This fund of early literature (called the sangam literature) comprises Patthu-p-paattu (the ten idylls) and ettu-th-thogai (the eight anthologies), which collectively are often referred to as the sangam literature.
Usually quoted to be products of the last sangam period (there were three Tamil sangams), the18 books are a storehouse of information on the style of life and the realms of Tamil society. Referred to as ‘paattu -- thogai' (abbreviation of patthu-p-paattu and ettu-th-thogai), all eighteen of them are books of verses.
The ten idylls
The first set of ten are Thiru murugaatRu-p-padai, Porunar aatRu-p-padai, Siru paaNaatRu-p-padai, Perum paaNaatRu-p-padai, Mullai paattu, Madhurai-k-kanchi, Nedu nal vaadai, Kurinji-p-paattu, Patina-p-paalai and Malai padu kadaam.
01. Thiru murugaatRu-p-padai
Otherwise called pulavar aatru-p-padai.
Authored by Nakkeerar (who also is the author of Nedunalvaadai); talks about the grace of Lord Murugaa and the devotees are guided to reach the Lord.
Aasiriyappaa: 317 lines.
The avatar of Murugaa, His flower, flag, vahanaa-s, His divine sports as that of the splitting of the kraunchaa hill, destruction and sublimation of Soorapadman, various ways of worshipping the Lord are all vividly described.
This book can be called the forerunner of the Aaru padai veedu method of Murugan worship; Thiru-p-parangunRam, Thiru-ch-cheeralaivaai (Thiru-ch-chendoor), Thiru aavinankudi (Pazhani), Thiru Eragam (Swami malai), KunRu thORum aadal (all hills and hillocks – Thiru-th-thanigai) and Pazha mudhir chOlai are the six places mentioned.
02. Porunar aatru-p-padai
Authored by Mudithaama-k-kanniyaar.
Aasiriyappaa; 248 lines.
Porunar are exponents of music.
There were also different categories of porunar: -- those who sing the fields (Er-k-kaLam paaduvor), those who sing the battle field (por-k-kalam paaduvor) those who sing the battle scene (parani paaduvor) etc.
The particular porunan of this book is one who sings the battle field. He was able to get gifts from Karikaal chozhan.
He recommends the same route to another porunan.
Description of the musical instrument yaazh, the glories and charity of Karikaalan are special pieces that require attention.
Authored by Idaikazhi naattu Naloor Nathaththanaar.
Aasiriyappaa; 269 lines.
Paanar are also exponents of music. Isai-p-paanar, yaazh-p-paanar, mandai-p-paanar are various categories.
Of the yaazh-s, were several varieties like the seeriyaazh and periyaazh.
And in turn, were the categories of sirupaanar and perumpaanar.
Here is a sirupaanan, who after acquiring gifts from Oymaanaattu nalliya-k-kodan, directs another sirupaanan the same way.
The three major capitals of the three Tamil kings, namely, Vanji, Madhurai and Uranthai are described.
The acts of valorous charity of the seven vallal-s form a significant component of the book.
Difficulties that the paanan would have to encounter enroute are also narrated.
Also called paanaaru.
Authored by Kadiyaloor Uruthirangkannanaar.
Aasiriyappaa; 500 lines.
Similar in tone to the smaller book of paanan poetry, the king in praise here is the Thondaimaan Ilanthiraiyan of Kanchi.
Description of yaazh, the reign of Ilanthiraiyan, tendencies of traders, sheperds and agriculturists, the plan of a household, the asramaa-s of rishi-s, features of a light house, the fame of Kanchi, the glory of the Raclining Lord of Thiruveggkaa and styles of hospitality in different regions are some of the information that can be gathered from this book.
Smallest of the ‘ten songs'
Authored by Kaviri-p-poompattinaththu-p- pon vaniganaar maganaar Nap-p-poothanaar.
Aasiriya-p-paattu; 103 lines.
This is a book on ‘mullai' ozhukkam.
When the man leaves for sake of ‘thozhil' (livelihood or profession), the woman remains at home and withstands the separation.
This resilience of hers is categorized ‘mullai'.
Here is a man, who prepares for participation in war.
The lady, on knowing of the impending separation, is pained. Older women pacify her.
As her man returns from the war front, her joy is boundless.
Details of the war front, happenings of a camp, opinions of warriors, ideas of the king, the pangs of separation as felt by the lady, times of rain and the victory of the king are all lucidly sung.
Longest of the ‘ten songs'.