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12.2.4. isait Thamizh (;Actftmizf)

12.2.4.1. Sangam Period

Since ancient times the Thamizh people regarded music as highly as their literature and believed that all other arts and science were derived from the primordial n^Atham (natmf). To mark every occasion from birth, lullaby (taladfD), through activities kummi(Kmfmi), kOlattam (Ekaladfdmf), to death, oppuvari (opfp<vri), traditional lyrics with appropriate music are still in vogue.

References are found in the earlier Sangam Thamizh texts to the importance given to music. Several musical treatises of the Sangam period : isai n^uNukkam, (;Ac N}kfkmf); Pancha Marabu, (pwfc mrp<) had been lost. Kalit thokai (klitfetaAk) and ParipAtal (pripadlf) are known for their musically sounding verses (Tqfqlf OAc, kli pripadfD) as shown in the following line from ParipAtal where the enjoyment derived from music and drama is expressed, (padlf OrfnffTmf nadk nynfTmf).

The classification of habitats into five divisions (tiA]) in TholkAppiam had already been discussed. Besides the flora and fauna of these habitats, the social and cultural characteristics had also been described. The state of development of music during this period could be appreciated by the details given to the PaN (p]f), rAgam, the musical instruments uniquely employed and the time of the day when the paN should be sung. For example, KuRinjip paN, (Kbiwfcipfp]f) is sung at midnight using the kuRinji yAz, (Kbiwfci yazf) and the percussion instrument, the paRai (pAb ).

The dance performed is called kuravaik kUtthu (KrAvkfPtfT). Mullaip paN, (MlfAlpfp]f) is sung in the evening to the accompaniment of the percussion instrument, Eru kOt paRai ("BEkadfpAb) , the dance performed is Aycchiyar kuravai (~yfcfciyrf KrAv). Maruthap paN, (mRtpfp]f) is a morning rAgam; marutha yAz, (mRtyazf) is used for this purpose with the accompaniment of the more sophisticated percussion instrument, the muzhavai (MzAv). n^eithal paN, (enyftbf p]f) is sung at night using the viLari yAz, (viqri yazf) ; the instruments used are the n^Avai (naAv) and Pampai (pmfAp). PAlaip paN, (paAlpfp]f) is sung at noon using the koRRavai pAlai yAz, (ekabfbAvpf paAlyazf) to the accompaniment of thuthi (Tti). The following song describes the maruthap-paN being sung in the morning:

cIri[iT eka]fD nrmfpi[i tiykfki
yaEtrirf mRtmf p]f]i...
p<lrfnfT viri viFylf. (mTArkfkawfci)

The bard was called PANan (pa][f) and his wife was known as PAtini (paF[i). ViRaliyar (vibliyrf) were the dancing girls. Both stringed instruments ,harps, ( epriyazf, cibiyazf, mkr yazf, cdEkap yazf, ecgfEkadfD yazf) and wind instruments, flute, (Kzlf) were used. The big yAz having many strings is played by PerumpANar as indicated below:

......enFet[
;dTAdpf Epriyazf MAby<qikf kzipfpikf
kdlbi mrpibf AketaYZupf pzicfci (epRmfpa]abfBpfpAd)

12.2.4.2. Thamizh Music during the SilappathikAram period

The sophistication of the Thamizh music system appears to have reached a peak during the SilappathikAram period. But for the incredible amount of technical details given by iLangO atikaL (;qgfEka`Fkqf) in SilappathikAram, we may not even be aware today that a highly developed system was in vogue during the first few centuries of the Christian era. Probably this musical system should have been in existence for a while before iLangO atikaL's time for him to dwell at length on the intricacies of the music in the chapters on arankERRu KAthai (`rgfEkbfB kaAt) and Aycchiyar kuravai (~yfcfciyrf KrAv).

One of the difficulties encountered in this regard is the fact that the subject is highly technical and falls in a gray area between Thamizh literature and music. To those of us brought up in specific fields of specialization, it is difficult to imagine the breadth and depth of knowledge of the Jain monk who was able to crystallize these technical details of the music in his literary work! The fact remains that the details given by iLangO atikaL remained concealed in verses, until atiyArkku n^allAr (`FyarfkfK nlflarf) deciphered the technical details of the music in his commentaries which, in their turn, are also difficult to interpret.

The credit for popularizing the technical details of the Thamizh classical music in SilappathikAram goes to Dr. S.rAman^Athan ('sf.ramnat[f) who during the course of his doctoral thesis, explained the details of the music in simpler terms and how it related to the present system in practice. Though it is recognized that the paNs are the forerunners of the rAgams used now, it appears that the pioneers of the system, which people of Thamizh origin can be justifiably proud of, have not been given the credit they richly deserved. Therefore, at the risk of digression, I have made an attempt to summarize the salient features of classical Thamizh music. I was prompted to do more by an eagerness to emphasize the importance of a neglecteted subject matter rather than by own expertise on the subject.

Thamizh classical music described in SilappathikAram was based on logical, systematic and scientific calculations and was incorporated into the literary epic using the arrangements of the dancers on the stage to represent the notes and paNs. The words, azhaku (`zK) and mAtthirai (matftiAr) refer to musical pitch (Crmf or the smallest fraction of an audible sound distinguishable by the human ear. The term, kOvai (EkaAv) or kELvi (Ekqfvi) is a particular type of a musical sound (note, tone) (nrmfp<kqf) which constitute the scale (paAl).

a) Development of scales (paAl) from notes.

The Thamizh people first developed the pentatonic scale, mullaip paN (MlfAlpfp]f), using the five notes, (c, ri, k, p, t,c) (equivalent to the English notations,C,D,E,G,A,C respectively) in the ascending (~EraAc) and descending (`vEraAc) scales. Dr.rAman^Athan was the first to demonstrate that these scales of the mullaip paN corresponded to the rAgam, MOhanam (Emah[mf) which is said to the oldest scale ever developed. In mullaip paN the notes are harmonic to the fullest extent and are therefore found in many other musical systems prevalent in the eastern hemisphere.

b) Development of septatonic notes

By the addition of two more notes, ma and n^i (m, ni) to the pentatonic scale of mullaip paN, the fundamental septatonic scale of Thamizh music, SempAlai (ecmfpaAl) was developed. SempAlai corresponds to HarikAmbOdhi (hrikamfEpati). The seven basic notes (nrmfp<kqf) are developed into 12 houses (p[f[iR vIDkqf, p[f[iR nilmf) or svarasthAnams, which correspond to the 12 signs of the zodiac (;racikqf).

The total number of alakukaL (`lKkqf), sruthis, according to the above scheme comes to 22 (4+4+3+2+4+3+2=22). There is controversy among experts whether this should be 24 or 22.

Next, by the model shift of the tonic (p]f}pfepyrftftlf) using the process of the cycle of fifth or cycle of fourth (Krlf tirip<), five semitones (`nftr Ekalfkqf) were developed. By the cycle of fifth is meant the calculation of every fifth note. For example, if the cycle is started with kural (Krlf-c), the fifth note will yield iLi (;qi-p), the sa-pa relationship. In the cycle of fourth, kural (sa) will give uzhai (ma), the sa-ma relationship. These five semitones were added to the original 7 notes giving 12 notes (EkaAv, Crmf) of the ancient Thamizh musical octave.
Among the 12 notes, the flats were called kuRai (KAb ) and the sharps were called n^iRai (niAb).

The above 12 panniru vIdukaL (p[f[iR vIDkqf) sometimes get 16 svara names with the addition of four more svara varieties (shatsruthi rishabam, suddha ghandhAram, shatsruthi dhuvaitham and suddha n^ishAdham). The 72 mELakartha schemes of rAgams which are used now are built on this principle. In SilappathikAram, the 12 notes and the corresponding signs of the zodiac are represented by the dancing girls arranged in a circle called vattap pAlai (vdfdpfpaAl).

It is indeed amazing that many of the mELakartha, parent, (Emqkrftfta) and janya, derived, (j[fy) rAgams used at present can be obtained from the basic scheme of vattap pAlai through the modal shift of the tonic. For example, the ri, ga, ma, pa and dha of SankarAbaraNam (cgfkrapr]mf) would yield the mELakartha rAgams, Karaharapriya (krkrpfriya), ThOdi (EtaF), KalyANi (klfya]i), HarikAmbOthi (hrikamfEpati), and n^atabairavi (ndAprvi) respectively.

In consideration of the tremendous original contribution of the ancient Thamizh people to the development of isait Tamizh, the least we can do to recognize their efforts is to present their ideas in a simple form which can be understood by ordinary people. Mere references to mutthamiz (Mtftmizf) alone is not adequate to convince the world that Thamizh music traditions go way back to the fifth century A.D. or even earlier. The need of the hour is for scholars proficient in the subject matter to take up the technical aspects of music and explain the details with reference to the present time. In the Appendix the construction of the vattap pAlai (vdfdpfpaAl) and its application in the derivation of janya rAgams from mElaKartha rAgams are given following the examples of Dr.S.rAman^Athan. Appendix

c) Origin of paNs

Making use of the vattap pAlai and appropriate modal shifts of tonic (`kniAl & p<bniAl mRtmf), the ancient Thamizh people produced four major paNs with four divisions in each (nabfepRmf p]fkQmf nalfvAk catikQmf). The four major paNs are as follows:

1. PAlai yAzh (paAlyazf). This represents sempAlai (ecmfpaAl) in which the scale starts from mInam (mI[mf) where thAram (n^i) yields uzhai (ma) (uAz).

2. KuRinji yAzh (Kbiwfci yazf) The scale starts from thulAm (Tlamf) where uzhai (ma) (uAz) gives kural, sa, (Krlf.

3. Marutha yAzh (mRt yazf). The scale begins from idapam (;dpmf) where kural (Sa) yields iLi (pa) (;qi) .

4. n^eithal yAzh (enyftlf yazf). The scale starts from thanusu (t{C) where iLI (pa) (;qi) projects forth thuttham (Ttftmf) ri.

The derivatives of the major scales are called thiRam (tibmf). PaNs have ascending and descending scales of 7 notes in each, ArOsai (~EraAc `lflT ~Erak]mf) and amarOsai (`mEraAc `lflT `vErak]mf) (sexta tonic, 7+7); paNNiyal (p]f]iylf) with 6 notes (septa tonic, 6+6), thiRam (tibmf) with 5 notes (hepta tonic, 5+5 ) and thiRat thiRam (tibtftibmf) with 4 notes, 4+4 or various combinations (quadruple tonic).

A total of 103 paNs has been defined and characterized for their musical attributes. The elaboration of paN is called ALatthi (~qtfti `lflT ~lapA[) and definitive procedures have been outlined for the proper singing or paNs. The paNs are sung in 3 octave ranges, the lower (emliv< `lflT mnftirmf), ma, pa, dha, n^i, middle (cm]f `lflT mtftimmf), sa, ri, ga, ma, pa, dha, n^i and high (vliv< `lflT tarmf), sa, ri, ga. A few examples of the rAgams which correspond to the paNs are given below:

Panchamam (pwfcmmf = ~hiri); Pazham Panchuram (pzmf pwfCrmf = cgfkrapr]mf) ; MEharAhk-kuRinchi (EmkrakkfKbiwfci = nIlamfpri ; pazhanthakka Ragam (pznftkfkrakmf = ~rpi) ; KuRinji (Kbiwfci = mlhri) ; n^atta RAgam (ndfdrakmf = pnfTvraqi) ; inthaLam (;nftqmf= natnamkfriya) ; ThakkEsi (tkfEkci = kamfEpati) ; Kausikam (ekqcikmf= Aprvi) ; NattappAdai (ndfdpfpaAd= kmfpIr nadfAd).

12.2.4.3. Thamizh Music in ThEvAram (Etvarmf) period

The leadership provided by iLangO atikaL in outlining the details of the scientific basis of Thamizh music in SilappathikAram was unfortunately not followed by the authors of the later epics. Perhaps they were more interested in propagating their religious faith rather than getting involved in the details of an art which they did not understand. May be that they were simply not interested in the technical details of the music or dance. Therefore the revival of Thamizh music had to wait for 2 or 3 more centuries until the protagonists of the Saivaite and VaishNavaite traditions came into the picture and incorporated the ancient paNs into their Bhakthi movement to sway the people into their folds.

The contributions of the Saivaite doyens (Acvcmykf Krvrfkqf) in using the ancient paNs for their devotional ThEvAram poems and those of the AzhvArkaL (~zfvarfkqf) in their Thivyap prabhan^tham poems were mainly responsible for the renaissance of the Thamizh music system. In fact the only relics of our musical heritage that had survived till today is the ThEvAram and Thivyap Prabhan^tham music.

The role of the OthuvAr (OTvarfkqf) in transmitting the ThEvAram paN singing methods over generations and nurturing this great tradition had been the singular redeeming feature in an otherwise declining interest in our ancient musical tradition.

Initially ThEvAram (Etvarmf) poems were classified on the basis of the paNs used into 7 ThirumuRaikaL (tiRMAbkqf); the first three by Thiru GnAna Sampan^thar (tiRwa[cmfpnftrf), four to six by Thirun^Avuk karasar (tiRnav<kfkrcrf) and the seventh by Suntharar (Cnftrrf).

In the first ThirumuRai, Sampan^thar used the following 7 paNs: n^attapAdai (ndfdpfpaAd), Thakka rAgam (tkfkrakmf), Pazhanthakka rAgam (pznftkfkrakmf), ThakkEsi (tkffEkci), KuRinji (Kbiwfci), ViyAzhak kuRinji (viyazkfKbiwfci), and MEhaRAhak kuRinji (EmkrakkfKbiwfci). In addition to the paNs, the rhythms ,santham, (cnftmf) were also specified using words such as thAna (ta[), thana (t[), thAnA (ta[a) and thanA (t[a). The 8 different types of santhams used in the first ThirumuRai are shown below:


1. EtaD Ady ecvi y[fviAd Eybieyarf T\ev]f mtiVF
ta[ ta[ t[ t[[ t[[ ta[a t[ta[a
2. ta}tlff ecyftiAb ka]iy maelaD t]fda mArya{mf
ta[[ ta[[ ta[[ ta[[ ta[a t[ta[a
3. AmmfmR p>gfKzlf kbfAbTbfb va}tlf ma[fvizi mgfAkEyaDmf
ta[[ ta[[ ta[ta[ ta[[ ta[[ ta[ta[a
4.EtaLAdya[ff v]f]pf EparfAvyi[a[f k]f]ev]f ]IBT AtnftilgfK
ta[t[a ta[ ta[t[a ta[[ ta[[ ta[ta[a
5. v]fdarfKz lriAveyaD piriyavAk pakmf
ta[at[ t[[at[ t[[at[ ta[a
6. Krvgf kmzfnBem[f KzlriAv yvqfevRv
t[[a t[t[[a t[t[[a t[t[[a
7. piAby]i pdrfcAd MFyiAd epRkiy p<[LAd yv[iAb
t[t[ t[t[ t[t[ t[t[ t[t[ t[t[
8. piAby]ipdrf cAdMFyiAd epRkiyp<[ LAdyv[iAb
t[t[t[ t[t[t[ t[t[t[ t[t[t[

Six paNs were used in the second ThirumuRai and they are: inthaLam ( ;nftqmf), SIkAmaram (cIkamrmf), Piyanthaik kAn^tharam (piynfAtkfkanftarmf), n^atta RAgam (ndfdrakmf) and Sevvazhi (ecvfvzi).
Nine paNs were used in the third ThirumuRai : KAn^thAra Panchamam (kanftar pwfcmmf), Kolli (ekalfli), kollik KauvANam (ekalflikfekqva]mf), Kausikam (ekqcikmf), Panchamam (pwfcmm), SAdhAri (catari), Pazham Panchuram (pzmf pwfCrmf), PuRa n^Irmai (p<bnIrfAm) and an^thALik KuRinji (`nftaqikfKbiwfci). Thirun^Avuk karasar and Sun^tharar have used 10 and 17 paNs respectively in their ThirumuRaikaL. KAraikkAl ammaiyAR (kaArkfkalf `mfAmyarf) has used the paN, in^thaLam (;nftqmf) in her MUttha Thiruppathikam (YMtfttiRpfptikmf).

12.2.4.4. Impact of Thiruppukazh (tiRpfp<kzf) on isait Thamizh (;Actftmizf)

With the decline in the momentum of the Bhakthi movement launched by the Saivaite and VaishNavaite saints, there was a general decrease of interest in the musical component of the ThEvAram and Thivya Prathhan^tam poems. The singing of the ThEvArap paNs, however, continued to be under the tutelage of the OthuvArs (OTvarfkqf), who maintained the musical traditions in a hereditary manner till the present time. This trend continued for several centuries until the San^thak kavi aruNakiriyAr (cnftkfkvi `R]kiriyarf) (15th century) came up with his reverberating Thiruppukazh filled with divine inspiration, appealing music and incredible rhythm.

The unique style of aruNakiriyAr wherein he incorporated the thALams right into the lyrics added a new dimension to the magnificence of isait Thamiz. Thus Thiruppukazh helped the revitalization of Thamizh music at least a few centuries prior to the musical trinity, ThiAgarAjar (tiyakrajrf) MuthuswAmi DIkshitar (MtfTCvami tIXitrf) and SyAmA SAstry (camacasftiri).

Though many Thiruppukazh songs were lost or allowed to decay, a few individuals in the 19th century (Mazhavai MahAlinga iyer (mzAvmkaligfk _yrf), ThiruvUr SubbarAya MuthaliyAr (tiRv>rf Cpfpray Mtliyarf), Pushparatha Chetty (p<xfprtecdfF) and SubramaNiya Pillai (Cpfpirm]iypiqfAq) made painstaking efforts to collect whatever materials were available from various sources and got them published periodically.

A recent doctoral thesis by ankayaRkaNNi (`gfkybfk]f]i) to the University of Madras contains fascinating details on the thALam and santhak kuRippukaL (cnftkfKbipfp<kqf) in Thiruppukazh, which any student of Thamizh music and literature will find extremely useful and interesting. Certainly the author deserves credit for her original contributions to a subject matter lying in the interface between literature and music.

12.2.4.5. Other contributions to isait Thamizh (tmizf kIrftftA[kqf)

a) After aruNakiriyAr's time, no spectacular development of Thamizh music took place due to a large number of social and political factors including the lack of patronage. However a few outstanding individuals have composed Thamizh kIrtanais (kIrftftA[kqf) which are still popular among music lovers.

b) Muthut thANdavar (MtfTtfta]fdvrf) (16th century). He had composed more than 60 kIrthanais and 25 pathams (ptmf) in Thamizh. He is highly regarded for his efforts to popularize Thamizh music. Among his compositions are the following: (etRvilf varaE[a '[fA[cf cbfEb tiRmfpipfparaE[a (kmasf), `RmRnfetaR t[imRnfT]fD `mfpltftilf k]fEdE[ (Emak[mf)

TO CHAPTER 12d

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