grammars of the epoch were
the TOLKAPPIYAM, PANNIRUPADALAM and
Words of foreign origin were never used, notwithstanding the commercial intercourse of the Tamils with the Greeks, the Romans, and the Arabs, all of whom were generally referred to as the Yavanas. Sanskrit wordswere very sparingly used and even these were adopted in form.It is
said that in the PATTUPATTU ( çêÐÊçªçèìªÌ ), there are only about 2% of Sanskrit words.
The literature of this period is all poetry - mostly blank verse, inchaste classic style, devoid of rhetorical flourishes, figures of speech, hyberbolic descriptions, and the intricacies of later prosody - ASIRIYAPPA, KALIPPA, VENBA AND VANJIPPA ( Íò¨õ¨áçªçè, æù¨áçªçè, âôúªçè, ô¢ªò¨çªçè ) were the metrical forms in use. The descriptions of eventsand scenery are all faithful and true to nature.
The subject-matter of most of these works is panegyric of reigning kings, their military prowess, their liberality and their administration. Some poems depict poverty, chiefly of bards, in a very pathetic manner. Some are on morality, while only a few relate to religion.
The Mediaeval Tamil period embraces the Hindu and the sectarian periods of Tamil literature. The early part of it was one of struggle for prdominance between Hinduism on the one hand and Buddhismand Jainism on the other, in which the former came out triumphant, Buddhism being deprived of following in this land and Jainism crippled.The literature of this epoch consists of hymns to Siva and Vishnu andof the accounts of the life and adventures of Siva and Subrahmanya, Rama and Krishna, and Jina. The standard works on Tamil grammarduring this period were VIRASOLIYAM, ( ô¨õâòèù¨áë ª ), Nambi's AHAPPORUL ( íæçªâçèÕóª ) and NEMINADAM ( îåë¨åèêë ª ).
Sanskrit words, chiefly relating to religion, were largely introduced, and some of the Tamil words and forms current in the preceding epoch gave way to new ones.
Poetry was still the only kind of literary production, and the metricalforms of ASIRIYAM and VENBA ( Íò¨õ¨áëª , âôúªçè ) were not so much in favour as theVIRUTTAM, ( ô¨ÕêÐêëª )ª TANDAKAM ( êèúªìæë)ª and other forms derived from Sanskrit prosody. These were introduced with their ALANKARAS or embellishments. Rhyme and ANTADI ( íåÐêèê¨ ) forms were introduced to render the recital of sacred songs easier. As for their style, the pure simplicity and the natural beauty of the academic periodwere gone. Affectation and aartificiality were highly admired. As it was a period of struggle for religious supremacy, the sects competed in
extolling and exaggerating their own doctrines, and by fabricating miracles to support them.
Thus CHINTAMANI, ( ò¨åÐêèëú¨ ), the RAMAYANA,( õèëèáúëª ), the KANDAPURANA,
( æåÐêµõèúë ª ) the PERIYA PURANA ( âçõ¨á µõèúë ª ), and the MAHABHARATHA
( ëæèçèõêëª ), are fullof stories of the kind we meet with in the old puranas. However, a true spirit of ( æåÐêµõèúë ª ) , the THIRUVILAYADAL PURANA ( ê¨Õô¨éóáèìù ª)devotion and religious fervour pervaded the writings of this period.
The modern period begins from the thirteenth century. The ancient kingdom of the Cholas and Pandyas had been subverted. A powerful Telugu empire had come into existence on the banks of the Tungabhadra, which before the close of the fifteenth century absorbed all theTamil kingdoms.Then came the Mahratta and Musalman invasions from thenorth, and lastly the Europeans from beyond the seas.
Till about the end of the seventeenth century, the Tamil countries were ruled by Hindu governors.Brahamnical influence was in the ascendant. The learning of Sanskrit, Tamil and Telugu was encouraged. Several originalworks in all these languages were written, besides innumerable commentaries in Tamil as well as in Sanskrit on ancient works, especially on the NALAYIRA DIVYA PRABHANDAM, ( åèùèá¨õ ê¨ôªá çªõçåÐêë ª), all tending to aggravate the sectarian animosities, until a reaction set in, during the succeeding period of Musalman despotism. Then for about half a century, there was a lull, which was followed by the production of anti-Brahmanical, Christian and Islamic works. It was only during the first half of the last century that pure literature began to revive.
With the change in government, religion and social customs, many Tamil words had gone out of use giving way to new ones. Most of the revenue and judicial terms, names relating to office furniture and stationery, and most words relating to the administrative machinery are Arabic, Persian or English. The religious terms, of course, are Sanskrit and Tamil.
There is nothing new in the grammar of this period, except for aleaning towards a greater use of Sanskrit and foreign words by the learned and the admixture of English words in the household speechof the English-educated Tamilians.
Poetry was the only medium of literary expression of thought in Tamil till about the beginning of the last century, excepting of course, the copious notes and commentaries on ancient poems. However, the naturalease and beauty of the writings of the academic and the hymnal periods were gone. The KALAMBAKAM, ( æùëªçæëª ) MALAI, ( ëèéù ) ANTADI, ( íåÐêèê¨ ) PILLAITAMIL, (ç¨óªéóêÐêë¨È ª ) PARANI, ( çõú¨ ) ULA, ( ãùè ) KOVAI, ( îæèéô ) and THOODU ( Ê ) werethe different forms adopted for shorter literarycompositions and the
KAVYA ( æèçªç¨áë )for longer works like the PURANAS ( µõèúëª )ª.For these sustained compositions a variety of metres described in theworks on prosody were freely made use of.
Tamil Literature -- Its Classification
Indian grammarians have divided Tamil literature into three classes, namely -IYAL (belles-lettres), ISAI (Music), and NATAKAM (Drama).Tradition says that Agastya was the only grammarian who wrote complete treatises on the grammar of all the three classses of Tamil, but none of them are nowextant. During the early centuries of the Christian era attention seems to have been paid by the Tamils tom all the three. They had their own dances and music - vocal and instrumental. They developed the art of dancing to a high degree of perfection andmany treatises were written on this fine art; even their gods had their characteristicfavourite dances.
Music too was highly developed and their PANS( çúª) or tunes were SUI GENERIS to the Tamil race. The only ancient Tamil work nowextant dealingwith the nature of the drama is the SILAPPADIKARAM( ò¨ùçªçê¨æèõëª ) of the third century. It gives a vivid description of
the stage, the actor, the singer, the drummer, the flute-player, theyal-player, and others of the troupe; and contains beautiful specimens of VARI ( ôèõ¨ ), KURAVI ( Æ÷ô¨ ), AMMANAI ( íëªëèéä ), USAL( Ãòùª ), KANDUKAM ( æåÐÊæëª ), VALLAI ( ôùªéù ) and other
types of songs.
The ancient Tamil works on music, dancing and drama fell into neglect; and by the time of Adiyarkunallar (about 1200 A.D.),most of them werelost. It isdifficult now to say what those PANS and dances were like. Their places were gradually taken up by the Indo-Aryan RAGAMS and NATYAMS.
During festivals and processions of gods, dancing was encouraged and plays were acted to draw large crowds of devotees. Hundreds of dancing girls or GANDHARVIS were attached to every important temple. This was the origin of the institution of singing by ODUVANS and ARAIVANS, and the public representation of NATAKAS ( åèìæëª ), PALLUS ( çóªÓ), and KURAVANJIS
( Æ÷ô¢ªò¨ ) in Hindu temples. Of these the first alone now survives. The institution was carried to the West Coast, and it now survives in the Chakkiyar Kuttu ( òèæÐæ¨áèõÐ ÔêÐÊ ). Duringthe eighteenth century, drama and music began to revive; and Arunachala Kavi(1712 - 1779 A.D.) the famous author of RAMA NATAKAM ( õèë åèìæëª )may justly be called the fatherof modern dramaticliterature, and under the Mahratta Rajas of Tanjore, a fresh impetus was given to music.
The real history of Tamil literature begins with the Tamil Sangams (Academies), which lasted from B.C. 500 to A.D. 500. The ancient Tamil poems frequently refer to sangams or societies of learned mn. The word `sangam' used by Buddhists and Jains for a religious order or coterie,
came to supersede", writes the late Mr. Purnalingam Pillai,"on the scoreof its euphony, the expression, `KUTTAM' which is Tamil, and thepresence of poets of the Buddhist or Jain persuasion in the thirdacademy in modern Madurai accounts for it. Madurai bears the name
of KUDAL ( Ôìùª ), for the reason that the poetic academy met there".
The Sangam was a body, perhaps at first informal, of the most learnedmen of the time, whose chief function, like that of the French Academy,was the promotion of literature. According to Tamil writers, there were three Sangams in the Pandya country at different periods.
Of the three Sangams, the second was more or less continuous withthe first, and both probably existed some time between the fifth centuryB.C. and second century A.D., while the third, and the most important of them, seems, to have lasted till A.D 500.
THE FIRST SANGAM
Regarding the First Sangam, we know little. None of the writings attributedto this Sangam have come down to us in their entirety. We have only a few doubtful quotations from AGASTYAM
( íæ¡ªêÐáëª )and other works. The onlyauthors of this period about whom, any account, however scanty, can be extracted from Tamil literature are Agastya and Murinjiyur Mudinagarayar. The rest of the members seem to be half-mythical persons. Even the life of Agastya is envelopedin myth. He is said to have had 12 students. Chief of them Tolkappiyar was also a member of
the second sangam like his renowned master.
The identification of TEN MADURAI ( âêäª ëÊéõ ), the seat of the first Sangam, has been a controversial point. Regarding the destructionof this place, there are certain allusions both in the Madurai STALAPURANA( ¡ªêù µõèúëª ) and in the SILAPPADIKARAM ( ò¨ùçªçê¨æèõëª ).
The learned commentator of the latter work writes as follows: "Between the riversKUMARI and PAHRULI there existed an extensive continent occupying an area of 700 KAVADAMS (a KAVADAM being equal to ten miles). This land consisting of forty nine NADS (inclusive of Kollam and Kumari), innumerable forests, mountains and rivers had been submerged in the Indian Ocean as far as the peaks of Kumari, by a terrific convulsion which resulted in the upheaval of the Himalayan Range". Geological, ethnological and linguistic researches also seem to confirm the above theory.
CHANGE OF VENUE
at the date of the
second Sangam is equally
difficult. It is
said that the
seat of the second Sangam
was Kavatapuram. The transfer
from TEN MADURAI to Kavatapuram
and from the latter city
to the modern city of
Madurai (seat of the third
Sangam) is probably a historical
fact. The former two sites
are said to have been
submerged by two
different incursions of the
The only work of the second Sangam which has come down to usis the Tolkappiyam. Nothing further is known about Tolkappiyar than that he was a student of Agastya and that he lived in a village near Madurai duringthe reign of the Pandya king Makirti. All the works of this Sangam have also been irretrievably lost, except the above work and a few poems which luckily found their way into the anthologies of the third Sangam.
Almost all the best Tamil classics we now possess are the productionsof the third Sangam, which had its seat in Madurai.
THE THIRD SANGAM
A comparison of these ancient institutions of the Tamil people with the modern Royal Academy of the French will be interesting. The French Academywas established in 1635 A. D., i.e. nearly two thousand years after the First Tamil Academy, and its members were fixed at forty. Its object was to cleanse the language of the impurities which had crept into it through the common peoplewho spoke it and to render it pure, eloquent and capable of treating arts and sciences. It has done much byits example for style and has raised the generalstandard of writing,though it has tended to ahmper and crush originality. Language has life and growth and , when left to itself, sprouts out into diversedialects like the branches of a living tree. "The bit and bridle of literature", says Max Mueller, "will arrest a natural flow of language in the countless rivulets ofits dialects, and give a permanency to certain formation of speech which, without these external influences, could have enjoyed but an ephemeral existence". This linguistic principle was clearly understoodand fully recognised by the founders ofthe Tamil Academies. To secure, therefore, permanency to the Tamil language, the boundaries of the country where it was current were roughly described and the particular locality in which pure Tamil (Sen Tamil) was spoken was sharply defined; then the form and pronunciation of letters were settled; rules were laid down to distinguish pure Tamil words from those of foreign origin, and to determine the structure and combination of words in sentences. These and many other restrictions on the free growth of the language were dealt with in the firstTamil grammar. Treatises were written on prosody, rhetoric and PORUL (detailsof conduct in matters of love and warfare). Poetical dictionaries or NIKHANDUSwere compiled in order to check the indiscriminate and unlicensed introduction of alien words in the Tamil vocabulary. The canons of literary criticism were severeand were applied impartially.
In this way the Tamil language, which passed through the crucible ofthe three academies, was refined and given to the Tamil land as a perfect instrument for the expression of the best thoughts and sentiments of its people. The influence of these academies is markedly seen in the Tamil writings which received their approval; in style and choice of words these differ much from the Tamil works of the post-academic period.
For the advancement of literature and academies the Tamil kings didmuch. Liberal presents in the shape of money, elephants, palanquins, chariots with horses, lands and flowers of gold were bestowed upon deserving poets. Titles of distinction were also conferred on them.
Tolkappiyam, the grammar during the period of the second and third Academies, is in three parts and 1,612 Sutras. It is the oldest extant Tamilgrammar, the name signifying `ancient book' or `the preserver of ancientinstitutions'. It was preceded by centuries of literary culture, for
it lays down rules for different kinds of poetical compositions, deduced from examples furnished by the best authors whose works had been in existence.
It treats clearly and systematically of only one of the three time-honoured divisions of Tamil, viz., IYAL or natural Tamil. The three parts of it are ELUTHU (Orthography), SOL (Etymology), and PORUL (Matter), each with nine sections.
(a) ELUTHU: ( öÇêÐÊ ) The first part deals with Letters, i.e. Orthography.
(b) SOL: ( âòèùª ) The second part on Words is masterly in treatment. In this the author attempts to find the root meanings of words. It is a peculiarity that gender is natural and not grammatical; it is based on the significance, not the form, of the words.
(c) PORUL ( ªâçèÕóª ) : The third part PORULADIKARAM is most valuableas it gives us a glimpse of the political, social and religious lifeof the peopleduring the period when Tolkappiyar lived.
THIRS SANGAM WORKS
While no works of the first Sangam have come down to us, and the Second Sangam is represented by TOLKAPPIYAM( âêèùªæèçªç¨áëª ) alone, we are more lucky with the Third Sangam. In addition to the tradition transmitted in the comnmentary on the IRAIYANAR AHAPPORUL ( ¬é÷áäèõÐ íæçªâçèÕóª ), we have other traditions all of which mark the following as the accredited works of this Sangam : the ETTUTOGAI, ( öìªÌêÐâêèéæ ), the PATTUPPATTU ( çêÐÊçªçèìªÌ ), and the PADINENKILKANAKKU ( çê¨âäúªæ©ÈªæÐæúæÐÆ ), all of which have comedown to us. KUTTU ( ÔêÐÊ), VARI ( ôõ¨ ), SIRRISAI ( ò¨÷ª÷¨éò ),
PERISAI ( îçõ¨éò ),etc. are now only names to us, the works having themselvesbeen lost long since.
The Ettutogai comprises: NARRINAI, ( å÷ª÷¨éú ) KURUNTOGAI,( Æ×åÐâêèéæ ), AINGURUNURU ( É§ªÆ×¿× ), PADIRRUPPATTU ( çê¨÷ª×çªçìªÌ ), PARIPADAL ( çõ¨çèìùª ), KALITTOGAI( æù¨êÐâêèéæ ), NEDUNTOGAI ( âåÌåÐâêèéæ ), AND PURANANURU
( µ÷åèÛ× ).
The Narrinai contains 401 stanzas, each ranging from nine to twelve lines.In it we find the handiwork of 175 poets. The verses deal withthe five THINAIS( ê¨éú), 28 on MULLAI ( Ëùªéù ), 32 on MARUDAM ( ëÕêëª ), 107 on PALAI ( çèéù ), 103 on NEITHAL
( âåáªêùª ), and 120 on KURINJI ( Æ÷¨¢ªò¨ ). Its general theme is love and its compilation was at theinstance of the Pandyan king, Pannadu atnda Pandyan Maran Valudi.
The Kuruntogai literally means a collection of short poems. This collection containing verses attributed to as many as 205 poets has 402 stanzas in the AHAVAL( íæôùª ) metre, each stanza ranging from four to eight lines. As in the NARRINAI ( å÷ª÷¨éú ), the theme of the work is love and the stanzas can be brought under the category of the five THINAIS. Itwould appear that th ecompilaation of the extant work by the well-known commentator Per-Asiriyar has since become lost.Nacchinarkiniyar has written a gloss on twenty verses only, because, in all probability, the other gloss existed in his time.
The Aingurunuru means literally the short five hundred. It contains 500AHAVAL verses and the whole book can be conveniently divided into fiveparts, each part consisting of 100 stanzas. Each verse contains three to six lines. Every part again deals with five THINAIS.Orambagiyar, Ammuvanar, Kapilar, Odalandaiyar,and Peyanar, are said to be the respective authors of hundred verses each on MARUDAM, NEITHAL,KURINJI, PALAI and MULLAI THINAIS respectively. In the case of this work,however, the name of the compiler is known as Kudalur Kilar.
The Padirruppattu (the Ten Tens) is an anthology of great importance. Here we are introduced to a number of kings of the Chera dynasty, with a splendid record of their deeds and achievements thus enabling us to get at a true picture of the political conditions of Tamil land abouttwo thousand years ago.Of the ten books into which th ewhole work is divided, the first and the last are notavailable to us.
The Paripadal (literally stanzas of strophic metre) is according to traditiona composition of the first Academy as well as the third Academy. If the two aredifferent works, the first Sangam work is lost. The PARIPADAL ( çõ¨çèìùª ) of the third Academy is said to consist of seventy stanzas attributed to severalpoets. It is unfortunate that as many as forty-six verses of this important work are lost. There is an ancient commentary of Parimelagar which has been printed with the available texts by Mahamahopadhyaya U.V. Swaminatha Iyer.
The Kalittogai, otherwise known as KURUNKALITTOGAI ( Æ×§ªæù¨êÐ âêèéæ ) or simply KALI ( æù¨ ), contains one hundred and fiftystanzas in the KALI metre dealing with the five THINAIS. Its theme is love but it also contains a number of moral maxims. Incidentally it describes somepeculiar marriage customs current in those ancient days. Kadungon, Kapilar, Marudan Ilanganar, Cola Nalluttiran and Nallanduvanar are the poets whocomposed the various songs in the work. It is generally believed that one ofthe five poets, Nallundavanar, was the compiler. The celebrated commentatorNacchinarkkiniyar has written a gloss on it.
The Neduntogai, otherwise known as AHAPPATTU ( íæçªçêÐÊ ), and popularly known as AHANANURU ( íæåèÛ× ) or simply AHAM ( íæëª ), is an important anthology. It contains 401 stanzas in the AHAVAL metre and is divided into three sections --KALLIRRIYANI-NIRAI of 121stanzas, MANIMIDAIPAVALAM ( ëú¨ë¨éìçªçèôùëª ) of 180 stanzas and NITTILAKKOVAI of 100 stanzas. Its general theme is love. The lengthof the stanzas varies from thirteen to thirty-seven lines. As many as 145 poets are represented in this collection whose compiler was Uruttirasarman, the sonof Uppurikudi Killar of Madurai. It was accomplished under the auspices ofthe Pandyan king Ukkirappeuvaludi.
The Purananuru, otherwise known as PURAPPATTU ( µ÷çªçèìªÌ ),or simply PURAM, is another valuable anthology of 400 stanzas in AHAVAL form. It is the counterpart of the preceding work, the AHANANURU ( íæåèÛ× )and deals with war and matters of state . There is a view that the work is a latercompilation inasmuch as the nameof Poygaiyar, a poet of post-sangam days, ismentioned among the poets referred to in the Puram. It also contains the poems of Murinjiyur Mudinagarayar, Vanmikiyar, and others who, according to thelegend,
belong to the First Academy. Thus the anthology contains odes ranging from the epoch of the First Sangam to that of Post-Sangam. Whatevermay be thedate of its compilation, the events it treats of are ancient and hence it is invaluable to an antiquarian.
The Pattuppattu is a collection of ten idylls. An idyll is a short poemdescriptive of some picturesque scene or incident, chiefly in pastoral life.It is notknown by whom and when these poems written by different authors at different times were brought together. Five of the idylls belong
to a class called ARRU PADAI. An ARRUPADAI is a poem in which a bard or minstrel is recommended to go to a patron to solicit help from him. It is addressed to another seeker for favours by one who has alreadybenefitted munificently at the hands of the patron. One of these poems,Tirumuruharrupadai, directs devotees to a God, not bards to a patron. It containsvivid descriptions of the War God Muruga, and of his six hill-shrines. It is highly venerated and its 317 lines are memorised and chanted by Saivites.
The next collection of the Sangam works comes under the general heading....the PADINENKIL-KANAKKU ( çê¨âåúªæ©ÈªæÐæúæÐÆ ), the eighteen poems dealing primarily with morals (Tamil: Aram, Sans: Dharma).
11. Kainnilai, Innilai
The term Kil-Kanakku implies that there was a classification like Mel-kanakku.The works that contain less than fifty stanzas, composed in different metres, generallycome under the Kil-kanakku. But if the VENBA metre is pressed into service, the poem can beof any length and can still find a place in Kil-kanakku. The Mel-kanakku ranges from 50 to 500 stanzas and is in the ahaval, kalippa and paripadal metres. The Ettutogai and the Pattuppattu came under the category of Mel-kanakku.
Two works like Naladiyar and the Thirukkural which come under the category of Kil-kanakku deal with the three PURUSHARTHAS or endsof life, DHARMA (aram) or righteous living, ARTHA (porul) or wealth or secular life and KAMA or love (inbum).The remaining sixteen deal
both with Aham andPuram, the aim being practice of Dharma or morals.
The THIRUKKURAL ( ê¨ÕæÐÆ÷óª ) also known as MUPPAL is the work of the celebrated Tiruvalluvar who lived in the early centuries before the Christian era. The poem is in the form of couplets and deals with the three ends in human life -- Aram, Porul and Inbam. It consists of 133 chapters, each containing ten kuralvenbas. Each couplet is a gem by itself and conveys lofty thoughts couched in terse language. Though the scholarly commentary of the ilustrious Parimelagar - a happy consummation of Tamil and Sanskrit culture is largely in use, there were nine equally well-known commentaries of which Manakkuduvar's gloss is one. Till recently, this was the only one available of the nine. Two others (parts) are said to have beentraced since.
A brief analysis of this universal code of morals is given below:
No. of Chapters. Subject
Book I (34 chapters)
20 The ideal householder....Domestic virtue based on affection
14 The ideal Ascetic.....Ascetic or Higher Virtuebased on grace
25 The Ideal Sovereign ... Royalty
10 The Ideal Statesman ....Ministers of State
22 The Ideal State .....The Essentials of State
13 The Ideal Citizen ....Morality, Affirmative andNegative
25 The Ideal Lover .... Secret love ending inwedded love
These are the seven ideals presented by this Prince of Moralists. Ithas been translated into English, French, German and Latin. Using only a few Sanskrit words, the Kural shows the richness and power of the Tamil tongue.
The Nasladiyar resembles the Kural in point of choice and division of thesubjects. It also deals with the three ends of human life. Itcontains forty chapters,each consisting of ten stanzas. This anthology,the composition of which can beattributed to different hands, owes its compilation to one Padumanar.
It is interesting to note the swing in the themes of he works of the Third Sangam. The earlier books deal, like the ancient literature of other countries, with love and war, kings and chieftains, and Nature and her beauties. Slowly there is a change, a growing obsession with ethical matters to the exclusion of everything else. Life had turned inwards; external activity and achievement is yielding place to contemplative contentment.
The Epic or Post-Sangam Literature
The AIN-PERUN-KAPPIYAM --- the five major epics are : SILAPPADIKARAM ( ò¨ùçªçê¨æèõëª ), MANIMEKALAI ( ëú¨îëæéù ), JIVAKACHINTAMANI ( ò©ôæ ò¨åÐêèëú¨ ), VALAYAPATI ( ôéóáèçê¨ ) and KUNDALAKESI ( Æúçìùîæò¨ ). A pleasing fancy based on their names conceives these works as ornaments worn by TAMIL-ANANGU--the Tamil Muse -- the tinkling anklet, the gem-studded waist girdle, the gem on the chaplet, the bangles, and ear-pendants. The last two works are entirely lost to us. `A brief sketch of the other three works is given below:-
is the celebrated author
of the Silappadikaram.
He was the second son
of king Cheralatan reigning
in the city of Vanji
the capital of
account, he was called Ilango-adigal
after he became
This epic, according to its PAYIRAM ( prefatory verses), shows Dharma wreaking vengence on those who failed in their kingly duties; sings the priases of thevirtuous wife; and illustrates the recoil of one's actions.
The story is simple and is as follows:--
In Kavirippumpattinam the capital of the Cholas, there lived a wealthy merchant whose son Kovalan was married to a virtuous and devoted lady Kannaki by name. Being a wealthy young man, Kovalan took active interest in the fashionable amusements of the day. He fell in love with a beautiful young dancing girl Madhavi by name, wasted all hiswealth on her and neglected his devoted wife.When at last he had become poor and he
thought that Madhavi's love towards him had cooled, he became disgusted. Returning home, he realised his mistakes and resolved to follow the career of a merchant. The same night he left for Madurai with his wife Kannaki.
He had nothing to fall back upon except her jewels. She placed one of her costly anklets willingly at his disposal. He took it to thejeweller's market to effect a sale. As misfortune would have it, the queen had lost ananklet and Kovalan was arrested as the thief of hte royal jewel. The king, without inquiring into the facts of the case, summarily ordered his execution.This was done. Poor Kannaki, when she came to know of this, became distraught. She went before the king and proved herhusband's innocence beyond the shadow of a doubt.The Pandyan king, Nedunjeliyan,realised his guilt. He fell down from his seat broken-hearted and died. Still Kannaki could not control herself and in a fit of rage, cursed that the whole city be consumed by flames. And so it happened. Kannaki then proceeded westwards to the Malainadu (Hill country) and continued to do penance at the foot of a Vengai tree in the Neduvelkunram, a hillnear Kodungolur (Cranganore) according to Adiyarkunallar.
This is a sequel to SILAPPADIKARAM. But while thestory of SILAPPADIKARAM is of such varied interest and is presented with dramatic vividness, MANIMEKALAI is an aimless narrative of the adventures of a Buddhist Bhikshuni (nun).
Madhavi, on hearing the death of Kovalan, renounced the world, and
becamea Buddhist nun. She had a daughter named Manimekalai by
Kovalan. She too becamea nun. Once Udayakumaran,the son of the
reigning king, saw her, fell in love with herand pursued her, but in
vain. She was then taken by a goddess to Manipallavadvipawhere were enshrined the feet of the Buddha. Here she was told that the prince
washer husband in a previous birth. Through the grace of the deity
she got possession of a bowl which would be ever full and never empty.
She then returned to Kavirippumpattinam and became fully engrossed in
doingselfless service assuming the disguise of one Kayasandikai. But Udayakumaran came to know that Manimekalai had assumed this disguise. One day the real Kayasandikai herselfappeared in the garden and the prince ran after her. This was noticed by her husband, who in a fit of jealous fury, killed the prince. The king had Manimekalai arrested and imprisoned but at teh request of the queen, she was soon released. She
then wandered through the landvisiting several holy places. At last she settled at Kanchi performing penance and listening to discourses in a
Buddhist nunnery. The author of this epic, Sittalai Sattanar, is known
also as Kulavanikan Sattanar.
The author of this work is Thirutthakka Thevar. He was born at Mailapur, and was a Jain. His fame rests on JIVAKA-CHINTAMANI,which contains an exposition of Jain doctrines and beliefs Its other title, MUDI-PORUL-THODAR-NILAI-SEYYUL ( Ëï âçèÕóª âêèìõÐ å¨éù âòáª±ó ª ), suggests that it treats of the fourfold ends of life viz,virtue, wealth, pleasure, and freedom.It is the story of Jivaka from hisbirth to the attainment of beatitude, and has a commentary by Nacchinarkiniar. It is in 13 books or ILAMBAKAMS ( ¬ùëªçæëª )
and contains 3145 stanzas. It is noted for its chaste diction and sublime poetry, rich in religious sentiment, full of reflections on the grounds of human action, and replete with information about the arts and social customs of the period. It will, therefore,interest the scholar, the poet,
and the antiquary: and there is a tradition that Kamban's RAMAYANAM owes many of its beauties to his study of this Epic.
The Period of Religious Revival
The next period in Tamil literature, i.e. from the 6 to the 10 centurey A.D. is whatmay be called the period of Religious Revival when great singer-saints uttered their love of God in soul-stirring song offerings.The outstanding works of literature of this period are the TIRUVASAGAM
( ê¨Õôèòæë ª), the TEVARAM ( îêôèõë ª),and NALAYIRAM ( åèùèá¨õë ª).
The Saiva and Vaishnava singer-saints belong to this period. Karaikal Ammaiyar seems to be the earliest of teh Saiva hymnists. More than 16000 stanzas in praise ofGod were composed in these five centuries.
The Saiva saints called the Nalvar - the four - are Manikkavasagar, Tirujnana -Sambandar, Appar and Sundarar (Tirunavukkarasu).
Manikkavasagar :-- The life of this saint is to be traced from myths and legendswhich have grown around his name. The dispute about his date is still unsettled, some assigning him to the third century A.D. and others to the ninth. His chief works are TIRUVASAGAM ( ê¨Õôèòæë ª ) and TIRUKKOVAI ( ê¨ÕæÐîæèéô ).
Tiruvasagam :-- This may be taken as an autobiographical account of the stages of his spiritual life and experience which culminated in the attainment of bliss ineffable. This torrential outflow of ardour and rapture in the sweetest of melodies can be regarded as a perfecth andbook on mystical theology. It is the spontaneous outpouring of ecstatic feelings and takes the foremost place among the accredited devotional works in Tamil. Dr. G.U. Pope and several others have translated this work into English. For a parallel to this work in a European language one has to turn to the IMITATION OF CHRIST by Thomas A. Kempis. One is struck again and again by the similarity of thought and even expression -- why, even whole sentences -- between the two works.
What the four Saiva saints did to the Saiva religion the twelve Alwars did for the Vaishnava faith. Of the 4,000 making up the Vaishnava collection, the First thousand (really 947), known as TIRU-MOLI ( ê¨ÕâëèÈ¨ ), comprises the hymns of Perialwar, Andal, Kulasekhara, Tirumalisai, Thondaradippodi,Tiruppan, and Madurakavi: the Second thousand (really 1351), known as PERIA-TIRUMOLI ( âçõ¨á ê¨ÕâëèÈ¨ ), was the work of Tirumangai; the Third thousand (really 817), called IYAL-PA ( ¬áùª çè ), was the contribution of Poygai, Bhudam, Pey, the first three Alwars, Tirumalisai, Nammalwar, and Tirumangai; and the Fourth thousand
(really 1102), called TIRUVAYMOLI, was entirely the work of Nammalwar.
The first Alwars witnessed no jarring alien faiths in their time; Tirumalisai, Tirumangaiand Thondaradippodi had to oppose Saivism, Jainism and Buddhism alike. Nammalwarlived at a time when the land was almost freee from alien religious influences and whenthe Vaishnavas and Saivas were at peace.
These songs in praise of Vishnu, which make up the NALAYIRA-DIVYA- PRABHANDAM
( åèùèá¨õ ê¨ôªá çªõçåÐêë ª ), are esteemed by the Vaishnavas as the second Veda. They stand on the same footing of sanctity as the Tevaram of the Saiva saints. Every one of the Alwars had personal, intuitive experience of the Divine Presence.
The hymns sung by the Alwars were collected and arranged in order by St. Nathamuni into one volume entitled the Nalayira Divya Prabhandam or the `Book of Four Thousand Hymns'.Nathamuni was a contemporary of Nambi-andar-nambi ,-- the compiler of the Tirumurais -- andwas inspired by the latter to do a like service to the Vaishnava hymns.
Period of Literary Revival
The next period in the history of Tamil Literature was one of literary fervour. The great trio of this period were Kamban, Otta-kuttan and Pugalendi. Kamban, the author of the Ramayana in Tamil, lived in the 9 century A.D. He was a devotee of Nammalwar. The Ramayana composed by him was,according to the procedure of those days , recited for approval to an audience of the literary elite- a sort of academy of letters - assembled in Srirangam in the month of Panguni ( March - April) of the year 807 of the Salivahana Sakabda (885 A.D.) on the full moon day when the star Uttaram was in the ascendent. Kamban was then acclaimed by the assembly as KaviChakravarthy - the Emperor of the Realms of Poesy.
Ottakuttan was a contemporary of Kamban and his Uttarakandam winds up theRamayanam of Kamban. He wrote the EETTI-ELUPATHU (¼ìªï öÇçÊ) and the THAKKA-YAGA-PARANI and the three ULAS on Rajaraja, Vikrama , andKulottunga Cholas. Ottakuttan was a severe critic of others' poetry and an expert in ANTADI , KOVAI AND ULA ( various types of metrical compositions).
Puhalendi was a contemporary of Ottakuttan and was famous for his mastery of the Venba. His best work is the charming NALAVENBA - the story of Nala and Damayanti.