The Tamils may be justly proud of the fact that Tamil has won the status of a Classical language, the status it richly deserves and should have got long, long ago. The Central Institute of Classical Tamil (CICT), established in Chennai, has mapped out various plans including preparation of definitive editions of forty-one Classical Tamil texts and translation of these works into English and other major European languages as well as into major Indian languages and writing of a historical grammar of Tamil. Language being the autobiography of a people, our objective is to preserve and safeguard the invaluable treasure of the literary compositions in our language. If only we could delve into our past and recover the riches and wealth of the mighty treasure trove of Classical Tamil poetry, we will be amply rewarded by its lofty poetry, the poetry that strengthens and purifies the holiness of heart's affection and enlarges our imagination. Apart from these, reading the ancient Tamil texts such as Tolkappiyam, Ettuuokai, Pattuppattu, Tirukkural etc., provides a foundation for scholarship for the present and in this sense they do provide enlightened education.
It is heartening to write this foreword to the series of publications brought out by CICT, which I am sure, will do full justice to the masterpieces in Tamil without compromising on the quality of production. The Cankam corpus being a repository of our glorious culture, it behoves our present and future generations to study them and to convey their message and the vision of life embodied in them to the public at large. Let me, therefore, commend the series to the enlightened beings the world over.
Tirikatukam, one of the eighteen minor works, composed by Nallathanar, comprising one hundred verses that constitute the text and an invocation verse preceding the text is known for presenting three epigrams in 4-line Venpa metre. As the title carries the Tamil term "katukam" which stands for pungent spices or stimulants along with the prefix "tiri" which means three, the work is noted for dealing with educational or ethical themes which are essential for people to be saved from moral turpitude or failings. The three commonly used pungent spices such as cukku (dry ginger), milaku (black pepper) and tippili (long pepper) in the ancient Tamil land as well as the present-day abodes of Tamils are known for the medicinal value and curative function. The three epigrams used in each of the verses are similar in function in saving the people from common human failings that lead them to suffering.
The work presenting two verse (one by S. Raman and the other by T. N. Ramachandran) translations in English and a prose translation by R. Balakrishna Mudaliar, each of the translators being reputed scholars, is sure to serve the purpose for which it is brought out. I would like to commend the efforts taken by the editor-cum-translator T.N. Ramachandran and congratulate the Department of Translation land the Publications Division of the Institute on bringing this work to a successful completion so that researchers, students and the general public can get the benefit from this edition of translations in verse and prose of Classical Tamil literature.
The Hon'ble Minister of State for Human Resources and Vice- Chairman of the Central Institute for Classical Tamil has written the foreword which lends grace to this present volume. I am indeed most happy to express my sincere thanks and gratitude to her.
After a critical analysis of the language, content and tone of the literary works concerned, scholars have come to the conclusion that the Padinenkilkkanakku (the Eighteen Minor Works) in Tamil really belonged to the post-Sangam period.
In 1940 when S.Vaiyapuri Pillai published an analytical edition of Sangam literature, the first ever compilation so far, he included in it only Ettuttogai (The Eight Anthologies) and Pattuppattu (the Ten Idylls), leaving out Padinenkilkkanakku and rejecting the tradition that the last compilation too formed part of the Sangam works. Since then the world of Tamil scholarship has come to consider the lPadinenkilkkanakku as post-Sangam works. That until the O'" century A.D. Padinenkilkkanakku was not considered a Sangam work is proved by its non-inclusion among Sangam works by the commentator of Iraiyanar Ahapporul. Sometime later, it must have come to be counted among Sangam classics.
The very nature of these works goes against the assertion of N .Subrahmanian that "the system of Government and social life depicted in that body of literature (namely, Ettuttogai, Pattuppattu, Padinenkilkkanakku, Silappadikaram, Manimekalai and Tolkappiyam) was the same throughout till the age of religious devotion dawned on Tamilaham, i.e. the beginning of the T" century A.D." The incorrectness of this assertion is brought home by the statement of R. Champakalaxmi that "the main methodological shortcoming in the works on the Sangam period is the tendency to treat the long span of lover 600 years as a single unit." And N. Subrahmanian himself came to revise his earlier view subsequently when he said that the Sangam age came to an end by the third century A.D., and that the culture and civilization of the Sangam age are greatly different from those of the succeeding Kalabhra period (C.A.D.250-600).
The post-Sangam period lasted upto the rise of the Pallavas of the Simhavishnu line (C.A.D. 585) and the Pandya king Kadungon (C.A.D.600), land is illuminated by a good number of Tamil literary works, such as the Padinenkilkkanakku, Silappadikaram, Manimekalai and the hymns lof the early Saiva and Vaishnava saints. The Tamil scholars describe it as the Sangam Maruviyakalam, meaning the period which immediately followed the Sangam period.
The Padinenkilkkanakku actually covers the period from about A.D.250 to 700 and this period has been described as the Didactic period or the period of Morals. M.S. Purnalingam Pillai calls the Padinenkilkkanakku didactics. According to Velu Pillai quite a few ideas of the Tamils of the present day had their origin during this period land nearly all the maxims of the latter-day didactic literature were drawn from the Padinenkilkkanakku texts. He also adds that the epics of Silappadikaram and Manimekalai only amplified the moral maxims of these texts.
The qualitative difference between the Sangam and the Padinenkilkkanakku periods can be gauged from the contents of their literature. It has been estimated that out of the 2381 verses of the Sangam literature over eighty percent (1862 verses) relates to love (aham), and only 519 to the rest (puram). The Padinenkilkkanakku works on the contrary contain, out of a total of 3250 verses, only 420 on aham, that is less than fifteen percent. Further, in the Sangam literature, verses giving out moral advice are just 215 only, 140 in the aham works and 75 in the puram, whereas, in the Padinenkilkkanakku texts the number of such verses is as many as 2790. Not only had the emphasis on aham almost disappeared, but the prime of place has come to be assigned to the didactic aspect with the passing of the Sangam age and the dawn of the age of Morals.
Secondly, while the Sangam tradition was to treat social life as containing only the two aspects of aham and puram, Padinenkilkkanakku added one more aspect, namely aram (morals), land even placed it first; and Tiruvalluvar, the author of Tirukkural, was the first to do so.
Similarly, while the kings were praised and their glories sung in the Sangam poems, men of spiritual character alone came to be praised in the latter-day compositions. Martial valour was no longer considered the greatest virtue; instead, compassion, generosity and morality when: considered so.
The above facts would sufficiently indicate that the post-Sangam works are representative of an age different from the age of the Sangam. If the society which Ettutogai and Pattuppattu portray was the earliest documented one of the Tamils, the other one whose portrayal is found in the Padinenkilkkanakku and other contemporary works can be described as the society which succeeded it. And this latter society constituted the second stage in the social development of the Tamils, while the period from A.D. 600 to 1300 which R. Champakalaxmi claimed as the second stage would actually constitute the third.
While studying the second stage, we should note the fact that three texts of the Sangam collections, viz., Kalittogai, Tirumurugarruppadai land Paripadal, are so different in character from the other seven that scholars would place them towards the far end of the Sangam age, or even a little later. In fact, their ideas and information are closer to those of the post-Sangam works.
In the thirties, V.R. R. Dikshitar had exhorted, "It is now for an earnest student of Tamil to tackle this source of information" (Viz., the Eighteen Minor Works). "From what we know, none of them excepting the Kural land the Naladiyar has occupied the critics's, attention in such a degree as lit should. It seems desirable and even imperative that a chronological study of these works should immediately be undertaken so as to utilize the materials for an authentic study of the evolution of the Tamil people and progress of their culture in a certain period of study."
No attempt has so far been made to study the society of this period l(C.A.D.250-700) in a comprehensive way, making use of the literature of that period, though individual works have been studied with limited objectives. For instance, C. Venkatapathy in his doctoral dissertation entitled Padinenkilkkanakku - Or Aivu (1972) made only a statistical analysis of the works concerned, their metre, length, theme, bulk etc., in comparison with the earlier works. Yet another doctoral dissertation by name, Padinenkilkkanakku Noolkallil Kalavolukkam (1978) by Paul Chelladurai took only the secret love-life of the people of the hill tracts (Kurinji) for study. A Critical Study of Ethical Literature by R. Sarangapani (1968) studied the entire range of ethical works in the Tamil language down the centuries and their nature. A few scholars have studied one or two of the individual texts, such as Acharakkovai Or Aivu (1972) by S. Ramarajan (1980-81). Many of the above-listed dissertations remain unpublished and are therefore beyond the reach of scholars.
The period represented by the Padinenkilkkanakku not only carried forward the social and cultural developments of the Sangam age, but constituted a very major formative period, which gave shape and direction to future social and cultural developments.
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