all towns are
one, all men our kin.
Home > Tamils - a Trans State Nation > Tamil Language & Literature > Thamizh Literature Through the Ages - Preface > 1. Introduction > 2. The Sangam (Academy) period. > 3. The Didactic Period > 4. The Era of the Thamizh Epics > 5. The Era of Devotional Period > 6. Epics of the ChOzha Period > 7. Grammar and Lexicography > 8. Philosophical Literary Period > 9. Thamizh purANangaL and Minor Poems > 10. IslAmic and Christian Contributions to Thamizh Literature > 11. Modern Period > 12. Present Situation > 13. Conclusion
Dr. C.R. Krishnamurti,
[see also இலக்கண நூல்கள் at Project Madurai]
7. Grammar and Lexicography
The popularity of the epics among the masses provided a powerful impetus for the proliferation of other types of literary works. The general rise in literary standards led to specialization in fields such as grammar, lexicography and short poems.
For the Thamizh people, grammar has been a passion since ancient times. Even before Thamizh literature evolved into a sophisticated avocation for the poets and writers, it was all preceded by works on grammar. In the oldest available literary work, TholkAppiam, the author, TholkAppiar took a very liberal definition of grammar to include subject matter (பொருள்) as well and had expressed his objectives in his special preface (சிறப்புப்பாயிரம்)
SubramaNiya BhArathiAr's comments that 'Thamizh is quite unlike some languages in the world which do not have a good grammar' (மண்ணிடைச் சில இலக்கண வரம்பிலா மொழிபோல்) indicate not only the seriousness with which the Thamizh people treated grammar but also show their contempt for languages without one. The development of grammar at such an early period in history would indicate that literature (இலக்கியம்)in some primitive form or other should have been in existence prior to TholkAppiar's time. Later grammar texts (நன்னூல், இலக்கணவிளக்கம்) also confirm that grammar (இலக்கணம்) is meant to formalize literary (இலக்கியம்) styles:
The grammatical features stipulated by TholkAppiar were followed strictly in the Sangam texts, in the Buddhist and Jain epics, in the Bhakthi canonical texts and in the epics of the ChOzha period. By this time different styles of Thamizh presentations had evolved in response to social needs and the growth of linguistic expertise. The interaction with Sanskrit had also a profound influence. Poets were eager to express their thoughts more accurately and colorfully. The difficulties associated with understanding and interpreting the original TholkAppiam offered incentives for newer grammar texts to satisfy the growing demands. The result was the publication of a number of treatises on Thamizh grammar (இலக்கணநூல்கள்) :
VIra SOzhium (வீரசோழியம்) , n^Emin^Atham (நேமிநாதம்), Mutthu VIriyam (முத்து வீரியம்) , VacchaNan^thi MAlai (வச்சணந்திமாலை), PAttiyal (பாட்டியல்), ThaNdi alankAram (தண்டியலங்காரம், ilakkaNa viLakkam (இலக்கண விளக்கம), ilkkaNak kotthu (இலக்கணக் கொத்து), yApparunkalam (யாப்பருங்கலம்), yApparunkalak kArikai (யாப்பருங்கலக்காரிகை), n^annUl (நன்னூல்) and n^ampiyakap PoruL (நம்பியகப்பொருள்). Some of these works are discussed below briefly .
7.1.1. VIra SOzhium (வீரசோழியன்)
This grammar text was written by a Buddhist, Buddhamitthirar (புத்தமித்திரர்)(11th century) who named the book after the King, VIra SOzhian (வீரசோழியன்). Being a Sanskrit scholar, the author made changes in TholkAppiam following the Sanskrit tradition and included sections on yAppu (யாப்பு) and alankAram (அலங்காரம்) besides word, letter and poruL (பொருள்) :
7.1.2. n^Emin^Atham (நேமிநாதம்)
The author of n^Emi n^Atham said in his preface(பாயிரம்) that, after due consideration of the whole of TholkAppiam, he removed certain sections to facilitate easy understanding. He also added new sections to emphasize the grammar relating to letters and words. This claim had been refuted.
7.1.3. Mutthu vIriyam (முத்து வீரியம்)
The author, SubramaNiya DhEsikar (சுப்பிரமணியதேசிகர்) claimed in his pAyiram that he had not only made grammar easy to understand but also followed agatthiam.
7.1.4. VacchaNan^thi MAlai (வச்சணந்திமாலை)and PAttiyal (பாட்டியல்)
These grammar texts presented a new style in which the specifications of the first meter and other stipulations for the rest of the verses were precisely described. They fell into disfavour when higher or lower number of poems in the works were allotted according to the caste and status of the hero.
7.1.5. ThaNdi alankAram (தண்டியலங்காரம்)
This work was based on the Sanskrit text, KAvya Dharsam (காவ்யதர்சம்) in which the decorations (அலங்காரம்), for enhancing the finer quality of literary work were detailed. These include similes and other methods for expressing thoughts in an aesthetic manner.
7.1.6. ilakkaNa viLakkam (இலக்கணவிளக்கம்) and ilakkaNak kotthu (இலக்கணக்கொத்து)
These two texts represented the continued efforts of some authors who had attempted to introduce the decorative attributes of Sanskrit works in Thamizh under the guise of rendering the old Thamizh texts easily understandable. As one recent reviewer commented, their pAyiram (பாயிரம்)sounded more interesting than the texts themselves.
7.1.7. yApparunkalam (யாப்பருங்கலம்) and yApparunkalak kArikai (யாப்பருங்கலக் காரிகை)
These two grammatical works were written by amitha SAkarar(அமிதசாகரர்), a Jain author during the KulOthunka ChOzhan's (குலோத்துங்க சோழன் 1) regime. yApparunkalak KArikai consists of 3 chapters (இயல்கள்) and is written in the kattaLaik kalitthuRrai கட்டளைக்கலித்துறை) style. According to GOvindasAmi (1969) yApparunkalak kArikai is an extremely useful book for scholars and researchers.
7.1.8. n^annUl (நன்னூல்)(1200-1205 A.D.)
n^annUl is a grammatical text written by PavaNan^thiyAr (பவணந்தியார்), a Jain monk. Hailing from a village in GuntUr district, PavaNan^thiyAr became a friend of SIya Gangan (சீயகங்கன்), a ChOzha chieftain, known as arunkalai VinOthan (அருங்கலைவினோதன்). In the special preface (சிறப்புப்பாயிரம்), PavaNan^thiyAr had indicated that he wrote n^annUl as the derivative (விழிநூல்) of TholkAppiam according to the wishes of SIya Gangan.
According to n^annUl the conclusions drawn in a derived work should be similar to the original and differences, if any, should be pointed out clearly:
n^annUl has two divisions (அதிகாரங்கள்) ; letters (எழுத்து) and words(சொல்). Each division is subdivided into 5 sections (இயல்கள்). Because n^annUl is currently being used as the standard in Thamizh literature, a few examples are given below to show how the grammatical points are dealt with.
a) Letter subsection (எழுத்தியல்) - Endings இறுதிநிலை)
The 12 vowels either alone or in combination with consonants, the 11 soft consonants (emlfli[gfkqf) and the shortened (u) can be the endings of words:
(உயிர்- விள, பலா, கிளி, தீ, விடு, பூ , பனை, போ. மெய் - உரிஞ், மண், மரம், பொன், வேய், புகழ், வாள்)
b) Word (பதவியல்)
i) Letters either by themselves or in combinations form words which may (பகுபதம்) or may not be (பகாப்பதம்) divisible:
ii) Deviating from TholkAppiar's tradition, PavaNan^thiyAr divided words(பகுபதம்) into six components (பகுதி, விகுதி, இடைநிலை, சாரியை, சந்தி, விகாரம்)
c) Syntax of vowels at the end (உயிரீற்றுப் புணரியல்)
If the words (பல) and (சில) occur in succession,
i) பல + பல = பலபல (no change);
d) Syntax of consonants at the end (மெய்யீற்றுப் புணரியல்)
If ([) and (l) come in front of (த) and (ந), they become modified into (ற) and (ன) respectively; if (ண)and (ள) come in front of (த) and (ந), they become changed into (ட) and (ண) respectively:
e) Attributes of a good literary work
The ten serious errors and the ten good attributes of a literary work are outlined in the following two poems:
Ten Errors (குற்றம் பத்து)
Ten Good Qualities (அழகு பத்து)
Several commentaries are available on n^annUl: Mailai n^Athar (மைலைநாதர்) , Andip Pulavar (ஆண்டிப்புலவர்) , Sivagn Ana Munivar (சிவஞானமுனிவர்) and KUzhankait ThampirAn (கூழங்கைத்தம்பிரான்)
7.1.9. ThonnUl viLakkam (தொன்னூல்விளக்கம்)
This grammatical text was written by Beschi in the eighteenth century (VaradharAjan 1972, Zvelebil, 1995). However, M. aruNAchalam has suggested that Beschi's teacher, SuprathIpa KavirAyar (சுப்பிரதீபகவிராயர்) is more likely the author.
7.1.10. SAmin^Atham ((சாமிநாதம்)and PrayOka vivEkam (பிரயோக விவேகம்) are other grammatical works useful as references on grammatical points.
The word lexicon is defined in the Oxford dictionary as "a dictionary especially of Greek, Latin or Hebrew or a vocabulary listing relating to a particular subject or class" and lexicography as "the art or process of compiling a dictionary". The first major English dictionary was published by Samuel Johnson in 1755. Using this as a point of reference it is appropriate to discuss the circumstances which led to the development of lexicography in Thamizh. The following background is essential to ward off unfair criticism by overzealous scholars in the comparative growth of lexicography in Thamizh and European languages.
Whether one believes in the existence of the Thamizh Sangams, their dates and participating poets, it is true that now we do have a vast amount of Thamizh literature published during the few centuries before or after the Christian era. During the early part of the Christian era, very few cultures existed in which the language was used as effectively as Thamizh to analyze and classify society, habitats and human endeavors or codify literary formats. Using palmyra palm leaves to record their thoughts and even oral communications for the transmission of information from one generation to the next, the Thamizh poets have bequeathed a treasure of literary knowledge to posterity. The Thamizh society was organized in such a way that people were stratified according to their avocations and, obviously, the number of those involved in philosophical or literary pursuits were likely to be few in number. Unfortunately, this was misinterpreted that " among the Thamizh very few can now be found who are masters of the higher dialect".
Contrary to the observations of visitors from foreign countries, the point emerges that Thamizh poets, even without the advantage of the printing press and, more importantly, without any precedents to draw from contemporary cultures, were deeply involved in developing original concepts of literary formats. They did not have any pressure to conform to any national or international standard because there was none at the time. Finally people believed in a holistic approach to literature and did not consider language and human activities as two different entities. TholkAppiar's inclusion of poruL in his treatise on grammar exemplifies this concept. People were interested in the system as a whole and not merely in the word or the syntex. This would explain why the topical rather than the alphabetical format was followed in the early Thamizh lexicons.
7.2.2. n^ikaNdu (நிகண்டு)and Commentators (உரை ஆசிரியர்கள்)
Recognizing the enormous amount of literature that had accrued over centuries people found it necessary to find ways and means of making them understood easily. The complexity of the subject matter, the differences in the literary formats and problems associated with difficult words and the interpretation of concepts provided the incentives for such efforts.
184.108.40.206. n^ikaNdu (நிகண்டு)and Dictionary (அகராதி)
The compilation of n^ikaNdu (நிகண்டு)(thesaurus) in which the subject matter, rather than the alphabetical order, represents the first attempt in this direction. In this format, selected subject matters (e.g. names of God, human, fauna, flora, natural products etc.) were organized to provide synonyms and homonyms. It is to be emphasized that though these time honored metrical vocabularies called n^ikaNdu were branded as obsolete by visiting scholars, they did serve the purpose for which they were intended.
a) ThivAkaram (திவாகரம்) written by ThivAkarar (திவாகரர்) in the 8th century represents 'the form of a reference lexicon with both interpretative and productive user function'. It has 12 chapters (தொகுதி) and 9000 headings.
b) Pinkalam (பிங்கலம்) written by Pinkalar (பிங்கலர்) between 8th and 13th century has more than 15000 entries and is available in the British library.
c) ChUdAmaNi (சூடாமணி) written by MaNtalap puratthAr (மண்டலப்புரத்தார்) in the 16th century is a very popular n^ikaNdu. It is written in the viruttham style and is considered easy to memorize.
d) KayAtharam (கயாதரம்) written by KayAtharar in the 15th century has 11350 entries.
e) The concept of dictionary(அகராதி) as used in the west to the Thamizh language may be ascribed to Father Beschi (1680-1747 A.D.). His SathurakarAthi (சதுரகராதி) is made up of 4 sections (பொருளகராதி, பெயரகராதி, தொகையகராதி, தொடரகராதி) and represents an example of the significant contributions of Christian missionaries. Though the literary efforts of Father Beschi were primarily intended for the use of foreign missionaries, his work is supposed to have created a 'burst of creativity' in this field.
f) Kazhaga akarAthi (கழகஅகராதி) compiled by the South India Saiva SitthAn^tha Kazhagam (தென்னிந்திய சைவ சித்தாந்தக் கழகம்) is a recent addition to the Thamizh akarAthi series and will be most useful as a desk reference to know the meaning of difficult words.For an exhaustive and critical analysis of Thamizh Lexicography, the reader may refer to Gregory James (1991).
220.127.116.11. Commentators (உரைஆசிரியர்கள்)
Commentators (உரைஆசிரியர்கள்) provided the liaison between the original literary texts and ordinary readers. The Thamizh name, urai AciriyarkaL (உரைஆசிரியர்கள்) is, however, a misnomer because they did more than providing meaning of difficult words. Many of them were scholars both in Thamizh and Sanskrit and were authors of high caliber themselves. They wrote explanatory texts and interpreted the meaning of the complex concepts contained in the literary works. In order to do justice to their task, most commentators should have had expertise in several other disciplines such as religion, philosophy, sociology and fine arts.
n^akkIrar (நக்கீரர்) , an author belonging to the 8th century wrote the earliest commentary in Thamizh for KaLaviyal (களவியல்). The commentary itself was in the poetic style and not as a text.
iLampUraNar (இளம்பூரணர்) who lived prior to the 12th century wrote the commentary on TholkAppiam. PErAsiriyar (பேராசிரியர்) (13th century) was a well known commentator for his interpretation of parts of TholkAppiam and Thiruk kOviyAr (திருக்கோவையார்). CEnAvaraiyar (சேனாவரையர்) provided the commentary for the second half of TholkAppiam.
n^acchinArk kiniyar (நச்சினார்க்கினியர்)(13th century) was also a Sanskrit scholar and had written commentaries on Patthup pAttu (பத்துப்பாட்டு), kalit thokai (கலித்தொகை)and SIvaka chin^thAmaNi (சீவகசிந்தாமணி). Despite his reputation as a scholar and his proficiency in both Thamizh and Sanskrit, he had been criticized for not giving direct meaning to the topics. He had also a tendency to switch words around, rendering them more difficult to understand than the originals themselves. In other words, one needed another explanatory text to decipher his commentaries.
atiyArkku n^allAr (அடியார்க்குநல்லார்) (13th century) wrote the most popular commentary on SilappathikAram. Being an epic dealing with social activities and human problems, SilappathikAram contains a tremendous amount of details on music and dance which were in vogue at the time in different habitats. To interpret these forms of fine arts in an understandable form, the commentator should be extremely knowledgeable in these disciplines. Indeed atiyArkku n^allAr's commentary provided the major link between the present formats of music and dance and those prevalent in the SilappathikAram days.
ParimElazhakar (பரிமேலழகர்) (14th century) is considered to be one of the ten scholars who had written commentaries on ThirukkuraL ((திருக்குறள்). In contrast to n^acchinArk kiniiyar (நச்சினார்க்கினியர்) , ParimElazhakar (பரிமேலழகர்) gave direct meaning and translation of the text, though his opinions and interpretations had been criticized. He had also translated Pari pAtal (பரிபாடல்). ParimElazhakar is unique that his translations (பரிமேலழகர்உரை) of ThirukkuraL are treated with high esteem and are ranked as high as ThirukkuraL itself in literary circles.
7.3. Short Poems
As an offshoot of the narrative type of poems of the epic period, several short poems appeared. In these short poems, the authors displayed their literary talents and technical skills in yAppu, prosody, (யாப்பு)and adoration (அணி). These efforts resulted in changes in the format, style and subject matter of literary works. However, the minor poems lacked the depth and scope of the epics. The latter had a well defined story, involvement of a hero or heroine and a number of other characters, specific social or ethical message, similes and physical expression of emotions (மெய்ப்பாடுகள்).
On the other hand, the minor poems dealt exclusively with a social or religious event, the glory of a deity, a great personal achievement in the battle field or the romance of a hero. Depending upon the subject matter and other specified criteria, these minor poems were referred to as kalampakam (கலம்பகம்) , ThiruppaLLi ezhucchi (திருப்பள்ளியெழுச்சி), paraNi (பரணி) , kOvai (கோவை), ulA (உலா) or ThUthu (தூது), The following Thiruppukazh (திருப்புகழ்) mentions these different styles of minor poems which were in vogue:
7.3.1. Kalampakam (கலம்பகம்)
This format refers to minor poems 100 lines long in which many different topics are discussed in the same work. The an^thAthi (அந்தாதி) style is followed so that one word or phrase or even a sound (அசை) in one line becomes repeated in the next line of the verse. Literally there was a rivalry among poets to show off their skills in composing this type of poems, their literary proficiency being measured by the degree of complexity they could introduce into their poems. Rhyming sequences were also introduced to enhance the musical quality in resonance with appropriate human emotions.
The most admired kalampakam type of poem is n^an^thik kalampakam (நந்திக்கலம்பகம்) whose author is unknown. It was sung in praise of the Pallava King, n^an^dhi Varman III (நந்திவர்மன்).. It is said that n^an^dhi Varman liked the kalampakam type of songs so much that when the 100th poem was sung, he listened to it on the cremation ground and died. Poets famous for their capacity to compose kalampakam type of poems include irattaip- pulavar(இரட்டைப்புலவர்) , Kumara Kuruparar (குமரகுருபரர்), and Sivap pirakAsar (சிவப்பிரகாசர்).
7.3.2. ThiruppaLLi ezhucchi (திருப்பள்ளியெழுச்சி)
Known as thuyiledai n^adai (துயிலெடைநடை), this kind of poem correspond to the current day 'wake up call music'. It is customary for PANars (பாணர்)) who were professionals in music, to go to temples or residences of social elites and greet them into the new day. This literary format had their beginning as folk music but became more sophisticated in their literary style in course of time. The tradition continues unchanged up to the present time. MANickavAchakar (மாணிக்கவாசகர்) and ThoNdaradippodi AzhvAr (தொண்டரடிப்பொடி ஆழ்வார்) have composed ThirupaLLi ezhucchi type poems directed towards Sivan and ThirumAl respectively.
The following song composed by ThoNdaradippodi AzhvAr is very popular and is sung in the rAgam, pUbALam (பூபாளம்) in the mornings in the month of mArkazhi (மார்கழி).
Other poets noted for their ThiruppaLLi ezhucchi compositions are TatthuvaRayar (தத்துவராயர்), SivaprakAsa SwAmikaL (சிவப்பிரகாசசுவாமிகள்), Chithambara SwAmikaL(சிதம்பரசுவாமிகள்). In recent times, SubramaNiya BhArthiyAr (சுப்பிரமணியபாரதியார்) had composed the BhArathi mAthA ThiruppaLLi ezhucchi (பாரதிமாதா திருப்பள்ளியெழுச்சி).
7.3.3. KOvai (கோவை)
This literary genre has been in vogue since the 6th or 7th century. In PANdyan KOvai (பாண்டியன் கோவை), whose author is unknown, the achievements of the PANdya King n^edu MaRan (நெடுமாறன்) were praised. KOvai type of poems describe the heroic accomplishments, the romantic lives or other noteworthy deeds of selected heroes in a coherent fashion. This is unlike earlier Sangam poems where akam and puRam poems contained sporadic descriptions of love affairs or battle field heroism. MANicka VAchakar's ThirukkOAvaiyAr (திருக்கோவையார்) was sung in praise of Lord Sivan's noble deeds. A noteworthy addition to the KOvai series is Thanjai VANan KOvai (தஞ்சைவாணன்கோவை) written by PoyyA mozhip pulavar (பொய்யாமொழிப்புலவர்) in the 13th century. This kOvai is a tribute to the heroism of Thanjai VANan who was a general in the army of the PANdya King.
7.3.4. ParaNi (பரணி)
The poems in this category are restrictive in their scope and probably had their origin in the battle field environment. They describe the heroic actions of the hero and the gory scenes of the battle field as well. KALi (காளி) is the deity to whom the soldiers pray at the time of war. It is said that the ghosts around the battle fields complained to KALi that they were starving and needed corpses to feed on.
The paraNi poems contain many such scary imaginative details of war. The work itself is usually named after the place where the battle took place. For example, the well known work, Kalingatthup paraNi (கலிங்கத்துப்பரணி) by JayankoNdAr (ஜயங்கொண்டார்) in the 11th century was written celebrating the heroic deeds of KulOthunga ChOzhan (குலோத்துங்கசோழன்) when he defeated the Kalinga King anantha Varma SOdha Gangan (அனந்தவர்மசோடகங்கன்). The literary beauty of these poems lies in their capacity to capture the spirit and mood of excitement of the soldiers with action packed words and rhyming sequences.
7.3.5. ulA (உலா)
This form of poem is also derived from preexisting folk traditions with literary improvisations. It is customary to take out the deities in the temples beautifully decorated through the four main streets surrounding the temples. With the deities coming at the back, the procession moves along in a leisurely manner preceded by groups of dancers and musicians who sing in praise of the deities of the place.
In the 9th century, CEramAn PerumAL (சேரமான்பெருமாள்) composed ThirukkailAya GnAna ulA (திருக்கைலாய ஞான உலா) which is believed to be the oldest available ulA. Hence it is also known as Adhi ulA (ஆதிஉலா). The greatness of Lord Sivan and his entourage in his abode, Mount KailAsam (கைலாயமலை)(is described in detail in this ulA. CEramAn PerumaL had also written other works, ThiruvArUr MummaNik kOvai (திருவாருர்மும்மணிக்கோவை), ThiruvaNNat than^thAthi (திருவண்ணத்தந்தாதி) and Thiruvan^thAthi (திருவந்தாதி).
Besides the deities, the praise of Kings was also sung in later ulA works. In ALudaiya PiLLiyAr Thiru ulA (ஆளுடையபிள்ளையார்திருஉலா) writtten by n^ampiyANdar n^ampi (நம்பியாண்டார் நம்பி) (11th century), Thiru GnAna Sampan^thar (திருஞானசம்பந்தர்) was praised. MUvar ulA (YMvrfula) was written by ottak kUtthar (ஒட்டக்கூத்தர்), a contemporary of Kampan.
7.3.6. ThUthu (தூது)
In this format, the imagination of the poet is extended to the limit. The hero seeks the help of animals, birds and even inanimate objects to serve as messengers (தூது)and convey his love to the heroine. One poet went as far as sending the Tamizh language itself as his messenger to Lord Sivan in Mathurai! More than the literary worth, the imagination of the poet appears to be the most intriguing point in this style.
7.4. Miscellaneous Poems
In Thamizh literature there are many poetesses with the name Auvaiyar (ஓளவையார்). One of them lived during the Sangam period and was a close friend of the Kings, PAri and athikamAn (பாரி, அதிகமான்). She wrote 59 poems in PuRa n^AnURu (புறநானூறு).
The other Auvaiyar (ஓளவையார்) was a contemporary of Kampan and ottak KUtthar (ஒட்டக்கூத்தர்). She was the elderly figure most familiar to Thamizh people (தமிழ்மூதாட்டி). Anyone who was educated in the Thamizh region would have studied and memorized ouvaiyAr's poems early in school. Her list of Do's and Don'ts, useful for daily life was arranged in simple and short sentences. The recital of these poems by groups of children with a characteristic melody would always bring nostalgic memories of childhood days.
One of the major criticisms of Thamizh poets and authors is that, in their zeal to display their literary skills, they made their style very difficult. Only after attaining a certain level of proficiency, one would be able to understand the meaning or appreciate the finer points of literary maneuvers. In these days of technical specialization, many do not ever reach this stage so that our own literary treasure becomes a closed chapter for them. ouvaiyAr's motto can very well be phrased as short and effective following the n^annUl addict
"சுருங்கச்சொல்லல் விளங்க வைத்தல்"
Secondly ...all the social reformers up to this time were focusing their efforts in conveying ethical messages at adults with varying degrees of success. Auvaiyar followed a different strategy and directed her moral instructions at children who have open minds and are more receptive. Her important works are Athisoodi ஆத்திசூடி, Konraiventhan - கொன்றைவேந்தன, Muthurai - மூதுரை and Nalvazhi - நல்வழி
18.104.22.168. Salient Features of ouvaiyAr's Literary Works
b) It is difficult to match ouvaiyAr's similes for their appropriateness or simplicity. The first two lines in the following MUthurai (மூதுரை) poem give the upamAnam (உபமானம்), the example in the simile taken from the social environment and the next two lines state the upamEyam (உபமேயம்), the concept to be simulated.
In the next example the first two lines depict the concept and the next two denote the simile. When you do a good deed to someone else, you should do so without expecting when it will be repaid. The analogy is the coconut palm tree which takes in water from the ground and gives it back through the coconut milk without expecting any thanks.
c) Auvaiyar used the same literary format even to drive home certain weaknesses in the society. In the following example, the evils of the caste distinctions were pointed out in the clearest possible manner. She states that human beings can be divided only into two divisions, high and low, depending upon how much they are willing to share their fortunes with others.
Two lessons could be learnt from this 12th century poem: i) the caste distinctions were in existence for a long time and people realized how it could be a source of social turmoil and ii) the word mEthiniyil (மேதினியில்) would extrapolate the application of these concepts to the whole world. The stratification of people into high and low was not desirable whether it was based on caste, religion or wealth.
The pulavar (புலவர்) community, like so many other segments of the society, was a male dominated one even in those distant days. When Kampan tried to put Auvaiyar on the spot with some disparaging remarks, she proved that she could be as ruthless as the next person. Without actually calling him names, Auvaiyar recited a poem which, on the surface, gave the impression that she was praising Kampan.
Auvaiyar had a tremendous capacity in expressing profound concepts in a simple but convincing manner. She said,
It is amazing that with a short but effective minor poems, Auvaiyar gained fame and remained in the hearts of people for over a millennium, a feat not accomplished even by poets who have great literary works to their credit. The fact that this was done by a woman is something Thamizh people can really be proud of. The surprise is why her advice has fallen on deaf ears.
7.4.2. ottak kUtthar (ஒட்டக்கூத்தர்)
ottak kUthar was a poet in the Vikrama Chozhan's (விக்ரம சோழன்) court (1118-1133 A.D.). Like so many of his colleagues he was a very learned man proficient in both Thamizh and Sanskrit. He is said to have hailed from Orissa and hence acquired his name. KUtthan is the name of the dancing God, n^atarAjan. ottak kUttthar gained notoriety because of his egocentricity and his ruthlessness towards his adversaries.
There are several anecdotes about the animosities between him and Kampan. He was given the title, Emperor of Poets (கவிச்சக்கரவர்த்தி) by the ChOzha King. His famous works include Thakka yAkapparaNi (தக்கயாகப்பரணி) and MUvar ulA முவர்உலா). His Kalinkap paraNi (கலிங்கப்பரணி), where he admired the heroism of Vikarama ChOzhan is not available. After Kampan completed his rAmAyaNam with six chapters, ottak kUtthar is said to have added one more chapter (உத்திர காண்டம்) to the epic. His personality was also reflected in his literary style which was considered to be bombastic and lacking in smoothness.
7.4.3. PukazhEn^thi (புகழேந்தி) (12th century A.D.)
He was at first a poet in ParAkkirama PAndiyan's (பராக்கிரமபாண்டியன்) court. When the PAndya princess got married to the ChOzha king, PukazhEn^thi was sent along with other presents to the ChOzha Kingdom. ottak kUthar who was already an influential figure in the ChOzha court did not approve of PukazhEn^thi for some reason, got him arrested and put him in jail. PukazhEn^thi exploited his sojourn in the jail to teach Thamizh to the inmates. The ChOzha King was highly at PukazhEn^thi's literary genius and was moved by his service to the inmates some of whom became excellent poets.
After release from the jail, PukazhEn^thi wrote his famous work, n^aLa veNpA (நளவெண்பா). Many believed that it was not possible to write a whole story in the veNpA style and PukazhEn^thi proved them all wrong. n^aLa veNpA dealt with the life of King n^aLan (நளன்) and his wife, Dhamayan^thi (தமயந்தி)who was noted for her fidelity. The characters in n^aLa veNpA found in the Sanskrit work, MahA BhAratham (மகாபாரதம்).
In contrast to ottak kUthar, PukazhEn^thi was a very amiable person. He had acknowledged the support of his patron, Chan^thiran Suvarkki (சந்திரன்சுவர்க்கி) during the early stage of his career several times in n^aLa veNpA. His literary style is simple and appeals to folks and elite alike. The way he described love themes was filled with uncanny imaginations and was the envy of his peers. For example, in order to describe the simple act of beautiful girls plucking flowers, PukazhEn^thi said that "as soon as their gentle hands touch the flowers, the whole branch bends down to their feet; after all, who can help bowing to the charm of pretty girls".
The proliferation of literary works in the epic and Bhakthi periods gave the impetus for the updating of grammar texts. These new grammar books were particularly useful to those who had difficulty in understanding TholkAppiam. The development of lexicography marked a milestone in the literary progress of Thamizh. Commentaries on well known literary works were written to facilitate their understanding by people. New literary formats came into use in the form of minor or short poems. Their length and easy style were in contrast to the big epics so that their literary content was directed to the common folks in addition to the elites.