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11. Modern Period

11.1. Introduction

Several changes in the social and political environment of the Thamizh region have taken place in the nineteenth century. The most significant changes occurred in the political scene. During the course of about two centuries, all the Thamizh Kings and their chieftains, who were ruling the region have gradually lost their power and their place was taken over by foreign rulers who initially came into the region for purposes of trading. The struggle for supremacy among the British, French, Portuguese and Dutch traders, the ultimate triumph of the British who exploited the internal squabbles among the indigenous rulers and the establishment of the British rule in the whole of the Indian subcontinent are very well known historical facts.

> It is understandable that under these circumstances, the imposition of the western culture on the indigenous people was inevitable. The establishment of the Saiva Mutts (mdgfkqf) was a valiant attempt on the part of the Thamizh people to safeguard their language and other indigenous traditions. The role of these mutts and their contribution to Thamizh literature have already been referred to. The premier institutions in this regard are the ThiruvAvaduthurai (tiRvavDTAr), Dharumapuram (tRmp<rmf) and KunRakkudi (K[fbkfKF) mutts.

The head of the ThiruvAvaduthurai mutt was SubramaNia DhEsikar (Cpfpirm]iyEtcikrf)(d.1888). He has written a commentary on SivagnAna sitthiyAr (civwa[citftiyarf). He is noted for his ability to recognize literary talents among his students and develop them with his support. He was the patron for MInAtchi sun^tharam PiLLai whose literary contributions are dicussed below.

11.2. Thirisirapuram MahA VidwAn MInAtchi sun^tharam PiLLai (tiricirp<rmf mkavitfTva[f mI[adfci Cnftrmf piqfAq) (1815-1876)

MInAtchi sun^tharam PiLLai joined the mutt at an early age and was involved in teaching Thamizh literature and Saiva SitthAn^tham to the students. Based on his extraordinary talents, he was conferred the title of MahA VidwAn (mkavitfTva[f) (great scholar).

PiLLai was so famous in his days that it is said that a letter from London addressed to him as MahA VidwAn MInatchi sun^tharam Pillai, India, reached him safely! A teacher's eminence is based not only on his own credentials but also on the caliber of his students. PiLLai's students include U.V.SAmin^Atha iyer (u.Ev.caminat_yrf), MAyUram VEthan^Ayakam PiLLai (may>rmf Evtnaykmf piqfAq), Sauvri rAyalu PiLLai (ecqrirayL piqfAq), PUvaLUr ThiyagarAja ChettiAr (p> vYQrf tiyakraj ecdfFyarf) all of them famous in their own rights. PiLLai was a prolific writer and had the incredible talent of writing quickly as well. The work, akilANda n^Ayaki MAlai (`kila]fdnaykimaAl) is said to have been completed by the time he returned from the temple. After Kampan he appears to have written the most number of poems which exceed 200,000 in about 80 works.

11.2.1. Salient Features of PiLLai's literary works

PiLLai belonged to a generation of Thamizh scholars who had the highest regard for tradition (mrp< vzikfkviwrf). His policy regarding Thamizh and literature is indicated by his extreme love for the language and the need to write in a heart moving fashion. The following statements bear testimony for this: (klfLgf kArykf kArykf kvipaDgf k[ivayf). He has committed himself to sing in praise of Sivan. He feels "whatever he wears, sings, sees or wishes should be for His sake".

Vd Ev]fDmfni[f `Fkqf Epabfbiya[f
Cbfb Ev]fDni[f {\Ar Epabfbi vayf
padEv]fDni[f cIrfkqf Epabfbi k]f
parfkfk Ev]fDni[f vFvmf Epabfbiya[f
PdEv]fDni[f `Fkqf Epabfbiy<df
ekaqfq Ev]fDni[f `[fp<
(tiRUAbpf ptibfBpf ptftnftati - 11)

In the following poem he laments that though he wants to sing in praise of only Sivan and not any other God, he has not acquired the courage to do so:
p]i ki[fEb[iAl natftZmfp<b niA[pf pl kviyalf padtf
T]iki[fEb[iAl tIviA[ etaAlkfkni[f eta]fdribf eta]fdraktf
t]iki[fEb[iAl eygfgE[ uyfKEv[f
(tiRUAbpf ptibfBpf ptftnftati)

Based on his literary policy his works can be grouped as follows: p<ra]gfkqf, pirpnftgfkqf, t[ipfpadlfkqf, & cibpfp<pfpayirmf. He has written the(tlp<ra]mf) of 22 holy places, the most famous being (tiRnaAkkf kaEra] p<ra]mf). His tremendous contribution to Thamizh literature and Saiva SiththAn^tham is perpetuation of the traditional literary styles of Saivaite scholars of the earlier generations(KmrKRprrf, civpfpirkacrf, civwa[M[ivrf, kcfciypfp civacariyarf.Though his works include various literary styles (klmfpkmf, ula, EkaAv, T\T, ciElAd)he will ever be remembered for his ten (piqfAqtftmizf).It is said that to write Pillait Thamizh there is no other PiLLai after him. (piqfAqtf tmiZkfK ;pfpiqfAqAypf Epalf ;[ieyaRvrf ;lfAl).In his SEkkizhAr PiLLait Thamizh (Eckfkizarf piqfAqtftmizf) he praised SEkkizhAr as one who composed poems from which the sweetness of Bhakthi dripped profusely. (pkfticfCAv n[i ecadfdcf ecadfdpf paFy kvivlv[f).He is rather unique in writing in praise of his own teachers and students. The other trait that he is famous for is his ability and willingness to write in folk style as well. These include (`mfmaA[, lali, mgfkqmf, vazftfT).

PiLLai has employed a variety of YAppu (yapfp<) in his works. He has used Aciriya Viruttham (~ciriyviRtftmf) in PiLLait Thamiz (piqfAqtftmizf), kattaLaik kalitthuRai (kdfdAqkfklitfTAb) in the three KOvai (EkaAv) and kaliveNpA (kliev]fpa) in Thiruvidai maruthUr ulA (tiRviAdmRT\rf ula). In his expressions ( evqiyID) PiLLai is known for his ability to exploit the words to suit the sound and the human emotions. For example, he describes the beauty of a maiden which reminds one of amarAvathi (`mravti) as seen by ampikApathi (`mfpikapti)as follows:

cbfEb mlrfkfKz ElarfAkpi[f tagfk `vizinftkAl
cibfEbrf ;Adyi elaRAkM[f tagfkcf cilmfepalikfk
pbfEb yilarftmf pr[fkazi vauRdf parfAvey[fEmlf
ubfEb ndpfpT parfvlva '[fuyirftf TA]Ey
(cIrfkazikf EkaAv 35)

KuchElar (KEclrf), the friend of Lord KrishNa had 27 children and his poverty was proverbial. In KuchElapAkkiyAnam (KEclpakfkiya[mf) , PiLLai described the scenes for poverty in a dramatic and simple manner. In the following poem he says "some of the children were stretching their hands one over the other for food; others were rolling down the floor crying and screaming. How much longer can the mother put up with this sort of affairs?"

oRmkv<kf kqikfKmfEpa etaRmkv< AknIdfDmf
Mnfti EmlfvIzfnfT
;Rmkv<gf AknIdfDmf Mmfmkv<mf AknIdfDmf
epaRmieyaR mkvZgfk]f piAcnftZv<mbf e$Rmkv<
p<r]fD vIzapf
epRniltftbf kidnftZmf mbfe$R mkv< 'gfg[mf ckipfpaqf
epriTmf pavmf.
(KEcl pakfkiya[mf)

In his descriptive ability and in the use of similes (uvAmkqf) PiLLai is outstanding. In the following poem on KunRatthUr (K[fbtfT\rf),< he paints an almost incredible picture of how the place looks like (or should look in the poet's mind):

EcaB m]kfKmf mdgfkeqlamf, T\yfAm m]kfKmf cinfAteylamf,
Cv] m]kfKmf ~Adeylamf, etagfklf m]kfKmf Etaqfkeqlamf,
EcB m]kfKgf kz[ieylamf, eclfv m]kfKmf mademlamf,
et[fblf m]kfKmf EmAd eylamf, etyfvm]kfKmf ecyfy<eqlamf,
nIB m]kfKmf enbfbi eylamf, enyfEy m]kfKmf kbikeqlamf
caBm]kfKmf K[fbtfT\rf.
(Eckfkizarf piqfAqtftmizf)

It would be fair to say that PiLLai represented the gradually vanishing generation of Thamizh scholars who strictly adhered to the traditional literary style. His passion for Thamizh literature and Saiva SitthAn^tham was inseparable.

11.3. KunRakkudi atikaL (K[fbkfKF`Fkqf) (1925 - 1996 ).

He is a well known Thamizh scholar and author of KuRat Selvam (Kbdfeclfvmf). Right till the time of his death he was active in the social, cultural and political circles in Thamizh n^Adu. His speeches on religious and literary topics are highly regarded.

A large number of scholars from outside the Saiva mutts have made tremendous contributions to Thamizh literature during the second half of the nineteenth and early twentieth century. A review of the names of the pulavars (p<lvrfkqf) of this and previous periods and their contributions has been published in five volumes 'Independent Poems', (t[ipfpadlfkqf). These poems, even by the same authors, do not have any continuity of a specific theme but do depict the tremendous literary skills of the authors.

The following poem by rAmachan^thira KavirAyar (ramcfcnftirkvirayrf) gives an illustration of the humour and manipulative skill of the poets. In the poem below, the anguish of a poor pulavar who is blaming the God who created him as follows:"Did He ever teach me to boil the rock and sand and drink them, no; or else did He ever bless me with gold, no; can I blame anyone for my grievances, no; He has created me in this world just to show all my teeth and beg everyone".

klfAltfta[f m]fA]tfta[f kayfcfcitfta[f
KFkfktfta[f kbfpitf ta[a
;lfAltfta[f epa[fA[tfta e[[kfKtfta[f
ekaDtfTtfta [irdfcitfta[a
`lfAltfta[f ecalflitfta [aArtfta
E[avtfta A[EyaevgfKmf
plfAltfta[f tibkfktfta[f pTAmtfta[f
p<viyibf$[f p]f]i[aE[.

11.4. MaRaimalai atikaL (mAbmAl `Fkqf) (1876-1950)

His original name was VEthAchalam ( Evtaclmf). He was one of the earliest proponents of the pure Thamizh movement which stood against the Sanskritization of pure Thamizh words. Because the name, VEthachalam was Sanskrit, he changed his name to the pure Thamizh equivalent, MaRaimalai. In his literary works also he used pure Thamizh words. He was proficient in Sanskrit and English and was influenced by the style of English authors. He is well remembered for his excellence in writing in prose. He was one of the earliest Thamizh authors who showed interest in research especially in the field of literary policy. Like his contemporaries he was a staunch Saivaite but had a social reforming motif. His works included the following: novels (KMtvlfli, Ekakilamfpaqf kFtgfkqf); drama (`mfpikapti `mravti); Thamizh research (tmizrfmtmf, `biv<ArkfekatfT, tmizfnadfdvRmf EmlfnadfdvRmf, Mbfkalpf pibfkaltf tmizfpfp<lvrf, tmizftftayf); religion (ma]ikfkvackrf vrlaBmf kal ~rayfcfciy<mf, pznftmizfkf ekaqfAkEy Acvcmymf ).

11.5. ARumuka n^Avalar (~BMknavlrf) (1823-1879)

He hailed from YAzppANam (yazfpfpa]mf) but moved to Cithambaram (citmfprmf) and lived there. He was proficient in Sanskrit and English in addition to Thamizh. He has translated Bible into Thamizh. He is particularly famous for his editorial capacity and contributions to the prose style (uArnAd) of Thamizh literature which was gaining popularity at this time. As a staunch Saivaite, he expressed his opposition to rAmalinga atikaL when the latter came up with his concept of Samarasa SanmArkka SitthAn^tham.

11.6. Dr. U.V.SAmin^Atha iyer (u.Ev. caminat_yrf) (1855-1942)

Dr. SAmin^Atha iyer was one of the illustrious students of MahA VidwAn MInAtchi sun^tharam PiLLai. He lived to the ripe age of 87 and was affectionately referred to as the 'Grand Father of Thamizh' (tmizftftatfta). He held senior academic positions in Thamizh at the Madras Presidency College. This was the time when the British were at the peak of their power and it was rare, if not impossible, for a native son with expertise in the vernacular language to be elevated to these high positions. He was conferred the honorary doctoral degree (D.Litt.) by the University of Madras. In recognition of his outstanding literary aaccomplishments and contributions, he was also honoured with the title, "MahAmahOpAthiyAya' (mka mEka patftiyay), greatest of the great teachers.

He has written 91 published works including the editing of several Sangam texts, epics and grammatical works. He will be remembered for his style of prose including two biographies, one on his mentor, MInAtchi sun^tharam PiLLai and the other on the musician, GAnam KrishNa iyer and a long list of essays and reminiscences.His famous Autobiography ('[fcritftirmf) is regarded as a legacy he bequeathed to posterity providing a liaison between older schools of thought and modern Thamizh literary trends. His other works include the following: (na[f k]fdTmf EkdfdTmf, pAzyTmf p<tiyTmf, nlfLArkfEkaAv, niA[v< mwfcri).

11.7. rAmalinga atikaL (;ramligfk `Fkqf) (1823-1874)

The nineteenth century poet-saint rAmalinga atikaL (;ramligfk `Fkq)f is one among the few leaders who had succeeded in making profound changes in people's religious perception with their thoughts, deeds and words. He is also respectfully referred to as VaLLalAr (vqfqlarf). rAamalingar's life is an epitome of simplicity, compassion for all living things and selfless service. He lived most of his life in the city of Madras and had the opportunity of learning first hand the social problems of modern communities and decided to dedicate his life for the achievement of religious equanimity (cmrc cmymf) and righteousness in all endeavours (c[fmarfkfkmf).

With these objectives in mind, he moved to a small place, VadalUr (vdL\rf) near Cithambaram (citmfprmf) and established institutions (ctftiy wa[cAp & ctftiy tRmcaAl) for the promotion of his spiritual concepts. At the time when his philosophy was introduced, he appeared to be well ahead of his time and people were not ready to comprehend his teachings (MInAtchi sun^tharan, 1974). It is extremely gratifying that the universality of his concepts has since been appreciated by many and his followers are increasing in numbers.

11.7.1. Literary Features of rAmalingar's literary works
a) His Thiru arutpA (tiRvRdfpa) , made up of 5818 poems is regarded to be an excellent blend of literary beauty and divine grace. He had adopted the Aciriya Viruttham style (~ciriy viRtftmf) for most of his poems which are arranged in six, seven or eight meters (~BcIrf, 'ZcIrf, ']fcIrf vriAckqf).

Thiru arutpA is a collection of several works (etaAkN\lf) written by VaLLalAr on a variety of topics. VaLLalAr made it clear to his followers that his literary efforts represent his personal experiences of spiritual ecstasy and requested them not to publish them and make it commercial. With great persuasion his followers did manage to obtain his permission and got Thiru arutpA published in six volumes (~BtiRMAbkqf)..

His repentence for the predicament he faced subsequently and the humility he suffered in this regard can be appreciated from the following poem:
ecvfv]f]mf pZtft t[itf tiRuRkfk]fD 'vrfkfKmf
etriyamlf ;Rpfpmf '[cf cinftA[ ecyftiRnfEt[f
;vfv]f]mf ;Rnft'A[pf pibrf`biytf etRvilf
;ZtfTviDtftT kdv<qf ;ybfAk `RdfecyEla ?

His followers regard VaLLalAr's collected work as the twelfth Thiru MuRai (p[f[ir]fdamftiRMAb) and claim that it should be added to the eleven Saiva canons (Thiru MuRai) already in existence.

b) His literary policy is that only divine literature is true literature (;Ab;lkfkiymf ta[f niAb;lkfkiymf). He has used the word, ilakkiyam (;lkfkiymf) specifically in his poems:

'[fmaAl matftirEma yarfmaAl '[i{mf
;AbvArEy ;lkfkiymayf ;Acpfpet[ilf `Avtamf
n[fmaAl yaKmf `nftcfecalf maAlt[kfEk
na[f`FAm tnft[[fplf vnft[mfecyf ki[fEb[f
(`Rdfpa 5797)

c) VaLLalAr believed in a simple literary style which will deliver the message ('qiAmyibf epaR]fAm). Yet his verses carried deep spiritual concepts with clarity. Instead of trying to please his followers, he described his own personal experiences with conviction and sweetness. However his prose contains very long sentences which are difficilt to understand. An example of his simplicity follows:

EptM$ emyfEpat vFvmf ~kipf
epRgfkRA] nibmfpZtfTcf canftmf epagfkicf
cItmiKnfT `Rqfk[infT k[infT ma$cf
ci[fmymayf ni[fmlEm m]nfT nIgfka
~trEvaFy[f emq[cfCAv Em[fEmbfeka]fD
~[nft rcmfoZkfki `[fpalf '[fBmf
EctM$T `biwrfuqmf titftitfT OgfKnf
ecZmf p<[itkf ekaZgfk[iEy EtvEtEv

d) In order to convince people that the Absolute Being they are seeking is right within us, he creates a pleasant atmosphere to ease our anguish as in the following poem popularized by famous musicians (eg. S.G.KittappA, T.R.MahAlingam).
EkaAdyiEl ;qpfpabfbikf ekaqfQmf vAkkiAdtft KqirftRvilf
tRnizlilf nizlfk[inft k[iyilf OAdyiEl UBki[fb tIwfCAvtf t]f]Irilf
ulnft t]f]IriAd mlrfnft Cknft m]mlrilf EmAdyiEl vICki[fb
emlfliy p>gfkabfbilf em[fkabfbilf viAqCktftilf

e) To emphasize that devotional poems should be soft and sweet, VaLLalAr made use of the soft consonants (emlfli[ ;Adyi[gfkqf) in the words and phrases as in the following stanza :
taAzpfpzmf piziEpaelaR crfkfkArcf cabqitft
vaAzpfpzmf pCenyfnf nBnfEt{mf mRvcfecyfT
maAzpf placfCAq mamfpzmati vFtftqvi
"Azkf kqitftA[Ey `EqarM et[fe$[fAbEy.

This format follows the tradition stipulated by TholkAppiar, (;Zem[femaziyalf viZmiyT Nvli{mf).

f) In employing similes VaLLalAr chose analogies whcih are most appropriate to the situation. The following poem compares the mind which wanders all over the place to a variety of things with a high sense of humour:
Epyfeka]fD kqfQ]fD Ekali[alf ematfT]fD
pitfT]fd v[fKrgfEka
EpCB Klal[alf Czlfki[fb tikiriEya
EpAt viAqyaD pnfEta
kayfeka]fD payfki[fb evvfvilgfEka epRgf
kabfbi[alf Czlf kbgfEka
kalvFEva ;nftir cal vFEva '[f
krfmvFEva `bikiEl[f

g) Apart from decrying the importance of rituals and superstitions, his greatest contributions to spiritual philosophy are his concept of the combined VEdhAn^tham and SitthAn^tham (Evtanft citftanftmf), the equanimity of all religions (cmrcmf) and righteousness (c[fmarfkfkmf.) Indeed he carries the value of equinamity among all human beings to the extreme limit as described in the following poem. He begs Lord Sivan who dances equally well before one and all to accept his offerings of music; requests Him to bless the literate and illiterate with happiness; bless those who can see and who don't see with real vision; bless the mighty and the meek; bless those who care as well those who don't with wisdom; bless both the good and the bad equally:

klflarfkfKmf kbfbvrfkfKmf kqipfpRQmf kqipfEp
ka]arfkfKmf k]fdvrfkfKmf k]f]qikfKmf k]fE]
vlflarfkfKm madfdarfkfKmf vrmf`qikfKmf vrEm
mtiyarfkfKmf mtipfpvrfkfKmf mtiekaDkfKmff mtiEy
nlflarfkfKmf epalflarfkfKmf nDni[fb nDEv
nrrfkQkfKmf CrrfkQkfKmf nlgfekaDkfKmf nlEm
'lflarfkfKmf epaTvilfndmf ;Dki[fb civEm
'[f`rEc ya[fp<kLmf ;Acy<mf`]inf tREq.
(tiR `Rdfpa 4128)

h) The catholocity of his teachings is best illustrated in the following prayer song which is very popular. "Oh Kan^thA, guide me to get the friendship of good people who meditate on you with serenity, help me avoid the friendship of hypocrites, help me speak of your glory, help me avoid speaking lies, help me to be virtuous, remove my arrogance, help me to lead a chaste life, help me think of you always, bless me with wisdom, good health and Your grace":

oRAmy<d[f ni[TtiR mlrF niA[kfki[fb
utftmrf tmf ubv<Ev]fDmf
uqfo[fB AvtfTpf p<bmfepa[fB EpCvarf
ubv<kl vaAmEv]fDmf
epRAmepB ni[Tp<kzf EpcEv]f DmfepayfAm
Epca tiRkfkEv]fDmf
epRenbi piFtfetaZk Ev]fDmfmt ma[Epyf
piFya tiRkfkEv]fDmf
mRv<ep]f ~AcAy mbkfkEv Ev]fDmfuA[
mbva tiRkfkEv]fDmf
mtiEv]fDmf ni[fkRA] nitiEv]fDmf Enaybfb
vazfvilfna[f vazEv]fDmf
tRmmiK ec[fA[yilf knftEkadf dtfTqf vqrf
tlmfOgfK knftEvEq
t]fMktf Tyfym]i u]fMkcf Acvm]i
c]fMktf etyfvm]iEy
(tiR `Rdfpa 8)

11.7.2. Conclusion

It appears that ThirumUlar (tiRYMlrf) planted the seeds for the personification of the indivicible Sivan (Supreme Being) as love (`[fp<mf civ{mf ;r]fed[fprf `bivilarf) ; ThAyumAnavar (tay<ma[vrf) nurtured these ideas to evolve the concept of equanimity of all religions with his theory of SitthAn^tha Samarasam (citftanftcmrcmf ; rAmalingar (;ramligfkrf) made them bear fruits with his philosophy of VEdhAn^tha SitthAn^tha Samarasa SanmArkkam (Evtanft citftanft cmrc c[fmarfkfkmf).