CT phrase "pulam puri"

N. Ganesan naga_ganesan at HOTMAIL.COM
Sat Apr 7 02:43:26 UTC 2001

>>The phrase, "pulam puri antaNar" means "the cool priests chanting/doing
>>magic spells".

Tiru. LS wrote:
This phrase "pulam puri antaNAr" occurs in pariPATal 6.  There it
stands for Vedic brahmins (the threaded variety) and not, I submit,
"the cool priests chanting/doing magic spells". The commentary is
unambiguous on this point - "maRaiyai virumpum antaNAr"
(ParimElazakar). UVS, in fact, gives a cross ref to pariPATal 1:46
wherein parimElazakar explains why the word "pulam" stands for
the Veda. The original manuscripts seem to be corrupt right at this
spot and there's an editor's ellipsis right in the middle of this
sentence. However, UVS as editor, gives in his notes the identity
"pulam - vEtam" in this context as well as in the locus under
discussion viz., pari 6:45.

ParimElazakar, though his commentary is after a millennium  or so
later, is possibly right about paripATal 6:45 where "pulam" could be
the Veda. OTOH, it's certain that "pulam puri caGkam" in maNimEkalai
epic does not mean veda at all.

In the sangam poems describing wedding rituals (akam 86, 136) the
vedic brahmins, fire sacrifice, dakshiNai, are absent.

Sangam poems were written imitating the oral culture predating the
texts by a long time. From the oral culture, stock phrases are often
borrowed. "pulam puri" seems to be one such. "pulam" has meanings of
"sense, faculty of any organ of sense; sensation; consciousness;
perception by the senses;" (OTL entry). Oral bards in Kerala have been
recorded for a long time to be experts in in sorcery, magic, and
pacification of the souls. Using musical instruments like drums,
flute, oboe, conch shells and ritualistic dance, medium sensation,
possession and magic spells were done by shaman priests
in sangam poems. This ancient "pulam purital" seems to have been
applied later for the vedic, buddhist mantra recitals.

Please consider other occurences of the phrase "pulam puri" in old
tamil texts. For example:

   tEr vaN malaiyan2 muntai pEr icai
   pulam puri vayiriyar nalam puri muzavin2 - naR. 100:9-10

Note that here also "pulam puri" is present. vayir = bamboo. vayiriyar
= dancers, actors. vayiriyar were not experts in vedas or homa
rituals. Here vayiriyar are beating the muzA drums.A possession ritual
music is taking place. In sangam texts, we have blood sacrifices fed
upon drums during frenzied dances and music. (Many similarities to
worship of drums in Atharvaveda as well).

Written literature develops (usually) by imitating oral literature.
One of the features of oral literature is formulae (Lord's Singer of
Tales). In ancient cultures in India and worldwide, often possession
music arises from tribes who act as country priests specializing in
magic, spells, and oracle.

N. Ganesan

PS: naRRiNai 100:10 has an important variant published
in UVS library edition:
"pulam piri vayiriyar nalam puri muzavin2".
The commentary is "vERRu nATTiliruntu vanta".
If so, it could mean pole-dancers.
Get your FREE download of MSN Explorer at http://explorer.msn.com

More information about the INDOLOGY mailing list