A note on Poets in the Akananuru

George Hart glhart at BERKELEY.EDU
Sat Apr 17 21:45:47 UTC 2010

Dear Palaniappan,

Just what seems likely, I suppose.  Everyone may not know the story.  The great poet Kapilar was patronized by Pāri, who ruled over a small mountain called Paṟampu.  Pāri was (and still is) renowned for his generosity, and as a result the three great kings, Chera Chola and Pandya, became jealous, joined together, and laid siege to Paṟampu.  In the end, they could not take it by force, but were able to do so by treachery.  Pāri was killed, and Kapilar (a Brahmin) was spared.  Kapilar took Pāri's daughters to many kings and attempted to get them married but was unsuccessful.  In the end, he is supposed to have married them to other Brahmins.  The poems Kapilar wrote about this are some of the most beautiful in any literature.  There is one poem attributed to Pāri's daughters:

On that day, under the white light of that moon,
we had our father and no enemies had taken the hill.
On this day, under the white light of this moon, the kings,
royal drums beating out the victory,
have taken the hill.  And we! we have no father.

The power of these lines has echoed through almost 2000 years of Tamil history.  It seems to me unlikely that two young (12?) girls could compose such a master poem, especially when Kapilar, whom we know was a great poet, was with them and experienced what they did.  Of course, there is no way of being 100% certain that the girls did not have a part in the poem -- it is not unlikely they said something and Kapilar put it into poetry.  George
On Apr 17, 2010, at 1:32 PM, Sudalaimuthu Palaniappan wrote:

> Dear George,
> What are the reasons for doubting the attribution of Puṟam 112 to Pāri Makaḷir?
> Thanks
> Regards,
> Palaniappan
> On Apr 16, 2010, at 4:09 PM, George Hart wrote:
>> 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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