Thamizh Culture - A humorous look - Part 3

Topic started by rjay on Sat Feb 12 17:33:23 .
All times in EST +10:30 for IST.

Thamizh Culture - A humorous look (Part 3)

Problems with Nattupurathans

Having attacked the root of the problem by making sure
poems like 'Dappa Dappa Veerappa",
do not catch a kid like cold, the Sanga-pulavargal
did not rest in their laurels. They braced
forward to address yet another major problem.

Some village mothers were not spreading the
official rhymes. Either the poets could not meet these
hard working women on their promotional
tour or could not influence them or simply for no reason,
these village-people managed to remain sane and
they were not even learning the new rhymes.

Instead, they sang horrible things like, 'kannaana poomaganae,
kannurangu sooriyanae' to put the kid to sleep at bedtime.
And the kids also enjoyed it and went to sleep after
listening to these fully and asking for more and more!

This in itself is not a problem. After all, who cares what who sings
to whom in what-time? The real threat was that the babies who heard
these in their bedtime, later grew up to be poets
and started writing songs like 'odukira thanniyilae'
and 'paadariyaen', as explained in last instalment,
trying to woo even greater audience.
Surprisingly their songs spread like computer virus even without
writing them down in a legally parsable format, whereas
the only way to make anybody except bundle-bugs on library shelves them read our poems was to make it part of school

Regulating Poemwriting: World's first rules for Poem writing

To counter the proliferation of emotional and genuine
poems born out of direct experience, which would undermine the very
basis of society, the King's court took the ultimate step:

They made two simple, yet powerful rules for poem creation:

1. The rule of Great Words: (called Solchirappu)

Real poems should not use words that
can be immediately or even indirectly

Corollary: Every poem should be such that
it should require translation into Thamizh
before it can be understood.

This translation would be done in two stages:
1. Padavurai : where each word would
be translated into its real meaning.

Wait, this alone should not be enough. How can we give
away the meaning so easily? A second stage
should be required.

2. Pozhippurai: Where the word meanings
would be researched together to find out
what they probably mean, by a process of elaboration and meditation for extended periods of time!

As a healthy byproduct of this single great idea,
a whole translation industry
got set up and lives to this day (it is called
'Konar notes' nowadays).

Corollary 2: Every valid poem should use only words
that have been coined by Government-approved Poets
at least one thousand years earlier from the
current Government-approved Poet. (As a healthy byproduct, this
rule will make sure that our court poems
will remain to be read (and re-used for years and years, even
when they don't mean a darn thing to anyone including original author!).

2. The rule of Perfect Letter Arrangement: (also
known as Yaappu-ilakkanam)

It states, Poems should be mathematically accurate.

This was in itself a brilliant idea, never before
or never after, used in World Literature. What
this means is every poem has to be
constructed based on a very rigid template
of syllables called a chandam. For example, a
good restrictive chandam would be:

thanana thanana thanan naana - thaana nananan
thananae thananae.

I should hasten to add that the use of thanana
is itself a nattupura idea, and has been given here
for illustration purposes only (Remember we are writing to
MMs also). Valid templates would use formal syllables called Thema
and PuliMa etc which gave you nightmares in school.

This single brilliant rule breaks the spontaneity of the
nattupurathans so easily, one has to marvel
the ingeniuty of the ancient Tamils. How, you ask.

This makes writing poems extraordinarily difficult. Because
when emotion bursts forth in a practical life situation like when you are learning to ride a
bicycle or traveling in a leaky boat or running away from a chasing alseshan
or see TTR approaching your compartment while
traveling without ticket,
words burst forth in natural speaking language,
(like 'Oram Po Oram Po rukkumani vandi varudhu' or even
the recent 'odakkara marimuthu, ottaivaiyi marimuthu') and it takes its
own unpredictable syllable values as in (oosi pola odambirundha thevaiyillae
pharmacy). In such a situation, when you sit
down to check if words are complicated enough
to qualify or if the words match the template patterns, you forget the
emotion you originally wanted to share with others! (And there
goes down another potential naattupura kavignan!)

Unfortunately, this made it difficult for our own poets to write poetry. After spending two
or three sleepless nights trying to write something, they would cry uncontrollably and
hit themselves with ezhuththani (boy, so sharp!)But, our ancestors were not simple heads like our manga-heads.
Undefeated, they found yet another solution.

Invention of the World's first Automated Poem Creation System

Our great forefathers created huge rhyming
dictionaries called sollagarathi, porulagarathi, which would list
all possible words ordered by their syllable values. For example,
a contemporary poet could look up the dictionary for a chandam,
rhyming with Nenjam:

It would list on Panai-olai page number 323:
Nenjam, Thanjam, Manjam, Konjam, Lanjam etc...

And unless he is really a turtle-shell, he can easily invent the
following poem:

Un azhagu nenjam - adhu
Naan vaazhum manjam
Idam kodu konjam
Indhaa idho lanjam.

In fact more influential poets had sentence-level dictionary
called vaakiya-agarathi. And they could write entire sentence
in a jiffy - for example, for the earlier 'thanana thanana' chandam, my
agarathi gives me the following possibility:

Agara mudhala ezhuththellam - aadhi bagavan
Muthatre ulagu.

Footnote: Recently, a Japanese researcher working in Madurai nowadays,
(Masanobu Kawasaki Bajaj) pointed to me in a personal email (number
34345) that this combination has been already created and copyrighted by
an old Poet whose name was known as Thiruvalluvar. (We are planning a forethcoming installment on this guy alone, based on our combined research results!)

You can ask me what is the proof that this song was
composed from a rhyming word list and not written
with personal experience?

I will tell you how to identify. But before that let
us clarify the terminology. We will use the word
Poem (kavidhai) for well-crafted literature created by
Poets and Song (Paattu) for mean ramblings of the

Criteria for identifying the authentic Kavidhai

The criteria for identifying a kavidhai is (a) at least
half of the words should not make sense to us now.
(b) the meaning itself should be in dispute among
learned scholars.

To prove the point, go to ten different Government-approved Poets today
and ask for the meaning of 'Agara mudhala' kural. They will
interpret in ten different ways, because each uses slightly
different agarathi and each agarathi has so many pages of useless

Some will say, Adhi is Valluvar's mother
and Bhagavan is father. Others will say, no no,
Adhi is the father and Bhagavan is the mother's
name. A third one will say, no no, Adhi bagavan
means 'earliest god'. Some will even say that
both words were not in original kural and were
added later on and the original words were "Saadhich chandai". And so on.

So this creates great possibility for study and discussion and of course, debates. People now had a easy
way to organize themselves into two or three groups and fight fierce battles and break other peoples chins and other exposed body-parts.

Criteria for identifying a Paattu

On the other hand, if it was a simple, mean, useless paattu, like "paruthhi edukaiyilae ennai pala naala partha machan", a nattu-ppaattu masterpiece
of the EngaKala Period,
the meaning would be unambigous no matter who interprets
(which would mean there is no job for us Pundits (which
is a horrible thought(even to think for a moment(My God))))!

FootNote: the last line was originally written using LISP
but will equally parse well with XML release 2.0.

Ok, back to the song, you were picking cotton and your machan was seeing you
for many days, so what? What is so great about it? Is there
any sor-chuvai or even porut-chuvai in what you are singing.
Chee Chee!

Further proofs and insights

So, most of the would-be-poets spent lot of time learning agarathi-s
instead of wasting time living real life. After all, ancient
literature records much more than can be lived by one person
in one life, is it not? This is how there came a famous usage: "Romba
agarathi padichchavana iruppaan pola irukke! ("Gosh, looks like this guy has learnt
so many dictionaries by heart!")" - which actually aims to
admire a person's poem-writing skills.

The nattupurathans, however, meanly twisted this saying as "Romba agarathi
pidichavana irupan pola iruke (this guy has so much head weight, but hasn't yet
written a decent venba yet, you see)" and started using it as a derogatory term. And these
mean idiots popularized it so much
so that nowadays most people do not even know the original (legal) version of
the saying. What to do?

And this points to another vulgar phenomenon:
casual sayings of Nattupurathans which
were termed as Pazhamozhi spread like
anything, whereas, how to say, Golden
words of Great Men (from King's Court) called
Ponmozhi had to be printed into booklets and
you know, were read only by, you are right -
bed-bugs and silver-fishes.

More tomorrow


  Tell your friend about this topic

Want to post a response?

Post a response:



Please Reload to see your response

Back to the Forum