,' the two who are probably most talented and influential are T. S. Venugopalan and S. Vaidheeswaran. Ti. Co. Venukopalan (born Nov. 7, 1929) is a teacher and engineer by profession; he began writing poems in 1944, stopped in 1957, and began again after 1959 to try his hand at the new forms, under the decisive influence of Chellappa's Eluttu and Piccamurtti's poetry175. He tends to use simple common words, his similes and metaphors are drawn from things and events which he knows directly and intimately; he shuns modern 'isms' as much as traditional orthodoxy. His poems are usually the result of his study of the behaviour and reactions of men: rather an inner search than an external description176. A 'picture Scram, dog! The word burst like a bark The heart was beating fast The eyes reddened Within the mind a picture crawled The dog painted with its tail-brush a leprous beggar as a human

(1970, trans, by the author and by KVZ)

One and the same A bundle of soiled clothes or bleached and clean garments well-folded: both merely a burden for the donkey (1970, transl. by the author and by KVZ) Es. Vaitisvaran177 (born Sept. 22, 1935) published a collection of short poems entitled Utayanilal 'The Shadow of Sunrise' (1970) which comprises 62 poems, 175 He is at present a teacher in the Manipal Engineering College. In a personal communication (July 14, 1972) he writes: "Writing is a form of relaxation and not a profession or full time occupation to me . . . my output is meagre . . . I have hardly written about sixty pieces in all these twelve years." i?« Six of his poems may be found in ZVELEBIL, The Smile of Murugan, pp. ;327-30. IT? Six of his poems may be found in ZVELEBLL, The Smile of Murugan, pp. 323-6.

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some of which are very forcible and very original visions of nature; others are experimental trifles, aphorisms, epigrammatic jokes, never dull, always exciting. This collection was justly acclaimed—together with poems by Kannatacan (SJanamalika), Na. Kamaracan (Karuppu malarkal) and Mira—as the best of what was published in the field of Tamil poetry between 1967-1971. There is a wonderful intimacy about Vaidheeswaran's poems, and irony mixed with deep reflection, as well as definite sense of form. Negatimst

After sundown, during a black-out, close to the side-walk they stood, transfixed and dull— I saw them— those towering crosses of grey. At their feet were famished little hands desperately on the edge to pelt the crosses with stones as to evoke some pity whilst a winking white of a face looked out from above. But it must go, ' . and it will hide behind a cloud. (1970, transl. by the author and by KVZ) Scribbler

The Sun stretched out its arms like a lazy fellow, and with its fiery fingers scratched and scribbled on the Earth. But the Moon, unblushing and cool, spread open her white dress and daubed the Earth with her soft light.


1.3.15. Among the most recent arrivals on the scene of modern Tamil poetry178 the two young men who must be mentioned are Shanmugam Subbiah and Meera. Sanmukam Cuppaiya made his debut on the pages of Kuruksetram, a collection of essays, stories, and poetry (1968) published by a group of Tamil 178 Strict limitation of space forces me to make a restricted selection, though I am aware that something should be said e. g. about such poets as Kuruvikkarampai Canmukam and his collection Cennel vayalkaj 'Fields of Red Rice' (1972), about the well-established socialist Ku. Cinnappa Parati, about Tamilalakan, Airavatam, Kalapriya and others.


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authors belonging to the Trivandrum region. Cuppaiya's contribution consisted of 43 brief poems—straightforward, pithy, significant comments on everyday life. In fact, Cuppaiya may be described as the poet of familiar things and of ordinary life. The terseness of his diction, the intelligence of his comments, and the force with which he handles words, alliterations and assonances, is truly admirable. Earthen fireplace

In its mouth in a pan glowing on an old palmyra stem fried a few dried salt-fish. Outside in the sun fried a few dried salt-fish to eat them.

In 1972, he published a collection of 25 lovely poems for children entitled Kannan en tampi 'My little brother Kannan.' Mira is the pen-name under which Mi. Racentiran published, in 1971, his collection of prose-poetry entitled Kanavukal + karpanaikal = kakitankal 'Dreams + Phantasies = Letters.' The 72 poems of this book make a delightful reading. Like in Cuppaiya's case, the diction is simple, the language very contemporary, even ordinary, though smooth. But under the surface of seeming simplicity there is much true poetry and more than just skill: When you came I thought you were going to write a preface to my life; but you have come to write an afterword. Or, consider this intimate and meaningful metaphor: Look at my insipid youth— a mere curds without butter gathered after churning.

These are not whole poems —just scraps taken at random; Mira deserves very careful watching since he is a great promise. It is very true that, to a great extent, the best things in Tamil poetry are to be found among the single-stanza poems which tend to be balanced, succint, to have a great unity and force, and which make a quick appeal to modern Western readers. In spite of this fact, it has remained, almost right up to the present time, the symbol of status and prestige of every poet who wishes to be considered 'great,' to compose a kdvya, an epic, a long narrative poem on some grave and imposing topic.

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In conclusion of this chapter one must stress the important function and the great merit of literary journals—some of them almost permanent, some of them rather ephemeral and short-lived—like Eluttu (unfortunately defunct), Natai (defunct), Kacatatapara (defunct), Tamarai, Kanaiyali, Tipam, Ahk, Nulakam (reviews). Without these journals, the giant strides which Tamil poetry has taken in recent years would have been impossible. The same is true about such outstanding publishing houses as Vacakar vattam alias Bookventure and Kalainan patippakam in Madras, or Minatci Puttaka Nilaiyam in Maturai.


2.0. By the literature of devotion we understand the religious hymns composed in Tamil since about the sixth century A. D. until the present time, under the impact of a characteristic form of piety termed hhakti1. It is possible that Buddhism influenced this new form of piety, for the concept of the Bodhisattva regarding all creation with affection and compassion was probably earlier than this new form of devotion, in fact, than any comparable idea in Hinduism. On the other hand, it seems that this new form of piety developed first in Tamjlnadu2. The term hhakti ( > Ta. patti; also Ta. anpu, DED 279) is derived from verb-root bhaj- 'to participate, share'; a bhakta is one who participates in the divine. However, as A. L. Basham correctly observes3, in the native Tamil term anpu we have something more closely approaching the Christian virtue of love, caritas, than is to be found in any Sanskrit term. The impassioned devotionalism, the worship of God mixed with a deep sense of sin and inadequacy, affected gradually the whole religious outlook of the Tamil country, including its Christians and Muslims. Hence, we shall also deal on the following pages with the literary expression of Christian and Muslim bhakti in Tamil. 2.1. Various approaches to devotional literature are possible. First, one may approach the texts historically and sociologically, regarding them as literature of social and spiritual protest, as had been done mainly by Soviet and Indian Marxist-oriented literary historiography. But as Wellek and Warren have correctly written4, though literature occurs only in a social context, the social origins of a writer play only a minor part in his work, and the most immediate setting of a literary work is its linguistic and literary tradition, encompassed by a general cultural climate. Another possible approach is comparative: bhakti texts as mystical poetry, in comparison with other forms of Indian and extraIndian devotion and spirituality. There is yet another, very productive approach—a synchronic segmental analysis of bhakti texts in terms of religious literature5. Finally, there is the structural approach to bhakti texts conceived 1 Cf. J. GONDA, Les religions de l'lnde, II, Hindouisme recent, Paris, 1965; J. GONDA, Het begrip bhakti, Tijdschrift voor Filosofie, Leuven 1948; J. GONDA, Aspects of Early Visnuism, 2nd ed., Delhi 1969; K. C. VABADACHARI, Aspects of Bhakti, University of Mysore, 1956; MANASUSAI DHAVAMONY, Love of God According to Saiva Siddhanta, Oxford 1971. 2 A. L. BASHAM, The Wonder that was India, 3rd ed. 1967, p. 332. 3 A. L. BASHAM, The Wonder that was India, ed. dt., p. 333. 4


R. WELLEK-A. WARREN, Theory of Literature, 3rd ed., 1963, pp. 97 and 105.

Elaborated first by the Russian scholar A. M. PJATIGORSKIJ in his book Materialy po istorii indijskoj filosofii, Moskva 1962, pp. 76-146. Cf. also K. ZVELEBIL, The Smile of Murugan, 1973, pp. 185-206.

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purely as poetry. In agreement with the over-all theoretical and methodological tendency of this book, bhakti texts will be treated here as a structural development of the independent poem (tanippdtal) into higher structures, whereby development is taken to mean something else and something more than mere change; a development from a simple bardic poem of the akam and puram genres, in its transformation, formal and semantic, into a more complex structure of the devotional hymn, and, finally, into the first elementary prabandhas. 2.2. The great difference between pre-devotional and devotional literature in Tamil consists in the fact that the ideology of the Hindu bhakti texts still remains, to a great extent, the ideology of the vast majority of the Tamils, notwithstanding progressive secularization; that, in these texts, literature, religion, and culture are inseparable; hence the entirely different manner of the consumption and appreciation of the pre-devotional and devotional literature. While the classical lyrical and epical poetry is, today, appreciated by the educated, the sophisticated, and the young student, in addition to a few 'classicists' and scholars, and as art, as aesthetic value of a glorious past, the bhakti-xnspired, religious-philosophical hymns are consumed and appreciated as ideology, as living religion, as ritual texts and prayers for temple and home, and the aesthetic component of their appreciation as literary art is only secondary. However, we must evaluate literature in terms and degrees of its own nature; but even with this approach in mind, the bhakti poetry of the Tamil Saiva and Vaisnava saints belongs to the greatest achievements of religious poetry of all time6. 2.3. The two earliest full-fledged Tamil literary expressions of the religion of devotion are some passages of the late classical collection Paripatal (350-500 A.D.), and a remarkable poem belonging to the Pattuppattu anthology, called The Guide to Lord Muruku (Tirumurukarruppatai, certainly earlier than the 7th cent.). The pertinent parts of Paripatal are devoted to Cevvel-Murukan, blended with the northern Skanda, and to Mayon-Tirumal (Visnu). In both Paripatal and Tirumurukarruppatai, we find divinity struggling to express itself, the idea of a god who feels an intense affection towards men, and to whom the worshipper responses with the same love. Apart from a magnificent introductory hymn to Murukan, resuscitated by F. Gros from Peraciriyar's commentary to Tolkappiyam Ceyyuliyal 1527, Paripatal in its extant form contains seven hymns to Tirumal and eight hymns to Cevvel. In form, the Paripatal poems represent a prosodic development from the simple akaval and vanci metres of early bardic poetry to a rather involved and complicated (and, 6

In J. GONDA'S words, it occupies 'Tune des premieres places dans la poesie religieuse de tous les temps et de tous les pays" (Les religions de l'lnde, II, 1965, p. 7158). F. GROS, Le Paripa^al, 1968, pp. LIX-LXIII.


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let us add, unproductive) structure called paripatal8. The one long hymn to Murukan, Tirumurukarruppatai, is, however, composed in the ancient akaval. As mentioned, the paripatal form has not left any permanent imprint on the structural development of Tamil poetry9. The akaval, on the other hand, has remained in devotional hymns, both under this term, and under the later name dciriyam10. In terms of the structure of content, both Paripatal and Tirumurukarruppatai show some innovations which reappear and evolve as typical features of bhakti hymns. Thus, first of all, we may observe one of the basic properties of all bhakti hymnody: the synchronic projection of the diachronic event—of the story of the god; in other words, the personal story of the god is telescoped into characteristic epithets. Consider the following instance: when Tirumurukarruppatai I. 46 calls Murukan 'the one [who has] a long, flaming, leaf-shaped spear which killed the chief Cur,' it is an epithetic projection of the epic story of Murukan-Skanda killing the chief of the anti-gods, ^urapadma—a story which was developed much later into the entire fourth book of the formidable Tamil Kantapuranam. Second, in these two literary texts, we may already observe another very typical feature of all later Tamil devotional literature: the objects of praise—Skanda and Visnu—have a series of very concrete places of residence; they live at a given place and at a given moment in time. In fact, the 'Guide to Lord Muruku' is a description of the main shrines of the god, which the worshipper is advised to visit in turn. Finally, the god meets the worshipper face to face and speaks to him, after the worshipper has addressed him directly in a litany of devotion: Holy and mighty will be his form, towering to the skies, but he will hide his sterner face and he will show you his ancient form of youthful godhead, fragrant and beautiful, and tell you in choice words of love: "Fear not! I know why you are come!"

(Tirumuruku 288-95)

We cannot and will not trace the historical (or prehistorical) beginnings of bhakti in Tamil India. But their literary reflections go back beyond the two poems discussed, to a few classical bardic pieces showing preference for the two deities, Murukan and Tirumal. The traces of Siva's worship can also be found in a few early poems. In fact, already Puram 52. 12-13 reflects the typically Hindu concept of the ritual of dvdhanam whereby a divine image becomes the permanent abode of an indwelling deity, and is itself divine: 8 9

Cf. F. GKOS, Le Paripatal, pp. XV-XVI. However, it is important in the sense that here we have, for the first time, a literary text intended to be sung—a development characteristic for bhakti hymns in general—and very probably even 'enacted' (i.e. accompanied by avinayam). 10 Cf. e.g. Kirttitiruvakaval of Tiruvacakam (9th cent.).

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" . . . the divinities (Jcatavul), ere while adored with festive music, abandoned their pillar-homes11." 2.4. The bulk of the bhakti hymns were collected, ordered and anthologized in the two canons, Saiva and Vaisnava. The origins of the Saiva canon as we have it today must be sought in Cuntarar's (between 780-830 A.D.) poem Arur Tiruttontattokai 'The Line of the Holy Slaves [revealed in] Arur' in which the poet-saint mentioned the names, sometimes with suggestive epithets, of 62 ndyanmdrs (saints of Tamil Saivism) and included those of his mother and father. He himself was added as CuntaramUrttinayanar, and thus we obtain the 63 canonized apostles of Saivism. Nampi Antar Nampi (between 10801100 A.D.) arranged the hymns of the three great teachers, Campantar, Appar and Cuntarar, as the first seven books, added Manikkavacakar's Tirukkovaiyar and Tiruvacakam as the 8th book, then 28 hymns of nine other saints as the 9th book, the Tirumantiram of Tirumular as the 10th book, 40 hymns by 12 other poets as the 11th book; then he described in Tiruttontar tiruvantati 'The Sacred Antdti of the Holy Slaves' the labours of the 63 saints, added his own story, and sang his own hymns which he added to the 11th book. The hymns of the first seven books became later to be known as Tevaram, and the whole &aiva canon, to which was added, as its 12th book, Cekkilar's 'Great Puranam' (ca. 1135 A.D.), is known as Tirumurai 'The Holy Book.' Thus the Saiva canon represents a huge body of heterogeneous literature which covers about 600 years of religious, philosophic and literary developments: its earliest strata are probably the songs of Karaikkal Ammaiyar 'The Mother of Karaikkal' (about 500 A.D.) and of Aiyatikal Katavar Kon (ca. 670-700 A.D.), the first Pallava king to express himself in Tamil; the youngest strata of the canon represents Cekkilar's national Tamil epic, Periyapuranam (early 12th Cent.). The compiler of the Vaisnava canon which is known as the Nalayirativyaprapantam 'The Four Thousand Divine Works,' Natamuni (Skt. Nathamuni), was the first in the line of the dcdryas 'teachers' who completed the work begun by the dlvdrs, the Vaisnava saints (lit. 'those who have sunk into the divine'). Though the traditional dates of the dlvdrs are given as 4203-2706 B.C., the earliest Vaisnava poet-saints, Poykai, Putam and Pey, belong probably to 650-700 A.D. The canon was compiled by Natamuni sometime in the 10th cent., though the beginnings of Vaisnava bhakti, apart from the hymns to Tirumal in Paripatal, may be probably sought in an old Ramayana version in pahrotai venpd stanzas (± 650 A.D.) which has not reached us. The Vaisnava canon consists of the works of 14 poets, out of which 12 are considered as dlvdrs. The principle of its arrangement certainly is not chronological, just as in the case of the Saiva canon.


Cf. also Akam 167, 307, Manimekalai VI.60, XXIV. 162.


Tamil Literature Chart VI The Two Canons TlRTTMURAI

No. of book 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8a b 9a b c d e f g h i 10 lla b c d e f g h i j k 11 12

Author Campantar Campantar Campantar Tirunavukkaracar Tirana vukkaracar Tirana vukkaracar Cuntarar Manikkavacakar Manikkavacakar Tirumalikaittevar Centanar Karuvurttevar Punturutti Nampi Kantaratittar Venattatikal Tiruvaliyamutanar Purutottama Nampi Cetiriyar Tirumular Tiruvalavayutaiyar Karaikkalammaiyar Aiyatika] Katarar Kon Ceraman Peramal Nakkiratevar Kallatatevar Kapilatevar Paranatevar Ilamperuman Atikal Atiravatikal Pattmattatikal Nampi Antar Nampi Cekkilar

Name of the work

Tevaram I Tevaram II Tevaram III Tevaram IV Tevaram V Tevaram VI Tevaram VII Tiruvacakam TirukkSvaiyar Tiruvicaippa 4 patikam Tiruvicaippa 3 patikam Tiruvicaippa 10 patikam Tiruvicaippa 2 patikam Tiruvicaippa 1 patikam Tiruvicaippa 1 patikam Tiruvicaippa 4 patikam Tiruvicaippa 2 patikam Tiruvicaippa 1 patikam, Tiruppallantu Tirumantiram Tirumukappacuram 3 works (Arputtatiruvantati etc.) Ksettiratiruvenpa 3 works 9 works (Tirumurukarruppatai etc.) Kannappatevartirumaram 3 works Civaperuman tiruvantati Civaperuman tirumummanikkSvai Muttappillaiyar tirumummanikkovai 4 works 10 works (Tiruttontartiruvantati etc.) Periyapuranam

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Mutalayiram 'The First Thousand' 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

1 2 3

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Periyalvar Tiruppallantu Periyalvar Tirumoli Antal Tiruppavai Antal Naycciyartirumoli Kulacekarap Perumal Tirumoli Tirumalicai Alvar Tiruccantaviruttam Tontaratippoti AJvar Tirumalai Tontaratippoti Alvar Tiruppalliyelucci Tiruppanalvar Amalanatipiran Maturakavi Kanninun ciruttampu Irantam ayiram 'The Second Thousand' (alias Periya Tirumoli) Tirumankai Alvar Periya Tirumoli Tirumankai Alvar Tirukkuruntantakam Tirumankai Alvar Tirunetuntantakam Munram ayiram 'The Third Thousand' (alias Iyarpa) Poykai Alvar Mutal Tiruvantati „ Irantam Tiruvantati Piitam Alvar Pey Alvar Munram Tiruvantati Tirumalicai Alvar Nankam Tiruvantati Nammalvar Tiruviruttam Nammalvar Tiruvaciriyam Nammalvar Periya Tiruvantati Tirumankai Alvar Tiruvelukkurrirukkai Tirumankai Alvar Ciriya Tirumatal Tirumankai Alvar Periya Tirumatal Nankam ayiram 'The Fourth Thousand' (alias Tiruvaymoli) Nammalvar Tiruvaymoli Appendix Tiruvarankamutanar Iramanucanurrantati

The hymns of individual dlvdrs are introduced by prefatory stanzas (socalled taniyan, pi. taniyankal) which are composed partly in Sanskrit. 2.5. The Saiva and Vaisnava hymn in Tamil literature—from the formal point of view and in terms of its literary development—emerges directly from the tanippdtal or individual bardic stanza of the puram and akam genres. In fact, one of the heroic settings, the pdtdn, which represents praise, and asking for gifts, is a direct predecessor of bhakti hymns. With the early Saiva and


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Vaisnava poet-saints, it is usually still the one-stanza poem which is the hymn, addressed, instead of to a feudal patron, to the god, Siva or Visnu, and asking, instead of for the gifts of flesh and wine, rice and land and gold, for the gift of grace (arul), and for deliverance. The pa/an-type of old heroic poetry and the bhakti hymns have also in common that in both the poet speaks in his own voice, for himself, and his poems are very personal. One thing is important: in contrast to the Vedic hymns, these Tamil hymns are not ritual at all in nature. The intimate side of worship is very highly developed and, indeed, like in a number of early bardic poems of the pur am genre, the most important feature is the relation between the subject who praises and asks, and the object who listens and gives. There are quite parallel segments in the bardic and the bliakti poems: The bardic poet's praise of the patron; he asks for gifts; the patron grants him gold etc.; rarely, but still, the poet scolds the patron for his wretched and miserly attitude.

The poet-saint's praise of Siva or Visnu; he asks for knowledge of himself, and of God; God grants him knowledge, grace, redemption; rarely, but still, the saint blames and reproaches God for his misfortunes.

The structure of a Saiva or Vaisnava bhakti hymn—in terms of semantic segments—tends to follow a certain regular pattern: There is the praise of the god describing, usually through a number of epithets, divine qualities, actions, states; very often, this segment has the form of a synchronic projection of a diachronic event—thus e.g. when Manikkavacakar describes Siva as the one who knew of the pure desire of the hunter (XV. 3.3) he refers to the beautiful story of Kannappanayanar or the 'Eye-Devotee' who gave his eye in the service of Siva. A typical 'praise-segment' may be illustrated by the following stanza of Appar (6th-7th cent.): He is of heaven; He is above the gods; He is Sanskrit and Tamil; and the four scriptures; He bathes in milk; He is the Lord; He is the woodsman who danced with fire in His hand; He is the One who blessed the woodsman; He is the honey that oozes within the lotus-heart of those who think of Him; He is the darling we may not attain; He is Siva; He is the darling who dwells in Sivapuram12. With great poets like Appar or Campantar, such lines may result in wonderful poetry, as indeed—to quote a well-known example—this stanza of Appar: 12

Transl. C. and H. JESXJDASAN. This stanza contains also some short portions of other segments (e.g. 'we may not attain,' 'those who think of Him'), but they are all clearly atrophied, and the praise-segment is absolutely prevalent.

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The faultless vind; the evening moon; the softly blowing breeze; the fragrant Spring; the pool haunted by bees—like these the shade of my God, my Father's holy feet13.

It was mainly Campantar who was preoccupied with Siva's qualities and actions, described mostly in epithetic form. Though less emotional and less 'lyrical' than Appar, he has yet achieved a few surprisingly beautiful and striking metaphors, like in the following stanza (the first quatrain sung by him): He has the palm-leaf roll in his ears; riding a steer, crowned with the pure white crescent moon, besmeared with ashes of the jungle burning-ground, he is the thief who stole away my soul14.

Tirunanacampantar was a younger contemporary of Appar, a Brahman from Cikali, a great adversary of the Jains and the Buddhists. He is said to have died at the age of sixteen, on the day of his wedding, in ca. 655 A.D. Originally supposed to be the author of 16.000 hymns, only 383/4 patikamsls of his survived in today's editions, coming altogether to 4181 stanzas. They were set to music by Nilakantaperumanar who is said to have accompanied the poet on his ydl or 'lute.' His hymns are characterized by strong egocentrism16, by militancy and great ardour, by a warm feeling for the greatness and the beauty of Tamil, by a particular virility and exuberance coupled with keen scholarly experimentation in metres showing familiarity with Sanskrit forms. Another segment of Tamil bhakti poems deals with the inner, psychological and emotional state of the poet-saint. This segment is developed to a very different extent in different poets. While almost absent in Campantar, it is strongly pronounced in Appar's hymns, and is probably the most important component in the poetry of Manikkavacakar. Appar's original name was Marunikkiyar. He was born sometime between 570-596 A.D. in Tiruvarur in a veldla Saiva family. As a youth, he joined the Jains, became head of their monastery, then embraced Saivism, and was persecuted by them. In ca. 620 A.D. he converted to Saivism the Pallava king 13

The rare lyrical beauty of the sweet-sounding original is untranslatable: macil vinaiyum malai matiyamum / vicu tenralum vlnkila venilum / mucu vanturaip poykaiyum ponrate j lea nentai yinaiyati nllale. 14 Ennullankavarkalvan. 15 As in the early bardic poetry there was a collection, Ainkurunuru, in which the solitary stanzas were arranged in decades of ten connected by some loose kind of formal and semantic link, so there was rather early a tendency to arrange the invividual hymns into decades called (tirup)patikam, tiruppatiyam (or pattus); the number ten was frequently only approximative. 16 There is a current saying in Tamil which characterizes the great Saiva trio of Tevaram as follows: "My Appar sang of me; Campantan sang of himself; Cuntarar sang of women".


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Mahendravarman I. Under the name Tirana vukkaracu 'King of Divine Speech' he praised Siva in 49.000 stanzas out of which 3130 are now available in books IV to VI of Tirumurai. He met Campantar who called him Appar 'Father,' lived to the ripe age of 81, and died in Tiruppakalur. In contrast to Campantar, Appar's poems are almost exclusively emotional; there is rich material connected with the autobiography of the poet and with the very personal worship of Siva by Appar as an individual. In the best known of all Appar's poems, this personal, psychological and emotional component assumes the form of a diagnostic attitude towards life exhibited by the bhaktas, by the devotees; this marvellous hymn has indeed become a kind of battle-cry of Tamil Saiva bhaktas: To none are we subject! Death we do not fear! We do not grieve in hell. No tremblings know we, and no illnesses. It's joy for us, joy day by day, for we are His, forever His, His who does reign, our Sankara, in bliss.

Finally, there is the segment which contains the description of God's reaction towards his devotee; and this segment, though present in almost all the poems in question, is hypertrophied in the hymns of Cuntarar alias Cuntaramurttinayanar, born in Tiranavalur in a Saiva Brahman family at the end of the 7th cent. A.D. His own name was Nampi Arurar. His marriage was prevented by Siva whose devotee he then became, but later he married a temple-girl called Paravai, and a veldla girl called Cankili. He died sometime about 730 A.D., as a close friend of another poet, the Chera king Ceraman Perumal. Cuntaramurtti was given the titles 'The Lord's Comrade' and 'The Insolent Devotee.' He is the author of 1026 poems in book VII of Tirumurai. Cuntarar must have lost entirely or partly his eyesight; he takes this as a punishment by Siva for breaking his vow of fidelity to Cankili. This affliction colours many of his intimately personal stanzas, like e.g. the following beautiful poem (95.2) which illustrates what was said above: I was sold and bought by you. I am no loan. I am your slave of my own will. I did no wrong. You made me blind. Why, Lord, did you take away my sight ? You, you are to blame!

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Among the lesser poets of the earlier strata of the Saivite Tirumurai one must not fail to mention the amazing woman-saint, Karaikkal Ammaiyar, probably the earliest Saiva poetess (ca. 550-600 A.D.) whose stanzas may be found in the 11th book of the canon. She became famous for her unique description of the dance of Siva at Tiruvalankatu where he danced in competition with Kali, surrounded by the demons of the burning pyre, and the "Mother of Karaikkal" is said to have identified herself with one of the dreadful demons, after she had been abandoned by her terrified husband17. From our point of view—i.e. with regard to the development of the literary forms and genres in Tamil poetry—her work is extremely important since it was perhaps she who introduced the kattalai-k-kali-t-turai metre—as far as we know the earliest finished and complicated structural departure from the old Tamil classical metres. The old classical metres oiakaval (dciriyam), kali and venpd grew in length and increased in complexity; an over-all term for these developments is the viruttam (cf. Skt. vrita 'round') which was first applied to kattalaikkalitturai. This metre (lit. 'the ordered branch of kali') is a rather sophisticated development of the ancient kali metre, and its rule (kattalai) is fivefold: 1. each stanza must have four lines, of five feet each, under one 'rhyme' (etukai); 2. the sequence of feet is ventalai; 3. the first four feet of each line are , = —, = = , — = ; 4. the fifth foot must be — = — or = = —; 5. the stanza always ends in -e18. The other metre Karaikkal Ammai used was the old venpd; however, she also used the antdti arrangement, in which the offset of one line or stanza is identical with the onset of the next line or stanza. On Karaikkal Anamai's poems we may also exemplify the beginning of a trend which became increasingly productive and remained so for more than a thousand years of literary development: solitary stanzas began to form larger units—not only in terms of tens (patikam, pattu) or hundreds (nuru, catakams, cf. Skt. sataka) but also units of formal and (or) semantic wholes which later became to be known as different varieties of prabandhas (Ta. pirapantam), i.e. genres determined by form or content or both: thus e.g. her Tiru-v-irattai-manimalai, 'The Garland (mdlai) of the Sacred (tiru < Skt. hi) Pair (irattai) of Gems (mani)' which contained 20 stanzas (a pair often) in venpd and kattalaikkalitturai metres, in the antdti arrangement. This form became later a well-defined formal genre, irattaimani mdlai—a poem consisting of twenty stanzas in venpd and kalitturai according to the rules of antdti. Yet another convention began to be increasingly employed: to give names 17

Cf. KARAVELANE, Kareikkalammeiyar, oeuvres editees et traduites. Introduction par JEAN FILLIOZAT. Institut francais d'indologie, Pondichery 1956. Manikkavacakar sings of her in Tiruvacakam VII. 16. For her legend, cf. G. U. POPE'S The Tiruvacagam, Oxford 1900, pp. 111-13. 18 Manikkavacakar has developed this metre beautifully in his Tiruvacakam V.I, VI and XXXVI.


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to collections of stanzas according to their number and (or) metres they employed: witness Karaikkal Ammai's poem cited above, or her famous collection Arputattiruvantati of 101 venpd stanzas, lit. 'The Sacred Antdti of Wonder.' 2.6. From the point of formal development, and as far as the content is concerned, Tamil Saiva devotional poetry culminated in the two wonderful works of Manikkavacakar, Tiruvacakam and Tirukkovaiyar. They form the eighth book of the canon. Manikkavacakar, 'He whose utterances are rubies,' was born in a Brahman family in Tiruvatavur, sometime in the 9th cent. His personal name was Tiruvatavurar. Following in the steps of his father, he became chief minister of the Pandya king, but turned away from worldly affairs to Siva-devotion, and became a Saiva poet-saint19. His Tirukkovaiyar is one of the two earliest specimens of a new genre: the kdvai 'string'—a genre which treats the akam themes of love as a continuous story in the kalitturai metre. His magnum ojnis, though, is the Tiruvacakam or 'Sacred Utterance' consisting of 51 chapters, a total of 3327 lines, which represent the peak of Saiva bhakti poetry. Four main features characterise the work of Manikkavacakar when compared with the hymns of the earlier poets: first, the central theme, the love of the devotee for God and God's response with arul, divine grace, is all that matters, and hence the two structural segments of the inner state of the devotee and of the respective reactions of God towards the man are excessively overgrown, while the other segments of content are almost suppressed; second, the object of devotion has developed a system resulting in the transformation of simple devotional hymns into a religious-philosophical treatise; third, the prosodic development has resulted in complex and sophisticated metres and stanzaic structures; fourth, the individual poems are woven into an intricate, complicated pattern of an entire book. To illustrate the first and the second points (the preponderance of the very personal, emotional relationship of the devotee to God and God's response, and the development of philosophy in Manikkavacakar's poetry), I shall quote three beautiful hymns of his in this order: Civapuranam 24-32 (from the first chapter of Tiruvacakam), and Kuyirpattu 8, and 10 (from the eighteenth chapter): As grass as weed as worm as tree as many kinds of beast as bird as snake as rock as man as goblin and as demon as mighty giant ascetic and god, mobile, and immobile, 19 For the legendary history of Manikkavacakar cf. G. U. POPE, The Tiruvacagam, pp. xvii-xxxvi.

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in every kind of birth My Lord I've lived and tired. Your golden feet I saw this day Oh Reality I've reached my home Come here young Icuyil Go and invite Him The Rider on the prancing horse Him with the flowing matted locks Who on that day when Visnu Brahma both forsook their search for Him and stood plunged deep in thought pierced through the sky and shot up like a blazing fire and rising high passed beyond all spheres and stood as wide-spread Flame O kuyil calling from the groves Do listen now He came—a brahmin—and revealed His lovely rosy feet Tome And said This man here is My man and made me all His own With grace with boundless grace all glowing flames His form Go call Him once again

Manikkavacakar's surrender is total: Abide in me, and make me slave, sell me and mortgage me, but this apart don't turn me off— I am a stranger seeking you as host. 0 Lord, Who ate the poison as ambrosia! Uttarakocamankai's king! .0 healing balm of those crippled by the ail of births!

The architectonics of Tiruvacakam is rather complex: it has 51 'decades' comprising 658 stanzas. Unlike in the case of the decades of the other three great poet-saints, the places where these decades were sung are not of much importance since in Manikkavaeakar's remarkable work it is the inner progress of the mystic's soul which is significant rather than the physical pilgrimage from shrine to shrine. The hymns were sung in seven places: we do not knowwhen and in what order the poet-saint visited those shrines; but it is clear that he started at Tirupperunturai, and ended in Tillai-Citamparam. The first part of the work comprises as it were the first four decades which count as one stanza each and serve as a kind of prologue. The second part which comprises the Tiruccatakam 'The Holy Cento' and the Nlttalvinnappam 'Forsake (Me) Not-Plea' (decades 5 and 6), 150 stanzas, corresponds to the purgative stage of a


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mystic's progress, and "is a genuine human cry for Divine help in the midst of a terrible struggle20." The third part comprises sixteen decades beginning with Tiruvempavai 'The Maiden's Song of the Dawning' and ending with Koyil tiruppatikam 'The Temple Lyric,' a total of 243 stanzas in. which the mystic gains illumination. The fourth and last part will comprise the remaining 29 decades of the via unitiva: the path to union with the Godhead, beginning with Cettillapattu 'The Decade of Non-dying,' and ending with AccSpatikam 'The Lyric of Wonder.' If this interpretation21 is correct, and I think it is, then the Tiruvacakam is in fact an autobiographical poem of a great mystic. It is also the work of a supreme poet. There are fourteen varieties of metre which he had used with utmost skill: there is the nericaivenpd inherited from the didactic poetry of the preceding age; there are seven variations of the kalippd, all developments of the ancient classical kali: the kalivenpd, the koccakakkalippd, the kalittdlicai, the sophisticated kattalaikkalitturai, the ammanai in kali, and the 'mixed metre' of kalavai mainly in kali rhythm; there is the ancient akaval, again developed in three interesting varieties; finally, there is the vim/Mam proper which became immensely productive in later poetry. This metre arranged lines in rhymed stanzas, mostly quatrains, according to the over-all rule which states that if a foot in one line ends in md, vilam, kdy, or kani, the corresponding feet in the other line must end in the same. The viruttam has several varieties—the kaliviruttam of four feet, the dciriyaviruttam of six or more feet, and the variety of five feet22. Another interesting feature of Tiruvacakam is the enrichment of Tamil devotional poetry through the adaptation of what must have originally been folk-songs: thus the ammanai (Tiruvacakam VIII) in the leaping koccakakkalippd metre is an imitation of the simple songs accompanying the game of ammanai23; 'The Sacred Golden Dust' is an imitation of songs sung by women in Tillai who pounded the gold dust which, mixed "w ith perfumes, was scattered on the heads of distinguished visitors to the shrine; other decades composed in imitation of popular songs are Tiruttonokkam (XV)24, Tiruvuntiyar (XIV)25, 20


Cf. G. V. POPE, The Tiruvacagam, p. 85.

Cf. G. VANMIKANATHAN, Pathway to God through Tamil Literature I—Through the Thiruvaachakam, Delhi Tamil Sangam 1971. 22 For details, cf. G. IT. POPE, The Tiruvacagam, pp. I xxxviii-xcii. However, POPE'S metric interpretations are not always quite acceptable. For translations of the work into English, cf. G. U. POPE'S translation of 1900 published by the Clarendon Press, Oxford, and G. VANMIKANATHAN'S translation published in 1971 by the Delhi Tamil Sangam. 23 In the play, the women, usually six in number, sit in a circle and toss a number of little balls from one to another, accompanying their game with simple songs the subject of which are usually some popular heroic exploits or great acts of a deity. 24 The name of this game means 'aiming at the shoulder' (tolnokkam) since it ends up with placing the hands of each opposing pair on the shoulder of the other. 25 Another game with ball resembling the English game of battledore and shuttlecock.

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Tiruppormucal (XVI) 'The Sacred Golden Swing'; and traces of colloquialisms and folk poetry may be found elsewhere. 2.7. The earliest Vaisnava dlvdrs or poet-saints, Poykai, Piitam and Pey composed their devotional stanzas in the old venpd metre, in antdti arrangement, sometime between 650-700 A.D. Tituppanalvar has left one piece (Amalanatipiran of 10 stanzas describing Visnu at Srirangam from head to heel). Tirumalicai Alvar (850 A.D.) is very important from our point of view since he seems to have been the one who has in a massive way introduced the cantam or the rigidly set rhythmical pattern in terms of long and short syllables into Tamil poetry26, and thus started a minor prosodic revolution which reached its peak with Arunakiri's creations (see § 2.10). His Tiruccantaviruttam 'The Sacred ViruUam with Cantam' is pervaded by the mysticism of numbers and by philosophical abstraction. Tontaratippotiyalvar whose name means 'The Dust on the Feet of the Lord's Slaves' (first quarter of the 9th cent. A.D.) has introduced a very important genre, the palliyelucci or the request to the deity to wake from sleep. He has adapted a classical, bardic theme of tuyiletainilai which describes, according to Tolkappiyam Purattinaiyiyal 36.2, how the bards (cutar < Skt. suta) were employed to wake up kings from their sleep. By adopting this theme (and demonstrating thus once more a line of direct descent of some devotional themes from heroic themes, in this case again from the pdtdn tinai), Tontaratippoti has created a beautiful precedence for later poets including Manikkavacakar27. His Tiruppalliyelucei is a lyric of ten stanzas of four long lines each with the refrain arankattammd palliyeluntaruldye "O God of Srirahgam! Deign to arise from sleep!" In his other poem, however, which is of the mdlai or 'garland' type (Tirumalai 'Holy Garland'), and prosodically resembles strongly Appar's tirunericai and tirukkuruntdntakam26, the poet appears as a pious but prejudiced bigot. 26

More on cantam in § 2.10. Cf. e.g. stanza 2 of Tiruccantaviruttam: drumdrumdrumdy oraintumaintumaintumay / erucirirantumiin rumelumdrumettumdy / ve.ruverwhdnamd kimeyyinotupoyyumdy / urutocaiyayavai ntumdyavdyamdyane 'Mysterious One, who art the fire from touch to sound, / The truth and the falsehood, and the varied wisdom, / The six and six and six, and the five and five and five, / The two and three, the seven and six and eight' (Transl. C. and H. JESUD^SAN). Observe that apart from the regular metrical pattern of the viruUam of eight feet there is here a rigid rhythmic pattern (cantam) in terms of long and short syllables of the following sequence: -\_J-\J-\J-\J-KJ-\~>-\->~. 27 Cf. the Tiruppajliyelucci (hymn XX) of Tiruvacakam in kaliviruttam metre. The formula of this beautiful poem is — vilam — vilam — vilam — ma, e.g. in the first stanza: porriyen vdlmutal dkiya porule j pularntatu punkalar kinaitunai malarkon / . . . tiruperun turaiyurai civaperu mdne / emperu mdnpalli yeluntaru = = / = — / / — = / — = / = = / — —. 28 Tdntakam: a stanza each line of which consists of more than 26 syllables; a poem in praise of a deity made of quatrains of equal length, each line containing either six or eight clr.


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Kulacekaralvar (ca. 800 A.D.), the author of a favourite devotional poem in Sanskrit, Mukundamala, is interesting for his verses on Rama and Krsna, and we may possibly ascribe to him the foundation of Rama worship in Tamil India. He sings about renunciation in his Tirumoli, and has beautiful verses on the famous Vaisnava shrine of Tiruvenkatam (Tixupati) north of Madras: Where humming beetles sing their song I'd be A champak tree, Standing at Tiruvengadam, that I The feet might spy Of him, mysterious Lord, who slumbers in the cool Milk-sea, all tossing with its waves of coral bright! (Tirumoli 4, transl. J. S. M. Hooper) Especially moving is the following stanza (Tirumoli 5, in Hooper's version): Slayer of elephant great and fierce of eye Vitruvakodu's Lord, Where shall I go and live ? Save for Thy feet, like a great bird am I Which goes around and sees no shore and comes at last Back o'er the tossing sea and perches on ship's mast! But the greatest among the dlvdrs of the earlier period is Periyalvar, a Brahman from VilliputtUr (9th cent. A.D.). More than half of his poems are dedicated to the Krsna incarnation, chiefly to Krsna as child and boy. In these verses we have the roots of a tremendously prolific genre, the pillaittamil, a form depicting the child-life of a hero or god. Not only did Periyalvar introduce many current Krsna stories, proverbs, and other popular matter into his poetry, but he has created the picture of a lovely child, with every realistic detail, vivacious, colourful, complete, with even the funny or embarrassing aspects of childhood: Come, you coral-mouthed, come and see the flower-like feet the silly babe takes to its mouth and sucks and munches29. Small pearls sprouting at the tip of the ruby-like bud, trickling and dripping in tiny drops—my little lamb came and wetted my back, GSvinda wetted my back30. There are also enchanting pictures of Krsna the flutist, the object of the passion of young girls. Apart from the 460 stanzas of Tirumoli Periyalvar is also the author of Tiruppallantu in 13 stanzas, the most popular of all Vaisnava hymns, a benedictory poem with the refrain 'Many thousand years' (palldyirattdntu)31. This is how this famous hymn of praise begins: 29 30 81

Tirumoli I.ii.l. Tirumoli I.ix.l. Cf. the same form, Tiruppallan^u of CSntanar, in the Saiva canon, book IX.

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Reverence, reverence be unto thee, O thou mighty One, who didst overcome the Mallas, thou like to the sapphire in glory! Infinitely blest be the beauty of thy holy feet for many many years, for thousands of years, for crores of years, for ever! All All All All

hail! Oh may no rift come 'twixt thy slaves and thee! hail to Sri, who dwells, thy lustre, on thy right! hail, the glorious discus in thy fair right hand! hail to Panchajanyam sounding in the fight! (Transl. J. S. M. Hooper)

2.8. Many hymns of the Vaisnava poet-saints, and some hymns of the Saivites, notably of Manikkavacakar, may be considered a direct though complicated development of classical themes of the akam genre. The Tirukkovaiyar by Manikkavacakar in which, by allegory, the love of the soul for the Lord—the lady-love being God, her lover the soul—is narrated as a continuous story unfolding the akam themes and using in abundance various akam motifs, was mentioned before. Among the Vaisnava poets, it was probably Antal who in her Tiruppavai developed the akam themes in an amazing manner and with an unsurpassed poetic power. Antal (9th cent. A.D.) was found under a tulasl (Ocymum sanctum) tree by Periyalvar, and raised as his daughter. She refused to marry any mortal, and has chosen God Ranganatha of Srirangam as her spouse; the God accepted her, and she disappeared into his shrine. Krsna is the hero of her two poems, Tiruppavai in 30 stanzas, and Naycciyartirumoli in 143 stanzas. Girls of the cowherd caste, who have fasted all through the night, go early in the morning in the month of Markali (December-January) to bathe in the river and practice certain rites which should earn for them suitable husbands, and for their country abundant rain. Antal—who is well-versed in the Visistadvaita philosophy and introduces the Supreme as Narayana—goes with her friends from door to door rousing the sleepy girls, until they reach the house of Nantakopan, Krsna's foster-father, and Krsna's wife Nappinnai opens the door. Krsna should accept their services; they want to be his slaves, while Nappinnai 'The Beautiful Younger One'32 remains his spouse. There are some stanzas of superlative beauty, as e.g. the following poem (23) where Antal entreats Krsna to arise and come, like the lion, asleep in his den in the mountains at the time of the rains, that wakes and opens his eyes of fire, 32 Nal + pinnai; this interpretation of the name is to be preferred to that of "the beautiful-tressed", found in some sources. For the problem of the identification of Nappinnai with Laksmi and Nila, cf. J. FIXLIOZAT, La devotion vishnouite en pays tamoul, Conferenze tenute all' Is.M.E.O., vol. 2, Serie Orientale, Roma, 5,87-93; Introduction to J. FILLIOZAT, Un texte tamoul de devotion vishnouite—

Le Tiruppavai d' SntaJ, Pondichery 1972; ERIK AT EDHOLM and CARL SUNESON,

The Seven Bulls and Krsna's Marriage to Nlla/Nappinnai in Sanskrit and Tamil Literature, Temenos, 8 (1972) 29-53. For KrsNa in Tamil literature, cf. V. R. R. DIKSHITAR, Krsna in Early Tamil Literature, Indian Culture 4 (1937).


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shakes himself till the hair rises along his mane, lazily stretches his length, and with a roar moves out of his lair. Krsna rests on the breasts of Nappinnai33, and Nappi^nai is addressed (st. 20) O Sri, O lady Nappinnai with cup-like tender breasts, red-mouthed and with slender waist! Wake up from your sleep! Give fan and mirror to your spouse and let us bathe now, eldrempdvdy !34 In Naycciyar Tirumoli, Anta], in 143 stanzas, narrates the dream which she had of her marriage with Krsna; there is also a pillaittamil (the second Tirumoli) in which she imagines herself to be a small girl whose doll's house was destroyed by the mischievous Krsna. There is also a lovely poem addressed to the white conch (vencanJcu, poem VII). The dream-hymn in the sixth Tirumoli known as Varanamayiram 'One thousand elephants' (its first words) of 11 stanzas is sung at every Vaisnava wedding in Tamilnadu, and is the most beautiful part of this work of hers. Indeed, "everything left by Andal shows a rare sense of wordvalues, a trembling sensitiveness to beauty and a deep and single-hearted passion35." It is striking that Manikkavacakar, the greatest among the Saiva poet-saints, composed a poem in the same form as the Tiruppavai—the Tiruvempavai (Tiruvacakam VII). The identity of form consists in the identity of metre (kalippd of eight four-feet lines) and in the fact that the stanzas end in the phrase eldrempdvdy (which reappears in the titles of the two poems) interpretable as 'our fair lady, arise!' While Antal's poem has 30 stanzas, its Saiva counterpart has only 20 stanzas. Both poems have the same background and 33

Cf. the first of the three introductory verses (taniyankal) which introduce the recital of Tiruppavai (the first is in Sanskrit, the second and the third is in Tamil, composed by Uyyakon^ar, probably Pundarlkaksa, a pupil of Nathamuni): Adoration again and again to Goda (ANt-al) who, awakening Krima sleeping on the mountain slope of Nila's swelling breasts, teaches him her highest truth that is established in the beginnings of hundreds of sacred texts and forcibly swallowing him (i.e. Krsna) in the garland discarded by her, she enjoys (him).—From purely literary and aesthetic points of view, the contrast between the delicate sensualism of AntaJ and the unblushing eroticism of this Sanskrit stanza is quite striking. 34 For a recent edition and translation of Tiruppavai, consult J. FILLIOZAT, Le Tiruppavai d'ANtal, Pondichery 1972. This work gives a complete bibliography of editions and translations. 35 C. and H. JESTJDASAN, A History of Tamil Literature, p. III. 36 Cf. J. FILLIOZAT, Le Tiruppavai d'AntaL p. XIV. Bhagavatapurana X.22.1 refers to a vow called kdtydyanyarcanavrata observed by the cowgirls during the first winter-month in order to gain Krsna as husband (including a bathing ritual— the introduction to the famous episode in which Kr?Na steals the clothes of the bathing girls): it is striking that although the Bhagavatapurana is an exclusively Vaisnava work, the goddess said to be worshipped is KatyayanI (Durga); cf. EDHOLM and STJNESON, The Seven Bulls, Temenos 8 (1972) p. 29.

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very similar content: based on the ceremony of ritual bathing in the month of Markali, the young girls in the Saiva poem arouse their companions and sing the praises of Siva and of the various manifestations of his Sakti. The poems were intended for singing, and, indeed, most editions of Tiruppavai contain the indications of the melody-type (ardkam < Skt. rdga) and of the rhythm (tdlam < Skt. tola) of individual stanzas. The ceremony itself is probably not a purely Krsnaite one, but may just be part of a cult of a "dieu jeune homme," and, according to J. Filliozat, the priority of the pdvai form belongs to the Saivite poet. Both poems spread across the borders of India and were popular as far as Thailand37. 2.9. The devotional hymns of the Saiva ndyanmdrs and Vaisnava dlvdrs evolved in ever increasing complexity. We may observe, with the passage of time, not only a development en train towards more and more complex metrical forms, but also a transformation of the ancient themes and situations of the alcam and puram settings into religious-philosophical, polemic, or simply devotional genres which gave rise to the various prabandhas. This development took place, on the one hand, ab intra, but, at the same time, it would not have been possible if it were not influenced strongly by Sanskrit form and content. Most of such groups of stanzas forming new and specific wholes were designated according to their metre, or the number of stanzas involved: thus we have the venpd of Aiyatikal Katavarkon (Ksettirattiruvenpa) and of Nakkiratevar, too (P5rrittirukkalivenpa), the viruttams of Nampi Antar Nampi (K5yil tiruppanniyar viruttam and Alutaiyapillaiyar tiruccanpai viruttam) among the Saivites, and of Nammalvar (Tiruviruttam) and Tirumalicai Aivar (Tiruecantaviruttam) among the Vaisnavas, we have the dciriyam (e.g. Nammalvar's Tiruvaciriyam) and the many antdtis (e.g. Poykai's, Putam's and Pey's First, Second and Third tiruvantati in venpd, Nammalvar's Periya tiruvantati etc.). Nakkiratevar's Karettu 'Eight on the Rainy Season' is a poem in 8 venpd stanzas in which he sees nature as Siva's revelation; TiruvinkSymalaiyelupatu of the same poet consists of seventy (elupatu) stanzas, etc. We have one Saiva and one Vaisnava elukurrirukkai—a poem whose component words are represented by numerals in seven contiguous rows of squares38. There are mdlais 'garlands' and kdvais 'strings' of stanzas of different subtypes: a mummanikkovai39 'string of three jewels' is a poem of three decades containing stanzas in different metres; a mummanimdlai 'garland of three jewels' is a poem of thirty 37 Cf. T E . P O . MINATCICUNTARAM, Cay ami 1 tiruvempavai tiruppavai, Madras 1961; T. P. MEENAKSHISUNDABAM, Tiru—p—pavai, Tiruvempavai in South-East Asia, Proceedings of the First International Conference-Seminar of Tamil Studies I, Kuala Lumpur 1966, pp. 13-20. 38 Cf. the Saiva Tiruvelukkurrirukkai of 55 lines in the inaiJckuralaciriyappa metre by Nakkiratevar, and Tirumankai Alvar's Vaisnava Tiruvelukkurrirukkai in 46 lines. 39 E.g. Ceraman PerumaJ's Tiruvaliir mummamkkovai.


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stanzas in the venpd, kalitturai and akaval metres; a ndnmanimdlaii0 'garland of four gems' is a poem of forty stanzas of four varieties; an irattaimanimdlai*1 'garland of two gems' is a poem of twenty stanzas in venpd and kalitturai in the antdti sequence; an ekdtacamdlaii2 is a 'garland' of eleven stanzas. There are a few other forms typical for devotional poetry like the morning hymn (palliyeluccii3, verbatim 'rousing from the couch') sung daily to awaken the god; the palldntuil of benediction (verbatim 'Many years!'), and the pdcurami!> 'hymn.' The 9th book of the Saivite canon called Tiruvicaippa consists of 301 stanzas sung by nine different poets; they are arranged in patikams of roughly ten stanzas each; the stanzas are termed icai-p-pd, lit. 'musical stanzas' since these were hymns sung in the Chola temples in the lOth-llth centuries. Most interesting are of course those forms which are defined chiefly by their content and only optionally by their formal properties. They evolved into more or less productive genres in subsequent literary developments. Ceraman Perumal (8th cent. A. D.) developed the uld 'procession' as a distinct literary form. It had already been suggested in the Muttollayiram (q.v.) but this Saiva poet elaborated it and adopted it for religious and philosophical purposes. In an uld the patron, king or god goes in procession around the streets of a city, and women of the seven varying ages fall in love with him. Their love is not returned. The metre is kalivenpd. This has later become a very productive and very important genre (see § 5.1.19). Two Saivite poets of the 11th book of the canon, Nakkiratevar and Kallatatevar (9th-10th cent.) are responsible for the origin of another interesting, though much less productive genre, the maram or 'heroism.' Their poems are both called Tirukkannappatevar tirumaram and deal with the moving story of the vantontar or 'hard devotee,' the hunter Kannappan, who gave his eyes to his lord Siva. Matal is based on the ancient erotic theme belonging to the setting of onesided love; in its embryonic form it is found in the bardic poetry; later it becomes a narrative poem describing a disappointed lover riding on a palmyra stem, or on the figure of a horse designed out of palmyra fronds (using it possibly fastened to a chariot). The frustrated lover will ride through the street where his beloved lives to force her, by this ridiculous, tragi-comic act, to accept his love. In the Vaisnava canon we have the 'Short Holy MataV and the 'Long Holy MataV by Tirumankai Alvar, the most prolific poet among the Vaisnava saints (six poems with 1361 stanzas) of ca. 800-870 A.D. These poems deal with divine love: the heroine—the soul—throwing away all conventional restraint, yearns for the beauty of the deity. 40 41 42 43

E.g. PatrtinattatikaJ's Koyilnanmammalai. E.g. Karaikkal Ammaiyar's Tiruvirattaimanimalai. E.g. Nampi Antar Nampi's Tirunavukkaracutevar tiruvekatacamalai. E.g. Manikkavacakar's Tiruvacakam XX, a tiruppalliyelucci in 10 stanzas in the44aciriyaviruttam metre. E.g. the famous Tiruppallantu of Periyalvar. *5 E.g. the mysterious Tirumukappacuram ascribed to Siva himself in the form of the Lord of Maturai (Tiruvalavayu^aiyar).

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The velldla saint Nammalvar (ca. 880-930 A.D.) is considered to be the greatest of all Vaisnava poet-saints, and justifiably so. His main work, the Tiruvaymoli in 1102 stanzas, wants to replace the Vedas; he is also the author of Tiniviruttam (100 stanzas) which applies the moods of classical love-poetry to religion, of Tiruvaciriyam (7 stanzas) on the qualities of Visnu, and of Periyatiruvantati in 87 stanzas. His diction is rather scholarly, the tone of his poems is mainly argumentative and philosophical; what they lack in the intensity of feeling and ardour of devotion, they gain in the depth of thought and the grandness of vision. I have watched the skies to spell the mystery of the stars. I never knew what those innumerable sprays were. But, bewitched by them, I lay still and out of the silence of my heart broke a song. The stars, glimmering through ages, are no mere sparks dotting the nightly heavens; but flowers plucked by the heavenly crowds, offered at the altar of the Unknown. The hosts of our Lord who reclines on the sea of Vastness, behold them thronging hither. Meseems they will tear up all these weeds of grasping cults. And varied songs do they sing, our Lord's own hosts, as they dance, falling, sitting, standing, marching, leaping, bending. (Transl. C. Subrahmanya Bharati) The Tiruviruttam of Nammalvar is said to contain the quintessence of the Rgveda (a most curious and quite inappropriate comparison). It is a poem of 100 quatrains in which the dlvdr expresses the longing of his soul for union with God, in the true ndyaka-ndyaki bhava; the dlvdr's almost unrelieved yearning is that of the mistress for her absent lover (though in some stanzas the parts are changed). Two illustrations in the insightful translation of J. S. M. Hooper must be sufficient: Is this the sky in which the strong dark bulls Pawing the ground till Earth shakes, sweat and fight ? Is this the cool fair time that takes the form of Tirumal, and sounds his harshness who Is gone ? Sinful, I know not what I see. (7) Hail, stormy sea, where, on his serpent couch Rests Perumal, like to a bright black sun Of sapphire, pouring forth glowing darkness! Make not a dusk with thy full waves, nor hide Track of his car who left me in the dark. (17) The devotional hymns contained in the two canons embody also some concepts and conventions which subsequently became characteristic of South


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Indian Hinduism in general and of its speculation in particular. They were, inter alia, the vision of divine activities as 'sports'; the mystique of the 'five letters' in Sivaism; the concept of God as a lunatic. Since everything is easy to Him, everything is a sport to Him, a play (vilaiydtu, vilaiydtal), and the whole universe is bright and alive with His joyous movements: more specifically, Manikkavacakar speaks of Siva sporting in Citamparam (XXI. 7), and again of Tillai where the Magician plays (vittakandr vilaiydtal vilanku tillai, XXXI. 7). The five-letter formula (anceluttu) Civdyanama or Namacivdya appears in the very first line of Tiruvacakam (Civapuranam 1): namaccivdya vdalka 'Hail, the namacivdya!' and in Tiruccatakam 245-8 there is an ecstatic quatrain dedicated to Namacivdya. The concept of Siva as madman may be beautifully illustrated by the following verses of Manikkavacakar again: If you forsake me, I shall abuse you: Madman, clad in the raging elephant's skin! Lunatic with the hide of the tiger! Crank feeding in poison! The Crazy of the burning-ground fire! Madman who chose even me for his slave!

(Nittalvinnappam, XXIX)*'

2.10. Three latterday giants of Tamil devotional poetry appeared every two hundred years, beginning with Arunakirinatar (15th cent.); the 17th cent, was the century of Tayumanavar; and the last great and true bhathi poet was Iramalinkar (Ramalinga Svami) in the 19th cent. They carried on the devotional stanza, the prayer of bhaJcti, the hymn, enriching it more by prosodic inventions than in the message of its content which remained—with significant modifications—basically the same: absolute devotion to a personal God, and God's response by grace. Arunakirinatar was born in a veldla (or perhaps a Brahman) family in Tiruvannamalai sometimes round 1370 A.D. After a youth spent in rioting and seducing women he tried to commit suicide but was saved by God Murukan who expelled from his heart worldly desires and bestowed on him the gift of divine songs. He died as an esteemed poet and devotee of Skanda in ca. 1450 A.D. and left behind a huge poetic work: Tiruppukal 'The Divine Praise' of MurukanSubrahmanya in more than 1300 stanzas, characterised by perfection of form 46

Tiruvacakam has also been translated into German: H. W. SCHOMEBUS, Die Hymnen des Manikka-Vasaga (Tiruvasaga), Jena 1923. Apart from POPE'S and VANMIKANATHAN'S versions, there is an English version of K. M. BALASUBRAMANIAM, Tiruvachakam of Saint Manikavachakar, Madras 1958. Cf. also RATNA NAVARATNAM, A New Approach to Tiruvasagam, Annamalainagar 1951. A wellknown selection of &aivite hymns in English: F. KINOSBTJRY and G. E. PHILLIPS, Hymns of the Tamil Saivite Saints, Oxford University Press, London 1921. A selection of VaisNava hymns in an excellent translation by J. S. M. HOOPER, Hymns of the Alvars, Association Press, Calcutta 1929. Cf. also K. ZVELEBIL, The Smile of Murugan, pp. 185-206 for Saiva bhakti, and K. V. ZVELEBIL, Tamil Lit. (Handbuch), for the questions of dating and chronology of differents parts of the f^aiva and Vaisnava canons.

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and supreme command of a very rich, Sanskritized diction, and intricate prosody; Kantarantati 'The Antdti on Skanda,' 102 stanzas on Skanda in kattalaikkalitturai metre; Kantaralarikaram 'The Beauty of Skanda' of 102 stanzas in kattalaikkalitturai; the deeply philosophic Kantaramiputi 'The Perception of Skanda' of 51 stanzas; besides a part of Tiruvakuppu (probably the first 18 divisions). By the time Arunakiri became the devotee of Murukan, this complex and fascinating deity, known also as Skanda, Subrahmanya, and Arumukan, became once again a prominent 'great god' in the South. Also, with Arunakirinatar, the first major 'revolution' was accomplished in the sphere of Tamil prosody. It was an all-important transformation of the Tamil metrical system under the ever-increasing impact of Sanskrit metres, which began with the Vaisnava Tirumalicai Alvar (8th cent.) and his Tiruccantaviruttam, with yet another alvar—Tirumankai, and with the two Saivite poets, Pattinattar the Elder and Nampi Antar Nampi. Arunakiri, who is typically a blend of the two cultures, Tamil and Sanskritic, in all their aspects (language and diction, motifs and themes, the mythology of his poetry), is, naturally, also a master of the two metrical systems: the Tamil system based on acai or basic metrical unit (single or compound), and the Sanskrit system based on aksara—syllable, and mdtrd—mora. The constant and regular use of cantam (< Skt. chandas) means historically a massive assault of syllable-based metrics on the indigenous Tamil system which had originally been quite different. In Arunakiri's poems it has reached its peak. Now a poem has, in addition to the basic prosodic properties of Tamil metres, also the cantam or a rigidly set pattern of rhythm based on syllabic quantity: cf. the well-known Tiruppukal 418: tirumakalu lavum irupuyamu rdri tirumaruka ndmap perumdl kdn The indigenous Tamil prosodic pattern is

In addition, the lines have the following cantam: tana tana tdna'na / tana tana tdnd'na / tana tana tdna'na / tana td'nd, i. e. ww ww w—w / ww www—w / ww ww w—w / ww . Observe that in this way, each line has a double organisation: in terms of acai organised into feet (cir), which is the original Tamil metrical structure; and in terms of syllables organized into regular rhythmic groups purely on the basis of quantity, whether short or long, which represents the impact of the Sanskritic metrical structure. All this is part of the process whereby the connection between poetry and music, which began with the adoption of fixed melody-types (pan) for poetry identified with devotional singing of Saiva and Vaisnava bhakti hymns, be-


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comes closer and closer, more intimate, more organic, until centuries later, the Tamil klrttanai is born, culminating in the work of such great pre-modern poets as Arunacala Kavirayar, Gopalakrishna Bharati and Annamalai Reddiyar. Arunakiri's singing the praise of the Lord Skanda, his Tiruppukal, is the first step towards klrttanai. Arunakiri's Tiruppukal is religious hymnody, intervowen with Saiva Siddhanta doctrines, fed profusedly by Northern, Brahmanic, and indigenous, Tamil mythology, and based, to a great extent, on personal, autobiographic experience. Some of his stanzas are full of supreme sensuousness and coined in very daring language; thus when the intoxicated woman-devotee addresses the god You burnt the two trunks of the Wrestlers; they stood against you like two giant mounts! You came—beautiful, mighty, magnificent chest— you came to feed—and climbing my venus-mound you drink with your lips one of my breasts, you caress another with gentle strokes, and they both languish, in their turn; as you don't eat them, they long and yearn.

The philosophical stanzas containing no autobiographic material may be illustrated by the well-known quatrain, Kantaranuputi 51—an entire philosophy in four lines of poetry which sounds like music in the original Tamil47 and manifests yet other properties of Arunakiri's poetry, in addition to his exceptionally copious, highly Sanskritised diction, and the use of cantam: the poet's supreme skill in using to the utmost the phonaesthetic qualities of Tamil in sound-painting, Lautmalerei, and his great ability to produce a lovely, easyflowing ocai, or 'basic tone.' You who are form, and who are formless, you who are both being and non-being, who are the fragrance and the blossom, who are the jewel and its lustre, who are the seed of life and life itself, who are the mode and act of existence, who are the supreme guru, come, and bestow, Guha, your grace!

The rhythmic patterns, the sound-symbolism, the profuse, albeit somewhat pedantic vocabulary, and many striking metaphors and powerful similes with occasional display of over-elaborated associations and analogies (conceits) give to his poems a particular flavour of many-coloured, glittering gems set in gold: the mountainous breasts of lewd women sparkling with golden chains are the two tusks of black elephants—of women who trade soft caresses for wealth, and are lovely like five-colour parrots. These images are of the same deep, rich, intoxicating colours as the comparison of his own songs to a floor of diamonds, 47 Uruvdy aruvdy ulatay ilatdy / maruvdy malardy maniydy oliydyk / karuvdy uyirdy katiydy vitiydyk / kuruvdy varuvdy arulvdy kukane.

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to a child suddenly coming into a barren womb, to a river that descends from heaven, to a mine of new-found treasures. However, this baroque splendour of his songs is sometimes relieved by simple stanzas of deep mystical meaning: The Thief stealing the red-doe's daughter48, the great Murukan, birthless and immortal, once said: Be still and do not speak! And, oh, I don't know a thing of what he meant! O Nectar Indestructible! King of Sharp Spear! 0 Source of Wisdom! What can I say ? Devour me for what I was! Nothing to be but You, o Supreme Self!49

2.11. Tayumanavar's date is either A.D. 1704-1742 (with minor modifications, 1706-1744) or 1608-1664 (or 1659). The matter is complicated and so far unsolved. He was of veldla origin, studied Tamil, Sanskrit, and philosophy, was appointed steward of the ruler of Trichinopoly, after a short period of married life assumed the life of a religious beggar, and died at Ramnad. He is held in great esteem as a saint, and as a poet-philosopher he may be the greatest figure of Tamil literature. Most of the editions contain 1452 poems of Tayumanavar: out of this, 587 are solitary stanzas, songs (pdtal), 863 are kanni stanzas, there is one ahaval, and one vannam (cf. §§ 5.1.2. and 5.1.85). The songs are arranged according to metres, sometimes according to their content, into 39 groupings, but the individual stanzas are often being sung in isolation, and can certainly be enjoyed as such. Many, if not most of them, contain autobiographic elements concerning the state of the poet's heart and mind. Some of them are deeply reflexive and very philosophical, though the intellectual side is almost always balanced by genuine and sincere, albeit restrained emotion. The emphasis in his work is not on bhakti so much as on Yoga and meditation; though he is deeply conscious of his sins, the tone of his poems is predominantly meditative, not emotional, ethical or polemic. Also, he is very universal; there is no trace of any sectarianism; this great tolerance, so characteristic of him, applies even to the language he has used; both Tamil and Sanskrit enter his poems, without any prejudice, so that some of his stanzas are in heavily Sanskritised Tamil. He is almost always disciplined, yet also forceful; severe, yet also gentle; dignified and noble, and yet very personal, intimate and sincere; and saintly. 1 went in quest of gold and women and earth The Lord of my soul sought me Whoever seeks You finds the pure freedom of Your Grace Whoever seeks himself will ever remain alone (Ponnaimatarai 1) 48 The allusion is to VaJJi, who was born as a child of an ascetic's lustful thought and a doe, and became the second wife of Murukan, who 'stole' her from her adoptive parents, the hunter Nampi and his wife. 49 Arunakiri or AruNacalam is the Sanskrit name of Tiruvannamalai. Cf. K. ZVEI/EBIL, Arunakirinathar—Confessor of Beauty, New Orient IV 5 (Oct. 1965).


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Those who understand themselves, gathering many a wreath, The Wise men, proclaimed You alone to be the breath of Love In garlands of songs selected like excellent wreaths. I, the unlearned, too, opened my mouth, and in delight String garlands of words with tears which trickle in strings. I praise you daily, I, your slave. Please, take my wreath And say: "Come to me!" And embrace me, my Lord of Holy Grace! (Panmalai 1)

Many songs of Tayumanavar are so well-known that parts of them became proverbial: dcaikkoralavittai (II. 10.1) 'There is no limit to desire' is as popular as kalldta perkale nallavarkal nallavarkal (VII. 10.1) 'The unlearned people are those who are truly good.' The 863 kannikal (lit. 'flower-buds, flower-bunches') are mostly distichs intended to be sung, arranged into 'garlands'—e.g. the Paraparakkannikal, 389 distichs, all ending with the allocution Paraparame 'Oh, Almighty One!': My heart is the temple; my thoughts, the incense; my love, the holy water; come to take my offering, Almighty One! (151) Anantakkalippu is a marvellous, ecstatic song of joy in 30 stanzas with the famous refrain Cankara Cankara Campd, Civa Cankara Cankara Cankara Campu. Some of the most beautiful stanzas of Tayumanavar are found in his Painkilikkannikal which is a kind of kilivitututu or 'the parrot as messenger' genre in 58 distichs. The following translation is a version of distichs 4, 8,17, 24, 44, 55 and 58: Oh my tender parrot, will you fly on your swift wings to my Lord and whisper into his ears my secret message and beg him to steal to my tryst ? Will the Nameless One know me, this desolate one ? Like the loadstone that lures the iron, will the prince of mercy draw me on to his beloved bosom ? Shall I forever clasp to bosom my lover, who breaks through language and escapes ? Earth and Heaven are wrapped in sweet slumber. Smitten with love, my forlorn eyes know not the balm of sleep. How dare I stand before my Lord who unseen beholds all the treacherous tricks of my soul ? Oh what a great prince of thieves is my Lord! He beckons not, and speaks not, but he has slid into my soul. Do you know what his secret designs are ?50 50

Translated by R. S. D. in P. SBI ACHARYA and V. RAGHAVAN, Sheaves from Tamil Muse. For translations of Tayumanavar's poems, cf. ISAAC T. TAMBYAH, Psalms of a Saiva Saint, Being Selections from the Writing of Tayumanaswamy Translated into English with Introduction and Notes, Luzac, London 1925; R. SHANMXJGA MTJDALIAR, The Philosophical Poem of S. Tayumanavar, Edited and translated, Salem 1897; AENO LEHMANN, Die Hymnen des Tayumanavar. Texte zur Gottesmystik des Hinduismus, Gutersloh 1935.

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2.12. Iramalinka Cuvamikal (Ramalinga Svami, 1823-1874), a controversial figure as a religious leader, was unquestionably the greatest Tamil poet of the 19th century. He was also the last great poet in the line of the Saiva bhakti poetsaints, though his devotion is combined with great emphasis on sanmdrga or the good life: arid was defined by him as non-killing, non-eating meat, and nonlying; God as "the mountain that can be felt in the handful that is love." Though he belongs to the 19th century, many legends have grown about his life so that it is difficult to get at authentic historical details51. The latest authorized and complete one-volume edition of his writings, called Tiruvarutpa 'Songs of Divine Grace,' was published in 1924 by M. Kandaswami Mudaliar; it has more than 1500 pages in royal quarto, and contains all the known poems and prose-writings52 of Iramalinkar. The book is divided into six Tirumurais53. The poet's output was immense, and a considerable portion of it is of high quality. The poems are in varied metres, forms and tunes (hymns, mdlais or 'garlands,' as well as kummi, Jcanni, palliyelucci, dnantahkalippu etc.).

There is wonderful music and varied rhythm in these poems which are intended to be sung. The poet's command of language was astonishing; he was capable of composing lines which are almost completely in Sanskrit, and in an aristocratic, very intricate and complex diction and syntax54; on the other hand, most of his poems are simple in language and diction: common, almost colloquial Tamil, is used to express mystic experience, deep philosophical thought, and prayer to God for mercy, forgiveness and. grace. The style is often flamboyant and under strong impact of Tayumanavar. But Iramalinkar is also able to command language of force and brevity, e.g. in his Vennila stanzas in Tirumurai II addressed to the Moon, or in his Civanecavenpa, and in some songs in popular tunes and unorthodox verse forms. In almost all of his poems Iramalinka sang of Siva; he also composed poems on Ganesa and Murukan of Tiruttani. He has elaborated his views condemning caste, sectarianism and ritualism mainly in Tirumurai VI which includes his best-known poem, Arulperuficotiyakaval in more than 1500 lines: there, conventional religion with its rites and sects is strongly rejected and the poet pleads for universal love, unity and harmony. 51 He is said to have been composing songs from his ninth year. He was persuaded to marry his sister's daughter, but remained presumably celibate. One day early in 1874 he is reported to have locked himself in a room in Mettukkuppam (which he used for samddhi) and instructed his disciples not to open it for some time. He has never been seen since, and the room is still locked. 52 "His prose is far too ornate to be much to the purpose" (C. and H. JESUDASAN, A History of Tamil Literature, p. 254). 83 The fact that Iramalinkar's writings were termed Tiru-v-aruJ-pa, and especially that the six parts were termed Tirumurai (which, after all, is a technical term reserved for the canonical writings only) was resented by orthodox Saivite scholars led by Arumuka Navalar and N. Katiraivel PilJai, cf. CUTTANANTA PARATI, Navalar Peruman, pp. 205-7. 54 The majority of lines in Tiruvatippukalcci (1st Tirumurai) is of this type, which is called "unreadable" and "unintelligible" by C. and H. JESUDASAN.

114 O 0 0 O O O O O O

Tamil Literature Tree yielding cool shade for men who toil in hot summer! plentous Shade, Fruit ripened in the Shade, sweet, delicious Water springing in the brook, fragrant Flower, blossoming in that Spring of joy, lively Breeze, blowing so gently on the heights, Pleasure sprouting from that tender Breeze, Fruit and Yield of Happiness, Bridegroom wedded to me in playful days, King and Universal Dancer, please, accept the garland of my words!

2.13. Tamil Christianity had its bhakti poets, too. Their most important contributions, however, belong to epic literature (cf. § 4.4.);,the short pieces usually are of little literary value. The one Christian poet whose work constitutes a truly creative contribution to Tamil literature is Henry Albert Krishna Pillai (1827-1900)55 whose magnum opus, Iratcaniya Yattirikam, is one of the two great poems in Tamil on themes relating to Christ and Christianity, the other being Tempavani of Beschi (cf. for both § 4.4.). In 1899, Krishna Pillai published Iratcaniya manokaram, a collection of songs in praise of the Lord, written in the manner and style of Tevaram hymns and of Tayumanavar. He has also composed Iratcaniya kural, held in high esteem by Christian scholars. Mayuram Vetanayakam Pillai (1826-1889), the well-known author of the first long Tamil romance in prose (1876, cf. § 6.6.1.) has also written a number of devotional poems on Catholic religious themes, published in the following collections: Tiruvarulmalai (1873), Tevamata antati (1873), Tiruvarul antati, Periya Nayaki patikam, and Vetatottiramalai of 110 kattalaik Jcalitturai stanzas. He was a great devotee of the Virgin Mary (Kanni Mari) and a defender of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception (1854): as early as in 1857, he has a poem on the Immaculate Virgin (mdcilldta Kanni). In his Carvacamayacamaracak kirttanai he has demonstrated great tolerance and deep devotion, expressed in a form strongly influenced by Gopalakrishna Bharati (who lived for a long time in Mayuram, and for whom Vetanayakam had a warm and friendly admiration); the impact of some of these klrttanais is visible in S. Bharati's poetry56. 65 In 1852 appointed Tamil teacher in a mission school; he also worked with dr. PERCIVAL as Tamil pandit at the Presidency College in Madras, and as a journalist in a Tamil daily. He became Christian in 1858 and served at Trivandrum in the Maharaja's College and as literary advisor to the Christian Literature Society, Madras. 56 For little known Christian texts in Tamil, cf. D. YESUDHAS, Unknown or little known Christian literatures in Tamil, Preprint, Nagercoil 1967; cf. also DEVANESAM RAJABIGAM, Christliche Literatur in der Tamilsprache, Berlin 1961; P. JOTHIMUTTU, A General Evaluation of the Tamil Poet Krishna Pillai (1827-1900), TC 9 (1961) 301—4. There are some interesting, though certainly not outstanding Christian poets among the Tamils, cf. Antonikkutti Anriaviyar (18th cent.) from a low-caste of either fishermen or coconut tappers, who composed Kiristucamayakirttanam (publ. in Jaffna, 1891); or Kulankaiyar alias Kulankait Tampiran (died 1795) of Kanci, who embraced Christianity in Jaffna after a terrible ordeal in the

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2.14. Since there was a large number of Muslim converts throughout Tamilnadu following the Muslim penetration of the South, a need arose for Islamic literature in Tamil, too. There were many patrons of Tamil poets among the Muslim community, the best known among them Citakkati (Sheikh Abd-ul Qadir), ca. 1650-1715, whose place, Kayalturai, became the centre of Muslim literary activities. Tamil Muslim poetry is almost entirely devoted to Islam, though Muslim authors adopted a number of Tamil literary forms. If we look for an outstanding original contribution of Tamil Muslim poets, we are indeed disappointed57—with the exception of two men, Umaru and Mastan Sahab. Umaruppulavar's main work is an epic dealing with the life of the Prophet (cf. § 4.5.). Umaru was also the author of a poem of 88 stanzas on the Prophet entitled Mutumolimalai, and this work is modelled on Tamil bhakti poems. It is, however, one of the typical features of Muslim literary works in Tamil that they are almost exclusively of narrative, epic character58. The most colourful personality among Muslim poets of Tamilnadu is the elusive, mysterious Kunankuti Mastan, known also as Mastan Sahab (Mattan Cakippu). He was born around 1830 as Sultan Ahmad Kadiri Lebbai in Kunankuti near Trichinopoly. A vendor of attar, he became ascetic and mystic, in about 1850 withdrew from active life, lived for years in a forest, then wandered from place to place and lived finally as a yogi in Madras. He had many disciples, teaching them a kind of universal mysticism expressed through some hundred poems (altogether about 5000 lines), mostly devotional and philosophical verses, modelled on Tayumanavar, and some Jcirttanais. In fact, his lyrics almost equal those of Tayumanavar in pathos and depth of feeling, but are simpler, more crude and colloquial, and do not mind using obscene language. Aiyacami Mutaliyar (2nd half, 19th cent.) composed a panegyric on him entitled Kunankutiyar patirruppattantati. A junior contemporary of Mastan Sahab was Maccarakal Cittar of Kalankuti (near Tirunelveli)—the pseudonym of Syed Abdul Warid Hydross, a noted mystic and poet, author of a large number of poems modelled on the writings of Tamil Siddhas. 2.15. The poetry of bhakti in Tamil is still alive, and almost every day sees the composition of new Hindu devotional stanzas, both Saiva and Vaisnava, of little literary value. A latterday Ceylonese poet of no mean status, though,. Somasundara Pulavar of Jaffna (1876-1953) was one of those who carried on Tiruvariir matha where he had been a monk; he composed, among other things, a YoceppuraNam in 1023 stanzas. Francis Kingsbury, the son of Ci. Vai. TamStaram Pijlai (1873—1941), the translator of Saiva hymns into English, was also author of many books with Christian sujets, besides Iramankatai and PaNtavarkatai. 57 C. and H. JESUDASAN, A History of Tamil Literature, p. 235. 68 Cf. V. I. SUBRAMONIAM, Muslim Literature in Tamil, TC 4 (1955) 73-89, and M. M. UWISE, Muslim Contribution to Tamil Literature, Kandy 1953; M. M. UWISE, Islamic Poetry in Tamil, TC 3 (1954) 292-6; M. M. UWISE, Muslim Literary Forms in Tamil Literature, Proceedings of the Second International ConferenceSeminar of Tamil Studies, Madras 1971, 82-9.


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the bhakti tradition up to the middle of our century59. Arutkavi Ceturaman (born 1937) who became an ardent devotee of Murukan in January 1952, and in 1953 began composing bhakti poems, may be quoted as a vigorous representative of contemporary Saiva devotional poetry. I witnessed myself60 Ceturaman's composing extempore new and original devotional stanzas in a temple in Madras in 1962.

59 Cf. K. S. AETJLNANDHY, Somasunthera Pulavar of Navaliyur, Jaffna, TC 3 ortions, e.g. when the old woman teaches the young prostitute the kulavidyd or the 'wisdom of the trade'; in such passages there is a wealth of interesting psychological, sociological and cultural data. 94. Viravetcimdlai: poem in praise of tacdnkam or ten components of a hero's country; the hero captured the enemy's cattle covered with a vetci (Ixora coccinea, scarlet Ixora) garland. 95. Verrikkarantaimancari: poem celebrating the recovery of cattle from the enemies by warriors wearing karantai (Spaeranthes indicus, the globe thistle). 96. Veninmdlai: poem describing the hot season in its two divisions: ilavenil 'the season of young heat' and mutuvenil 'the season of ripe heat.'


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5.2. Late and non-traditional genres.

One of the 'revolutionary' changes in Tamil poetry was the intrusion and the massive impact of syllable-based and ma£ra-oriented prosody, superimposed on the acai-based system of Tamil metres64. Another occurred in the 17th-18th centuries with the introduction of new forms which did no t evolve from the Tamil 'great tradition,' but were derived from the undercurrent of folk-poetry. I would like to put forward the following hypothesis: In the millenium between approximately the 6th/7th cent. A.D. and ca. 1750 A. D., two massive and all-important upheavals in the field of Tamil poetry occurred which functioned as a kind of break-up of the structures of standard writing. The first was purely formal and concerned with prosody: mdtra-based metrics was superimposed on ami-based prosody, and the result was a new metric organisation of Tamil stanzas. The second was both thematic and formal: a special type of literary works evolved which may be designated as folk-oriented popular literature. This does not mean that echoes of folk-songs were not to be heard in the works of classical and medieval poets. It is sufficient to recall such poems as Auvaiyar's Kuruntokai 23; the poems in Kalittokai; the lyrical songs in Cilappatikaram; Manikkavacakar's poetry; some of the poems of the dlvdrs; many stanzas by the Siddhas, etc. What I have in mind is, however, vastly different. It is a special type of literature which cannot be regarded as folklore proper, and yet is definitely 'popular' in the sense that it was created (often by outstanding poets) as literature for the people (not any more for the tiny upper strata of the rulers), and modelled undoubtedly on folk-literature. These works, created in the 17th-19th centuries, but mostly between 1750-1850, have some diagnostic features in common: 1) The main motifs are primarily religious, based frequently on popular devotional legends; 2) all of these works are written so that they may be set to music; 3) almost all of them are so composed as to be fit for being enacted as street plays; 4) the authors were traditional scholars, not folk bards or popular minstrels; 5) the works enrich metrical patterns and experiment with prosody, which is of the mixed acai and mdtrd based variety and shows close relationship with songs and music; 6) as for the language and diction, they strive after easily intelligible Tamil. The represent64 If I am not mistaken, this has not been explicitely stated so far. I first became aware of this great transformation of Tamil metres when preparing my Heidelberg lectures on classical Tamil prosody in 1967. I was happy to a find a confirmation of this view in the preface to a collection of poems by the eminent Tamil poet and short story writer N. PICHAMUBTI which was published in 1970 under the title Kuyilincuruti by Bookventure, Madras. Therein he says: acaiyin atippataiyil elunta kavitai mattiraiyin atippataikku mdrivittatu. tamilk kavitaiyil erpattulla inta marram parrikkurum yappilakkanam etumillai (p, viii). Precisely: there is not a single treatise on this enormous and fundamental change of Tamil prosodic system. One thing is, however, clear: since about the 14th—15th cent, when the process was accomplished, the Tamil poem has usually a double prosodie organisation: in terms of acais or ('original') Tamil metrical units, and in terms of long and short syllables; and many pieces of poetry have only the second, imported, Sanskritic-based prosodic organisation.

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ative works of this kind are Armamalai Rettiyar's Kavaticcintu, Arunacalak Kavirayar's Iramanatakam, Ennaiyinap Pulavar's Mukkutarpal]u, Rajappa Kavirayar's Tirukkurralakkuravaiici, and Kopaiakirusna Paratiyar's Nantanar carittiram. We must make a strict distinction between these works, and the creation of unknown, anonymous authors of the early 19th century which belong to genuine folklore; these poems, of which only a small fragment was published in cheap popular prints, have drawn their sujets either from the purdnas (without much fidelity to them), or from oral tradition of popular sagas and legends, or, finally, from late medieval historical events. They may be represented by such narrative poems as Nallatankai carittiram (which also formed the subject of plays enacted until quite recently)65, Tecinkurajan katai based on the events around the Maratha resistance in the South against Muslim invaders66, the various popular version of the Kannaki-Pattini saga67, the vilpdttus or songs sung to the accompaniment of the bow68, the songs of the rdpdti or the 'night-singer69' etc. It is beyond the scope of this book, which deals solely with the written tradition to the exclusion of any type of folklore, to discuss forms which are closely related to folksongs and folktales, or may even be regarded as parts of genuine folklore. On the other hand, the mass-oriented popular literature of the 17th-19th centuries will be dealt with; the following genres will be discussed: kirttanai, cintu, kuravanci, pallu and carittiram.

5.2.1. According to the great modern essayist V. Ramaswami, the first important poets who tried to write in a language comprehensible to the people were Pattinattar and Tayumanavar. However, they did not really succeed in bridging the abyss between the spoken and the written language. Another medieval poet who was obviously greatly attracted by folksongs and inspired by them was Tattuvarayar (q.v.). However, the first one who really succeeded in bridging the gap was Arunacala Kavirayar (1712-1779) in his klrttanais on Rama. The dominant feature of his diction was intelligibility. Klrttanam or kirttanai (< Skt. klrtana, hlrtand), a song of praise of deity, hymn, "psalm," has a long history; its beginnings may be seen in stanzas describing the different varieties of victorious and glorious deeds of the hands and arms of kings or gods in succession {vakuppu 'section, division, compartment'). Since such vakuppu poems were sung, vakuppu also becomes the name of a musical composition. The next step was the tiruppukal 'divine praise,' 65 66

Going also under the name Nallatankajkatai, and ascribed to Pukalenti. The story of a popular prince of Cenci (Gingee, Jinji) whose Muslim friend died on the battle-field when the navab led an expedition against the prince. 67 Cf. e.g. BRENDA E. F. BECK, The Study of a Tamil Epic, JTS 1 (Sept. 1972) 23-38. 68 Cf. K. P. S. HAMEED, BOW Song: A Folk Art from South Travancore, TC 5 (1956) 274-84. 69 Cf. M. SHANMXJGAM PIX,LAI, Rapati—The Night Singer, Proceedings of the Second International Conference Seminar of Tamil Studies, II, Madras 1971, 275-9.


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which, in fact, is a direct forerunner of kirttanai; these stanzas were composed in intricate viruttam patterns in long verses, and the poems were divided into regular stanzas; only the refrain was still missing. As soon as a refrain developed, we get the true kirttanai. There is a kirttanai sung by Venrimalaik Kavirayar when the idol of Tiruccentur, removed by the Dutch, was recovered in 165370. Muttuttantavar composed klrttanams on Siva probably in the last part of the 17th cent, (published only in 1870). Marimuttup Pillai (d. 1787) composed the Nataracarkirttanai. In the 18th century, and especially in the early 19th cent., plays came to be written entirely or almost entirely in klrttanais, and Arunacala Ravi's Ramanatakam is the earliest and the most popular attempt of this sort. A klrttanam consist of three parts: pallavi, the chorus or burden, containing the main theme, of one or two lines, repeated as refrain after each stanza; anupallavi, the counter-theme, usually of two to three lines; one or more caranam or regular stanzas, usually of two to four lines. Much use is made of the final rhyme besides etukai and monai, usually in two successive lines. Sometimes, the anupallavi is missing; and the caranam may be longer (up to nine lines). Arunacala Kavi (1711/12-1778/79)71 was the author of Acdmukinatakam, Cirkalippuranam, Cirkalikkovai, Anumar pillaittamil, and Iramanatakam which he composed when he was sixty. He received high honours and magnificent presents for the last work which became extremely popular. It was so prestigious that its manuscripts were used as a kind of magic: if there was trouble, people would take a thread, throw it among the palm-leaves, and read the lines where it would fall, deriving some augury or advice from it. It is a 70 T. P. MEENAKSHISUNDABAN, A History of Tamil Literature, 1965, p. 171. He was also the author of Tiruccenturppuranam. 71 He was born at Tillaiyati near Tranquebar of velldla parents whom he lost as a boy. He studied Sanskrit, Telugu and Tamil at Dharmapura tnatha, married when thirty years old, became a banker, but devoted all his free time to literary studies, in particular to Kampan. In 1754 on his way to Pondicherry, he stopped at Cikali; the head of the matha there, Citamparam Pillai, had been his fellow student at Dharmapuram. He had a house erected, and while Arunacala was in Pondicherry, he sent for the poet's wife and children, so that Arunacala, when he was returning via Cikali, found his family awaiting him in the new house there. He agreed to settle down in Cikali. When he composed the Iramanatakam, he went first to Pondicherry to recite it before Anandarangam Pillai, one of the most influential persons of the age, but Anandarangam, not wishing to hear it prior to its recital at some princely court, referred him to Manali Muttukkisana Mutaliyar, a great celebrity at Madras, known as cakalapdsanipurian (the one skilled in all languages). From this distinguished man, Arunacala received high "honours and generous gifts. After the Maratha king of Tanjore, Tuljajl (1765-1787) made peace with the navab, Arunacala found admittance to his presence, had the honour of reciting his dramatic poem before him, and was handsomely awarded. In later years he assumed the garb of a {§aiva ascetic and lived in retirement in Cikali where he died at the age of 67.

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dramatic poem, following closely Kampan's epic on Rama and composed entirely in klrttanais. The poems are meant to be sung, and they obviously loose much of their charm if deprived of their music component. The poem which follows should be sung in rdga curutti, and the tola should be cdpu: Theme A hundred thousand eyes are needed to see! In beauty, is any woman equal to Sltadevi ? Counter-theme

O roaming Ravana, you've established your fame in every world, you've been vexing the paradise—but will your twenty eyes be enough ? Stanza The blue lotus-like eyes ? Darts! Oh the happiness of her sweet words! Nine gems in gold her ear-jewels! In gait—a swan. There's no one equal to her on earth. She's a match only to herself.

All this is pleasantly conventional and not much of a poetry; there is, however, exceptionally, great poetry in the songs dealing with the battle-scenes like the one in kalydni rdga the counter-theme of which sounds like the beat of big drums: Ravana himself appears on the battle-field in his chariot, yoked with thousands of steeds, who arose like fire over the ocean with jumping waves, over the mountains, over the regions, over the rocks of the earth.

5.2.2. Cintu72 is a form very closely related to klrttanai. It usually contains four stanzas, the first of which is preceded by the theme (pattavi) repeated before each of the following stanzas as a refrain. Out of the four stanzas, the first is shorter than the rest, and is termed anwpallavi. It also makes frequent use of the final rhyme besides etukai and monai. The etymology of the term cintu is not at all clear72. The form has a number of subtypes; the three most popular are valinataiccintu, songs sung by travellers along the way to release them of the fatigue of the journey; nonticcintu, the cintu of the cripple (see below); and kdvaticcintu or the cintu of the kdvati. Kdvati is a decorated pole of wood with an arch, carried on shoulders, with offerings, in a parade-march in the temples of god Murukan. A special class of minstrels has arisen in Southern Tamilnadu to recite the kdvaticcintu songs which became a kind of liturgy in Murukan's temples; the songs are recited while lifting the kdvati. Annamalai Rettiyar (1861-1890)73 was the best-known author in this genre; his Kavaticcintu is a bunch of wonderfully optimistic, melodious songs in praise of Murukan; their structure is usually four quatrains making up a song, with a rhyme between the first and the third feet of the last line. 72 Cf. cintu 'dwarf; also also cintati 'metrical line of three feet'; are these items connected with cintu 'to trickle, to scatter' etc. ? Another word cintu means musical note or melody (= pan). 73 Born in Cermikkujam; patronized by the zamlndars of Cerrur and Urrumalai. Author of Cankaranarayana koyirriripantati and Navanitavirai antati.


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Nonticcintu has developed into a most interesting and quite forceful dramatic form which at the same time represents a true satire. It is then termed nontindtakam, 'the cripple's play,' and may be viewed as a kind of burlesque with broad, mordant humour of satirical effect. In form, it is a dramatic monologue with a veneer of autobiographic simulation and self-debunking74. The best representative of this class is the Nontinatakam written in honour of god Subrahmanya at the Tirumalai Hill by Manapperumal Pulavar, which belongs probably to the first half of the 18th cent. The vigorous narration in ca. 1500 lines of simple language tells us how a man who lost all his property on a public woman in Maturai, went in the garb of a sannyasi to the poligar's camp at Kurralam during his visit of the ruler of Maturai, Vijayanagara Chokkanatha Nayaka (1706—1732), whose horse he stole at night; how he was caught, maimed, then became a devotee of god Subrahmanya by whom he was healed, and his limbs restored. The early part is modelled on viralivitututus and gives a vivid portraiture of prostitutes and their clients. We are informed in many details of the 18th century social conditions and life under the poligars. This excellent work, making free use of spoken language, was followed by the Nontinatakam of Cinnattampi (1830-1878). We also have a Muslim 'drama of the lame,' called Citakkatinontinatakam. The hero, who begins life as a simple villager, falls prey to a prostitute and becomes a robber. She wants to have a horse. He attempts to steal the horse of Zulfikar Khan, the Mughal chieftain who was then encamped at Cenci (Gingee). He is caught and his leg is cut off. A friend of Citakkati, the merchant prince of Ramnad, takes pity on him and arranges for treatment; the lame man becomes a Muslim, goes to Mecca where his leg becomes whole, and returns to thank Citakkati. 5.2.3. Kuravanci (alias kuram or kumttippattu)1*. This form which was very productive between ca. 1650/1670-1830, developed from the erotic but sublimated 'ballets' that sprang up in Tamilnadu in the late middle ages when local feudal lords, landholders, and temple managers began to utilize courtesandancers of temples and towns as instruments of entertainment. Several danceuses participated to enact the story woven around a stereotype plot: a young girl, or a courtesan, playing with her companion, would chance to see the local lord, or the god-image carried in procession, and fall in love with him. Lovesick, she would invite a soothsaying Kurava woman to foretell her the future. The handmaid would then carry a love-message, and the god or chieftain would appear in disguise before the girl to woo her. She would not yield, being steadfast in her love; satisfied with her fidelity, the god or the lord would reveal himself and marry her. These 'ballets' were enacted by an all-female cast, consisting of courtesans who rendered the play in pantomime in appropriate costumes. The vocalist 74


A. V. SUBRAMANIA AIYAB, Tamil Studies I, 1969, p. 86.

For the etymology cf. DED 1530 Ta. kuram Kurava tribe, palmistry as practiced by Kurava women; kuratti female member of the Kurava tribe.

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of the orchestra sang the songs composed in various metres as substitute for dialogues. This art-form has not survived the first half of the 19th century, but it was revived in the middle of the 20th century by modern dancers and art savants (like Rukmini Devi, Vijayantimala, Kamala Lakshman and Balasaraswati). The theme itself appears, however, in its embryonic form much earlier76. The songs used as dialogue-substitute developed in the hands of skillful poets into an important and very productive genre, of which the first so far discovered seem to be Venkalappa Nayakkar kuravafici by Cirrampalakkavirayar (1647/8), and the anonymous Tancaivellaippillaiyar kuravafici, so far unpublished77, which belongs almost certainly to the 2nd half of the 17th century. Rajappa kavirayar (first half, 18th cent.)78 was the author of one of the earliest, and undoubtedly the most brilliant poem of this kind. Its central theme is that of human and divine love, and the traditional street play is clad in fine poetry and sensuous imagery. The premiere of the dramatic poem took place at Kurralam before the ruler of Maturai, Muttuvijayaranka Cokkanata Nayaka (1706-1732) who was so pleased with the work that he made its author the temple vidvdn and gave him a grant of land, commemorating the event in a copper plate dated 1718 A. D. The musical dance-drama opens with a description of the local manifestation of Siva coming in procession. Vacantavalli, a high-born maid of bewitching charm, is engaged in playing with the ball: her abundant hair dances rolling and revolving like silver-red carps crowding among thick foliage; she is like a dancing peacock; she is pankayamankai 'lotus-like damsel,' dtakavalli 'golden creeper,' paintotindri 'golden-bangled woman,' Vacanta oyydri cavuntari 'Vacanta the belle of graceful movements.' While at play, she sees the god and falls in love with him. Her companion is commissioned to seek an interview and convey to him the pangs of love of her mistress. Cinki, the gypsy-girl, enters the scene with a basket and a magic wand in her hand. She claims Kurralam as her home and sings of its wonderful scenery: Big apes dally with their monkey-maids, and give them fruit. Monkey-dwarflings beg those forest-apes for gifts. Hunters with their burning eyes invite their gods. Jaina ascetics improve their magic strength. Honeyed streams arise in waves and flow the way of skies. 78 The motif of a sooth-saying woman who is begged to reveal the future of a love-sick heroine is as ancient as the bardic poetry of the akam genre. According to U. V. SWAMINATHA AIYAB (commentary on Kuruntokai 23), the ,ancient akavanmakal (mentioned e.g. by Auvaiyar in Kur. 23) is the prototype of the future kuratti. 77 Ms. No. 614(a) in the Tanjore Sarasvati Mahal Library, cf. The Journal of the Tanjore Sarasvati Mahal Library XVI, 3, 1962. 78 Tirikuta Iracappak Kavirayar was born at Melakaram, a village near Kurralam (Tirunelveli distr.) in a velldla family, and was greatly devoted to the god and goddess of the famous temple there. Apart from the kuravafici and a purdnam on Kurralam, he was the author of a number of other poems, some of them still unprinted, cf. K. V. ZVELEBIL, Tamil Lit. (Handbuch), § 11.7.1.


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Red-rayed Sun's steeds' legs and car-wheels swerve and sway. Our hill is Three-peaked mountain above Kurralam, of the Lord of Matted Hair, who's crowned with crescent Moon.

Cinki then examines the palm of the lady, gets inspired, and tells Vacantavalli that her love-malady will cease and that she will be united with the Lord Siva of Kurralam. The maid rewards the gypsy with many jewels, and nothing more is heard of her. Now begins the other love-story, human and coarsely realistic: Cinkan appears in search of Cinki. As the handsome hunter is pining for his girl, his comrade Nuvan taunts him for being a weak and lustful creature. At last Cinkan finds Cinki at Kurralam; after a lively dialogue he becomes impatient and makes daring overtures, but Cinki scolds him and asks him to control himself lest others should laugh at them. Dozens of kuravanci plays were written subsequently, and a great number remains still unedited'9. 5.2.4. The Pallas (sg. pallan, pi. pallar)80 who were untouchable agricultural labourers have preserved a distinct culture of their own. The prabandhas called pallu have usually been composed so that the nominal hero was either a feudal landlord or a god. But, like in the kuravancis where the real hero and heroine belong to the Kuram tribe, the real heroes of the pallus are the Pallan and his wives; he is usually the chief tenant responsible for paddy cultivation on the farm or a temple estate. The pallus are a kind of 'musicals' which offer often a realistic and rather impressive picture of rural life. One of the earliest pallus, Kanappallu alias Tiruvarurppallu, is ascribed to Kamalaifianappirakacar (1526-1575). The Atippallu by Citamparanata Nanappirakacar has not survived81. The best-known of all pallus is a poem called Mukkutarpallu composed sometimes in the latter half of the 17th century and attributed to Ennaiyinap Pulavar alias Velan Cirmattampi. The nominal hero of the poem is god Sri Alakar (Visnu) of Mukkutal82. The temple owned extensive lands, and the manager of the estate (pannaikkdran) is one of the main characters. The real hero, though, is Alakan the Pallan; one of his wives is a Saivite, the other a Vaisnavite. The Pallan is so infatuated with the younger woman that he neglects his first wife and the farm. He is reprimanded by the manager, since rains have arrived and the season commenced. Though he promises, he goes back to the lap of his woman. The elder wife makes a complaint to the manager who puts the Pallan in fetters. On the intervention of his elder wife he is re79

Cf. K. V. ZVELEBIL, Tamil Lit. (Handbuch), § 11.7.1. Connected probably with DED 3307 Ta. pallam 'lowness, low land' etc., Te. pallamu 'wet land, wet crop.' They speak a very distinct dialect of Tamil, cf. K. ZvELEBiL, Pallar Speech: A Contribution to Tamil Dialectology, Linguistics 1966, 87-97. 81 For other important pallus, cf. K. V. ZVELEBTL, Tamil Lit. (Handbuch), § 11.7.2. 82 A small village on the northern bank of Tamiraparum in the Tirunelveli District, known today as Civalapperi. 80

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leased, but attacked and injured by a bull. In spite of this, the agricultural labours proceed well, and result in a bumper crop. After a sharp exchange between the two wives, reconciliation takes place and happiness is restored. There is some very lively description (in a variety of metres), e.g. of the Pallan (his weakness for drink, his infatuation with the younger wife), of the jealousy between the two women, of the manager's uncouth appearance which provokes the ridicule of the Palla women, of the details of paddy cultivation. Though the characters (as those of all kuravancis and pallus) are only types and not individual persons, the poet shows deep insight into human nature and considerable skill as dramatist. The poem also offers rich sociological and cultural information. Thus it gives e.g. a catalogue of names of the Palla women83; and another list of names of the bulls, quite charming and suggestive: Hollow-horned, Red-spotted, Thrust-hoofed, Hornless, Umbrella-eared, Hitter, Joined-horned, Black Corn-heap, Ash-coloured, Loose-eyed, Black One, Saffron-tailed etc.

Some of the dialogues are deliciously vulgar: thus e.g. when the younger wife calls the elder woman a wild civet-cat, she gets the following answer: So you say a civet-cat, hey, a cat you say, you PaJJi of Marudur! If I'm a cat, you creature, a cat, you're a miserable cracked bitch!

It seems that we may date this highly interesting and amusing work in about A.D. 168084. 5.2.5. In the 19th century, the musical dance-drama developed fully into a complex genre utilizing connective prose besides a great number of stanzaic forms like kirttanai, cintu, kummi, the kanni lines, and several others. A general term for the activity whose aim was to listen to discourses on sacred stories was kdlaksepam (lit. 'passing one's time') which may be interpreted in this context as exposition of devotional stories with music, and listening to them. The genres themselves came to be known as vildcam (< Skt. vildsa) 'past time, play,' or ndtakam 'play,' as carittiram ( < Skt. caritra) 'story,' or carittirakkirttanai. The greatest of all these early 19th century musicals is Nantanar carittirakkirttanai by Gopalakrishna Bharati (ca. 1795-1896; according to some sources, he was born either 1800 or 1811 )85, a poet and musician whose main occupation was 83

Such names as Cinni 'The Little One,' Celli 'The Dear One,' Cempi 'The Copper-Coloured One,' Nanni 'The Good One,' Kumukki (kumukku 'to beat with fists,, press wet clothes'), Cataicci 'The One with Plaited Hair,' Nalli 'The Good One' etc. 84 The text was first printed in 1864. An excellent edition with valuable introduction and copious notes was prepared by Mu. ABTJNACALAM (1940, 1949). 85 Kopalakirusna Parati was a Brahman born in a family of musicians in Nari-


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to perform kdlaksepams in which he sang his own kirttanais. While in Nakappattinam he gave a kdlaksepam on the life of Nantan, the only pulaiya (Harijan outcaste) among the 63 Saiva saints. It was so excellent that he was asked to give a permanent shape to the story and the music. He worked at it in Nakappattinam and in Mayavaram, taking as his point of departure the 37 stanzas found in the 'Great purdnam.' The work was an instant hit. The story of Nantan is narrated in a song-sequence and scenic dialogues. The majority of the songs is composed in the klrttanai form, the rest in nonticcintu, kummi, and the like. Connecting links are provided by simple prose or verses in viruttam, some of them taken from Periyapuranam. The story of Nantan runs as follows: Nantan was born as a pulaiya in the ceri (outcaste village) of Atanur. He was devoted to Siva from his boyhood. He went to Tiruppankur temple and succeeded in having a darsan. He then decided to go to Citamparam, but about this he was rather irresolute, and since he always planned to go next day, he became known as Tirunalaippovar 'The holy one who will go tomorrow.' Finally he went. However, before he could be received by Siva and the priests, he had to bathe in a fire-pit from which he emerged unscathed with the visage of a sage: then he was taken to Siva's sanctissimum where he disappeared in a blaze of effulgence. Gopalakrishna Bharati—undoubtedly the greatest Tamil poet of the premodern era besides Ramalinga—enlarged the story, embodied it into a dramatic setting, created at least two new important characters, and wrote a few magnificent stanzas manifesting realistic vision of life and warm humour, exceptional power of observation and imagination, and perfect union of poetry (iyaltamil) and music (icaittamil). The result is a forceful dramatic poem, a combination of medieval morality play with almost modern opera. While Cekkilar just tells the story of Nantan in his TirunalaippSvar Nayanar puranam, Bharati presents it in a series of dramatic scenes, fit to be enacted, with a wonderful sense for artistic unity and design. The subject-matter of the play is bhakti; and this the poet admits at the very beginning: "I stammered out, in a few kirttanas and viruttams, the life-stories of Siva's devotees, drinking in handfulls the water from the sea of the path of devotion." In Cekkilar's purdna, Nantanar is alone, isolated; Bharati has made him an aggressive bhakta, who tries to convert his ceri folk; he has "socialized" him; he is "the Pariah serf of the Vedic Brahmans of Atanur." The content of the book may be interpreted as the clash of Nantanar's bhakti first with the people of his ceri, then with the Brahman priests, then with the Lord Siva. Bharati's conception of Nantan is not that of a solitary devotee, but of a social being, a slave of God and a Serf of God's servants, a very low member of a very low social strata86. manam near Tanjore. He lived as a bachelor in several places; began composing early, having learned Hindustani music and the Carnatic system at the court of the raja Pratap Singh in Tanjore. He was greatly esteemed and highly praised by his contemporaries. 86 A. CINIVACA RAKAVAN, Oru nurrantut tamilk kavitai, 1970, p. 16.

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The low people of his community express a critical and negative attitude to Nantan: even if there were a god in Ambalam, like he says, it is a Brahman god, it has no sense, he won't protect a Pariah87. Bharati created the person of Periyakilavan, the old man of Nantan's caste, who defines their duties as follows: Young shoots and tendrils to carry, and to plough, to go around the watered fields and to see that they yield, green-beds to make, to strew the seeds, and to weed, to open and shut the springing sluices, to live down in the ceri, and to winnow the chaff and the husk, to weight the paddy, to beat the drum around the village, and to drink toddy from the pitchers— then to sleep . . . "As if it were for us, to have dardan of god," complains the old man and adds: "Aren't we Pulaiyas ? Doesn't he know what's niti ?" Nantan the Pariah should worship "Viran, Irulan, Veriyan of the jungle, and Nonti and Camunti." The God of whom Nantan speaks is of the Brahman caste! But Nantan is the slave of the One great God; he says: I am a slave of the original stock, a slave of the Lord who made the Three Worlds, I am the slave of the Lord, indeed I am the slave of the One Great Lord! He is of course hindered by the Brahmans, too, chief among them Vetiyar, another creation of Bharati, a real protagonist of Brahman supremacy. Paraya, you cannot go to Sidambaram, you cannot even utter the word Sidambaram, sirrah, Paraya, leave Sidambaram alone, come back to your miserable shut-off ceri, grasp your bunches of plants and get to work, and take your offerings to your Karuppan— hey, sirrah, Paraya! And he proceeds: "How often should I remind you that you are a miserable slave! I'll show you, wait, what law and order mean! And if you utter one word contradicting me, I'll smash your jaw in!" Nantanar then asks God if He, too, was born in a caste. His lieart is pure and white like a lotus—a lotus grown out of the mud of the ceri of Atanur. He never forgets that he is a Pariah, that he is the lowest among the lowest, and must obey the rules of society. Bharati's poem is not a revolutionary poem by any means. What more, the Brahmans in Tillai even refuse to come near him, and 87

Pdppdra teyvamatu palikkdtu paraiyaraik kdppdrra mdttdtu.


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he has to take, on the intervention of Siva, the fire-bath; only then can he get rid of his low birth, enter the temple, and have darsan. It was stressed that Gopalakrisna Bharati succeeded in bringing about a perfect union of words and music. Thus e.g. the poem beginning Capapatikku has the following musical properties: Bdga: dbhogi: ascent sarigamadhasa (CD E " F A c ) ; descent sadhamagarisa (c A F E b D C). Tola: Rupaka (2+4). The form is a tripartite klrttanai with pallavi, anwpattavi and caranam. The

text: Is there any equal to god Capapati of Tillai ? Can we find anyone on this earth to match him in comparison ? It is enough to utter only once the name of Siva of Citamparam— can there be any more virtuous deed leading to salvation ? It is said in the epics that the Lord worshipped by Gopalakrishna granted salvation even to Untouchables!

When Nantanar saw the Beloved of his heart, he was jumping, jumping, clasping his hands in ecstasy, praising and praising till his sorrows ceased. Praising and praising, worshipping the Golden Feet, staring and staring, and grasping the Supreme Bliss.


6.1. The Fonts of Prose.

Aphorisms 477-8,485 and 658 of the third book of Tolkappiyam contain the term urai; among other meanings, this word is used in modern Tamil to designate 'prose1.' By a kind of short-cut, for a number of scholars this seems almost beyond doubt to prove that there had been literary works in prose in Tamil more than two millennia ago. In fact, no early work in prose is in existence now, either narrative or technical, though very rich ancient poetry has been preserved. As R. E. Asher has argued2, if there had been a tradition of composing eruditory works in prose, it is probable that Tolkappiyam itself would have been written in prose, and not composed in hundreds of stanzas. What was the significance of the term urai ? It would seem that the underlying meaning of urai in the pertinent aphorisms of the ancient grammar was 'conversation,' or 'commentary,' and, in its applied sense, a particular kind of literary composition which functioned as a 'discourse' or 'commentary' (originally very probably oral, not written) on a primary, underlying work (composed in verse). Alternatively, the term urai might have been used for a kind of free-verse of blankverse-like passages within other works written in verse. It would seem anyhow that works designated as urai belonged to the less rigorously defined literary works (like riddles, proverbs, and the like), and among such compositions which had looser structure and were not much limited by any formal rules; it might even have referred to oral literature, to some kind of 'folklore.' In aphorism 658 (which is very probably interpolated), urai most probably signifies 'commentary.' Be it as it may, there is no example of any work in urai available from that early epoch or, for that matter, from the ancient, classical age proper as such. On the other hand, a line in the ancient Purananuru (27.5)3 may be interpreted as providing us with yet another interesting dichotomy of Old Tamil literary culture—that of urai and pdttu. It would seem that both terms refer to panegyrics; if the opinion of Parimelalakar (13th-14th cent.) can be accepted4, then panegyrics (pukal) are of two kinds, urai and pdttu; and we might probably translate (interpretatively) the pertinent line in Puram as "a few [kings] 1 Cf. DED 557 urai v. to sound, speak, tell; n. roar, loud noise, speaking, utterance, word, fame; derived from ura v. to become loud. In Tamil, the meanings cover 'utterance; speaking; word; expression; explanation; commentary; gloss; sound of a letter (eluttoli); fame; mantra recited aloud.' 2 R. E. ASHER, Aspects de la litterature en prose dans le Sud de l'lnde, Bulletin de l'Ecole Francaise d'Extreme-Orient, Tome LIX, Paris 1972, p. 127. 3 Uraiyum pdttum utaiydr dlare 'a few [rulers] have both urai and pdttu.' 4 Commentary on Tirukkural 232.


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possess [praises in] both prose and songs," taking urai as referring to inscriptions^) in prose( ?), and pdttu, rather obviously, to the (panegyric, heroic) songs in the puram genre5. It is not surprising that an author like the poet of Cilappatikaram (5th cent. A.D.) who obviously loved a great variety of forms should also try his hand at prose6. However, the prose which he has employed is alliterative and rhythmic and, above all, the prose-passage in question is quite short and plays a rather unimportant role. The only example of genuine prose which can be regarded as authentic, from the hand of Ilankovatikal, is the introductory lines to the 29th canto in the third book of the epic. The uraiperukatturai in four prose sentences at the beginning of the poem was certainly not composed by the poet himself. There are no other specimens of ancient narrative prose available. From a considerably later period (9th cent. A.D.) we have the prose passages in Paratavenpa by Peruntevanar which serve as link between the venpd stanzas and as commentary upon them; these prose-passages are well-cut and vigorous, rather Sanskritized, and occasionally rhythmic. Other than that, the only old prose we possess is the prose of the commentaries. What is so striking about this ancient prose (including that of Cilappatikaram and Paratavenpa) is its secondary, subservient function: the short passages of narrative prose are used as links between stanzas, as comments on stanzas, as introduction to poetic passages which are what really matters. The commentaries are ex definitione derived, secondary texts, glosses upon primary, basic eruditory texts which are, too, in verse. Thus we cannot escape the following conclusion: prose was not used as an expression of literary art; its use in literary culture was limited to secondary elucidatory texts, and to very rare occasional links in poetry; apart from that, the function of prose was administrative and commemorative (inscriptions), probably diplomatic (in correspondence) and economic (in trade etc.). In spite of this, the huge medieval commentaries have become a powerful accumulator of possibilities which could be utilized and resorted to by the 'makers of modern Tamil.' Many of the prose-writers of the 18th and 19th centuries were also scholars, editors, commentators, and all of them were to some extent directly indebted to the medieval scholastic and commentatorial tradition. The first large commentary which has come down to us is Nakkirar's detailed gloss on Iraiyanar's Kalaviyal 'The Treatise on Secret Love' which probably belongs to the 8th cent. A.D., but its final shape may be later. These are pages on pages of alliterative, melodic, rhythmic prose, ornate and highly accomplished, not at all dry or pedantic, with relatively short, well-built, balanced 5

An alternative interpretation is of course very well possible: taking urai as referring to 'fame' or 'praise' expressed in loud words. 6 R. E. ASHER, Aspects de la litterature en prose, p. 128. 7 Cf. K. ZVELEBIL, The Smile of Murugan, pp. 254-6.

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sentences. Tamil was in a way rather fortunate to have this magnificent piece of prose at the very source of its prosaic literary tradition7. Ilampuranar wrote a commentary on Tolkappiyam sometime in the 11th12th cent. His style is clear and simple; there are comparatively few Sanskrit loans, though he is not a purist. Cenavaraiyar (13th cent.), another commentator on Tolkappiyam, is more elegant and more descriptive, his syntax is more complicated, and he displays his Sanskritic education. One of the great masters of Tamil erudite prose was Peraciriyar (13th cent.), who composed a terse, elegant, sharp commentary on Tolkappiyam, and a mellow, melodious, but simple gloss on Manikkavacakar's Tirukkovaiyar. One of the greatest Tamil commentators was Atiyarkkunallar, born in Nirampaiyur in the 13th cent. Poppanna Kankeyan, the son of a Ganga king, was his patron. His commentary on Cilappatikaram is above all a mine of data, including many quotations (identified by him as to the sources and (or) authorship), often from works now lost. His sentences are usually complex and long, his style high and learned. Parimelalakar (13th-14th cent.), a Brahman from Kaficipuram or from Maturai, is considered by many the 'prince' of commentators. The two great commentaries he is said to have composed, on Tirukkural and on Paripatal, are undoubtedly his; he is also credited with some other commentaries, which are probably not authentic8. He is very much indebted to Sanskrit sources which enriched his vocabulary and style considerably. He has great power of argumentation, writing with forceful clarity, in terse, brief sentences. Naccinarkkiniyar (14th cent.) may probably be considered as the last of the great medieval commentators; and probably the greatest. He has produced magnificent glosses, full of original, bold thought, and composed in a vivid, vehement style, shining with learning and sophistication, on Pattuppattu, Kalittokai, Tolkappiyam, Civakacintamani, and on a few stanzas of Kuruntokai. There were of course many more commentators, important in the field of grammatical literature (e.g. Mayilainatar on Nannul, 13th-14th cent.) or in the field of religion and philosophy (e.g. the Vaisnava commentators on the canon, or Civariana Munivar who died in 1785, whose monumental commentary on Civananapotam contains some marvellous passages), but their writing was not so very important for the development of pre-modern Tamil prose-fiction9. We must guard against overestimating the role the great commentaries played in the origin and development of belletristic prose-writing. Nevertheless, they may be regarded as the great font, the great reservoir of the potencies and possibilities to develop a prose-literature. In the late 18th* and early 19th centuries, under the impact of different forces, almost beyond doubt the most 8 9

E.g. on Tirumurukarruppatai, cf. Ko. VATIVELU CETTIYAR'S ed., Madras, s.d. It has been stressed in the Introduction to this book that it does not deal with two spheres of writing which are of course of tremendous, but only marginal and not central importance for a national literary culture: with folklore, and with eruditory, technical literature.


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decisive among them Western influences, the purpose and the function of prose changed drastically. The basic change leading to the origin of modern prose-fiction occurred in the conceptual sphere: prose ceased to be regarded as suitable merely for the secondary interpretative and elucidatory purposes. This fundamental change, however, was connected intimately with the impact of Western, European thinking about prose, and with the transition from the scribal to the typographic culture. 6.2. A not negligible role was played in the development of Tamil prose by foreigners. Roberto de Nobili, an Italian Jesuit who lived in South India between 1605-1656 when he died at the age of 78, assumed the habits and the style of a Tamil sannyasi, learned Sanskrit, Tamil and Telugu, and composed a number of books in the three languages. Besides the fifteen works ascribed to him now, possibly ten more will be added by future research10. He wrote on Christian sujets (dialogues about the faith, about the Cross, about eternal life, dissertations on the nature of the soul, sermons, refutations of some Hindu beliefs, etc.), and all his works are composed in prose; they are the first Tamil works dealing with Christianity. He and his native collaborators coined a number of new terms. His diction is heavily Sanskritized but, according to S. Rajamanickam, the style is clear, direct and simple. C. G. E. Beschi (1680-1746) alias Viramamunivar dealt with the same subjects as de Nobili but, in addition, created a short, amusing prose-history of a guru who is 'the perfection of ignorance' in his conte drdlatique of Paramartta kuruvin katai11. Is it a satire on Hindu monks ? Or against Protestants ? Or simply a funny narrative containing Indian as well as European motifs ? In any case it is the first prosaic narrative in Tamil which has reached us. The work was translated into Latin, English, Czech, German and French12. The various translations of the Bible into Tamil played 10 Cf. P. S. RAJAMANICKAM S. J., Robert de Nobili, alias Tattuva Podagar, the Father of Tamil Prose, Univ. of Madras 1967. The author gives on pp. 278-80 a list of Nobili's works; he has also edited or re-edited a number of his writings. 11 In the British Museum in London, a manuscript is available from Beschi's own hand of the original version and a Latin translation (MS. Add. 26110, pp. 199-221, see R. E. ASHEB, Aspects, p. 131, ftn. 3.) RAMA SUBBIAH edited this text in Tamil Oli, Journ. of the Tamil Language Society, Univ. of Malaya, No. 5 (1965-66) pp. 105-27. For Beschi's life and works, cf. L. BESSE S. J., Father Beschi of the Society of Jesus. His Times and Writings, Trichinopoly 1918; T. SRINIVASAN, Beschi, the Tamil Scholar and Poet, TC 3 (1954) 297-313. 12 Cf. BENJAMIN GUY BABINGTON (trans.), The Adventures of the Gooroo Paramartan, London 1822 (repr. 1861, 1871, 1915); Fahrten und Abenteuer Gimpels und Compagnie. Ein tamulisches Reise- und Scherzmarchen nacherzahlt von J. G. T H . GRAESSE, Dresden 1860; Abbe J. A. DUBOIS (transl.), Aventures du gourou Paramarta. Conte drolatique indien. Paris 1877; KAMIL ZVELEBIL (transl.), Zertovne pfibehy Mistra Paramarty, Praha 1954. For the history of Tamil prose in general, cf. also V. SELVANAYAGAM, Tamil urainatai varalaru, KumpakoNam 1957, and A. M. PARAMASIVANANDAM, Tamil urainatai, Madras 1959. In English, V. S. CHENGALVARAYA PILLAI, History of Tamil Prose Literature, Madras 1966 (1st ed., 1904).

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some role in the development of prose, too: The first translation was the Biblia Damulica prepared by German missionaries B. Ziegenbalg, J. Griindler and B. Schultze in Tranquebar between 1714-172813. The Dutch in Ceylon put out a New Testament in Tamil in 1759. J. P. Fabricius produced a version which the Lutherans continue to use14. The Bower version, which is the authorised version of the Tamil protestants (1871) made it practically its basis. The Bible Society chose Rhenius, another German missionary, to work on the Fabricius version; his New Testament came out between 1827-33; it is in good and clear style, but less faithful to the original than Fabricius. Peter Percival, a Methodist, was chosen to be the chief translator by the American missionaries. His main assistant was K. Arumukam (born 1822, later known as Arumuka Navalar, one of the most energetic adversaries of Christianity). They produced the Jaffna version, based on the English Authorised Version of 1611, but made from Greek and Hebrew originals, and from Rhenius. It appeared between 1845-185015. A poetic version in Tamil of the four gospels was composed by a Lutheran Tamil poet, Tancavur Vetanayakam Cattiri (iSastri), 17741864. We must guard against overestimating the importance of this early Tamil prose written mostly by foreigners, often assisted by Tamil pandits reared on the commentators, since, for a long time, it has not exercised any considerable influence on the indigenous literary tradition. Nevertheless, it was there—and Pope speaks even of a particular "Christian style" of Tamil16—manifesting the fact that one can handle, through the Tamil medium and in prose, new subjects like Christian theology and Christian devotion. A rather exceptional but very important ease is that of Anandarangam Pillai's fascinating Diary. Anantarankap Pillai17 began writing his Diary18 on 13 While ZIEGENBALG'S part of the translation was found intelligible and faithful (J. M. S. HOOPER), though BESCHI ridiculed its colloquialisms, SCHUXTZE'S part was described as "curious" and 'infelicitous." 14 It is faithful to the original, but this faithfulness led the translator to some curious and unidiomatic expressions. 15 There are of course innumerable problems in translating the Bible into Tamil. What expression to use, e.g., in Tamil for such key-item as 'God' ? The Portuguese Catholic prayer-books used Tampirdn (the Lord, the Absolute). ZIEGENBALG introduced Carvecuran (the Almighty), still retained by most Roman Catholics. FABBICIUS used Pardparan (the Lord of Heavens), still employed by the Lutherans. TEVAN (< Skt. deva) was used in the Jaffna version. The recent Larsen Version of 1936 introduced Katavul (the Transcendental God). Cf. SABAPATHY KULANDBAN, The Tentative Version of the Bible or "The Navalar Version," Tq 7 (1958) 229-250. Cf. also J. S. M. HOOPER, The Bible in India, Oxford 1938. 16 Preface to Tiruyacagam, p. xii. 17 Born near Madras in April 1709; acted as a kind of Prime Minister of the French colony of Pondichery under governor J. F. Dupleix; was also a patron of literature. Died on Jan. 11, 1761. 18 The Tamil title is Tinappati ceti kurippu. Costa likitam. Translated from the Tamil as The Diary of Ananda Ranga Pillai (ed. by M. DODWELL), for the Government of Madras.


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Sept. 6, 1736. It is one of the most important documents ever written in Tamil: from, state secrets to small everyday trivia of family life, he has captured the events of a quarter of a century. It makes a charming reading, in the most deliciously colloquial language with a number of spelling errors; a spontaneous piece of writing, with a keen sense of minute observation, here and there with a pinch of humour and even irony, entirely independent of the traditional line of high Tamil prose. Thus e.g. under Tuesday, March 29, 1757, we may read: This is the town news of to-day:— As usual, the Kammalas erected the Kinnither for their Goddess last night and carried her to the temple after taking her in procession along the street of the left-hand caste people. Kandappa Mudali ordered them, the dancing-girls and pipers, to be seized and brought as the car was more than the usual height and the dancing-girls danced in the streets. He beat them himself and imprisoned the dancing-girls and pipers saying that he had the Governor's orders so to do. Such a scandalous and unjust thing has not been heared of till now, and now that it has happened, all fear what else will come to pass. Wednesday, March 30 . . . The Kammalas whose dancing-girls, pipers and others are in prison came and said that they had built the car as usual, that the dancing-girls had done nothing except look around in the course of dancing, and that they had been unjustly treated. I, replying that their affair would prosper, went to the office in the flower-garden at ten o'clock. Thursday, March 31. . . . M. Calard, who is in charge of the carpenter's shop, went up and said to Kandappa Mudali, 'Are you the dubash of the place to accuse carpenters and blacksmiths falsely with not having salaamed to you, and to drag them out and beat and imprison them ? You have not heard the last of this. I will take the matter up, so look to yourself.' Having thus addressed him harshly, he then went up to the Governor and spoke to him; the latter did not seem to pay much heed to his complaint; but he came back to Kandappa Mudali and declared that he would have him properly punished. He then went downstairs, and sent for the carpenters, blacksmiths, etc. . . . 6.3. Apart from purely historical, and some external ideological factors, the two most important preconditions for the origin and growth of modern and popular prose as fiction in Tamil India were printing and journalism19. The first known Tamil types were cast in 1577 at Goa; a second and more satisfactory set was produced in Quilon in 1578. However, earlier than that, on Febr. 11, 1554, a brochure entitled Cartilha e lingoa Tamul e Portugues appear19 Some of the historical and political factors, as well as the external cultural and ideological reasons were briefly mentioned in K. ZVELEBIL, The Smile of Murugan, 1973, pp. 264-7. Cf. also K. K. PILLAI, The Western Influence on Tamil Prose, TC 6 (1957) 159—75; and especially R. E. ASHEB, Some Landmarks in the History of Tamil Prose, Dr. R. P. Sethu Pillai Silver Jubilee Endowment Lectures, University of Madras 1967-68, ande ASHEK, Litterature en prose en tamoul et an malayalam jusqu'a la fin du XIX siecle, Bull, de l'Ecole Francaise d'Extreme-Orient, LIX (1972) 123-43.

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ed in Lisbon. The Tamil part was, of course, Romanized. This is the first Tamil printed work known thus far, and the first translation into Tamil of a European work20. The earliest example of printing in the characters of an Indian script, and the first available example of printing executed in an Indian language, is the Doctrina Christam en Lingua Malauar Tamul, 16 pp., entitled in Tamil Tampiran vanakkam, dated 20. 2. 1577 in Quilon21; its authors were Anrique Anriquez22 and F. Manuel; it is probably based on St. Francis Xavier's Portuguese (1542) and Tamil (1544) catechisms. Another Doctrina Christam alias Kiricittiyani vanakkam of 120 pp. is dated 14. 11. 1579 at Cochin. Finally, a large work, Flos Sanctorum of 669 pages, was prepared for Tamil print by Henriquez and printed in or around 1586 at Tuticorin or Punnakayil23. The two most important printing establishments in the South of India were founded at Ambalakkadu (since 1679) and in Tranquebar (1710). However, it was only the massive spread of printing, which began in Tamil India after the 1835 Act enabling Indians to own pressworks, that played such a decisive role in the development of modern prose. Owing to the appearance of printing and paper, and to the availability of printing to Tamil editors, scholars and original authors after 1835, Tamilnadu found itself at the beginning of a tremendous process of change—the transition from the 'scribal era' to the 'typographic era24,' a process which has not quite ended yet, since representatives of the two eras still coexist in today's Tamilnadu. Printing revolutionalized the whole conception, the ways, methods and techniques of writing. At the same time, 19th century is the century of Tamil journalism. Early printed Tamil books in prose are frequently translations of Sanskrit epics and tales, versions of traditional Tamil stories, and, finally, translations from English and French. Thus e.g. John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress 20 Written by Vincente de Nazareth, Jorge Carvalho, and Thome da Cruz. This short catechism is also one of the earliest examples of a continuous text in an Indian language to be transliterated into a Western script. It is interesting linguistically since it preserves some colloquialisms of the 16th cent. Cf. J. FILLIOZAT (ed. and transl.), Un catechisme tamoul du XVII e siecle en lettres latines, Pondichery 1967. 21 Now at the Harward College Library. 22 I.e. Henrique Henriques, S. J. Arrived in Goa in 1546. Francis Xavier advised him to study Tamil "day and night"; in 1552 he compiled a Tamil grammar in Portuguese. He is the first known European who has initiated serious study of Tamil; in about 1560, he has even proposed the erection of a Tamil university at Mannar or Punnakayil, cf. S. G. PEREIRA, The Jesuits in Ceylon, Madura 1941, and D. FERROLI, The Jesuits in Malabar, Vol. I., Bangalore 1939. 23 Cf. XAVIER S. THANI NAYAGAM'S excellent paper The First Books Printed in Tamil, TL 7 (1958) 288-308. Also, C. E. KENNET, Notes on Eefrly-Printed Tamil Books, in IA 1873, and A. GAUR, European Missionaries and the Study of Dravidian Languages, Proceedings of the First International Conference-Seminar of Tamil Studies, II, Kuala Lumpur 1969, 322-38; according to her, the first Tamil printed book was Henrique Henriques' Tamil version of St. Francis Xavier's Doutrina Christe in 1578, Goa. This seems to refer to the Doctrina Christam or Tampiran vaNakkam printed in Quilon on 20. 10. 1578. 24 Cf. MARSHALL Me LTJHAN, The Gutenberg Galaxy, London 1967.


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was translated as early as 1793. Parts of a French children's periodical, Berquin's L'ami des enfants, appeared in Tamil in 183825. The first Tamil teacher of G. U. Pope, Ramanuja Kavirayar (born about 1785-90 at Ramnad, died 1853) remained for forty years the first among an illustrious group of Tamil scholars in Madras. Among his European students were, besides Pope, Winslow, Drew and Rhenius; he helped Drew in his translation of the Tirukkural and Winslow in the compilation of his dictionary. Another of the Tamil scholars of the first half of the 19th century, Tantavaraya Mutaliyar, translated in 1824 the Pancatantra into Tamil (from a Marathi version), and in 1826 published a bunch of tales entitled Katamaficari. Arunacalam Catacivam Pillai alias Anal (Arnold), 1820-1896, translated Simon Casie Chitty's The Tamil Plutarch (1859) under the title Pavalar carittira tipakam (1886). A very important contribution to the early narrative proseliterature is the collection of literary anecdotes, Vin5taracamancari, by A. Viracami Cettiyar. Celvakecavaraya Mutaliyar (1864-1921) with his Apinavakkataikal 'Modern Stories' belongs to this early creative stage of Tamil prose. Probably the most outstanding personality of all was Yalppanattu Nallur Arumuka Navalar (1822-1889) whose prose versions of the two great purdnas, Periyapuranam and Tiruvilaiyatarpuranam, became true classics. The Tamil of his writings is simple but powerful, severe, spotlessly correct, polished, without any bombast, lucid and clear, though somewhat pedantic and dry. All these men, and a host of others who were their contemporaries and successors, were mainly nourished by two sources, the medieval commentators, and the early Christian missionary writings. One has to admit that the use of prose in fiction, in original literary composition, is recent in Tamil. The decisive impetus came with the tremendous impact of Europe upon India; this impact must not be underestimated, or even rejected. Modern Tamil prose fiction arose and developed under Western influence; it was first nourished by scholastic food; and, during the first half of the 19th century, and well into the second, this high-style, academic stream was the mainstream of Tamil writing, even as it came under direct impact of English literature. When the various factors, external and internal, combined—the spread of education, administrative and economic needs, confrontation of Hindu India with Christianity and Western ideologies, the tremendous impact of the 'typographic' image of the world created by the printing press, the influence of European, above all English, prose-writing, and, last but not least, the 'rediscovery' of ancient Tamil literature—when all these factors combined, an atmosphere and a milieu was created which favoured original Tamil works in 25 T. Vytheanatha Moodelair, The Looking-Glass for the mind; . . . stories . . . from L'Aim des Enfans. With analysis and close translation in Tamil, Madras 1838. Cf. R. E. ASHEB, The Tamil Renaissance and the Beginnings of the Tamil Novels, JRAS 1969, p. 16. For the Tamil translations of Shakespeare, cf. KA. NAA. STJBRAHMANYAM, Shakespeare in Tamil, Ind. Lit. 7 (1964) 120-6, with a bibliography.

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prose, original Tamil prose fiction. And, indeed, in a rapid succession, a considerable number of novelists appeared at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, and the short story, too, made its important debut. The first two truly modern Tamil writers were Subrahmanya Bharati (1882-1921) and V. V. S. Aiyar (1881-1925). Bharati made Tamil adequate for all literary expression: modern journalism as well as political songs, essay as well as narrative prose. V. V. S. Aiyar was probably the first to attempt short story as a distinctive genre. Simultaneously, this vigorously creative period produced five novelists of primary importance. 6.4. Subrahmanya Bharati attempted three novels: one allegorical, one autobiographic, and one which he planned as a great documentary novel with progressive tendencies of social reformism. Neither of these works can be called a complete success. iSlanaratam 'The Chariot of Knowledge' is probably his first important prose-work (1910). It is an allegorical journey on the chariot of knowledge through different worlds: the poet climbs the chariot which should take him into a world without sorrows and needs. He comes first to the world of peace; but at the entrance he finds out that he would have to forsake not only his sorrows and pains, but also his desires, wishes, and joys. He does not enter and proceeds to the world of the gandharvas—i.e. to the world of joys. This world disappoints him, too: for he cannot escape the painful comparison of India so full of suffering and pain with this joyful realm; and the perfect stability of the gandharvas who cannot develop any further, he finds repulsive. So he goes on to the world of dharma. There he finds finally fulfilment in the acceptance of duties according to everyone's fixed place in the order of things; all should act within an ideal four-mma-society without fear and without any claims to the fruits of their work. The language of the book is simple though replete with Sanskrit loans; the diction clear, but dry; the work is heavy with tedious philosophic discussion. In fact, it is not a novel at all. In 1913, Bharati wrote Cinnacankaran katai 'The Story of Cinnacankaran' of which we have, very unfortunately, only a fragment recovered from Subrahmanya Siva's journal Nanapanu. The whole work is supposed to have had sixty chapters. It was confiscated by the police, and only four chapters survived which describe vividly, in a poetic prose-style, full of rhetoric embellishments, the poet's childhood and early youth in Ettayapuram until about ten years of age. In the brief foreword, Bharati says explicitely that he will try to attempt in his story a blend (kalantu velai) of two styles and two approaches—Indian and Western. Another fragmentary novel, 'The Story of Cantirikai' (Cantirikayin katai) in 9 chapters (about 68 p.) was written probably between 1917-20. The heroine is only eight years old when the incomplete novel ends. It was obviously planned as a great work. There are three lines of action: in the first, a widow, Vicalatci, marries a sannydsi, Nittiyanantar; the second deals with Kopalayyankar, a


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Brahman and a high official, who marries Minatci, a girl of a lower caste; the third line describes a very different type of marriage—conservative and oppresive, in which the wife of Comanatayyar, a judge, is almost his slave. The novel manifests educational and Utopian tendencies, striving after social reforms, but, artistically, is rather poor: the characters are schematic, the text is dull and dry, and, above all, Bharati was obviously incompetent to attack successfully the complicated theme in all its complexity. This and the other abortive attempts show that Bharati was not a novelist and could have hardly developed into one. He was more successful in his short prose pieces, above all in his essays on many different topics. There, his chief principle was that one must write as one speaks, and his prose style is clear and simple. The form of the essay (katturai) was eminently suitable to the argumentative, frequently polemic character of Bharati's writings26. He also attempted short narrative pieces, and, though some of them are interesting, none are successful as art forms. Thus e.g. one of the more important, Aril oru panku (1911—12) which was strongly influenced by Bengali writing and by the radical views of Aurobindo Ghosh, is of absorbing sujet but very weak as a story. Though the two main heroes are Tamils, the action takes part in Bengal, in the milieu of revolutionary terrorism and the fight against untouchability. Some of the best pieces in prose he has ever written are just very brief sketches of almost lyrical nature, like e.g. Malai 'Rain' (containing the splendid poem on rain), Putiyakonanki 'The New Soothsayer,' or Pinkalavarusam 'The Fifty-first Year27.' The most attractive of Bharati's English prose-writings is his biting satire The Fox With the Golden 26

Cf. what Bharati says about prose style in one of his essays: "It is not many years ago that Tamil prose was born. The habits of the cradle last to the grave. Hence it is now that we have to strive after a prose style that is clearer than in any other language. I am convinced that it is of supreme importance to write—as far as it is possible—as one speaks." For Bharati's prose-writings, cf. K. ZVE:LEBI:L, The Prose Works of Bharati, TC 5 (1956) 315-27; VIJAYA S. BHARATI, The Other Harmony : A Study of Bharati's Prose Writings, Proceedings of the Second International Conference-Seminar of Tamil Studies, 2, Madras 1971, 116-21; and especially her unpublished PhD dissertation A Critical Study of Bharati's Works, Annamalai University 1967. While living in Pondicherry, Bharati also translated a few of R. Tagore's stories from the Calcutta Modern Review (these translations were republished by Amuda Nilayam, Madras 1958). He was also capable of vigorous, lucid style in English, cf. e.g. "I have seen, among 'wealthy and respectable Brahmanas,' babies wrenched from their mothers' breasts, yelling, in order to be made 'wives' to equally helpless male ones—all the 'sacred rites' ordained by the 'holy scriptures' being duly observed." Or, "Mankind is fundamentally one. Of course there are some silly theorists and sillier rhymesters in Europe, as here, who have been pleased to divide mankind into hearts which 'shall never meet,' but the true seers have everywhere proclaimed the unity of the human race." Or: "We live because we love; not because we make compromises. Love is life. Custom is nothing." "Where woman comes, comes art. And what is Art, if not the effort of humanity towards divinity ?" 27 For the English translation of two of those prose-sketches cf. New Orient Bimonthly 2, Prague 1962.

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Tail—A Fable with an Esoteric Significance (1914), an attack on Annie Besant ("the great she-fox of the golden tail"), on theosophy and Hindu reformists. Varakaneri Venkateca Cuppiramaniya Aiyar (V. V. S. Aiyar, 1881-1925)28 brought out, during his brief, stormy life which ended in tragedy, quite a number of important works in Tamil and English. He translated into English the Tirukkural, he wrote a penetrating study in English on Kampaii's great epic29, he established a Kambanilayam to publish translations, critical essays, histories of literature, etc., he wrote in Tamil biographies of Napoleon, Garibaldi, Mazzini, and Rana Pratap Singh; he also had a magnificent plan to write and publish a series of large historical novels dealing with the past of Tamil India. Instead, this exceptionally broadly educated and brilliant man, who knew and studied, besides Tamil and Sanskrit, Hindi, Bengali, French, Greek, Latin, and of course English, published just one single volume of original stories creating thus a new genre in Tamil—the short story as defined by specific features and techniques. The collection of his short stories is entitled Mankaiyarkkaraciyin katal 'The Love of Mankaiyarkkaraci'30 and contains eight pieces: five of them are love-stories, two (Kankeyan, Kamalavijayam) with a happy ending, three tragical (Mankaiyarkkaraciyin katal, Laili Ma j nun, Anarkkali). Of the rest, Alen Lakkeyin Carittiram 'The History of Alen Lakke' is a tragical and, as the author maintains, a true story of a Frenchman in the First World War; Kulattankarai aracamaram 'The Pipal Tree on the Bank of a Tank' is a tragical Indian family tale; and Etiroliyal 'The Echo-Woman' is adapted from Greek mythology. It was the opinion of V. V. S. Aiyar that stories in prose should each have a basic flavour, basic mood (rasa) just like poems; that, in fact, a short story should be a kind of short poem in prose. The first story is a tale of grief and abandonment. The very beginning introduces its basic flavour:— "It was dark everywhere; utterly dark. Heavy, black clouds covered the entire sky. The moon appeared for a moment, only to disappear at once behind even heavier clouds. The wind blows in rage. In the distance, a tiger and a bear roar, and from a nearby grove one hears the howling of jackals. There, on the banyan tree, an owl screams terribly . . . " 28 Born in Varakaneri near Trichinopoly, got his B. A. degree when 16, for a time lived in Rangoon, practiced as barrister-in-law, 1907-1910 in England where he refused to take the oath of allegiance to the king before admission to the Bar. Became a radical Indian nationalist, when a warrant was issued for his arrest went to France, therefrom to Pondicherry, where he spent ten years. In 1917 he met Gandhi whom he tried to convert to radicalism and terrorism. Making use of the amnesty in 1920, he returned to Madras, became editor of a Tamil journal (Tecapaktan) of which only four issues were published. Two years later he was charged with sedition and spent nine months in Bellary jail. When he was released, he made a swift tour of India, then settled down at the Shermadevi Gurukul Ashram. He drowned in June 1925 while trying to save his daughter. 29 Kamba Ramayanam, A Study, written in Bellary jail in 1922-23, published by the Delhi Tamil Sangam in 1950, reprinted by Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Bombay 1965. 30 Publ. by Alliance Company, Madras 1953.


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The events of 'The Pipal Tree on the Bank of a Tank' are contemporary, but the hero and heroine appear to be ancient epic figures. The story is told by an old tree—a motif which reappears more than half a century later in the excellent novelette by Cuntara Ramacami (q.v.). In two stories (Kankeyan and Alen Lakke) Aiyar used his own experience of exile. Through his French hero who is sentenced to death, Aiyar expresses the opinion that the freedom and happiness of one's country is much more important than the private happiness of one's family. The virtues and vices of Aiyar's heroes are uncomplicated and straightforward; love is immortalized in Anarkkali and Laili Majnun; other virtues put forward by Aiyar are pure heroism and total renunciation. His style is exalted and majestic, dignified and stately, but not very well suited to the genre of short story; it is rather an epic style. Sanskrit loanwords give Tamil, according to V. V. S. Aiyar, depth and stateliness (kampiram) and do not deprive it of dignity at all. Consequently, his diction is richly Sanskritized. 6.5. Short Forms. 6.5.1. According to Raghunathan31, V. V. S. Aiyar was the 'first cause' and the 'true pathfinder' in the realm of the Tamil short story. There are, in his opinion, three truly great story writers in Tamil: Puthumaippittan, Mauni, and L. S. Ramamirtham. "The world of Tamil may attain greatness on account of the stories by these three authors. If one should point out the best contributions of the Tamils to the realm of short story on a world-scale, two stories would be enough—Puthumaippittan's Capavimocanam and Mauni's Enkirunto vantan." Though we may agree in general with Raghunathan's evaluation, the real picture is much more complicated. Short story was attempted even before V. V. S. Aiyar. With V. V. S. Aiyar's and Bharati's attempts, short story writing in Tamil made a good start, but it was only with Puthumaippittan that the short story attained a decided status. Long before Puthimaippittan's writings exercised decisive impact on Tamil prose, and even before V. V. S. Aiyar gave the Tamil short story a firm shape, Celvakecavaraya Mutaliyar (1864-1921) published his slender collection of Apinavakkataikal or 'Modern Stories,' and may thus be regarded as the true 'father' of this genre in Tamil. Then came the great formative period started by V. V. S. Aiyar who "gave life and shape" to the Tamil story32, marked by the names of Bharati, Ma31 Ilakkiyavimareanam, 2nd ed. Madras 1956, pp. 97-9. For Tamil short story, cf. KA. CIVATTAMPI, Tamilil cirukkataiyin torramum vajarcciyum, Madras 1967; A. CHIDAMBARANATHA CHETTIAR, The Short Story and its Development in Tamil, TC 4 (1955) 227-238; P. G. STJNDARARAJAN, The Short Story in Tamil, Indian Writing Today 2,2 (April-June 1968) 58-64; KAMIL ZVELEBIL, The Tamil Short Story Today: Jayakanthan, Janakiraman, Ramamirtham, Mahfil 4,3-4 (1968) 37-45. For modern prose in general, see E. ANNAMALAI, Changing Society and Modern Tamil Literature, Mahfil 4,3-4 (1968) 21-36, and ALBERT B. FRANKLIN, The Tamil Language in the Modern World, JTS 1 (Sept. 1972) 9-22. 32 Putumaippittan, Katturaikal, Madras 1954.

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dhaviah, Ramanujalu Naidu. And then followed the all-important, though relatively brief time of the Manikkoti group—of creative writers gathered around a journal started by K. Srinivasan for spearheading the literary renaissance under the editorship of V. Ramaswami, and later turned into a medium solely for the short story by B. S. Ramiah. The most prolific prose-writer of the pre-Manikkoti period was probably Madhaviah (A. Matavaiya, 1874-1926), a very important novelist (§6.6.1). Most of his stories were first written in English and published in The Hindu, Madras; then translated into Tamil by the author, and published in his own journal Pancamirtam, and in a volume entitled Kucikar kuttikkataikal. They are mostly oriented towards social reform (e.g. female rights). Because of Madhaviah's knowledge of English prose, the form of his stories is not bad; but they are very strongly didactic and without much real life. His place in the development of this genre in Tamil is important, but of purely historical interest. 6.5.2. The complicated, engaging history of Manikkoti 'The Jewel-Banner,' a literary journal which has become a legend, was touched by Raghunathan in his biography of Puthumaippittan33 and, in fact, by Puthumaippittan himself34. Quite recently, B. S. Ramiah, a man more competent than anyone else, published a detailed account of the whole story in the journal Tipam (Deepam)35. The journal Manikkoti was founded by Ke. Cmivasan (K. Srinivasan) with Va. Ramacami (V. Ramaswami) as sub-editor in 1933. Main contributors were Pi. Es. Ramaiya (B. S. Ramiah), Na. PiccamUrtti (N. Pichamurti), and Puthumaippittan. At the end of 1934, it fused with Kanti, and Kanti's editor R. S. Chokkalingam became the chief manager of Manikkoti, while B. S. Ramiah and Puthumaippittan helped him to run it. But soon three very important men left—Srinivasan for the Bombay Standard, Chokkalingam became the editor of Tinamani, V. Ramaswami of Virakecari. Puthumaippittan and Ramiah remained and, in fact, Ramiah transformed it into a purely literary journal devoted specifically to short-story writing. This fact, however, seems to have shortened its life. It stopped publishing at the end of 1936. Among its most important contributors then were Ku. Pa. Rajakopalan (K. P. Rajagopalan), Ci. Cu. Cellappa (C. S. Chellappa), Citampara Cuppiramaniyam (Chidambara Subramanyam), and Mauni. In 1937 it was revived, but only for a very short period. After 1947, B. S. Ramiah tried, in vain, to revive it again. V. Ramaswami (Va. Ramasvami Ayyankar, d. 29. 8. 1951) was probably the true spiritus movens behind this unique and vigorous creative ferment of the Thirties. He was introduced to Tamil literature by Bharati who, after 33 34


RAKUNATAN, Putumaippittan, Madras 1951. In the foreword to his short story collection Anmai 'Manliness,' dated 29. 8..

35 Pi. E S . RAMAIYA, Manikkotikkalam, in 31 parts (last instalment, October1971) in N. Parthasarathy's Tipam (Deepam).


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having read Ramaswami's translations of Bankimchandra's Bengali prose into Tamil, is reported to have exclaimed: "From now on, I shall write only poetry. For prose, he is the one!" Ramaswami became a journalist, and the Manikkoti was born out of the dicussions which he had with a few friends, notably with K. Srinivasan who had been inspired in London by the Sunday Observer. Ramaswami worked thirty-five years to create a diction and style which would be rich and colourful but, at the same time, accessible to the masses. Modern prose should be understood even by a rikshaw-puller, was his credo. He was supremely political; a profound reformer, occasionally a revolutionary; sometimes quite unbelievably progressive for his age36. A journalist and a powerful orator as well. Literature and society was his main theme. He loved Hinduism, but hated its negative aspects: the rigours of the caste-system, the superstitions, the low status of women. He parted with his orthodox Vaisnava family and with his Brahman caste, and married outside his caste. He had many close Harijan friends. He loved Bharati, whose humanitarian ideals he carried on but, at the same time, he admired Mussolini. For music and some other arts he had no admiration at all. Writers must educate people so as to get rid of their inertia and cowardice. Nature is fine, but, according to Ramaswami, it should not be the true object of a writer's attention. Man and his place in society should be in the center of a writer's interest. True art must be a mirror of life. Human society is an ever-fresh spring of literary inspiration. Literature must deal with the living problems of human and social life. In the controversy about the nature of modern diction, he takes a decisive counter-purist view: since there is not enough common lexical material in Tamil to coin scientific terminology, the language should not hesitate to borrow freely37. Ramaswami introduced his dynamic and secular philosophy of life and his progressive social thinking into an innumerable number of essays and speeches, as well as into his four novels. In addition, he was the author of an excellent biography of S. Bharati, and of delightful short sketches of various small people; he has produced these according to a definite plan—about three dozens of them—inspired by A. G. Gardner's Pillars of Society and Prophets, Priests and Kings. His admirable prose is clear, lucid, powerful; right from the beginning it contains comparatively few Sanskrit loanwords (even less than Bharati's diction), not because of any conscious purism, but because his model was the day-to-day spoken language of simple people wich was not Sanskritized. "The thoughts, the content of my writings may be lofty and heavy; but the form, the words oannot." T. J. Ranganathan compared Ramaswami with G. K. Chesterton; 38 Thus e.g. in one of his speeches to the Tamil Writer's Association he refuses as rubbish such concepts as fate (talaiviti), the fruits of previous births (purvajanmapalan), ill-luck (atirustam), and he exhorts writers to sweep them out of literature and to create a writing which will educate people to freedom and riddance of ;such nonsense (pitarral). 37 "How is it possible to express modern concepts of this period of electrification ^,nd Communist ideology through a language which was born in the rural society V