Notes on the role played by Tamil language in South Indian Literature


We have already dealt with the development of Tamil literature during the Sangam period in some detail and somewhat cursorily in the other relevant chapters. It has to be conceded that Tamil literature is next only to that of Sanskrit in antiquity and extent. The literature of the Sangam Tamils has been dwelt upon sufficiently and needs no repetition here.

Post- Sangam literature differed substantially in quality in that it became decidedly devotional but this applies to two kinds of literature only, viz., the devotional literature i.e., the Tevaram, the Nalayiram and the like: and the epics with a religious bias like the Perundevanar Bharatam, the Chititamani, the Periyapuramm, the Kambaramayanam etc.

Apart from the Perunkathai, The Mutto’ layiram by an anonymous author on the Chera-Chola-Pandyas, the Pandikkovrai also by an anonymous author on perhaps the Pandyan Ninrasirnedumaran, the Nandikkalambakam (again by an anonymous author) on Nandivarman III can be classed among the secular literature of the post-Sangam age.


Further Jayankondar’s Kalingattupparani eulogising Kulottunga I on his second Kalinga victory, the Takkayagaparani a mythological poem by Ottakkuttar in imitation of the Kalingattupparani and the three Ulas by the same author praising the achievements of the three successors of Kulttunga I are secular pieces of the medieval period. Attisudi, Mudurai etc., by Auvaiyar, a namesake of her more famous Sangam counterpart, sets the moral standards of that period and is part of the didactic literature.

Among the translated epics Nalavenba by Puhalendi ranks with the best. For the rest, the literature abounds with either directly devotional verses or the voluminous Saiva, Vaishnava works bearing on religious mythology of one kind or another. Of these the Saiva Siddhanata works including Meykandar’s Sivagnanabodam and the numerous ancillary texts relating to the same subject are more important.

Of all the Tamil works of the post- Sangam and pre-Vijayanagar period, Chintamani by Tiruttakkatevar (a Jaina), of the 9th century Periyapuranam by Sekkilar (12th century) and Ramayana by Kambar (12th century) rank very high. It was also a period during which great commentaries on the Telkappiyam and other Sangam works were made and important new grammatical works were produced.

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