Archive for the ‘Literature’ Category

256/365 – Ramavatharam

avataram (இராமாவதாரம்), popularly referred to as Kamba Ramayanam (கம்ப இராமாயணம்), is a Tamil epic that was written by Kamban during the 12th century.

Based on Valmiki’s Ramayana in Sanskrit, the story describes the life of King Rama of Ayodhya. However, Ramavatharam is different from the Sanksrit original in many aspects – both in spiritual concepts and in the specifics of the story line.

This historic work is considered by Tamil scholars as well as the general public as one of the greatest literary works in Tamil literature.

Kamban wrote this epic with the patronage of Thiruvennai Nallur Sadayappa Vallal, a Pannai kula chieftain (திருவெண்ணை நல்லூர் சடயப்ப வள்ளல்). In gratitude to his patron, Kamban references his name once in every 1000 verses.

The epic is quite well known, both in the Tamil literary world and in the Hindu spiritual world, for the colorfulness of its poetry and for its religious value.


The book is divided into six chapters, called Kandam(காண்டம்) in Tamil.

 Bala Kandam (Chapter: Childhood; பால காண்டம்)

Ayodhya Kandam (Chapter: Ayodhya; அயோத்யா காண்டம்)

Aranya Kandam (Chapter: Forest; ஆரண்ய காண்டம்)

Kishkinta Kandam (Chapter: Kishkintha; கிஷ்கிந்த காண்டம்)

Sundara Kandam (Chapter: Beautiful; சுந்தர காண்டம் )

Yutha Kandam (Chapter: War; யுத்த காண்டம்)

The Kandams are further divided into 123 sections called Padalam (படலம்) in Tamil. These 123 sections contains approximately 12,000 verses of the epic.

Literary significance

Kamban’s use of Virutham (விருத்தம்; Tempo) and Santham (சந்தம்; Tune) in various verses is effective in bringing out the emotion and mood for storytelling. He achieves the Virutham and Santham by effective choice of words.

Religious significance  

This epic is read by many Hindus during prayers. In some households the entire epic is read once during the Tamil Month of Aadi. It is also read in Hindu Temples and other religious associations.

This epic is evidence that worship of Rama started in Tamil Nadu. On many occasions, Kambar talks about surrendering to Rama, who is a manifestation of Vishnu himself.

The chapter Sundara Kandam is considered quite auspicious and is the most popular. The chapter talks about the hardships faced by the main characters in the epic, their practice of restraint, and their hopes for a better tomorrow.



135/365 – Thirumanthiram

January 12, 2012 Leave a comment

The Tirumantiram, is a Tamil poetic work written in the 5th CE by Tirumular and is the tenth of the twelve volumes of the Tirumurai, the key texts of Tamil Saivism.

It is the first known Tamil work to use the term Shaiva Siddhanta and the earliest known exposition of the Saiva Agamas in Tamil.

It consists of over three thousand verses dealing with various aspects of spirituality, ethics and praise of the God Shiva. But it is more spiritual than religious and one can see the difference between Vedanta and Siddhanta from Tirumular’s interpretation of the Mahakaavyas.

Tirumandiram, strongly emphasizes on Love is God, (Anbey Sivam).

The Tirumantiram is divided into nine chapters (tantirams). The poems have a unique metrical structure, each line consisting of 11 or 12 syllables depending on the initial syllable.

Tirumular discusses the four steps of spiritual progress; Charya, Kriya, Yoga and Gnana, the Shaiva Siddhanta concept of Pati, Pasu and Pasa where Pati stands for Lord shiva, Pasu stands for the human kind and Pasa stands for Maya (the desire), sadhana, Vedanta, the Upanishadic Tat tvam asi and other Vedantic concepts, the transcendental reality as emptiness (Sunya) devoid of any attribute and Tantrasastra (Shakti worship), chakras, magic spells and their accessories.

The section on Yoga, called “Shiva yoga”, offers details not found in the Sanskrit text of Patanjali. The Tirumantiram describes means of attaining an immortal body (kaya siddhi), advocating a theory of preserving the body so that the soul would continue its existence (Udambai valarthen uyir valarthenae).

Tirumular as a moral philosopher teaches the ethics of non-violence (ahimsa), abstinence from slaughtering, meat and alcohol. He condemns coveting another man’s wife but declares that “love is God“, proclaims the unity of mankind and God and stresses the acquisition of knowledge.

To Read:


89/365 – Netunalvatai

November 27, 2011 Leave a comment

Netunalvatai, is a Tamil poetic work in the Pathinenmaelkanakku anthology of Tamil literature, belonging to the Sangam period corresponding to between 100 BCE – 100 CE. “Netunalvatai” is part of the Pattupattu collection, which is the oldest available collection of long poems in Tamil literature.

Netunalvatai contains 188 lines of poetry in the akaval meter. The poet Nakkirar wrote Netunalvatai. Netunalvatai poems belong to the Akam, or subjective themes of love and human relationships and utilises the location of the story to spins a vivid picture of the ancient Tamil country. Netunalvatai contains descriptions of the palace of the Pandya king Nedeunchezhiyan.



Nature of Netunalvatai
The story of Netunalvatai is about the heroine who prays to the goddess for the return of her lover from the battlefield. Seeing the suffering of the heroine, her maids in the palace also pray to the goddess for the hero to quickly win the battle and return home to their mistress.


Meaning of Netunalvadai
Netunalvatai in keeping with its name, has the theme of the vatai, or cold breeze. The two adjectives netu and nal to the vatai breeze mean bad and good. The same breeze is at the same time is bad to the heroine who languishes in the palace and increases her suffering, at the same time, the breeze causes the hero to do good by conversing and consoling his suffering troops.

To Read:



80/365 – Periya Puranam

November 18, 2011 Leave a comment

Periya Puranam is, the great purana or epic, sometimes also called Tiruttontarpuranam (the purana of the holy devotees) is a Tamil poetic account depicting the legendary lives of the sixty-three Nayanars, the canonical poets of Tamil Shaivism. It was compiled during the 12th century by Sekkizhar. It provides evidence of trade with West Asia The Periya Puranam is part of the corpus of Shaiva canonical works.

Sekkizhar compiled and wrote the Periya Puranam or the Great Purana, (the life stories of the sixty-three Shaiva Nayanars, poets of the God Shiva) who composed the liturgical poems of the Tirumurai, and was later himself canonised and the work became part of the sacred canon. Among all the hagiographic Puranas in Tamil, Sekkizhar’s Tiruttondar Puranam or Periyapuranam, composed during the rule of Kullottonga Chola II (1133-1150) stands first.

The study of Jivaka Cintamani by Kullottonga Chola II, deeply affected Sekkizhar who was very religious in nature. He exhorted the king to abandon the pursuit of impious erotic literature and turn instead to the life of the Saiva saints celebrated by Sundaramurti Nayanar and Nambiyandar Nambi. The king thereupon invited Sekkizhar to expound the lives of the Saiva saints in a great poem. As a minister of the state Sekkizhar had access to the lives of the saints and after he collected the data, he wrote the poem in the Thousand Pillared Hall of the Chidambaram temple. Legend has it that the Lord himself provided Sekkizhar with the first feet of the first verse as a divine voice from the sky declaring “உலகெலாம்” (ulakelam: All the world).

This work is considered the most important initiative of Kullottonga Chola II’s reign. Although, it is only a literary embellishment of earlier hagiographies of the Saiva saints composed by Sundarar and Nambiyandar Nambi, it came to be seen as the epitome of high standards of the Chola culture, because of the highest order of the literary style. The Periyapuranam is considered as a veritable fifth Veda in Tamil and immediately took its place as the twelfth and the last book in the Saiva canon. It is considered as one of the masterpieces of the Tamil literature and worthily commemorates the Golden age of the Cholas.


12/365 – Purananuru – புறநானூறு

September 11, 2011 Leave a comment

Purananuru is a Tamil poetic work in the Pathinenmaelkanakku anthology of Tamil literature, belonging to the Sangam period corresponding to between 200 BCE – 100 CE. Purananuru is part of the Ettuthokai anthology which is the oldest available collection of poems of Sangam literature in Tamil. Purananuru contains 400 poems of varying lengths in the  Akaval meter. More than 150 poets wrote the poems. It is not known when or who collected these poems into these  anthologies. Purananuru is a source of information on the political and social history of pre-historic Tamil Nadu. There is information on the various rulers who ruled the Tamil country before and during the Sangam era (200 BCE – 100 CE).

It is not known exactly how many authors wrote the poems in Purananuru. There are 147 different names found from the  colophons. However some of these could denote the same author. Don’t know the authors of around 14 poems. Fourteen of the authors are kings and  chieftains. Fifteen of the authors were women, one of whom was Auvaiyar who is credited with 33 poems. Some of the  authors of the poems such as Kapilar and Nakkirar have also written poems that are part of other anthologies.

Subject matters
As its name suggests, Purananuru poems deal with the puram (external or objective) concepts of life such as war, politics,  wealth, as well as aspects of every-day living. Some of the poems are in the form of elegies in tribute to a fallen hero. These  poems exhibit outpourings of affection and emotions.

There seems to be some definite structure to the order of the poems in Purananuru. The poems at the beginning of the book deal with the three major kings Chola, Chera and Pandya of ancient Tamil Nadu. The middle portion is on the lesser kings and  the Velir chieftains who were feudatories of these three major kingdoms with a short intervening section (poems 182 – 195)  of didactic poems. The final portion deals with the general scenery of war and the effect of warfare.

Tolkappiyam classifies puram (objective) poems into seven thinais based on the subject of the poems. Vetchi, Vanchi, Uzhingai, Thumbai, Vaakai, Paataan and Kanchi.
The Purananuru does not, however, follow this system. The colophons accompanying each poem name a total of eleven  thinais. From the subject matter of the poems they accompany, each can be said to represent the following themes:
vetchi, Karanthai, Vanchi, Kanchi, Uzhingai, Nochchi , Thumpa, Vaakai, Paadaan, Pothuviyal, Kaikkilai and Perunthinai.
The last two themes are traditionally associated with akam poetry.

The poems are further classified into thurais. A thurai denotes the locale of the poem giving the situation under which it was  written. Some of these are parisil thurai when the poet reminds the king or patron of the reward that he promised to him,  kalitrutanilai in which the hero dies with the elephant he killed in battle, and so on.

Purananuru Poet Work: