(Last Updated on : 23/01/2013)
Ethical Tamil Literature
instigated 3 centuries after the Sangam age
, which was evidenced the mutual collaboration of Tamil and Sanskrit
, the 2 major languages during that period. Between Tamil and Sanskrit several words and concepts linked to philosophy, religion and ethics were traded and loaned mutually. During the Sangam period, the poets and authors wrote poems on the different aspects of human emotions such as feelings of love, proficiency, munificence and the everlasting beauty and splendour of nature. In the following periods the poets started writing about rules of conduct and moral principles. This period after the age of Sangam literature
is known as the period of ethical Tamil literature.
History of Ethical Tamil Literature
After the Sangam period, the long-established rulers who belonged to the Tamil land like the Cheras
, the Cholas
and the Pandyas
lost their political dominance to intruders who were called Kalabhras. During 300 CE, the Tamil land was deeply influenced by these Buddhist people and several authors and scholars evolved and emerged during that period. The writers and authors reflected the ascetic character of their faiths and composed literary works based primarily on morality and ethics. Furthermore, Jainism
grew rapidly and spread through out the entire landscape.
Tamil Literature in the Ethical Period
Numerous Buddhist and Jain poets notably contributed to the composition of various didactic literary works which comprised of grammar and lexicography. The collection of the minor 18 anthology was composed during that era. Thiruvalluvar wrote Tirukkural
, which is probably the most celebrated of the ethical literary works from that period. It is an all inclusive manual of love, ethics and polity. The book has 1,330 kural or distichs which are divided into chapters of 10 distichs each. The initial 38 are on ethics, the next 70 are on polity and the rest are on love.
Other renowned ethical literatures from that period include Inna Narpathu, Nalatiyar, Muttollayiram, Iniyavai Narpathu and Kalavali. Popular Jain texts, namely, Nalatiyar and Pazhamozhi Nanuru consist of 400 poems and every poem states a proverb with illustrated stories. Ethical Tamil literatures like Tirikatukam, Cirupancamalam and Nanrnanikkankat has one hundred poems each. Elan which is another ethical literary work contains eighty poems. Inna Narpatu and Iniyavai Narupatu have forty verses each and the Palamoli Nanuru contains four hundred verses. Another ethical work titled Acdrakkovai focuses on the moral codes which were in trend during the time of its creation. The work of Mutumolikkanci portrays several pithy moral proverbs and concise powerful lines. The Innilai describes various ethical principles in forty-five poems.
Some of the ethical Tamil literary works created between 100 AD and 500 AD are known under the term Patinenkilkkanakku. The literary and poetical works written in quatrains and couplets are indicated by the term kilkkanakku. The famous Tamil epics, Manimekalai and Cilappatikaram were also composed with the objective of promulgating religious facts amongst the citizens. The former is a Buddhist literary work, while the latter is a Jain literary work.
Ethical Tamil Literature on Akam
All of the literary works included in the Patinenkilkkanakku anthology are not ethical or religious works. Five among eighteen works are the theme of human love or akam and one on the theme of war. The rest of the twelve literary works are ethical literatures. An ethical Tamil literature, such as Tinaimoli Aimpatu, Karnarpatu, Kainnilai, Tinaimalai Aintinai Elupatu and Nurrainmpatu explains the theme of human love.
Shaiva and Vaishnava Ethical Literature
In the late 17th Century, the Hindu sects were rejuvenated and many Shaiva and Vaishnava literatures
were composed. Thirunavukkarasar (Appar), Sundaramurthi and Thirugnana Sambanthar are few of the well known Shaiva hymnists from this epoch. Devotional hymns were made by Vaishnava Alvars and the earliest 3 Alvars were Pey, Poygai and Pudam.