Gifts and Seduction

After a long time revisiting  Sangam poems again. Here is a beautiful poem from Kurunthokai .

223. குறிஞ்சி
‘பேர் ஊர் கொண்ட ஆர்கலி விழவில்
செல்வாம் செல்வாம்’ என்றி; அன்று, இவண்
நல்லோர் நல்ல பலவால் தில்ல;
தழலும் தட்டையும் முறியும் தந்து, ‘இவை
ஒத்தன நினக்கு’ எனப் பொய்த்தன கூறி,
அன்னை ஓம்பிய ஆய் நலம்
என்னை கொண்டான்; யாம் இன்னமால் இனியே

வரைவிடை வேறுபட்ட கிழத்தியது வேறுபாடு கண்டு. வற்புறுத்தும் தோழிக்குக் கிழத்தி கூறியது. – மதுரைக் கடையத்தார் மகன் வெண்ணாகன்

Kurunthokai 223

Once you said
let’s go,let’s go
to the gay carnival in the big city;

that day
the good elders spoke of many good omens
for our going.

But he waylaid me,
gave me a sling shot and rattles
for scaring parrots,
and a skirt of young leaves
which he said look good
on me,

And with his lies
he took the rare innocence
that mother has saved for me.

And now I am like this.

Poet: Maturaikkataiyattar Makan Vennakan

The poem is uttered by the Thalaivi (heroine) to her friend. Thalaivi has lost herself to Thalaivan and is currently separated from the Thaliavan. When she visits the village festival where she first met her Thalaivan.

Some impotant pointers here – Women usually in mountain regions, where they grow Millet – Guard the fields and try to chase away birds from eating the Millet crops. The Thalaivan here lures Thalaivai by getting her Sling shot and rattles which are used to scare the parrots which makes her life easier in the fields.

Then comes the important part of the seduction. The Thalaivan gifts her skirt made of young leaves. This is a very important gift. This is usually given by the Thalivan to Thalaivi to get her acceptance. It is symbolic proposal of sorts. If the Thaliavi accepts this leaf skirt , then Thalaivan can safely assume that Thalivi loves him.

This throws two important pointers – The Leaf skirt, either the people in the mountains still wore dress made of leaves(Sangam poems were dated 1 to 3 AD – Kingdoms where developed by then) or it was a mere poetic custom. Some scholars consider this to be a poetic custom, like current day poets using Anna Paravai which has become extinct before ages. Some Scholars explain that this might be a very earlier custom (probably pre- Tolkapiyan – Bardic custom). Since each of the poem in sangam should follow certain rules prescribed for that region, it might have been used as formula to indicate its Kurunji poem(Mountain regions). The poem has embedded pointers to show which region they belong to. For eg. this poems can be said its a Kurunji poem from two pointers – 1. Rattlers and sling shots to chase parrots 2. the leaf skirt.

Another interesting theme Handled here is meeting of lovers in festivals. Recently there was a big discussion in Ponniyinselvan group about Indra Vila celebrated in Tamil Nadu was a pre cursor to Valentines day.  We surely see in Sangam poems and following literature like Silapadikaram that Festivals important place for the lovers. This theme of lovers meeting and falling in love in Festivals is carried on to us even now. Vennila Kabadi Kulu movie one of the latest Tamil movies to has this theme where Hero and heroine meet in a Village festival and fall in love.

I would soon try to write a blog about festivals in Sangam Era.


முன்னொரு நாள் பெரிய ஊரினர் மேற்கொண்ட மிக்க ஆரவாரத்தை உடைய விழாவிற்கு,  போவோம் போவோமென்று கூறினாய்; அன்று நாம் புறப்படுகையில் இங்கு நல்லோரால் கூறப்பட்ட நல்ல வாய்ச் சொற்களாகிய நிமித்தங்கள் பலவாக இருந்தன; கிளிகடி கருவிகளாகிய தழலையும் தட்டையையும்,தழையையும்,எனக்குக் கொடுத்து,  இப் பொருள்கள் உனக்கு ஏற்புடையன என்று சொல்லி, பின்பு புனைந்துரைகளைக் கூறி, நம்முடைய தாய் பாதுகாத்த அழகிய எம் பெண்மை நலத்தை, என்னுடைய தலைவன் கொள்ளை கொண்டான்,  யாம் இப்பொழுது அந்நலன் இழந்த இத்தகையே மாயினோம்.



Kurunthokai commentry by U.V.Swaminathan Iyer

Interior Landscape by A.K.Ramanujan

Literary convention of Akam poetry by Kamil Zvelebil

Poems of Ancient Tamil by George L. Hart


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