Sunday, April 22, 2012
Tamil literature is as old and as rich as Greek, Sanskrit and Chinese literatures. Sangam Age (that lasted till ca. 3rd century AD) is an important period for Tamil Literature.
After this, during the next few centuries (Kalabhra Period) there was a lull in literary output. Then came a period of about four centuries (6- 10th C. AD) when a number of devotional or Bakthi literature appeared.
There were many important saivaite and Vaishnavaite literature contributions In the post-Sangam period (200-600 AD) is notable for the composition of five great Tamil epics Silappadikaram, Manimekalai, Jivaka-cintamani, Valaiyapati and Kundalakesi. Silappadikaram is considered to be the brightest gem of early Tamil literature. It is an invaluable source book of ancient Tamil dance and classical music.
Tolkappiyam one of the greatest works that the world has ever produced is the oldest extant treatise in Tamil. Its survival against vicissitudes is a wonder. Books literary and grammatical prior to it were completely lost. No works have reached us for the three centuries subsequent to Tolkappiyam.
Between 600-900 AD, the Tamil literature came under the influence of Saiva and Vaisnava saints called Nayanmars and Alvars respectively. The Saiva saints first compiled their hymns into the Devaram. The hymns of the Saiva saints were later collected into twelve anthologies called Tirumurais. The Periya Puranam or Tiruttondar Puranam, considered as the twelfth Tirumurai, was composed by Sekkizhar (12th century AD). The Vaishnavaite saint Nathamuni (824-924 AD) compiled the Vaishnava hymns into four books called Divya Prabandham or Nalayira Divya Prabandham. The other Alvar saints who contributed to the Tamil religious literature include Periyalivar, Poigaialvar, Bhutattalvar, Andal (the only woman saint among Alvars) and Nammalvar. Nammalvar's Tiruvaymozhi, the third book of Divya Prabandham, is said to be a quintessence of the Upanishads.
One of the great figures of Tamil literature, Kamban, belonged to this period. He was the greatest of the court poets of Kulottunga Chola III (1178-1218 AD).
He adapted Valmiki's Ramayana in Tamil in his Ramakatai or Kamba Ramayanam, which is very unique in its style and technique. The Cholas were the great patrons of Tamil literature.
The second great work with 1330 couplets written by an individual author is Tirukkural.
'Tiruvalluvar' who is also a follower of 'Tolkappiyam' made a new approach to Ceyyliyal and gave a concrete shape to some of the ideas contained in that chapter in Tolkappiyam.
It is very difficult to find out the cultural heritage of the Tamils in the Modern Literature. The historic march of literature in Tamil began with the pre-Christian era. For the major division of "Silappathigaram" the first epic of Tamilnadu. In this epic Tamil Kings were given due respect at proper places.
"Tamil and Tamilnadu" are magic words to the Tamils to raise them as one man to do their duties at critical times in our history. This cultural aspect has been predominant in our Modern Literature.
The movement of Reform under the leadership of Periyar E.Ve.Ramasamy tried to reestablish the ideals of 'Kural' among the Tamils. They wanted to use it as a shield of "Aram" against the social evil and ignorance.
'Kalki' as a follower of Rajaji wrote many stories and novels in support of prohibition. Periyasami Turan has also written many stories to show the evil effects of drinking.
In order to eradicate the "Theva Thasi" System previling in the Hindu temples "Tevadhasi" and "Kottu Melam" short stories written by Ta.Na.Kumarasami and Ti.Janakiraman respectively came out successfully.
The modern period witnessed the impact of Islam and Christianity on Tamil literature. Umaruppulavar (1605-1703 AD) was the earliest among the Muslim Tamil poets. He composed the Sirappuranam, which is a verse narrative on the life of Prophet Muhammad. Another work dealing with the Islamic faith was Muhaidin Puranam (1845 AD) by Mohammad Ibrahim. Constanzio Beschi (1680-1747 AD), who adopted the pseudonym of 'Viramamunivar', wrote a classic Tembavani, on the life of Jesus Christ.
Subramanya Bharati (1882-1921 AD) was one of the greatest of Tamil litterateurs of the modern times. He is renowned for his patriotic and devotional songs and intense prose writings on contemporary social affairs. His Panchali Sabadam is an epic poem based on a single episode of the Mahabharata. His other great works include Kalippattu, Kannanpattu and Kuyilpattu.
The other renowned Tamil poetic works of the modern times include Meyyarivu and Padal Tirattu of V.O.Chidambaram; Malarum-malaiyum and Umarkkayyam-padalkal of Desikavinayagam; Podumai Vettal, Tamiizhan Idayam and Sankoli of Kalyanasundaram; Avalum Avanum of N.K.Ramalingam; Azhakin Sirippu, Pandiyan Parisu, Tamizhiyakkam, Kudumbavilakku, etc of Bharatidasan. Durai Manickam was another important modern Tamil poet who is credited with prolific works like Aiyai, Nurasiriyam, Koyyakkani, Ensuvai Enbatu and Paviyakkottu. The other renowned poets of this period include M.L.Thangappa, Mudiyarasan, Ezhilmutalvan, N.Kanakaraja Iyer, A.Srinivasaraghavan, Kannadasan and Tamizhazhagan.
Posted by Venkataramanan Ramasethu