The Verses on The Precious Jewel Prosody Composed By Amitacakarar With The Commentary By Kunacakarar ((Text, Transliteration, Translation and Notes))

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Item Code: IDK750
Author: Ulrike Niklas
Publisher: Institut Francais De Pondichery
Language: (Text, Transliteration, Translation and Notes)
Edition: 1993
Pages: 492
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 10.3" X 6.8"
Weight 1 kg
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Book Description

A complex research programme aimed at the compilation of a Tamil Grammatical Encyclopaedia is currently in progress at the French Institute of Pondicherry. The resulting publication will comprise 1.) editions and translations of indigenous texts on Tamil grammar and their commentaries, 2.) glossaries of technical terms, and collections and translation of the examples used by the commentators. A computerised formation of a database containing whole of Tamil grammatical literature is also envisaged. The programme is carried out by a team of collaborators in such a way that the different domains of grammar will be studied individually by different researches. Within this scheme, the present author will work mainly on the formal aspects of Tamil literary theory, i.e. prosody (yappu) and figures of speech or rhetorics (ani, alankaram).

We intend to bring out several books on Tamil prosody, each dealing with one of the most significant works, viz. the ceyyuliyal of tolkappiyam; yapparunkalam; yapparunkalakkarikai; the yappuppatalam of viracoliyam. - An article, "Introduction to Tamil Prosody", outlining the basic elements and main features of the system has recently been published in BEFEO (cf. bibliography).

We have elected to being with yapparunkalakkarikai, a medieval text instead of following the chronology of the available works, for several reasons of which the most cogent is to be found in the historical development of the system. The earliest text on Tamil prosody extant is ceyyuliyal, the eighth chapter of the third part, porulatikaram, of tolkappiyam which is the earliest of the indigenous grammars known to us and dates from about the 2nd c. AD. Next come two medieval works, yapparunkalam. with its most probably contemporaneous and anonymous viruttiyurai, also called yapparunkalavirutti, and yapparunkalakkarikai with its commentary by kunacakarar which is equally likely to be contemporaneous. In both these cases the original works were composed by Amitacakarar (also Amutacakarar) and date from the second half of the 10th c. AD. All the works on this subject produced between tolkappiyam (2nd c. AD) and the two works of Amitacakarar (10th c. AD) have been lost and we know of them only through quotations remarks in the later commentaries. tolkappiyam, due to its economy, is rarely self-explanatory and many of its sutras lack definition as to their context. The arrangement of the text as it is known to us today may not necessarily reflect the original order of sutras throughout. Moreover, some sutras seem to have been lost. It is therefore of ten necessary to have recourse to the commentaries for an interpretation. There is however a danger in this: of the three commentaries available for the chapter on prosody (viz. ilampuranam, late 11. c. AD; peraciriyam, 12. c. AD; naccinarkkiniyam, 14. c. AD), even the earliest appeared as late as about a thousand years after the original work. All three are influenced by later works and their discussion and interpretation of tolkappiyam's sutras and reflect a posterior view of the original text. Our starting point must therefore commentaries on ceyyuliyal so that the source of their argumentation may be recognized and comprehended.

A more peripheral, but nonetheless highly relevant, reason for our choice derives from the fact that yapparunkalakkarikai has been for a long time, and still is, the standard text book used in the Tamil educational system and appears to be the only treatise on this subject studied up to the M.A. Tamil in today's universities. Through the presentation of this fairly short text and commentary we are able to set out for the occidental reader the standard knowledge of Tamil prosody. Of the two medieval texts, yapparunkalam is the longer with 96 verses, yapparunkalakkarikai comprising only 44; nevertheless yapparunkalakkarikai and its commentary remains the most suitable text with which to open a study of Tamil prosody. Yapparunkalam and its lengthy viruttiyurai contain many argument and details, interesting in themselves, but not necessarily explanatory with regard to the facts, and posing too many specialized problems. yapparunkalakkarikai and its commentary, most probably composed after yapparunkalam and its viruttiyurai, contain all the information required for an understanding of the classical system of Tamil prosody. Kunacarkarar, in his commentary on yapparunkalakkarikai, quotes almost half of the verses of yapparunkalam and often refers to the viruttiyurai. In this way, a great part of that work is covered through the study of yapparunkalakkarikai and its commentary.

The identities, places and dates of Amitacakarar, the author of the text, and of kunacakarar, the commentator, are discussed in the prefaces to some of the existing editions of yapparunkalakkarikai (cf. Bibliography). A detailed, through slightly confused, discussion of this topic is also to be found in M. Govindaswamy, "A survey of the source…" (cf. bibliography), pp. 97 ff. – Amitacakarar was most probably a jai and he wrote both his works between the second half of the 10th c. AD and the beginning of the 11th c. AD, yapparunkalam being composed before yapparunkalakkarikai.

The identification and date of the commentator are more problematical: a 10th c. Kunacakarar is mentioned in an inscription and the prevailing opinion is that he also wrote both the commentaries, i.e. viruttiyurai on yapparunkalam and the commentary on yapparunkalakkarikai, whilst others are of the opinion that the latter was written by a second Kunacakarar, the disciple of Amitacakarar. Hence, it remains uncertain whether yapparunkalavirutti and the commentary on yapparunkalakkarikai were written by one and the same person; all that is evident is that yapparunkalavirutti was in existence before the commentary on the karikai, since it is quoted in the latter. M. Govindaswamy would date the commentator as late as the 12th c. AD because he quotes from poems by Auvai could have lived and composed her poems at any time between the late 9th and early 12th c. AD, this is not decisive.

A central work in the subsequent development of Tamil prosody is the yappuppatalam of viracoliyam, a grammar of the late 11. or early 12. c. AD. but, since it introduces Sanskrit grammatical theory into the Tamil system, it deviates from the main course of development within the Tamil tradition. Viracoliyam will have its own subsection in our program on Tamil grammar and, once the edition and translation of tolkappiyam and the texts in its tradition on the one hand, and viracoliyam on the other, have been completed, comparative studies will follow.

Further, there originated works of a type known as pattiyal, which primarily deal with the form and theory of the 96 traditional pirapantam (i.e. Sanskrit prabandha) genres; some of these appear as works of the Tamil saiva canon and which flourished particularly during the period of "neo-classical" literature, i.e. 17 .-19. c. AD.

Further, viruttappaviyal, a prosodical work of the 19. c. AD, established a theoretical framework for those texts composed in different forms of viruttam, a later, non-classical development in metre.

Both these later developments are firmly based on the classical prosodical system and use the same elements typical of Tamil prosody, viz. acai "metrical foot", made up of metremes, and talai "linkage", the combination of two metrical feet, yet they differ distinctly in their application, and pertain principally to texts outside the main stream of classical Tamil literature or, in the case of viruttam, even to works of folk origin such as those of the balladic genre called katai, among others.



Two essential modern editions of yapparunkalakkarikai come from the South Indian Saiva Sidhanta Works Publishing Society (hereinafter: KALAKAM) and from the U. Ve. Caminataiyar Library (hereinafter: UVCL). The third modern edition, by C. Cami. Aiya, published by Annamalai University is a rather uncritical reproduction of KALAKAM and it has nothing innovative to offer regarding the establishment of the text. The text as it is known to us through KALAKAM almost certainly contains additions to the commentary which are of later date, even though this cannot be verified since KALAKAM gives no indications as to the manuscripts used for the edition; it nevertheless appears to be the traditionally authorized version and the only form in which the text is widely known and quoted. UVCL, more condensed in some parts as it omits apparent additions, has not become established as the standard version, much as it is the more scrupulously put together, being based on 14 manuscripts all of which are preserved in the U. Ve. Caminataiyar Library. It contains far fewer printing errors than KALAKAM and deals much more rigorously with the sandhi rules.

In the present book we give the entire original text in addition to the English translation in order to show how a classical Tamil commentary is constructed. Our edition is not a critical one since we did not use manuscript. It is established in accordance with the "vulgata" version of KALAKAM, but obvious mistakes have been correct according to UVCL. Footnotes to the Tamil text indicate major differences between the KALAKAM and UVCL readings as well as the reasons, in certain cases, for the adoption of one or the other. In order to render more readable the prose of the commentary, we have omitted the sandhi forms, apart from the indispensable consonant doubling and the insertion of -y- and -v- glides.

The quotations from other grammatical works, numbered 1/ to 247/ here, and the literary examples, numbered (1) to (277) appear in their original form: the sandhi rules and the peculiar treatment of final consonants in the orthography of poetry have been respected. We have drawn mainly on UVCL for both these types of citation as that edition proved the more accurate in this regard.

Almost all the quotations taken from other works on grammar, including approximately half the total number of verses of yapparunkalam, have been translated. A literal translation has been replaced by an indication as to the contents of the sutra quoted in cases where such a translation would have created confusion or demanded too extensive footnotes to explain term and phrases employed. In all cases, indication of contents appears in square brackets.

In two instances, quotations have been replaced simply by indication of their source. In both cases the origin of the quotations is ceyyuliyal of tolkappiyam and we decided not to establish a translation of a whole series of sutra before the translation of that work itself be completed. These quotation add no new weight to the argument but are rather the authority quoted by the commentator in his own support .

The main reason why the literary examples are not translated here is that nearly all if them will reappear in the projected translation of other prosodical works. In this way we hope to avoid too much repetition. All the examples given in the different commentaries on prosodical works in Tamil will be collected, translated and their function examined in a separate volume. In the present book it seemed more important to incorporate into the translation the roman transliteration of those examples since their main function is the illustration of formal and technical features of poetry. Where the contents of a poem are relevant to a definition they are given in a footnote.

Instead of a complete word index which would be monumental, or a first-occurrence one which would be pointless, there is an analytical table of contents below which elucidates the topic treated in each single karikai and indicates additional information given by the commentator.

We have also chosen to provide a glossary of Tamil technical terms with explanation in English and an English-Tamil index for the most important of these, some of whose identity as technical term might not be immediately evident in translation (e.g. "author's preface", "address to a woman", "beauty", "long line", "standard line" etc). This glossary, together with the index, may be used as a quick reference for basic definitions of term and may also be seen as a first step towards the establishing of a comprehensive glossary of technical terms in Tamil Grammar, planned as part of our project.



There is no examination, in this introduction, of the contents of the text since that could only have led to repetition of what is to be found in the book but there are three points which merit highlighting here as significant stylistic elements.

First among these three is the term karikai as definition of the literary genre to which this work on grammar belongs. Karikai denotes the kalitturai metre in which the text is composed. Quotation 1/ from the commentary on the first karikai describes this metre in detail. At the same time the term karikai means "beautiful woman" and thus this denomination implies that the whole text is addressed to a woman, whence the many forms of "address to a woman" (Tamil: makatuu munnilai), which would otherwise appear somewhat bizarre in this context. We find the same form in viracoliyam whereas, in other works on grammar, as for instance tolkappiyam or nannul, the composition is different, with no fixed metrical form and no terms of address.

Another interesting point is the use the commentator makes of "fillers", i.e. words or phrases inserted into the original text in order to comply with the prescription for the metre used. These fillers do not carry any meaning as such in the given context but the commentator attaches to them information not to be found in the karikais themselves. In the commentary on karikai 4 we find a quotation, no. 24/, which explains and justifies this method. This technique stands as a living illustration of the commentators' ability to find whatever information they want in the original texts, whether or not it is actually there. We shall be dealing with this question in more detail in our study of ceyyuliyal of tolkappiyam, with the intention of lifting the veil drawn by the three medieval commentator and thus to reveal the author's original meaning.

This brings us to the final point to be considered here which is the second half of karikai 43, where the commentator adds, to the last words of the enumeration given in the original, whatever technical information, absent from the karikais' he considers of importance. This includes the classification of works and authors, the subjects to be written about, the viewpoints of the authors, faults and merits of literary works and the kinds of commentator is able to emphasize the sastraic character of the work; a claim to "completeness" is thus made by the inclusion of all those technical elements which do not fall within the framework of any chapter of the work itself, but which were considered essential. In the preface (payiram) of nannul, the same topics appear along with others, such as the qualities of a teacher and those of a student, and some of these topics are also to be found in Naccinarkkiniyar's commentary on the preface of tolkappiyam. This same practice lives on in works of early European scholars of Tamil, as for instance in the Tamil grammar of Mousset-Dupuis which has an additional chapter containing remarks on style and culture.

Finally, a few remarks concerning our translation may be appropriate. We have generally tried to follow the Tamil original as closely as possible, but a few omission and deviations were unavoidable. Thus, the introducing and concluding phrases of quotations from other grammatical works (viz. ennai and enrar akalin ) have most often been left out in the end translation, as well as phrases like enakkolka at the end of explanations, since they appeared too repetitive in English. For some Tamil expressions, notably in the definitions of the examples of different kids of metre, appropriate English expressions have been used which, though sometimes deviating from the literal meaning in Tamil, may clearly convey the sense. Some technical terms have been defined in English only in the place of their first occurrence and have been left untranslated later on. The definitions of all the technical terms may however be found in the glossary.

Works on this book was begun during the second year of my stay in Madurai, attached to the Tamil Department of the Madurai Kamaraj University on a scholarship under the Indo-German Cultural Exchange Programme. However, the major part of the work was done with the assistance of the French Institute in Pondichery where I was offered an affiliation and got all the facilities necessary for its completion.

I would specially like to thank Dr. F. Grimal for his encouragement and help, Dr. F. Gros for his suggestions in the course of discussion, Pandit T.V. Gopala Iyer for going over my entire translation with me and for clearing many of the remaining doubts, Mery Premila Boseman for patiently correcting the English (remaining faults which sometimes are due to the fact that I wanted to remain as close as possible to the original Tamil text, go entirely on my own account!), and Mrs. T.V. Kamalambal for her meticulous correction of the manuscript.




  Introduction I
  Analytical Table of Contents XI
  Abbreviations XVII
  yapparunkalakkarikai, Text and Translation 1
  Glossary of Technical Terms 437
  Index of English Equivalents to Tamil Technical Terms 459
  Bibliography 463

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