The Tamils may be justly proud of the fact that Tamil has won the status of a Classical language, the status it richly deserves and should have got long, long ago. The Central Institute of Classical Tamil (CICT), established in Chennai, has mapped out various plans including preparation of definitive editions of forty-one Classical Tamil texts and translation of these works into English and other major European languages as well as into major Indian languages and writing of a historical grammar of Tamil. Language being the autobiography of a people, our objective is to preserve and safeguard the invaluable treasure of the literary compositions in our language. If only we could delve into our past and recover the riches and wealth of the mighty treasure trove of Classical Tamil poetry, we will be amply rewarded by its lofty poetry, the poetry that strengthens and purifies the holiness of heart's affection and enlarges our imagination. Apart from these, reading the ancient Tamil texts such as Tolkappiyam, Ettuuokai, Pattuppattu, Tirukkural etc., provides a foundation for scholarship for the present and in this sense they do provide enlightened education.
It is heartening to write this foreword to the series of publications brought out by CICT, which I am sure, will do full justice to the masterpieces in Tamil without compromising on the quality of production. The Cankam corpus being a repository of our glorious culture, it behoves our present and future generations to study them and to convey their message and the vision of life embodied in them to the public at large. Let me, therefore, commend the series to the enlightened beings the world over.
Though not so well known as Tolkappiyam, lraiyandr Kalaviyal deals with some of the etiquettes to be followed by lovers in keeping with the Akam tradition, especially with regard to kalaviyal (clandestine) love-making. The concept of love-making has unique dimensions in Tamil society and literature during the Carikam Age found nowhere else in the world. The summary of the classical Tamil account runs somewhat like this: Fate or accident brings a lad and a lass to meet each other; love at first sight occurs; next, union of hearts takes place; physical union ensues; love is deepened but kept in secret by means of furtive meetings arranged by the hero's (talaivan) and the heroine's (talaivi) bosom friends; lastly love is revealed to the persons concerned culminating in marriage. Even the period allowable for kalavu is indicated. Verse 32 says, 'Remaining in kalavu and extending the period of marriage shall be within a period of two months, they say'. In the rarest of rare cases where parental consent is not forthcoming, elopement takes place to avoid the despicable situation of having to live with a stranger leaving the passionate lover. The deep and noble love of the lovers during the period of furtive love and their adherence to the well- established modes and mores of this phase of love is what is unique in Tamil society and literature of the Carikam Age. These mores are explained in great detail in Tolkappiyam in the chapter porulatikaram and in the 60 nurpas in Iraiyanar Akapporul more popularly known as Kalaviyal.
The various translators have done a commendable job in bringing out the nuances of the original. The problems of translating classical texts from one language to another are well recognized by everyone. Our Institute is committed to overcome these difficulties and selecting the translations of some of the best scholars in the field it takes every effort to make them available to both pundits and the common people. This book is one more step in the achievement of our goal.
I am thankful to the Department of Translation of the Institute and the Publications Division for their help in bringing out this book.
Poetics of Love: Tolkappiyama and Iraiyanar Akapporul
Tolkappiyam and Iraiyanar Akapporul are the early theoretical treatises on the Akam tradition of the Tamils. The third part of Tolkappiyam, namely porulatikdram, focuses primarily on the Akam and Puram aspects of life, besides dealing with the systems of prosody, poetical devices, usage of words, forms of literary compositions, bodily manifestations, and methods of composition. Tolkappiyar's classification of the contents of poetry into Akam (interior) and Pujam (exterior) and the creation of the system of tinai are unique in the realm of poetic creation. Tolkappiyar gives the principles of poetics involving the composition of love poems and also Pujam poems based on the literary works available before and during his period. The "tinai" system covers both the Akam and Pujam divisions, but it is more consistent with Akam poetry where there is a perfect unity among the three elements of tinai-mutal (time and place) karu (matrix, environment), and uri (theme/ situation) representing theme-nncr correlation. But in the case of Pujam poems, out of the three elements of tinai, only the theme is presented without the other elements, namely mutal and karu. The classification of tinai into mutal, karu, and uripporul, the main and supplementary characters, their functions and characteristics, the situations of their discourses in the premarital (kalavu) and marital (karpu} life, the literary techniques such as ullurai, iraicci, and meippatu, i.e. implications, and emotional manifestations etc., provide the poetic universe of the Akam tradition.
Likewise, Iraiyanar Akapporul speaks about only the Akam conventions. It deals with the poetic love - the love between a man and a woman as it grows from their first meeting to its culmination in their married life leaving out details concerning tinai and other formal aspects of Akam poetry. It focuses mainly on the secret love (Kalavu) phase and the married love (Karpu) phase of the lovers and the major situations and the discourses of the characters in respective contexts. The last five nurpas (verses) deal with the rhetorical features of Akam poetry. Tolkappiyam, while classifying the Akam tradition into kalavu and karpu defines karpu as married life (Tol. 1086). It states that the karpu phase begins with marriage in the first nurpa of karpu Iyal. But lraiyandr Kalaviyal does not make such a clear distinction between these two phases. The theme of marriage appears in both kalavu and karpu phases. Thus these two texts Iraiyanar Akapporul and Tolkappiyam - form the basis for the Tamil Akam tradition. Tolkappiyam, by giving the principles of love poetics, enabled the Cankam poets to write love poems and to inaugurate the tradition of love poetry. The Akam poetics is the langue and the Cankam love poetry is its parole.
Of the 2381 Cankam poems, 1862 poems deal with the theme of love; 373 poets out of 473 wrote poems on love. All languages have poems on love, but the uniqueness of Tamil language is the possession of a larger corpus of love poems with a well-knit tradition. Tamils believed that love is inborn; love is the most powerful of all emotions, gives the pleasures of all senses together, and sustains the world. So love has been the subject-matter of their poetry. The Akam poetry is the key to understand the significant role played by women in the domestic sphere. It is a world of freedom. A man and woman are brought together by fate. So they fall in love with each other on their first meeting itself and experience emotional and physical union: ullappunarcci - union of their hearts and meyyurupunarcci - physical union. Their further meetings are arranged by their male and female companions. The lovers encounter all their difficulties with the help of the companions. Finally, the premarital love (Kalavu) ends in their marriage. The parents never go against the wishes of their children once they come to know of their love. The woman will uphold fidelity (Karpu) more than anything else. If any situation arises testing her fidelity, she will resist all such attempts even at the cost of her modesty (nanam) and will marry him. Elopement with the hero is resorted to only as a last attempt when the heroine fails to reveal her love to her parents or when she is unable to face the slander by others. By eloping with the hero, she avoids her marriage with a stranger. The love between the hero and the heroine is deep, pure, and noble. That is why the separation of the hero for the courtesan, though resented, is tolerated by the heroine. Even the courtesans in the Akam poetry are graceful, showing respect for the hero's family and honor. They adorn the hero's son with jewels and counsel the hero to go back and bestow love upon the heroine. So she is considered as equal to wife (Tot. 1096) and is called "my sister" by the heroine. The other personae in the drama of love have their roles neatly defined and their speech situations clearly marked. They play a complementary role to the hero and the heroine. The male and female companions are so intimate that the hero and the heroine turn to them to share their anguish and to get consolation. The confidante of the heroine is her alterego, who not only chaperons her but also broaches the secret love of the heroine to her parents through the foster mother and exhorts the hero to marry the heroine showing concern all the time for the modesty and fidelity of the heroine. It is the confidante who tests the hero's resolve and enables him to realize the preciousness of the heroine. Noble love permeates the entire drama of love with no space for negative dimensions of love such as unrequited love, betrayal of love, cuckoldry, cross love, etc. In short, both phases of love, Kalavu and Karpu, epitomize love which springs within the hearts of the lovers. Thus, Akam tradition presents the idealization of the actual love. Tolkappiyar specifies the discourse situation for each of the characters in the world of love in ceyyuliyal najpas from 1436 to 1442. In the secret love phase tkalavu), Brahmins, male and female companions, foster mother, hero and heroine alone could make utterances (Tol. 1436), and in the karpu phase of love, the bards, the male and female dancers, courtesans, the learned men, and passersby could speak (Tol. 1437). Some other people - the villagers, neighbours, medicine men, father, elders can only report but not make direct speeches (Tol. 1438). The real mother will not talk directly to the hero and the heroine (Tol. 1439) but with others. Others can talk with the mothers and the confidante directly (Tol. 1440) in kalavu and kajpu phases. The mother just informs her husband and sons about the daughter's love through suggestive speech. She comes to know of her daughter's love through the foster mother via the heroine's companion who is her own daughter.
Another important feature of the Akam poetry is the universality of the emotion presented. As the subject matter is love, the poems will naturally tend towards lyricism and subjectivity. But, by an in- built Akam tradition, the whole creative process gets depersonalized and objectified. In the Akam tradition, the character cannot be mentioned by their proper names (Tol.1003), especially in the uripporul, though freedom is given to use proper names in the mutal and kaju parts of tinai. Contrary to this, names can be mentioned in puram poems. The heroes and the heroines are called by their geographical names like vejpan, kaanavan, turaivan or by their occupational names such as ulavan, ulatti, vettuvacci or by the names of their roles like toli, cevili, yay, etc., or by their gender names like verpan, nampi, cijumi, nankai or by the demonstrative names like aval, avan etc. There is no direct intervention of the poet in the poem; he becomes one with the dramatis personae. The Akam poems express the inner yearnings of the loving hearts of the young lovers and not their individual feeling. This is the poetic device used to heighten the personal emotions into universal emotion.
Tinai Concept: Human Emotions & Landscape
The theme of love is portrayed using the device of "tinai" in Akam poetry. The tinai (Mode) is a concept encompassing three factors, namely land (Nilam), family (Kulam), and conduct (Olukkam). It includes a set of poetic characteristics used to heighten the poignancy of a certain emotion. There are five modes (excluding kaikkilai and peruntinai): the mountain mode (Kurinci), the forest mode (Mullai), the wasteland mode (Piilai), the seaside mode (Neytal), and the river plain mode (Marutam). Each mode is described in terms of three aspects namely (i) mutal (first), (ii) karu (matrix), and (iii) uripporul (theme/propriety) (Tol. 59).
The first aspect (mutal) indicates the place and the season (Tol. 60). For example, the place for the mountain-country mode (Kurinci) includes the mountains and the areas surrounding them; the season for this mode is autumn midnight, and early winter. The place for the seaside mode (Neytal) is the sea and the areas surrounding it, and the season is early winter. The place for the forest mode (Mullai) includes the forests, and the areas surrounding them and the season is rainy evening. The place for the river plain mode (Marutam) is cultivable lands and the areas surrounding them. The time is just before dawn. The westeland mode (Palai) has no place of its own. Its time is midday in the summer. The locations near mountains or woodlands become wastelands during this season (Tol. 69 to 75).
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