Songs labeled puram tend to be grandiose in their praise of the cultured
generosity and military ferocity of individual kings, very often identified by
name. In sharp contrast to these warrior-focused panegyrics stand the akam
poems, which focus on the delicate unfolding of a developing love story
between two young people, from their first meeting as teenagers to their early
years of marriage. While puram poems may give details about particular martial
triumphs and about kings who annihilated their enemies in specifically
memorialized battles, the ancient authorities are clear that no individual is to be
named in any akam poem, nor to be tied to an identifiable battlefield or other
individualizing location. We know only generalized information about the
young lovers. Nakkirar, in Iraiyanar Akapporul (translated as The Study of
Stolen Love), with its compilation of stanzas from a variety of sources,
including Panti-k-Kavai, tells us that he is sixteen years of age and the
commander of thousands of young men. She is twelve, a shining star among her
bevy of dear girlfriends; the two teenaged lovers are to be similar in education,
family rank, and all other aspects, and to be discovering their love for each other
initially in a lovely cool and shady bower. This distinction between akam and
puram is one of the poetic frameworks that have back grounded nearly every
poem crafted by Tamil poets as the centuries and millennia have rolled past.
But nevertheless, poetic innovation has continued unabated through it all,
and Panti-k-Kavai is an example of one of the many fruits of this innovation. In
this work, every single one of the 325-odd stanzas contains significant elements
of both akam and puram themes. The resulting work is, to say the least,
beautiful and impressive.
The title, Panti-k-Kavai, identifies the work as a kavai, or collection, of
stanzas relating to the Pandyan dynasty. It is likely the first such kavai to have
been composed in Tamil. Further, it is likely that all of the "shorter literatures,"
or cirrilakkiyam genres, a wholly new class of poetic forms, sprang up and
followed in its wake.
The king who is praised in the puram panegyric portions of Panti-k-
Kavai is Netumaran of the Pandyan dynasty, who ruled from Madurai, the
Pandyan capital, at the close of the 8th century CEO Several of the stanzas
portray him seated in state beneath a canopy of glistening white pearls. As befits
the puram orientation of these parts of each stanza, he is explicitly named, and
many of the battles in which he was triumphant took place at locations that also
are named in the stanzas. Most of his vanquished foes were kings from one of
the two other Tamil dynasties at the time, the Cholas and the Cheras.
Book's Contents and Sample Pages
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