Tamil Language History
Tamil language has the special claim of being at once classical like Sanskrit, Greek or Latin, and vigorous and modern like the modern Indian languages. Its history can be traced back to the age of Tolkappiyam the earliest extant Tamil grammar generally to 500 B.C. Among the Dravidian language it is least influenced be 'sanskrit' though there is a certain degree of influence.
The earliest extant literature of the Tamils is called Sangam literature and it is dated between 500 BC. and 200 A.D. Though a considerable part of the early poetry has been lost, some of the bards and patrons decided to preserve apart of it in certain anthologies (about 4th century A.D.). These are the Ten Idylls (Pattuppattu) and the Eight Anthologies (Ettuttohai). Four hundred and seventy three poets, of whom thirty are women, have been identified. These are mainly classified into two. Akam or esoteric dealing with love and Puram or exoteric dealing with war.
In this period, Tamil literature was considerably bound by literary conventions. The poets were keen on keeping up the tradition. The land was treated as five regions viz. mountains, forests, fields, coasts and deserts and the theme of love in five aspects viz. union, patience, sulking, wailing and separation. The poet dealing with a certain aspect of love restricted himself to a particular region, season, hour, flora and fauna. These literary conventions are explained in Tolkappiyam.
Purananuru is 400 verses on Puram themes. It serves as a window on the Tamil people 2000 years ago. Agananuru is 400 poems on love themes. The length of these poems varies from 13 to 37 lines. There are other collections like Natrinai, Kuruntogai, Ain-kurunuru, Paripadal, etc., which are quite well known.
Tiruvalluvar's Tirukkural is acclaimed to be the greatest Tamil classic. It expresses the most profound thoughts on the many problems of life. Each verse is a couplet composed with great economy of words. The book is divided into 133 chapters each containing 10 verses. The chapters are arranged in three books dealing with virtue, wealth and pleasure.
Round about the 3rd century A.D., Tamil produced two epics Silappadhikaram and Manimekhalai which are considered twin epics like the Ramayana and Mahabharata. The author of Silappadhikaram was the son of a Chera King liango Adikal. The title means the "Story of the Anklet" and the epic describes the moving story of Kannagi.
Manimekhalai is the daughter of Madhavi and Kovalan, the hero of Silappadhikaram. Kamba Ramayanam is an immortal classic in Tamil. Though Kambar based his work on the Sanskrit Ramayana of Valmiki, his rendering shows that he was a supreme artist. It is different in plot, in construction and in the delineation of character. Kambaramayanam runs to 10,368 verses.
Tamil is rich in devotional literature Siddhars and Nayanmars are the exponents of Saivism also Alwars of Vaishnavism. Thiru Thirumoolar, jnanasambandar, Thirunanukkarasar, Sundarar and Manikkavacakar are include the 63 great Nayanmars. The great Alwars are 12 in number. Kulasekhara Alwar and Andal are specially remembered. There are 5 major kavyams and 5 minor kavyams in Tamil. Jain and Buddhist works are in abundance in the language.
Twentieth century has produced many talented men of letters in various fields, Poetry, Prose, Drama, Novel, Biography, Short Story etc. Dr. Swaminatha Iyer unearthed many literary works and edited them. Swami Vadachalam, Thiru V. Kalyanasundera Mudaliar and V. O. Chidambaram Pillai are great writers of the modern period. However, the greatest poet of modern Tamil is Subramania Bharati whose patriotic poems have inspired thousands of readers in his time. Personal freedom, national liberty and the fundamental equality of all men find eloquent expression in his verses. In some of his poems like Kuyilpattu (Song of the Cuckoo) Kannanpattu (Poems on Lord Krishna) or Panchali Sapatham (The Vow of Panchali) we notice a religious perception at work.
Rajam Ayyar, Madhavayya, Pudumaipithan, Kupa, Rajagopalan and Kalki Krishnamoor have contributed much to the field of Tamil fiction. These writers along with Bharati ushered in the new epoch of renaissance in Tamil literature.
In the post-Independence period several writers have come to the fore. Among poets, the names of Kulothungan, Ka-Na Subramanyam and C. S. Chellappa may be mentioned. And in fiction the outstanding names are Akilan, jayakanthan, Neela Padmanabhan, Sundararamaswamy, Ashokamitran and Indira Parthasarathy.
Tamil is one of the classical languages of India and one of the major languages of the Dravidian family of languages. Tamil Nadu in India is the home land for the Tamil speaking people. Tamil is also spoken in some other parts of the world. Mainly Tamil speaking people are located in Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore, South Africa, Mauritius and Fiji. Tamil has had its share of mixed words from other languages Sanskrit, Urudhu and English etc. However, this was removed by 20th century Tamil activists, remarkably Parithimaar Kalaignar and Maraimalai Adigal by 'Thanith Thamizh Iyakkam' (Pure Tamil movement). Now the Language Tamil is in formal documents, public speeches and scientific discourses are largely free from other loan words.
The variety and quality of classic Tamil literature has led to it has been expressed as "The only living language of modern India which is noticeably uninterrupted with a classical past" and having "One of the richest literatures in the world."
A Female Icon of Tamil Literature.
Auvaiyar is a woman poet and one of the greatest literary figures in ancient Tamil Nadu. She lived during the Sangam age. Tamil literature says that she was in the support of Tamil King Adhiyaman for some time. As a young girl, to devote her whole life to God, she prayed to have her prettiness removed so she would not be forced into marriage. She was a great devotee of Lord Murugan and she wrote superb ethical works, some in aphoristic style and some in fourline verses. Her quotes are still in craze in present day Tamil Nadu. Auvaiyar's quote "Katrathu Kai Mann Alavu, Kallathathu Ulagalavu" has been interpreted as "What you have learnt is a mere handful. What you haven't is like the world in its size" and exhibited at NASA.
More About Auvaiyar
Thirukkural, one of the greatest classical works in Tamil language was written by Thiruvalluvar. A weaver by profession, Thiruvalluvar is believed to have lived some time during the 1st millennium BC. According to a legend he is supposed to have been born and lived in Mylapore, a very old part of existing Chennai city. Tamils all over the world still believe Tiruvalluvar to be a holy saint and his works are often called as 'Thirumarai' or the 'The Holy book'. His Thirukkural is one of the oldest and largely privileged works in the Tamil language. Thiruvalluvar spoken his philosophy in the Kural, a collection of 1330 short, condensed couplets, above all in the form of maxims. These kurals are divided into three main sections: virtue, wealth, and love. Thirukural consists of 133 Chapters. Each chapter consists of 10 "kurals" (kural is a couplet) thus making 1330 kurals in total.
More About Thiruvalluvar and Thirukural
Emperor of Poets
Kambar was a great medieval Tamil poet and the author of Kamba Ramayana the Tamil version of Ramayana. The literary works that Kambar has created goes beyond time and makes him immortal. He also written other literary works such as Erezhupathu, Silaiezhupathu, Kangai Puranam and Saraswathi Anthathi, Sadagopar Andhadhi. In Tamil literature, Andhadhi is one of the difficult and toughest forms of poetry which only a few poets have sung. His Andhadhies are a sufficient proof for his articulacy and literary capability and has earned him the rightful name "Kavi Chakravarthi" (Emperor of Poets).
More About Kambar
Ilango Adigal was one of the great Tamil poets, he who was written the Silappathigaram, one of the five great epics of Tamil Literature. Cheran Chenguttuvan the king of Chera Dynasty in Tamil Nadu was the elder brother of Ilango Adigal. This poet Prince popularly believed to have been a Jain monk. His Silappathigaram is regarded as one of the great achievements of Tamil intellect. The epic created around Kannagi, who having lost her spouse to a misjudgment of the court of the Pandya king, as her revenge she destroyed his kingdom. It contains three chapters and a total of 5270 lines of poetry and it is a poetic interpretation with details of Tamil culture; its different religions; its town plans and city types; the socializing of Greeks, Arabs, with Tamil peoples; and the arts of dance and music.
More About Ilango Adigal
The Chola kings gave many concessions and patronage to Tamil scholars and writers. Ottakoothar was a famous Tamil poet- author of works such as Kulottunga Cholan Ula.. Rajarajan Ula.. Vikrama Cholan Ula, According to a legend, Goddess Saraswati blessed him in the place Koothanur, after that he became a famous poet. . Ottakoothar had also written Kulothungan Pillai Tamil in praise of Chola king Kulothunga II and Saraswati Andhadhi in praise of Saraswati the Goddess of learning. Kulothungan kovai,Thanjaivanan kovai and Great epics namely Valayapathi, Kundalakesi, Viracholivam, Nannool, Thevaram, Nandikalambagam. Bharatha venba and Sivgnanabodam are important literature works of this period. The Chola period tamil literatures increased the cultural values of the Chola society.
More Abour Ottakuthar
Kavi Kalamegham is a great Tamil poet of the 15th century, who was an Asukavi, capable of 'without preparation poetry'. He is popular for his poems containing pun (Siledai). His name refers to his ability of pouring forth poems like the black clouds that burst into a torrential rain. His masterpieces include Tiruvanaikka ula, Chittira Madal and a number of verses full of pun and irony. He used his skills of pun and irony to rebuff his enemy and criticise anyone who took advantage of him. His poems often have a riddle with an understandable and a deeper meaning. Even his acclamation on the Hindu Gods he adored were full of irony, pun and mockery on the surface, hiding a profound devotion underneath it.
More About: Kavi Kalamegam
Sekkizhar was born in a shaivite farmer family of sekkizhar tradition at kunraththur in Tamilnadu. The king - Kuloththunga chozan ii - who was ruling the region then wondered at the cleverness, sincerity and brilliance of Sekkizhar and made him his prime minister. The king asked Sekkizhar to sing in detail the lives of the devotees as an epic. . Sekkizhar agreed and worshiped the Lord Nataraja at Chithambaram. The dancing lord gave him the first word "Ulakelam" to start the epic. Sekkizhar has used this word in the beginning, middle and end of his epic "Periyapuranam". Thiruth Thondar Puranam is the only other work available that was written by Sekkizhar.
More About: Sekkizhar
Subramanya Bharathi was a Tamil poet from Tamil Nadu, India, a freedom fighter and a reformer. Well known as Mahakavi Bharathiyar (Maha Kavi means Great Poet in Tamil), he is distinguished as one of India's greatest poets. Bharathi was creative and adept in both the prose and poetry forms of Tamil literature, and his stirring compositions helped rally the masses to support the Indian independence movement in South India. Bharathi lived during an action-packed period of Indian history; his contemporaries included other well-known leaders of the Indian independence movement such as Mahatma Gandhi, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Sri Aurobindo. In his short life period of 39 years, Subramaniya Bharathi left an unforgettable mark as the poet of Tamil nationalism and Indian freedom movement.
More About Bharathi
Kaviyarasu Kannadasan (king of poets) was a Tamil poet and lyricist, identified as one of the greatest and most important writers in the Tamil language. His contribution to Tamil Literature is enormous. He wrote several of Epics, Novels, Essays, more than 6000 poems, Stage plays, Screen plays, Auto-Biographies, 5000+ Film songs etc. are all in print form. His most popular works are the 10-part religious essay on Hinduism, captioned as Arthamulla Indhumatham (Meaningful Hinduism) and the biography of Jesus Christ in verses, titled Yesu Kaaviyam. On Jul 24, 1981, he was admitted in a Chicago Hospital as a patient and died on Oct 17, 1981 there itself. His house in Sirukootalpatti is a memorial now. This Kaviyarasu Kannadasan Memorial Museum was inaugurated on October 21, 1992.
More About Kaviyarasu Kannadasan
LLiving Legend "Kavignar Vaali (T. S. Rangarajan) is hail from Srirangam (Trichy), he is a Tamil poet and a film song lyricist. He has also acted in many Tamil films particularly, Hey Ram and Parthale Paravasam. He was a station artist and he worked in All India Radio. More than 40 years he is associated with tamil film industry. Till now he had penned more than 10,000 songs and still going strong with new productions. He is not only familiar in the film lyrics but he's much more superior when it comes to literary works. He is a creative writer too, he has written many books like Avathara Purushan, Pandavar Bhoomi, Krishna Vijayam, Kalaignar Kaviyam, Krishna Bhakthan, Naanum indha Nootrandum, etc.
More About Kavingar Vaali