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The Unsung Melodies - Folklore of Tamilnadu (An Old and Rare Book)

The Unsung Melodies - Folklore of Tamilnadu (An Old and Rare Book)
$27.00
(Rated 5.0)
Item Code: NAY750
Author: V. Murugan
Publisher: Institute of Asian Studies, Chennai
Language: Tamil Text with English Translation
Edition: 1989
Pages: 218
Cover: PAPERBACK
Other Details: 9.50 X 7.00 inch
weight of the book: 0.42 kg
About the Book
The third volume of the Folklore of Tamilnadu series of this Institute, it comprises a representative socio-historical folk balled, printed from an uncollected and unpublished palm-leaf manuscript, along with critical introductions and elaborate notes on the linguistic peculiarities of the folk idiom. The complete translation in English verse that accompanies the text represents our attempt to make the riches of folk creativity in one language accessible to the non-native readers, as also to facilitate comparative studies among similar forms in different Asian languages.

The present text entitled Palavecan Cervaikkaran katai is the tragic tale of a folk hero of extraordinary velour and adventurous spirit, narrated in absorbing folk poetry. The narrative strength of the tale, the heroic exploits of the protagonists, the spatial and temporal expansiveness of the plot and the wealth of cultural information it embodies raise this work to the level of a regional folk epic.

Introduction
The present work The Unsung Melodies: The Story of Palavecan Cervaikkaran is the third volume of the Folklore of Tamilnadu series and the sixth palm-leaf manuscript text being brought out in print by this Institute. The Institute remains profoundly grateful to the National Archives of India without whose encouragement and patronage this project would hardly have seen its realization.

Palm-leaf manuscripts, vis-a-vis the history of writing in Tamil, represent a unique dimension in the cultural heritage of the Tamils. A brief note on them here would be relevant in the context of the Institute's present project.

Writing as a way of practical recording and transmission of literary communication in Tamil . probably dates back to several thousand years. The Tamil civilization, according to literary and cultural historians, is cared to several centuries before the Christian era. Evidences both internal and external point to the existence of literary works in Tamil during the beginnings of the Christian era or even earlier. These works, the products of high literary culture as they themselves are, again allude to works of authority of earlier periods. These references apart, the society and ways of living as portrayed in the earliest extant literatures can be taken as the pointers to the existence of a relatively advanced civilization of the Tamils through a span of centuries before the Christian era. As such, one could possibly assume that writing in Tamil, without which a full civilization of this kind could not have existed, dates back to a few thousand years before Christ. There are schools of thought that tend to view old Tamil civilization as being contemporaneous with the ancient Egyptian, Chinese and Greek civilizations.

Evolution of Writing

During the earliest phases of history, Tamils, like other races of the world, would have ex- pressed their urge for linguistic communication through drawing, painting, scratching or incising on the walls of dwellings or on the rocks around. These forms of visual communication might ultimately have become signs of linguistic value. Besides rocks and walls, the Tamils used wet clay to write on, which was preserved by getting the clay burnt. Vessels of burnt clay with such writings have come down to us from excavations. This process of recording and transmission continued with the development of language as a vehicle of communication too.

The stage in the history of the evolution of human culture when man felt an urge to go beyond mere social communication and to express himself in forms of imaginative creativity saw him seek better ways of recording his linguistic faculties. The earlier modes of writing should have proved to him primitive and failed to stand up to the pace of advancement. While dif- ferment cultural groups took to different media of writing, the Tamils settled themselves to writing ultimately on the leaves of the Palmyra trees. Even though inscribing on stones and metals did exist simultaneously. the popular mode of writing and transmitting remained the palm-leaf recordings.

One of the reasons for the choice of Palmyra leaf could have been its easy accessibility. given the congenial climatic conditions obtaining in this part of the world. The Cankam poems of the early centuries of the Christian era show an akam poetic situation in which the hero would go around riding a horse made of Palmyra stems with the image of his love drawn on the Palmyra leaves in hand. with a view to drawing the sympathy of the people towards his unfulfilled/unrequited love union. Such a situation reveals the use of Palmyra leaves as a medium of drawing and writing among the Tamils from an early period in the cultural history of the Tamils.

The implement with which to write on the surface of the palm-leaf is called eluding (a stylus). which was hand-held and hand-operated? It was this device that had been in vogue from the time the Tamils started using the Palmyra leaf as the medium. An interesting cultural analogy between the Tamils and the Greeks of the pre-Christian days could be made at this juncture. The earliest writing implements of the Egyptians (about 4000 B.C) were reeds and rushes; the Chinese used camel's or rat's hair brushes before 1000 B.C; and the Greeks in 1296 B.C. had stylus for their writing tool. That a kind of stylus had been in use among the Tamils may not only point to the possibility of an interaction between the Tamils and the Greeks/Romans but also the existence of writing system among the Tamils before the beginning of the Christian era. George Luzerne Hart observes: "Probably in the second or third century B.C. the Blight syllabify was introduced into Tamilnadu. A few centuries after this practical writing system were adopted for Tamil. there arose a class of people called Palavers, who wrote poems" (A History of Indian Literature VoI.X. 1976. p.326). Avail- able evidences show that three modes of graphic transmission had existed in the Tamil country: Inscriptions on stones such as the natural (memorial tablet set up over the grave of a deceased warrior and inscribed with his figure and achievements) which is being referred to in Tolkappiyam (Porulatikaram 60) the earliest extant treatise on grammar and poetics dated to the Cankam period; paintings and drawings of subtle workmanship on curtains and such other things. using brushes with the juice of gossipier religious (cemparuni) serving as the ink. mentioned in the, Cankam: classics such as Netunalvdtai; the third kind is writing on palm leaves and similar material using the stylus for the pen. We <

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