(Last Updated on : 13/02/2012)
Pallu Plays in Tamil Literature
refers to those plays, drama and folk songs of the Tamil country that were composed for the farmers and peasants. The Tamil
word Pal refers to both the low lying wet lands and cultivation. Thus the term Pallu refers to folk songs of the Tamil farmers. As farming was the major occupation of the Tamil people, several songs must have been created for the farmers; but there is no mention of such peasant songs in Cilappatikaram
, which was composed by Ilanko Atikal
. Adequate information about the theme or form of peasant songs is not available even from the later period. Only in the last 3 centuries, some authors and poets have tried to explain the Tamil folk songs of the farmers. The Mokanap Pallu was the first work in this genre and was composed in the 17th century. Only some of the verses from the Mokanap Pallu are still in existence. These poems were written in the form of musical compositions, which narrates the flood in the Kaveri River
, sowing, weeding and the various kinds of cattle utilised in farming.
The Mukkutar Pallu is perhaps the most important works in the Pallu genre that are still available. It was composed by a poet who was a follower of Vaishnavism
and lived in the 18th century. The work depicts the story of a farmer in the form of a play. The work mentions the tale of an agricultural worker or farmer, known as a Pallan in Tamil language. The story deals with the various complications related to the farmer and his two wives and the landlord. The jealousy between the wives regarding the farmer gives rise to various problems which are sorted out in the end. This is the basic summary of the plot described in Mukkutar Pallu. Even other pallu plays composed during that period also dealt with similar type of stories.
In the 17th century, a lot of religious animosity existed between the Vaishnavites and the Shaivites. This rivalry was illustrated through the characters in the Pallu plays. The wives of the farmer usually belonged to different religious sects, particularly, Shaiva and Vaishnava. During the fights between the two wives both parties would criticize the other's religious belief and attack Lord Shiva
and Lord Vishnu. As a Vaishnava poet composed the work of Mukkutar Pallu, Vaisnavism received the most importance in the poetic work. Puranic tales which are based on Lord Shiva and the Vaishnava mythology are generally found in the Pallu plays and poems. As Mukkutar Pallu is a folk play, almost all of the events mentioned in the work depict the life in villages and rural areas. The flooding of the river, the various types of cattle, different kinds of seeds, planting and harvesting, the habits and customs of the farmers and their manner of conversation are narrated in the Tamil work.
The Pallu Plays in Tamil Literature that arrived in the later periods were mostly composed in the venpa and akaval metres that are appropriate for literary works. The style is literary and does not contain any colloquial expressions. Thus the new pallu works are devoid of realism. Other than these other works of Pallu plays were written to eulogise and honour a particular town or to cater for the local people or to please a rich man. Therefore these pallu works are similar to the talapuranams
. Some works in pallu plays were also constructed to praise the greatness of certain shrines. Among them the most notable works are the Kurukurp Pallu, the Katiraimalaip Pallu and the Paralai Vinayakar Pallu. Arunacalak Kavirayar composed the Cikalip Pallu to eulogise of the shrines at Cikali. Only five verses of this works are now available.
The Tamil poet Ennayinar composed a dramatized version of the Mukkutar Pallu at a much later period, which was known as Mukkutar Pallu Natakam. The work was especially created for plays and dramas and thus many changes were made to the original work in order to make it interesting to the spectators.