Tobacco as Messenger

Fri Sep 12 20:42:04 UTC 1997


            Tobacco As Messenger

There is a fine messenger poem, like Kalidasa's Meghaduutam,
in Tamil from 18th century where Tobacco is used as the
messenger to go to Lord Murugan/Subrahmanya of Pazhani.
It has 59 couplets (kaNNi) and the great U. V. Saminathaiyar
edited this in 1939. "Pukaiyilai viTu tuutu" came out in second
edition in 1956. The author of the work is
"Seenicarkkaraip Pulavar".

In the first 53 couplets, many tales connected with Tobacco
are narrated. In Viralimalai, they offer Cigars to Murugan.

As the main legend goes, there was litigation in the court of
Devas once. The Trimurtis were given Bilva, Tulasi and Tobacco
respectively. Siva lost the Bilva leaves by the waves of Ganga.
The Milky ocean took care of the Tulasi of Vishnu.
Brahma has given Tobacco to his wife-cum-tongue (Sarasvathi)
for safekeeping and thus the leaf escaped from getting lost.
Only Brahma could bring it to the Court and wins the case.
Hence, the name brahmapathram.

In this book, Tobacco is compared to Siva, Vishnu, Brahma, Tamil,
Murugan using slesa. Let me just tell the ones for Siva.

                          Siva               Tobacco
1) pukai uTaiyatu     Siva pujas
                     are full of fragrant * Produces smoke
                     smokes               *

2) tampam pOlvatu    sthamba -            * Cigars look like
                    lingodhbhava myth     *  a pillar

3) anal Entuvatu     carries fire         * Has fire while in use
                    (Nataraja image)      *

4) nuniyil           Has Vibhuti on the   *  has ash at the tip
caampalai uTaiyatu   forehead.            *


Dr. Jayabarathi has posted a variant of this story.
It will be nice to know whether he heard the story from
somebody who may not know that "pukaiyilaiviTu tuutu'

N. Ganesan
nas_ng at

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