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From: Chakravarthy,P (P.Chakravarthy_at_lse.ac.uk)
Date: Tue Jan 06 1998 - 02:09:47 PST
Dear Shri Venkatesh Elayavalli, You wrote, "I would appreciate if Smt Vasudha Narayana or other learned members of the list familiar with the Sangam and PreSangam era works to give a background on history of Ancient Tamil literature." Before I come to that I request you and the other members to read the following written on Thirumal by a poet of the Sangham period, ".......In fire you are the heat In flowers the fragrance, Among stones you are the diamond In words you are truth Among virtues you are love(compassion?) In a warriors wrath you are the strength In the vedas you are the secret of the elements you are the first In the scorching sun you are the light In the moonlight you are the softness Everything ,you are everything the sense ,the substance, of everything by KaTuvan ILaveyinaNAR ,in the PaRiPaTal - song 3, Lines 63 - 68. Transl.A.K.Ramanujan. I Sangam literature The first sangam(or gathering of Gods, kings, bards and sages to compose works of literature) lasted for 4440 years in then Madurai.The second for 3700 years in Kapatapuram.Works produced in both these were lost in the great flood, except for the grammatical work of TholkaPPiyam of the 2nd sangam. The works of the third sangam (1850 years,vada Madurai),is what is all we have of the sangam literature and can be dated to 100BC - AD250. All the works of the 3rd sangam are poems (2381 in number)of varying lines(3-800).Some poets(some were women too like Auvayar) we know by their names others by epithets(Eg.Kakkaipadiniyar-one who sang of the crow),and others are anonymous. The poems depending on their line structure are grouped into collections,the Ettuthokai and the Pathup-p-pattu.Some of the 15 groups include the PRRAnanooRu,AinkuRunooRu,KurrunThoKai etc., The subject of the poems(Porul) deal with EITHER aKHam(Love) or PuRam(heroism).Unlike the latter ,no names of people(eg.kings) are mentioned in the former. The akam poems are set in the Thinai or landscapes which was according to some presumably how dravidian society was organised before the caste system solidified i.e., on the basis of the area of residence.Accordingly there were 5 thinais each with their one social structure and mode of life. 1.Kurrinji-mountains,inhabited by the kuravars worshipping Murugan. 2.mullai-forest/pasture - ETayar - Mayon/Thirumal (vishnu) 3.maRutham-fields - Uzhuvar - Indra 4.Neital-seacoast - fishermen/traders - varunan 5.Palai-wasteland - highwaymen(AARali-k-KaLvar) - KoRRavai(Kali) (for a complete list seeZvelebil,K) each tinai has a particular connection with each stage of love e.g.. (1) with secret meetings and poems of that stage were based on that tinai through similes etc., Though disputed, works like the Paripatal and KaLLiThokai seem to be of a later period(5-7 AD?) than say, the Purrananooru.This is because of references to stories /events of the Puranas & epics ,greater reference to God esp. Vishnu ,Shiva and Murugan which was not true earlier though passing references were rarely made and the use of Sanskrit words like Maithunam and kamalam.Bhakthi to God was a popular theme for these poems rather than love and heroism. II Words of wisdom AD450- 550 This period was followed by works of wisdom and teaching like the Thiruk Kural and the Naladiyar believed by many to have written by Buddhist/jain monks. III 5-6th Cent. the AinpeRunKappiyams including the Sillapadikaram and the Manimekalai and Seevakacintamani were the similes unlike in the Sangam age were exaggerated and fantastic.They deal primarily with Jain/Buddhist themes and one goes into great depths in exposing the superiority of the Jain doctrine vis-à-vis the hindu doctrine. IV The Vaishnavaite and Shivaite bakhthi movement probably to also counteract the growing spread of Jainism and Buddhism especially among the kings of the region. I hope this was helpfull.Much of it is what I remember from my lectures in college where Tamil was my second language.The facts correspond to- 1.A.k Ramanujan,"Poems of Love and War"NY:Colombia University Press,1985 2.Zvelebil,Kamil,"The Smile of Murugan",Leiden:EJBrill and Co,1973.