VIII. Literature

A. Oral:


India occupies an important place in the world of folklore. J. Hartal and T. Benfey regard India as the mother country of all fables and fictions. India, with a culture and history which can be traced back to thousands of years, has a fund of folklore.

The word ‘Folklore’ was coined only in the 19th century by W.J.Thomas. The word ‘Folklore’ may mean any or all of the following: myths, legends, folktales, proverbs, riddles, folk verses, folk beliefs, folk superstitions, customs, folk drama, folk song, folk music, folk dance, ballads, folk cults, folk gods and goddesses, rituals, festivals, music, witch, folk art and craft and a variety of forms of artistic expression of oral culture of rural and tribal folk that binds man to man.


Tamil literature is very rich in folk songs and folk tales. It has a tradition of thousand years. Among the pioneers in South India was Natesa Sastri who brought out a large volume of folklore material before the end of the nineteenth century. Charles E. Gover published his book entitled The folk songs of Southern India. Many of the songs throw considerable light on local traditions, beliefs and musical songs.

E. Thamstons authoritative and voluminous works Castes and Tribes of Southern India.

Ethnographic notes of southern India and omens and superstitions of southern India, gives in detail the account of the various castes and tribes in south India. E.J. Robinson has published Tales and poems of South India. H. Kingscote’s Tales of Sun (1890), Herman Jensen’s Classified collection of Tamil proverbs (1887) contains three thousand proverbs. A.D. Rozario has written an informative article which throws light on the folklore of Tamil. Paul Schulze has presented a critical analysis of the folk tales of Tamil people in his book Dravida Marchen der Kavi Koud. N. Vanamalai, K.V. Jagannathan and Nannakannu are among the most outstanding folklorists in Tamilnadu. Professor S. Agestihialingom has written an article on ‘Folk songs of Tamil’. He has analysed the folk songs from the socio – linguistic point of view. N. Vanamamalai has written an article on Women in Tamil Folklore. Prof. S.V. Subramanian has published Riddles in Tamil. He has dealt with the origin and development of riddles in India and foreign countries as well. Prof. M.B. Emeneau has published a book entitled ‘Toda Songs’. Vanamamalai has collected more than thousand folk songs. He has published many books on different aspects of folklore. Virapandiyak Kattapomman Kataippatal and kattapomman kuttu deal with Kattapommu, the first south Indian Chieftain who opposed the British East India Company. These works are the collection of folk ballads prevalent in Tirunelveli and Ramnad districts of Tamil Nadu.

St. Xavier’s College, Palayamkottai has started a folklore dept. Prof. D. Lurdu wrote many books on folklore. The important one being The basic principles of Folklore. Dr. S. Sakthivel has published Folklore literature in India, Folklore study of Tamil Nadu and Research in Folklore. Dr. A.K. Perumal has published many books on folklore. They are Tolpavai Kuttu, Villupattu etc.

Three Stages of folkloristics



The study of folklore consists of the collection, classification interpretation and analysis of the Traditional folklore aspects.

Survey is the general method of collection of data materials. Survey method is one of those techniques of discovering answers to questions through research

Four important stages are involved in the survey methods viz.

1.	Selecting the topic
2.	Choosing the sample.
3.	Tools and methods that are used for collecting data and 
4.	Analysis of the data that is collected from the sample to make generalizations.

Collection of data through survey methods rests on basically two types of surveys.

1.	Interview survey and 
2.	Questionnaire survey.

Both the procedures have their own advantages. Survey research often is the sole way of retrieving information about a respondent’s past history. Moreover materials are collected with the help of questionnaires, schedule observation and interview method.

Folklore is field oriented subject. Kenneth Goldstein explained that without field collection, it is impossible to do research, because almost all the aspects of folklore are in the form of oral tradition



Folklore aspects are classified into two types, viz. 1. Verbal and 2. Non verbal. Again these two can be subdivided as follows.

	Folklore aspects
		Verbal			Non-verbal
		1. Folk songs		1. Folk customs
		2. Folk tales		2. Folk deities and festivals
		3. Folk ballads		3. Folk medicine
		4. Folk beliefs		4. Folk arts and crafts
		5. Riddles			5. Folk games
		6. Proverbs
		7. Myths

Folk songs of Tamil can be classified into eight types

		1.	Lullaby songs
		2.	Children songs
		3.	Love songs
		4.	Labour songs
		5.	Celebration Songs
		6.	Bhakthi Songs
		7.	Lamentation songs
		8.	Miscellaneous songs.

Tamil folk tales can be classified into four types.

		1.	Human tales
		2.	Animal tales
		3.	Magic tales
		4.	God tales

Tamil ballads can be classified into Three types

		1.	Social ballads
		2.	Historical ballads
		3.	Puranic ballads



Folklore analysis is enriched by the contribution of Evolutionists, Diffusionists and Structuralists. The following research methods are used now for analyzing different aspects of folklore.

		1.	Historical Geographic method
		2.	Historical reconstruction method
		3.	Ideological method
		4.	Functional method
		5.	Psycho analytical method
		6.	Structural method
		7.	Oral formulaic method
		8.	Cross cultural method
		9.	Folk cultural method
		10.	Mass cultural method
		11.	Herispheric method and
		12.	Contextual method.

Characteristics of Folklore

The general characteristics of Folklore are

		1.	It is oral
		2.	It is handed down from generation to generation
		3.	It is traditional
		4.	It exists in different versions
		5.	It is usually anonymous
		6.	It reflects the culture and
		7.	It tends to become formalized
		8.	It has no authorship



Oral literature

Oral literature is perpetuated not by writing and printing but through oral transmission. The examples for oral literature are folk beliefs, folk dance and drama, folk medicine, folk arts, folk crafts, folk games, folk customs and habits etc.

(Eg.) Folk belief
	1. amai pukunta vitu uruppatatu - Tortoise entering the  house will bring bad luck.
	2. Palli mukkin mel viluntal noy varum

It is supposed to bring diseases if the lizard falls on the nose.


Folklore narrated in prose is called prose narratives

		(Eg.) Fairy tales  narrated in prose.


Folklore narrated in verse is called ‘verse narratives’ or folk songs. Folk songs are the songs that are current among the repertory of folk people. Folk songs are as old as human beings. Folk songs have special characteristics and habitually are sung by the rustics. Folk songs may be defined as the expression of collective folk soul possessing creative imagination. These songs rest on a combination of ethical and social principles. The folk songs describe the rural and rustic social life of the folk people. Main theme of these songs consists of the life, aspirations, joys, sorrows etc. of the folk people. Folk songs narrate the landscape of the village and its economic life in a natural way. Thus the concepts of folksongs reflect the socio – economic, traditional, political and cultural aspects of the people.

	(eg.) The natural objects like moon, etc are described while feeding  the child

		Nila; nila; o;ti va;
		Nilla; mal o; ti va;
		Malai me;le e;ri va;
		Mallikaip pu; kontu va;


Tales are ageless. The impulse to tell a story and the need to listen to it have made narrative the natural companion of man throughout the history of civilization. Tales are able to adopt themselves to any local and social climate. A perfect classification of folk tales is based on form, content and function. The form, content and function of the stories belonging to different genres are always variable. Identical stories can be found within different genres.

A tale of one culture may be a legend for another and a twist in a tragic story for one can render it extremely funny for another. The change of characters mortal, divine, super-natural or animal may form the plot for another genre or category. The form changes as the meaning of the plot changes.

The frame work of the tale comprises the introduction and the conclusion as well as the formulaic interjections used by the narrator. These elements are directly related to the telling situations.

Folktales of Tamilnadu in general can be classified into different types on the basis of its relationship with the subject. Folktales of Tamilnadu may be divided broadly into: 1. Myths 2. Legends 3. Fairy tales 4. Intelligence tales 5. Magic tales 6. Wonder tales 7. Supernaturnal Tales.

Most of the folk tales have a happy ending indicating the triumph of the good over the evil or the triumph of virtue over vice


Legends are myths that are not easily separable but legends express the historical figures, saints, local deities etc.

		(e.g) 1. Tale of Deity Mariyamman

Once there lived a saint with his chaste wife in an Ashramam. She was pure and chaste and was capable of making pots in sand and bringing water in it. Everyday she used to go to the river bank to take water in that pot for her husband’s pujas. One day while she was making the pot, Lord Indira moved through the sky, saw her and fall in love with her. As the lady looked at a man other than her husband she lost her chastity and she was unable to make the pot from that day and could not bring water for the puja.

It was known to the saint, her husband, by his occult power. Out of anger, he invited all his seven sons and asked them to cut down their mother’s head. All the sons except the last one named Parasurama accepted to fulfill his father’s wish. At the same time he asked for a boon from his father. According to that he could give life to the dead body by chanting a mantra and sprinkling water on the dead body. The saint accepted this and gave that boon.

While returning to the house with sorrow, the saint’s wife saw her son coming towards her to cut her head. To save her life, she ran into the forest.

At a point, a cobbler caste lady came to rescue the life of the saint’s wife. Parasurama hacked both their heads and to give back the life to his mother, Parasurama took his mother’s head and placed it on the body of the other lady and the latter’s head with his mother’s body. Then by chanting mantras and sprinkling water, he gave them life. Since the body and head were interchanged they were called as ‘Mari’. Besides, the saint’s wife was considered an incarnation of goddess Paravathi and people began to worship her with much fear and faith. The other lady was termed as ‘Karumari’ and she went to Thiruveerkadu to bless people .

Goddess with Brahmin lady’s body became Muttu Mariyamman and she was capable of leaving pox on the body of the people. Folks believe that the pox is an epidemic form of goddess Mari and termed it as Muttu. People worship this Deity Mariyamman as Muttu Mariyamman.

This story explains how a human character became the powerful deity.

18 Myths

The stories from Ramayana and Mahabharatha are considered as mythical tales. Likewise Thiruvilayatal Puranam can also be treated as mythical tale. Stories connected with Siva, Lord Vishnu, Lord Brahma, Goddess Lakshmi, Saraswathi, Parvathi, Lord Murugan, Lord Vinayaka are treated as mythical tales. Mythical tales express the stories of great traditional (Hinduism) deities.


Myths originate in Polytheistic religious systems. When old religion dwindles and new one takes its place, original myths degenerate into legends and fairy.



Ballad is a short poem that tells a story of some heroic deed, romance or event in history or legend. It is originated from the common people. No one knows who wrote them. Originally ballads were meant to be sung. They often contain a chorus or repeat certain lines as a restrain. The typical ballad consists of stanzas which repeat a regular pattern. Various changes in the pattern take place as the story progresses. Ballads are usually written in a simple language. People remember them but do not write them down.

	(eg.) Katthavarayan Ballad
	Veerapandia Kattapommu ballad


“A proverb is a pithy sentence which tells an unpalatable truth in a condensed way. The statement of the truth however is incomplete. It is exaggerated and expressed metaphorically”

(‘Proverbs and idioms’ – An outline of Indian folklore – by Durga Bhagwat, 1958, P. 46)

“Proverbs are one of the most easily observed and collected genres of traditional expression, yet one of the least understood”.

(Richard M. Dorson, 1972, p. 117)

National highness and fertility of a language can be expressed through different aspects of language. Proverb is one of the aspect. Tamil proverb reflects the greatness of the Tamil society, their thinking and grasping power in one way and reflects the socio – cultural –traditional – political way of life of each social group people in another way.

		(eg.) neruppilla:mal Pukaiya:tu
		“without fire there will be no smoke”
		na:yi va;lai nimirtta mutiyuma?
		Is it possible to straighten the dog’s tail.


Riddles are questions that are framed with the purpose of confusing or testing the wits of those who do not know the answer.

Riddles are classified into many classes, viz.

	1.Descriptive riddles 	2. Question riddles
	3. Rhyming riddles	4. Fun Riddles
	5. Riddles in which similes, comparisons are used etc.

(eg.) Question riddle

In question riddles, the riddles form the question and mostly this type of riddles are within one or two lines. These riddles consist of the questions like enna? ‘What’ ‘Yaar’ ‘Who’ etc.

		a!!a mutiyum ki!!a mutiya:tu –atu enna?
		(one can gather, but cannot pinch, what is it’?)


The aim of this song is to train the child in correct pronunciation. Folklore functioned as non-formal education in those days. To pronounce certain words cleanly, they used to sing this type of song. In this song, trill and flap are found to train the children for improving their pronunciation.

	1.	Otukira nariyile
		Oru ciru nari
		Ciru nari mutukile:
		Oru piti narai mayir.

	3.	Itu a:ru tacce catte – enka 

	4.	ta:tta: tacce catte


Tales that are set on the subject of magic is called magic tales.

(eg.) Once a saint was meditating under a tree. Meanwhile an eagle carried a rat through that route and that rat happened to fell down on the saint’s hand. The saint saw the rat keenly and made a beautiful girl out of it by means of his magical power. He handed that girl to his wife and asked her to bringup that girl in a fine manner. The girl grew up as a beautiful maid.

A time came for her to marry. The Saint selected the sun God as bridegroom for his daughter, but the sun god said the cloud would be better match. Then he asked the cloud, who said that the wind would be the better choice. Then he called the wind, who said the mountain would be the better choice. Lastly the mountain said that the rat would be an ideal choice as he was having a very good personality. So he called the king of rat and asked him to marry his daughter. He accepted it but with one condition that the girl should enter his hole (house). Immediately the saint changed the shape of the girl (rat) and sent her with her husband.

The moral of the story is that, nobody can stand againgst nature and turn ordinary into extraordinary.


Noodle tales are based on comic situations. They depend on innocents and fools. The heroes of noodle tales are fools, innocents and ignorant persons. The characters of this noodle tales act in a foolish way. The heroes of this noodle tales have half knowledge and they always land in troubles.

(e.g.) The characters of Matti, Matayyan, Muttal, Pethai Milechan in Veeram univer’s Paramarta Kurukathai are the best examples.

Thakkampakattan Kathais in Kerala Katukkaraiyan Katai, Kappiyaraiyan Kathai, Pottappattiyan Kathai, Alur Manthaiyan Kathai, and Kolankulattan Kathai are the examples of noodle tales.


The characters in Trickster tales always tell lies. They are without shame, without fear etc. The characters in Trickster tales are animals, males and females. They cheat others.


Saying two or more incidents in a story is called chain Tales. It starts with one incident and goes further.


The stories based on animals are called ‘Animal Tales”

(eg) Mantiratta:l alinta matike:tar


Lullaby is a type of song sung by mothers or maids all over the world to coax their babies to sleep. Lullaby is a gift of motherhood to the world. Lullabies reveal the warmth of maternal affection. There are many rhymes which were originally composed for lulling the child into sleep but these are found as a fragmentary picture of the life of the rural people, their joys, sorrows, hopes and aspirations, love and protest are revealed in these songs.

In Tamil, it is called ta:la:ttu. One can divide the word ta:la:ttu into ta:l and a:ttu. Ta:l means tongue, a:ttu means singing a song by the movements of the tongue

	(eg) 	Ma:man aticca:no:
		Mallikappu: centa:lo;
		Attai aticca:lo:
		Aralippu:c Centa:lo:

This song reflects the mother’s mind. It is quite natural for all women to talk high about their family in lullaby songs. At the same time she treats her husband’s sister and other relatives with disrespect in their songs. She compares the softness of jasmine flower with her brother where as hard smell of oleander with her husband’s sister.


Marriage songs are sung at the time of marriage. Most of the songs are comical in nature, ie. the bride’s party makes fun of bridegroom and the bridegroom’s party makes fun of bride etc. Following song is sung by the bride’s sister in order to make fun of the bridegroom.

	Eg. 	Ka:ca kotuttaminnu
		Ka:ca kotuttaminnu
		Katara:te: katara:te: ni:kotutt 
		Ka:a ella:m enkappan po:tta
		Ka:tanikke: ka:na:tu…


“Kummi” can be considered as a performing folk art as well as play. Song is sung by the women by clapping their hands. The following song is sung at the time of valaikaappu ceremony.

		Tanta:ne: tannata:ne:
		Tanta:ne: tanata:ne:
		Akka:lukku valaika:ppu
		Ma:man mukattile: puncirippu
		Tanta:ne: tanata:ne:
		Ta:nata:ne na:na:ne:
		Tanta:ne: tanata:ne:
		Ta:nana na:na:ne: tanta:ne:


Occupational songs are sung while the labourers are at their work. These songs are sung for relaxation during working hours and to forget the stiffness of the work load.

	(eg.) 	Fisherman’s song
		Kattumaram katti vante:n ka:vala:li
		Karaimukam ceirave:num ka:valali
		Katanka:ran vattalaya: ka:vala:li
		Kanna:ti tirantu pa:ru ka:vala:li


While the players play the game they sing songs. Different variety of songs are sung while playing catukutu (Kabadi).

		Catukutu catukutu kutu kutu kutu
		na:nta:nta vi:ran
		nallamuttu pe:ran
		Mu:ccatakki po:re:n
		Onnattota va:re:n
		Palin catukutu catukutu
		Kutu kutu kutu…


The word ‘Then Panku’ has become Themmangu. ‘Then’ means honey. Like honey the songs are very sweet to hear.

Then + panku > Themmangu

There is no specific place or time for Themmangu songs. Themmangu songs are sung by the people at any time and at any place. They sing Themmangu songs while working, ie. While driving a cart, reaping, while doing cultivation of grains. Male or female, individual or a group sing Themmangu songs.

Most of the Themmangu songs are sung at the time of the action. A lover sings a song about his lady love.

		Kattappulle Kuttepulle
		Karuvemani potte pulle
		Nakkuc cevante pulle
		Nantanti om purusan


Generally the theme of the dirges is to glorify the departed soul. The content of dirge songs speak the past life of a dead person. In a persons life, birth is the happiest event and death is the most sorrowful event. The dirge songs marks the end of the life of a person in a sorrowful mood.

	(eg) 	A mother cries on the death of her child
		na:n pattiniya: iruntu
		pattum cumantu I:nra
		pacca cicu unnai parikotutte: nata:
		un punnakai kantu ponnakai etukku
		….. ….. …… …… ….. …..
		…., ….. …… …… ….. …..
		unnai pa:rttu valarkku mun
		pattiyam iruntu puttu ippo:
		pari kotuttu nikkire: n ta:


This is a Villup – pattu version of the ballad of the same name. Aivar here means simply the Pandiyas, Aivar is panchavar, the name by which the pandiya is celebrated in formal classics like the silappathikaram. Aivar, though it means five persons does not mean five pandiyas. This ballad is just another version of Kannada por, where many stories are added on to the por and made it a jumble of several stories. It is divided into four stories – Aivar Rajakkal Kathai, Padum Parasi Kathari, Mannan Madippan Kathai and Idaichi Kathai

The term Aivar is sought to be explained by the fact that the hero of the story kulasekhare Pandiya had four brothers and so the term aivar. This is most unreal because the story has only one hero and the four brothers do not come into the story at all.


Khan Sahib (endearingly called khan in the ballad) was a historical figure who had fought in many battles between 1725 and 1764, in Madurai and Ramnad, both for the British and against the British. He was born as Maruda Nayakam Pillai, a Hindu, but later became a muslim just for advancement in his soldier’s career. He called himself Muhammad Yusuf, familiarly known as Yusuf Khan and hence became Khan Sahib. He was brought up by a muslim and then by a Britisher. He took service under the nawab, then gradually rose in rank as naik, havilden, jamedan etc. He met Masha, a pariah woman with portugese blood and married her. He took service under major Lawrence and was sent by the East India company to quell rebel fences and collect rent. He bought against pulitthevan and destroyed his Nel-kattan- several fort. He was then promoted as the subahdar of Madurai

Death story

Madurai veeran kathai

Once upon a time, the king Kasirajan ruling the country Kasimapuripattinam. Since he had no child, he did penance and worshipped Lord Siva. By Lord Siva’s grace the king had a son. He was called Madurai Viiran. The king wanted to see his horoscope. So the veediyar caste people are invited for this purpose/ They noted that they would be affected by the child in future. So they told a lie that the horoscope of madurai viiran was not good. Also they told, since the child was born with a mark around his neck he must be killed. Otherwise something bad would occur to the family. But the king was not willing to kill the child and so he asked the servants to put the child in a dark forest. They put him in the forest and returned. By God’s grace milk was administered to the child. Five headed cobra protected the child from the sun and rain. When he became a boy he used to play with the animals.

Once a cobbler caste person’s ( pettain) wife singari came to the forest to pluck the avaram tree barks. Avaram tree skin(barks)was useful for repairing and making chappals and so cobblers used to collect them from the forest. At that time the lady saw the boy; she brought him up in her house.

There lived a king bommarajan and he had a daughter, bommiammal. She attained puberty, but the time of attaining puberty was considered inauspicious. So according to the advice of astrologers, the king built a bunglow and kept her in the bunglow for 29-days. After (29th day) doing ‘Puberty rituals’, he planned to take her back. It is believed that only if this is done the inauspiciousness will be removed. The king asked madurai viiran’s mother singari to take care of the girl. Madurai viiran asked his mother to remain in the house and he went for watering the girl. By deity’s grace wind and rain came. Madurai viiran became fully wet. At this stage he requested to give a small piece of the bommiyammal’s saree. She scolded him and refused to give the saree piece.

Immediately madurai viiran told his story to her and she felt sorry for her mistake. So both of them ride on a white horse and reached Madurai. At Madurai, Madurai Viiran saw another girl vellayamma and they set together. Knowing this, people cut off his leg, hand etc and put him in the floor. Since Madurai Viiran was a devotee of Goddess Meenakshi flowers were poured from the sky, which helped him to reach the heavenly world without having next birth. This is the story of Madurai Viiran.

Birth story (Mariyamman story)

Mariyamman kathai (also called ananthayi Kathai) is a villuppattu in about 750 lines in several metres. There are different versions of the story. One is that she was Renuka devi wife of Jamadagni rishi, who was beheaded by purasurama at the orders of the father and later brought back to life, a wrong head being united to the body; another says that she is the patron deity of rain, mari; yet another says that she is the evil dispenser of small pox (ammai, Mari ammai) and allied fevers on the evil persons of the world.

This story seems to be a local legend of the Tirunelveli and Nanjilnad areas, celebrating the life a Ananthayi. She was the wife of the Brahmin Harikrishna in Srivaikuntam. After years of prayer and penance, the couple had a girl baby. They had a mongoose pet. One day Ananthayi killed the mongoose under the mistaken notion that it had bitten her baby, while in fact the mongoose had only killed the serpent which went to bite the baby. To expiate the sin, she wanted to go and bathe in the holy water at Papanasam. Instead, Harikrishna offered to do so on her behalf. On his return a serpent bit him and he died. On his death, the village headman, who was heavily bribed by the family, decided that the property of the dead man did not revert to Ananthayi but to others in the family. The wrath of the wronged chaste woman Ananthayi brought down heavy bloods, in which the headman and all his family, including his daughter who was to be wedded on that day, were washed away. Ananthayi was thenceforth called vella mari (flooding rain) and by other similar names. She was installed in 18 places as kannanur mari, kadayanallur mari etc. She was given the powers of conferring good on her worshippers and of bringing evil to the bad people.

The ballad has many interesting features; (e.g) description of the development of the embryo in the womb of the mother during each of the first ten days, then during each of the ten months. The cajoling of the midwife by the messenger from Harikrishna to attend Ananthayi’s delivery is equally interesting. The killing of the mongoose by the hasty Brahmin woman is taken from the panchatantra and incorporated into this story.

Folk Religion

Religion is classified into

		1. Hindu Religion 
		2. Folk Religion
		3. Little verses great Tradition.

Folk Religion may fall anywhere between tribal and high religion. It exhibits certain features which distinguishes it from high religion. These features need not necessarily be of tribal origin, however, they clearly are, or have evolved from a local tradition which has maintained its fundamental character despite hinduization

When folk and high religion meet, some interesting changes occur. Folk Religion has various layers which can not be separated easily. On the surface, a particular trait of a deity or a particular ritual may seem to belong to the high religion (Hindu Religion). However after investigation this trait or ritual may reveal itself as an altered form and vice versa.

Since there is a mutual borrowing between high religion and folk religions, it should be clear that the study of folk religion requires knowledge of the high religion or of scriptual Hinduism in general.

Folk Religions have no relation to the universe. The religion symbolize only the facts of the village life.

The Deities of the folk Religion have birth, death etc. like human beings. Folk Religion accepts animal sacrifices. It is worshipped by folk people.

Folk cults

The study of the culture of folk people is known as Folk culture. Iorworth peate and Don Yoder had done the Research of the culture of folk people. Folk life reveals the culture of people. The study of folk culture in different fields include agriculture, agrarian history, settlement patterns dialectology or folk speech, folk costume, folk religion, folk medicine, folk literature and the folk arts and crafts.

Folk Deities

Folk people worship some household gods that are known as Folk deities. The important characteristics of folk deities are

1) Deities live in villages, forests and mountain sides.

2) It destroys the enemies completely.

3) It is not universal and it is classified as family deity, caste deity, village deity and street deity

4) Non - brahmin priests do the pujas

5) Created and protected by the folk people,

6) These deities are many in number and not countable.

7) Most of the deities are females.

8) Deity worship is not found

9) Daily offerings are not given

10) Temple is built up not according to Agama rules

11) Festivals are celebrated only by getting the permission of the deity

12) Female deities are unmarried

13) Deities are of cruel nature.

14) Folk - deities are considered to live on the earth.


Karuppasamy deity is worshipped in various places of Tamilnadu. It is said that Karuppasamy or Karuppannasamy is none but Lord Krishna’s incarnation. This deity is black in colour. The God may have black colour and termed as “Karuppan” or “Kannan” which is termed after some years, as Krishnan. The work of Lord Krishna is to protect the people and the same is the work of the deity Karuppasamy.

The protecting deity Karuppan is believed to be the watchman of the forest as well as village. In big temples Karuppasamy is considered to be the watchman and called Ayyanar.

Ayyanar is said to be migrated from Kerala in one or the other way. In all the temples of Ayyanar, the statues of horses, elephants, tigers are found more because these animals are considered to be the Vahanas (or) friendly animals that helped him in crossing the forest. Mostly the horse is believed to be used by the deity Ayyanar to round up the village at nights since he is believed to be the protecting deity of the village.

It most cases, Ayyanar temples are formed in some distance from the village since he is considered as the protecting deity of the village.


This tale is about the deity Ankala Parameswari. Muttu Irulappan is one among the five Asuras born from the face of Brahma. He was pleased after meeting Lord Shiva and took refuge under him and got a boon from him. According to the boon he became Muniswaran, marry Pecciyayai and would rule the graveyard. Both of them are also termed as katte:ri and Mun’s waran is worshipped as male folk-deity by the rural people. He is also termed as Muniyantavar. Even though, when he is of cruel nature, people believe that Muniswaran protects them from evil spirits who repose faith in him.


When Folk people worship folk deities, they make animal sacrifices and vegetarian items as offerings. Most of the folk deities accept animal sacrifices with a few exceptions. The deities worshipped in sub - urban areas never accept the animal sacrifices. These deities accept sacrifices like lemon, pumpkin etc. This is shown in the following figure.

In some places no animal sacrifices are offered to the main deity whereas offerings of animals are made to other dieties. They are the subordinate male deities, who act as guardians of their shrines. People who have made vows, in times of sickness or distress or in order to secure some boon, bring their victims(animals) to the shrine. Water and turmeric are pasted on the whole body of the animal and some mantras are recited by the pujari. If the animal is a sheep or goat, it is then seized by the man who offers the animal and his friends, some of whom catch hold of its legs, while others hold fast to a rope fastened round its neck, and its head is cut off with one stroke of the chopper by one of the pu:jaris. The head is placed in front of the image of the guardian deity with its right foreleg in its mouth. During the killing of the victim a curtain is drawn in front of the main deity.

During the time of Angalamman festival, pigs are sacrificed to the male guardians. Sheep, goats and fowls are also offered to the male guardians. Mostly Buffalo sacrifices are offered mainly in connection with the worship of Kali.

Folk Arts

Generally group celebrations are held to avoid calamities such as droughts and floods or because of joy over a triumph of any kind. The celebration of any festival is largely done with songs and music, symphonies and rhythms of dance. In the prolonged continuity of these celebrations the participants get the opportunity to reinforce their social relations and thus make the whole festivals a cohesive unit of complex regional culture.

Folk - arts connected with folk festivals are classified as

		1) Karakam 
		2) Kavati 
		3) Terukku:tu 
		4) Velluppattu 
		5) Alagu kutti kollal 
		6) Cilampatham 
		7) Jallikattu


In some temples, festival is very simple and so they arrange for terukkuttu. In the art form Kattavarayan Katai, Mahabharatha Katai etc are acted. Usually terukkuttu is performed at night. It is common to perform Kattavarayan Katai as terukkuttu in almost all Mariyamman temple festivals.

Folk costume

Folk deities have yellow, red, dark blue, white and green colour dresses according to the taste of the people who worship the deities.

Female and male deities have different types of dresses. It is shown in the following diagrams.

In most of the places the Deity, Mariyamma has saree and blouse as dress at festival time. In ordinary days skirt and a cloth for the upper portion is used. Pure yellow cloth with red, green, blue border is used as dress to the deity Mariyamman. Sometimes red with green, blue, yellow border is also used. Silk cloth is used at the time of festival days. Red is considered as a symbol of fertility. To the deity Kali white mull cloth is used and on the dress red colour kumkum is fully seen. While doing pujas, the Pujaris use to pour kumkum for each mantra on her and so the white dress seems to be red.

Mostly yellowish white dhoti is used to the deity Ayyanar. In some places white towel (Ankavastram) is used to the same deity. To the deities Karuppasamy, Muniswaran & Kattavarayan white dhoti or piece of white cloth is used.

Folk Medicines

Folk people use the folk medicines. The cause of disease can be classified into two categories ie 1) Physical and natural causes 2) Supernatural causes. Physical causes are classified into 1) Ritual impurity 2) physical impurity 3) Improper food 4) Improper weather and 4) Over indulgence in general acts.

Super natural causes are again divided into 1.) Sins of previous life 2) Wrath of gods & Goddesses 3) Evil spirits 4) Sorcery 5) Witch craft 6. Evil eye and 7. Breach of Taboo. Sorcery is classified into 1. Ancestral spirits and ghosts

Folk medicine can be divided into two parts as 1. Natural Folk medicine and 2. Magico - religious folk medicine

Natural Folk Medicine

Natural Folk - medicines are usually of Home remedy or a patent medicine. Herbal folk-medicine has two main parts of natural folk – medicine

Home remedies were passed down from one generation to the other generation Folk medicines cure the human diseases. Some medicines are used externally and some medicines are used internally.

		Remedies for human beings with Animal substances


1 If one is affected by eye disease a drop of rabbit’s blood will cure it

2. A drop of hen or cock’s blood will cure the eye diseases.


1. To get relief from dog bite one has to consume the leaf of the ‘nayurvi’ plant with gingely oil.

2. Pig’s meat is a best medicine for asthma troubles.

Magico - religious folk medicine

Magico - religious folk medicine is mostly based on certain aspects of folk – people. They are

		1. Beliefs 
		2. Customs & Habits  
		3. Superstitions

If one is sick, the treatment followed is likely to be as follows

	1. Ignore it - it may get better 
	2. Try some Home remedy or a patent medicine
	3. Make an appointment for magical treatment
	4. Consult a medical doctor.

Treatment for the wrath of Gods and Goddesses

The traditional explanation for small pox is that it is sent by the deity mariyamman. Treatment of small pox consists of propitiating the engaged goddess. At the time of pox, cleanliness and strict purity has to be maintained at house. The smell of oil etc. is not to be smelled by the person affected by small pox. Margosa leaves (Medicinal leaves) are used for giving soft touch in the itching portion. Severe fever can also be found, during small pox, on 3rd (or) 7th (or) 9th day after the bubbles are completely cured. Bath (first bath after recovery) by using turmeric paste and margosa leaves is given. People pray to Goddess Mari and offer offerings for the cure of small pox.

Folk Handicrafts

Folk Handicrafts are traditional crafts. Until recent times, craft techniques and designs were passed down within one family for many generations or were transmitted by the apprentice system wherein a boy learns a craft served for a long time, say, seven years, under a master crafts man.

The strong traditional element in the craft is also apparent in the great antiquity of many crafts. Certain general requirements will determine whether a craft is folk craft or not. The element of tradition is more important than the demand of age. In order to consider a craft as folk - craft, a craft must have been fairly of general use and not restricted only to the upper layers of society where learned, academic or sophisticated modes of transmission exist

Some of folk Handicrafts are

1. Mat weaving 2. Preparing clay toys 3. Braiding rope 4. Preparing mattress 5. weaving silk clothes etc.

Basket weaving

Basket weaving is usually done by the people called natooti people or nomads ie they never stay in a place and wander round the places. If they want to stay in a place they make a hut tentatively and live inside it. This type of huts is seen near the railway stations of Thirvitai marutur, Vaidheeswarankoil etc. of Tanjore district. For basket weaving they use a special kind of knife and a special kind of grass fibre to weave the basket. Mainly this work is done for earning their livelihood.

Spinning and weaving

Spinning Threads is also a kind of folk craft. Usually the ladies and the weaver caste people spin threads using a small type of machine. Hand spinning is also popular. In some places that is done to lead their life.

Mat weaving

Mat weaving is found in Pattamadai. Tirunelveli They get the coarse grass from near by Thamiraparani river shore. Then the grass is put in the sunrays and made to be fit for weaving the mat. Then the desired colours are coated on the grass and then the mat is woven. The mat itself is separated into 1) ordinary mat 2) silky mat 3) pantippay (long mats used to seat a number of guests at the time of feasts or functions like marriage. valaikappu, death ceremony etc. 4) small mat.


Potter’s craft appears to be a vital one among all the crafts. The potter’s craft, as it appears, can be classified into two main categories, such as pottery making and manufacture of terracotta objects. In the beginning hand made pottery was introduced by the potters. There were no kins specially built for firing pots in prehistoric times. Pots were placed in circular pits and small fire was built around, after partially covering the pots with some materials.

The potter’s wheel was also unknown before. The potter’s wheel was invented at a later stage. The wheel made pottery and the handmade pottery are available today. The handmade pottery was coarse - gray in appearance. Sometimes the surface was treated by a thin slip of the same clay and brushed before firing. Rounded bases were first moulded and then the complete shape of the pot was made by placing it on the convex surface of an inverted bowl. The saucer was turned by one hand and then the shaping of the pot was done and it is still being practised by the potters. As the need of the society increased, productivity also increased. Professional jealousy must have infused the potters with competitive spirit. Under such circumstances, the potters had to search for new ways and means to decorate the pots. The pot could be painted before and after firing

Folk painting

Painting is a material art form which is done only by scholarly artists. This folk painting itself can be divided into two as:

	1. Folk paintings drawn on ordinary days
	2. Folk paintings drawn during festival days.

Folk paintings are drawn on ordinary days with various colours on the walls of the house, on the floor, at the roof, on the cloth as well as on the glass. Different shapes of animals, flowers, gods and goddesses, human beings (kings, queens etc) are drawn when the artist desires to paint the paintings. Pot paintings are also found. Paintings are drawn on the pot used for marriage, used in temple functions etc. Now a days it is a fashion to use painted pots as a show piece in the house. These are placed in the show - cases in the front hall of the house. Usually Kolam type of drawings and paintings are seen on the pot.

Folk - paintings drawn on festive days are mostly at the time of Varalakshmi Virata. Face of this goddess is painted on the wall and decorated. Likewise paintings are drawn in the roof of the temple, wall of the temple etc. Mostly these paintings reveal the story of the respective characters of the painting, painted on the wall and on the roof of the temple.


Floor - drawing is an interesting kind of art which is having some basic principles, customs, habits etc. within its circle. Different kinds of floor - drawings can be seen in most of the houses in the early morning. Floor drawings are drawn with different powders like, 1. Rice powder 2. stone powder

Due to economic condition and to keep the drawing without scattering, (by means of crow, ants, squirrel etc) drawings are drawn by means of stone powder. Some believe that drawing done by means of stone powder is a sin and so they use rice powder. After drawing the floor with rice - powder, ants, crows, squirrels etc. are allowed to eat it. So people think that it is a virtous act. Different kinds of floor - drawings can be seen during festivals. On some special occasions like marriages and festive days people grind the rice and with the rice paste they draw kolams which long lasts for two or three days. Drawing coloured kolams is in vogue in most of the houses, in cities, towns as well as in the villages.

This art is generally done by the ladies, but in some cases men are also interested in drawing this. For example at the time of Krishna Jayanthi, drawing Krishna’s feet is in custom. This is seen not only in urban places but also in rural areas.


Terracotta objects are prepared for three purposes. 1. Utilitarian purpose 2. Individualistic purpose 3. Ritualistic purpose. In the above three purposes, first two depend upon the use of day - to - day life of the people. Terracotta objects prepared in Tanjore district are of red colour. Different objects like 1. lengthy mouthed vessel 2. pumpkin shaped vessel 3. different kinds of round shaped vessels (panai) 4. ovens 5. Flower pots 6. water pots etc are prepared.

All these are used for utilitarian purposes and these are used even for the ritualistic purposes. Some objects (kintu) are used to keep different kinds of lights in the temple as well as in the house. These are of different types. The object used for putting benzoin gum (campiraani) is prepared in terracotta which is a peculiar aspect to be noted in terracotta. The offerings to be offered to the deities are also prepared by using terracotta. The shape of eyes, legs, stomach, hands etc. made up of Terracotta are offered to deity Mariyamma at the time of worshipping. These terrocotta objects are prepared by the vela:lar caste people (velalar - kuyavar).

Thanjavur Thattu

Thanjavur Thattu is very famous throughout the world. Mainly brass metal plate is used for preparing this plate. In this plate, artistic drawings are made beautifully. This is one type of plate.

There is another kind of plate where glasses and coloured pieces of papers are fixed. This also looks fantastic.

There is another kind of plate where the deities like Gajalakshmi, Lekshmi, Saraswathi, Vinayaka etc. structures are fixed in the plate.

Thanjavur Bommai

This toy is very famous. This is prepared in the shape of Lord Krishna, babies, kings, queens etc. This is made of terrakotta object. Main thing for this toy is that weight is kept in the bottom of the toy, so however it is rotated it comes to its normal position. Nowadays this kind of toy is prepared from plastics.


The history of Tamil literature dates back to the pre-Christian era. In the early stages of the development of Tamil literature, three types of poetical compositions namely akaval, kalippa and paripatal were popular. The akaval type of verse is formed from a minimum of three lines to a maximum of several hundred lines, each line consisting of four-feet or four cirs. A combination of two or more metrical unit or syllables or acais comprises a foot or cir. The basic metrical units or syllables or acais comprises a foot or cir. The akaval poetry resembles prose because of its narrative quality. The main difference between akaval and prose is that the former is written in four-foot lines with alliteration and assonance while the latter is invariably without these essential features. However in the earlier days even prose was written in four-foot lines. The kali verse like akaval is written in four-foot lines with a difference in rhyme. The foot is arranged in such a way as to produce a tripping rhyme. Paripatal has a smooth flowing rhyme. Both kali and paripatal verse forms must have been modelled on folk songs.

Madurai is one of the oldest metropolitan cities in the world. Many poets and scholars lived here and produced immortal works which are known as the Cankam literature. Tolkappiyar, a renowned scholar, analysed it and wrote the famous grammatical work entitled Tolkappiyam. The Tolkappiyam and the Cankam classics are useful to know about the ancient Tamil language and literature.

Scholars consider that the poems in the Cankam anthologies cover a period from B.C. 500-200 A.D. Tolkappiyam also belonged to this period. Tolkappiyar wrote the grammar Tolkappiyam only after the advent of many literary and grammatical works.

Poets from different parts of the country composed poems and left them to posterity in their houses and places of their patron-kings. In the second century A.D. efforts were made by poets and patron-philanthropists to preserve them from decay and human neglect. The result was the collection of two sets of collections of poems, the Eight Anthologies (Ettuttokai) and the Ten Songs (Pattuppattu). The former is a compilation of short poems into eight independent works and the latter is a collection of ten long poems, most of them running into several hundred lines. Altogether these nine works form what is now known as the Cankam literature.

The term Cankam means an academy of letters, or a council organised by scholars or monks. Since it is regarded that the Eight Anthologies and the Ten Songs belong to the third Cankam, they are known as the cankam classics or literature. Literary evidences support the existence of Cankams at Madurai, where the bards gathered periodically to evaluate their works and received patronage from the Pandya kings. Scholars often met and discussed works of literary merit and that the books which received the imprimatur of this learned body were later codified into anthologies, known as the Cankam literature.

There exist many old conventions in the Cankam classics. The classification of human emotions into two broad categories, namely, akam (internal) and puram (external) is perhaps the most important of such traditions. The various phases of love between two imaginative characters, the hero and the heroine, is portrayed in the akam poems, while the puram poems depict heroism, generosity and greatness of kings and famous citizens. Therefore it can be said that imaginative poems are akam and realistic ones are puram.

The natural objects or things peculiar to each regional landscape and the life-style formed the background of the poems. They were also reflected in their love affairs. It came to be called uripporul. The objects of flora, fauna and avifauna which form the setting for the life of love are collectively known as karupporul. The regional landscape and their seasons came to be known as mutarppourl. Among the codified anthologies, roughly 1800 akam poems are now available. Tolkappiyam, the extant work, interprets the literary convention of this period. The literary canon given in this work was followed by poets for many centuries in their love songs.

There is a convention in puram poetry to classify the various types of warfare into seven categories, known as tinai in Tamil. The initial stage of warfare is known as vetcittinai where forays and frontier raids are made for the purpose of cattle lifting. The actual invasion into an enemy's territory is termed as vanci. The siege of the enemy's fort is known as ulici, pitched battle is tumpai, and the resultant victory is vakai. To praise the victorious king is patan thinai and to sing of the transitory nature of life is called koncittinai.

Poems based on akam theme are also classified into seven categories, namely, kurinci, mullai, marutam, neytal, palai, kaikkilai and peruntinai. The first five categories treat the normal type of feelings of love and as such they are considered to be of higher value in social estimate. The last two, kaikkilai and peruntinai, deal with abnormal aspects of love, and therefore, they have lesser value in social estimate. Kaikkilai dwells upon one-sided love and peruntinai treats of unequal love. The poems in Cankam literature deal with seven aspects of akam and seven aspects of puram themes.

Only five among the eight anthologies, contain poems concerning akam theme. Of these five, Akananuru consists of four hundred poems of thirteen to thirty-one lines. The Narrinai comprises four hundred poems of nine to twelve lines. Four hundred poems of four to eight lines are included in Kuruntokai. Five hundred short poems of three to five lines comprise Ainkurunuru. Kalittokai contains one hundred and fifty poems composed in rhythmic kali metre.

The paripatal is so called because of a special mellifluous metre employed in its composition, meant to be sung to the accompaniment of stringed instruments. The anthology of Paripatal is supposed to have seventy poems, but only twenty-two are available now. Some among them are love poems and others are devotional odes.

The anthology Patirruppattu (ten times ten poems) consists of one hundred panegyric poems, ten poems each in praise of ten kings of the Cera dynasty. The Purananuru, another anthology pertaining to puram theme, contains four hundred poems, elegiac, panegyric and heroic in nature, attributed to kings, chieftains and philanthropists of the Tamil country. There are poems in this anthology which speak about the highest philosophy and the noblest of truths. In akam poems, there is very little description of the physical beauty of woman. There are not many references to carnal pleasures of life. Many of the love poems highlight only the most "internal, personal and directly incommunicable human experiences like love and all its emotional phases”.

A love-lorn lady, awaiting the arrival of her lover for a long time, loses all hopes of living when there is no sign of his return. She fears to die without seeing the return of her lover. What she says in the desperate mood is beautifully portrayed in one of the poems in Narrinai. She says "Toli (the heroine's close companion), I do not fear death, but I fear one thing, (that is forgetfulness). If I were to die and be born again, will I ever forget my lover? This is my fear."

		“Death, I fear not 
		If I were to die
		And be born again
		In that rebirth
		Will I ever forget my lover?
		That's my fear.”


The Love poems of Kalittokai are known for their rhythm and word pictures. Talicai, one of the component parts in Kalittokai poems, is based on the folk music of yore. It captivates the mind by its flawless rhythm and by the idea of the sentiment expressed thrice in a particular metre. The following three talicai poems express a similar universal truth thrice, which is borne out from the consoling words spoken by an elderly person to a mother, whose daughter had eloped with her lover. The content of his words are as follows:

Although sandalwood trees are grown in mountain regions, the wood is not useful to the mountain itself but to those who smear the paste on their body. Likewise is your daughter. It is natural for her to leave you and go with her lover.

Although pearls are found in the deep sea, they are not useful to the sea but only to those who wear them. This is true in the case of your daughter also.

The music that comes out of the yal is not useful to the instrument, but to those who hear and appreciate it. This is equally true in your daughter's case also.

The poems in Paripatal are known for their pleasing rhythm. In those days they were sung to the accompaniment of a yal. Under each poem, references are made to the composer of the tune. Some of the poems in this work praise the gods, while others give word-pictures about various aspects of human love. It is a tradition that poems on such themes were written and sung to the accompaniment of music. The form found in Paripatal poems is Kalittokai. Both these poetical forms lost their importance with the growth of viruttam, a new metre in which Tamil poems came to be written after the Cankam period.

The human qualities like love, valour and munificence became the subject matter, and the scenic splendour of nature provided the background for the Cankam poems. Many gripping phrases like, cempulappeyalnir, anilatumunril, kayam, kalporucirunurai, kuppaikkoli are found in the cankam classics, as the names of authors of the poems. The poet who described the rain water which had fallen on red-earth came to be called as Cempulappeyalnirar. Another poet, who described the squirrel which was playing at the porch or veranda of a house in a deserted village, is known as Anilatumunrilar.

Every poem in Patirruppattu has a title, which is nothing but an impressive description of an event in the poem. Ten lengthy poems are found in the Pattupattu anthology. A poem in 103 lines is known as Mullaippattu. It describes the grief of the heroine in separation as well as the happiness of the hero as he returns home. Another poem which describes the mountain region in 261 lines is known as Kurincippattu. The Tamil word kurinci denotes not merely the mountain region but also the several mental states and types of conversation among those involved in love affairs. Netunalvatai (Long Dreary Wind) in 188 lines also derived its name because of the description given to the dreary cold winter wind, which is known as vatai in Tamil. In the same anthology, another poem Malaipatukatam in 583 lines, gives a long list of sounds that emanate from the mountainous region. In the poet's imagination the conglomeration of sounds echoing in the mountain are similar to wild elephant's thunder. Therefore, the lengthy poem is known as Malaipatukatam which literally means exudation of a mountain. Natural objects are given as titles in Ainkurunuru, a collection of five hundred poems, in Ettuttokai or Eight Anthologies.

There are 2381 poems in the Cankam classics. Among the authors of these poems, only 473 are known by their names. The names of the authors of 102 poems are not known. One of the poets, Kapilar accounted for 235 poems in the Cankam classics. There are four others: Ammuvanar (127), Crampokiyar (110), Peyanar (105), and Otalantaiyar (103) who composed more than a hundred poems each. Poems in the Pattuppattu anthology contain several lines. Maturaikkanci is the longest poem in the anthology with 782 lines. Four of the ten poems are on the akam theme while the rest are on the puram theme. All the poems are known for their elaborate descriptions. Most of the poems in the Cankam literature are written in an easy-flowing akaval metre. Poems in Kalittokai and Paripatal are written in a gorgeous rhythm known respectively as kali and paripatal metres.


There are some poems in Purananuru which were composed by the rulers of the Tamil country. The Pandya king Netunceliyan wrote a poem in which he extolled the blessing of good education. The content of the poem runs as follows:

It is always commendable to learn from a teacher either by offering fees or by serving him. An aspirant to knowledge should approach a master and learn things with great humility. He should never feel ashamed of being obedient to his teacher. Even a mother would have some preference for an educated son. The government will certainly reject an uneducated eldest son, and prefer the educated one even if he happens to be the youngest in the family. Despite his low status, a renowned scholar will receive respectful attention from a person of high birth.

The poems of Kopperuncolan composed before his death arouse a feeling of pity, sympathy and tenderness. He died on the nothern outskirts of his country after a prolonged fasting.


A poem, in which different types of bards direct their fellow professionals to a patron philanthropist, is called an aruppatai. In the earlier days this type of poem was carefully nurtured into a literary form. The families of panar, viraliyar, kuttar and porunar lived both in villages and cities from the Cankam period down to the age of Alvars and Nayanmars (the age of Bhakti poetry) and preserved the fine arts. The "guidance" poems are called Aruppatai in Tamil. The Tamil word aruppatai can be split into two roots namely aru and pati. The former word means 'route' or 'path' while the latter means 'guide' or 'help to reach'. Although the composers of aruppatai literature were poets, they wrote the 'guidance' poems imagining as if a minstrel who had benefited by a chief directed a fellow minstrel to him. The names of the patron noble as well as his fame were invariably historical facts while the descriptions of a fellow minstrel were imaginary. No doubt it was the poet's imagination. The portrayal of a bard's life in the country was undoubtedly real. There are five aruppatai poems in the Pattuppattu anthology. Aruppatai poems are also found in Patirruppattu and Purananuru.

Thirumurukaruppatai is the only longest devotional poem, consisting of 317 lines. The poem gives a description of the Murukan temples of the ancient Tamil country as well as the types of prayers offered in them. The first section of the poem gives a description of the Murukan Temple at Tirupparankunram hill, its scenic beauty, the presiding deity of the temple as well as the battles waged by Lord Murukan against the evil forces typified in the person of Curan. The second section of the poem gives a mystical interpretation of the six faces and twelve hands of Murukan and also the importance of the temple at Tiruchchendur. The greatness of sages who come to pray to Murukan as well as the devotional qualities of women who come to the Palani hills are explained in the third section of the poem. The fourth section speaks about the devotees who came to offer their prayers to Murukan, the presiding diety at Tiruverakam. The manner in which the people of the mountain region pray to Murukan is narrated in the fifth section. The final section besides describing the waterfalls at Palamutircolai, explains in detail the shrines where Murukan is principally worshipped as well as the manner in which an aspirant could obtain His grace.

Besides Tirumurukarruppatai, another lengthy poem Netunalvatai attests to Nakkirar's capacity to admire the scenic beauty of nature. In fact Tirumurukarruppatai begins with a description of the morning sun rising from the deep sea. As the poem progresses one notices the elaborate natural description of mountain regions like the Tirupparankunram Hills. Towards the end of the poem, there is a soul-stirring description of mountain regions like the Tirupparankunram Hills. Towards the end of the poem, there is a soul-stirring description of a waterfall which roars down from the Palamutircolai. The last 22 lines of Tirumurukarruppatai is nothing but the description of the waterfall. The Tamil term muruku means Lord Murukan as well as beauty. The aptness of these two meanings will not leave the minds of those who read this wonderful devotional poem.


The lay Porunararruppatai, which extols the greatness of the Cola King, Karikalan, contains 248 lines. From this poem one knows the cordiality that existed between the Cola king and the bards and minstrels and the importance of River Kaveri. It also describes the alluring features of yal music.


The lay Cirupanarruppatai which portrays the poverty of a minstrel's family, has 269 lines. The description of the minstrel's house sheds light on the distress of the family.


The lay Perumpanarruppatai portrays a minstrel's family. The poem has 500 lines. It speaks about the greatness of Tontaiman Ilantiraiyan's rule at Kancipuram, his country, the harbour town, the light-house, and the fertility of the mountain region.


The lay Malaipatukatam gives an account of a dancer-cum-actor's family. It has 583 lines. The poem has another name Kuttararruppatai, which means a lay that guides dancers and actors to a munificient patron. It explains various sounds that emanate from a mountainous region. The phrase malaipatukatam taken from the poem has been considered very striking The mountain is metaphorically compared to an elephant and the sounds emanating from the mountain is again compared to the secretion oozing from the mountain. As such the phrase Malaipatukatam has a poetic appeal. The poem describes the artistic life of dancers and actors as well as the musical instruments used by them.


Among the love poems in the Pattuppattu anthology, Mullaippattu and Kurincippattu are unique ones. There is no intention to praise any king or munificent patron. Likewise neither a country nor a city is described. The main aim is to explain human love, the basic theme of akam poems. Mullaippattu is the shortest poem in the Pattuppattu anthology and has only 103 lines. The essential theme of mullaittinai poems is to highlight the patience and self-control shown by a heroine, till her warrior husband returns from a successful military campaign.


It is an amatory idyll of 261 lines. It narrates the pre-marital love of two young people living in a hilly region. Their love is not known to their parents. The hero encounters many obstacles in keeping up his nocturnal trysts with his lady love. If he fails to meet her, the heroine becomes love-lorn. Her love sickness is misconstrued as illness by her parents and they seek remedy for it. The maids intervene and reveal in an appropriate manner the real cause of the sickness to the heroine's mother. Towards the end of the poem, the poet describes the heroine's eyes as brimmed with tears. The famous poet, Kapilaris is said to have composed the poem to impart the Tamil literary tradition to Pirakattan, a king of Northern India.


This is a poem on the theme of human love in the Pattuppattu anthology. It depicts the hero's separation from the heroine, which is in fact the main theme of Palaittinai. The poem not only highlights the importance of Kavirippumpattinam as the primary port-city of the Tamil country but also glorifies the celebrated Cola king, Karikalan. His spear and sceptre which are used as similes, afford the opportunity for the poet to glorify his prowess as well as his justice. Likewise his harbour-town Kavirippumpattinam is also praised in this poem. Though the central theme of the poem is human love, much of the space is devoted to glorify the Cola king and the Cola capital.


Netunalvatai is an interesting poem in 188 lines on the theme of human love. The heroic king is away in the winter camp facing many foes, while the queen in the palace is plunged in grief due to separation. The palace maids try to console her. They pray to Korravai, the goddess of victory, that she should grant the king, who is at the winters camp with a mission, a quick victory in the battle in order to rejoin his love-lorn lady. This is the central theme of the poem.


This is the longest poem in the Pattupattu anthology. It contains 782 lines. One can notice different types of description of Madurai, one of the ancient cities in the Tamil country. The celebrated hero of the poem is Netunceliyan, a king of the Pandya dynasty. The purpose of Kancittinai is to point out the impermanence of wordly life and urge people to pursue a path of righteousness. Since this is part of the training imparted to the monarch living in Madurai, the poem is called Matturaikkanci. The poet, besides instructing the monarch, blesses that his victories should increase like the waxing moon on the west while the greatness of his foes should decrese like the wailing moon on the east.


Tolkappiyam is a grammatical treatise. It lays down rules for the different types of poetic composition. These rules were of course extracted from books which existed earlier than the author. The name of the author is Tholkappiar.

Tholkappiyam treats of only iyal Tamil. It is divided into three books - eluttu (orthography), sol (etymology) and porul (subject matter). Some scholars are fond of tracing most of the contents of the first two books to Sanskrit sources but the third book, porul, is wholly the author's own - in conception, classification, and elaboration. Each of the books contains nine chapters, the number of nurpa in the books is 483, 464 and 652 respectively.

Tradition says that Tolkappiyam was published in the court of Nilam taru tiruvir Padiya, when Atankottasan presided. Panamparanar wrote the introduction or commendatory verse for the book. Both Atankottasan and Panamparanar, along with Tolkappiyar, were students of Agastya. Many centuries later, another writer composed a general preface to the book. Panamparanar's introduction says that Tolkappiyar was well versed in the Aindravyakarana of Sanskrit, that book is not available; but Tolkappiyam clearly indicates that its author was familiar with the Sanskrit rules on grammar. He has made rules in his books for absorbing Sanskrit words.

The first book deals with letters. The classes of the letters, the place of the letters, the place of origin of the sounds, and the coalescence of letters when words come together form the subject of the nine sections of this book.

The second book deals with words. Its nine sections deal with the class of words (denoting higher or lower beings or things), gender and conventions, the cases and their import, the vocative case in particular, exceptions, then words of action, the particle and adjectives and adverbs; the last section deals with the four kind of words - the common or natural words, borrowed words, indigenous literary words and words of Sanskrit origin, and their significance. He mentions the Sen -Tamil territory as twelve. These are not clearly known now. The three ruling dynasties are also referred to. Tolkappiyar confined borrowed words to the twelve regional territories. Later the author of Nannul added the traditional eighteen territories also.

The third book is Porul adhikaram. Of its nine sections, five deals with aham, one with puram, one each with similes, prosody and idioms. The Tamilian convention of classifying physiographical regions as the four - kurinji, mullai, marutam and neidal and specifying the people who live there, their general pursuits, the seasons and the daily hours which are special to each region, the emotion of love that is most applicable to each region, the natural setting, animals and birds and the deities - starts from Tolkappiyam. The author does not consider palai -the desert region - as the fifth region. Its classification as the fifth has been adopted much later. Though Tolkappiyar held the regions as only four, he held the conventional conduct in love poetry, tinai, to be five. Along with these five - aintinai, he added two more, one - sided love (kaikkilai) and improper love (perum tinai). This classification has been adopted by later writers and no one has bettered it. The regions and the conventional conduct in the love theme is symbolized by five flowers - kurinji the hills, mullai the forest, marutam - patient waiting under separation; neidal - waiting on account of separation; and palai - the woes of separation.

Just as aham also means a house and a domestic life, its external counterpart puram means mostly war in the ancient past. The activities connected with war are also grouped into seven categories or tinai. War generally commences with the agressor marching into the enemy's country and capturing his herds of cattle. There were in war certain ethical codes, which laid down that the cows and some similiar objects are not to be hurt, and so this preventive action. Flowers are always associated with the war activities. Eight flowers are mentioned. The raiding forces which capture the herds wear the vetci (ixora) flowers as a symbol of their raid, and so on. Corresponding to the laurel which is a symbol of victory, the eighth one is vahai (albizzia).

Among the other chapters of the book, that on prosody is important. It had evolved into a separate and full division of Tamil grammar. The term used to denote poetry was seyyul and according to the author it means not only verse, but many other types of composition. However such types do not have any wide currency. The elegance of poetic composition, vanappu, is said to be eight by Tolkappiyar.

The chapter on marapu is important. It records many literary conventions for posterity. Many of them have passed out of use, but yet it has helped in the evolution of the later nighantu (lexicon) writing.

A grammarian is normally concerned with the letters and syntax. It is indeed unique that Tolkappiyar has taken up the study of the subject matter of poetry in his grammatical treatise.

Tamil Rhetoric

Rhetoric is the branch of grammar dealing with ornamentation of expression in speech and writing. It is called 'alankara' in Sanskrit and 'ani' in Tamil. The term is not known to Tolkappiyar, but he does deal with the figure uvamai (similes) in detail. When at a later stage Tamil was considered to have the five branches of analytical grammar, ani was placed as the fifth branch. Virasoliyam (11th century) is the only early treatise which deals with the five parts in detail, but one finds a treatise on ani by the name of Aniiyal of the 8th century. The book is not extant today, but a few citations from there are available. These seem to indicate that the work was purely of Tamil origin. Virasoliyam confesses that it borrows everything from the Sanskrit Kavyadarsam of Dandi.

A later writer, given the same name Dandi, after the Sanskrit writer, has composed the Tamil Dandi Alankaram, which is the most widely used text on the subject today. Figures of speech here are principally of two categories: one which goes by the sense and the other which goes by the sound alone. All figures like the simile, metaphor etc., come under the first and it is the one which gives beauty to expression and meaning. Pun and such like figures which create an effect only through sound are of a lower order of figures. Dandi deals with both. The second category had come to hold the field, when petty poets sought the patronage of small local chieftains, on the disappearance of the three royal princes in Tamilnadu and of their patronage.

Maran Alankaram, an original work and Kuvnalayanandam, adaptation from a Sanskrit source, are two important manuals on the subject written in the 16th and the 19th centuries, but they had never gained great popularity. Maran Alankaram is a very ambitious work, written by a gifted author who had himself written all the examples for his figures. Usually in Dandi and all the other grammatical treatises, the commentaries and their citations are even more valuable than the treatises themselves.


There are many lexicographical books called Nighantu, in the Tamil language, dating from the ninth century. Some word meanings were indicated in Tolkappiyam, in the Uri iyal (qualifying words,) Itai iyal (particles) and Marapiyal (literary usage) sections. The words listed and explained are only 120. The first full-fledged lexicon is Divakaram of Divakarar. It consists of twelve sections, the first ten dealing with different class vocabularies, the eleventh dealing with homonyms and the twelfth dealing with group names. What one generally calls a dictionary as the subject matter of section eleven. The first ten sections conform to the treatment contained in a modern thesaurus. The subject matter of the first ten sections is -celestial beings and bodies, human beings and the organs of the body, animals , plants, places, natural objects, tools , qualities; actions, sounds and words. This general arrangement of subject matter seems to have been conveniently adopted by all the later lexicographers.

Pingalantai is the second nighantu. It is more elaborate and it is also the subject arrangement of Divakaram. The number of words dealt with in this is about 15,000 as against 10,000 in Divakaram.

The next important nighantu is Cudamani nighantu of Mandala Puruda. He follows Divakaram in his arrangement of the subject matter but has written his work in the viruttam metre as against the ahaval or blank verse of the other. Viruttam lent itself to a little singing and so was easy of memorising.

Next to Cudamani nighantu, two other books deserve mention here. One is Aharadi nighantu, by Revana siddha. Here the author has dropped the subject classification and adopted a new arrangement, where the words defined occur as the first words in each nurpa (verse), in the alphabetical order. He coined the term aharadi to denote this arrangement of an alphabetical order and the term has stuck. The modern aharadi, the name for a dictionary, is an application of this term. Another book is Porul tohai nighantu of a much later period, which deals only with group names.


The first Dictionary was compiled by Supradipa kavirayar for Beschi. It contained four sections and was called Catur aharadi. This did away with the ancient arrangement of the subject matter and listed all the words into one series arranged in the strictly alphabetical order. The first part is the ordinary modern dictionary; the second dealt with synonyms, the third with group names, and the fourth was a dictionary of rhymes.

The most outstanding dictionary in modern times is of course the Tamil Lexicon, prepared under the auspices of the Madras University and completed with a supplement in 1939. It gives meanings as usual with all grammatical features, and illustrative quotations. The meanings are arranged generally in a chronological sequence. Since the lexicon work was started with an English man at the head, it gives not only English meanings, but also an English transliteration. It is indeed a great work. All credit goes to its learned and selfless editor Vaiyapuri Pillai.


Tirukkural is universally acclaimed as the greatest Tamil classic. It has 'two aspects to its greatness - the most profound thought on the most baffling problems of existence and the most astounding economy of words and finish of style. Kural is the one book in Tamil about which thousands of pages have been written, both in Tamil and in English. But unfortunately, every thing about Kural is uncertain - the author, his place, his class in society, his religion, his age, his profession in life.

The Author

Jains say that the author of Thirukural was a Jain preceptor by name - Kunda kundacarya and that he was not Tiruvalluvar. Others have said that he was a friend of a merchant named Elelasinga. One has to dismiss all such stories of fiction, as fantastic myths. One legend says he was born in Mylapore, another says he took his books to the Tamil Sangham at Madurai to get its seal of approval. Both these do not ring true and yet there is no improbability in them. The first legend says that he was a cataway child, of the lowest class in society. The term valluvar signifies a member of that community, a state public drummer. A verse in the Tiruvalluvamalai even goes to the extent of saying that 'the ignorant would say that he was a member of the valluvar tribe but sensible persons would ignore the statement.'

Many writers including Vaiyapuri Pillai presume that the author is a Jain. The Jain way of life was one of total negation. The Jain sect in the Tamil country was one which considered woman as a snare, a hindrance to spiritual advancement. The woman of Kural is the noblest of beings, an equal partner with man. Besides, in the third book of his Kural the author extolls life with woman so much that it is entirely out of place in any Jain scheme of things. According to legend, the author was not an ascetic but a house-holder, who enjoyed the greatest domestic felicity with his wife Vasuki, who was the sweetest flower of womanhood.

Kural means short. It is a variant of the venba metre and has only two lines, having four and three feet in each line. The book takes its name from the metre. The kural venba is not an easy type of metre. There is a specific arrangement in the linking of the feet of the verses (called ven-talai), which has to be scrupulously adhered to. Besides, there is a rhyme and alliteration. Though the author does not very much adhere to these, he is very particular to see that if the first word of both the lines in each couplet does not rhyme together and the first and the last words of the first line rhyme together. Besides, the kural venba has an internal rhythm and cadence which are born not only out of the sound arrangement but also by the thought content. The author has achieved this in a full measure.

It is called Tiruk-kura. Tiru (sacred) is a Tamil prefix added to express the people's high esteem of work. It consists of three books and 133 chapters, with ten verses to each chapter. The first four chapters are a kind of preface. The first book, Arattupal has 38 chapters (including the preface), the second Porulpal 70 chapters, and the third Kamattupal, 25 chapters. The work may thus be seen to be arranged in the traditional manner of the first three goals of life. The fourth goal, liberation, has not been separately dealt with by the author. He seems to imply that one who leads a righteous life will eventually obtain release on the natural culmination of this life.

Kural lays down a code of ethics which is universal and at the same time eternal. In the porutpal, he draws up an ideal code for rulers and administrators.In the third part, he speaks of love, a union of two souls which transcends the body. There is absolutely no element of vulgarity. Physical love has never been exalted and any one can be allowed to study this part without the least hesitation that its thoughts may taint the young mind. The first book deals with aram or dharma in general, the second with polity and administration, and the last book with the theme of love.


The first chapter of the available book is an invocation to God. Here the writer does not refer to any particular god, but refers to Him indirectly, in involved terms. Gandhi's philosophy of life lies in the two words-Non-violence and Truth. Kural enunciates the same two in a single verse, in the same order: 'Non-killing (non-violence is the supreme virtue: If you want a second one, follow truth (non-falsehood).To Kural, as to Gandhi, righteousness is not a mere end, it is the means also, it is life. The present age of reason has well been anticipated by him. He enjoins man to test everything by his reason - whatever may be the subject, whoever may have said it. Rituals had been there in his day, but he transcends them all and pleads for a purity of the heart. Fate was then a much malingned term. He holds forth the hope that even fate can be beaten hollow by undaunted effort. Surely, the insistence on work and a confidence in its success is a gospel for all time. Kural lays great emphasis on education. Not content with one chapter it devotes three chapters to this subject, besides one on eloquence.


The thoughts of Kural in the second book, deals with polity and administration. The author does not make any mention of any of the ruling dynasties in Tamilnadu. But one knows that democracy was unknown in those days and the three crowned monarchs ruled the land. Yet his dictum pronounced for the edification of kings holds good with equal force even in the days of a democratic republic. It is not arms that secure victory for the state, it is the just rule, where the ruler demands money from the subjects. It is just a highway robbery.

There should be the dread of punishment (for wrong doing) but severe punishment should not be inflicted. The king should restrain his anger where he can expend it. Certainly there is no point in restraining it where (as in the case of a superior power) it cannot be exercised. The chapters on time and place for the efforts of the king cannot be bettered. There is also an interesting chapter on state intelligence. The chapters on valour and heroism can stand comparison with similar sangham poetry. There is also a chapter on what was once known as the 'fifth column' activity and sabotage.

There is a chapter on medicine - its thoughts hold good, even under the greatest advances today in medical science.


The third book is on love themes. The 25 chapters in this book have been distributed into the traditional two divisions, clandestine love and married love. Although the author tries to follow the concepts of love in the sangham poetry, there is considerable departure from that tradition. Some of the verses are supreme love poetry, just penned down in four or five words. Often a whole drama is enacted in these words. All the words are utterances of dramatic characters and hence their suggestion and artistic appeal is all the greater. Similar emotional expression cannot be found in the sangham poetry either.

Kamattuppal, the third book, is sufficient to show that the author lived a most happy and felicitous domestic life.

It is remarkable that the author has written here a treatise on life in all its aspects - a charter for mankind which applies with equal force today, nearly twenty centuries after it was written. It bids fair to apply with the same force for many a century, till eternity. Its relevance is not only to Tamilnadu, not only to the Hindu fold, but to the whole world, speaking various languages and following different faiths. Though the charter was made by a man, it applies with equal force to woman also. It lays bare the inmost recesses of the heart and that is the secret of its relevance.

The Epics

Silappadhikaram and Manimekhalai, are called the Twin Epics.


Silapadhikaram, tells the story of the anklet. It is hailed as the first epic poem in the Tamil language. It is in the asiriyam metre, the metre in which most of the sangham poetry was written. The occurrence of the story is placed in the three cities Puhar (Kaverip-Pattinam), Madurai and Vanji, which were the capitals of the Cholas, the Pandiyas and the Seras. Accordingly it is divided into the three respective cantos. Kannaki, the daughter of a rich merchant in Puhar is married to Kovalan, the son of another rich merchant there. The story of these two is Silappadhikaram.

Kovalan is enchanted by a young dancing girl, Madhavi, in the king's court and forsaking Kannaki, he lives with Madhavi. A girl is born to them. The two move to the beach in the course of the Indiravila national festival and there they sing love-songs to the accompaniment of the yal. From Madhavi's song, Kovalan suspects, quite wrongly of course, that she is in love with another, and deserting her, he returns to Kannaki. He had till that day spent all his wealth and all the jewels of Kannaki in the pursuit of pleasure with Madhavi. Kannaki, as the dutiful Hindu wife that she really was, offers him her anklets, which were the only trinkets now left with her. Kovalan, who is now wholly crest-fallen, proposes to sell them in Madurai and engage in business there so that he may again acquire riches. So, taking Kannaki with him, he marches out of the city at night. On the way, they are befriended by Kaunti Adigal, a Jain nun, who acts as a sort of chaperon for Kannaki.

On reaching, Madurai Kaunti leaves them both in the care of a woman of the cowherd's class. An earlier dream makes Kovalan very uneasy. He leaves for the city bazaar to sell one anklet. He is met by a goldsmith who had stolen the queen's anklet. Planning to foist his theft on innocent Kovalan, the goldsmith seeks the king's presence. The king is just then irked by the sulking queen, who is angry that he evinced undue interest in the dance of a girl in the royal court just then. When the jeweler tells him of the stolen anklet, the king intending to say, 'bring him to be killed', actually says, 'kill him and bring the anklet here,' out of an apparent anxiety to please the queen. The words of the jeweler could not convince the executioners that Kovalan was a thief, but one among them, a hasty drunkard, fells Kovalan with a sweep of his sword. (Theft was punished with beheading in those days.) The news spreads fast and, in the cowherd's quarters, they see many ill omens. The news reaches them. Kannaki rushes to the court to prove her husband's innocence. As she goes along the city streets crying and challenging, the Sun god replies: "Your husband is no thief; fire will consume this city which called him a thief". She sees the lifeless body of Kovalan. The body comes to life. Kovalan embraces her and leaving her there, departs to a celestial abode. She meets the king, accuses him of unjustly killing her husband, and shows him her other anklet.

The Pandiya is famous as the producer of pearls. His queen's anklet would naturally have encased a pearl in its core: but Kannaki's anklet contained a ruby. Seeing it, the king realises his injustice and instantly gives up his life. The queen follows. Kannaki, not yet appeased, plucks her left breast and throws it at the city. The god of fire appears and at her command consumes the city. She leaves the city, goes west, and from the top of a hill in the Kongu country, she ascends to the celestial regions.

The happenings in the Sera land form the third part. The hill tribes who witness her ascent to the heavens from their hill, report it to the Sera King, Senkuttuvan. Induced by his queen, he plans to install an image of Kannaki for worship and so takes out an expedition to the Himalayas to bring a stone for carving out the image. Vanquishing two princes in the north who jeered at the Tamils, he brings the stone on their heads. When the temple is consecrated, a vision of Kannaki appears. She is now fully-appeased. Many princes go there to worship her, including Gajabahu from Ceylon.

Ilango Adigal, brother of Seran Senkuttuvan, was with him when the hill people narrated the ascension of Kannaki to the heavens and when the poet Sattan, who was present, narrated to them her full story. He requested Ilango to write her story in the form of an epic, suited to the three ruling houses, saying that he himself had already written the story of the daughter of Madhavi. Thereupon Ilango wrote this poem to illustrate these truths.

The poem as it is today consists of three books and thirty chapters. The metre employed is the asiriyam, but throughout the book there are many musical pieces written in different metres. They form an important part of the book. The dance of Madhavi which is the origin of the entire story has been elaborated by the author to such an extent that the poem itself has come to be called a dramatic epic. Later, musical pieces are introduced in the poem as song sung by the hunters, the cowherds and the hill tribes. Other songs are the song of the ball game, the pestle, the swing and so on. Naturally these lead to the conclusion that the author took the motifs for these from the folk-songs current in his time at various levels.

Silappadhikaram is a tragedy which reaches its climax with the burning of the city of Madurai by Kannaki. But the Indian tradition of art and letters would not consider tragedy as the end of any art and so the story in the third part was invented and probably added on much later, bringing together many popular stories, and some fact and more fiction. The author is never mentioned in the first two books but the third gives his biography and makes him a contemporary of Sattan, who is said to be a personal witness of some of the happenings in the story. With the addition of the Vanjik kandam, what was mere fiction has been sought to be made into history, and Kannaki is made into a historical figure. Passions have been aroused and Kannaki is hailed as the flower of the Dravidian culture.

The three books, Kural, Silappadhikaram and Kamba Ramayanam are considered to be the choicest products of the Tamil Muse and deservedly so. The author bestows generous praise on the Chola and the Pandiya (and on the Sera in the third part) and in this sense it is an epic for the three ruling dynasties of Tamilnadu. It is the only book extant dealing with the three divisions of Tamil-iyal, isai and natakam. It deals with all the regions dealt with in Tamil grammar and speaks at length of people in all classes of society. No other work brings out the joys and aspirations of the lower classes as vividly as this epic. The fact that its heroine and hero are taken not from royalty, but from the common people, is significant. Another feature is the reverence shown by the author to all systems of religion. He speaks of Siva, of Muruga, of Visnu, of Sakti, and of Arha as though he is an ardent devotee of each particular god. His devotion transcends clannishness. Such catholicity is rare in later literature. As already noted, Silappadhikaram is unique, as perhaps the only tragedy in Tamil literary history.

The poem quotes Kural and so its age can be only later than Kural. One point is that it could not have been composed during the Kalabhra period, that is between 250 to 600 A.D. Probably one may assign the period about 2000 to 2500 A.D. as the date for the main Silappadhikaram text.


Manimekhalai is considered to be an epic also and a sequel to Silappadhikaram. Manimekhalai was the daughter of Madhavi and Kovalan. When he was unjustly killed, she resolved that her own daughter should no more take part in dances. But her own mother felt that it was not proper for a dancer to abandon her profession, and so helped Udayakumara, the prince of the land, to court her. Manimekhalai on the other hand would follow her own mother's advice and would have nothing to do with him. When he importunes her, her guardian angel, Manimekhalai after whom she was herself named, lifts her up by air to a distant place, endows her with some super human powers and causes her to come by a magic bowl which, when filled by the hand of a chaste lady, would go on issuing food eternally. There is a famine in the land which she helps to relieve with her bowl. To avoid the attentions of the prince again, she takes on the guise of a well known woman there, whose husband coming on the scene, finds the prince pursuing her, and thinking it is his wife, kills him. The Prince's mother gets angry with Manimekhalai and tries to harm her in several ways, but she always escapes. She then learns the various schools of philosophy. While thus engaged she learns that the city of Kaverippattinam, capital of the Cholas and her mother's place, was washed away by the sea. She then goes to Kancipuram. Aravana Adigal, an enlightened Buddhist seer and saint, teaches her the Buddhist philosophy. She then performs tapas (or penance) to end all future births.

The story of Manimekhalai is all a jumble. There is no plot, no hero and she is herself a very poor heroine. The only purpose of the poem is to propagate the Buddhist religion and philosophy. In this the author has achieved a certain amount of success. In this aspect, namely that of religious disputation, this poem is the fore-runner of many such later writing. Chapters 27 and 29 of the book, dealing with the heroine's learning of other religions and the Buddhist religion, are a mine of information on Buddhist logic and philosophy, which are not to be found elsewhere in the Tamil language.

The book, like Silappadhikaram, is in the asiriyam metre and contains the same number of thirty chapters (over 4800 lines). There the similarity ends. This book does not deal with mut-Tamil. It does not deal with the three ruling kingdoms, it does not speak about the need for the king to uphold a just rule nor about the homage of the great to the chaste woman. It speaks no doubt of Karma and how it will bear fruit in subsequent births. It refers to more than a score of puranic legends. It does not employ any other metre anywhere, except the asiriyam. It does not have musical pieces. It does not pay homage to other gods and deities as Silappadhikaram ungrudgingly does. But it praises Buddha and there are some good Iyrical poems.

Though Manimekhalai rufutes nine schools of thought, its chief target for attack is the Jain school. The author is very intolerant in ridiculing the Jain religion.

Sattan is said to be the author of this poem. The epithets Kulavanikan (trader in groceries) and Sittalai are two epithets generally employed to qualify the name Sattan. As noted earlier, this poem makes good poetry in places, but is hardly conceivable as an epic as one understands it. Though it has no story interest, the fact remains that it is woven round the wanderings of a woman. Manimekhalai could have been composed by about 600 A.D.


Minor poems in the venba metre had come to be written during the immediate post-sangham period. These are now generally known as the Eighteen Kilk-Kanakku. The poems were written mostly during the different years between the limits 250 A.D. and 700 A.D.

On the subject of ethics: 11 books: Tirukkural, Nanmanikkadigai, Tirikadugam, Sirupancamulam, Eladi, Inna narpatu, Iniya narpatu, Naladi, Palamoli nanuru, Mudu molik-kanji and Acararak-kovai.

On the subject of aham: 6 books: Aintinai aimbatu, Aintinai elupatu, Tinaimoli Aimbatu, Tinaimalai nurraimpatu, Kainnilai and Kar narpatu.

On the the subject of Puram: one book: Kalavali narpatu.

The major portion of the eighteen books deals with ethics. They are called kil because they were supposed to deal with basic ethics - code of conduct, basic for human social living (kil - base). The Eight Anthologies (Ettut-tohai) are collections of poems by many poets, while the Kilk-kanakku is the work of a single author. There is no compiler here.

Aintinai 50 deals with the five conventional regional themes of kurinji etc., with ten verses to each tinai. Its eulogistic verse says that men who do not know the poems may not know the sweetness of the Tamil language. Aintinai 70 has in like manner 14 verses to a tinai. This is superior to the previous book in respect of language and style. Tinaimoli 50 has ten verses to the tinai and is written in a good style. Tinai malai 150 is perhaps on the model of Kalittohai. It contains 153 verses, at the rate of 30 or 31 verses to each tinai. Its author is the one who wrote Eladi. Since the size of this poem is much larger than the other two, many interesting passages and references are found here. Some new words used in this work helps one to fix its date as the first half of the 7th century. Kainnilai, of 60 verses, is available only in fragments. Its title might have been Aintinai 60, in uniformity with the first two here mentioned.

All of them, no doubt, treat, pre-marital love but their treatment is generally conventional. This is because of the artificial arrangement of a particular number of verse for each tinai and perhaps because of the venba metre which gives a feeling of stiffness and affectation, against the free flow and artistic ease of the asiriyam metre of the poems like Kuruntohai, Narrinai and Aha nanuru.

Kar-narpatu is a poem of forty verses all dealing with the literary conventions associated with kar, the rainy season. The tinai set apart for the purpose is the forest region. The subject matter is the - love sick maid who is staying at home, awaiting the return of her husband, the hero, at the appointed time, namely the advent of the rains. She is despondent, as there is no sign of his return. The verses are in the nature of the maid's comrade consoling her that her lover will arrive soon. Though there are some good verses, monotony could not be avoided.

Kalvali narpatu the last book to be noticed belongs to the group puram. From the point of view of its date, it has taxed the brains of all scholars to the utmost. It deals with a real battle field, perhaps the only poem of its kind in the language. The traditional belief is that the poet Poihai sang it in order to please Ko-cengat-chola, who took Seraman Kanaikkal Irumporai prisoner in a pitched battle at a place called Por, and in order thereby to secure the release of the Seraman who was a friend of the poet. All the verses end with the words, 'in the battle-field where the Chola defeated his foe'. Though the resulting monotony could not be avoided, the poem has considerable merits to recommend it. Unlike the subjects in earlier Puram poems, which always speak of the virtue of giving and similar ethical topics, this poem has pointed out deals with a pitched battle and in that sense is unique.


The two greatest literary achievements of the Tamil muse are Tirukkural and Kamba Ramayanam. Kambar, the king of Tamil Literature and the Emperor of Poesy as he is often called, was to say the least, the result of penances, tapas, performed by the Tamil Muse for ages. His Ramayana marks the crowning glory of Tamil literary production. However, the position was quite complicated for him. First, the choice of a subject. He could have easily written a new story, but the adaption of an existing story was simpler. He easily chose the Ramayana because the story here, unlike the Mahabharata ,was simple. It revolved around only three characters; the hero Rama, the heroine Sita, and the villain (in the twentieth century parlance) Ravana. Given these chief actors, Kambar had a canvas spacious enough to paint his epic. The story of the Ramayana was everybody's property. So when Kambar narrates it, the discerning reader may be expected to observe the manner of his narration, and not the story itself.

Kambar took the story of the Ramayana from Valmiki and has acknowledged it. The Vaisnava canon had also helped him with not a few delicate embellishments. The entire story, its narration and presentation, all the characters, their behaviour pattern, the situations and the drama, are all his own. The mere fact that the first poet in Sanskrit, Valmiki, gave the outline of the story to Kambar does not mean that the Tamil book is a translation. The Tamil book is entirely different from Sanskrit in respect of every-thing except perhaps the names of the characters and the outline of the story-different in plot, in construction, in place, in age, in culture, in physical environment, in human relationship and in accepted values and ideals.

Following the footsteps of the Alvars and the Nayanmars, Kambar has absolute command over the art of versification. He always has his fingers on the pulse of the people and his vocabulary, be it Tamil or Sanskritic, echoes the beating of this pulse. The dramatic situations on every page in the narrative has a short play. Characters appear, speak or act. The story works up to a pitch; and suddenly there is a curtainfall. The curtainfall is objectively perceivable as on a stage. Kambar is a great master in this technique of stage management. Combined with this management is the dialogue.

Characterization is the chief forte of Kambar. Every character in the epic has a personality of his or her own and in a couple of words the person can be identified. No one is too small for Kambar in this regard. Mantarai, the Kuni, Sumitrai and so many other minor characters come to life at a magic touch from the poet and it is not as though characterization has been attempted only with the major characters like Rama, Sita, Hanuman or Kumbhakarna.

The Ramayana of course consists of six books or kandas making up a total of more than ten thousand verses. The last book, the Yuddha kanda is naturally very large, the length of all the other Kandas put together. The epic begins with a description of the state and the city, and Rama's birth, and ends with the crowning of Rama after Ravana is slain and sita is rescued.

There has been no other Ramayana in any language after Valmiki and before Kambar. This is natural because in all the languages of India, the evolution of literature took place long after the days of Kambar. His Ramayana had so impressed learned men that they called him the most learned of poets. His book seems to have been widely popular in the neighbouring linguistic areas of Andhra, Kannada and Kerala. Kamba Ramayana discourses had been conducted in these areas and the princes and others had created many endowments for remunerating the exponents of Kamba Ramayana there. For eleven centuries since it was written, it has remained a potent force for shaping the education, culture and religious faith of the Tamilnadu in particular and South India in general. Kamba Ramayana discourses still continue to attract thousands of people from all ranks of society, who are thrilled by the songs. Kambar will live for ever, because his voice is the voice of Eternity.


Among the group of the eighteen minor poems, the Kilk-kanakku, have found eleven poems which are ethical and didactic in content. The main feature of these poems is that they were all sung in the venba metre (except Mudumolikkanji which is in the asiriyam). The foremost among the group is Kural. Chief among the others is Naladi nanuru, the four hundred quartrains. The suffix ar in the popular name of the work, Naladiyar, indicates the esteem in which it was held among the learned. The book is considered a joint production of many Jain monks and there seems to be considerable truth in the statement that it was salvaged from the river Vaigai, when these verses alone proved their literary worth in the religious disputation between the Saiva Saint Jnana Sambandha and the Jains. The reference to Muttaraiyar in two verses in Naladi, places the book in the middle of the seventh century and makes it no doubt contemporaneous with Jnana Sambandha. The poems were collected together by Padumanar, many centuries later, and arranged into chapters on the model of Kural. There is not much continuity of thought or unity of the subject in the chapters. This is but natural, since they were merely an artificial later arrangement of isolated ethical writing. Naladi makes no mention of God. It is entirely puritanic in nature and a strong vein of ascelticism runs through the entire poem, as against the fulness and abundance, and the felicitous harmony of home life, extrolled in Kural. Several verses in it are indeed of good poetic quality but it is generally thrown into the shade only by the predominant beauty and elgance, baffling crispness and powerful vigour of Kural.

Kural speaks of a positive joy and an enjoyment of life, while Naladi preaches a negation of life. Hence in any scheme of things which glorifies living, it cannot but take a subordinate position.


Palamoli nanuru is modelled on Naladi both in its poetic diction and its subject content. Munrurai Araiyar, its author was a Jain. In the last line of each of its four hundred verses, he has placed a short, crisp and telling proverb which has currency in popular usage even today. The proverb generally epitomizes the thought expressed in the other three lines of the verse. Though the inclusion of a proverb has imposed an additional stress on the versification of the poet, he has succeeded to a certain extent in evolving a tolerable amount of good poetry. The book is naturally a mine of puranic anecdotes and legends, which illustrate the proverbs.


Nanmanik-katigai is a shorter work of 103 verses, perhaps earlier in point of time than the two previous books. Its name suggests that it is a necklace of four gems strung together. It also signifies that each of its verses contains four statements. The poem is of considerable poetic merit, superior to Palamoli and it had given rise to several similar works. Many of its statements have passed into the folk-lore of the Tamils. Such had been its great force and vitality. From a quotation in a venba at the end of Silappadhikaram (chapter 20), it may be argued that Nanmanik-katigai is earlier than the epic. But since it is held that Silappadhikara venbas are later additions, this point is not tenable.


Tirikadukam, sirupanca mulam and Eladi along with Inna narpatu and Iniya narpatu, are also ethical poems modelled on Nanmani. The first three profess to make three, five and six statements respectively in each venba. Tirikadukam makes some good poetry but the other two display much of artificial stain. Unlike Nanmani, whose name suggests gems, the names of these three suggest three, five and six medical ingredients or herbs. The idea is that just as these ingredients help to keep the body healthy and to cure ailments, the thoughts in these books help man to have a healthy and ethical behaviour in life. Each of these poems evidently had been planned as one of a hundred verses which the first two now have. But Eladi has only 80 verses now.

Inna narpatu and Iniya narpatu, as their names indicate, contain 40 verses each, each verse having bitter truths and sweet truths mentioned in their respective verses. The first makes four statements in each verse. Iniya however has four statements upto its fifth verse and then has only three. All the statements are wise observations on life, many of them tersely and arrestingly told. Along with two other poems Kar narpatu and Kalavali narpatu, the four together are known as the Four Forties.

Two other books in the 18 Kil-kanakku groups are didactic in character-Mudumolik-kanji and Acarak-kovai. The first book contains so to say ten verses, where each verse is of ten lines again, each line mentioning a particular kind of truth or observation on life. The ten verses deal with things superior, which can be known, things which are not to be ridiculed, which will not prosper, which are not what they profess to be, are the worst, are false, are easy, are poor and are never ignored. Each thought is expressed in a single line of four feet, having an internal rhyme and alliteration and as such it easily arrests the imagination. Each line in the verse has the same ending. The poem has inspired later similar works such as Konrai vendan and Verri-verkai in distant centuries.

Acarak-kovai strikes a different note. It lays down a semi-spiritual course, which disciplines the individual and teaches him good manners and good conduct in life. It is also a poem of a hundred venbas but its venbas are often of three lines and occasionally more than four also. Its concern is the good behaviour of the individual in the home and in society, and also hygiene and sanitation in society. Scholars have sought to establish that the author had taken his ideas from the smritis but this is not correct. Agamas existed long before the smritis. The Upanisads and the Agamas are two branches from the same stem, the Vedas. Many of the thoughts of the Acarak-kovai on hygiene and good manners are no doubt reminiscent of the Agamic thought. Most of the thoughts of the poem have full relevance even today, after twelve centuries of its writing.


The most popular and prolific writer of ethical maxims is Avvai, the most revered and loved poetess of the 12th century. Her Attisudi and Konrai vendan state the eternal truths and the perennial wisdom of ages in the most cryptic language. They are so simple and real, so artistic and homely, that almost all the lines have passed into the folklore of the Tamil people. Attisudi consists of 108 short lines, arranged in the alphabetical order, each line having only two feet. Here the author lists all rules for an upright and useful life in society. Often she summarises in one line or two words, what Kural says in one couplet. Konrai-vendan belongs to the same order, of 91 single lines of four feet each, having a melodious internal rhyme. Though crisp, the lines have a superior poetic quality in them. Though they remind one of Mudumolik-kanji, they are freer and happier, because here there is no monotony of the need to conform to a central theme. Each line is a jewel, well cut and polished and set.

Equally popular are two other poems of Avvai, Mudurai and Nalvali, of 30 and 40 venbas each. They are, in general, observations on life and speak of moral truths, instructive for the young and the old alike. The first is more general in content, while the second lays greater emphasis on karma and spiritual matters. The two poems serve as introductions to the study of poetry by the young in the primary standards of schools.


It is remarkable that the venba metre has been chosen as the best form for moral instruction verses, throughout all the centuries beginning even from Kural. Right up to the 19th century one finds almost all didactic and ethical literature written in this metre. Araneric-caram, the longest poem of this type after the three Kilk-kanakku works Kural, Naladi and Palamoli, was written in the 13th century by a Jain author. It has 226 venbas and some of them are in simple and telling language, dealing with ethics of a general nature. Prince Ativirarama Pandiya wrote his Naruntohai (other wise known as Verri-verkai), as short aphorisms on the model of Avvai's Konrai-vendan. Kumara gurupara swami wrote his Nitineri vilakkam in 100 verses epitomizing some of the thoughts in Kural. Nanneri of Swami Sivaprakasa is a shorter poem of 40 verses. A wave of ethical writing seems to have surged through the centuries and these two books are the best specimens of the writing of the politically uncertain period, between the downfall of the Cholas and the Pandiyas and the rise of the European power in the south. Two other poems of unknown authorship also require mention here. Niti venba and Niti saram have 100 verses each. The former tries to imitate the earlier classical writing, depicting observations of life with a well known imagery, while the latter is in the viruttam metre, and is mere verse, without any claim to poetry. But yet the two had been popular even with the uneducated people in the last century.

Viveka cintamani, a collection of more than one hundred verses of a didactic nature is a very late anthology of stray verses, containing some forceful observations of worldly wisdom. It however contains many statements decrying woman. It is more a jumble than a systematic collection. Again, Niti nul by Munsif Vedanayakam Pillai is a similar ambitious composition on moral instruction, very clever but not poetic. New Attisudi of the national poet Bharati is a short work on the lines of Avvai's poem, written with the stinging patriotism of a revolutionary fighter.


Two other types of poems may be mentioned here. The satakam poems of which there are more than a score are small pieces of 100 verses each, generally in the very long viruttam metre, with a refrain praising some local deity in the second half of the last line, and containing in the other lines observations on life and living. They have had immense popularity till the first quarter of the 20th century. Till recently young children knew them by rote. They served as an introduction to poetry and literature to the young mind. Though the verses were long, they were adapted to singing and so were easy to memorize. They also helped to keep alive many social traditions and conventions in the minds of successive generations, because a memorization of at least half a dozen satakams was considered necessary for a beginner in literature.

The other type is the Kural venba poem, each verse of which sought to illustrate a Kural, reproduced in its last two lines, with incidents taken from the Puranas and the popular legends and stories and narrated in the first two lines. There are many such poems but they are all extremely laboured writing and they have never had any popularity, except to the extent that they strove to popularies Kural. Such a poem has also exercised a Gandhian mind: Raya. Cokkalingam, a Gandhian and a respected scholar of the 20th century, has written such a poem where the first two lines are addressed to Tiruvalluvar himself, who supplies his answer in the next two lines taken from his own Kural.

Public morals and private, being what they are, pointing to a downward trend, will continue to go on with their preaching for a clean and honest way of life.

Ethical writer had always concerned themselves with the impermanence of this life, of its youth and riches, and had enjoined man to lead a life of righteousness and love. In the depth and soundness of wisdom, in crispness and arresting expression, in the love of man and the eagerness to serve him, none can equal Kural and Avvai's two single line works. There is nothing more to be said and no one can say it better than these but, mankind being what it is, poets will go on repeating the same truths and observations again and again to the end of time.


Philosophy runs in the veins of the Indian, and more so of the Tamilian. Among the available literary material, Tiru Murugarruppadai is the earliest poem in praise of a deity, where Muruga is the Lord of the hills.

Tiru Murugarruppadai sings the glory of Muruga and His camps or shrines and the divine grace that He bestows on His devotees. Though the verse is terse and difficult, yet there is an element of directness and straightforward narration which could not be found in later devotional poetry. Paripadal contains some very lofty and sublime thoughts, which are still a wonder to find in the poems of those ancient days. Kaduvan Ila-Eyinanar who has sung on both Muruga and Tirumal, sings on Muruga: 'My Lord Muruga, decked with the Kadamba flowers, we crave of you, not riches or gold, nor the pleasures of life; but three things else-bestow on us Your Grace to lead us on to final release, grant us devotion to you, and the righteous conduct that accrues from both’. This concept, namely the one of beseeching God to grant not material welfare, but His Grace and liberation from births, has been the only prayer of all devotional outpourings of all the saints and poets, Saiva or Vaisnava, in the entire range of later literature, from the sangham age to this day.


The centuries 3 to 6 saw the evolution of the first Saints in both Saivaism and Vaisnavism, who sang devotional hymns which have been collected into the canons of the respective systems. Tirumantiram of Tirumular and the songs of Karaikkal Ammai in Saivism, and the three Antadis of the first three Alvars, Poyhai, Bhutam and Pey in Vaisnavism, belong to this period. Tirumular's book is more in the nature of an esoteric philosophy than of prayer, while all the others are real ecstatic outpourings of a god-soaked heart. All of these are written in simple language without any involved or complex imagery or construction. These saints generally never stop to criticise other sects; they are content with the joy which the thought of their Lord evokes in their hearts; their heart is so full that there is no room there for cold reasoning or for criticism. The devotion of these saints was one of total surrender and self-effacement, like the wonder of an innocent child at an immediate experience. One does not know even the natural names of these three Vaisnava saints including Tirumular and Ammai. Though her name was Punitavati, she came to be called only as Ammai, the Mother.


All Vaisnava saints and all the Saiva Saints, had lived in the period from 600 to 900 A.D. The lives of the Saiva Saints and the Vaisnava Alvars are well known in the land to require any detailed account in this short survey. Jnana sambandha of Sikali, Appar of Tiru Amur and Sundara of Tiru Navalur toured the length and breadth of the Tamil country and visited all the Siva shrines and so stirred up the religious fervour of the people, as had not been done in any other period, before or after, in Tamil literary or religious history. Their impact on the people was all round. Temple building activity commenced on a vast scale. Literary output assumed newer dimensions. Music had a new lease of life. Religion and philosophy came alive into the lives of the people at all levels. All branches of the fine arts were activated afresh. A new ethical and spiritual code seemed to have been laid down to govern public morals. Society came closer to an almost classless religious integration. Manikkavacaka and the lesser canon writers complete the list of the Saiva hymnologists.


The Vaisnava canon, both in substance and in time, runs paralled to the Saiva. The Alvars are twelve and their songs number about 4000. They have moulded, more than the Saiva canon has done, the life and ambitions of the Vaisnava people in the land, more particularly the Sri Vaisnava Brahmins. Ramanuja by about 1100 A.D. and Vedanta Desika by about 1300 A.D. had breathed new life into that community so much so that the lives of very large sections of that society were bound up with the temples and temple rituals. In most cases, the Vaisnava canon had invaded the home, and even all domestic and social rituals were performed to the accompaniment of the songs. Such an intensive fusion had not been effected by the Saivas who had remained more austere and less emotional.


The culmination of the Saiva canon is the Periya puranam, the metric biography of the Saiva saints written under chola patronage. It is a string of stories of the highest devotion to Siva and the book itself is a work of absolute devotion and surrender to God, unequalled in the whole range of Tamil Literature. The dotting of the Tamil country with hundreds of gigantic tremples in granite-a feature not known anywhere else in India and in the whole world too, is due to the impact of the devotional songs of Saivism and the Periya puranam on society. People name their children, after some happy expressions in the canonical songs. Vinayakar ahaval by Avvai of the 14th century is widely memorised even today. It is closely followed by the three Karuvai antadi poems of a Pandiya prince, one of which is also known as the Kutti (or minor) Tiruvacakam, Porur Sannidhi murai of Cidambara swami and Kandar kalivenba of Kumara gurupara. Among the Vaisnavas the most marvellous piece is Satakopar antadi (12th century). In praise of Nammalvar, it contains some very elegant and beautiful verses. The poem is also a rare challenge to Sanskrit, which the real Vaisnava would fain relegate to the background in preference to Nammalvar's Tamil. This is a very unusual position, and it speaks volumes for the Vaisnava's love of Nammalvar.


The greatest figures in later devotional literature are three - Arunagiri natha, Tayamanavar and Ramalinga, and they are also immensely popular to this day. There are groups, among the elite and among the unlettered, which are moved to ecstasy by the songs of these masters, as by no one else. Arunagirinatha needs no introduction to any Tamil group in India or abroad. His Tiruppuhal, is the most widely known of his compositions. There is such revelry in metre, in chandam, in rhythm, and even in the ecstasy of the subject matter. The variety of his rhythmic pattern is unequalled and very vast. Condemnation of the lure of woman occupies a large part of his songs no doubt, but yet his religious zeal and supplication to God, and the joy and peace emanating from the songs, far outdo that element, Sanskrit words vie with Tamil in coming to his aid for the expression of ideas and for setting forth the rhythmic pattern and he is a great master in judiciously using both to create the lilting effect that is the mark of his Tiruppuhal.To him Muruga is the supreme God who dwells in all the temples and who comes to the succour of his devotee at all times .“The singer of Tirupuhal shows no reverence to the others” has become a proverb. He has perpetuated the legend, that Sambandha is an incarnation of Muruga.

Tiruppuhal by its variety of rhythm, movement and magic of word pattern, and immensity of volume, has eclipsed his other works. His Tiru vahuppu numbers about 25 long songs equalling Tiruppuhal in rank. Kandar anubhuti, a short poem of 51 short quatrains is the essence of his mystic experience.

But his Kandar alankaram, in 106 verses, is a much simpler poem, breathing courage and hope to all mortals. The faith in God voiced here will make even the most despondent to face his life boldly, and helps in meeting the challenges of life with great confidence. There is no poem in the language which will infuse faith and courage in young children as firmly as Kandar alankaram. It is mostly in very simple language and many of its verses laugh at Death. These two smaller poems are as popular as Tiruppuhal itself.

The Siddhas had poured forth their thoughts in their stirring songs. But these were the expressions of their esoteric philosophy, where the element of outward devotion was absent.


Tayumanavar on the other hand hails in the tradition of the Saiva Nayanmars, the authors of Devaram and Tiruvacakam. He unwaveringly preached the modern one-world concept, that mankind including philosophies and God are one. He was a well read man, a profound scholar. He was a minister under the Nayaks, but renounced that life later. He always offered his mind as the sacrifice, at the altar of the temple. He always searched for external harmony in various sects like the Vedanta, the Siddhanta and the Siddha, and searched for internal harmony in God and all His creations. He preached a philosophy of compassion and enjoined man to look on every being as God Himself and to love all fellow beings as he would love God. Tayumanavar was a great master in Sanskrit, who used it with great force and vigour. Tayumanavar preached a higher philosophy, which soars higher than rituals and temple worship.

No Vaisnava poet of later days has risen to the stature of Arunagiri or Tayumanavar.


Ramalinga, holds up the banner of compassion and has given his life to that philosophy. In the long history of devotion among the Saiva fold which includes such illustrious names as Appar, Manikka vacakar, Arunagirinatha and Tayumanavar, Ramalinga does have a place. He follows the footsteps of Tayumanavar. His doctrine of compassion and good life are directly inherited from Tayumanavar. His concept of the one-world, embraces not only mankind but also the animal and the vegetable kingdoms. He had seen the poverty and hunger all around him and he like Gandhi was of the belief that God appears before the hungry in the shape of bread. Among all the god-inspired souls, he is the one who also founded institutions for poor.


Worship of Sakti, just like the worship of Vinayaka and Kumara, had been running parallel to the worship of Siva. Ambikaimalai of Varagunarama Pandiya and Abhirami Antadi of Abhirama Bhattar, which belongs to the 16th and the 18th centuries, are moving poems in praise of Sakti. They are not to be mistaken to be relics of any Sakti cult in the land. Vinayaka, Kumara and Sakti are worshipped as just manifest forms of Siva and they do not constitute any separate cult.


Commentary writing constitutes an important feature in the growth of Tamil Literature. 10th to 15th centuries may be considered the most productive period in this field. Commentaries have been written both on literary works and on grammatical treatises. The largest number of writers have written commentaries or annotations on Tirukkural, and on Tolkappiyam. The commentaries on these two have been the earliest.


Iraiyanar Kalaviyal is an exception to the last statement. A legend says that Lord Somasundara, i.e., Siva enshrined in the temple at Madurai, sympathized with the desire of the Pandiya prince about the need for a grammatical treatise on the subject of porul and so caused Iraiyanar Kalaviyal, a book of 60 aphorisms on the subject to be found under His seat in the temple. One Nakkirar (not the sangham poet) had written an elaborate gloss on it and this has been hailed ever since as a model of excellent prose writing. Probably the text and the gloss were composed in the 8th century A.D. and, after two centuries of oral transmission, they were reduced to writing. This gloss is the earliest specimen of prose writing that is available and it is even more valuable than the text. We get a legendary account of the earlier sanghams which existed at the submerged South Madurai and Kapatapuram, only from this commentary; this account was later incorporated by Adiyarkkunallar in his commentary on Silappadhikaram. The Kalaviyal commentary is in a very rich and picturesque language, mostly a form of poetic prose, full of alliteration, assonance and rhyme, in long drawn out sentences. But yet it is very dramatic, studded with similes and metaphors, yet direct, full of grace, clear and lucid though complex, very descriptive and ornamental.


Commentaries by Ilampuranar and Naccinarakkiniyar are available in full for the three books of Tolkappiyam and for the end part of Perasiraiyar. Six commentaries have been written on the second book dealing with words and etymology. Of all the commentaries, that of Ilampuranar is the simplest. He deserves to be called the Discoverer of Tolkappiyam because when Tolkappiyam had become obscure through supression by Kalabhra rule at Madurai, a new grammar by name Iraiyanar Kalaviyal was composed. Ilampuranar, a few centuries later, discovered Tolkappiyam, studied it and expounded it with great pains and gave it a new lease of life. Naccinarkkiniyar's commentary is elaborate and scholarly, and heavily weighted with citations from early literature and with his own idiosyncrasies. The commentary by Senavaraiyar on the second book is considered to be the most original and the best on that book.


Iraiyanar Kalaviyal was probably reduced to writing by Nilakantanar in the 10th century. Yapparunkala virutti and its Karikai urai, each by a different disciple of the author Amita sagara, deal elaborately with prosody, the subject matter of the texts. Yapparunkala virutti gives references and citations a list of authors and their works, which seems to be limitless and inexhaustible. There was one Avinayam by Avinayanar, which was obviously of a different school of thinking from Tolkappiyam. Raja Pavitrap-Pallavataraiyar had also written a commentary. Both the text and the commentary are of course lost. Gloss writing on grammatical treatises goes on to the end of the 15th century. Tolkappiyam, Purap porul venbamalai, Neminatam, and Nannul are the chief books on which gloss was written. The work continues to reign in the later centuries also.


If commentaries on grammatical works brings obsolete and unfamiliar principles of language, etymology and poetics, on literary works are equally important in giving a peep into the life and culture, ideals and aspirations, pleasures and sorrows of the Tamil people of bygone ages. The attempts at expounding the thoughts of Kural beginning from the simple writing of Manakkudavar culminate in the elaborate and classic commentary of Parimelalakar. Though a few of his thoughts appear unacceptable to some, there is no other writing which has brought out the glory and splendour of the classic of Tiruvalluvar as he has done.


A work of even greater importance to the very concept of Mut-Tamil is the commentary of Adiyarkku nallar on Silappadhikaram. Silappadhikaram is the only Tamil work which deals with the three divisions of Tamil, Iyal, Isai and Natakam (literary composition, musical composition and drama), and Adiyarkku nallar, reveals a glorious vista of an earlier period when the two divisions of Tamil, music and drama, flourished in all their splendour. They had a vast literature, and many manuals laid down the rules for the musicians and the instruments, for dance, drama and acting. But for the casual illustrations provided by him, posterity could never have known the wide extent and the deep emotional content of this vast body of literature. Nallar also gives the story of the first two sanghams in full.


Naccinarkkiniyar is the greatest writer of commentaries and the most voluminous writer. He has annotated Tolkappiyam in its entirety, and has also annotated the whole of Pattup-pattu, Kalit-tohai and Cintamani. He has tackled both general literature and grammar, and is a master with no equal. Naccinarkkinayar along with Adiyarkku nallar is remarkable for the pains he takes to give posterity a peep into the past, into the literature and life of the past, most of which had become extinct.

Naccinarkkinayar seems to have been a living encyclopaedia of language and literature in his day. Like all the great gloss writers, he also had great reverence for the writers of the texts. It was the religion of the commentators not to let down the authors and this can be found in a large measure in his gloss on Cintamani. The discerning reader will find that the book least deserves the acclaim it has had. Naccinarkkiniyar has corrected the author in several places. Besides grammar and general literature, he was equally familiar with other writing such as astrology, botany, zoology and medicine.


A word may be said about the unique commentary on Tiruk-kovaiyar by one Perasiriyar, who is different from the Tolkappiyam commentator. This writer gives a very useful commentary, considering the kovai as a work on the aham theme on the model of the sangham poetry. The uniqueness of the commentary lies in the fact that among all Tirumurais in the Saiva canon, only this poem of 400 verses, is said to be part of the eighth canon.

All the sangham poems have commentaries of varying merit. The 18 Kilk-kanakku also has some. There have been many lesser lights in this field and often Puranas and similar writings are annotated.

For instance, Sivadharmottaram and Arunacala Puranam, all these manuscripts exist as text and commentary. These had acquired a religious importance which necessitated their simplification in prose for the understanding of the masses.



Acarak-kovai, the last of the 18 Kilk-kanakku, shows considerable Saiva influence and may be considered to have been composed after the three Saiva Nayanmars had sung their Devaram.

Nambiyandar Nambi, called the Vyasa of the Saiva canon, not only because he collected together the forgotten Saiva hymns and arranged them into different books, but also because he caused the musical notations to be made for them with the help of a Pana girl.

These paved the way for temple worship and gradually, when the Chola emperors held sway over all the Tamil spoken areas, huge magnificent palaces for God in granite temples came to be built. The period of the Chola supremacy is one grand epoch of Siva worship. This had attained its zenith by the 11th century, by which time all wars were over and there was relative peace in the land, and there was no more scope for empire expansion. Worship and ritual were at their maximum, followed to the level of a satiety, and now thinkers had time to turn their minds towards deeper thoughts. The three eternal entities, God, soul and matter, began to engage their attention and in time the Sastras came to be written in Tamil.


Besides, there might have been the example of the Vaisnava acaryas, Nathamuni, Alavandar and Ramanuja, who wrote innumerable Sanskrit manuals laying down their own systems of philosophy and rituals, during the 9 - 11 centuries. Although these were in a minority, the Saivas could not help being influenced by their dedicated work for their religion.

In such an atmosphere, the first philosophical writings of Saivism was born. An important feature of the Saiva writings is that they are all in Tamil, unlike the Vaisnava writing of the period which was all in Sanskrit, all original, and all good poetry. Unlike secular writings, all these religious treatises are wholly available and elaborately annotated in the later centuries. There are three outstanding books, all written in the 12th century. Jnanamirtam contains 75 verses in the asiriyam metre, dealing with the Saiva philosophy. It is quite a laboured writing, written in a terse and partly archaic language, reminiscent of the sangham age, and its phraseology is also not of the general run of Saivism. Tiru Undiyar, modelled on the poem of the same name forming part of Tiruvacakam, is written in a talisai metre of three lines. It is not a regular treatise but is an expression of the author's ecstatic and mystic experience. Tiruk-Kalirruppadiyar is a sort of metrical commentary on it in the venba metre, and much larger. It mentions besides the thoughts contained in the original, which were current up to that period. These two books are hailed as the first two Sastras of the Saiva Siddhanta School of philosophy.


It was given to Meikandar to collect all the philosophical thought contained in the Saiva canon and crystallise it into a logical system of philosophy. He wrote this in the form of twelve short aphorisms defining the concept of God, the soul, the bonds and the means for release. He had also added a larger metrical illustration and explanation for the text and these together are known as Siva jnanabodham. The Saiva philosophy has since come to be known as the Meikanda system. Many illustrious spiritual preceptors followed after him. His disciple Arulnandi wrote his Siva Jnana siddhi, a very large metrical commentary on Siva jnana bodham. Its first part of over three hundred verses is a refutation of the doctrines of fourteen alien schools of philosophy, beginning from the lokayata, and the second part a little longer, is a clear enunciation of the Saiva point of view. Its verses are couched in beautiful poetic form, and reading it, one may even forget that he is going through an abstract philosophical treatise, but may enjoy it as a piece of pure literature. The Siddhi is a happy illustration of the statement that poetry lends grace to philosophy and philosophy lends weight to poetry.

Arulnandi's disciple's disciple Umapati wrote many manuals, of which Sivaprakasam and Tiruvarulpayan, each of 100 verses, make good reading and introduce the reader to the Saiva philosophy. The works of all these authors, fourteen in number, are together known as the Siddhanta Sastras. In the years after them, many elaborate glosses have been written on all of them.


In the spiritual line of these preceptors, there have been many illustrious writers who had expounded particular aspects of the Saiva philosophy in their writings. Chief of them are Tattvap-prakasa and Maraijnana Sambandha who had written valuable treatises. Other enlightened disciples and seers founded monasteries or centres of religious study and practice, in places such as Suryanarkoil, Tiruvavaduturai, Kancipuram and Dharmapuram, all of which exist today with varying degrees of importance and usefulness. These had been responsible for the production of a large volume of sectarian literature from 16 to 19 centuries. Their writing had generally proceeded on four lines. There are philosophical and religious treatises, commentaries, puranas, and devotional poetry.

The Saiva pathway to God has been said to be four-the carya, kriya, yoga and Jnana margas and many books have been written on each of them. Sivagra Yogi the founder of the mutt at Suryanarkoil was a great genius who had written large tomes in Sanskrit and in Tamil. He wrote Sivanerip-prakasa, a long poem of 215 verses, which explains many obscure points in Saiva Siddhanta. He is the only writer in Saivism to employ the manipravala style. He has written a manipravals commentary on Arunandi's Siddhiyar. He has written many large Sanskrit treatises and all of them are great books in their respective fields. Guru Jnana Sambandha, founder of the Dharmapuram Mutt, has written many minor poems on the Saiva religion. Many works on Saivism had been written both in this mutt and in the Tiruvavaduturai mutt in the later centuries. The greatest commentary writer of all time is Sivajnana swami of Tiruvavaduturai. He wrote two commentaries on the Siva jnana bodham; one is the larger Bhasya intended to emulate the Sankara Bhasya on the Brahma Sutras, and the other is the shorter gloss. Both are valuable works in Saivism. Most of the Siddhanta sastras had given rise to several good commentaries. These are important both as expositions of philosophy and as models of contemporary prose.


There has been a conscious attempt at recapturing the language and imagery of the sangham poetry and Kalladam reflects this attempt. This is a poem of 100 verses, short and long, in the asiriyam metre dealing with some of the aham (love poetry) themes of the sangham age. The verses are in praise of Siva at Madurai. The book is no doubt a good attempt, but its artificiality makes it a failure. The author had collected many anecdote current in his time and they have helped later writers.

Dakka yagap-parani of Ottakkuttar is a major Saiva poem. Though it is modelled like a war song, it really celebrates an exploit of Siva. It is a remarkable poem, unequalled in its sound effect and rhythm, in its andacious portrayal of the earth and the cosmos, of the human agency, and the world of goblins and ghosts and angels together, on the same canvas.


The Puranas have started with Nambi Tiruvilaiadal. Many puranas have been wholly translated in verse by the Pandiya princes of the 16th century. Puranas on local shrines called sthala puranas have been written in hundreds, often running to thousands of verses. Mayura Purana has 6519 verses, while Tirunelveli purana, perhaps the longest, has over 9000 verses. Kanda purana in Tamil by Kacciyappa Sivacarya was conceived on the model of Kamba's Ramayana in the epic style.

Periya purana is the Saiva hagiology, and many other lives of saints have also been written as purana. The purana by Kadavul-ma-muni, depicting the life of Saint Manikkavacaka is very unique. It is fully and wholly devoted to bhakti, without the least description of woman.

But the purana which had attained the front rank of literature is easily Tiruvilaiyadal purana of Paranjoti. Nambi writes in a simple language, without pomp or ostentation, and goes on with a straight forward narration. Occasionally, many philosophical truths of Saivism are also interwoven into the narrative. But the evident devotional nature of the author lends a lyrical quality to his narrative, which is easily the best work among the later day Saiva literary production.


The Siddhas were revolutionaries from the Saiva fold and they revolted from everything orthodox and ritualistic. They have left behind a substantial volume of good poetry, which employs the spoken language with power and banter to ridicule orthodox beliefs and customs. It had a tremendous effect on the masses.

One of the important contributions of Saivism to literature is its later devotional poetry. Long after the compilation of Saiva canon, the devotional literature started growing and one can find the later days poets offering large volumes of their songs as devotional tributes at the feet of Siva, Sakti, Muruga and Vinayaka. There are innumerable such poems, both merely as devotional offerings, and also as literary prabandha pieces. Eminent writers in this field are Kumaragurupara swami and Sivaprakasa swami.

The musical pieces of Muttu Tandavar and Gopala Krishna Bharati are also devotional pieces of high lyrical quality, charged with deep emotional fervour and passionate outburst.

Tayumanavar and Ramalinga Swami complete the picture of later Saiva literature. Ramalinga Swami was contemporary with Minaksi Sundaram Pillai and Arumukha Navalar of the mid-19th century. While Ramalinga wrote simple direct language coming from the heart, Pillai always wrote a laboured style, packed with complicated thoughts in complicated language. He is certainly the most voluminous writer of modern days. He has written a score of puranas and a hundred prabandhas. Occasionally there may be easy readable verse in him, but on the whole he is heavy. Arumukha Navalar is deservedly hailed as the maker of modern prose. His work began with a purpose. Hailing from Jaffna, he found that many of his own kith and kin embraced Christianity, lured by the bright education and opportunities for material advancement which the missionaries offered. He was sad, but he did not give in. He felt that lack of early religious training was responsible for the young men being converted and so went about preaching and writing small Saiva catechisms, even like the Christian missionary. He was out to inform and convince, and so his style was always simple, direct and to the point, and went straight to the heart. He was never verbose or heavy. He wrote only on Saiva themes and his language never failed in its appeal. Many prose works were written by him and they are models of elegant prose, not only in the 19th century, but for all time.


One aspect of the development of Saiva literature is the writing of poems on Sakti. Poems on Muruga are found in Pattuppattu, the 9th Book of the Saiva canon and poems on Vinayaka in the 11th Book. Songs in praise of Sakti are no doubt found in Silappadhikaram but separate poems are not found in early literature. Kaviraja Pandita (16th century) has translated Soundaryalahari of Sankara into Tamil verse and, though it does not rank high as poetry, it was the precursor of many more writings in praise of Sakti. Sarasvati Antadi (12th century) and Sakala Kalavalli Malai (17th century) are in praise of Sarasvati. Varagunarama Kulasekhara Pandiya's Ambikai Malai (16th century) and Kumara gurupara's Minaksi Ammai Pillai- Tamil are well known works in praise of Sakti. But Abihirami Antadi (of the 18th century) was instantly popular and remains so even today. These songs have inspired the national poet Bharati to sing his Sakti songs.


The Vaisnavas revel in Sanskrit terminology even for the names of their Tamil Saints. Malisai is always Bhaktisara, Andal is Goda, Nammalvar is Sathakopa and so on. It should be stated at the outset that the history of Vaisnava religious writing starts with two handicaps, one is that the theological writers had all without any exception written and encouraged the writing of Sanskrit works and when they found this inadequate for their purpose, they invented an artificial and unnatural Sanskritic-Tamil prose style, known as the Manipravala (mixture of gem and coral) which is an unhappy mixture of Sanskrit and Tamil. This style started with about ninety per cent Sanskrit and ten per cent Tamil in the 11th century, and ended up by the 16th century with fifty per cent Sanskrit and fifty per cent Tamil.

The second handicap was that the early Vaisnava Acaryas stood against the advaitins of the Sankara School even from the days of Ramanuja. The Sankara School always swore by Sanskrit and so the Vaisnavas had also to swear by Sanskrit, if they were to voice any effective opposition to that school. This element completely conditioned the early Vaisnava thought and writing, and it partly explains the innovation of the manipravala.

The first writer to employ this manipravala style is Thiru. Kurugaip-piran Pillan, disciple of Ramanuja, commissioned him to write an orthodox religious gloss on Tiruvaymoli of Nammalvar. It is called the Arayirappadi, gloss of six thousand granthas, a grantha being the equivalent of a couplet of 16 voiced letters in each line. The style of Pillan, a very difficult one, is completely in Sanskrit. Apart from the fact that it advanced the cause of Ramanuja's philosophical doctrines, it has not contributed in the least to the development of the Tamil language. But it had one significant result. Four different manipravals commentaries were written after him on the Tiruvaymoli, the 9 thousand, the 24 thousand, the 36 thousand and the 12 thousand. These were relatively in easier manipravala. The 36 thousand, called the Idu, being the largest, has been hailed as the source book of all Visistadvaita (Vaisnava) philosophy and is the greatest contribution in elucidating the thoughts of Nammalvar.

But one thing should be noted. These manipravala commentaries are not commentaries in the sense of those that had been examined earlier. The verses of Nammalvar here annotated by them, merely serve as pegs on which their own ideas of religion, philosophy and puranic lore is hanged. All the thoughts that the writers express cannot be deduced from the text. But yet their exposition is indeed interesting, enjoyable in their own right, and exhilarating.

The greatest commentator of all was Periya Accan Pillai who wrote an elaborate gloss on the entire Vaisnava canon. His exposition of Andal's Tirup-pavai is deservedly the most famous.


An important section of the Vaisnava writing of the period is the Guru paramparai, an account in the manipravala style, setting forth the legendary stories of the Alvars and the Acaryas (or the spiritual preceptors) of Vaisnavism. Although the stories of the Alvars here narrated are mere legend, the part relating to the Acaryas is almost fully historical and can be relied upon as an authentic chronicle of events, omitting exaggerations and narrations of miracles, which were a characteristic of the times. It also unlocks a window for everyone on the day- to -day life in the spiritual brotherhood of the Vaisnava holy orders.


Vaisnava literature does not appear to be a continuous stream of Tamil literary productivity. It appears to have dried up after Nammalvar for a period of about two hundred and fifty years, till Amutanar composed his hundred verses (antadi) on Ramanuja. This poem has flashes of brilliant poetry and was included by Ramanuja himself in the Vaisnava canon. A few years later a minor poet wrote the hundred verses (antadi) on Sathokopar (Nammalvar). This poem also ranks high as good Iyrical poetry, praising the acarya.


The above two are merely minor poems. But the main stream was dry till a versatile genius in the person of Vedanta Desika appeared on the scene. He gave new life in his days to the Vaisnava sect and from him Vaisnavam branched off into two different directions-the Northern, taking after him with headquarters at Kancipuram, and the Southern, from his contemporary Pillai Lokacarya with head-quarters at Sri Rangam. The two sects had some doctrinal differences which the passage of time. They are today as separated from each other as any two entirely unrelated religions can be.

Vedanta Desika was a towering personality who wrote a hundred manuals in Sanskrit and, very much unlike the general run of the Vaisnava acaryas, wrote also twenty poems in Tamil. Probably he felt that without handling religion through the mother tongue, his new vadakalai could have no future. Some of Desika's poems make good poetry couched in simple and Iyrical language. Perhaps his only compeer in Vaisnavism can be Manavala Mamunigal, who has also written theological treatises both in Sanskrit and in Tamil. He is hailed as the great leader of the Southern school, the Periya Jiyar.


After the fall of the Vijayanagar dynasty, there seems to have been intense literary activity in all fields of Tamil writing. There was a sudden spurt of literary activity, which resulted in two Tamil renderings of the great Bhagavata epic from two Sanskrit sources. They fill a long existing gap in the epics featuring Vishnu. The Ramayana and the Mahabharata had been written in Tamil earlier, but not as religious puranas, but as literary epics. The Bhagavata was now done in Tamil, not as an epic, but as a purana. Sthala puranas, of which hundreds are available in Saivism, are very scarce in Vaisnavism. Two large books, Kudal purana and Kuruhur manmiyam were written in the 16th century, but their literary standard is poor.


Pillai-perumal Aiyangar, patronised by Tirumalai Nayak, is perhaps the last illustrious figure in Vaisnava literary history. His works, called the Eight Minor poems (Asta prabandham), are favourites not only among the Vaisnavas but also among all the other sects. Many of his songs are charged with a positive favour of devotion and service to Lord Visnu and have a high emotional quality in them. A writer by name Sathakopadasa wrote a metrical biography of the Alvars, but the book is of poor literary quality.

A Tiruppuhal on the model of Arunagiri natha, in praise of the 108 Visnu Shrines, was composed much later and this almost completes the survey of Vaisnava literature down to the present day.



Sankara was born 240 years prior to Ramanuja, at Kaladi (which was then a Tamil speaking area, but later became part of the Malayalam speaking territory). He evolved a new philosophy, that, there is only one Reality, Brahman. He was not popular in Tamilnadu, because the practice of religion advocated by the Saiva Nayanmars and the Vaisnava Alvars had a strong hold on the people and his new tenets was scarcely followed. He went to north and found his own centre at Kanci. He wrote all his Bhasyas at Banaras and established his advaita doctrines there. He wrote everything in Sanskrit. This was natural because he had to contend with the alien sects in North India in Sanskrit language.

His doctrines had even spread to Tamilnadu. The term vedanta somehow attached itself to his school. Ramanuja wrote all his works in Sanskrit to rufute Sankara. Madhva preached his philosophy outside the Tamil area. The Saivas later wrote their books in Tamil and called their doctrines the Suddha-advaita.


In the later years many books in Tamil were written in the Sankara School. Sri-Bhattanar wrote his metric translation of the Gita in the 13th century, on the Sankara vedanta lines, and called it Paramarthadarsana. It contains the same number of 18 chapters, verses being 550. It is written in good Tamil. It has no currency among the brahmins, but the non-brahmin followers of Sankara study it well. Vadkesari Alagiya Manavala Jiyar wrote a venba translation of the Gita in the next century, following Ramanuja. It had no popularity among the Vaisnavas. Kannudaiya Vallal incorporated many vedanta concepts into his writings and helped the growth of the vedanta thoughts in the Tamil language. A modern venba translation had also been made for the Gita.


But the greatest exponent of Sankara was Tattuvarayar (15th century). His Paduturai, Adangalmurai and other minor books, all expound the vedanta thoughts. His two great anthologies, Perumtirattu and Kurum tirattu were also compiled towards this end. His literary output was very vast. He holds a unique place in Tamil theological writing for three reasons. One, he was the greatest exponent of the Sankara vedanta in the Tamil language. Two, his complete works include five philosophical treatises, Mohavataip-parain, Ajnavataip-parani, Isvara gita, Brahmagita and Sasivarna bodham all of them are of the vedanta school. And thirdly, he has invented a hundred new poetic forms which never existed before him-such as the parrot, the Kuyil, the cock, the lizard, the snake songs and many others. He was a giant among his contemporaries and in order to create a place for Sankara vedanta in Tamil literature, he made these innovations boldly and successfully. Though an advaitin, his writings seem to be more of Siva-advaita and less of absolute advaita.

Sri Bhattanar and Tattuvarayar were Brahmins, but that community completely rejected their writings. If the writings have any following, it is only among the non-sanskrit-knowing classes. The same is the fate of Prabhodha Candrodayam, a large advaita work of the 17th century written by Tiruvenkata Nathar1; it is an epic work, studied only by the non-brahmin advaitins.


Two other vedanta works deserve mention here. One is Kaivalya-navanitam and the other, Nanajiva-vatak-kattalai. The first is a metrical treatise by one Tandavaraya swami, composed in the 18th century. It has 310 verses. (Kaivalya is the absolute state of the soul, free from all bonds; that state is release; navanitam is butter, the essence of the experience of that state.) The title means that the treatise is the essence of the thoughts of many works on the subject. It is divided into two chapters-the explanation of the Real, and the removal of doubts. The book gives a clear exposition of the Vedanta position in regard to the Paramatma and the jivatma. All that is seen is unreal and is beyond the five sheaths of the body; God is the cause of the universe. The Intelligence-form of God and the Intelligence-form of the jivatma are the same. One who realises his own form as such is the jivanmukta. His life is one of bliss. This is the substance of the book. Although from the point of view of time, the book is written in good Tamil and it gives a lucid and simple exposition of the Vedanta. It has become a classic in a very short period. The other book is a short prose work giving out the principles of the Vedanta. Both of these are deservedly popular among Tamil Vedanta scholars.

Many works of Sankara were translated into Tamil, prose and verse, to the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th. Sivaprakasa Swami, the Virasaiva poet of the 17th century, had done his Vedanta Cudamani in about 180 verses in translation. As usual these Tamil works are studied only by the non-brahmin advaitins.

The Sankara math ever since its inception had existed only for the Brahmins. They had never encouraged the study of the Tamil Vedanta works. They swear only by Sanskrit. Other Vedanta scholars had found centres for themselves and these have been fostering the growth of the Tamil Vedanta works and their commentaries.


The contribution of the Vira Saiva poets and theologians to the growth of Tamil Literature has been quite substantial. The Vira Saiva cult was propagated by Basava in the Kannada country in the middle of the 12th century. It took several hundred years to filter into the heart of the Tamil country. From the 16th century there are books of varying quality written by persons professing this cult. Philosophical treatises, devotional poems, ethical books, puranas and commentaries on religious books have been written by them. Basava by his new revolutionary philosophy tried to evolve a new casteless society and the vira Saiva cult gained popularity in the Kannada country. It is doubtful if this doctrine ever gained here the currency that he desired.

Revana siddha was probably the first writer. He wrote Aharadi Nighantu, a lexicographical work, and Sivajnanadipam, a philosophical treatise. The latter is a very good Saiva Siddhanta work. The author devotes only a few verses at the end of the treatise to explain the Vira Saiva concepts. Prabhulinga Lilai and Siddhanta Sikhamani of Sivaprakasa swami, Advaita Venba of Siddha Sivaprakasa and the works of Santalinga swamy and of Kumara deva are the most important philosophical works of this sect and all of them belong to the 17th century.

Among devotional poems, those of Sivaprakasa on his master Siva Jnana Palaya Desika, on the Vengai temple and some others, and the Tirup-porur poems of Cidambara swami deserve special mention. The latter contain some very good pieces of poetry of a fine lyrical character, which withstand the test of time, endearing themselves to all people at all times. Nalvar Nanmani Malai of Sivaprakasa, in praise of the four Saiva acaryas, is very well known.

Sivaprakasa's Nanneri is probably the only book on ethics written by a Vira Saiva. It is a short poem of good maxims in easy language, studied even today by school children. His puranas possess the literary characteristic of him. Basava purana by an unknown author is a very ambitious large work of a later period, on Basava and other top figures in the Vira saiva hagiology, but has poor poetic merit.

Cidambara Swami has written very good commentaries on some of the theological works of his master and the others and they are eagerly studied by students of religion. His commentary on one book on non-killing, Kolaimaruttal, is very valuable.

The study of logic was considered important to an understanding of philosophy. Sivaprakasa has written a short manual on logic, of course adapted from the Sanskrit.

In early Vira Saivism, the Saiva Siddhanta concepts were precominant. But as days passed, the glamour of Sankara took a strong hold on the minds of the members and writers of that sect. By about the 19th century, that sect had drifted away from Saiva Siddhanta and identified itself, as it were, with Sankara Vedanta. Siva Prakasa Swami has written books on all the three schools. His Satamani Malai is an agama translation, a Saiva Siddhanta work. His Siddhanta Sikhamani is a Vira Saiva work; his Vedanta Cudamani is a Sankara Vedanta work.


Unlike the Buddhists, the Jains had contributed quite a substantial volume to the growth of Tamil literature and its grammar. This was possible largely because they had a Pandiyan domain under their own rule for more than three centuries, from the third to the sixth. They had tried their hand at almost all the fields of literature, with varying degrees of success.


Their most successful field was the field of grammar. As the first Jains, namely the Kalabhra rulers of Madurai and their group, were foreigners, that is, they did not have Tamil as their mother tongue, they were able to look at the Tamil language with detachment and extract the truth and the rules about it from a lingustic point of view and write manuals on Tamil grammar with tremendous success. The highlights of their performance in this field are Yapparunkalam and its Karikai on prosody, Neminatham on letters and words, Vaccanandi malai on poetics, Nambi ahapporul on the love theme, and finally the most modern Nanul (13th century dealing with the letters and words. The lexicon Cudamani Nighantu comes last. All these are substantial contributions to the concerned subjects and to that extent they had no doubt enriched the language and its literature.

Grammar requires an analytical brain which the Jain writers had in the large measure and hence they succeeded in grammar writing.


The Jain writers have indeed large volumes to their credit. The Perum kathai is perhaps the first epic written by a Jain. It is an original work, although the plot thereof is taken from the Hindu legends. The epic is in the asiriyam metre, like Silappadhikaram and Manimekhalai, and the chief aim of the author seems to be the glorification of life in the Tamil country, its art and culture and its richness. It is a marvel of composition. The other two books, Jivaka cintamani and Culamani are about princes whose life seems to have been taken from the Jain puranas. Each prince goes through a series of marriages, a few battles and other trials of life and finally ends up with renunciation. Cintamani has some Jain doctrines mentioned in it. These are less in Culamani. Both are important in the history of Tamil literature as some of the early attempts to harness the viruttam metre to the larger narrative poetry. They also have occasional flashes of poetry in a few verses. There had been quite a few long narrative poems in the same period, like Santipuranam, Narada caritai etc., but these are all lost. Yosodhara kavya and Udayanakumara kavya, a few centuries later, are much smaller poems. They are puerile works from all points of view and hardly deserve the name kavya (epic). Merumantara purana, of the 15th century is a story about two princes, written with the purpose of propagating the Jain tenets. On the whole, this book is a failure. There is nothing to recommend any book as a great work. Only Perum kathai is remarkable for the very luxuriant and elaborate descriptions the author revels in, but it is not a Jain story.


Naladi and Palamoli rank foremost where Naladi is one of the best books on the subject and Palamoli is a very good imitation, closely following its footstepts. Two other works are by Jains-Sirupancamulam and Eladi, dealing with five and six subjects in each verse. All the four are among the 18 Kilkkanakku.. Aranericcaram of a much later period is a very good poetic piece, where the Jain author, in tune with the trend of his times, tries to give out some universal truths. These books are all in the venba metre. Generally, the Jains are remarkably successful in dealing with ethical poetry.


Jains have written commentaries, both on literary works and on grammatical treatises. It is noteworthy that the first commentaries on literature and grammar (excepting the one by Nakkirar on Iraiyanar kalaviyal) were probably written by them. Here reference is made to Manakkudavar's commentary on Kural and Ilampuranar's exposition of Tolkappiyam. Both are the first expositions on the two great works. It is to the great credit of Ilampuranar that he has written on the three books of Tolkappiyam. Unlike the other writers (except Naccinarkkiniyar) he wrote only on the second book. It is to his everlasting glory that he discovered Tolkappiyam and wrote on it, paving the way for future writers. Other commentary writers are insignificant except the anonymous one who wrote on Yapparumkalam. Among the great figures in this field he towers as a giant. His gloss opens up a window on the lost treasures of grammar and prosody from 8th to the 10th century, when there seemed to have a very intense and unceasing activity in this field. Along with the Kalaviyal commentator and the later Adiyarkku nallar, he is the only writer who makes the reader shed tears on the books lost for ever.


Of devotional poetry by the Jains, there is no work of any value. This is perhaps because God as such has no esteemed place in the Jaina scheme of things; an ethical conduct alone has. Only Tiru Nurrantadi of Avirodhi alvar (14th century) seems to be written with an element of devotional ecstasy and lyric note, which is the characteristic of all Saiva and Vaisnava books. Beside this work, others like Tirukkalambakam pale into total insignificance.

Of purely religious books by the Jains, there are three and all of them are important. Nilakesi was written to refute the doctrines of Buddhism as expounded by Kundalakesi a large work, now lost. It is a good book as far as it explains Jain doctrines and it has a good commentary. Arungalac-ceppu in the kural venba metre is a good manual of certain aspects of the Jain householder's life. The third book is Jiva sambo dhanai, a book of Jain doctrines in prose and verse. The verse is good venba, in imitation of Nalavenba, while the prose is in classical manipravala style. The book deserves to be more widely known.

Speaking of manipravala, one should mention Sri Purana, which is a complete prose-purana of the Jains in the manipravala style. It is the only large work of its kind in the language. Its purpose is an exposition of the Jain doctrines. Unlike the Vaisnava manipravala, this is extremely artificial. It appears as though the writer stopped now and then, hunted for Sanskrit equivalents, and replaced the Tamil word with the Sanskrit word or phrase. There is no flow in the language.

The Jains decry womanhood but it is very strange that Nilakesi is a long poem whose only character is a woman, the heroine herself; so also is the fact that Nambi wrote his grammar on ahapporul or erotic love. In the same manner, it is hard to explain how an ula came to be written in praise of a Jain shrine, where the usual theme is that young women, in their seven stages of life, see the deity in procession, and fall in love with it. In Jainism there is no personality of the Arhat to fall in love with.


Buddhistic influence must have been felt in the field of Tamil letters by the beginning of the Christian era. Ilambodhi is a rare Buddhist name among the poets of the sangham age. The Buddhists, unlike the Jains, had never assumed power anywhere in Tamilnad and so their religion had not made any headway here. There are indeed very beautiful stray verses in praise of the Buddha cited in the commentaries on Yapparunkalam and on Virasoliyam, but there is only one work and one grammar by Buddhists. Manimekhalai, said to be one of the five major epics, was written by Sittalai Sattanar for the purpose of expounding the Buddhist doctrines. It is considered a sequel to Silappadhikaram. Virasolivam, the only ancient grammar dealing with the traditional five branches of Tamil, was written by the Buddhist Buddhamitra of Ponparri. From citations in the old commentaries, it is learned that there were many other Buddhist works such as the famed epic Kundalakesi, Bimbisarakathai, Siddhantatohai, Manavurp-padikam etc., but not one of them is available today. The stray verses referred to are in beautiful lyrical form and it is indeed a great loss to Tamil that the books containing such verses are no longer available. The doctrines of the four schools of Buddhism-the Soutrantika, Yogacara, Madhyamika and Vaibhasika - come in for serious philosophical refutation at the hands of the Saivas but no Tamil philosophical work of any of those schools is extant.

Even traces of Buddhism had ceased to exist in Tamilnad by the 8th century. One find in the legends connected with Saint Manikkavacakar that the Buddhists had to go over to Cidambaram all the way from Ceylon to engage in a religious disputation with him. There was no Buddhist worth the name in the whole of South India then. One finds from inscriptions however that a prince of Kadaram (part of modern Malaysia) caused a Buddha Vihara to be built in Nagappattinam and that Kulottunga I (1070-1120) gave many endowments to that temple.


Purana means an old story. The number of puranas in the Tamil language is legion. The great puranas in the Sanskrit language had been eighteen in number and several works in the Tamil language purport to be translations and condensations of those puranas. Macca (Matsya) purana, Kurma purana, Linga purana and Vayu samhita are large complete metrical compositions from the Sanskrit books of the same name. There is also a very late metrical translation of Siva mahapurana at the turn of the last century. All these are Saiva books and belong to the religious category. Visnu purana, Markandeya purana and a host of others are in prose. The first is a Vaisnava purana.

Purana leksana, or the characteristics of a purana, have been said to be five in Sanskrit. Of these three relate to the contents. They are the vamsa, manvantara and vamsanucarita-the particular dynasty, the evolution of time from the ancient past and the history of various other dynasties, and also cosmogony. All these subjects are fully dealt with the major puranas, generally in the introductory part.

It is likely that many fairy tales and folk songs had been incorporated into the puranas in the remote past. To give an example. Sevvandi-purana of Tiruccirappalli mentions the story of Siva enshrined there, having appeared as the mother of a lone young woman, when she was in the pangs of child birth and when her natural mother could not reach her in time because of the floods in the Kaveri. The purana says the Lord was thenceforth known as Tayumanavar, who also became the mother. This might very well have been a primitive fairy tale of the region.

The Tamil Puranas in general are of several categories, the epic, the biography, the sthala purana, and the religious purana.


Puranas of the epic type are called Itihasas. They are Kanda purana of Kacciyappa Sivacarya running to over ten thousand verses and the two Bhagavatas, Itihasa Bhagavata of Sevvaic-cuduvar and Purana Bhagavata of Arulaladasa. The first contains 4973 verses and the second 9147. Meru mantara purana by Vamana muni in 1405 verses is a Jain book, of the epic type.

Kanda Purana is a very large work, purporting to sing of the exploits of Kumara and his slaying of Surapadma. It has been conceived of by the Saivas of a later day as a Saiva counterpart to the story of Rama in Kamba Ramayana. The story runs parellel to the Ramayana in all its details, but the grand conceptions of Kambar, his portrayal of character, his probe into the depths of the human heart, depiction of dramatic scenes and high watermark of poetry are lacking here. Occasionally there appears glimpses of some good poetry but these do not make it great poetry. Its chief importance lies in the fact that it deals elaborately with the story of Kumara in a manner suitable for religious discourses and that it is full of Saiva Siddhanta philosophical concepts.

The two Bhagavatas deal elaborately with the story of Visnu as the Supreme Lord and his ten avataras (incarnations). They are typical puranas and do not lay any serious claim to higher poetry. The Jain purana mentioned is in the nature of a miniature epic on the lines of Cintamani and Culamani.


Puranas of the Sthala purana type are innumerable. There is a purana for every little shrine in the Tamilnadu. It is always in verse, running even to several thousand verses occasionally (Mayura purana-6519; Tirunelveli over 9,000). The Sthala puranas have at their commencement chapters glorifying the shrine, the deity installed there, the temple tank and the temple tree. Sthala purana is only glorified as local legend, written up with a religious bias. As has been said, it may be considered just a collection of local folk tales. This characteristic always holds out an appeal to the common man. They have been one of the influences which always hold out a ray of hope and redemption to the erring mortal. Whatever sin a man might have committed, he will be redeemed if he sincerely repents in his heart, turns over a new leaf and prays to God. Such is the teaching of all the sthala puranas. Prayer to the deity in the local shrine absolves him of all sin. Homage to the deity implies homage to the place, the temple tank, the local river and the temple tree. Such books were first written in the 16th century and they continue to be written to the present day. Naturally the literary merit of such books cannot be great.

But yet there are a few of outstanding merit. One such is the Tiruvilayadal purana of Paranjoti (about 1700A.D.). It is written in forceful and fluent language, having a power and sweetness about it. Its style is charming and elegant and it contains good poetry also, but in the absence of the human element and character, it does not rise to the level of great poetry. Yet its devotional content is supremely lyrical and this will continue to influence the Saiva mind for a long time to come. Other such sthala puranas of any importance are Kurralap-purana of Tirikutarajappa kavirayar, Kancip-purana of Sivajnana swami and Tanikaip-purana of Kacciyappar. The greatest sthala purana writer of all time was Minaksi sundaram Pillai of the mid-19th century.


Turning to the biographical type, one can find two important works - Periya puranam of Sekkilar and Tiruvadavur adigal puranam of Kadavul ma munivar. The latter is a small work of 545 verses. It is composed with a large proportion of rhythmic verses. But the only poetic sentiment that runs through the entire work is bhakti or religious devotion. No other element can be found in it and this of course detracts from its poetic quality. The life of Sekkilar and the life of Nambiyandar nambi, though written by Umapati Sivacarya, have in them only the predominant purpose of narrating the genesis of Periya puranam and the discovery of the Saiva canon. Thus they fail to have any great poetic appeal. Pulavar purana of Dandapani Swami and Seytondar purana of Cokkalingam Pillai are respectively the biographies of poets and the lives of the devotees of Muruga. They are modern attempts of the biographical type.

Hari Samaya Dipam of Sathakopadasa and Guruparampara prabhavam (verse) of Vadivalagiyanambi dasa are also biographical puranas in Vaisnavism in the later centuries.


They speak of the Saiva emblems, rituals and worship, and dwell at length on the merit accruing from a worship of Siva, the observance of penances, the celebrations of festivals, and the service to Siva and Siva bhaktas. The two Upadesa kandams written by two disciples of Kacciyappa Sivacarya are the earliest and they belong to the 15th century. There was a heavy rush in purana making in Tamil in the 16th century. One explanation perhaps is that several of the Pandiyas who had fled Madura on the Mohammedan invasion had by now settled and consolidated themselves comfortably in parts of Tirunelveli and were able to extend their patronage to the poetic art. Some of the Pandiyas were themselves writers and had contributed thousands of verses to puranic literature. All of their puranas are large religious ones. In fact, most of the religious practices and observances in the Saiva society today are on the lines laid down in their books. Siva dharmottara, considered to be an upagama, also belongs to this category. They always give elaborate accounts of the bhaktas who sinned, then repented and were redeemed by the grace of God.

Any such purana written in Vaisnavism cannot be found.


Minor poems as such begin to be written in great profusion from the 16th century onwards. Prabandha marapiyal, a short grammatical manual of that period on poetics, mentions 96 categories of prabhadhas for the first time. Although the books on poetics are available from the 8th century, this number had not been specified previously. A prabhandam is a minor poem sung on a divine being or a patron. Its subject may be aham or puram. It may be in any type of metre, from asiriyam to viruttam, or the long drawn out kalivenba. The number of verses in a poem may also be anything; yet some titles have specified the number of verses as 5, 8, 20, 30, 40, 70 and even upto 400. (Prabandha means well composed.)

Prabandhams have been sung even in the days of the sangham and during the Saiva and the Vaisnava period. Tolkappiyam, Purattinai iyal mentions a few types of such minor poems of the puram themes. Some are also found as occasional verses in the Pura Nanuru. Arruppadai is of sangham period. Poems named according to the number of verses in them are found among the 18 Kilk-kanakku. Other poems such as the Irattaimani malai, Antadi, Madal, Elukurrirukkai, Maram, Angamalai, Polli-yelucci, Ula, and Mummanikkovai etc. had been in existence during the seventh and the ninth centuries in the Saiva and the Vaisnava canon. The number and variety of the composition grew with the centuries.


Among the puram poems, the Arruppadai had been the earliest. Examples of it are in Purananuru. Of course these are all short occasional verses. In Pattuppattu there are five poems of this class, all lengthy ones in the asiriyam metre. The arrupadai is a poem where a dancer, a musician, or a poet or devotee is guided to go to a patron of arts or to the presence of God in a temple, display his art or poetry, supplicate himself to the patron with devotion, and receive munificence at his hands. The guide himself had once been a poor and indigent person, but had become affluent by going to that patron, singing before him and getting lavish gifts from him. In the course of a long poem, there are many pen-portraits and interesting descriptions of the patron himself, his place, the manner of his feeding the poor, the sweet welcome that he offers, and the rich presents he gives and the peace and joy that descend on the recipient. The most famous arruppadai is the one on Muruga. Tiru Murugarruppadai which has been collected in two anthologies - as the first poem in Pattupattu of the Sangham age, and as a devotional poem in the 11th Book of the Saiva canon during the early 11th century.

In Tiru Murugarruppadai, the human patron gives place to The Patron of all, God, where the poet introduces the aspirant to the path and the presence of God. Later arruppadai has been few. But from the 16th century onwards, a new type, the virali-arruppadi had been developed.


The Bharani is perhaps the most important separate poem on the theme of war. It generally sings of the glory of the victory of the ruling chief. The first and deservedly most famous is the Kalingattupparani, sung by Jayamkondar in honour of the victory of King Kulottunga I over the North Kalinga forces by about 1112A.D. It celebrates a real war, a real hero and a real commander of his army. The poem consists of about 600 couplets mostly in a rhythmic lilting metre, the sound and peace of the metre varying with the events of the narrative.

The story content of the Bharani is as follows. The news of the Chola victory reaches the city. Young women go round waking up the other women to welcome the victors and celebrate the victory. The next scene shifts to the actual battle field. Kali, the patron deity of war, is enshrined in a temple in an arid desert. She is surrounded by a large army of ghosts, living in that fearful wilderness. Her attendants and the entire army of ghosts are lean and famished, through long starvation. The ghosts usually feed on human flesh strewn about in the battle fields. But since there had been no war for long, they are now famished. A visiting ghost plays many feats of magic before Kali, conjuring up a battle scene. This makes the hunger of the ghosts more acute and they pray to the goddess to call a halt to the display. Just then another ghost breaks in with the news of a real battle which the Chola king had just then fought and won. With gaping mouths and watering lips, the ghosts make a stampede to the battle field, gather and cook the flesh and meat and brains of the fallen in the battle, have a hearty meal, and thank the king and the goddess for thus giving them sumptuous food.

For the amorous and erotic nature of the first waking-up scene, the description of the desert, of the temple and of the goddess Herself, of the famished appearance of the ghosts, of the relaxation of the king on the banks of the Palaru, the march of the armies, the actual battle and of the ghastly yet humour-laden feast of the ghosts there, the book has no parallel in the vast range of Tamil literature. The erotic verses here are on a high poetic level and they never stoop low. This poem is one on an actual battle while in later such poems there is no real fight at all. Dakkayagap-parani deal only with allegorical battles. Hence no other poem of the kind comes anywhere near this in realistic poetic quality. Besides, Kalingattuparani is also valuable for the light it throws on the genealogy of the Cholas upto Kulottunga.

The author has sung here a large variety of chandams which had become a model for all later writers. Figures like the onamatopoeia and the pun are freely employed with startling effect. The whole poem has a dramatic setting and there are scores of verses which are each the enacting of a separate dramatic scene. One writer has remarked that the 'the praise lavished on the poem needs to be qualified' and that it has no message. The estimate is not correct. The whole poem has to be seen with a sense of humour and has to be viewed also from the back-ground of contemporary history. There are scores of verses here which are supremely emotional lyrics. The battle field may not be the place for emotional poetry but within the limited sphere the poet has achieved marvellous success. The book does leave a message. It had infused the greatest patriotism in the people of the Chola country and had helped to fortify the Chola Empire for two centuries after it was written. No wonder the author Jayamkondar was hailed for this short poem, even in his own life time, a kavi cakravartti, an emperor among poets, and the phrase, 'a Jayamkondar for a bharani' was coined.


Another important minor poem is the pillai-Tamil song on childhood. This poem is now generally in ten sections with ten verses to each section. Every decade here carries a refrain from which the decade takes its title as muttam, talu, senkirai etc. But Periyalvar originally sang a number of such poems on Krishna, the child of Yasoda. The poems are polished gems of dazzling beauty and form, rightly part of the Vaisnava canon. Some five centuries after him, Ottakuttar selected a few topics from Alvar and Andal and evolved his first pillai-Tamil, composed in praise of Kulottunga Chola II, when he was a crown prince. In later days, such poems have been composed on all the deities, except Lord Siva, and on many chieftains. These poems are all in chandam, a rhythmic metre, mostly long, and are very popular even to this day. Some of them are sung in musical concerts also. Poems such as Tiruccendur Murugan pillai-Tamil, Minaksi ammai pillai-Tamil and Muttukkumaraswami pillai-Tamil are of high poetic quality and emotional religious fervour, and even today they melt listeners to tears. Sekkilar pillai-Tamil, written by Minaksisundaram Pillai by the middle of the 19th century, is a classic by itself. Little would the Alvar have dreamt that his innovation would develop to such proportions in later years. Since all these poems are only in praise of deities and the like, they also belong to the class of puram pieces.

There are many Pillai - Tamil poems of the 20th century, of which special mention may be made of Gandhi pillai - Tamil by Raya Cokkalingam and kovai Murugan pillai - Tamil by Appulingam.

The last three sections of the poem vary when it is sung on a female deity, to suit the play habits of a female child. It is usually this part that is extended to more than three sections by some poets.


The Kalambakam (a mixture) is a poem of usually one hundred verses, employing all the metres known, depicting both the puram and the aham themes. The verses are strung together in the antadi form where the end word or syllable of a verse occurs as the opening word or syllable of the next. The kalambakam is naturally very popular and often very well done also, because of the wide scope both in the themes and in the metre. All the moods and sentiments of poetry find expression here. Eighteen parts are required to be incorporated into the poem. The poem is as usual sung in praise of a diety or a patron, by an unknown author, on Nandivarma III, the Pallavaruler of Kanci who belongs to 9th century. It is also the best poetic piece. The legend goes that he gave up his life for the mere joy of listening to a recitation of the poem. Many a discriminating heart among the Tamil poetry lovers will easily applaud his action.

Although manuals perscribe the topics for inclusion in the poem, the poet's imagination has conjured up many other topics.

The important minor poems on the aham themes are discussed below. Four types of such poems here call for attention, namely -the kovai, the madal and the dhutu.


The kovai is in a sense a connected narrative of the stray aham topics of the sangham poetry. Each character in the love theme speak, and rarely does the poet himself speak. The sangham verses were in the asiriyam metre, whereas the kovai is written in the much more laborious kattalai-kalitturai, in which the syllables in every foot are counted as 16 or 17 and follow a particular sequence of arrangement. The first kovai poem, Pandik-kovai is written in praise of the Pandiya Nedumara who was the contemporary of Saint Sambandha. The entire book is not available today. From the fragments available, one is made to believe that it was a very large work, where more than one verse was composed on each topic. The next kovai in point of time is Tiruk-kovaiyar, attributed to Saint Manikkavacakar. Perasiriyar wrote a neat gloss on this. This contains just 400 topics. The pattern of this kovai and this number has been adopted by later writers. Some had adopted topics exceeding even 500. Usually the Kovai has a hero of the story-events narrated, and another called a patron in whose honour the poem is sung. The only exception to this arrangement was the later Ambikapati-kovai (12th century) where there is no patron. Kovai poems have been composed even up to the present century, but their popularity has fast disappeared, because of the inelastic monotony of the subject and of the verse.

The substance of the kovai in a connected narrative is given in few words. A youth meets a handsome maiden in a cool bower and the two fell in love and immediately become man and wife. But they part later. The maiden who was till now watching over the family's tinai field, is now asked to return home. The lover starts meeting her during day time and later they start meeting during night time. Meanwhile, the moods of the girl make her people have recourse to a soothsayer called velan, in the mistaken belief that she is 'possessed'. Now she expresses her desire that he should come forward to marry her openly. He leaves her for sometime on various pretexts. He returns and sends his people to signify his willingness to marry her. But when they are not prepared to give her hand to him, the foster mother who is in the girl's secret helps her to elope with her lover. He marries her in his own place. They live together happily for sometime. Then he goes away to a harlot. He returns on hearing of the birth of a boy to his wife. Then again he leaves her on a study mission, then on the king's mission, and so on. Lastly he makes some money, comes home and the two live happily ever after.

The kovai poem seems to have had two purposes: one, the poets of later day loved to imitate the aham poetry of the sangham age; and two, they wished to pay their homage to Tiruk-kovaiyar attributed to Manikkavacakar.


The next poem is the Ula. The first such poem was sung by Seraman Perumal, whose songs have been included in the 11th book of the Saiva canon. 'Seven ages of Man' said Shakespeare in the 16th century, but Seraman said 'seven ages of Woman' in the opening years of the 8th century. The ages range from 5 to 40. Lord Siva comes out in a procession in the streets of Tillai (Cidambaram) one evening, and all the women, namely those belonging to the seven age groups, see him and fall in love with him. The poet portrays the girls, their moods and lament, and their action in a manner quite appropriate to their age. The Lord Siva is the hero here. His various attributes, his bath and dressing, his retinue and their action, are all very vividly described. Pedai is a small child, of 5 – 8 years. She cannot of course know what love can be. The next is a lass Pedumbai, 8-13. She is of the adolescent group, a problematic age. She knows and not knows her mind. This difficulty has been well experienced by writers, and has given rise to the saying, 'to the ula writer, the age of the pedumbai is like a tiger, the most difficult.' The other age group people are young and grown up women, who know definitely what love is. The last is the perilampen aged 40, a matronly woman, whose love of the Lord tends to be other worldly. The poem is in the long continuous kalivenba metre. Seraman's poem has about 200 kanni or couplets. These poems have been written not only on deities such as Muruga, Visnu, Ganapati etc., but also on patrons, men of God, and similar human personalities. A large volume of such poems have been written and they display a great revelry in the luxuries of life and in the flights of imagination. Though composition in a long and simple continous narrative may tend to become monotonous and hamper the poetic expression, it is not so in fact. The difference in the age group of the girls from five years to forty gives a free hand to the poet in giving a psychological treatment to the subject and often one is able to enjoy the thought and emotional content of the poem, besides the sound effect. But they have gone out of date by the beginning of this century.


The first Madal poems were written in the 8th century by Alvar Tirumangai and they form part of the Vaisnava canon. They are known as the shorter and the longer Tirumadal and contain 77 end 148 couplets, strung together into a single long poem. The poem is extremely artificial in this that each has the same initial rhyming arrangement in all its 145 or 297 lines as the case may be. Here a girl pining for the love of Visnu declared that if her love was not returned by Him, she would make a horse of palmyrah stalks and ride it, meaning thereby that she would immolate herself. The poems are important because of their antiquity. The madal is a familiar love theme in sangham poetry, where generally it is the male that offers to mount the palmyrah horse and die because of unrequitted love. Madal for the woman has been explicitly prohibited, because it is unwomanly and immodest of her to speak openly of her love. The madal poems of Kalamegham and Tattuvarayar are well known. But yet, either form of the madal is an unusual poem in later literature.


On the other hand, the Dhutu came into existence as an independent long poem in the 14th century and immediately became popular. There are now scores of such poems. The dhutu is a love poem, intended to convey the message of love from the girl to the lover. It is there in sangham poetry in the form of short verses where the separated lady, in a frenzy of love, sends birds and bees to go to her lover, speak of her longing, and bring him back. The woman-singer is most often addressed in this manner for bringing back the hero from the battle field to his lady love. The Meghasandesa of Kalidasa is the most famous of such dhutu poems in Sanskrit. The first such poem in Tamil was written by Saint Umapati Sivacarya, a Saiva spiritual preceptor addressing his own heart to go to his master and secure his garland in token of his grace towards the pupil. Later poetic convention lays down the objects which can be employed to carry the love message as ten, such as the heart, the south wind, the swan, the parrot, the cloud etc. But a host of others have also been employed by poets. Umapati's poem is called the Nenju-vidu-dhutu. A Tamil-vidu-dhutu (17 centuries) is deservedly very famous. The dhutu poem like ula is a single long poem in the kalivenba metre, often running to 700 couplets and more. In these poems the most brilliant flashes of poetic conceit can be seen. They had a wide popularity till the end of the last century.

The Virali-vidu-dhutu of recent times is a very long poem where considerable vulgarity is introduced to please the petty chief to whom the virali (woman singer) is sent. Here poetry is subordinated to the theme of erotic love. There were incessant wars among the chieftains or polygars in those days. This poem, by introducing the virali, a woman singer-cum-dancer to the patron, who was in those days a petty chief of the degenerate times, seeks to pander to his amorous nature. These patrons were mostly uneducated, uncultured rustic men, to whom only the vulgar, the sensuous and the bizarre had the greatest appeal. Their morals were not high and hence even a little gifted poet, unless he was spiritually inclined, could not help pandering to the tastes of such men. The virali arruppadai and dhutu, the kadal and the nondi natakam are such long poems of an erotic and sensuous nature.


Two of the most cherished poems are the pavai and palli-elucci. These poems have been sung in the Vaisnava as well as the Saiva canon. They are considered to have great spiritual import. Among the Vaisnavas, they form part of the daily prayer book.


Tiruppavai by Andal wields such an influence over the Vaisnavas, as no other work, not even Nammalvar's poems, has. Nammalvar's poems are philosophical and spiritual, while Andal's poem is on the personal and the physical plane. The pavai theme has the most artistic treatment with Andal. Perhaps it is reminiscent of a religious observance of the worship of Krishna by the ayar, the cowherds' clan. Girls here gather together, very early in the morning, wake up the others in order to go to the river for a bath and the worship of Krishna. They really bathe in the grace of Visnu and pray for the right husbands for themselves, and for prosperity and rains for the land. The girls are all young children. They go to the house of Nandagopa the foster-father of Krishna, wake him up, and pray to him to accept their services for ever and ever. The poem of 30 verses is unexcelled for its luscious description of the morning, of nature in the cowherds' quarters and of other girls still asleep. It has endeared itself to all the Vaisnavas, women equally as men, because of the language and description and the enjoyment of the richness of life and its many pleasures which it vividly portrays.

Manikkavacakar's poem of 20 verses, called the Tiru embavai, is more austere in tone and cast differently. From the beginning there is a spiritual note, one of actual surrender to God. Siva has no child-form and so the play conception of Andal does not enter here. There is an actual bath here and a praise of the grace of Siva and His five-fold functions directed towards the redemption of the souls. Several pavai poems of indifferent merit have been attempted by later writers.


The Palli-elucci in both the canons is a short poem of ten verses. Its theme is to wake up the Lord in order that he may bestow His grace on the mortals. The concept of Palli-elucci is beautifully expressed by Manikkavacaka in one of his songs. True to his spirit of absolute surrender to God, he goes up to the Lord in his song and wakes Him up; 'My Lord of Tirup-Perumturai! What is Thy command for me today? I have come to Thee to know it; please wake up.' This is the general tone of all Palli-elucci songs. The pallandu again is a poem of 12 verses, a benediction on the Lord and a prayer for His continued grace of His devotees. This poem in each canon was sung under dramatic situations which warrant the conferring of a benediction on God by a mortal.

A padikam is a short poem of ten verses, generally having a common ending, sung in praise of a diety. Almost all the Saiva and Vaisnava canons consist of Padikams. This is a very simple form of poetry which continues from the fifth century to this day; it has no theme except the praise of God.


There are a few other types which are interesting on account of the themes contained in them. The Anga malai of Saint Appar is one which ever has an appeal to the devotee and to the young child. It consists of twelve couplets, in which each is addressed to an organ of the body like the head, eye, ear, nose, heart etc., and each is called upon to bow to Him, see Him, hear His praises, think of Him, walk round His temple and so on. It is couched in a simple but interesting metre where the opening phrase occurs as a refrain of the verse and the whole poem has been a source of joy to children and very aged people alike, because of the song quality and the thought content. Tirumangai wrote a poem on the same verse pattern on a love theme where the love-sick maiden calls upon the pheasant, the parrot, the kuyil and the others and asks each to bring her Lord to her. Both the poems lend themselves easily to light singing.


Dasangam was probably invented by Manikkavacakar in the venba metre. It is a poem of ten verses celebrating the traditional ten insignia of royalty. He was a minister under a Pandiya ruler and the appurtenances of sovereignty would easily have suggested themselves to him. Here he applies them to God. He has adapted many folksong motifs into his verses and they had gained immense popularity. The ammanai, sunnam, usal and undi may be specified as illustrations.

The citrakavi is of several types familiar in later day poetry, where there is a great play of words, sounds letters and numbers. Of course the sense and poetry are generally sacrificed. Jnana Sambandha young in age revels in citrakavi. He has sung many such poems. One is the Elukurrirukkai in ahaval, where the numbers are built up from one to seven, each time beginning from one, going to the top, coming back to one, and again going up. The praise of God runs all through. His invention has been followed by half a dozen others.

Malai marru malai is another by Sambandha. It is a rare citrakavi, where the verse remains the same even when read from its last letter, in the reverse direction. All the difficulty arises only in giving out the meaning of the verse.

Many minor prabandhas like the Irattai-mani-malai had been written even by the fifth century. Variations in metre, in thought and in the number of verses had given rise to scores of poems such as the Orupa orupatu, Irupa-irupatu, Mummanik-kovai, Nanmani malai etc. The love poem kovai, had variations such as the Varukkak-kovai and the Oruturaik-kovai. Many prabandhas in dramatic form were written after the 16th century, like the Kuravanji, Pallu and Nondinatakam and these were seen in the section on drama. All forms of the minor poems had been sung originally as short or long poems, in praise of the glory of God. In later years, they were sung on the spiritual guru. Still later, when political life was very uncertain, they even sung on petty local chiefs.

We do not have any minor poem describing an object or place or event, or having any separate story content or experience. People considered no experience other than spiritual experience is worth writing down. The Kalavali-narpatu, one of the Kilk-kanakku was written to celebrate an actual event, namely the battle between Koccengat-chola and the Sera, Irumborai. It was written long before the Canons.

Nari viruttam of Tiru-Takkadevar is a solitary exception of a story being narrated to teach a moral. Panca tantiram of Viramarttanda deva, an adaptation from Sanskrit, is a book of short stories in verse, preaching morals to young children.


Any developed language makes a compilation of selections from its authors according to the needs of the times. Students of English literature may be familiar with Palgrave's Golden Treasury of select verses of English poetry made for the beauty and poetic value of the verses. Such a scheme of compilation has been going on in Tamil Literature from the earliest period of its history. One shall briefly indicate the trends here. The entire Sangham poetry is a set of compilations. Pattup-pattu is one of ten songs. There were certainly many more, but the compiler probably collected together only ten. Similarly Ettuttohai consists of eight anthologies; Aha nanuru, Narrinai and Kuruntohai are anthologies of occasional verses on aham. Purananuru on puram; Paripadal of musical pieces. Patirrup-pattu is a collection of ten poems on puram of ten authors, each poem having ten verses in praise of one Sera prince. Kalittohai is a compilation of group of verses by five authors on the five tinais and Ainkurunuru of 100 verses each by five authors. The legend is that Naladi itself is an anthology of 400 isolated verses.

Next in point of time are the Saiva and the Vaisnava canon. In the latter the first and the third thousand are by several authors, while the second and the fourth are by one alvar each, Tirumangai and Nammalvar. Similarly in the Saiva canon, the Ninth and the Eleventh Books are collections of poems by many authors.

One understands that there was a grammatical treatise on puram by twelve authors in the 8th century, by name Panniru patalam. It is a grammatical anthology; so also is Panniru pattiyal, a collection of verses from 15 writers on prosody and poetics of 10th century.

Purattirattu, of 1570 verses, dealing with Aram, porul and inbam on the model of Kural, is an anthology of verses selected from the earliest writing, chiefly with an eye towards poetic value. At about the same time, two selections were made from the Saiva Devaram, one by Umapati, with 100 verses and another by one Agastiya with 25 poems (about 250 verses). Two other small collections had been in use from the olden days, one from Periya puranam having about 50 verses, and another from the entire Saiva canon, to be used on the occasions of Siva Puja. Pattinattar Padal and Tayumanavar padal are anthologies of verses which were available to the compilers of the respective authors.

The latter half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th witnessed the collection of many anthologies: Tamil seyyul kalambakam and Pannul tirattu, collections from standard works made for their didactic value. Saiva maniari, a collection from standard Saiva works made for their philosophical value. Tanip-padal tirattu, a comprehensive collection of stray verses made with a view to preserving them. Tanicceyyul cintamani, on the same lines but more elaborate; a selection of 1000 verses from Ramalinga swami for use in prayers; and lastly perum tohai of M. Raghava Aiyangar, a very ambitious and well edited scholarly work (aram and Porul only), of all stray verses having any literary value, and also of unidentified quotations from the commentators. He passed away before he could issue the second volume comprising of the part inbam. A slender volume of a collection of verses from the inscriptions has also been made.

Vedanta manana cintamani is a collection of about 10,000 verses from all philosophical and religious books, numbering 227, made by Karapatra-Sivaprakasa Swami, to be of use to students of the Vedanta philosophy. It was compiled in the first decade of this century.

There have been many advaitic selections from philosophical works from the 15th century to this day. Tattuvarayar made two such selections, Perum-tirattu and Kurum-tirattu, containing 2821 and 1340 verses respectively. He seems also to have made a much smaller compilation named Sivanubhogat-tirattu containing 305 verses, taken from 73 books. Sankara narayanattirattu is a similar compilation, of a later period.

Two short anthologies deserve mention here. They have a peculiar characteristic. The poems contained in them had all come into existence in the 18-19 centuries. The equivalent of about 200 lines, distributed into four quarters, each quarter having a pendant - an arresting phrase of two or three words. The verse is mostly erotic, in praise of a shrine or a patron. It is always written in an artificial and elaborate rhythmic pattern, with a symmetric arrangement of the soft, medium or hard sounds as may be planned, having a regular beat and tilt. It was then the fashion to write such verses and average poets prided themselves on their capacity to write such verses. They called themselves vannakkalanjiyam.The repository of vannam was usually the lament of the mother at finding that her daughter had eloped with her lover. The first half should contain praise of a deity, praise of the gifts (of the deity or the patron), praise of the glory and victory, and praise of the city and the country of the patron.

Another type is the epistolatory verse (sittukkavi) where the poet sends an epistle to his patron in verse form. The epistle in verse started with the second verse of Kurumtohai and the first verse of the 11th book of the Saiva canon, both attributed to Iraiyanar (Lord Siva). But in the modern period the verse is always a long viruttam. The first half of the verse contains the conceited boasts of the writer about himself, and the second half contains a bombastic eulogy of the patron and ends with a request that the patron supply the writer with the particular object or money that he may require. There is a collection of over thirty verses and it had popularity with learners and scholars during the first quarter of this century.

This gives a picture of the general trend of poetic anthologies during the last 20 centuries. Here one has the sangham poetry, religious poetry, grammatical collections, devotionsal verses, philosophical collections, and comprehensive collections of all occasional verses. Only Purattirattu may be said to be a poetic anthology compiled for poetic values.

During the second quarter of the 20th century, there lived T.K.C. (T.K. Chidambaranatha Mudaliyar), the poetic connoisseur and literary savant, who made it his mission in life to pick out brilliant poetic pieces, not only from well known literary works but also from obscure and unfamiliar works, and make them come alive, vibrating with vigour and vitality, scintillating with colour and lustre, and dancing with grace and form before the listener, illiterate or learned. He was the person who had an unfailing eye for poetry and who could keep kindred spirits enthralled by his exposition. But unfortunately he died without publishing any collection.


There is quite a decent volume of Siddha literature in the Tamil language and it will therefore be worthwhile to know the Siddha poets and their writing. The word siddha means a realised soul. Though Tirumular is known as a siddha, his songs have been collected into the Saiva canon. The poems of the other siddhas are said to have been collected into a handy volume known as the 18 Siddhar Jnana kova. But the volume is not real siddha poetry. There are in it large sections of modern writing in prose and verse which will hardly fit in with the siddha writing.


He was generally considered to be an iconoclast because he vehemently decried temple worship. He did so no doubt, but he said still more vehemently that man should make his heart the temple of God. He had scant respect for rituals which in popular belief had become a substitute for love and service to God and to fellow beings. He was a vehement opponent of caste. Almost all the siddhas believed in the oneness of all creation and they preached a philosophy of love and service and of an inward contemplation. Sivavakkiyar is a shining example of this faith. Some of his verses have the force of a sabre thrust.


Pattinattar, the siddha, lived probably about the same time as Siva vakkiyar and he too condemned material pleasures as the greatest obstacle to spiritual advancement. Siva vakkiyar had no word to say against woman, but this Pattinattar always carried on a tirade against them. His one message was compassion, sharing one's food with the hungry.

It is Pattinattar who brought the highest spiritual wisdom and its emotional flight in both polished and rugged poetry to the level of the so-called masses. Till recently, there was no mendicant beggar or wandering minstrel who did not sing a dozen of his verses to the accompaninment of an one-stringed self-made harp. The content of the song, the attunement of the minstrel, and his rugged harp blended, strangely enough, harmoniously with the rural setting.

Pattiragiri, according to legend, renounced a princely life on seeing the value of Pattinattar's renunciation and became his disciple. He has written the Pulambal or Lamentations, containing 235 couplets, expressing his passionate longing for the realisation of God and for deliverance from sins. He always expresses here love for fellow beings and reverence for all womanhood. Avvai in Tamil literature has been many, and we would consider the Avvai, who sang Jnanak-kural and Vinayakar ahaval, a siddha. Her two poems are very popular and although she is not spoken of as a siddha, she is indeed one, both by her life and by her songs.


There have been a few more minor siddhas who have sung a few moving poems each, though couched in obscure and mystic language. The name of Pambatti siddha, the snake charmer, is the foremost among them. His song, Adu pambe, is famous in the whole of Tamilnadu today. He is a mystic and all his thoughts are couched in mystic language. The kundalini sakti is the serpent which he would like to charm and cause to play. Aluguni siddha is another, who had only a few verses to his credit. The tone of his songs is one of lament and hence his name Aluguni, the mourner. He addresses his songs to Kannamma, and perhaps this inspired Bharati, the modern national poet of Tamilnad, to compose his famous Kannamma songs. Ahappey is another. The mind is the devil (pey) and he addresses his songs to that mind. The mind roams about without any fixed purpose, skipping from one thing to another. His songs are intended to fix it in the Saiva spiritual path. Kaduveli is yet another. He is the author of the type of verse since known as the arandak-kalippu. He condemns all malpractices in the siddha order and laments that the people do not put to proper use this mortal frame which is hard to obtain. Kutambai siddha is another very popular siddha poet, who addresses his profoundly mystic songs to a child, wearing the ear ornament, kutambai. The last important siddha is Idaikkattu siddha, who hails from 'a jungle of cowherds' and hence he got that name. He has couched his songs in the form of a dialogue between two cowherds tending their cows and sheep. He has expressed his ideas in the process of tending, milking etc. There are a few minor siddhas of lesser importance, like the Enadi siddha.


All the siddhas are a group of mystics who revolt against caste and rituals and the established order of religion. They are no doubt bhaktas but their bhakti is of a different type. They are very critical of the practice of religion but always hold fast to the one Supreme God and pray for His Grace. Their revolt is only in the manner of their criticism and the challenge they throw to orthodoxy. They are generally against idol worship and they emphasize the worship of God in the heart. All the siddhas have been Saivas.

The siddha seems to have been a general term applied to some who wrote medical treatises also. They had attained a certain level of achievement in medicine or siddhi, and so are known as siddhas. Their system of indigenous medicine, when practised correctly, has been found to be quite successful.


Literature does not begin from emptiness, says Wilber Scott. In a particular period, literature begins from the background of particular community In literature, poetry occupies a special place. It is called the “Queen of Arts.” Traditional poetry is controlled by grammar. ‘Yappu’ is its soul. Poetry is an expression of feelings. There are similes and metaphors in it. There is a lot of description in it. Bharathi is the first modern poet who is equally good at creating Traditional poetry.


Subramonia Bharathi was born in 1882 in Ettayapuram . His parents were Chinnaswamy and Lekkumi Ammal. His nickname was Subbiah. He got the title Bharathi in 1893. He married Chellammal in 1897. He worked as Tamil teacher and as the sub editor of a newspaper. He lived in various places such as Ettayapuram, Kasi, Madurai, Chennai, Puthucheri and Kadayam. He died in 1921. His poetry shows his love for Tamil, his patriotism and nationalism. He gives prime place for women. His poetry has revolutionary ideas. There is simplicity and sweetness in his poetry which is a special feature of the 20th century poetry. He also introduces the poetic prose. He expresses the feelings of Socialism, the freedom of Tamil and moral values in literature in simple style. Balasubramaniam, a critic, says that Bharathi knew Nandanar Charitra Keerthanai(tradition) as well as the Japanese High – Ku(modernity). He had the knowledge of Tagore and the light of Walt Whitman’s poetry. He is the devotee of Goddess Kali or Shakthi. At the same time he loved Shelly. It is said that subjective and spoken form of poetry were introduced by Bharathi. He is the father of Tamil National poetry. He praises India as Bharatha Devi. His first poetry Swadesa Geethangal was published in 1908. He visualises not only freedom for India but also the freedom for the poor and down trodden lower class people. He had no faith in caste system and social order. He believed that all are equal. He also wanted to put a full stop for religious clashes which destroy the unity of people. He loved Tamil Nadu in the same manner. He had felt the greatness of the Tamil language by his own experience. He has glorified Kamban, Elangovan and Valluvan. He has paved the way for the growth of modern Tamil literature. He is of the view that children should get their education through their mother tongue. He is very much interested in women’s education. His poems on Lord Krishna (Kannan) as his friend, father, mother, servant, king, disciple, guru, lover and his lady – love are noteworthy. He took special interest in Mahabharata and produced ‘Panjali Sabatham.’ He also wrote Kuyil Pattu.


Bharathidasan was born in 1891. His parents were Kanagasabhai and Lekkumiammal. His native place was Puthucheri and his original name was Kanagasubburattinam. He changed his name as Bharathidasan because of his love for Bharathi. He told that humanity is more important than divinity in poetry. In 1926 Bharathidasan published Sri Mylam Subramaniar Thuthiamuthu. Siruvar Sirumiar Desia Geetam, Kathar Rattina Pattu & Thondar Valinadai Pattu are published by him. His other works are Pisiranthiar, Veerathai, Yethirparatha Muttham, Puratchi Kavi, Alagin Sirippu, Pandiyan Parisu, Yethu Isai, Puthia Aathichoodi, Kathala Kadamya, Isaiamuthu, Thenaruvi, Kannaki Puratchi Kappiam, Manimegalai Venpa, Sanjeevi Parvathathin Saaral and Irunda Veedu. Kudumbu Villakku and Kavithai Thogothigal are also his important works.

Ra. P. Sethupillai says that one finds speed and the longing for freedom in Bharathidasan’s poetry. He praises nature. Like Bharathi, he also stressed education for women. He is the first poet who describes the love between aged people. He criticizes the people who supported the division based on caste and religion. He believes in Socialism. He has got a permanent place in literature.


Kavimani was born in 1876 in Theroor in Kanyakumari District. His parents were Sivathanu Pillai and Aathi Lekshmi Ammayar. He built a bridge between the old and new tradition. His first work was Alagammai Aasiriya Viruthum (1895). His poetry collection includes Malarum Malaiyum. His other works are Deviyin Keerthanai (Keerthana book), Marumakkal Vali Manmyam and Kavimaniyin Uraimanigal. He did some translations also. They are Aasia Jothi and Umarkaiyam Padalgal. He wrote 17 critical essays in English. In these Kanthaloor Salai Oru Aaivu is published. In 1940 the Madras state Tamil Sangam gave him the title Kavimani. He died in 1954. His poetry had simple words but profound ideas. He said that God lives in the heart of everyone. He wrote for the children and was called ‘child poet’. Like the other poets, he also praises women. He wrote poems against the social evils like untouchability and drinking. His Marumakkal Vali Manmyam was published in 1912. It is a satire on the follies and foibles found in the particular community in Nanjil Nadu.

Nammakal Ramalingam Pillai.

Ramalingam was born in 1888. His parents were Venkatarama Pillai and Ammini Ammal. The split of the Bengal in 1906, the actions of Aravind Gosh and the political speeches of Bebin Chandra Pal induced him to join the Indian Freedom Movement. He earned the nickname, ‘Congress poet’. His first collection of poems Vande Mataram, Desia Pattugal was published in 1922. After that he published his poems like Nammakal Kavinar Padalgal. Avanum Avalum is his epic. His poetry books are Sangoli, Tamilthaer, Tamilan Ithayam, Kavithanjali and Gandhi Anjali. The poems in Gandhi Anjali gave him name and fame. Rajaji says that ‘Thilagar was the source of influence for Bharathi and Gandhiji was the inspiration for Nammakal Kavinar.’ Ramalingam Pillai was a great artist, a master painter who later became a word painter. He served as a court poet for sometime. His works include 7 novels, 1 ballad (kathaipadal), 2 dramas, 17 essay books and 1 translation. He wrote new interpretations and criticism to Thirukural. Malaikallan is his best novel. He believed in ‘One religion and One God ‘.


He wrote many long poems and lyrics at the time of freedom movement and thus enriched Tamil poetry with his unique love for the language and the nation. His famous work is Bharatha Sakthi Maha Kaviyam.


He published his famous poetry book, Tamil kumari. He has translated the poems of Walt Whitman and Umar Kayyam into Tamil. He treated Agalya in a new way in his poetry and showed the tragic life of Kannaki in a new angle.


He is praised as Uvamai Kavinar. His original name was Rajagopalan. Suratha is his pen name, derived and shortened from Subburatina Dhasan ie. Bharathi Dhasan. Thaenmazhai shows his skill in writing poetry. His other works are Sirripin Nilal, Chuvarum Chunnambum, and Thuraimugam. He loved Tamil very much. In the beginning he worked in Prasanda Vikatan and the newspaper Sivaji. He published a few literary journals like Kaviyam, Ilakkiam, Oorvalam and Vinmeen.


His original name was Durairaj. He was interested in the welfare of the society. He wanted to fight against the social evils. His poetry collections are Gnayirum Thingalum, Kaviyappavai, Padunkuyil and Manithanai Thedukiren. His epic works are Poonkode, Veerakaviyam and Voontrukol. His famous works include Iyarkai Ulagam, Kadal Ulagam, Tamil Ulagam, Thotil Ulagam and Santror Ulagam.


He was born in 1927 in Sirukoodal Patti, a small village in Karaikudi. His parents were Ala Sathappa Chettiar and Vishalakshi Aachi. His original name was Muthiah. His pen names are Vanagamudi, Karaimuthupulavar, Pavathinathan. He worked as editor in the journals Thirumagal, Sandamarutham, Thiraioli, Methavi, Thenral, Kannadasan & Mullai. In 1948, he entered the field of cinema through the lyric Kalankathiru Manamae and his last song was Kannae Kalaimanae. He died in 1981. He published Kannadhasan Kavithaigal, Thaipavai, Mangani, Attanathi Aathimanthi and Yesu Kaviyam.


He was born in 1930. His parents were Arunachalam and Visalakshi. He was praised as Makkal Kavinar. He died at the age of 29. He was interested in Socialism. He wrote songs for dramas and films. His songs were collected and published under the title Pattukottai Kalyanasundaram Padalgal. He lived a simple life.


Kavingar Vanidhasan wrote best poems. Tamilachi, Kodi Mullai, Elielovium, Inba Elakkium, Pongal Parisu are his best poems. Kambadhasan’s Suriyanum Oru Tholilali and Pichaikaran are about the dreams of new society. Ala Valliappa wrote Malarum Ullam. He was the forenunner of children’s literature (kulandai Elakkium). The other best poets and their poems are N.S. Chidambaram’s Ethayakoil and Thavanalam. Somu’s Elavenil, Vennila, Porunai Kariyelae, & Tharagai. Tamilazagan’s Tamilaga Kavithaigal. Cholai Elanthiranyen’s Veerugal Aaerum. Ka. Mu. Sherif’s Oli, Amuthakalasam and Machagandi, Pe. Thooran’s Elanthamilar, Elankamban’s Geethanjali Keerthanaigal, Tamil oliyen’s Tamil oliyen Kavithaigal, Kannappan Keligal, Kosalai Kumari’s Vithiyo Vinaiyo and Veerayi – Kothamangalam Subbu, Karunanethi, Sethuraman, Velavendan, Sundaram, Aranga Srinivasan, and Arivu Ozli developed traditional poetry in Tamil.


Neo Poetry is expressed through symbols and the development of thought gives size, shape and structure to the poem. It is completely cut off from the old and traditional school which gives importance to grammar and prosody. Here, there is no grammar but the uncontrolled flow of feelings. Ideas are spread throughout the poem. There seems no diction and ideal direct words. Human life is presented with stark realities. It has different names such as Kumba, Uraippa, Vidunetaipa and Paetchu. Nelaipa in the past. The new names are Uraiveechu, Sorkolam, and Suthanthirakolam. It is said that the following three schools with their respective ages, are responsible for the growth and development of neo poetry in Tamil. They are

		1.Manikkodi Parambarai
		2.Yeluthu Parambarai and
		3.Vanampadi Parambarai.

Manikodi, Yeluthu and Vanampadi are the three popular journals in the field of Tamil literature offering a platform for the new comers to make innovations. Manikkodi Parambarai was from the 1930’s to 1945. The forerunners of this parambarai were Puthumaipithan, Ku.Pa. Rajagopalan, Na. Pitchamoorthy and Vallikannan. The next parambarai was from 1950 to 1971. This period was an experimental period for neo poetry. Neo poetry(Vanampadi Parambarai) got its life after 1970.

Walt Whitman, the father of Neo Poetry published Pullin Ethalgal (The leaves of grass) in 1885. It consists of 12 poems. It was liked by all. In Tamil, Neo Poetry or Poetic prose was first written by Bharathi.

After Bharathi, the credit for popularizing neo poetry goes to Na.Pitchamoorthy. His poem Ushai describes the beauty of dawn. It is the theme of this poem.

Ku. Pa. Rajagopalan.

Rajagopalan’s works are Karuvalaiyum Kaiyum, Pennin Piravi Ragasium,Viratham Kaiyai Meeriyathu, Neeyum Nanum, Sorvum Kulaivum, Viduthalai, Uram, Ueir and Dharisanum. Rakki Nenaippu is about the lovers of the village. His views of life are special and different.


Puthumaipithan is the pen name of Veloor Ve. Kanthaswamy. He published his first poem Kadavulukku Kannundu which is totally modern. His second poem Oodatheer, appeared in the magazine, Grama Ouliyan.

Thie So. Venugopalan.

Thi. So. Venugopalan presented the philosophy of life in simple and ordinary events and incidents. His poem Gnanam comes under this category. He wrote his poetic experiences in a sarcastic manner with humour and irony. Visaranai kavithai is written in the above lines. His collections of poetry are Kodaivayal and Meetchi Winnappam.


He looked at all the actions of life in images or katchi roopam. He wrote poems about the mental torture and agony experienced by the modern men. But at the same time, he looked at nature with wonder and awe. His works are Sagunam, Urimai, Anubavam, Savari and Bayam.


By writing the long poem Narakam, C. Mani showed his art of writing poetry. The interest of old Tamil literature and his wish of new trend are realized by the readers. His specific works are Varum Pokum, Natiyak - kalai, Ugarkuthi, Alaivu, Kugai, Theervu, Mugamoodi, Palakkam and Pari.


His original name is Sundara Ramaswamy. His poetry has rare beauty and depth of ideas which are presented in a sarcastic manner. His poetry also presents some divine experience. The meaning of life is probed in all his expressions. Nadunisi Naigal and Yaro Oruvanukkaga are his best collection of poems. 107 poems is the title for his new edition.

Pramil (Dharumu Sivaram)

Pramil is one of the most important modern poets. He wrote continuously from 1960 to 1996. His famous books are Kannadiuilirenthu, Kaipidialavu Kadal and Melnokia Payanam. In 1998, his complete works were collected and published in the name Pramil Kavithaigal. He tried to compose his poems by realizing all his experiences and imagination.


He entered the field of poetry through the poem Prachanai. He has been writing poems since 1968. Antru Veru Kilamai, Sooriyanukku pinpakkam, Kadarkariyil Sila Marangal and Meendum Avargal are his famous works. They were published in the year 1973. In 1998 a collection of poems Gnankkoothan kavithaigal was published.


Kalyanji reveals the sorrow of human heart in his poems. He has been writing poems since 1969. His collections of poems are Pulari, Kalyangi Kavithaigal, Munpin and Anniya Matra Nathi. He writes about the hardships of the present day life


Sirpi Balasubramaniam comes in the category of Vanampadi poets. He wants to write about practical life. His early works are Nilavu Poo & Siritha Mutthukkal. His other works are Olipparavi (1971), Sarpayagam (1975), Punnagai Pookum Poonaigal, Mauna Mayakkangal and Suriya Nilal.


Meera’s original name is Me. Rejendran. He is writing under the pen name of Meera. His first book Kanavugal + Kaarpanaigal = Kagithangal was published in 1971. His second book is Oosaigal (1978). He comes first in the list of Progressive Poets (Murpokku kavinargal). He writes about art, literature, politics, love, devotion and the marriages of the Tamils. He criticizes the follies and foibles of the society in his poems.


He appeared in the Tamil poetic world with his collection Karuppu Malargal (1971). His book Pul is a famous one. He praises nature’s beauty and dignity in his poems. His other works are Tajmahalum Rottithundukalum, Saharavai thandatha Ottangal, Malaium Jeevanathikalum, Apple Kanavu and Kattukkurathi.


Inqulap gives his voice against the banishment of people. He tells that his first duty is to fight and encourage people to wage a war against corruption and selfishness. His books are Inqulap Kavithaigal (1972), Vellai Iruttu (1977) Suriyanai Sumappavargal (1981) and Kookkural.


Thone Varukirathu, which was published in 1973, identified Tamilanphan as a strong man in the Tamil poetic world. His other books are Theevugal Karaiyerukinrana, Antha Nanthanai, Oumai Veyil, Suriya piraigal, Erintha Neruppin Micham,Kalathirku orunal munthi,Minminikkadu and Sigarangal Melvirium Sirakugal. His poems reveal the truth of real life.


He wrote various kinds of poems. His collections are Mannin Manbu, Kamaroobam, Amma Amma and Natchathirappookal.


Kalapriya began his poetic career with Theertha Yathirai in 1973. Her poetry collections are Matrange, Yettyapuram, Vellam, Suyamvaram and Ulakellam Suriyan. Thi. Janakiraman praised her art of writing poetry.


He is called as ‘Kaviko’. His first book Palveethi was published in the year 1974. He also wrote Neyar Viruppum, Chuttu viral, Alabanai and Pithan. He was the only modern poet who got the central Government’s Sahitya Academy Award in 1998. He presents his poems not directly but through similes metaphors, images and symbols. He expresses the conflicts of the inner and outer world through images and symbols.


Abi uses images to describe the things hidden in his heart. Maunathian Navugal (1974) was his first book. His other work is Anthra Nadai.


Metha has used his poetic skill with a definite objective to create a new society and also to change it into a powerful movement of the masses. He belongs to the group of the Vanampadi poets. He attracted the lovers of literature through the poem Desapithavukku oru Therupadaganin Anjali. In 1975 Kanneer Pookal was published. His other works are Oorvalam, Velicham Velea Illai, Nadantha Nadakangal, Oru vanum Eru Siragu, Kathrintha kartu, Avargal varugiralgal and Nantha vana Natkal.


Puviarasu with his strong footing in traditional poetry speaks through symbols and images in a skillful way. His poetic craft is different from the poetic craft of the other Vanampadi poets. Ethu than (1975) is his first poetic collection. His other works are Meeral and Oru Mukkia Arivippu.


Aathmanam wrote from 1976 to 1984. His first collection, Kakithathil kodu was published in 1982. His complete works were published under the title Aathmanam Kavithaigal. In Veliyetram one can see the plight of an individual who is separated from the society.


His first book was Kulithu karaiyeratha Gopiyergal (1976). Minnerpolethe Dhooram, Matrapadatha Veedu, Boonuyai Uthariyelunthe megangal, Antharathile Oor Erukkai and Pulveliyel Orukal are his other books.


He launched his poetic career with the publication of his famous book Thiruthi Yeluthia Theerpugal (1979). He also wrote Vaigari Megangal, Maunathin Sapthangal, Tamilukku Niramundu, Ella nathiyelum in oodam, Kodimarathin Vergal, Entha pookal virpanaikku alla, Kavi nirathil oru kodhal, Malaivasam, Thaneer Resam and Peiyena peiym malai


Gandarvan wanted to bring reforms in the society. There are intense feelings and profound ideas in his poetry. In 1981, his first book Kelisalgal was published. His other works are Meesaigal and Cherigal.


His first collection Aagasam Nelaniram was published 1982. His other works are Orun Kalam, Ullavargum Ulagam, Yeluthu, Sol, porul, Thiru uttrakosamangai and Aathi


Sanangalin Kathai (1988) introduced him as an eminent poet in Tamil. His famous collections are Crotenzkalodu Konjaneram, Evargal Valnthathu and Enrum Yenrum.

Other poets

H.G. Rasool came with the publication of his book, Jana Gana Mana (1998). His other works are En Siragugal Vanvetiyel and Pootiya Arai.

Bramarajan wrote Arintha Nirantharam, Valiunarum Manithargal (1985) and Gnapaga Sirpam. The other books are Bala’s Ennoru Manithargal, Thinnaikalum Varaverparaigalum (1999) Sukumaran’s Payanigalum Sangeethangalum (1991), Aananth’s Kaladiyel Aagayam (1992); Karikalan’s Uppothiruntha Edeiveliyel (1993), Pulanvetti (1998), Lekkumi Kumaran’s Gnanathiraviyathin Enpathai Erukkirathu (1994) Rajamuruga Pandiyan’s Sila Thalith Kavithaigal (1994) Nisha’s Mugangal Kavanamum (1996), Solaikili’s Pambu Narambu Manithan (1995), Paiyel Moli Yeluthi (1996); Thaliyari’s Yenkae Yenathu Mugam (1996) Anmai (1997), N.T. Rajkumar’s Teri (1997), Odakku (1997), Nada. Sivakumar’s Uvarman (1997), Yavanika Sriram’s Eravu Enbathu urnga alla (1998); Yegubharathy’s Manppathayam (1998). Kedyanaraman’s Oru Naragathilerunthu kural, Kalidas, Santhippin Kadaisi Nodiyil (1998) and Suratha’s Karisi (1998)


High- ku poetry is also called as Sindar, Thulippa, Minba, Narukkavithaigal, minmini kavithaigal and vamanak kavithaigal. It was originated in Japan. Chamber’s Dictionary gives the meaning of high – ku as ‘A Japanese poetry which has 5,7,5 asaigal.’ Abdul Rahman says that ‘he likes this form other than any forms of literatures in the world.’ Expression of humanity is the soul of high – ku. Pasho laid the foundation for it. Poora enlarges the boundaries. Jasha related it with life. Shiji saw the world in a beautiful way with the help of High-ku. These four are the fore – runners of high-ku. When it becomes popular, grammar is made to it. High – ku contains 17 sound – notes. There is a sudden change in the idea after the 12th sound – note. There is no place for simile in high – ku. In Tamil, Bharathi and Bharathidasan introduced high –ku.

Abdul Rahman, C. Mani, and Tamil Nadan translated the Japanese high – ku poetry into Tamil and published them. Abdul Rahman, Neelamani, Vaithiyalingam, Kalapriya, Vaitheeswaran and Kalyani brought up the form of poetry. Amutha Bharathy’s Pulli Pookal, Katrin Kaigal, High-ku Anthathi, Pullin Nuniyil Panithuli; Kaleniyaran’s Niranthesa Minalgal, Natchathira Viligal, Tamilanphan’s Suriya piraigal, Vetrivel’s Sinthanaiyin Nelalgal; Senthilkumar’s Nanaiyatha Nila Su. Muralidharan’s Koodaikul Desam; Mitra’s High – ku kavithaigal -High – ku En. Thoti, Kudaiyil ketta paetahu and Innum Makkal (collected by Salavuitheen, Palani Bharathy and M.S. Thaygarajan) developed the Tamil high –ku form.

But high-ku poetry cannot be easily understood. So the ordinary people do not read it. It makes its appeal only to the educated, particularly who have the experience of poetry. There is some meaning in the statement given by Udayasurian that ‘We do not consider high – ku as the weapon for bringing necessary changes in society’.


Prose is the natural form for the expression of thought by human beings. Language is an instrument for communicating the thoughts between human beings.

First man didn’t feel the need for writing. When the artistic expression developed, he began to write poems. He wrote in the palmyrah leaf with a steel stylus. People memorized all valuable things in the form of manuscript. But unlike poetry, prose was not easy to memorize. So there was no systematic work, small or big in prose that was written down in the past.

A few lines in the Silappadhikaram carry the traces of prose which is called katturai or Uraipattu Madai. It is in the form of rhythmic writing. It is neither poetry nor prose because it doesn’t have the measured rigidity of poetry and not the renderings of the language as it was spoken. But it is in prose, because the writer wanted to convey some thoughts in a direct manner. The first regular prose writing can be seen in Iraiyanar kalaviyal commentary.

Perundavanar Bharatam contains prose passages between verses to serve the purpose of continuity in the story. The author makes profuse use of Sanskrit and the whole work reminds of Katha kalaksepam, a form of narrative very popular today.

Illampuranar and Manakkudavar are the two writers who used simple prose in their commentaries. They have used limited number of Sanskrit words. Their writing is clear, without any flashes or figures. The other commentators are Adiyarkku-nallar (Eaapparunkala viruthi) Perun-devanar (Virasdiyam) Parimelalagar, Senavaraiyar, Peracisiriyar and Nacchinarkkiniyar. Of them, the first three writers are fully engrossed with their subject. Adiyarkku-nallar’s style is a dignified and direct style. Parimelalagar often brings his vast erudition on his writing. Senavaraiyar is descriptive. Nacchinarkkiniyar is an ocean of scholarship.

There was another school of commentary writers. They conveyed a new path for themselves. They are the Vaisnava Vyakhyana writers. From the days of Ramanuja down to the days of Manavala – ma – manigal, there have been a score of writers who wrote many glosses on the vaisnava cannon. The first writer was Tiruk kurugaip – piran Pillan. The sentence construction was in Tamil, but the religious terms, nominal inflexions and phrases were in Sanskrit. These writers thought and breathed Sanskrit though their nourishing ground was Nammalvar’s Tamil. It acquired the special name manipravala meaning Gem and coral. Pillan’s Arayirappadi was the fore runner of this school. In manuscripts and printed texts, the Sanskrit words are printed in the grantha character. The early publishers, who were financed by Telugu knowing Vaisnavas, printed the Sanskrit words in Telugu script. With the result a Non Telugu script knowing scholar can hardly decipher the vyakhyana

The ardent followers of Ramanuja who settled in the then Madras understood the Tamil language but did not know the Tamil script. They had the entire Nalayiram. Its commentaries and allied literature written by the vaisnava accaryar were printed in Telugu script.

The manipravala was taken by the Jain writers. Siva-Sambhodana a Jain philosophic work employs the manipravala for the prose portion. The second is Sri Purana which was written wholly in the manipravala style.

Prose writing now enters another phase in its evolution. The Saiva sastra commentators had a clear and simple style to expound their philosophy. Some writers wrote both commentaries and critical works. These commentary writers are so numerous and are great personalities. The saiva writers are characterized by lucidity and a logical force fullness while being dialectical also.

With the advent of the proselytizing of the Christian missionaries and the printing machine, Tamil prose again entered in a different phase in its history. Prose was employed by them in printing their tracts for religious conversion. At the same time printing found its way into non – Christian quarters.

The 19th Century is a period of abundant literary production in all spheres – prose, poetry, grammar, lexicon, musical pieces, drama and opera, journalistic writings, devotional poems, puranas other minor poems, essays and even story writing. Naturally prose played a large part in the creative activity of the period. Tandavaraya Mudaliyar (Pancatantram-prose) is the first important figure. Virasami Cettiyar is remembered for his Vinoda Rasa Manjari containing many funny (vinoda) stories. Ramalinga Swami, author of thousands of devotional verses, had written a few prose pieces like Manumurai Konda Vacakam and Sivakarunya olukkam

Arumugha Navalar was the father of modern prose. His most famous works are the prose versions of Kanda purana, Periya purana and Tiruvilaiyadal purana. His writing is always easy and elegant, direct and lucid.

Namasivaya Mudaliyar was a pandit in a women’s college. He made his style always direct, simple and verbose, elegant but not flowery, rich but not ornate. His thoughts were simple and he employed a single and forceful style to convey them to the young minds. Even today his school books are models of good Tamil prose.

It should be remembered that Navalar and Mudaliyar are not the only writers of good Tamil prose. There are many good writers who could certainly have written good prose during their days. But these two are the greatest exponents of prose which served as a model for all future prose writings.


In the modern world, people have no time to read voluminous novels. So a new form has been invented. It is called short – story. It is a simple and easy to read literary form. Short – story centers or focuses on a single event or a slice of life. At the end of the 20th century short – story grew well in America, Russia and France

Veeramamunivar’s Paramarthaguru kathaikal which was published in 1845 is the first story in Tamil. Suthanthiravarnam Pillai’s Katha Sinthamani (1875), Veiraswamy Chettiar’s Vinotharasa Manjare (1877) Natesa Sastri’s Thakkanathu poorvakathaigal (1880), the translated work Panniru Neethikkathaigal (1908 – 18) of Kathaikkootthu, Bologa Rambai, Santhirigaiyen kathai of Bharathiar helped the growth of short – story in Tamil literature. The journals, Varatharajulu Naidu’s Tamilnadu, Thiru V. Ka’s Desabhagtan, Navasakthi; T.S. Chockalingam’s Gandhi; Sreenivasan’s Manikkodi; Vasan’s Ananda Vikatan and Hanumhan, Bharatha Devi’s Bharatha mani, Ananda Bhodini, Sudesamitran and Kalaimagal contributed much for the growth of Tamil Short story. K. Sreenivasan, P.S. Ramyya, Na. Pitchamoorthy, Ku.Pa. Rajagopalan, Puthumaipithan, Su. Chellappa, Chitmbrasubramoniam and Mauni wrote short stories in the jouornal Manikkodi which was started in 1933.


Varagneri Venkta Subramonia Iyer (Va.Ve.Su Iyer) published Mangayerkarasien Kathal in 1919. It contains 5 stories. Kulathangarai arasamaram is the first short – story which has a new quality. He wrote a preface called Soosigai for each story. He begins the story in the middle and introduces the characters abruptly. He is considered as the father of Tamil short – story.


Rajaji uses short – stories to spread political and social ideas. The theme of his stories are muthuvilaku, kaithari, untouchable, Gandeeyam and politics. His collections of short – stories include Rajaji Kathaigal, Pillaiyar Kappatrinar, Kutti Kathaigal and Karpanaikadu.


He played a major role in the development of short – story. His original name was Ra.Krishnamoorthy. His collections of short – stories incude Sarathiyin Thanthiram, Veenai Bhavani, Otrai Roja, Madathdevan Sunai, Kanaiyalien Kanavu and Amara valvu. His short – stories are long in size. Small incidents are explained elaborately by him. He is the speaker of his story. He adopts a conversational tone. In Number 888, Subratraiyin Sahodharan, Sunduvin Sanniyasam and Onbathu Kulinilam, one can find his conversational tone.


Pitchumoorthy’s short – story collections are Mohini, Jamber and veshti. Pitchamoorthyin kathaigal, Mangaithalai & Pathinettam perukku, Vanampadi and Mannasai are also his short – stories


P.S. Ramayya changed Manikkodi as a short – story journal. He wrote about the gentle feelings and the joys and sorrows of middle class people. Malarum Manamum is his first short – story. His best short – stories are Gnanodhayam, Pakkiyathien Pakkium, Puthumaikoil, Poorum Ponnum,Natchatira kulanthaigal, Pottikathai and Ethieskatehi .


His original name was So. Viruthachalam. He presented the woes of men which were caused by the pressures of the society. Angatham(satire), Nellai Tamil(Regional dialect) and simple diction are found in his works. His famous works include Puthia oli, Kanjanai, Anru eravu, Sithi, Vebareetha Aasai & Puthumaipithan Padaippugal. Each story has a new method and a new mould. Thunpakeni pictures how the poor were deceived and how women become a play thing in the hands of others. Manakkugai Ovium explains the hopes and hopelessness in life. Anru eravu describes the mental conflict experienced by Vathaurar. Saba Vimosanam is also about the mental crisis of Agaligai, Seetha and Gowthamar. They depict the legendary characters in new perspective.


His short stories come under the title Punar Jenmam, Kanamalae Kadal, Kanagambaram and Sirithu Velicham. He gives importance to psychology in all his short stories. He presents the characters in a particular situation and pictures their thoughts at the time of a particular crisis. Sirithu Velicham, Moontru Ullangal, Aatramai, Mohini and Mayai are woven around the feelings and emotions of certain characters.. How these feelings affect the other characters is described in these short – stories. In Minnakkalai, ‘Adimaranthal Aalam’ and ‘Archanai Roopai’ psychology occupies an eminent place.


Mauni’s original name was Subramonian. Though he wrote some stories, he was mostly observed by the critics. Some say Mauni had no eye for the society. He entered in to the field of short – story through the publication of his story Yaen. His works are Aliyah Sudar and Mauni kathaigal. The uncertainty of life, the failures, death and the delicate relationship among persons are found in his works. There is love – failure in most of his stories.


He was editor of the journal Yeluthu. He has the collection of short – story to his credit. They being Manal Veedu, Arubathu, Sathiyakragi and Sarasavin Bommai. He gave importance to practical life.


He came to the short story world through the story Kasumaraum. The central themes of his short – stories are the sorrow of widows, dowry, the relationship between man and woman, family life and poverty. One can see friendship, courage and love in his works. His short story collections are Erimalai, Kulanthai Sirithathu, Sakthi karayel and Minnuvathellam.


He was known as Thi Ja. Ra. He was the editor of a journal named Manjari. Santhankkavadi is his first story. Nondikili, Veedum Vandium, Kali Tharisanam & Manjal Thuni are his collections. The influence of Gandhi is found in his stories.


He took short – story from the pure literature world and used it as a critical weapon of society. There are sarcasm and satire in all his works. Chevvalai is his best work.


His original name of Vindan is V. Govindan. He was the publisher of the journal Manithan. He wrote about the poor low class people and the simple village people.


He was the first who got the Sahitya Akademi Award for writing best short – stories in Tamil. His first story was Urakkam Kolvan. His other stories are Anbalippu; Sirikkavillai, Theivam Piranthathu, Varapprasadham,Puthu Ulagam, Karpaga virutcham, Alagiriswamy Kathaigal, Kalakandi; Thavapayan and Iru Sagotharigal. There is no imagination in his stories but realities of life can be seen.

Chitambara Ragunathan

Saetrilae malarentha Senthamarai, Nilavelae Pasovoam and Ragunathan Kathaigal were published by him. His journal was named Shanti.


He created stories by using the feelings of his own heart. Aruntha Nandi, Pavala Mallikai, Kalainan, Thayagam and Anaya Vilakku are his short – story collections.


He wrote stories first in Kalamohini and Grama Ooliyan besides Manikkodi. His collections are Sivapu Riksha, Kottumelam and Pedi. He handled spoken form of language in his stories. His book got the Sahitya Akademi Award. He gave artistic shape to the crisis which was in an individual’s heart

Na. Parthasarathy

He wrote short – stories in standard Tamil. He was the editor of the journal named Deepam. His best short – story is Gangai Innum Vatrivedavillai. His other works are Theivathalakatheninum, Oru puthia Aayutham, & Thaguthium Thanimanuthanum.


Each story of Jeyakanthan shows his view of life. ‘His short – story collections are Yugasanthi,Puthia varppugal, Oru pedisoru, Sumaithangi, Inipum karippum,Unmai Sudum and Jeya kantan Kathaigal. The readers can realize and feel his characters. The discrimination found in the society, individual’s sorrow and feelings of love occupy dominant place in his stories. Agni Pravesam created a revolution in Tamilnadu. The strength of this story prompted him to write the novel Sila nerangal sila manithargal. His stories did not change the structure of the short – story. But they gave a new meaning to the form. It was the reason for his success.

Krishnan Nambi

The readers will go back to their child hood days by reading Krishnan Nambi’stories.

Sundara Ramaswamy

His story Thanneer got first prize in Puthumaipithan short – story Competition. His short – story collections are Akkariseemayil, Prasatham, Pallakku Thookikal, Pallam, Sundara Ramaswamyin Sirukathaigal and Mael Parvai. Jannel, story describes the mind of a patient.


He tells the good and evil in the society. Natiyakkari, Aan singam and Valivirumbiyavan are his short – story collections.


He saw men in different angles. His works are Oru mamaramum Marankotthi Paravaigalum, Munsumai, Poonagam, Kutram Parkil, Oru satiyathin alugai, Innoru urimai, Poiyahai puthukkanvai and Yanaippochigal.


His original name was Ja. Thiagarajan. He took English works as his story’s model. The stories are about small incidents. They center around the city life. In 1971, his work Valvilae orumurai appeared. His other works are Appavin Enekithar, Virintha vayal vilaekkappal and Uttra Ramayanam.


He was interested in writing stories about Karisal Vattaram. His short – story collections are Kathavu, Vetri, Karisal Kathaigal, Kothhai poruthi, Kannimai and Appa pillai amma pillai. His stories are about the life of village people. They live in desert places. So these people know the hardships of life and have the tendency to help others.They get joy in doing so.


His short – story collections are Kalaika Mudiatha Oppanaigal, Samaveli, Manusha manusha, Kanavu neechal, and Vilimbel verity paluthathu. He belives in the practical way of life. His best works are Padathapatellam, Veliyetram, Veruveru Anilgal, Thanumai, Gnapagam and Nilai.


He wrote many stories about the sorrows of the unemployed youth. His original name was U. Na. Ramachandran. His works are Pambum Pidaranum, Esther, Dharmam, Ullum Puramum, Pichandi Banarji, Dhuruvangal and Samathuvam Sahotharaththuvam.


His works are Janani, Patchaikanavu, Anjali, Meenottam, Ethalgal, Alaigal, Parkadal, and Dhaya. He describes the contradictions and conflicts commonly found in the family.


His original name was Narayanaswamy. Kadal Kalpam and Kubera Tharisanam are his collections.


The memories of the past are central to all his short stories. Nanavodi Uthi (Stream of consciousness) is his speciality. His short – story collections are Vana veethielae, Nagammava, Erandavathu mugam, Sathiyathin Sannathiyil and Vellam. Most of the stories are told in first person.


His stories are about family, and the relationship of mother, father, husband, wife, son and daughter. His short stories came as seven units. The best works are Sittukuruvi, Thathupillai, and Sithakkadal.


He believes that writing is a reflection of inner world’s conflicts. His short – story collections are Mathivenar kathai, Bommaigal Udaipadum Nakaram & Pattu Poochikal Urangum Moonram Jamam.


His collections are Theivangal Oonaigal Aadugal, Vakku porukikal, Uppu & Peikottu. A grandfather tells his grandson about his good old days. It is in this way he tells his stories. The place of the story is commonly nanjil nadu(a small province in Kanyakumari district known for its agricultural community).


Her original name was C.S. Lekshmi. Ambai’s first work Veetin Mulaiyil Oru Samayalarai came in the eighties. In 2000, Kattil Oru Mann appeared. Ambai is identified by the researchers as the representative of the new age women.

Pe.Ko. Sundra rajan (Sitti)

He skillfully describes the crisis in human relationship and the doubts and confusions which are created by circumstances and situations in his stories. His best story collections are Thalai Poothathu and Anthimantharai. He wrote Rublerpanthu, Udaintha valayal, Enna kathai in Manikkodi.


She writes about the problems faced by women. Gangai vanthu Neeratum, Kadar karaikku Pogum Pathai and Kaikkul Vanam are her short – story collections. The best works are Kalaintha kanavugal, Poovum mannum potta chockai, Viragil pootha malar and Narkalium nangu thalaimuraigalum.


He is in the group of contemporary Tamil writers showing concern for humanity. He is proud of his links with the progressive writers. Kamam Cheppathu and Nithiyamanathu are his best short – story collections.


He spoke about the joys and sorrows of government staffs. Sorrow and sigh falls on everyone when the sarcastic lines in his stories are read. He published Poovuku Kilai, Sasanam and Komban His best short stories are Vitikallkuappal, Erandavathu shift, Pakkiri, and Malyai Paithathum’s Sanipinam.


He attracted the Tamil readers through Appa, Allam, Valithunaigal, Natham, Maruthadam Naveenam and Matrum Silar.


Man’s actions and contradictions in family are described in his stories. Vergal Tholaivae irukkinrana, Velietram, Netra Valntha Vargal, Aduku maligai and Nellithoppu are his best short – story collections.


He wrote about the world and real face of village people in his short – story collection titled Nallanal. His best stories are Urimaithagam, Poruppu, Vayeru, Pettai and Martram.


His stories introduce the dirty faces and the feelings of human beings. There is no artificiality in his writing. He published Kadaitheru Kathaigal, Aanaishantham, Mathavan Kathaigal, and Arabia Kuthirai. His works are centered on Trivandrum.


As a dalit writer, she shows her opposition, anger and crisis through her characters. Kisumbukaran is her short – story book.


He wrote about the poverty, aspirations, partiality, expectations and the things that mar the world. His short – story collections are Veilodupoi and Valin thanmai. THOPIL MUHAMMATHU MEERAN

His writings describe the life of Islamic community in Kanyakumari district. His stories are different. They search solutions for problems and they have taken the readers to a new world. Anbukku Mudhumai Illai, Thangarasu and Anantha Sayanam Kalani are his short story collections.


He published Tharreyal. It contains 12 stories. The characters are real. They are drawn from the oppressed class. His original name was Rajendracholan. He published another book Ettu Kathaigal.


His writings present the modern world which is in turmoil. He writes stories on the ancient period ( Vedic age), Saints and philosophy. He occupies a unique place in the world of short-story through Thesigalin Naduve, Nathi, Valai, Padugai and Mann.


Thiruchengodu is his best work. He wrote about the problem of villagers.


He wrote stories on the practical way of life. He describes everything in a minute way. He selects characters like child labour, tailor, thief, unemployed graduate and women in villages. His short story collections are Veliyil Oruvan, Kattin Oruvam and Thavarangalin varaiyadal.


His story collection is 406 Sathura Adigal.


His story deals with the eastern life of the people who lived in Thanjavur. He mirrored the miserable life of the low class people who lived in these villages. Oornakanei and Vantal are his best works.


His stories are based on psychology. Aarambam and Eppadithan are his short – story collections. Aarambam consists of 15 stories.


An individual’s inner feelings while going to the village and the town life are described in Pachai Paravai. Incidents occupy main place in his stories. He used many skills which were imitated by other writers.


He explains to his readers what death is. It is natural and it is just like changing the dress of the soul. His story collections are Ariyatha Mugtrangal, Mudavan valartha vellai purakkal and Veirtheluthal. He is of the opinion that death should always be natural.


He works include Naranamma, Shetharam and Dheemthirkada. He writes about inner stage’s quarrel and outer stage’s crisis.


Kurattai Oli & Viduthalaiyah are mu. Va.‘s collections. Soodamani, the lady writer is the author of Santhippu, Rayil, Doctor Amma Asai. S. Sankara Narayan’s Puthuvellam and Sarasari Indian are examples of Tamil short – stories fine status. Prabanjan’s works are Oru Oorilae Rendu Manitharkal, Prabanjan Kathaigal, Vittu Viduthalaiyahi and Oru Manushi.

Vairum and Vadivangal are examples of Sujatha’s way of telling stories and the structure. Elasai Sundaram keenly observes men and life and his stories are about the problems of life. His work is Sathaga Paravaigal. Melanmai Ponnuswamy presents his story in the voice of a village peasant. Man’s desire is presented through similes in Manudam Vellum and Pookatha Malai.

Cho. Dharman’s Eeram, Pavaichandran’s Puthiaparvai Sivekathaigal, Iykkannin’s Vaer, Pirpagal, Uppu Neerpookal, Nann, Poikal Kuthiraigal, Imayam muthal kumari varai and Maureesa Manngal, Meeran Maitheen’s Governor Bettha, Ravindra Bharathy’s Alagu, Na. Muthuswamy’s Neermai, Tayanthan’s Gnanakirukkan Kathaigal, Sammathangal, Ragavan’s Oodam, J.R.V. Edward’s Thilappu, Lekshmi Manivannan’s 36 A pallam, Nakulan’s Nakulan kathaigal, Thangur Bachon’s Vellaimadu, Udayasunkar’s Marathiyin Puthai Seri, Sundara Pandiyan’s Varam, Pa. Ragavan’s Paravai Uttam, Raguladhasan’s Nikal kalangal, Ma. Aranganathan’s Kadan Malai Gnankkoothu, Veedupasu, Uttamacholan’s Valkaiyengum vasalgal, Thunai Entoru thoadarkathai, T. Kuselar’s Vananipadi, Inkulab’s Palayil Oru sunai, Sivakami’s Nalum Thodarum, Kumaraseka’s Ukkilu, Ha. Mu Natharsa’s Chinna china Aasai, Geetha Bennet’s Aathara sruti, Susila’s Paruvangal Marum, Rajam Krishnan’s Aval and Kalam, Vasanthi’s Payanam, Kasiyaba’s Konal Masam, Karthika Rajkumar’s Virinthathoor Samrajyum, Rajendran’s Vidikiral Velaiyil , Theni Seerudaiyan’s Orae vassal, Akilan kannans Yanthirangal, S. Sankara Narayanan’s Alakiya Panthal, Pa. Cherya Prakasanth’s Kadu and Meendum oru Jerusalem are the best short stories which enrich Tamil literature.

Tamil Poets

Pattinathu Pillaiyar

Pattinathar was born in Kaveripoompattinam. His parents were Sivanesar and Gnanakalambai. His original name was Thiruvenkadar. He became a saint by the words of his adopted son Maruthavanan. It is said that he merged with God at Thiruverttiur. His life history was found in the books Pattinathu Pillai Puranam, Pulavar Puranam and Thiruvenkatadigal Charithram by Tholuvur Velayudam. Pattinathar lived in the end of 9th Century. His works are Kovil Nanmani Malai, Thirukalumala Mummanik Kovai, Thiruvedai Maruthrs Mummanik Kovai, Thiru Yeakambam Udayar Thiruvantha Thi and Thiruvortiur Orupa Orupathu. They come under ‘eleventh Thirumurai in Siva Thirumuraigal.


There are thirty Sangam Women poets. Ovayar’s contribution was great among these women poets. She had good relationship with the king, Adiyaman. Ovayar, next to Sangam period lived in the 10th Century. She wrote Aaathi Choodi, Konrai Vendan, Moodurai, Nanmani kovai, and Nanmani Malai. She also wrote Kalvi Olukkam, Nannorr kovai, Panthananthathi, Arumthamil Malai, Derisany Pathu and Assathi Kovai.

Aathi Choodi and Konrai Vendan are written in alphabetical order. It consists 30 of venpas. Gnanak Kural consisted 310 Kural venpa. ‘Nalvali’ consists of 40 venpas. Some are of the opinion that there lived another Ovai in the 17th century

Kalamegha Pulavar

He belonged to Nandigramam in Kumbakonam. His original name was Varadan. He converted himself to Saiva faith .He was an expert in ‘Aasu Kavi’ and the production of ‘Seladai’ He was nicknamed as ‘Vasaipada Kalamegam’. His works are Thiruvanaika Ula and Parabrama Vilakkam. It is said that he wrote 218 assorted poems. Chalukiya king Thirumalai Rayan patrroised him. He lived in the 15th C. It is believed that he became a poet by god’s grace.


Arunagirinathar was born in Thiruvannamalai in TamilNadu.He had no glorious past. He tried to commit suicide and Lord Muruga gave grace to him. He has mentioned about Probuda Deva Maraayan in his poems. He belongs to early 15th century. He was praised as Vakkiruku Arunagiri and Karunaikarunaguri. He wrote Thiruppugal, Kantharanthathi, Vel virutham, Maeil Virutham and Thiruvalippu. In Thiruppugal, describe is made about the Murugan temples in Tamil Nadu. It consists of 1307 poems. There are 1008 differences in Santham. Sanskrit is mostly found in it.

Kantharanthathi consists of 102 poems. It is written in the verse of Katalai Kaleithurai. It is almost a holy poem. Kantharanupoothi is written in kalivirthutham. 52 poems are in it. Thiruvalippu consists of 18 vakkuppugal. It holds the glory of Lord Murugan.

Aethiveerarama Pandiyan

He was one of the Tenkasi Pandiya kings. He ruled Tenkasi from 1564 to 1604. His other names were Vallaba devan, Pillai Pandiyan and Kulasekaran. He wrote Naidatham, Koorma Puranam, Vaya Sangithai, Kasi kandam and Linga Puranam. He also wrote Vetri Verkai. He was skilful in Sanskrit. Vetri Verkai is his original work. Others are taken from Sanskrit books.

Siva Prakasar

Siva Prakasar belongs to the 17thcenury or 18thcentury. His father was Kumaraswamy Desigar. It is believed that he wrote 34 books. His poems are Thiruvengaikovai, Kara Kailai Malai, Nalvar Manimalai, Sivagnana palaiyar, Nenjuvedu Toothu, Thirukoova puranam, Prabalinga Leelai, Seekalathi Puranam and etc.

Pillai Perumal Aiyangar

He was named as ‘Thivaya kavi Manavaladhasar’. He was born and brought up in Thirumangai & Thiruvarangam. He belonged to the 17th C. He wrote Ashta Probantham, (Thiruvarangatthu Anthathi), Sri Ranginayagar Vosal, Alagar Anthathi, Thirunaraiyur Nambi and Megavedu Thothu.

Kumara Gurubarar

He was famous among the late Saiva poets. He belonged to the 17th C. He was born in Kailosapuram. His parents were Sanmuga Sigamani and Sivakama Sundari. He was born dumb and with the grace of Tiruchendur Murugan he got the power of speech. He established a ‘Madam’ in Kasi in the reign of Madurai Thirumalai Nayagar and he died in kasi. He wrote Chitambara Mummanik Kovai, Chitambaram Chiyul Kovai, Sivakammiyammal Eratai Manimalai, Kanther Kalivenpa, Pandara Mummanik Kovai, Meenakshi ammai Pillaithamil, Meenakshi Ammai Kuram, Madurai kalambagam, Mutukumaraswamy Pillaithamil, Neeethineri Vilakam and Thiruvarur Nanmanimalai. His poetry was highly imaginative and was deviated from the real.


He was born in Thirumaraikadu. His parents were Kediliappa Pillai and Kejavalli. His father worked under the King Vijayaragunatha Chockalinga Nayakar. He studied Tamil and Sanskrit in his young age. He followed the profession of his father .Later he became a saint. His wife died after some days of child birth. His child was brought up by his uncle. He attained the samathi stage in Lekshmipuram. He wrote 1452 poems under the title Thayumanavar Padalgal. One finds an equal stage in his poems between Advaitham and Saiva Sithandam. He believed in equality.

Gopala Krishna Bharathi (1800 – 1896)

Bharathi was born in Narimanam. His grand father was Ramaswamy Bharathi and his father was Sivarama Bharathi. They were great veena masters. Bharathi lived as a bachelor.He studied vedandam from Govind Sivam. He also studied Hundustani Music from Ramadhasar. He met Thayagarajan. A critic Joseph Nickson who has made a research on his books says that Bharathi was influenced by Christianity.

He wrote Thiruneelakandanayanar Keerthanai, Earpagai Nayanar Saritrakeerthanai and Nandanar Charitra Keertanai. Nandanar keerthanai is in the form of raga thala music method. His influence towards Periapuranam and Upamanyu induced him to write it.

Meenakshi Sundaram Pillai [1815-1876]

He is popularly called ‘Mahavithuvan’, a great scholar. He was a good Tamil teacher. He lived in Thiriserapuram. He wrote 16 Thalapuranas, 16 Anthathis, 10 pillaithamil, Ula, Eratei manimalai, kovai etc. He wrote many poems along the line of the Tamil poets. His famous works are Murugan Pillaithamil, Thiruvedaikote Kuravanji, Sudasangithai, Kudanthai Thiripanthathi Vat Kalambagam, Thirukodanthai Puranam and Thirupperunthurai Puranam.

Ramalinga Vallalar (1823 – 1874)

He was born in Maruthur near Chitambaram. His parents were Ramaya Pillai and Chinnammai. He was called as Ramalinga Adigal and Thiruvarut Prakasa Vallalar. He learned Tamil from the great scholar Sabapathi of Thanjavoor.

His works are known as ‘Thiruvarutpa’. It is divided into six parts. He also wrote prose named Manumuraikonda Vasagam and Jeevakarunya Olukkam. His poems are lighter than his prose.

Annamalai Reddiar (1865 – 1891)

He was born in Chennikulam village near Sankaraneinar Kovil. His parents were Chenna Reddiar and Ovuammal. He learned Tamil from Ramaswamy Kavirayar. He was a court poet in Iruthayala Maruthappa Devar’s Jamin (a small province). He died after two years of his marriage.

His works are Kavadi Chinthu, Veraithala Puranam, Veerai Navaneetha Krishnaswamy pathigam, Veerai Anthathi, Veerai Seladai Venba, Veerai Pillai Tamil & Gomathi Anthathi. Kavadi Chinthu is about Lord Murugan in Kalugu Malai. Sanskrit was dominant in his works.

Tamil Scholars

Prof. Sundaranar (1855 – 1897)

He was born in Alapulazh in 1855. He was called as Manonmaniam Sundaranar. His father’s native place was Kalakad in Trunelveli Dist. Sundarnar got M.A. in Philosophy in 1880. He worked as a professor for 17 years. He died at the age of 42 .He wrote only a few books.

His drama Manonmaniam was published in 1891. He became very popular in the 6 years after the publication of the drama. His first book was published in 1877. The 2nd was in 1888. He wrote continuously after this. He also wrote 8 English compositions. All these appeared in several magazines (1890 – 1897) of Madras Christian College. The compositions of Thirugnana Sambandar, the Ten Tamil Idyls were published in the form of book. His compositions are very helpful to the research scholars probing the history of Tamil Literature.

His prose work Noorthogai Vilakam came in 1888. It deals with the structure of Tamil prose.

U.Ve. Swamynatha Ayer (1855 – 1942)

He was born in 1855. He is affectionately called as ‘Tamil Thatha’(Grandfather of Tamil). His native place was Uthamadhanapuram. His parents were Venkata Subbiar & Saraswathy. He learnt Tamil from Sadagopa Iyengar. At the age of 17, he became a student of Meenakshi Sundaram Pillai. He remained Pillai’s true disciple till his death.

Later, he worked at Kumbakonam Govt. College. Thereafter he took interest in editing and publishing the palm-leaf manuscripts. He published Chinthamani in 1887. He published Pathupattu in 1888, Silapathikaram in 1892 and Manimegalai in 1898. He published Iyngurunooru (1903), Pathitrupatthu (1904), Paripadal (1918), after joining Madras state college in 1903. He was rewarded as Mahamahobathiyaya in 1906. He got the title “Dravida Vithiya Booshanam”, “Dhashinathya Kalanathi” and a Doctorate degree. After retiring from service, he worked for 3 years in Annamalai University and edited 39 books and published 16 prose works. His autobiography titled En saritram, Nenaivu Manjari, Kandathum kettathum, Meenakshi Sundram Varalaru are very popular. He brings the Tamil villages before the eyes of the audience through his works. He is creative as well as critical.

Pandit Abraham (1859 – 1919)

He was born in 1859 in Sambavar Vadakari in Tirunelveli district. His father was Muthuswamy. In his early days, he studied in a village named Surandai. He was interested in music. He studied in a Teacher Training school in Dindugal. He also studied Medicine. He learnt Astrology from Kanthaswamy Pillai. He studied violin and photography from Sadayandi Puthar and Yark Iyer.

He began his career as a teacher in Dindugal School in 1876. He learnt the use of rare herbs from Karunanandar. He prepared medicine and named it as “Kavinananda Sanjeevi medicine”.

After his marriage, he went to a school in Thanjai. He worked there till 1890. Medical business flourished and he gained a lot of money. He published Karunamisutha Sagara Thirattu in 1907. It is considered as the first book about Tamil music. He published another music book Karunamirtha Sagaram in 1917. He conducted a great music conference in 1912. He died in 1919.

Maraimalaiadigal (1876 – 1950)

Swamy Vedasalam (Maraimalai adigal) belonged to a village near Nagapattinam. His parents were Chokanatha Pillai and Chinnammai. In his early life, his master was Narayanaswamy Pillai. He also learnt Sanskrit and English. He worked in a School in Trivandrum and in Madras Christian College. By this time, he published Tiruvortiur Mummanik Kovai, Mullaippattu Aaraichi and Pattinap Palai Aaraichi. He lived in Pallavaram after retirement. He established a publishing unit to publish his books. He was interested in new type of literature. He wrote two dramas titled Koghilambal Kadithengal and Kumathavalli.

K.N. Sivaraja Pillai (1879 – 1941)

He was born in 1879. He worked as a police officer after completing his B.A. Degree. He disliked this work and went to Yalpanam (Jaffna) to do research in Kamba Ramayana. He worked as an editor and sub – editor for journals like Peoples Opinion, Malabar quarterly review and Nanjil Nesan. He took up active research in the caste system of Tamil literature. His India’s Objectives (1915) and Indian socialism- a Review (1923) speak about how the Varnashrama dharma affected India’s development. K.N.S. worked in Madras University from 1927 to 1934. During this period he wrote some important books like Agastya in the Land [1930] and The Chornology of Early Tamil (1932). His composition Tamil Kalalivanarukku Oru Vinnappam came in Chentamil Journal. His poetry works are Nanjil Venba and Mega Malai. He was interested in Linguistics.

Panditamani Kathiresan Chettiar (1881 – 1953)

He was born in Mahibalanpatti village in 1887. His parents were Muthukaruppan Chettiar and Sigappi Aachi. He learnt Tholkappiam and Sanskrit from Cholavandan Arasan Sanmuganar and Narayana Sastri. He also learnt Saiva Siddanda from Karaikudi Chocklinga Chettiar. He worked as a teacher in Annamalai University from 1934 to 1937 and became professor in the same period. He worked as chief Examiner in various colleges. He was a member in Rameshwaram Sanskrit College.

He wrote Sundara Vinayagar Pathigam, Veera vinayagar Malai and Pattiru patthu Anthathi. He translated the Sanskrit book Miruchikadigam as Manniyal Siruther. He also wrote Sukra Neethi, Sulochani, Udayana Saritham, Prathaya Rathreeyam and Malathee Mathavam. His collection Urainadaikkovai is a noted one. His prose notes Thiruvembavai & Neethal Vinnappam are called Kathirmani Villakam. He translated Chanakya’s Arthasastram.

T.K. Chidambaranatha Mudhaliar (1882 – 1953)

He was born in Kalakadu in 1882. His father was Chidambaranatha Threertharappa Muthaliar. He had B.A., B.L. degrees. His friends called him ‘Rasigamani’. He was interested in Kambaramayanam. He was a great critic and wrote many critical pieces on Tamil literature. He interpreted new poems and introduced many new poets showing their literary qualities. He founded a literary club in Tirunelveli in 1924. He wrote many books, important ones being Kambar Yaar, Itaya Oli and Muthollayiram Urai. He identified the hidden talents of the new and upcoming poets. He was the first critic to introduce Kavimoni Desika Vinayakam Pillai to the Tamil literary world.

Thiru V. Kalyana Sundaranar (1883 – 1953)

He was born in Thullam village near Chennai. He is praised as ‘Tamil Thenral’. His parents were Viruthachalam & Chinnammai. Thanigasala Muddaliar helped him to learn English & Sanskrit. He first worked in Spenser Company. Then he worked in Weslian School & Weslie College. He became the editor of Desabhagtan in 1917. He later published the journal Navasakti. His contribution was great in the freedom struggle. He is responsible for the birth of labour movement and trade union. He worked as the union leader for 25 years. He wrote nearly 38 books. His important works are Manitha valkaium Gandhiadigalum, Pennin perumai Allathu Valkai Thunai, Murugan Allathu alagu and India and freedom. He wrote poetry from 1942. Sivanarul Vettal, Christu Arul Vettal and Puthumai Vettal is his anthology of poems. His prose works paved a new way for the growth of modern Tamil. Pillai (1889 – 1945)

Ka. Subramania Pillai was born in Tirunelveli in 1889. His parents were Gandhimathinatha Pillai & Meenakshi. He got M.A., M.L., degree in 1917. He met Tagore when he had come to Chennai. He worked in Annamalai University from 1929 to 1944. He left his job because of his illness. He wrote 50 books. His important works are History of Tamil literature, Thanippadal Thirattu & India Thandanai Thoguthi.

S. Vaiyapuri Pillai (1891 – 1957)

He was born in 1891 in Sikkanarasayan. His parents were Saravanaperumal & Pappamma. He completed his B.A. Degree in Madras Christian College & B.L. in Trivandrum. He indulged in Tamil research at the time of his working as a lawyer in Trivandrum. He took up the responsibility of bringing out the first Tamil Lexicon. He worked in the project from 1926 to 1936. He worked in Madras University from 1936 to 1946.

He wrote 19 research books, 8 short stories and a novel named Raji. He published 42 books. He wrote from the Renaissance of Tamil to the research in Dravida Language. He published the dictionary of Tamil. He published it in 7 parts, after working for a period of 13 years.

He had been working in various fields in Tamil. But his work on the age of Tamil literature gave him name and fame. His whole research was a reasonable one. He minutely expressed the inner and outer examples in his research. His composition about Bharathi is an important one. His record towards Kavimani is also a significant one. His works are now recognized and regularly published.

Mylai Cheeni Venkataswamy (1900 – 1980)

He was born in Mylapore in Chennai. His father was a siddha doctor and his brother Govindaswamy was a Tamil Scholar. He learnt Tamil from Mylai Sanmugam Pillai & Pandit Sargunar. In the beginning, he worked as an editor for Dravidam. He collected data on Buddhism and Jainism from books and had undertaken elaborate field work. He had gained the knowledge of Brami Granta language. He was able to find out the errors and the defects in the Government records. He also knew Kannada & Malayalam languages. In his 80 years of active life, he wrote 30 books. In these, 5 books were published after his death. He published Mylai Nattar Pathigam & Manonmaniam.

Among the 5 Books, Tamilar Valartha Alagu Kalaigal and The seven types of Dances of Siva are important ones. Tamilar Valartha Alagu kalaigal is about temples in Tamilnadu. He wrote 10 history books. Among them, Mahendra Varman, Narasimmha Varman & Nandi Varman are about Pallava history. His works on Kongu & Thulu regions got wide appreciation from the scholars. Anjirai Thumabni is about structural language. He wrote 6 books related to the History of Tamil literature. The book, The19th Century Tamil speaks about the news on the life of the people who lived in the century. Christian and Tamils, Jains and Tamils & Buddhism and Tamil explain how these religions worked for Tamil language. His Gowthama Bhudda & Bhuddha Sathaka stories are related to Buddhism.


Plot, character, dialogue and background music are important for a drama. A drama tells the story through action, ‘rasa’ and dialogue. It may be in poetic or prose form. The character of the drama depends upon the stage.

Drama is divided into three types. The first kind of drama is written by using the stage experience without adequate training in literature. It is apt only for acting. The second kind is written using literature training but without stage experience. It is apt only for reading. The third is written by using the two, so that one can read and act it. It is also divided as tragic and comic.

Bharatham, Agathiam, Muruval, Sayantham, Brunanool, Cheitriyum, Kootha Nool, Mathivanar Nadaka Tamil Nool, Valikkathar Koothu and Koothanool are supposed to be the grammar books of drama.

Mahendra Pallavan wrote Matha Vilasa Pragasanam in Sanskrit. Rajarajeswari was staged in Tanjai Periakoil (temple). Thirumoola Nayanar, Kannavan Puranam, Poombuliyoor were also performed. Kamalalayapattar got Nibantham (grant) for writing Poombuliyoor.

In Nayakar period, dramas based on the life of common people were written. Pallu drama described the life of the pallar community. Mohanapallu was written in the 17th C. Paralai Vinayagar Pathu, Kathiraimalai Pattu and Murugoor Pathu were written to glorify places. Ennayinar wrote Murkoodar Pallu Nadakam. Kumara Guruparar’s Meenakshiammaikuram, Sarapendra poobalakuravanji by Sivakolunthu Desikar were some of the best drama books.

In the 17th and 18th centuries ‘Nondi’ (satires) were written. Marimuthupulavar wrote Tiruchendur Nondi Drama in the 18th Century. Gopalakrishna Bharathy’s Nanthanar Kerthanai and Arunachala kavirayar’s Rama Nadaka Keerthanai are in the keerthana school of dramas. In the 18th century, there appeared another one titled Aneethi drama (dramas highlinghting the hardships of the people). Therukkoothu is a powerful folk dramatic art form in Tamilnadu. It has got several names such as Nadagam, Vilasam, Alangaram, Sarithai, Nadagam, Varagappa and Yatchagana. Some noted dramas are Christian’s Adam Eval Vilasam, Gnana sowinthari ammal nadagam, Nalla Samerithan Nadagam and muslims Modi Nadagam, Slibadusha Nadagam, Thaiyar Sultan Nadagam and Abbas Nadagam.

Kasi vishwanatha Muthaliar

Kasivishwanatha Muthaliar’s Dambachari (1967) was the first Tamil social refinement drama. He also wrote Thasildar, Brammasamajam and Aryasamajam.

Appavu Pillai wrote Arichandravilasa Nadagam based on the story of Arichandran. Ramachandra kavirayar wrote Sakuntalai Vilasam, Tharugal Vilasam and Bharatha Vilasam.

Sundaram Pillai

Sundaram Pillai’s Manonmaniam is used both for reading and acting. It is based on the story The secret way written by Lord Litan. It is in the form of verse. The Govt. of Tamilnadu have taken a few lines from the text and officially announced that they are to be sung at the beginning of Govt. functions along the lines of national anthem. This song shows the patriotic feeling of Sundaram Pillai. The play has a well knit plot.

Sankaradhas Swamigal

His dramas are the mixture of verse and prose. He wrote many Bhakthi Ithikasa dramas. T.K.S. Brothers and S. Kittappa were groomed in this dramatic school. He wrote Sathia Anusaya, Sathi Sulochana and Prabulinga Leelai.

Sambanda Mudaliar

He created Payilmuraikulu (professional troupe) through Suguna Vilasa Sabha. His best dramas are Pushpavalli, Ratnavali, Manohara, Irandu Nanbargal, Kalvar Thalaivan and Vethala Ulagam. Sababathi is a combination of comedy and sarcasm. In 1936, he wrote a book on professional acting. Nataka Tamil, Nadakamedaininaivigal are his other drama related books.

Parithimar kalaignar (1870 – 1903)

His original name was Suriyanarayana Sastriyar. He wrote the dramatic grammar book Nataka Iyal. His drama books are Kalavathi, Roopavathi and Manavijayam. He has used archaic words in his works.

Vibulanantha Swamigal wrote Mathanga Chodamani or Oru natakkatamil, the grammar book of drama in 1926. In 1933. S.K. Parthasarathy published another book about the stage craft. Balamani Ammaiyar’s Thara Sasangan was acted in this period. Only women characters were introduced in this drama. In 1944 a meeting was conducted for drama. Drama organization was started in 1950. In 1957, S.V. Sahasranamam founded Sevastage Nadaka Kalvi Nilayam and prepared syllabus for three month drama-acting course.

Translated Dramas

Shakespeare’s ‘The Merchant of Venice’ was translated as Venice Vanigan in Tamil by N. Venugopalachariyar. He is the fore runner of translated dramas. In 1889, Ramaswamy translated Two Gentleman of Venora as Arunasagaran. Narayanaswamy Pillai translated A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Oedipus as Veniskalathu Nalliravukanavu and Mangalavalli in 1894. In 1898 Moilier’s Lae Aware, the French drama was translated by Ayyaswamy Multhaliar as Ulaobi and Sophocles. Philatotus was translated as Leela Nadakam by Lakshmanaswamy Pillai in 1894.

Dramas of Freedom Movement

Po. Krishnaswamy Pavalar wrote Katharin Vetri and Bombai Meiel. N.S. Viswanathadhas induced patriotic feelings to the people through his dramas. He sang nationalist songs without the fear of police.

Veerapandiyakattabomman’s life history was made a drama. Mudhal Mulakkam was written by Ra. Venkatachalam. He also wrote Imayathil Nam. Swamynatha Sharma and T.K. Muthuswamy wrote Panapurathu Veeran, Kumasthavin Penn, Raja Pathruhari and Vidyasagar. S.T. Sundaram’s Kaviyin Kanavu is full of literary taste.

Many new theatre troups appeared in Tamil Nadu. R.S. Manohar’s National Theatres’ staged Chankya Sabatham, Elaengeswaran, Sukrachayar and Soorapadman. He also changed the form of the stage. T.S. Rajamanickam created Madurai Devi Bala Vinodha Sangeetha Saba. Balachander, through Rahini creations, staged Servar Sundaram and Ethir Neechal. Cho’s Mohamed bin Thuklaq, Mauli’s Oru pullangulal Aduppothukirathu and Komal swaminathan’s Thanneer Thanneer are important plays. Crazy Mohan, Merina, S.V. Sekar produced full length comedy plays.

Dramas of Literature

In 1934, Bharathidhasan wrote Iraniyan or Inayatra Veeran. Veerathai is his other novel. Mu. Varatharasan wrote Kadal Engae?, Manach Santru and Pachiappar. Va. Suba. Manickam and Ke. A. Pe. Viswanathan wrote Manaviyin Urimai & Nellikkani and Tamilselvam.

In 1943, C.N. Annadurai wrote Chandrodayam, a drama of propaganda. His other dramas contained progressive views. At the same time, Mu. Karunanethi wrote Manthirikumari and Thookumedai. Thiruvaaroor Moorthy’s Elangeswaran, M.R. Radha’s Keemayanam, Thiruvaroor Thangarasu’s Ratthakanneer, Pa. Neelakandan’s Nam Eruvar, S.V. Sahasranamam’s Paithiyakkara. and Narana Duraikannan’s Ueirovium are important plays.

Puthumaipithan, P.S. Ramayya, Ku – Alagiriswamy, Se. Su. Chellappa. Aa. Srinivasa Ragavan, The. Janakiraman, Komal Swaminathan wrote novels for reading and acting. Ulaganathan wrote Nakkannai, Reelivilai and Udayakumaran, the literary dramas. Pulavar Aa. Palani wrote Anitcha Adi, Annimagal, Sali Maienthan, the verse dramas. Tha. Aa. Sundararaman’s Vengaiyin Vendan was a historical poetic drama. Isac Arumairajan wrote Vengaigal, the historical drama and Parai, the poetic drama. At the end of seventies, the drama clubs in Tamilnadu were ‘Koothupattarai (1977) ‘Veethinadaka Iyakkam’ (1978), ‘Nijanadakatyakkam (1978) and Pariksha (1978) In 1982, ‘Mutranadakakulu’ was formed. After this Sangamam, Truchi Nadakar Sangam, Agni, Poominadaka Iyakkam, Thedal, Vedivelli, Thalir Arangu Sudesigan, Kumarimavatta kalaikulu, Pondicheri Komalikalevikulu were formed.

Indira Parthasarathy’s Nandan Kathai, Sujatha’s Sarala, Iru Kadithangal, Velu Saravanan’s Kadal Bootham, Kodi Atral, Murugaboopathy’s Maranaveetin Sila kurippugal, Prabanjan’s Agalya, Ambai’s Payangal, Jeyanthan’s Manusha Manusha, K.V. Ramaswamy’s Hiranyan, K.S. Rajendran’s Varisai, Gangaikondan’s Oorvalam, Aa. Ramaswamy’s Sathiparvam, Siripi’s Narakam, M.A. Ram’s Aaputtiran, Ingulaop’s Avvai, Devadevan’s Alibabavum Morjiyanavum; Arumugam’s Karunshuli etc are considered as modern dramas.


The word ‘novel’ comes from the Italian word ‘Novella’. In the beginning ‘novel’ was translated as ‘Naveenam’ and ‘Naveenagam’. It means new. So it is also called as ‘Puthinam’ in Tamil.

The form of the novel is prose. The story, characters and incidents reflect the real life. Novel captures mind’s thoughts.

Mayooram Vedanayagam Pillai

He was considered the first Tamil novelist. Following his foot steps, Srilankan Sithileppai Marakkayar and Guruswamy Sharma published Asanye Saritram and Prema Kalavathiym. Vedanayagam’s Prathaba Mudaliar Saritram mainly stresses morality. His other work was Suguna Sundari (1887). It contains 73 parts.

P.R. Rajammyer

Kamalambal Saritram (1896) was his first novel. This novel is about a village society, particularly Brahmin society.

Aa. Madhavaya

Madhavaya’s Padmavathi Saritram is based on city and village life. It stresses women’s education. The novel Muthu Meenatchi (1903) is about the pathetic situation of widows in the society. Vijayamarthandam is his other novel.

Sa. Ma. Natesa Sastriyar

Natesa Sastri wrote six novels. Thanavan, a detective novel was also written by him.

Detective novels

Detective novels are woven around a murder or criminal act. The matter will be informed to the police. At the same time an individual also investigates it and finds out the criminal or murderer. It is the way of writing detective novels in India.

Aaruni Kuppuswamy Mudaliar wrote more than 75 novels. The important novels are Ratinapuri Ragesiym, Pavalar Theeni and Manjal Araiyin Marmum. His works are based on the novels of the English novelists, Reynolds, and Arthur Conan Doyle.

J.R. Rangaraju wrote Ananthakrishnan, Rajendran and Vijayaragavan. Govidan was the detective in his novels.

Vaduvoor K. Duraiswamy Ayengar’s famous novels were Theigambara Samiyar, Menaka, Sowindira Kohilam, Pitchamuthu Konan, Kathuraja Mathana Kalyani, Poorna Santhrodayam and Mayavinotha Paradesi. Vai Mu. Kothainayagi wrote Vaithegi and Sanbaga Vijayam. T.S.T. Swamy’s Karungal kunratthu Kolai, Chiranjeevi’s Marmak Kolai, Chandramohan’s Oodith thrium Lady typist, Seran’s Palaidentha Bangalow, Tanuvanan’s Aaru Alagikal, Murathamalaisaralilae Methavi’s Samundikoil, Sujatha’s Karaiyellam Shenbagapoo, Kolaiyuthir Kalam, Nanjil P.T. Swamy’s Meethi Iravil, Rajesh Kumar’s Unnudaiya Kangalukku Matum are the best novels in Tamil.

Saritra Novels

In the beginning of the twentieeth century, novels were based on history. Imagination is mixed with historical facts in these novels. Saravana Muthu Pillai and Ra. Balakrishna Naidu wrote Mohanangi and Tanackkan Kottai.


Ra. Krishnamoorthy (kalki) was responsible for the growth of novels in Tamil literature. His novels are based on the history of the Pallavas and later period Cholas. His best novels are Sivakamiyin Sabatham, Parthiban Kanavu and Ponniyin Selvan. The novel Alai Osai is based on India’s freedom struggle. Kalki got Sahitya Academy Award for this novel. He also wrote many social novels.


His novels, mostly historical ones, appeared in the form of serials in the magazines Kumutham and Amutha Surabi. He was good at describing historical facts.


He wrote Maharayaal Mangai, Alavai Alagan, Nandivarman Kathali, Arulmoli Nangai, Pathni Kottam, Sorgathin Kural, Jeevageetham, Deva Dharisanam and Thiruchitrambalam.


He wrote Vengaiyin Maienthan, Kayal Vizli and Vetri Thirunagar. His Nenjin Alaigal is centered on Nethaji’s Indian National Army.

Other Historical Novels

Kovai Manisekaran’s Vetri Thirumugan, Na. Parthasarathy’s Pandimadevi, Manipallavam. Vikraman’s ‘Nandipurathu Nayagi’; Somu’s ‘Kadal Kande Kanavu’ are some of the great history novels.

Social Novels.

Va. Ramaswamy was interested in refinement and novelty. His novels are Sundari and Kothai Theevu

Mu. Varadarasan

His characters are youngsters, particularly college students. He wrote many novels. Some of his novels are Vadamalar, Ahal Vilakku and Nenjil oru Mul.

Ku. Rajavelu

His Kadal Thoongukirathu novel got first prize in the novel writing competition conducted by Kalaimaghal, a monthly journal. He wrote against the British rule. His novels express the truth seen in life.


Tamil novel literature got ‘Gnanapeeda Award’ through Akilan’s novel Inba Ninaivu (1944). His second novel Penn (1945) got Kalaimagal Narayanaswamy Iyer’s prize. Akilan got Gnanapeeda Award for the novel Chittirapavai (1968).

C.N. Annadurai

He wrote his novels on casteism and marriage. His important novels are Kabothipura Kadal, Kumasthavin Penn, Kumarik kottam and Rangone Radha. Many writers followed his method of writing to reform the society with their novels. Mu. Karunanithi is an eminent writer. His famous novels are Vellikilamai and Puthaiyal. His Romapuri Pandiyan, Thenpandi Chingam, Ponner Sankar are great historical novels.

Na. Chitambara Subramoniam

Chitambara Subramoniam’s novels are Itaya Natham, Kittu and Mannil Ttheriuthu Vanam

Ka. Na. Subramoniam

Subramoniam wrote more than 7 novels. Each novel is created on a new theme. Some of his novels are Poithevu (1946), Ealu poer (1946) and Pithappoo.

Se. Su. Chellappa

He was an excellent writer in expressing even the minute feelings of man. His novels are Vadivasal (1959) and Jeevanamsam.

Chitambara Ragunathan

His novel Kannika describes the mental conflict of a woman in every stage of her life. His other novel is Panjum Pasiyum.

Hepsiba Jesuthasan

Her novel Putham veedu is a regional novel. He also wrote Doctor Chellappa (1967), Anadhai (1977) and Maneei (1982).

R. Shunmuga Sundaram

He wrote the changes taking place in the village life in Kongunadu, particularly the life of peasants. His emient novels are Nagammal, Idaya thagam, Shatti Suttathu, Aliahkalam, Mayathagam, Mananilal, Thanivazli, Kaanachunai, Varaverpu, Moontru Alaippu and Udaya Tharagai.

Thi. Janakiraman

Janakiraman wrote the changes in the Tanjai society after and before independence. His famous novels are Mogamul (1956), Amirtham, Yuirthen, Amma Vanthal, Chembaruthi, Malarmanjam, Marappasu and Nalabagam.

Rajam Krishnan

She wrote 12 novels. Her important novels are Kurinjithen (1963), Alavaikaraiyin, Mullum Malarinthathu, Valaikaram and Puthiya Siragugal. Krithika

She is an important woman novelists. Her works are Pugai Naduvil, Satiyameva, Ponkoondu, Vasaveeswaram, Dharma Shetrae and Puthia Konangi.


His novels fall under two categories. In his early novels he deals with social problems. But in the later novels, the individual traits of the characters are analysed. His first novel was Valkai Alaikirathu. He got Sahitya Akademi Award for his novel Sila Nerangalil Sila Manithargal. His Sundarakandam was written focusing on women’s point of view. It got Rajarajan Award.

Sundara Ramaswamy

He made a tamarind tree as the central character of his novel Oru Puliamarathin Kkathai. His other novel J.J. Sila kurippual is unique in Tamil literature. In this novel he criticizes the present day world with its cultural degradation. The incidents in the novel Kulantaigal, Pengal, Aangal was based on the life of the people of India in 1937, 1938 and 1939.


His novels are in simple language. He wrote 5 novels. Aagayathamarai is a different novel in Tamil.


Her original name was Thiripura Sundari. Her Novels speak about the glory of women. She wrote many novels. Some of her important novels are Maragatham, Mithilavilas, Pennmanam and Bhavani.

Nakulan (T.K.Duraisamy)

He made many experiments with the novel form. Nilalgal is his small but powerful novel. Old generation tries to adjust with the new generation to fulfill their desires. But the new generation also tries to break the bonds. He gives this message in Nilalgal, Ninavu puthai, Sila Athiyayangal, Naigal, Ivargal and Navinanin diary and these are his important novels. He employs the stream of consciousness technique in his novels.

La. Sa. Ramamirtham

His first novel was Putra (1965). Abitha, Prayachitam and Kal Sirikkirathu are his other novels.

Sa. Kanthaswamy

Chayavanam (1969) is a famous novel. It introduces a new trend in Tamil novels. His other novel Visaranai Cammission got Sahitya Akademi Award.

Neela Padmanaban

He wrote 5 novels namely Thalai Muraigal (1968), Pallikondapuram, Minnulagam, Uravugal and Therodum Veethi. Pallikondapuram is about the city of Trivandrum. Therodum Veethi gives the details of the indecent acts of Tamil writers, book publishers, prize committee members and the organizational members of the literature.

Aa. Madhavan

He writes about the life of Tamilans in Trivandrum. His two novels are Punalum Manalum (1974) and Krishnapparunthu.

Na. Parthasarathy

He made characters bent upon high ideals in their life. He wrote 7 novels. He got Sahitya Akademi Award.

T. Selvaraj

He wrote about the life of the lowercaste people and their quarrel in his novel ‘Malarum Sarugum’ (1966). He published another novel ‘Mooladhanam’


His original name was Bhagtavatchalam. His Karisal (1967) got an important place in Murpokku Iylakkium(progressive writings). He wrote the first political novel in Tamil. It was Puthia Dharisanangal. He got Sahitya Akademi Award for this novel.

Ke. Rajanarayanan

His original name was Srikrishna Raja Narayana Perumal Ramanujan. He wrote 4 novels. Gopallapurathumakkal novel is about the history, freedom struggle and it makes the ordinary people as Nayakkar. He got Sahitya Akademi Award for this novel

Indira Parthasarathy

His first novel was Kalavellam (1968). He also wrote Sudandira Poomi, Mayamann Veetai, Venthu Thanitha Kadugal, Agasath Thamarai & Vedapurathu Vayaparigal.

Isac Arumairajan

His novels are centred on the changes taking place in religion after independence, particularly in the Christian families. He wrote Keeralgal (1975), Kalraigal, Thavarana Thadangal, and Valia Veedu.

Nanjil Nadan

His original name was G. Subramoniam. He writes about the life of nanjil people. His novels are Thalaikeel Vihithangal, Saduranga Kuthiri, Manisappadaipu, Enpilathanai Vaelil Kayum and Mithavai.


There is a search for the art and craft of literature in his novels. His important novels are Kambanathi, Raineese Iyer Theru and Kadal Purathil.

Su. Samuitram

His novels are based on the problems and conflicts he faced in his own life. His eminent novels are Sotrupattalam, Oru kottukku Vaeliae and Veril Palautha Pala. He got Sahitya Akademi Award for Vaeril Palautha Pala.

Ku. Chinnappa Bharathy

He wrote about peasant’s life in his novel Thagam (1975)


His original name was Manicavasagam. He writes about the life of the poor people. His novels are Piragu, Vekkai, Naivetyam, and Vandal.

M.V. Venkatram

His Nithiyakanni came in the early sixtees. His other novel was Vaelvi Thee (1975). Kathugal gave him Sahitya Akademi Award


His original name was Vaithiyalingam. His characters are soft. There are no sick persons, violence and bloodshed in his novels. His important novels are Santhiya, Sugaboga Theevu Mahanathi, Manudam Vellum and Vanam Vasappadum.


Baskaran was the original name of Pavannan. He portrayed the village scenery as if they were real. His novels are Valkai Oru Visaranai (1987) Ethu Valkaiyalla, Oru Manitharum Sila Varushangalum and Sitharalgal.

Thopil Mohamed Meeran

His novels are Oru kadaloragramathin Kathai, Thuraimugam and Koonan Thooppu. He got Sahitya Akademi Award for writing Saivu Narkali.

G. Nagarajan

He wrote Kurathi Mudukku (1963) a short novel, and Nalai Martru Nalae (1974).


He showed the readers the wide varieties of life. His important novels are Pokkidam (1977) Nathimoolam, Meendum Avalukkaha and Kolaveli.

Jeya Mohan

He wrote Rubber, Vishnupuram, Pinthodarum Nilalin Kural & Kanniyakumari. Vishnupuram is considered as his master piece. Kadu is his latest novel.


His Yenkanavu Chollappatta Manithargal (1985) speaks about the life of a Nagercoil based tamil family in three generations. He also wrote Charitrathil Padintha Nilalgal and G.K. Eluthea Marmanovel.

Perumal Murugan

His Nilal Mutram novel speaks about the conflicts in the relationship of man.

Saru Nivethitha

Zero Degree (1988) is Saru Nivethitha’s novel.


Bama’s novels are centred on dalit life. Her works are Karukku and Sangathi (1994)


He wrote two novels Koveru Kaluthaigal and Arumugam.


Sivakami wrote Palayana Kalithalum. It was a Dalit novel written in Tamil. Another one was Ananthayi.

Translated novels

Kantaegar’s Marathi novels Trumanam, Karukia Mottu, Manoranjitham, Saugam Yengae and Krunchevatham were translated into Tamil. Ka. Sri. Sri. Backimchandir’s Anantha Madam and Dhurkasenanthini were translated by Tha. Na. Kumaraswamy and C.T. Venkatasami. Maximum Kargi’s Thai, Tolstoy’s War and peace, Pearl S. Burg’s Good Earth, Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe were also translated into Tamil. Ragula Sankritiyayan’s From Volga to Ganga and Premchand’s Arokkottam and Anandakoba Shevde’s Jwalamughi were also translated by Majini, Ka Appathurai and Ka. Sri from Hindi.

Niranjana’s Ninaviekal Alivathillai was translated by P.R. Parameswaran from Kannada. Puchi Babu’s Kadaiscil Thuthan in Telugu was translated by P.V. Subramanion. From Malayalam, Thangaliyin Aeni Padi and Chemmeen were translated by Ramalingam Pillai and Sundara Ramaswamy.


Copyright CIIL-India Mysore