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2.2.2. The Eight Anthologies (ettut thokai) ('dfDtfetaAk N\lfkqf ) )

The works included in ettut thokai along with the number of stanzas available in parentheses are as follows: puRa n^AnURu ( p<bna{\B ) ( 398) , aka n^AnURu (`k na{\B) (400) , n^aRRiNai (nbffbiA]) (399) , kuRun^thokai (KBnfetaAk) (400) , pathiRRup patthu (ptibfBpfptfT) (80) , ainkuRu n^URu ( _gfKB N\B) (498) , paripAdal ( pripadlf) (22) and kalit thokai ( klitfetaAk) (150) . These are summed up in the following song by an unknown poet:

nbfbiA] nlfl KBnfetaAk _gfKBN\B
otft ptibfBpfptfT OgfK pripadlf
kbfbbinftarf "tfTmf kliEyaD `kmfp<bmf '[fB
;tftibtft 'dfDtf etaAk.

2.2.3. The Ten Idylls, (patthup pAttu) (ptfTpfpadfD)

The Ten Idylls consist of the following collections whose authors and the number of verses available are given in parentheses: porun^arARRup patai, (epaRnrf ~bfBpfpAd) (317) , Pattinap pAlai (pdfF[pfpaAl) (kFyLrf uRtftirgfk]f][arf) (301) , PerumpANARRup patai (epRmfpa]abfBpfpAd) (kFyLrf uRtftirgf k]f][arf) (248) , SiRupANARRup patai (ciBpa]abfBpfpAd) (nlfLrf ntfttft[arf) (269) , KuRinjip pAttu ( KbiwfcipfpadfD) (kpilrf) (261) , MalaippadukadAm (mAlpfpDkdamf) (;r]iyMdfdtfTpf epRgfK[fB\rfpf epRgfekqcik[arf) (583) , n^edun^alvAdai enDnlfvaAd, (nkfkIrrf), (188) , Mullaip pAttu (MlfAlpfpadfD) (npfp>t[arf ) (103) , Mathuraik kAnchi ( mTArkfkawfci) (magfKF mRt[arf ) (782) , ThirumurukARRup patai (tiRMRkabfBpfpAd) ( nkfkIrr, ( 317 ) .

The composition of the Ten Idylls is described in the following verse:
tiRMRK epaRnaB pa]ir]fD MlfAl
epRK vqmTArkf kawfci - mRvi[iy
EkalenD nlf vaAd Ekalf Kbiwfci pdfF[pf
paAl kdatfetaDmf ptfT.


In general, the concept of ARRup patai ( ~bfBpfpAd) is defined by TholkAppiar himself as the tribute or homage paid by poets and minstrels to Kings and patrons with the expectation of financial rewards or other gifts. The exception is ThirumurukARRup patai (tiRMRkabfBpfpAd) which was sung by n^akkIrar ( nkfkIrrf)f in praise of Murugan (MRk[f) , the deity of the kuRinji ( (Kbiwfci ) landscape, thiNai, (tiA]). Based on the differences in the grammar, style and the induction of a deity instead of a human being as the patron, it is believed that the n^akkIrar who wrote ThirumurukARRup patai (tiRMRkabfBpfpAd) was different from the one who wrote parts of the Ten Idylls or the one who wrote the grammatical text, adi n^Ul ( `FN\lf ) .

While describing life and romance, the poets employed the background of the natural landscape (;ybfAk `Ampfp< ) and adorned their descriptions of love and emotions with a variety of similes (uvAmkqf) and vivid imaginations. For example, the weathering of a lover in distress is compared to the melting of butter placed on the eyes in the hot sun.

wayiB kay<mf evvfvAb mRgfkilf
Akyilf Um[f k]f]ilf kakfKmf
ev]fe]yf u]gfklf Epalpf
prnft[fB ;nfEnayf.

While describing the hot desert areas , pAlai ( paAl ) , where dangerous thieves had their hideouts, the author of a song in kalit thokai (klitfetaAk ) lets his imagination go wild as described below. He says that the thieves were so cruel that even if the traveler did not have any money they will cut him into pieces and enjoy themselves at the sight of the dancing of the slain body. Thing were so bad that even birds were scared to go into those areas.

..... kDgfk]f mbvrftamf
ekaqfQmf epaRqf ;lrf ~yi{mf, vmfplrf
TqfQnrfkf ka]fmarf etadrfnfT evqvli[f
p<qfQmf vzgfkapf p<lmfp<ekaqf ~riAd.

Notwithstanding their indulgence in describing subjective passions of love and romance at considerable length, the Sangam poets held lofty ideals of life. The duties of different segments of the society are outlined in the following verse:

:[fB p<bnftRtlf '[f tAlkfkdE[
ca[fEba[f ~kfKtlf tnfAtkfKkf kdE[
EvlfvFtfTkf ekaDtftlf ekalflbfKkfkdE[
n[f[Ad nlfklf EvnftbfKkf kdE[
oqiBvaqf `Rwfcmmf MBkfkikf
kqiB 'binfT epyrftlf kaAqkfKkfkdE[


The fine qualities of man with reference to love, affection, courtesy, finesse, etiquette and forgiveness have been defined so precisely and meticulously in a kalit thokai (klitfetaAk) piece that these are applicable universally:

~bfBtlf '[fpT o[fB `lrfnftvrfkfK utv<tlf,
EpabfBtlf '[fpT p<]rfnftaArpf piriyaAm,
p]fp< '[pfpDvT paD `binfT oZKtlf,
`[fp< '[pfpDvT t[f kiAq ecba`Am,
ecbiv< '[pfpDvT PbiyT mba`Am,
epaAb '[pfpDvT EpabfbaArpf epaBtftlf.
niAbv< '[pfpDvT mAb pibrf `biyaAm.

Despite their creative minds and poetic capacities, Thamizh poets have been traditionally poor and were always dependent upon patrons (vqfqlfkqf) for their livelihood. While asking for charity, a poet in PuRa n^AnURu ( p<bna{B ) appeals to the patron by saying that it is not despicable to ask for alms but to say ‘no’ is still worse; to donate before asked for is good but to decline when offered is still better.

:ey[ ;rtftlf ;zinft[fB, `t[f 'tirf
:Ey[f '[fblf `t[i{mf ;zinft[fB,
ekaqfeq[kf ekaDtftlf uyrfnft[fB, `te[tirf
ekaqfEq[f '[fblf `t[i{mf uyrfnft[fB .
(p<bmf, 204).

In the chapters on the puRam ( p<bmf ) topics, the heroism of people in general and women in particular occupied a key place. The following is the description of the valour of a woman who lost her brother on the first day and her husband on the second, dresses up her only son , gives him the spear and sends him to the battle on the third day after hearing the sounds of the bugle:

Em[aqf ubfb ecRvibfK ;vqf t[fA[
yaA[ 'binfT kqtfT ozinft[E[
enRnlf ubfb ecRvibfK ;vqf ekaZn[f
epaRnAr vilgfki ~]fDpfpdfd[E[
;[fBmf, ecRpfpAb EkdfD viRpfp<bfB Mygfki
EvlfAkkf ekaDtfT evqiT viritfT uF;pf
paBmyirfkf KDmi ']fe]yf nIvi
oRmk[f `lflT ;lfElaqf
ecRMkmf Enakfkicf eclfek[ viDEm.
(p<bmf, 279)

Considering the depth at which various subjective and objective topics have been discussed in the Sangam period, it would appear that the authors were basically preoccupied with personal and social topics of emotional appeal. It is not as if devotional concepts did not develop at this time. The following verses in pari pAtal (pripadlf ) demonstrate the emergence of the devotional ( pkfti) concepts. In the first song the prayers of an author where he desires not gold or fame but only the grace of the Lord Murugan are depicted. In the second , the concept of the omnipresence of God is explained.

yamf`mf ;rpfpAv
epaRQmf epa[f{mf EpakMmlfl ni[fpalf
`RQmf `[fp<mf `b{mf YM[fBmf
uRqi]rfkf kdmfpi[f olita raEya.
klfli{qf m]iy<mfnI, ecalfli{qf vayfAmnI,
`btfti{qf `[fp< nI, mbtfti{qf AmnfT nI,
EvttfT mAb nI, p> ttfT MtLmf nI,
evwfCdrf oqiy<mf nI, tigfkQmf `qiy<mf nI
`A[tfTmf nI, `A[tfti[f udfepaRQmfnI.
(kDv[f ;qevyi[[arf)

Therefore, the less importance given to religious topics in the Sangam texts would suggest that, the authors who belonged to three different religious groups (Hinduism, Jainism or Buddhism) played down the religious note deliberately and concentrated on their poetic strengths. It is also probable that theological and devotional (pkfti) concepts did not permeate deeply into the society until later.

Finally, a passage from PuRa n^anURu ( p<b na{B ) along with the English translation by G.U.Pope is given below to illustrate the cosmopolitan outlook of the Thamizh people in the Sangam period with reference to their global perspectives and ideals. In this akaval (`kvlf ) , a minstrel called KaNiyan PUnkunRan (k]iy[f p> gfK[fb[f ) generalizes the sentiment that the whole world is considered as one big family where people conduct themselves with dignity and self respect and do not express undue homage to their superiors and have no contempt for the lower escutcheon.


yaTmf UEr, yavRmf Ekqirf,
tITmf n[fBmf pibrftr vara,
natLmf t]itLmf `vbfEba r[f[
catLmf p<TvT `[fEb, vazftlf
;[iT'[ mkizfnft[fBmf ;lEm, M[ivi[f
;[f[aT '[fbLmf ;lEm, pi[fe[aD
va[mf t]f Tqi tAl; ~[aT
klf epaRT ;rgfKmf mlfllf EprfyabfB
nIrfvzipf pYYYDumf p<A]Epalf ~Ryirf
MAbvzipf pYYYDumf '[fpT tibEvarf
kadfciyi[f etqinft[mf ~tli[f madfciyi[f
epriEyaAr viytftLmf ;lEm,
cibiEyaAr ;kzftlf `t[i{mf ;lEm.
(p<b na{\B, 192)

The Sages

To us all towns are one, all men our kin,
Life's good comes not from others' gifts, nor ill,
Man's pains and pain's relief are from within,
Death's no new thing, nor do our blossoms thrill
When joyous life seems like a luscious draught.
When grieved, we patient suffer; for, we deem
This much-praised life of ours a fragile raft
Borne down the waters of some mountain stream
That o'er huge boulders roaring seeks the plain
Tho' storms with lightning's flash from darkened skies.
Descend, the raft goes on as fates ordain.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !
We marvel not at the greatness of the great;
Still less despise we men of low estate.
(G.U.Pope, 1906)

This passage is relevant to the world today which appears to be fragmented by overzealous linguistic and religious fundamentalists. It seems appropriate to reiterate these profound words written a thousand years back to make the world a better place to live.

Any discussion on Sangam literature will not be complete without reference to the scholars who have interpreted these works in later years in their own characteristic styles. A scholar named iLampUraNar (;qmfp>r]rf) wrote a commentary on the entire TholkAppiam thus earning the title, Commentator (uAryaciriyrf) . In subsequent years he was indeed referred to as Commentator without his real name. A century later, some time in the thirteenth century, other commentators, PErAciriyar (Epraciriyrf) and CEnAvaraiyar (Ec[avAryrf) wrote explanatory notes and interpretations for sections of TholkAppiam.

It is relevant to mention that the Sangam period corresponds roughly to the following historical landmarks: Gautama Buddha (566-486 B.C.), Invasion of Alexander (327-325 B.C.) , Mauryan Dynasty (322-183 B.C.), and the SatavAhana Dynasty in Deccan (50 B.C - 250 A.D.). It is well to bear in mind that the emergence of Buddhism and Jainism posed challenges to traditional VEdhic Hinduism at this time.

2.2.4. Conclusion

In summary, going through the Sangam texts, one can make certain generalizations regarding the social life and cultural characteristics of the Thamizh people during the period. They appear to be highly systematic and logical in their literary approach as exemplified by their predisposition to classify every facet of their lives from land and language to love and heroism using well defined criteria. The word grammar was used in a broader sense to include rules governing not only inflections and syntax of words and sentences but also to describe personal relationships and social activities. The high degree of finesse and discretion they exhibited in their description of love and human relationship is admirable and may well be emulated with advantage today. Their sensitivity to discuss subjective and objective topics separately also shows their rigid code of ethics.

On the other hand, in the Sangam texts, the magnitude of coverage of human emotions and feelings seems to be much greater than discussions on religious thoughts and spiritual analysis. Even the few religious references pertain to deities specific to each habitat. Perhaps this is an indication that the Thamizh people in the Sangam period were pragmatic people fully preoccupied with worldly pursuits in their own habitats.

2.3. Bibliography

aruNAchalam, M. (1975) `R]aclmf, M. Mtbfkapfpiygfkqf. In tmizf ;lkfkiykf ekaqfAk - Orf `biMkmf. etaKti 1, ulktf tmizarayfcfci niBv[mf, ec[fA[. pkf. 93-135.

aruNAchalam, M. (1975) `R]aclmf, M. tmizf ;lkfkiy vrlaB 9-~mf N\bf$]fD. kanfti vitftiyalymf, tiRcfcibfbmfplmf. pkf. 365.

aruNAchalam, P. `R]aclmf, p. etalfkapfpiyrf. tmizfpf p<tftkalymf, ec[fA[. pkf 236.

Asher, R.E. Tamil, London, Croom Helm.

Chellamutthu, K.C., T. PadmanAban & P.V. n^AgarAjan. (1985) Catalogue of Tamil Palmleaf Manuscripts in the Tamil University. ThanjAvUr, Tamil University (Publication No. 31).

Chelliah, J.V. (Tr. Ed.) 1946/1985 Patthup pAttu - ten Tamil idylls. Tamil University, ThanjAvUr.

Encyclopaedia of Tamil Literature. (1990) Introductory Articles. G. John Samuel (ed.) Vol. I, Institute of Asian Studies, Madras. pp.696.

iLavarasu, S. (1970) Ecam. ;qvrC. ;RpT N\bfba]fDkqilf tmizf. m]ivackrf N\lkmf, citmfprmf. pkf. 170.

MaNavALan, A.A. (1975) m]vaq[f, `.`. cgfl ;lkfkiymf. In: S.V.SubramaNian and T.V.VIrAswAmi. ed. tmizf ;lkfkiykf ekaqfAk - Orf `biMkmf. International Institute of Tamil Studies, Madras. pp.23-64.

MANickam, V.S. (ed.) (1968) A glimpse of Tamilology. TiruchirAppalli, Academy of Tamil Scholars of Tamil Nadu.

MInAtchi sun^tharan, T.P. History of Tamil Literature. aNNAmalai University Publications in linguistics - 3. aNNAmalai University, aNNAmalai n^agar. (1965). pp.211.

n^ilakanta SAstri, K.A. (1966) A History of South India. Oxford University Press, Madras. pp. 387.

SInicchAmy, T. (1985) cI[icfcami, T. tmizilf kapfpiykfekaqfAk. tmizfpf plfkAlkfkzkmf, twfcav>rf. pkf.400.

SubramaNian, S.V. (1975) etalfkapfpiymf. In: SubramaNian, S.V. and V.VIrAsAmi (ed.) (1975) Cpfpirm]iy[f, c. Ev . & vIracami, ta. Ev.. tmizf ;lkfkiykf ekaqfAk - Orf `biMkmf. etaKti 1.. ulktf tmizarayfcfci niBv[mf, ec[fA[. pkf. 1 - 22.

SubramaNian, S.V. and V.VIrAsAmi (ed.) (1981) Cultural Heritage of the Tamils. International Institute of Tamil Studies, Madras. pp. 425.

Tamil Heroic Poems by G.U.Pope. Published by The South India Saiva Siddhantha Works Publishing Society, Madras (1973). pp.136.

Thani n^Ayagam, X.S. (ed.) (1968) Tamil Studies Abroad: a symposium. Kuala Lumpur, International Association of Tamil Research.

VaiyApurip PiLLai, S. (1956) History of Tamil Language and literature (beginning to 1000 A.D.) New Century Book House, Madras. pp.206.

VaiyApurip PiLLai, S. (1989) Avyap<ripf piqfAq, 'sf. ;lkfkiycf cinftA[kqf. tmizfpf p<tftkalymf, ec[fA[. pkf.552.

VaiyApurip PiLLai, S. (1957) Avyap<ripf piqfAq. kaviy kalmf. tmizfpf p<tftkalymf, ec[fA[.

VaradharAjan, M. (1972) vrtraj[f, M. tmizf ;lkfkiy vrlaB. SAhitya Academy, New Delhi . pkf. 376.

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Zvelebil, K.V. (1995) Lexicon of Tamil Literature. E.J. Brill, New York. pp.783.

( Recently modern Thamizh scholars have undertaken the arduous task of presenting the Sangam texts in an easily understandable format eg. puRan^AnURu (p<bna{\B ) by Dr. M.KaruNAn^ithi (kR]aniti) . If this lead is followed by others, it will certainly stimulate general interest in the study of these classics.)