Short Essay on the Important Sangam Works

Ettuttogai (the eight anthologies) and Pattupattu (the ten idylls) are the two major groups of texts included in the corpus of Sangam literature. The group Ettuttogai consists of:

1. Narrinai, 2. Karuntogai, 3. Aingurunuru, 4. Padirruppattu, 5. Paripadal, 6. Kalittogai, 1. Ahanamuru, and 8. Puraanuru. The group Pattupattu includes:

1. Tirumurugarruppadai, 2. Porunararruppadai, 3. Sirupanarruppadai, 4. Perumbanarruppadai, 5. Mullaipattu, 6.Maduraikanchi, 7. Nedunalvadai, 8. Kurinjipattu, 9. Pattinappalai, and 10. Malaipadukanchi.

Some scholars have included Tolkappiam, the Tamil grammatical treatise by Tolkappiyar (supposed to be a disciple of Agastya, the famous saint who is said to have crossed the Vindhyas first and propagated the Brahmanical culture in the south), Patinenkilkanakku, the eighteen didactical texts (comprising: 1. Naladiyar,

2. Nanmanikkadigai, 3. Inna Narpadu, 4. Iniya Narpadu, 5. Kar Narpadu, 6. Kalavali Narpadu, 7. Aintinai Aimpadu, 8. Aintinai Elupadu, 9. Tinaimoli Aimpadu, 10. Tinaimalai Nurraimpadu, 11. Kainnilai (or Innilai), 12. Kural, 13. Tirikadugam, 14. Acharakkovai, 15. Palamoli, 16, Sirupanchamulam, 17. Mudumo Likkanchi and 18. Eladi), Silappadikaram and Manimegalai, the twin epics, remnants of poems like Togadur Yattirai and Bharatam of Perundevanar in the Sangam Corpus (Subrahmaniam, 1966).

The Ettutogai and Pattupattu are together grouped as Melkanakku (the longer serials) for they consist stanzas composed of metre which permits of a larger number of lines. On the other hand the Kilkkanakku works (the shorter serials) are so called because they consist of poems composed in the Venba metre which permits on an average four lines for each stanza.

There is another important characterization or division of Sangam literature, i.e. into Aham and Puram. The Puram category of literature idealizes militarism, the horse, iron arrowheads and spears whereas Aham category of literature idealizes love and aspects related to it.

In Ula, a later day minor form of literature dealing with the 'King's sojourn through the streets of the capital city' the theme is partly Puram and partly Aham but it is in fact Kaikkilai (unilateral love) aspect of Aham literature.

The Agattiyam, composed by Agattiyar, Tolkappiyar's real teacher and the oldest exponent of Tamil grammar is lost, except for a few sutras (which might be spurious) noted by medieval commentators. Hence, Tolkappiam is the oldest Tamil literary work extant today and is the foundation of all literary conventions in Tamil literature. The Kural by Tiruvalluvar, a compound of the Dharmasastra, the Arthasastra and the Kamasutra, is universally regarded as a work of immense importance.

Other than the above mentioned works, there were many works produced during the period of literary activity, but are lost today. Kakkaippadiniyam, a work on poetics by Kakkaippadiniyar; Pannirupadalam, a work on the twelve different situations in warfare by Tolkappiar and eleven others; Tagadur Yattirai by Panmudiyar, Arisil Kilars and other dealing with Perunjeral Irumporai's invasion of the capital of Adihaiman Neduman Anji; and the Bharatam by Perundevanar are some works which are lost except for a few stanzas quoted by later composers.

Some other works mentioned by Adiyarkkunallar and which are lost to us are Perunarai, Perunkuruhu, Pancha Bharatiyam (all by Narada), Isai Nunukkam by Sikandi, Indra Kaliyam, Panchamarabu and Bharata Senapatiyam.

All these works deal with musico Adiyarkkunallur mentions Seyirriyam, Guna Nul, Bharatam, Agattiyam, Muruval, Jayantam, and Nataka-t-Tamil Nul by Mativanan as important works on dance and drama which also largely perished even then. Erambam was a treatise on mathematics mentioned by Parimelalgar.