(Last Updated on : 07/01/2012)
Devotional Poems in Tamil Literature
were prevalent between 600 AD and 900 AD, after the periods of Sangam literature
and Ethical Tamil literature
. Devotional Tamil poems have mainly evolved from the Bhakti movement
that originated in ancient Tamil country that was initiated by the Alvars and the Nayanmars of the Vaishnava and Shaiva sects. Musical compositions of Tirumular and Karaikkal Ammaiyar
of the Shaiva saints and compositions of Peyalvar, Poikaiyalvar Peyalvar and Puttatalvar of the Vaishnavas marked the beginning of the era of Devotional Poems in Tamil Literature.
The Bhakti movement germinated from the seeds of Bhakti cult which was sown by some dignified characters during the 6th century in Tamil Nadu
. It appealed to both the Kings and the general people. As the Alvars and Nayanmars traveled to various temples singing devotional hymns, the importance of temples grew manifold and the modest structures increased in stature and size. The Bhakti movement eventually spread through out the country from the Tamil country and gave to devotional literature in India.
One of the most celebrated devotional poetic compositions includes the Tirumantiram. Tirumantiram was composed by Tirumular and consists of three thousand verses. The poetry is rich with concealed allegorical meaning, but is also renowned for their conciseness and simplicity. Tirumular implements allegorical language to describe that an individual can attain enlightenment by disciplining the 5 senses. The literary work is pregnant with philosophical ideas, mystical and yogic practices. Tirumantiram also has references of the Siddha medicine system.
Moreover, Karaikkal Arnmaiyar has composed 3 memorable works namely, Irattaimanimalai, Arputattiruvantati and Muttatiruppatikankal. These songs are considered as the earliest extant Shaivite devotional poems. The poems of Karaikkal Ammaiyar are renowned for their expressions of the writer's devotion to God and the philosophical content. Some of his works are particularly devoted to Lord Shiva
. The first three Alvars had also developed celebrated devotional poems in Tamil literature. Putattalvar describes his form of prayer as a blissful blend of philosophy and devotion in one of his exceptional devotional hymns. In one of his poems, he states about the inner light, rather than the outer light.
Tirunavukkaracar, Nanacampantar and Cuntarar, the 3 Nayanmars, composed eight thousand hymns, which are now known as Tevaram, the body of Tamil devotional songs. Each of the devotional songs in Tevaram is sung along with music and every song is vocalised in a specific pan or metre from the past to the present. Tevaram is not only a corpus of devotional poems in Tamil literature but also a treasury of 1,300 years of musical tradition. Tirunavukkaracar composed in Tiruttantakam, which was a new metrical composition. As Tirunavukkaracar was adept in Tiruttantakam poems, he was lauded as Tantakaventar, the king amongst the composers of Tiruttantakam. Tantakarns had the ability to move and melt the hearts of disciples and devotees.