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aaNdaaL and sangaththamizh

From: Badri Seshadri (badri_at_cricket.org)
Date: Sat Jan 11 1997 - 10:28:00 PST

This posting is a followup to Sri Sadagopan's posting on
sangaththamizh referred to by aaNdaaL.

(before I proceed, I must request the list members not to consider
this article as scholarly by any means, though Sri Sadagopan has been
kind enough to have honoured me. I have a degree in Mechanical
Engineering and not in sangam literature:-)

To my knowledge, the author of tholkaappiyam has not established
vishnu parathvam in any strict sense of that concept. The third
section of the book - poruLadhikaaram - is considered to have several
interpolations, according to most scholars.

paripaadal is a particular type of prosody, which is also the name
given to the compilation of works that were written in that style.
Only a fraction of that compilation survives today. If one is inclined
to believe the chronology accepted by modern thamizh scholars,
paripaadal is dated somewhere in the 3rd to 7th century AD period. If
one has to agree with the same thamizh scholars (and not the
traditional guruparampara prabhavams), the aazhvaars came after this
period. paripaadal is considered part of the sangam thamizh literature
and scholars such as Kamil Zvelebil believe that paripaadal must be
towards the very end of the sangam period. Except for majority of
paripadal and thiru muruku aaRRuppadai, rest of the sangam works are
secular in nature. paripaadal verses are either about maal (vishnu), or
murukan (subrhamanya), or about the river vaikai.

tholkaappiyam merely identifies maal (azhagiya singar apparently spent
half of today's discourse on just this word [maalE maNivaNNaa], which
I unfortunately missed) as the God of forest land. The word 'maayan'
(meaning black as well as one with magical powers) and His
identification with the people of the forest land - the cowherds -
links Him directly to Lord Krishna. sangam literature is full of
mention of his consort nappinnai and the famous episode of Krishna
conquering 7 bulls and marrying her (a distinctly Dravidian concept).
aazhvaars and aaNdaaL are the only ones who seem to talk about
nappinnai and this episode.

As eloquently presented by Sri Sadagopan, the poems extolling
thirumaal in paripaadal, starting from the anonymous invocation,
establish vishnu parathva etc. However what is puzzling me is that no
traditional Sri Vaishnava acharya quotes from this work in any of the
commentaries (can any one confirm this? I don't claim to have
exhaustive knowledge of the various eedu). However, parimElazhakar, a
Sri Vaishnava scholar (who is more famous for his commentary on thiruk
kuRaL) who lived in Kanchipuram has written a (very cryptic)
commentary to this work which is available in fragments. In this
commentary, parimElazhakar provides quotes from the divya prabandham.
It is therefore quite possible that some of the aazhvaarkaL were
inspired by the paripaadal verses. After all, aaNdaaL borrowed the
very exact words 'kanRu kuNilaay eRindhaay kazhal pORRi' from
silappadhikaaram 'kanRu kuNilaay kani udhirththa maadhavan'. (kuNil =
stick)

Besides paripaadal (where incidentally, you will find more verses in
praise of murukan (subrahmanya), which would then indicate that sangap
pulavarkaL also established the subrahmanya parathva!), there do occur
several statements here and there (in particular in mullaith thiNai
verses in akam genre, and a few in puRam sporadically) in sangam
literature praising vishnu. They cannot, imo, be taken to prove vishnu
parathva or that the early sangam poets were all pure vaishnavas, and
only the later day ones veered away from the true path.

I am in the process of collecting portions in the sangath thamizh that
extol vishnu. Unfortunately, I do not think I will be able to complete
this project in the near future. If and when I complete that, I will
post them in this group.

Unlike the learned Sri Putthoor KrishNaswamy Iyengaar (whose
contribution to the Sri Vaishnava cause is immense), I believe that
'sangath thamizh' was used by aaNdaaL to refer to 'quality thamizh'.
Just as the term 'vedas' now refers to any work that is holy (thamizh
christians call their bible as vEdham), sangath thamizh refers to high
quality thamizh. Refer to auvaiyaar asking Lord Vinayaka: "sangath
thamizh moonRum thaa".

--badri