Themes in Sangam poetry

Themes in Sangam poetry , Indian Literature is a vast area comprising numerous diverse traditions which resulted in a vast and a complex literature in the last 3500 years. Every part of India has produced classical literature in various Indian languages. Themes in Sangam poetry ,  The literature produced in ancient India includes the Vedic corpus along with the Puranas, the Jain agamas and traditions and the vast literature produced during the Buddhist period which incorporates writings across Asia. The south of India has 4 major languages namely Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam and Telugu. All of them are classical languages with a robust literary tradition and Tamil literary history is of nearly two millennia. Sangam Literature also refers to a body of ancient Tamil writings probably produced during the “chankams/ literary academies located in Maturai, Tamil Nadu from the 4th to the 1st Century”. Sangam Literature is also referred to as early classical Tamil literature with works dating between 400 BCE to 250 CE. The word Sangam refers to an academy where this poetry was composed and later anthologised. The Literature of this period comprised three main types of literary works. We shall look at them next.

Themes in Sangam poetry

Themes in Sangam poetry , The poetry of the Sangam period reflects a syntax and poetics that is not seen in the tradition of poetry from the north of India. This poetry does not have the influence of Sanskrit poetics and prosody on it. As mentioned earlier, the uniqueness of this poetry is the thematic division of writing poetry into the Akam (Poems of Love) and the Puram (Poems of War). Themes in Sangam poetry These poems are further categorised on ideas of emotion which can be compared to the idea of the Nav Rasas by Bharata in his Natyashastra. There is a huge difference in the portrayal of these emotions from the Rasas. The Rasas talk about emotions which are permanent (Stahi) and those which are transient (Vhabhichari) Themes in Sangam poetry.

Sangam poetry has influenced poets and writers across time including three poets from the Hindu religious revival period called the bhakti period circa 800 CE: Thirumangai Alvar, Nammalvar, and Andal. The concept of madal eruthal (literally means climbing the leaves) features in sangam poetry where the hero threatens the heroine that if she would not disclose their love in public, he would ride a fake horse made out of palm leaves (panai madal). Themes in Sangam poetry , The children in the village would pull the “horse” so the entire village would know of their love (e.g. kurunthokai [the second anthology of Sangam literature] – poems 173, 182, kalitthokai [the sixth anthology of Sangam literature] – poem 58).

This imagery is expressed in the religious collection of 4000 verses on Lord Vishnu, the Divya prabhandam collection by Thirumangai Alvar (poems 2710, 2790) and Nammalvar (poems 3371, 3372). Thirumangai Alvar and Nammalvar imagine themselves as women who are in love with Lord Vishnu and threaten to perform madal eruthal if he fails to express his love for the poet. Another theme originally found in sangam poetry but adapted to suit a religious storyline is the concept of bangles falling from the wrists of the heroine because of the pasalai disease (roughly translated to ‘love sickness’) that makes the heroine’s hands very slender.  Themes in Sangam poetry  , This is commonly seen in kurinji thinai (mountainous landscape) of sangam literature. Andal uses this same concept beautifully and says how her kazhal vaLai (the bangles on her arms) have become kazhal vaLai (falling bangles) because of Vishnu, with her typical word play on the two meanings of the word kazhal (‘arm, to remove’).  



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