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A 'mArgazhi" diary: some reflections- 5

From: sampath kumar (
Date: Fri Dec 24 1999 - 11:34:26 PST

Dear bhakti-list friends,

adiyEn is not a Tamil scholar (adiyen is no scholar of
anything, for that matter!) but many years ago he
learnt the following from a true 'tiruppAvai' pundit
which adiyEn remembered today and is hence putting it
down in his "mArgazhi' diary. ("Scholarly" ones
amongst you all may have perhaps already learnt about

In Tamil poetry (classical 'sangha-tamizh' variety,
not the modern pidgin one) there are clear yard-sticks
by which the true quality of a poem is judged. The
'quality standards' are of very high order and in
those ancient days Tamil poets could not easily pass
muster as they do by the 'dime-a-dozen' today.

There were 7 "quality-benchmarks" that the great Tamil
poet, Kamban, laid down for judging Tamil poetry.

As Vyasa, Kalidasa and Swami Vedanta Desikan were to
Sanskrit poetry we can easily say that Kamban too was
to Tamil and hence he was known as "kavi-chakravarti",
the Emperor of Poets. (Desikan as you all know was
known as "kavi- sArvabouman" meaning the same.)

Kamban's '7 Standards of Excellence' for Tamil poetry
are put down by him in his great Ramayana, known in
India as 'Kamba-Ramayana', a Tamil immortal classic.
In that Ramayana, in the chapter relating to the
"aranyakAndam" at the beginning of
"surpanakaip-paDalam" Kamban wrote:

"puviyinak-kaNiyAy Anra porul tandhu pulatti~trAgi
avi-ahatturaigal tAngi aiyntinai neri azhAvi
savi-urat=tezhindhu tannenrozhukkamum tazhuvic-cAnrOr 
kavi yenak kidanta godAvariyinai virar kandAr."

In the aboe stanza the Kamban gave us the following '7
Standards of Poetic Excellence' viz:

(1) "puviyinuk-aNi-Adal, meaning, the poetry must turn
out to be a real ornament to the world. The poetry
must embellish the world in such a way that every man
must sincerely feel in his heart "how poor this world
would be without that piece of poetry having been
written!". We do feel like that, don't we, whenever we
talk of the great poets like Shakespeare ? We feel
similarly when we talk of Valmiki or Kalidasa too,
isn't it?

(2) "Anra porul taral" : meaning, the poetry must be
rich in meaning and signifcance. It must have "layers
and layers" meaning that can be ceaselessly  plumbed
again and again by us. When so plumbed it must yield
proper understanding of the 4 fold "purushArtA-s" or
ultimate ends of human existence  viz. (a) "aram" or
the virtue of human charity (b) "poruL" or temporal
and spiritual wealth (c) "inbam" or pure pleasure,
both sensual and ultra-sensual and (d) "viDu" or human
transcendence, liberation or "mOksha".

(3) "pullatti~trAdal": meaning, the poetry must induce
in its readers a thirst for knowledge and kindle
research. After reading the poem the reader must be
genuinely inspired to pursue further study into its
subject and into allied fields. If one reads
Kamba-ramayanam one will be simply mesmerised by it
and would want to do further extensive research into
it. No doubt about that.

(4) "avi-ahatturaigal tAngal": meaning, the poetry
must contain and expand on the grand themes of love in
both its erotic amd esoteric forms.

(5) "aintinai neri azhAval": meaning, the poem must
deal with the 5 aspects of terrestrial reality in a
convincing and forceful way. I.e. it must contain
portrayals of "kurinji" (mountains), "pAlai" (desert),
"mullai" (jungle), "marutham" (fields) and "neydal"
(beaches). All these should find a place in it.

(6) "savi-urat-tezhidal": meaning, the poetry must
possess the highest standards of literary and
grammatical expression and composition.

(6) "tannenrozhukkamum tazhuvudal": meaning, the
poetry must not seem contrived but must have a gentle,
smooth, spontaneous and sonorous flow of its own.

How does Andal's tiruppAvai measure up to Kamban's
"Seven Standards of Tamil Excellence"?

adiyen will reflect in the next few pages of the
"mArgazhi" diary.

dAsanu dAsa-bhutan,

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