"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

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Sangam Literature the Basics - Sangam Poems

We saw in Sangam Literature the Basic - Part 1 that the sangam poems were sung during a long period of time, by many poets. Its understood that the poems were sung by ten generations of poets, from various historical analysis. Leaving that aside until later, let me introduce the sangam poems to you. As I said these were written by various poets in various times and this led to the poems to be lost or hidden. So some kings decided to collect and save the poems with the help of some poets. Thus the poems which were found were categorized and recorded.

The shorter poems were collected into anthologies. Anthology is a collection of poems written by different poets following the same literary form. Thus the poems were read, analyzed and grouped into eight anthologies. These are called 'Ettuththogai' which means 'Eight Anthologies'. (ettu - eight, thogai - anthology)

There is a beautiful poem even to remember the names of these anthologies. Look how sweet the poem is!

"நற்றிணை நல்ல குறுந்தொகை ஐங்குறுநூறு
ஒத்த பதிற்றுப்பத்து ஓங்கு பரிபாடல்
கற்றறிந்தார் ஏத்தும் கலியொடு அகம் புறம் என்று
இத்திறத்த எட்டுத் தொகை"

"Natrinai nalla Kurunthogai Ainkurunooru
Oththa Padhitruppaththu ongu Paripaadal
Katrarindhaar yeththum Kaliyodu Agam Puram endru
Iththiraththa Ettuth thogai"

This poem could be translated as,

"Natrinai good Kurunthogai Ainkurunooru
Matching Padhitruppaththu great Paripaadal
Along with Kaliththogai praised by the learned, Agam Puram
So is the Eight Anthologies"

Of the eight anthologies, Natrinai, Kurunthogai, Ainkurunooru, Kaliththogai and Aganaanooru are agam poems. Padhitruppaththu and Puranaanooru are puram poems. Paripaadal is a combination of both agam and puram poems.

Well, apart from the shorter poems there are also ten long songs which are grouped and named as 'Paththuppaattu' meaning 'The Ten Songs'. These too are listed beautifully in a poem as follows.

"முருகு பொருநாறு பாணிரண்டு முல்லை
பெருகு வளமதுரைக் காஞ்சி - மருவினிய
கோலநெடு நல்வாடை கோல்குறிஞ்சி பட்டினப்
பாலை கடாத்தொடும் பத்து"

"Murugu Porunaaru Paanirandu Mullai
Peruguvala Maduraikaanji - maruviniya
kola Nedunalvaadai kol Kurinji Pattinap
Paalai kadaaththodum paththu"

This poem could be translated as
"Murugu Porunaaru Paan two Mullai
Flourishing Maduraikkaanji- Sweet and attractive
Beautiful Nedunalvaadai Kurinji Pattinappaalai
Kaadaam thereby ten"

Among these ThiruMurugaatruppadai(Murugu), Porunaraatruppadai(Porunaaru), Sirupaanaatrappadai and Perumpaanaatruppadai (Paanirandu) and Malaippadukadaam(kaadaam) fall into a literary group called as 'Aatruppadai'. Please do not be taken aback, I will explain about it eventually. These 'Aatruppadai' poems and Maduraikkaanji fall into the puram category of poems.

Mullaippaattu (Mullai), Kurinjippaattu (Kurinji) and Pattinappaalai and agam poems.
Nedunalvaadai is still debated whether it falls under agam or puram. I will discuss more about it later.

These eighteen books of poems, the Eight Anthologies(Ettuththogai) and Ten songs(Paththupaattu) are generally called sangam poems or sangam songs. The Eight Anthologies and the Ten Songs were referred to as 'Paattum Thogaiyum'. Only in 1940, Mr.Vaiyaapuri coined the word 'Sangam Literature' to refer to these poems, in his book 'Sangam Literature' published by 'Saiva Siththaandha Kazhagam'. Since then the eight anthologies and the ten songs are referred to as the sangam literature.  Having introduced the names of these in this post, we will see more in later posts along with the beautiful poems.


  1. உங்கள் பணியினை பாராட்ட வார்த்தைகள் இல்லை கிரேஸ்... Super work Grace... தொடருங்க :)

    1. :) நன்றி ஸ்ரீனி


Thanks for reading and please leave your comments...