[INDOLOGY] Periya Tirumoḻi 8.2.2

palaniappa at aol.com palaniappa at aol.com
Thu Feb 20 01:50:08 EST 2014

Sorry, somehow one word inadvertently got deleted in the sentence below.

It is interesting that Iḷampūraṇar, gives Kuṟuntokai 106 as an example for 'tūtu muṉiviṉmai' meaning 'not disliking'/'not being angry at'. 

It should read "It is interesting that Iḷampūraṇar, gives Kuṟuntokai 106 as an example for 'tūtu muṉiviṉmai' meaning 'not disliking'/'not being angry at' the messenger." 


-----Original Message-----
From: palaniappa <palaniappa at aol.com>
To: H.J.H.Tieken <H.J.H.Tieken at hum.leidenuniv.nl>; indology <indology at list.indology.info>
Sent: Thu, Feb 20, 2014 12:42 am
Subject: Re: [INDOLOGY] Periya Tirumoḻi 8.2.2

Indeed, I had forgotten about Kāvya in South India. Thanks for reminder. I had read the book quite sometime ago.  Interestingly, when I read it I did not agree with its interpretation of Kuṟuntokai 106 at that time. I have checked it again and let me take this opportunity to explain my rationale.

We are basically trying to answer three questions.
1. Does 'ney' in the poem refer to ghee or oil?
2. Does pouring 'ney' into the fire represent brahmanic marriage ceremony?
3. Does 'pouring ney into the fire' mean the heroine is angry?

The quote from Rāmāyaṇa indeed suggests the source of misunderstanding. The quote from Rāmāyaṇa shows the usage in Sanskrit in north India possibly based on a Vedic ceremony for the equivalent of English 'adding fuel to the fire'. The descendant from that usage is what we seem to have in Hindi today as आग में घी डालना where the use of 'ghee' continues even today. But that usage is different from what is used in Tamil. While the north Indians use 'ghee', the Tamils use 'oil'  in the equivalent Tamil saying. A simple Google experiment will show this.

The word 'ney' could indicate oil, clarified butter, and even honey in Classical Tamil texts. The number of instances in which 'ney' has been used to refer to oil in Classical Tamil texts are too numerous to list here. In modern Tamil எண்ணெய் is the common word for oil and நெய் is the common word for ghee. (However, occasionally even in modern film songs, you will find நெய் used for 'oil'. (See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IvKOzk3wKLI#t=9s))

If we google for 'எரியும் நெருப்பில் எண்ணெய்', we get 24700 hits, where we are searching for (pouring) 'oil in fire'. 


If we google for 'எரியும் நெருப்பில் நெய்', we get only 36 hits, where we are searching for (pouring) 'ghee in fire'. 


If we google for 'எரியும் தீயில் எண்ணெய்', we get 3550 hits, where we are searching for (pouring) 'oil in fire', where an alternate word for fire has been used.

If we google for 'எரியும் தீயில் நெய்', we get only 5 hits, where we are searching for (pouring) 'ghee in fire'.

So when we have 'ney' being poured into fire, given the Tamil usage, 'ney' has to be interpreted as oil. Just because we have 'ney' (which has come to be interpreted as ghee in medieval times) and fire, some brahminic commentators (and those who follow them) seem to have reflexively interpreted the poem as referring to a wedding fire. Actually I see no basis in the poem to support that interpretation.

There is another instance where fire and 'ney' are involved. See Kalittokai 138.21-22, where we have the hero describing his condition (before the heroine returned his love) as being similar to that of 'eri paranta neyyuḷ meḻuku', i.e., wax inside 'ney' over which fire has spread. This simile has been used from Classical Tamil times till today. (Aiṅkuṟunūṟu 32 uses 'tī uṟu meḻuku'. Kamparāmāyaṇam 5286 uses 'eriyiṉ iṭṭa meḻuku'.)  Here there is no suggestion of Vedic ceremony even though fire and 'ney' are involved. (We are fortunate to have 'ney' used here even though it is not really necessary. But it helps to solve our problem.) 

In both cases, we have similes that involve oil. These similes are used by the Tamils even today just like north Indians use essentially the same simile involving ghee from the days of Rāmāyaṇa till today. But, the north Indians use 'ghee' and the Tamils use 'oil' in the expression equivalent to 'adding fuel to the fire.'

As for the suggestion that the heroine in Kuṟuntokai 106 is angry, that is not justified either. The simile is not restricted to a context of anger. As the example I gave from Kannadasan's work in the 20th century, it can be used to indicate a situation of desire too. It is interesting that Iḷampūraṇar, gives Kuṟuntokai 106 as an example for 'tūtu muṉiviṉmai' meaning 'not disliking'/'not being angry at'. 

As for translating 'maṇa-' as 'marry', in my opinion Kuṟuntokai 25 shows why Wilden's translation as 'unite' is justified. 

In conclusion, 'ney' in Kuṟuntokai 106 is 'oil'. Pouring oil into fire does not indicate a wedding fire ritual. There is no dislike or anger on the part of the heroine.


-----Original Message-----
From: Tieken, H.J.H. <H.J.H.Tieken at hum.leidenuniv.nl>
To: palaniappa <palaniappa at aol.com>; indology <indology at list.indology.info>
Sent: Wed, Feb 19, 2014 2:42 am
Subject: RE: [INDOLOGY] Periya Tirumoḻi 8.2.2

An addendum: I forgot that I discussedKuṟuntokai 106 also in my book – that much maligned monster, which apparently nobody reads –Kāvya in South India. Old Tamil Caṅkam Poetry. Groningen 2001 (presently available through Brill), pp. 39-40. There, I also quotedRāmayaṇa 6.103.11:

paśyatas tāṃ tu rāmasya bhūyaḥ krodho'bhyavartata
prabhūtājyāvasiktasya pāvakasyeva dīpyataḥ,

As Rāma looked at her, his anger increased further. He flared up lie a fire into which a great quantity of ghee has been poured.


Herman Tieken
University of Leiden
The Netherlands


Van: INDOLOGY [indology-bounces at list.indology.info] namens Tieken, H.J.H. [H.J.H.Tieken at hum.leidenuniv.nl]
Verzonden: woensdag 19 februari 2014 8:54
To: palaniappa at aol.com; indology at list.indology.info
Onderwerp: Re: [INDOLOGY] Periya Tirumoḻi 8.2.2

As I have argued before (“The weaver bird in Old Tamil Caṅkam poetry: a critical essay on the method of translating classical Tamil poetry”.Studien zur Indologie und Iranistik 21, 1997: 293-319, esp. pp. 307-8,) fire into which ghee is poured flares up. If at all, it is an image of anger. See, for instance,Pāṇḍyakulodaya 3. 59: prājyam ājyam upayujya jr̥mbhataḥ pāvakasya vidadhe pradakṣiṇam.In the Kuṟuntokai poem, however, we seem to be dealing with the fire circumambulated seven times by the couple at the wedding ceremony; read my article! 

Herman Tieken
University of Leiden
The Netherlands


Van: INDOLOGY [indology-bounces at list.indology.info] namens palaniappa at aol.com [palaniappa at aol.com]
Verzonden: woensdag 19 februari 2014 6:40
To: indology at list.indology.info
Onderwerp: [INDOLOGY] Periya Tirumoḻi 8.2.2

I think the solution to the problem presented by Periya Tirumoḻi 8.2.2 is given by Kuṟuntokai 106 by Kapilar. What I am giving below is the poem based on the critical edition by Eva Wilden but with gemination of consonants shown inpuṇarcci.

pul vīḻ iṟṟik kal ivar veḻ vēr
varai iḻi aruviyiṉ tōṉṟum nāṭaṉ
tītu il neñcattuk kiḷavi namvayin
vantaṉṟu vāḻi tōḻi nāmum
ney pey tīyiṉ etirkoṇṭu
tām maṇantaṉaiyam eṉa viṭukam tūtē

The translation below is basically Eva Wilden's except that I have changed 'ghee' to 'oil' forney.

Word has come to us, oh friend,
from the faultless heart of the man from a land where,
    like the waterfall descending the mountain,
appears the stone-climbing white root of the talbot fig
with low aerial roots,
   After receiving [his words] like fire into whichoil is poured,
we too shall send a message saying    
    'we are still those he united with.'

While ney can mean both oil and ghee, ney pey tīsimply refers to a situation of 'adding fuel to the fire' as in the following passage from Arttamuḷḷa Intumatam by Kannadasan, showing the common usage of oil being poured into a fire. 


The notes given by UVS to Kuṟuntokai 106 show that the commentator Iḷampūraṇar considers the poem to describe a pre-marital situation in which the heroine does not dislike/is not angry at the messenger from the hero. But Nacciṉārkkiṉiyar, another commentator, thinks the poem deals with a situation after marriage. A comment by Pērāciriyar, another commentator, that receiving 'like fire into whichney is poured', is not possible in a pre-marital situation. May be he associatesney being poured into the fire with the Vedic fire ritual. I do not consider that a likely scenario. In contrast, Iḷampūraṇar's discussion of the poem in Kaḷaviyal makes more sense. Wilden is right in translating 'maṇa-' as 'unite' and not as 'marry' as some scholars have done. The waterfall and mountain clearly suggest Kuṟiñci as the landscape, as some scholars have considered. There is nothing in the poem that suggests that there is an 'other woman' in the picture. So I do not agree with T. V. Gopal Iyer's view that this poem belongs to Marutam.

Who is the messenger here? According to Tolkāppiyam Poruḷatikāram, those who are allowed to speak in poems dealing with pre-marital love includepārppāṉ (brahmin/priest), pāṅkaṉ (companion), heroine's friend, heroine's foster mother, hero and heroine. Although the commentary for Iṟaiyaṉār Kaḷaviyal 3 identifies the companion as apārppāṉ, Nacciṉārkkiṉiyar (commentary for Kaḷaviyal 10) only says that the companion is "perumpāṉmai pārppāṉām", i.e., in majority of the instances the companion is a brahmin/priest.  Although poems like Kuṟuntokai 156 suggest the companion being a brahmin/priest, Naṟṟiṇai 250 and Naṟṟiṇai 370, in both of which, the hero invites the bard to laugh with him, suggest that the companion could have been a bard earlier. Moreover Nacciṉārkkiṉiyar in his commentary on Tol. P. 193 refers topāṇaṉ as pāṅku paṭṭoḻukum pāṇaṉ and pāṭiṉi as talaivimāṭṭup pāṅkāyoḻukum pāṭiṉi even as Tol.P. 193 listspāṅkaṉ separately from the bard and his female counterpart. Interestingly, in their commentaries to the sūtra beginning with "avaṉaṟi vāṟṟa", Iḷampūraṇar considers Naṟṟiṇai 90 as spoken to the hero's companion. But Nacciṉākkiṉiyar considers the same poem as spoken to the bard. 

Thus whatever be the view of the later grammarians in classifying the companions as distinct from the bards and that only companions could speak in poems dealing with pre-marital love, the internal evidence from the poems suggest that the bards could have been companions too. If that were accepted then, they could have served as messengers not only after marriage but before marriage too. 

If that were accepted, Periya Tirumoḻi 8.2.2, makes eminent sense.  A maiden being in love with the hero (Viṣṇu), the bard (pāṇaṉār interpreted as religious teacher) acting as a messenger, and the girl being resolute in passion towards Viṣṇu, all fit the pre-marital love scenario with no 'other woman' being present.  The lack of anger towards the messenger also explains the honorific form,pāṇaṉār.

I would appreciate any comments on this solution.

Thanks in advance.


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