A note on Poets in the Akananuru

George Hart glhart at BERKELEY.EDU
Fri Apr 16 21:09:33 UTC 2010

I am working through the Akananuru now, constantly struck by the ingenuity of the poets.  The words of Māgha certainly fit:

kṣaṇe kṣaṇe yan navatām upaiti tad eva rūpam ramaṇīyatāyāḥ

That which becomes new every moment is the very form of beauty.

The poems rehearse the same situations and often the same imagery over and over, yet each one seems to have something new and extraordinary that makes it different from the others.  In any event, I remember speaking with Rajam once about the Akananuru and she remarked how different the poems of Paraṇar and Kapilar are.  After working through many poems, I am struck by how unerring her insight is (and I am indebted to her for pointing this out).  We constantly wonder about the authorship of these poems -- are the attributions simply made up, or are they real?  In some poems, it is clear that the anthologist has taken liberties -- I doubt that anyone really believes the poems attributed to Pāri Makaḷir are by Pāri's daughters.  But, after seeing how the techniques of Pāri and Kapilar are so different and how the poems of each have similar styles, I am beginning to wonder whether in fact the attributed authorship of the Sangam poems is not in fact accurate.  Is there any evidence, for example, that Kapilar did NOT write the century of poems in the Ainkurunuru attributed to him (Martha Selby has said she believes the Ainkurunuru to be late)?  Or that the Sangam poets who are supposed to have written the Pattuppāṭṭu may not have been the same as in "earlier" works.  Note that in Tamil love poetry and Poetics, Takahashi believes that some of the anthologies are late and thus that the authorial attributions are incorrect.  I'd be interested in what people think about this.  George

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