(Last Updated on : 29/01/2013)
The Kovai is a relatively new type of literary work in the history of Tamil literature
. The Pantikkovai is considered as the earliest form among them. The formal eulogistic composition of Pantikkovai, which was intended as an encomium, was composed to eulogize a king of the Pandya dynasty
known as Netumaran during the 6th century AD or 7th century AD. But the work is lost and is unavailable at present. Only 300 verses of the original panegyric work have been compiled so far and even the author of Pantikkovai remains anonymous. The works of Kovai are also utilised as examples in particular grammatical works.
Kovai, in Tamil
, literally means putting things together on a wire or a string and in the context of this form of literature, the term tends to mean arranging verses in a thematic sequence. There is exists no sequence between a love poem and a poem in the Sangam literature. Each of the verses remains as a separate poem, even though it is all inclusive in itself in every facet. Poems of Sangam literature was composed by individual poets based to their own emotions and imaginations; while in Kovai poetic literature the incidents in the lives of lovers and their various emotions and sentiments are depicted in an organized sequence and composed in a precise poetic form.
Normally a Kovai is written in four hundred verses, where each verse represents an aspect or one turai of love and its emotional stage. It mentions about the first meeting of two lovers, the pre- marital and post-marital stages of the couple, moodiness or utal, life with children and various other aspects, in a systematic sequence like in a biography. The loving couple as depicted through in Kovai literatures is fabricated as similar to the portrayal of lovers in the Tamil literature
of the Sangam age
. While explaining the initial meeting location of the lovers, a description of the gardens are frequently given; or whilst introducing a simile, it is traditional to extol a noble king, patron or a god, whoever is the protagonist of the poetic literary work. Thus the four hundred verses in the poetic work eulogizes the natural scenic beauty of the landscape such as mountains, rivers, towns and cities that exist in the land of the protagonist and even the excellent qualities of the hero and accounts of his heroism.
Pantikkovai narrates Netumaran, the Pandya king's heroism, munificence and extols about the accounts of his war and his victory in various wars. Manickavasagar
, the Shaiva poet saint, composed the Tirukkovaiyar which praises the mighty Lord Shiva
. Other than Tirukkovaiyar, Tancaivanan Kovai was also much significant and achieved an eminent position in Tamil literature. It was composed by Poyyamolip- Pulavar in the 13th Century. Tancaivanan Kovai, as similar to others in the genre, depicts the imaginary life of two lovers in a consequence like a biography. The central character of the literary work, Tancaivanan, is a historical figure and is honoured in each verse. Tancaivanan was a minister and general in the court of a Pandya king. The hero has been eulogized in numerous times in Tancaivanan Kovai, particularly for his generosity and bravery.
As the works of Kovai are limited by stringent grammatical rules, very few works on this form have been composed later, of which only a few are still available.