|| TAMIL LITERATURE
Adigal (9th century AD)
is the author of one of the five great epics of ancient
Tamil literature, Chilappatikaram, the other four being,
Manimekalai, Chivaka Chintamani, Valayapati and Kundalakesi.
The epic has been a great inspiration for Tamil literature
and culture for ages. The celebrated Tamil poet, Subramania
Bharati, extolled the work as 'the jewelled necklace
called Chilappatikaram of Tamil Nadu that ravishes the
listener's heart'. Prince Ilanko of Chera country (present-day
Kerala) is believed to have renounced the world at an
early age and retired to a monastery at Thirukunavayil.
He was joined by his friend, the poet Chattanar who
had already penned the epic, Manimekalai. Chattanar
narrated the story of Kovalan and Kannaki to Ilanko
and urged him to write on the subject which involved
the three royal houses of Cheras, Cholas and Pandyas.
Powerful and realistic depiction of the characters,
and a strong secular element where several religions
live in harmony were key factors in the immense popularity
of the epic.
Vedanayakam Pillai (1826-89) came in the
public spotlight in the late 19th century Tamil Nadu.
A gifted composer of Tamil lyrics, some of his songs
in classical carnatic tunes are quite popular. With
Western literature behind him, Vedanayakam Pillai was
eager to introduce the new literary form 'novel' in
Tamil. As the first Tamil novel, his Pratapa Mudaliar
Charittiram (The Story of Pratapa Mudaliar, 1879) remains
a landmark in Tamil literature to this day. With this
novel Vedanayakam Pillai broke fresh ground in Tamil
prose literature, employing simple and serviceable prose
which went on to inspire other writers.
was decidedly the most prominent Tamil writer of the
early twentieth century. His active role in freedom
struggle shot him to fame, as also his popular patriotic
lyrics, which were sung and danced to all over the state
of Tamil Nadu. He was an awesome champion not only of
the country's independence, but also of women's rights.
Among his works, the poem Kuyil Pattu (The Song of the
Cuckoo, 1912), stands out as a great, if lengthy, work
was known as the 'revolutionary poet' of Tamil Nadu,
claimed to be a disciple of the great poet Subramania
Bharati. Though his lietrary career commenced in the
traditional mode, he emerged as a romantic poet and
became an active partner in Tamil Renaissance. Later,
he joined the Rationalist Movement of Periyar Ramaswamy
Naicker and his poems revolved around social reform
and revolution. One of his great poems is Kudumba Vilakku
(The Light of the Home, 1942-50), where Dasan firmly
reiterates his dictum that the key to a successful family
life is the emancipated woman. Apart from being an author
of numerous volumes of poetry, Bharati Dasan was a playwright,
lyricist, screenplay writer and also the editor of a
poetry journal Kuyil (The Cuckoo).
Krishnamurthi (1899-1954) famous as 'Kalki',
his pseudonym, is regarded as one of the pioneers who
brought the Tamil novel to the common man and also popularised
it. The freedom movement and Gandhian principles like
Harijan emancipation find place in the novel. Kalki's
Thyaga Bhoomi (Holy Land) (1941) was an immensely popular
work, second only to K. S. Venkat Ramani's Desabhaktan
Kanthan (Kanthan, the Patriot, 1932). In this work,
Harijan upliftment and equality of women take centre-stage.
A later novel of his, Alai Osai (Sound of Waves, 1950),
focuses on the freedom struggle.
Chellappa (b. 1912) earned a niche for himself
in the galaxy of modern Tamil writers through his crisp
short stories. He brought a new dynamism to the entire
genre of fiction, a deeper identification with the native
milieu, a language closer to the people's tongue and
hence rooted in their very own world. His concern and
compassion for human predicaments is a hallmark of all
his creative writings. Vadivasal (The Arena, 1959) remains
one of Chellappa's famous novelettes. Using the motif
of jallikattu, a native form of bullfight, the author
takes the reader through the ups and downs of several
conflicts (between man and man, and also man and beast).
Shanmugasundaram (1918-77) belonged to the
Manikkodi group of writers who ushered in the modern
era in Tamil fiction. But unlike the other writers in
the group who specialised in the short story genre,
Shanmugasundaram distinguished himself in the novel
genre. Nagammal (1941) is his first novel and also the
first realistic novel in Tamil, a novel acclaimed for
its artistic rendering and mastery in craftsmanship.
It pays testimony to Shanmugasundaram's native genius
for he has no knowledge of the English language and
its literature which was the role model for his predecessors.
Nagammal is perhaps the only novel that revolves around
a character that is almost totally negative except for
some phases of goodness cropping up occasionally. Another
first for the novel lies in the fact, that it was the
harbinger of the so-called Vattara Ilakkiam (Regional
Literature) genre in the Tamil novel. The novel deals
with the poor, farming classes and possesses a distinct
flavour of the soil.
Krishnan (b. 1925) is an eminent author of
many Tamil novels, which are genuine and hard-hitting
pictures of life in different parts of the country.
When she writes about the life of a certain people,
she makes sure of gaining a first-hand knowledge by
observing them at close quarters. Her novels are vigorous
pleas for the immediate emancipation of the oppressed
as well as for the cause of women. Rajam's Verukku Nir
(Water for the Roots, 1972) won her the Sahitya Akademi
Award in 1973. The novel's brilliance lies in its realistic
and objective portrayal of the socio-political realities
of India in the late 1960s.
Parthasarathy (b. 1930) is one of the brilliant
writers of modern fiction in Tamil (his real name is
Parthasarthy, the first name being his wife's which
he uses as his pseudonym). He has written over fifteen
novels, five novelettes, four volumes of short stories,
nine plays and a biography. Unconventional in approach,
Parthasarthy's works deal with different aspects of
social existence in the North as well as the South.
Among his great novels is Kuruthi Punal (The River of
Blood, 1975), which focuses on the savage burning of
Dalit farm labourers. The novel is outstanding in its
realistic portrayal of the rural scenario with all its
petty rivalries, casteism and vested interests.
Kandasamy (b. 1940) was one of the avant-garde
young writers who experimented with Tamil fiction in
offbeat directions in the 1960s. Sa. Kandasamy has to
his credit three novels and a few short-story collections
which are quite remarkable in themselves. The novel
Sayavanam (1969), which he penned at the age of 20,
is regarded as an ecological novel with a solid sociological
background. It is based on the rich natural environment
of the Kaveri delta on the brink of a great change in
the early decades of the twentieth century.