09 January 2011

Akanaanuru (அகநானூறு)

Introduction: Literary classics abound in all languages of the word and it is indeed a pleasure to read them and appreciate how our ancestors viewed life and how every civilization differed from each other in viewing at the aims and pursuits of life in this world. The objective here is to present once a week, the best poem or sloka or verse or song I have read among the different literary works of the world. "யான் பெற்ற இன்பம் பெருக இவ்வையகம்" என்று திருமூலர் திருமந்திரத்தில் கூறியதுபோல, let everyone attain the bliss I have received in reading them.

கடந்த வாரம் நாம் கண்டதுகுறுந்தொகை”-யிலிருந்து ஒரு பாடல். குறுந்தொகை என்றால்குறுகிய பாடல்களைக் கொண்டதொகை நூல் என்று பொருள். அப்படியென்றால் நீண்ட பாடல்களைக் கொண்ட ஒரு சங்கத் தொகைநூல் ஒன்று இருக்கவேண்டுமல்லவா? அதைத்தான்நெடுந்தொகைஎன்று அறிகிரோம். அவ்வாரு கூறப்படினும், அதைஅகநானூறுஎன்ற பெயரிலே பிற்காலங்களில் அறியப்பட்டது. 13 முதல் 30 (thirteen to thirty) வரிகளுடைய கிட்டத்தட்ட 150 புலவர்களால் பாடப்பட்ட பாடல்கள் இத்தொகை நூலில் அடங்கியுள்ளது.

According to an old tradition, the compiler of these long poems was Uruthiracanman (உருத்திரசன்மன்), son of Uppūri Kizhar of the city of Madurai, under the patronage of Pantiyan Ukkirapperuvazhuti who entrusted the work of anthologization (Ramachandran, 1974; Dhakshinamurthy, 1999).

குறுந்தொகையைப் போலவே, இதுவும் முழுவதுமாக அகத்தினையைப்பற்றி எழுதப்பட்ட 400 பாடல்களைக் கொண்டது. சங்ககால இலக்கியங்கள் அனைத்தையும், “அகம்மற்றும்புறம்என்று இருவகை தினைப் பாடல்களாக பிரிக்கலாம். இதை ஆங்கிலத்தில் “External and Internal” or “Inside and Outside” அல்லது “Interior and Exterior” என்று மொழிபெயர்க்கலாம். அகத்தினைப் பாடல்கள் என்றால்காதலன்காதலிமற்றும்கணவன்மனைவிஇடையே நிகழும் புணர்ச்சி, பிரிதல், ஊடல், நானுதல், ஏக்கம், பொன்ற நுட்பமான நிகழ்ச்சிகளை எடுத்துரைப்பதாகும். Akattinai songs handle three subject matters, namely mutalporul, karupporul and uripporul (முதல்பொருள், கருப்பொருள் and உரிப்பொருள்). Mutalporul is the reference to the ‘place and time’ of the event in the poem, karupporul is the mention of floristic and faunal elements and uripporul is the main subject matter of love.

Akanānūru stands unique among the Sangam works for the following reasons:

With more than 7,000 lines, Akanānūru is the longest of all Sangam anthologies, even longer thanPattuppāttu” (பத்துப்பாட்டு) with all its 10 works combined.  Akanānūru has some of the best love poems and similes I have come across in the entire collection of akam poems. I have chosen here poems that excel in depicting secret love, separation and a poem of flirting and flattery.

Proportion of songs from various thinais in Akananuru
Because the poems in Akanānūru are longer than Kurunthogai and Natrinai, a greater portion of its poems are occupied by mutalporul and karupporrul, besides main love aspect uripporul (Manickam, 1962). This I believe is the main reason why Akanānūru is studded with detailed descriptions of nature (flora and fauna) and historical information. More than any other akam work in Tamil literature, it is full of references to historical events and persons (Ramachandran, 1974). Some of these are amazing descriptions of animal behavior. There are also interspecies interactions like prey-predator relationships, notable among these being the never ending conflict between the elephant and tiger. And the rest are the amazing comparisons the poets make on the resemblance of a floral part to a part of an animal’s anatomy.  

(1) Song of disappointment in secret love

This song is the lamentations of a girl who is unable to leave home and meet her lover in the night at the designated place in the village. It is a brilliant poem, perhaps the best of all poems in Akananuru. I won’t hesitate to rank this as one of the best love poems I have read in Sangam literature. The poem is attributed to Paranar (பரணர்). He describes all the hurdles a girl would face at night while trying to meet her lover without the knowledge of her parents in one poem.

இரும்பிழி மகாஅரிவ் அழுங்கல் மூதூர்
விழவின் றாயினும் துஞ்சா தாகும்:
மல்லல் ஆவணம் மறுகுடன் மடியின்,
வல்லுரைக் கடுஞ்சொல் அன்னை துஞ்சாள்;
பிணிகோள் அருஞ்சிறை அன்னை துஞ்சின். 5
துஞ்சாக் கண்ணர் காவலர் கடுகுவர்;
இலங்குவேல் இளையர் துஞ்சின், வைஎயிற்று
வலஞ்சுரித் தோகை ஞாளி மகிழும்;
அரவவாய் ஞமலி மகிழாது மடியின்,
பகலுரு உறழ நிலவுக்கான்று விசும்பின்   10
அகல்வாய் மண்டிலம் நின்றுவிரி யும்மே;
திங்கள் கல்சேர்வு கனைஇருள் மடியின்,
இல்எலி வல்சி வல்வாய்க் கூகை
கழுதுவழங்கு யாமத்து அழிதகக் குழறும்;
வளைக்கண் சேவல் வாளாது மடியின்,   15
மனைச்செறி கோழி மாண்குரல் இயம்பும்;
எல்லாம் மடிந்த காலை, ஒருநாள்
நில்லா நெஞ்சத்து அவர்வா ரலரே; அதனால்
அரிபெய் புட்டில் ஆர்ப்பப் பரிசிறந்து,
ஆதி போகிய பாய்பரி நன்மா   20
நொச்சி வேலித் தித்தன் உறந்தைக்
கல்முதிர் புறங்காட் டன்ன
பல்முட் டின்றால் - தோழி!- நம் களவே.

There are no festivals to keep them awake,
       Yet people of this restless village do not go to bed;
Even if this village with its busy streets become inactive,
       My caustic tongued mother will not sleep;
Even if my strict mother happens to close her eyes in sleep,
       The village watchmen with their sleepless eyes are moving everywhere;
No sooner the young guards with their glittering lances fall asleep
       Than the dogs with bent tails begin to bark;
When the sharp-toothed dogs cease to bark,
       The moon appearing like a sun spreads its effulgent rays;
If the moon withdraws its rays by setting behind the hill,
       The screeching owls which prey on rats begin to hoot;
Supposing the round-eyed owl decides to remain silent,
       The domestic cocks raise their voice indicating the approach of dawn;
On a favourable day when all these things are at rest,
       He who used to come daily does not turn up.
O maid, our secret course has myriad obstacles
       Like the impassable defensive forest of Tittan.

(Paranār in Akanānūru, 122)    [Translated by V. Sp. Manickam]


(2) Song of flirting

In this poem, the hero speaks to himself of his experience of winning the favour of a girl. Poet Ammūvanār movingly describes the art of flirting and winning a girl here. The very first chapter in the third division “Love” of Tirukkural is “Fascination” (தகையணங்குறுத்தல்) which is all about men’s fascination on feminine beauty. Set in Neythal thinai (நெய்தல்) background, the fascinated man describes the salt selling girl’s beauty to attract her attention.



வணர்சுரி முச்சி முழுதுமற் புரள       5
ஐதகல் அல்குல் கவின்பெறப் புனைந்த
பல்குழைத் தொடலை ஒல்குவயின் ஒல்கி
நெல்லும் உப்பும் நேரே ஊரீர்!
கொள்ளீரோ எனச் சேரிதொறும் நுவலும்
அவ்வாங்கு உந்தி அமைத்தோ ளாய்! நின்    10
மெய்வாழ் உப்பின் விலைஎய் யாம்எனச்
சிறிய விலங்கின மாகப் பெரியதன்
அரிவேய் உண்கண் அமர்த்தனள் நோக்கி
யாரீ ரோஎம் விலங்கி யீஇரென
மூரல் முறுவலள் பேர்வனள் நின்ற      15
சில்நிரை வால்வளைப் பொலிந்த
பல்மாண் பேதைக்கு ஒழிந்ததென் நெஞ்சே!
(ஆகநானூறு, 390)

O young girl, your navel is lovely and rounded!
Your arms are bamboo-like; your tresses are curly and coiled.
And they all sway in the air; your forelap is broad and beautiful.
And your skirt made of multifoliate tender leaves adds to its charm.
As your waist bends, your skirt also sways gently;
You cry in the street thus:
“O village folk! We barter salt for today
In equal measure! Come ye, willing buyers!”
So saying, when I blocked her way a little,
She cast at me her look from her broad eyes, streaked red
And touched with khol, as though she was offended,
And retorted thus:
“Who are you blocking my way?”
She moved a little and stood there.
Her face was lit with a gentle smile.
Lo, the young girl of many virtues, bedecked with serried and shining bangles!
My heart stands forfeited of its puissance!

[Translator: A. Dakshinamurthy]   (Poet: Ammūvanār)

(3) Song of best of metaphors

According to translator Dhakshinamurthy this has one of the finest metaphors in Sangam literature. Let us see if his judgment is justified. There is a couplet in Thirukkural which tells us how the love gossip helps only to nurture their secret further.  Valluvar says, “The village gossip manures my love, and my mother's reproaches water it” (ஊரவர் கெளவை  எருவாக அன்னை சொல் நீராக நீளும் இந்நோய் - 1147). Here Valluvar metaphorically compares the love’s progress to the growth of a plan. The following Sangam poem attributed to Avvaiyār is an exploded versions of what is implied in this Kural.

…………………………………………… ..………. வீங்குபு
 
தலைவரம்பு அறியாத் தகைவரல் வாடையொடு         10
 முலையிடைத் தோன்றிய நோய்வளர் இளமுளை
 
அசைவுடை நெஞ்சத்து உயவுத்திரள் நீடி,
 
ஊரோர் எடுத்த அம்பல் அம்சினை,
 
ஆராக் காதல் அவிர்தளிர் பரப்பிப்
 
புலவர் புகழ்ந்த நாணில் பெருமரம்          15
 நிலவரை எல்லாம் நிழற்றி,
 
அலர்அரும்பு ஊழ்ப்பவும், வாரா தோரே.
(அகநானூறு, 273)

By the advent of the northern wind
That grew fiercer and fiercer and seemed endless,
The tender shoots of the disease of desire
Sprouted in our breast, the soil of our languishing heart;
That shoot grew into a rounded trunk of grief.
The gossip of the village formed its beauteous branches;
In these branches appeared the shining tender leaves, the unbounded love;
It then grew into a huge tree of unabashedness;
It is but bashfulness that is praised by the poets.
The tree began to shade the entire world
And shed its flowers namely the open slander of the village folks.
Our love has not chosen to come even at this hour!

[Translator: A. Dakshinamurthy] (Poet: Avvaiyār)

(4) Song of immanent separation

The hero addresses his heart while going in pursuit of riches. This poem is attributed to Eyinanthai Makanār Allangkeeranār. As goes a Kural “Even before I could, my bangles figured out the immanent separation from my lord” (தண்ணந் துறைவன் தணந்தமை நம்மினும், முன்னம் உணர்ந்த வளை - 1277), this poem describes in detail the changes the lady at home undergoes realizing the immanent separation from her husband.

செய்பொருள் மருங்கின் செலவுதனக்கு உரைத்தென
வைகுநிலை மதியம் போலப், பையெனப்,
புலம்புகொள் அவலமொடு, புதுக்கவின் இழந்த
நலம்கெழு திருமுகம் இறைஞ்சி, நிலம் கிளையா,
நீரொடு பொருத ஈர்இதழ் மழைக்கண்
இகுதரு தெண்பனி ஆகத்து உறைப்பக்,
கால்நிலை செல்லாது, கழிபடர்க் கலங்கி,
நாநடுக் குற்ற நவிலாக் கிளவியொடு,
அறல்மருள் கூந்தலின் மறையினள், ‘திறல் மாண்டு
திருந்துக மாதோ, நும்செலவுஎன வெய்து உயிராப்,
(அகநானூறு, 299)

She suddenly stood denuded of her fresh splendor
Already tormented by separation;
She looked like the moon a dawn, robbed of its luster;
Her face lovely and charming began to droop;
She stood scratching the soil with her toe;
Her eyes were in a spate,
And her tears rolled down her eyes
Of wet brows and drenched her breasts.
Her unsteady feet trembled;
Her heart was all bewildered with grief boundless;
She was tongue-tied;
Her words were broken, muffled and unclear;
She hid her face with her tresses, curly like wavy sand;
With deep and hot sighs, she breathed these words!
May your mission be crowned with success”.
[Translator: A. Dakshinamurthy]

5) Sloth bear and the termite mount

The ancient Tamils knew of only one species of bear, the sloth bear (Melursus ursinus) as it is the only species found in peninsular India. There are Indian states that harbor more than one species of bear (e.g. Uttaranchal has sloth, Asiatic black and Himalayan brown bears; Assam has Asiatic black, sloth and sun bears). Sangam classics (எட்டுத்தொகை and பத்துப்பாட்டு) describe the sloth bear as a hairy animal with a lowered head (Natrinai 325), hunch back (Akam 122) strong arms (Akam, 15), bent legs (Pattuppāttu, 501), crooked toes (Akam, 88) and with a fiery, open and gasping mouth (Akam 201, Natrinai 125).  Of the 18 poems that refer to the feeding habits, 12 contain information on the bear’s myrmecophagous feeding habits.  The bears attack termite (cithalai in Tamil) mounds when it is damp or moist and go for the ‘white’ pith (called kurumbi in Tamil) which perhaps point to the fungal colonies termites raise for raising their brood. Though the word cithalai has been replaced by the word karaiyān (கரையான்) these days, it is still in use in Malayalam to refer to the termites (as chidal-ചിതൽ). The other word in Tamil winged termites eesal (ஈசல்) was an called eeyal (ஈயல்) in the Sangam days.

Sangam poems also refer to the fondness of sloth bears for Madhuca longifolia (iruppai in Tamil) flowers, with the fruits of Madhuca and Cassia fistula being mentioned occasionally. Nine of the 23 poems that mention sloth bear appear in kurinji , the ‘Mountainous’ tinai and 13 under pālai, the ‘Wasteland’ tinai. The pālai region in classical Tamil love prosody is a deserted area of Kurinji or Mullai landscapes scorched by sun, emphasized by the element of fear and anxiety when lovers pass through. That 13 of the 23 references to the bear appear in the dreaded pālai poems goes on to show that the Tamils regarded the sloth bear as a dangerous animal to encounter in a forest. One of the Sanskrit words for the bear r̥ka is a derivative of rakas meaning "harm, injury" and one of the old Tamil words uliyam perhaps come indicate the bears chisel (uli) like claws.

Some of the oldest references to the feeding habits of sloth bear (Melursus ursinus) are found in Sangam literature. Sloth bears are unique in many ways, and one among them is its adaptation to feed on soft bodied insects like termites. Their strong abnormally curved claws help in ripping open hard termite hills and their tubular mobile lips help them to suck termites like vacuum cleaners. Sangam poems compare the sloth bear on termite mound to an ironsmith at work (Akam 81, Natrinai, 125). The rhythmic blowing and sucking sound is compared to inflating and deflating sounds of an ironsmith’s bellow and the scattered worms to the sparks of fire generated when molten iron is hammered.

மின்னி மொய்த்த முரவுவாய்ப் புற்றம்
பொன்எறி பிதிரிற் சுடர வாங்கிக்,
குரும்பி, கெண்டும் பெருங்கை ஏற்றை 5
இரும்புசெய் கொல்எனத் தோன்றும் ஆங்கண்,
ஆறே அருமர பினவே;
(Akanānūru, 72: 3-7)
In the jungle, a huge-armed bear
Digs the pith from the ant-hill,
Of broken edges- all swarming with glow worms
And now scattered-,
Like so many sparks of fire
When molten iron is hammered;
The bear indeed is the ironsmith at work.
[Translator:  A. Dhakshinamurthy]

The Tamil word the poet erumai veliyanār makanār katalanār (எருமை வெளியனார் மகனார் கடலனார்) has employed in the above poem is étrai (ஏற்றை) which actually means a male animal. Depending on the context of the poem, we understand that the species referred here is the bear. But the Tamils of the Sangam period had two specific names to mean the bear and both these have nothing to do with the commonly used word these days, karadi (கரடி). These words are uliyam (உளியம்) and enku (எண்கு), which even the Nayanmars (7th to 10th century) employed in some of their poems. Some of the earliest references of word karadi in Tamil literature I have come across are from the eleventh Thirumurai (Book 11, Poem 340, Line 9) and Thirumandiram (No. 1642).

6) Aryans and elephants

The various methods for capturing wild elephants mentioned in Sanskrit literatures could be brought into five methods (Stracey, 1963): (i) Using stockades or kheda; (ii) by means of female decoys; (iii) mela-shikars or noosing from the back of a trained elephant; (iv) by nooses concealed on the ground; and (v) by the pit method. Tamil literatures abound with information on the Pit Method of capturing elephants (e.g. Pattinappalai, Lines 265-275; Natrinai, 292). It seems this was the commonest method by which elephants were captured in Southern India. One of the poems in Akanānūru fittingly employs the Aryan method of capturing the elephants as a simile.  Here a courtesan who has an affair with the hero speaks to her kin to be overheard by the kin of the heroine:
…………………………………………….ஆரியர்
பிடிபயின்று தரூஉம் பெருங்களிறு போலத் 10
தோள்கந் தாகக் கூந்தலின் பிணித்து, அவன்
மார்புகடி கொள்ளேன் ஆயின்,

Let him visit our street seeking our company.
If he does, it will seize him by his garlands and garments
And bind him to my shoulders with by tresses;
I will imprison him in my breasts like the Aryans
Who bind huge tuskers after ensnaring them with the help of decoy cow-elephant.

(Akanānūru 276)

            If this poem mentions the Aryan method of capturing an elephant, another poem in Akanānūru speaks of the Dravidian method of capturing elephants by the pit method. Interestingly the poem refers to the punishment rendered to the person for not taking part in the elephant capture operation involving tuskers, cow elephants and calves (Akanānūru, 211). There are other references in Sangam literature on the Aryan methods of capturing and training elephants. Mullaippattu (Lines 35-36) refers to the practice of training elephants in northern tongue. We cannot say with certainty if the language of training elephants during Sangam days was only Sānskrit. 

7) Flora and fauna  

Being the longest of the akam poems in ettuthokai (எட்டுத்தொகை), Akanānūru contains a large account of faunal and faunal comparisons.  Blood stain claws if the tiger are compared to the flowers of murunkai (99), deer antlers to empty stem of banana flower (134) and dry twigs (395), palmyra tree trunk to the trunk of elephant (148), hood of the serpent to kāntal flower (154), peacock crest to vénkai tree (368), comb of jungle fowl to the flower of murunkai (367) and so on. Given blow is a glimpse of these amazing similarities noticed by the Sangam poets. All translations are taken from A. Dakshinamurthy’s (1990) of Akanānūru: The Akam Four Hundred. The translations have been slightly modified in some places.  
 

Elephant nail and palmyra skin

அத்தம் நடுகல் ஆள்என உதைத்த
கான யானைக் கதுவாய் வள்ளுகிர் 
இரும்பனை இதக்கையின் ஒடியும் (365)

A wild elephant goes wild kicks a hero-stone,
Mistaking it for a man; in that process,
Get its nails broken and its falls off like the
Inner skin of the tender dark palmyra drupe.                   


Elephant ear and lotus leaf

நிலம் பக வீழ்ந்த வேர் முதிர் கிழங்கின்
கழை கண்டன்ன தூம்புடைத் திரள் கால்,
களிற்றுச் செவி அன்ன பாசடை மருங்கில், (176)

The penetrating roots of lotus split the soil deep;
The hollow and rounded stalks are like bamboos;
Their leaves look like the ears of elephants;



Nelli like eyes of the hare


சிறியிலை நெல்லிக் காய்கண் டன்ன
குறுவிழிக் கண்ண கூரல்அம் குறுமுயல் (284)

Hares with charming hair and small eyes
that wink every now and then;
those eyes resemble the berries
of the tiny-leaved nelli trees;


Crocodile bark tree

இருங்கழி முதலை மேஎந்தோல் அன்ன
கருங்கால் ஓமை. (3)

A dark trunk of ōmai tree
Resembles the scales of crocodile
Inhabiting the murky creek.


Elephant trunk and palm tree trunk

……………………………………… -  கோடையிற்
குருத்திறுபு உக்க வருத்தம் சொலாது
தூம்புடைத் துய்த்தலைக் கூம்புபு திரங்கிய வேனில் வெளிற்றுப்பனை போலக் கையெடுத்து
யானைப் பெருநிரை …………………  (333)

Those trunks look like the young, conical,
Hollow and frayed tops of palmyra,
Shorn of everything and shrunk by the
Withering westerly during summer.


Bamboo roots & Wild boar mane


வயிரத் தன்ன வைஏந்து மருப்பின்,
வெதிர்வேர் அன்ன பரூஉமயிர்ப் பன்றி
பறைக்கண் அன்ன நிறைச்சுனை பருகி, (178)

Its tusks are adamantine, sharp and upturned;
Its thick hairs are like the bamboo roots;
Such is that boar which drinks from a spring.


References:

·         Dhakshinamurthy, A. 1999. Akanānūru: The Akam Four Hundred. Bharathidasan University. Three volumes.
·         Periakaruppan, RM. 2010. Tradition and Talent in Cankam Poetry. Bharathidasan University. 300 pages.
·         Manickam, V.Sp. 1962. The Tamil Concept of Love. The South India Saiva Siddhanta Works Publishing Society, Trinelveli, 339 pages
·         Ramachandran, C.E. 1974. Ahananuru in its Historical Setting. University of Madras. 148 pages
·         Swain, D. 2008. Elephants in Art, Architecture and History of Orissa. Orissa Review.  June.  Pp 36-49
·         Stracey, P.D. (1963). Elephant Gold. 1st Indian Publication in  1991, Nataraj Publishers, Dehradun, India.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            
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