Updated: June 14, 2012 16:57 IST

On The Shelf: Slices of the Sangam age

T.V. Venkataraman
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Dr. Era Prabhakaran

Kavya, Kodambakkam, Chennai 600 024. Price: Rs.400

Sangam literature paints an authentic picture of the life and times of the Tamil people between 2 century BC and 2 century AD. It portrays a civilisation that was highly advanced in the spheres of culture, personal and social values and humanism. It tells us how the Tamil language became inextricably intermingled with the life of the people. The flavour of ancient Tamil has permeated the collective consciousness of the people and continues to influence their daily life, making it as much classical as the language itself.

The diverse literature is broadly classified into Akam and Puram, where life and language are deftly harmonised. Akam deals with the course of life and love, joy and sorrow and the wanderings of the heart towards ultimate felicity.

Puram centres round society, kingship, valour of kings, their generosity and the virtue of fellowship. The poets praised the kings lavishly and received sumptuous gifts. By honouring the poets, the kings verily acknowledged the primacy of the language they cherished. Avvaiyar, Kapilar, Mosikeeranar and Kanian Poonkundranar were among the great poets of the Sangam age.

This book is a versatile presentation of the Sangam kings in all their glory, their valour, generosity and erudition. Though there are many translations of the Sangam texts, the literature continues to fascinate scholars.

Dr. Prabhakaran’s translation of the first 200 verses of Puranaanuru reveals his good grasp of the language and mastery over the letter and spirit of the panoramic picture of Sangam life. His translations are easy to read. We learn the names of the poets and the kings. A clear meaning is provided for difficult words. An interesting narration marks the background to each poem. Biographical sketches of poets and kings are instructive and informative. The classification of the poetry into Thinai and their subdivision as Thurai is well explained. The author’s references to other Sangam literature affirm his deep scholarship.

This book provides a good access to Sangam literature with a simplicity that we do not generally come across. Scholars vie with each other in the elaboration of the texts which are difficult to comprehend. The common reader, the interested student and the genuine lover of Tamil language will certainly welcome books of this genre.

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