Ettuttokai or the Eight Anthologies is a classical work on Tamil poems and is included in the Pathinenmaelkanakku series of the Sangam literature. Ettuttokai dates between 200 BCE and 200 CE is amongst the earliest extant Tamil literatures. Ettuttokai comprises of 2,371 poems that vary from small verses of 3 lines to verses of 40 lines. The small verses are in Ainkurnuru, where as the longer verses are in Purananuru
. Ettuttokai or the Eight Anthologies includes several poems, namely, Ainkurnuru, Akananuru, Purananuru, Kaliththokai, Kuruntokai, Natrinai, Paripaatal and Pathirruppaththu. The earliest lyrical poems of Tamil literature, compiled in Ettuttokai, are dynamic, unique and filled with dramatic realism.
Poets of Ettuttokai
According to the poetic works, there are around 470 poets whose works have been compiled in Ettuttokai. The numerous poets and writers belong to various parts of the Tamil country and were occupied in various professions. Some of the renowned poets were Auvaiyar, Nakkirar and Kapilar and some of the writers are mostly unkown. But there is a common sense of harmony that prevails in the various poems in the 8 anthologies of Ettuttokai.
Composition of Ettuttokai
The poems are composed either in Akam (subjective) or Puram (objective), where Akam concentrates on issues related to love and Puram deals with other issues like war, society, benevolence etc. Natural elements like the sun, moon and nature are explained creatively. But nature is mostly used to describe different aspects of human emotions and experiences. The works of Ettuttokai are usually by poets who wanted to express their creations with the least detailed descriptions adorned with clever and unique effects. Elaborate descriptions of striking object or scene were usually not preferred. The poets described any object with minimum and vivid words that could successfully depict the emotions of the object and the poets.
Meters in Ettuttokai
The various poems in Ettuttokai or the Eight Anthologies were composed with several types of meters that are exclusive to Tamil literature
* Akaval Meter
- Amongst the 8 anthologies, 5 of them are on Akam, 2 are on Puram and one in both themes. Six anthologies are in the Akaval verse form intermingled with rhymes and alliterations. Akaval meter is used in the poems on Akam and Puram themes. Akaval does not result in any obstruction in the freedom of expression of the writer and is a simple yet magnificent instrument.
* Kali Meter
-The poems of Kaliththokai, one of the other 2 anthologies, are in Kali metre which is well known for its vivid and lyrical traits. The Tolkappiyam
states that this meter is suitable to express the emotions of lovers.
* Paripaatal Meter
- Paripaatal metre is filled with music and rhythm and the Paripaatal anthology includes songs composed in Paripaatal metre. The poems are constructed on themes of love as well as religion. The themes of love is utilised against the setting of festivities. The songs were sung in various tunes and the names of the musicians are also mentioned.
Religion in Ettuttokai
The poets in the early Sangam age
were not generally religious and were mostly engaged in praising the ruler or wrote about the romantic experiences of man. But it is to be noted that Paripaatal was an exception as it was one of the oldest Tamil religious works. The collection of poems in Paripaatal is composed on deities like Murugan (Lord Kartikeya
), Thirumaal and Vaigai River.