Thamizh culture - a humorous look - Part 2

Topic started by rjay on Fri Feb 11 10:51:26 .
All times in EST +10:30 for IST.

History of Thamizh Literature

Thamizh history is divided two times. They are:
1. Sanga kalam
2. Enga kalam (our times)

Sanga kalam begins with the creation of the earth (rocks getting born) and ends, of course, with
the beginning of 'our times'. And Enga kalam started, of course, at the
end of Sanga Kalam and is still going on, to everybody's surprise.
Thamizh futuroligsts (popularly known as astrologers) think that it has outlived
its time and it is now time for Raghu kalam to take over.

You might think Sanga kalam is a very long period of classification and very tough to
understand a history of such a long period in one shot. Ancient Thamizhs exactly anticipated this situation and made clear cut
subdivisions - First Sanga kalam, Second Sanga kalam and Third
Sanga kalam. Unless you are mango-headed, you can understand that
First kalam came first, Second came after that and so on. It is
very easy to remember for Thamizh Exam, you see.

So whenever the poets felt that the current time was
taking too much time, they would write banners
all over the place, saying, "Indru Po; Nalai Vaa" - meaning "Today is the
last day of First Sanga Kalam, get prepared
for Second Sanga Kalam from tomorrow onwards."
And it worked!

Types of Thamizh Literature

Sanga kalam is famous for its rich literature. Thamizh literature can boast of
worlds richest literature written in Thamizh and richest literature written in any language (except may be Mandarin Chinese, according to Jackie Chan).

There are two types
of Sanga literature : The Inside and The Outside. The Inside literature, called Agam,
talks mostly of Romance. The Outside literature , called Puram, talks mostly of
War. No other world literature has such a simple, basic and appropriate
classification (except of course Hebrew and Swahili, but they do not
use the simple Thamizh names!). You see, naturally, Romance happens inside house and War outside. At least, that is the way it should
be. See what happens in these Western countries:
it is the other way around. (Explanation for
Manga Madians (EMM, from now on): since people do romance outside,
there is always war inside houses). What to do?

Origins of Sangam Literature

One of the famous songs in Sangam literature starts like
'Kongu thaer vaazhkkai'. This was actually stolen from a
Enga-kala film called Thiruvilaiyadal (fundu movie, ya!), but I
am unnecessarily going ahead.

Tholkappier is world's most ancient grammarian. Actually his
name itself shows that he is world's oldest (thol) and that his
work was the most copied (kappier). Proof and EMM: One who gives employment
is called employer. Similarly one who gives his work to be copied
many times is called copier - which is written as 'kappier' in

Seriously, from linguistic point of view, Tholkappiam is a very mature scientific
grammar. And it evolved after a study of thousands of years of
earlier literature. And so, once it was published, it became a
easy path to greatness for young poets.

Evil influence of Nattu-ppattu
and Grammar as the Great Liberator

Previously a poet
had to really have a strong emotion and spontaneously express it
in simple words that would touch the reader's heart. If you have tried it anytime in your
life, this is
a very tough thing to do. Where to go for strong emotion and
spontaneity in a civilized society? So only tribals living
in closed communities and hillside barbarians would write such songs.
For example, a young village girl, whose husband has gone to
far-off lands for commerce, would get reminded of him so
much and sing:

Odukira thanniyilae
Urasi vittaen santhanatha
Saerthuchcho Saeralaiyo
Sevantha machan nethiyilae

(Meaning: I thought if I send this santhanam on the river,
it might reach you. Did it? Or did it just get
washed away without a trace?)

It is true that it has a genuine
emotion, expressed using simple words and
creating the instant images and emotion in the
readers mind. But this has so much romance content, emotional longing
and raw life value, that it is definitely dangerous in a society.

Similarly a street side urchin could simply write the following, when
questioned by learned people, why and how
he is singing such songs:

Paadariyaen padippariyaen
Pallikoodam naanariyaen
Aedariyaen Ezhuththariyaen
Ezhuththu vagai naanariyaen.

(Meaning: I have not studied formally music or poetics, dont know where the
nearest school is. I dont know how to interpret the scribblings on palm-leaves
and of course I dont know various scripts or dialects. (maybe that is why, I know how
to express my feelings in simple words))

The solution

What to do? But, the elite at the king's court struck upon a
neat solution. First they gave a derogatory name to
such songs 'naattupura-ppattu'. (As it 'avan oru
naatupuraththan). And they banned them from being
taught in schools. After all, if the poems were
so easily understood, what is the need for teachers at all?

Inspite of this, the kids coming to school would pick
them up easily and keep singing them as rhymes:
Dappa Dappa Veerappa
Eppoda Kalyanam
Maasam porakkatum
Malligaippoo pookattum
Kolaththula kokku
(last line censored)

So they banned Thamizh rhyme singing. So, if
you have not noticed already, there are only two rhymes available in Thamizh. Yes only two,
can you imagine that!

World's very first rhyme song

The first being:

Amma ingae vaa vaa
Asai mutham thaa thaa
Ilaiyil soru pottu
Eeyai thoora oattu
Unnai pondra nallal
Ooril yaaru ullal
Ennal unakku thollai
AEdhum inimael illai

You might be deceived to think that this is an authentic
nattu-ppadal, but just go beyond the surface, you can
find the truth. It was actually written by a Thamizh
grammarian from a King's court.

You ask how to find that. Look carefully:

Look at line 3: Ilaiyil soru pottu.
First of all, No baby will really ask
mother to put food to eat! They
generally try to avoid food as far
as possible.

Look at line 4:
Eayai thoora ottu.
Babies love all kinds of animals. Especially
insects. They will never try to send them
away harshly.

Look at line 5 and 6:
Will a baby shamelessly praise his or her parents?
This line was written by the poet in praise of his
wife. and later adopted into this poem.

Look at lines 7 and 8:
This is the ultimate giveaway. Will any baby
behave so repentant and regretful like
Nambiar in the last scene? This is actually
a mother's ultimate fantasy and wishlist.

So what actually happened is the poet wrote a song which
would seem on the surface like a nattu-ppattu using simple
words (except for the word Nallal, which is straight
from Thirukkural). He would embed the fantasies of
a mother (baby asking for food, keeping hygenic distance from flies, valuing her as the best Mom of the world,
and finally resolving not to trouble her anymore).

Since he did all this, he popularized the song among
-guess what- mothers! And told them, "This is, technically, the
first song you must teach them so that they will
eat well and respect you a lot". The rest is history.

You might wonder why the first two lines remain
simple. That is the trick the clever poet did to make
sure the song catches the babies first! And he
actually borrowed it from an actual naatupurappadal
which went like this:

Amma ingae vaa vaa
Aasai muththam thaa thaa
Gilli-thandu vilaiyada
Pallikkodam poyvaaraen

kanakku-ppadam endralae
enakku vayiththai kalakkuthae
kanakku vadhyar maatu vandi
kazhala venum achhani?
- which is pure fun, even to sing nowadays, but as I told you, it is sociologically dangerous.
(especially to Maths professors).

Worlds Very Second Rhyme:

The second crafted rhyme was and is:
Pasuvae pasuvae paal thara vaa
Tharuvaenae tharuvaenae aruginil vaa.
Thambikku konjam Thangaikku konjam
Tharuvanae udanae Aruginil vaa.

You can clearly see that no pasu will say this. Or it might say this to attract you and then give a heavy udhai.

Again the poet sold the poem to mothers with
cows saying if you teach this to your kids, they can sing
and easily get milk from cows.

A brief Digression:

You might be surprised to know that most of the
world's rhymes were blatantly copied versions of
these two rhymes, before copyright was invented.

Take just one example, that is enough (and that
is all I can think now):

Take Baa Baa Black sheep.
It is the same chandam as
Amma ingae vaa vaa
and the theme is very similar to pasuvae paal tha.
and notice how eagerly, unlike real life, the
sheep is very willing to give away its fur coat
to three useless human beings! Just like the cow
in our Thamizh classic.

(Reference: Comparative Study of Baby Rhymes, 10th edition: Robert Time Waster Jr. 1978)

Success of King's Poets

Just by popularising these two rhymes and making sure
the kids got them right before they went to meet their
friends, the poet made sure that the kids would seek
no more rhymes in their entire life!

What did the King's courtiers do about the adults? How did
they make sure they dont get unnecessarily poetic?

Wait for the next installment.



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