The Pearl Canopy - Poetry of Kings and Lovers in Ancient India
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The Pearl Canopy - Poetry of Kings and Lovers in Ancient India

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Item Code: NAY821
Author: G. John Samuel
Publisher: Institute of Asian Studies, Chennai
Language: Tamil Text with English Translation
Edition: 2020
ISBN: 9788187892793
Pages: 346
Cover: PAPERBACK
Other Details 9.50 X 7.50 inch
Weight 670 gm
Introduction
There was a time, decades ago, when people interested in the long, lovely and rewarding trail of Tamil literature focused their attentions largely on the individual poetic songs-real gems-from what is known as the Tamil Sangam Age, taken by most scholars to be the first few centuries BCE and Coe These poems all fall into one or the other of two broad thematic types, known as akam, the "inner," and puram, the "outer" types. This classification of poems is entirely appropriate, supported as it is and identified by ancient authorities as the first order of business in addressing the poetics of any Sangam Age song.

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.

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