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2. The Sangam (Academy)(cgfkmf) Period

2.1. Early Sangam Works

Chronologically the development of Thamizh literature is believed by the Thamizh people to have commenced during the Sangam period. References to the existence of at least three Thamizh academies are available in Thamizh literature. The first Sangam is credited to have been initiated by Lord Sivan himself. One of the poets, n^akkIrar (nkfkIrrf) who is said to have lived during this period has referred to the Thamizh academies in his commentary on iRaiyanAr akapporuLurai (;Aby[arf `kpfepaRqf uAr) .

According to the legend, a short-statured seer named agatthiar (`ktftiyrf) wrote the first treatise on Thamizh grammar (`ktftiymf) . Unfortunately no scientific proof is available to substantiate whether these academies existed at all and if so, the dates, the participants or their works. However it is probable that quite a few scholars could have met periodically at different times and discussed literary works either formally or informally.

2.2. TholkAppiam (etalfkapfpiymf) and the top 18 Anthology Series ( ptie[]f Emlf k]kfK )

The starting point for Thamizh literary works is therefore reckoned to be the third or last Sangam period which is assigned the approximate dates from 500 B.C. - 200 A.D. Literary works of the last Sangam period include TholkAppiam, (etalf kapfpiymf) a text on Thamizh grammar written by TholkAppiar (etalfkapfpiyrf) (~ 500 B.C.) and two collections of poems, dealing with akam (`kmf ) subjective and puRam (p<bmf) objective human emotions, the Eight Anthologies, ettut thokai, ('dfDtfetaAk ) and The Ten Idylls, Patthup pAttu, (ptfTpfpadfD ) . Together they constitute the top 18 in the PathineN mEl kaNakku Anthology series, (ptie[]f Emlf k]kfK ) . Of the several authors with conflicting names and dates involved in these Sangam collections, it is indeed gratifying to note that there were at least 27 poetesses. The role played by women in literary endeavours during the Sangam period is obvious.

2.2.1. TholkAppiam (etalfkapfpiymf )f

Setting aside the oft repeated but justifiable criticism regarding the lack of evidence of specific dates and authors, it is appropriate to examine the contents of these texts with reference to their style and substance. It is indeed amazing that even prior to the beginning of the Christian era, there did exist a language with rigid grammatical rules which even today serve as authoritative guidelines. The corollary is that Thamizh should have been flourishing long before this time for someone to set out rules and regulations to formalize its usage in prose and poetry.

The verses (N\bf pakfkqf ) themselves are set in a specific rhythm, YAppu ( yapfp<) and adorned by various figures of speech, aNi (`]i ) . This basic structure later blossomed into the development of Thamizh literature along 3 directions, literature, music and stage (Mtfftmizf - ;ylf, ;Ac, nadkmf) . Drama, per se, is absent from the Sangam collections. Literary Features of TholkAppiam

a) Chapters (`tikargfkqf ) TholkAppiam is not merely a textbook on Thamizh grammar giving the inflection and syntax of words and sentences but also includes classification of habitats, animals, plants and human beings. The discussion on human emotions and interactions is particularly significant. TholkAppiam contains 1602 poems which have been placed under 3 chapters (`tikargfkqf) : orthography, letters, ('ZtfT) , etymology, words ( ecalf) , and subject matter or content, Porul (epaRqf) .

Whereas the grammatical part of TholkAppiam codifies the language, the concept of PoruL refers to the people and is unique to the Thamizh language and universal in its application. The grammar helps to convey the literary message on human behaviour and conduct which are later discussed in the chapter on PoruL.

In a broad sense, all human endeavours march towards four values: virtue (`bmf ) , wealth (epaRqf ), pleasure ( ;[fpmf ) and absolute peace (vID) . Since the last is beyond description and the first two are prerequisites for the third, TholkAppiar defines PoruL (content) to include pleasures derived from human emotions and experiences.

EpakfkB mrpibf epaReq[pf pDvT
EnakfkBmf vID Nvbfcieclf laAmyi[f
`bmfepaR qi[fp maKmbfbTEra
`k{mf p<b{em[f bayiR pabffbayf
vAkpd vnft v]inlnf tzI;cf
ecyfy<qidvyibf p<lfliy enbitfEt
(N\bfpa) 374.

(EpakfkB = Kbfbmbffb, EnakfkBmf = vivrikfk MFyat, ecyfy<qid enbitfEt = ecyfy<qidtfEt carfnfT viqgfKmf ;ylfpiA[ uAdyT).

b) Literary Objectives (;lkfkiypff epaR]fAm )

The word, literature ,ilakkiam, (;lkfkiymf ) has not been specifically used by TholkAppiar. By splitting the word, ilakkiam, into ilakku, (;lkfK) objective or philosophy and iyam, (;ymf) express, the inference is made that the philosophy of life is what is discussed under PoruL. The subsections, (;ylfkqf ) , under the chapter on PoruL include:

a) meippAttiyal, (emyfpffpadfFylf ) dealing with the physical and psychological effects, (CAv) on the reader;
b) uvamai iyal (uvAmyiylf) which discusses the similes;
c) ceyyuL iyal, ( ecyfy<qiylf) in which kavithai, literature (;lkfkiymf) is discussed;
and d) marabiyal , (mrpiylf) in which traditional poetic idioms and expressions are described.

The term yAppu, (yapfp<) an important component of how the prosody or versification is organized, is classified into seven kinds, (vAkkqf ) as detailed below under the general context of PoruL : (padfD, uAr, N\lf, vayfemazi, pici, `gfktmf, MTecalf).

padfD uAr N\El vayfemazi piciEy
`gfktmf MTecalfElaD `vfEvzf niltfTmf
v]fp<kzf YMvrf t]fepazilf vArpfpi[f
nabfepyrf 'lfAl `ktftvrf vzgfKmf
yapfpi[f vziyT '[fm[arf p<lvrf.
N\bfpa 1336.

The structure, (`Ampfp<) and components, (uBpfp<) of literary works (;lkfkiymf ) and the way the poems should be organized could be of 34 different types as follows:

matftiAr 'ZtfT;ylf `AcvAk '[a`
yatft cIEr `Fyapfp< '[a`
mrEp T\kfEk etaAdvAk '[a`
EnakfEk paEv `qviyl '[a`
tiA]Ey AkEkaqf PbfBvAk '[a`
EkdfEparf kqE[ kalvAk '[a`
pyE[ emyfpfpaD 'cfcvAk '[a`
M[f[mf epaREq TAbvAk '[a`
madfEd v]f]emaD yapfpi[f vAkyi[f
~BtAl yidfd `nfnalf _nfTmf
`mfAm `zK eta[fAm EtaEl
viRnfEt ;AyEp p<lE[ ;Azp< '[a`pf
epaRnftkf Pbiy 'dfedaDnf etaAk;
nlfliAcp fp<lvrf ecyfy<qf uBpfep[
vlflitibf Pbi vKtfTArtft[Er.
N\bfpa 1259.

c) Primary, Secondary and Tertiary Parametersrs (Mtlf, kR, uripf epaRdfkqf)

Recognizing that human activities cannot take place in vacuum and are constantly influenced by environmental factors, human experiences, in general, and subjective topics ( `kmf ) in particular, are assigned to specific habitats. Accordingly land was classified into five divisions, thiNai (tiA]kqf ) . These are: kuRinji (Kbiwfci ) mountainous regions, mullai ( MlfAl ) forests, marutham (mRtmf ) agricultural lands, n^eithal (enyftlf) coastal regions, pAlai, ( paAl) deserts.

The differences in human avocations in these different regions at different seasons are described with vivid imagination stressing the phenotype-environment interactions among human beings, plants and animals. The habitat and the season are considered to be the primary parameters (Mtbf epaRqf ) .

Located in these are the living things (human beings, plants and animals) which are the secondary parameters (kRpf epaRqf ) . For example, the six different types of persons involved in the section on secret love are the brahmin, friend, maid, the hero and the heroine:

parfpfpa[f, pagfk[f, Etazi, ecvili
cIrftftK cibpfpi[f kizv[f kiztftiEyaD
`qv< ;ylf mrpi[f `BvAk EyaRmf
N\bfpa 1445.

Finally the descriptions of the human emotions and feelings, tertiary parameters, (uripf epaRqf ) under these conditions are given. Included in this section are the desirable and undesirable traits for the hero, heroine and other characters.

The general tendency of Thamizh people in considering the Sangam age as the golden era of their language may be ascribed not so much to its antiquity as to the fact that their ancestors were indulging in literary pursuits and logical classification of the habitats and society in a systematic manner with little to draw from precedents domestically or elsewhere. Viewed from this perspective, it would be obvious that what is important is not the accuracy of the dates or the names of authors as stressed by some scholars but the fact that the legends and folk lores of a country or region do contain valuable information on the continuous and coherent development of a language and the people. What is required is an unbiased attempt to separate the facts from the myths!

d) Subjective (akam) and Objective (puRam) topics (`kpfepaRqf, p<bpfepaRqf) .

PoruL is subdivided into subjective, (`kpfepaRqf ) and objective ( p<bpfepaRqf ) topics. Subjective topics (`kpfepaRqff ) refer to the personal or human aspect of emotions which cannot be verbalized adequately or explained fully. It can only be experienced by the individuals and includes love and sexual relationship. The division into akam and puram is not rigid but is flexible depending upon the interpretation used in a specific context.

`kem[pf pDvT vAkeyaR YM[fb{qf
;[fp em[f{ miylfpib fbaki
`ktfTnik ezaZkfk matlf Ev]fDmf
N\bfpa 375.

Subjective topics (`kpfepaRqf ) are further subdivided into four sections (;ylf) : subjective matters (`ktftiA] ;ylf ), clandestine love (kqviylf ), chaste or wedded love (kbfpiylf ), and material wealth (epaRqiylf ).

Objective topics ( p<bpfepaRqf ) discuss all other aspects of human experience such as heroism, ethics, benevolence, philanthropy, social life and customs. All these topics are placed under one section ( p<btftiA] ;ylf ) .

The distinction made between the subjective and objective topics stresses the fact that while all topics were indeed discussed, they were done with discretion and always keeping in mind the seriousness associated with the expression of these fine basic human feelings. For example, when human love is discussed, a hero (tAlv[f ) and a heroine ( tAlvi) are chosen without specific names and their feelings towards each other, under a variety of circumstances are elaborated using the imagination and descriptive capacity of the poet. Usually a friend who acts as a liaison between the hero and heroine is brought into the picture. In the narration of objective (p<bmf ) topics such as heroism of a King or chieftain or the philanthropy of a patron the specific names of individuals are mentioned.

The division of literary works into subjective and objective topics has enabled the poetic minds to discuss all topics under the sun from grammar to love, all within the framework of well prescribed, socially accepted conventions. The placement of secret or clandestine love ( kqviylf ) prior to wedded love (kbfpiylf) in TholkAppiam would indicate that former was not only socially acceptable but in fact was actively encouraged with the caveat that the choice should be made on sound criteria. The following verse ( N\bfpa, C>tftirmf ) expresses the desirable traits viz., heroism and valour in the male and meekness, innocence and shyness (`cfcmf, mdmf, na]mf ) in the female:

EvdfAk, oRtAl uqfQtlf, emlitlf
~kfkmf ecpfplf, na}vAr yibtftlf
EnakfKv evlflamf `AvEy Epablf
mbtftlf, mykfkmf cakfkaD '[fB `cf
cibpfp<Ad mrpi[f `Av kqev[ emazip
N\bfpa 1046.

Such a combination of traits has indeed been encouraged as mentioned below:

o[fEb EvEb '[fbiR palfvyi[f
o[fbi uyrfnft pal taA]yi[f
otft kizv{mf kiztftiy<mf ka]fp
mikfEka[ayi{mf kFvAr yi[fEb
N\bfpa 1039.

kampf p<]rfcfciy<mf ;dnftAlpf pdLmf
pagfekaD tza`Lmf Etaziyibf p<]rfv< em[fB
~gfknalf vAkyiLmf `Adnft carfepaD
mAbey[ emazitlf mAbEyarf ~Eb.
N\bfpa 1442.

While describing the attributes of the heroine in wedded love (kbfpiylf ), higher emphasis is given to chastity, good behaviour, hospitality, and ability to support the family and relatives . An example is given below of the desired traits. A discriminating observer could also discern the importance placed on the family system as a whole over the individual, a characteristic which is still in vogue.

kbfp<mf kamMmf nbfpalf oZkfkMmf
emlfliylf epaAby<mf niAby<mf vlflti[f
viRnfT p<bmf tRtLmf, Cbfbmf OmfpLmf
pibv< m[f[ kizEvaqf ma]fp<kqf.
N\bfpa 1098.

In defining chaste or wedded love the only restriction placed is the giving away of the bride by the parents following the necessary rituals as explained below:
kbfp< '[pfpDvT kr]emaD p<]r
ekaqbfKri mrpi[f kizv[f kiztftiAykf
ekaAdkfKri mrpie[arf ekaDpfpkfekaqf vTEv.
N\bfpa 1088.

The practice leading to marriage is thus identical to the 'dating and choosing' the mate system practised in the west. The notion of "arranged marriages" therefore appears to be a recent introduction due to changed social circumstances. The Thamizh people are resilient as per the old dictum, " ( pAzy[ kzitLmf p<tiy[ p<KtLmf vZvl kal vAkyi[aE[ ) ", meaning literally "old order changeth yielding place to new".

e) Words.
Four kinds of words were recognized by TholkAppiar: spoken words (;ybffecalf )f, poetic words (tiriecalf ), borrowed words (tiAccfecalf ), and Sanskritized words ( vd ecalf ).

The poetic style was divided into three based on the number of meters and lines as akaval (`kvlf ), kalippA (klipfpa ), and paripAdal ( pripadlf). akaval is made up of four meters in each line which may vary from three to one hundred. The other two are more musically oriented. The veNpA (ev]fpa ) style of poetry gradually replaced the akaval in later years.

f) Religion ( cmymf )

Another interesting but controversial observation in Sangam poems is the relatively meager reference given to religion in general. In the akam (`kmf )f songs, TholkAppiar has made reference to deities in the different land divisions: ThirumAl (tiRmalf ) , for mullai ( MlfAl ) , Murugan ( MRk[f) , for kuRinji (Kbiwfci ) , indhiran ( ;nftir[f )f , for marutham ( mRtmf ) , varuNan ( vR][f ) , for n^eithal ( enyftlf)and koRRavai ( ekabfbAv ) for pAlai ( paAl ).

Some scholars believe that TholkAppiar was a Jain. The following two verses are usually given in support of TholkAppiar's religious outlook:
maEya[f Emy kaDAb ulkMmf
EcEya[f Emy AmvAr ulkMmf
Evnft[f Emy tImfp<[lf ulkMmf
vR][f Emy epR m]lf ulkMmf
MlfAl, Kbiwfci, mRtmf, enyftlf '[cf
N\bfpa 951.

ekaFniAl knftzi vqfqi '[fb
vDnIgfK cibpfpi[f Mtl[ YM[fBmf
kdv<qf vazftfetaD k]f]iy vREm.
N\bfpa 1034.