Flowers in ancient Tamil

nas_ng at nas_ng at
Fri Mar 3 20:33:40 UTC 1995

                Flowers in Ancient Tamil literature

Ancient Tamil literature is called Sangam poetry (100 BC to 250 AD).
The sangam poetry is divided into two anthologies 1) eTTut tokai
(eight collections) 2) pattup pATTu (Ten songs)

In the "pattup pATTu", there is a work called Kurinjip pATTu.
The heroine and her friend gather all kinds of flowers
and places them on a rock. In that section of Kurinjip pATTu,
99 flowers with pure Tamil names are mentioned without a break.

1) P. N. Appuswami, Love in the Valley: an English rendering of
Kurinjip-pATTu, 1973, 28 p. Calcutta.

2) S. R. Margabandhu Sarma, Kurinjip-pATTu, 1961, 109 p.

3) R. Periakaruppan, kapilar aruLiya kurinjip-pATTu:
ilakkiyat tiRanAyvu viLakkam, Madurai, 1987, 199 p.

4) Thomas Lehmann, Grammatik des Alttamil unter besonderer
Berucksichtung der Cankam-texte des dichters Kapilar, Stuttgart, 1994, 194 p.

U. V. Swaminathaiyar (1855-1942) rediscovered the Sangam classics from
neglected and decaying palm-leaf manuscripts in the last part of
19th century. These Sangam poems establish Tamil as one of the two
classical languages of India. For all Indian languages other than
Tamil, the metalanguage is Sanskrit. But Tamil and especially in its
oldest extant literature has its own themes and does not borrow too much.
On the importance of UVS work, A. K. Ramanujan wrote a paper in 
Carla Borden, Contemporary Indian tradition, Smithsonian, 1989. See 
A. K. Ramanujan's translations a) The interior landscape b) Poems of 
Love and war, Columbia university. George Hart a) Poems of ancient tamil, 
Berkeley b) Poets of tamil anthologies, Princeton. Thomas Malten, Index of
Tamil sangam literature. Also the works of J. R. Marr.

An interesting note:
>From the first palmleaf manuscript UVS located for Kurinjip pATTu,
few lines in the list of flowers were missing. UVS wondered how many
flowers might have been lost due to the effects of time. UVS searched hard
to find the missing lines and when found it was only three flower
names. He was deeply satisfied to find the entire text intact.
This incident is captivatingly narrated in his autobiography.
The chapter's title is "mUnRu pUkkal" - Three flowers. (nalluraik kOvai)

n. ganesan
nas_ng at


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