"If it is true that liberal education should "liberate" by demonstrating the cultural values and norms foreign to us, by revealing the relativity of our own values, then the "discovery" and enjoyment of Tamil literature, and even its teaching should find its place in the systems of Western training and instruction in the humanities." - Kamil Zvelebil in his book, The Smile of Murugan , The Tamil literature of South India

Monday, April 14, 2014

Sangam Literature the Basics - Kurinji thinai

Kurinji thinai refers to the mountains and adjoining lands. It is named after the flower ‘kurinji’(குறிஞ்சி) which blooms only once in twelve years, in the mountains. What a special name for the thinai!
Kurinji flower: thanks Google

 ‘Kanthal’ (காந்தள்) is another flower which blooms in the mountain slopes and in fact it is the state flower of Tamilnadu. It is the Gloriosa Lily or commonly called the glory lily.

Image: thanks Google
The subject of the kurinji thinai poems is mainly the secret meeting of the lovers, the gossip that starts because of that and the talk about the hero getting married to the heroine. Kurinji thinai’s main sentiment is the love and union of the lovers.
The poems in kurinji thinai bring before us the beautiful landscape of the mountains along with the fauna and flora. We can imagine the girls living close to the nature, playing in the waterfalls, chasing parrots, meeting the hero and falling in love. The poems also bring out the scenes of the monkeys leaping around in the trees, the steep valleys, waterfalls, the flowers, and about everything nature offers in the mountains.

The seasons during which the poetic events happen are
  • The ‘kulir kaalam’ or the cold season, which falls during the Tamil months ‘aippasi’ (mid Oct to mid Nov) and ‘kaarththikai’ (mid Nov to mid Dec)
  • The ‘munpani kaalam’ or the Early dew season, which falls during the Tamil months ‘maarkazhi’ (mid Dec to mid Jan) and ‘thai’ (mid Jan to mid Feb)

The time of the day depicted in the kurinji thinai poems is ‘yaamam’ which is from 10pm till 2am.

The tune specific to kurinji thinai is ‘kurinji pan’ and the musical instrument is ‘kurinji yaazh’. The drum or 'parai' is 'thondakam'.

The people native to the mountains are called ‘kuravar’(குறவர்). The female is called 'kurathi' (குறத்தி). They live in huts with their families in small settlements. Bears, Tigers, elephants, monkeys, wild pigs, parrots and peacocks live in the mountains. The animals listed here live in other lands also whereas they are specific to kurinji thinai or mountainous lands. Rice, millet and tubers are cultivated. People also collect wild honey from honeycombs. Sandalwood (சந்தனமரம்) trees abound here. Teak (தேக்கு), oct wood (அகில்) and leopard (வேங்கை) trees also grow in the mountains. Kurinji refers to the mountainous land, so it abounds with springs and waterfalls.

After learning only a few poems in kurinji thinai, I could relate those to what I really see in the mountains. It is so remarkable to see life and nature hand in hand. The ancient Tamils lived harmoniously with the nature and that is well expressed in the sangam poems. Whenever I see monkeys, waterfalls in the mountains and reminded of one or the other poem from kurinji thinai. This joyful feeling of seeing the poems go hand in hand with the nature drives the reader more towards learning and savoring the sweetness of the sangam poems.

The main characters of the poems are the hero and the heroine, heroine’s friend, heroine’s foster mother who is generally the friend’s mother and the heroine’s biological mother. The poems are set as words spoken by the heroine to her friend, the friend to the heroine, friend to the hero, hero to the heroine, heroine to the hero, the friend to the foster mother or the foster mother to the friend. The poems neither address the readers nor do they speak the words of the poet, as is the convention of all agam poems.

Now that you know about kurinji thinai, you are all set to learn and enjoy the kurinji thinai poems. Am sure you will be able to indulge in the poems with the scenes well unfolding before you.

Having talked about agam and kurinji thinai, am planning to discuss about the collection of sangam poems in the next post. You will be introduced to the different collections and songs of sangam period. And thereafter I will share a beautiful kurinji thinai poem after which I will proceed to the other thinais.
Please stay connected for the many many lovely sangam poems. Thanks for reading.


  1. Super information Grace... neatly put... waiting to read through next.. continue ur great work..

  2. Excellent article Grace. It surely gives a lot of information to readers!

    1. Thanks Dhiyana, am glad it does! :)

  3. great work dear! come out with flying colours!

  4. Great Post! I was desperately searching for this.. Thnx!! Kudos! Any link to read about all aindhinai(Kurinji, Mullai, Marudham,Neidhal and paalai) ?

    1. Thanks a lot!

      Sorry for the late reply.


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