Folk Songs in Tamil Literature
were introduced by the famous Tamil poet Ilango Adigal or Ilanko Atikal in his epic creation Cilappatikaram
written in Sangam age
of the Tamil literature. Cilappatikaram, one of the five great epics in Sangam literature
, is credited with bringing folk songs to the literary genre. This proved the claim that Tamil folk songs officially standardized and systemized literary culture with the well maintained cultures go back to their origins in folk root. Before Ilango Adigal, none of the poets even tried to provide a written form to folk songs. Ilango, the author of Cilappatikaram is considered to be the sibling of Senguttuvan, a Chera
king, but there are no evidences available in the poems of Sangam literature that verify this as there is no mention that the famous king had a brother. Moreover, the earliest Tamil poetical works and forms were inspired and adapted from folk songs. But still it is not possible to know anything about folk songs, music or dance from Sangam literature
Tamil literature from the Sangam age is widely believed to be very rich and pregnant with various folk tales and folk songs. Most of the folk songs adequately depict the various local traditions, beliefs and different art forms like songs, music and dance. Tamil folk songs can be categorized into 8 different varieties, children songs, lullaby, labour songs, love songs, lamentation songs, celebration songs, Bhakthi songs and other miscellaneous songs.
The poets of the Sangam period neglected folk songs and music for certain unknown reasons. Ilango Adigal (Ilanko Atikal) on the contrary respected the artistic value in folk songs and arts. He also understood and realized the throbbing of life in such forms of art and music. Ilango Adigal never let an opportunity pass to give a written form to the folk motifs and designs in the epic. The songs in praise of the Kaveri River
, the love songs of fishermen, the dance music of the shepherdesses, the ritual music of the hunter dedicated to goddess Kali
, the songs sung by women while playing Ammanai in the Chera kingdom, the devotional songs of Tirumal and Murugan (Lord Kartikeya
), songs sung while rocking the swing, the rice-pounding songs, the songs in eulogy of kings and others were appropriately used in the epic Cilappatikaram in the similar forms as they were sung in the earlier periods by various people from of different regions.
Only the epic Cilappatikaram provides adequate information about the form in which Tamil folk songs were sung in the ancient times.