Tuesday, 11 December 2012

The Glory of Tamil Literature...Part ...6

The Beauty of Kurunthogai by Dr.G.Johnson
Tamil Literature has a long history. This history originated
in palmyra leaves. Individual writings were collected and compiled in
the Tamil Sangams which are academies of scholars who are mostly Tamil
But in the course of time these valuable manuscripts were
not well preserved in the proper manner. The people who were in
possession of them at a later period did not know their values. As a
result many such manuscripts in Palmyra leaves were eaten by termites
as they were stored in clay pots. Some of them were dumped in store
rooms in the temples. Some were burnt as fuel for cooking and boiling
Hence much of the Sangam literature believed to have been
composed during the Sangam period were lost to us, though whatever
survived have been available today through the efforts of the
scholarly compilers of the 10th century.
Thus the works of Sangam literature were lost and forgotten
for several centuries before they were brought to light by several
Tamil scholars such as Arumuga Navalar, S.V. Damodaram Pillai and U.
V. Swaminatha Iyer.
They painstakingly travelled to many places and collected
and catalogued numerous manuscripts in various stages of
Arumuga Navalar hailed form Jaffna in Tamil Eezham. He
brought to print for the first time any Sangam literature. This was
the Thirumurukaatruppadai of Pathupaattu .In 1887,Pillai brought the
first of the Ettuthogai namely Kalithogai.
Swaminatha Iyer brought his first print of Pathupaattu in
1895, Tholkaapiyam, Senavariyar Urai ( 1868 ), Manimekalai( 1898 ),
Silappathikarsam ( 1889 ), Pathuppaattu( 1889 ) and Puranaanooru( 1894
) all with scholarly commentaries.
Later on the Christian missionaries too were attracted by
the beauty and philosophy in these poems. They took much interest in
bringing these to the outside world through English translations.
The Christian missionaries who came to Tamil Nadu to
propagate the Gospel of Jesus Christ, were astounded by the treasures
embedded in our Sangam literature. They learnt Tamil and played a
crucial role in not only popularising Tamil literature all over the
world, but also in opening up new avenues in the literary style.
Beski,an Italian missionary changed his name to
Veeramaamunivar and performed revolution for Tamil by introducung
prose In writing.Prior to that Tamil was written only in the poetic
form with Yaapu as its grammer. The common folks were unable to
understand that form of writing,as it was meant for the scholars and
poets ( pulavars ).. Hence it is true that te glory of Tamil reached
greater heights through the efforts of the European Missionariries ,
as the common man was able to understand the prose form of writing and
We will have a detailed account of their contribution to
Tamil Literature later in this series
Kurunthogai songs were translated into English by Ramanujan
and later by many others who were attracted by them.
Dr. Mu. Varathrajan, the well known Tamil scholar and writer
utilised many of the Kurunthogai poems and elaborated them in an
interesting manner for the readers in his many books on Tamil
Here is an example from his book " Illakkiya Kaatchigal ".
He has used poem 24 in this way.
The poem ends in this way:
" karunkaal vembin onbu yaanar
ennai indriyum kazhivathu kollo ".
He goes on to speak about the prediction of time during
Sangam days when there were no clocks or watches. They watched the sun
and the shadow and knew the time. At night they watched the moon and
stars to know the time. Thus days, months and seasons were known to
them through their observation of nature. Thus the time when the cock
crows, when the pichi flower blooms, the season when the mullai flower
blooms were all known to them. This was possible because the people of
those days lived in close contact with nature which we have lost
In this song, the thalaivan ( hero ) who is on a journey to
a far off place promises the Thalaivi ( heroine ) that he would return
when the Neem tree ( Veppamaram ) blooms with flowers.Though a few
months passed he did not return. The tree has bloomed! She is now
deeply worried and in great grief. This becomes worse when she sees
the flowers covering the sand beneath the tree. She is reminded of the
previous year in the sweet company of her lover on this flower bed
under the tree. Today he has not returned at all. What could have been
the reason? Will this year's bloom of neem flowers be of no use to
both of them?
Dr.Mu Varatharajan is an expert in introducing sangam poems
in this illustrious and romantic manner!
It is a wonder that Kurunthogai songs fit in perfectly into
modern music too!
Thus when music director A.R.Rahman wanted a preamble for
the song ":Theendai Meitheendai " in the film Suvaasakkaattre,
lyricist Vairamuthu's choice was kurunthogai poem by Velliveethiyaar.
Thus " Kandrum Unaadhu Kalathaiyum Paadaathu " embraced the digital
age music.
" It is perfect fusion. If my lines in modern verse express
the feelings of an aroused woman, the poem penned by Velliveethiyar
captures their intensity with beautiful imageries. " says Vairamuthu.
In another song by A.R.Rahman, for the film Iruvar, he
borrows imageries from kurunthogai - " Narumugaiye " and " Chempulam
cherintha ".
" That is why a poem of a second century effortlessly fits
into the tune of A.R.Rahman in 21st century. It is here that I see
myself as a continuity of traditions " he says adding that " brevity
is the character that brings modern verse close to Sangam poetry ".
To be continued...

No comments:

Post a Comment