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Home > Tamils - a Trans State Nation > Tamil Language & Literature > Thamizh Literature Through the Ages - Preface > 1. Introduction > 2. The Sangam (Academy) period. > 3. The Didactic Period > 4. The Era of the Thamizh Epics > 5. The Era of Devotional Period > 6. Epics of the ChOzha Period > 7. Grammar and Lexicography > 8. Philosophical Literary Period > 9. Thamizh purANangaL and Minor Poems > 10. IslAmic and Christian Contributions to Thamizh Literature > 11. Modern Period > 12. Present Situation > 13. Conclusion
Dr. C.R. Krishnamurti,
6. Epics of the ChOzha Period (சோழர் கால காப்பியங்கள்)
6.1 Kampa rAmAyaNam (கம்பராமாயணம்)
6.1.1. Kampan (கம்பன்)
For almost 400 years the Thamizh people were literally under the spell of the Bhakthi movement fully engorged with the heart rendering devotional poems of the n^AyanmArkaL and AzhvArkaL. From the middle of the ninth century the ChOzha Kings in ThanjAvUr (தஞ்சாவூர்) were gaining supremacy. The whole of the kAviri (காவிரி) delta was studded with big and small temples devoted to either Sivan or VishNu. It would be fair to say that the Buddhists and the Jains completely lost their influence and more or less disappeared from the scene. This left the field open for the two main Hindu sects to consolidate their popularity among the people.
The reign of the ChOzha Kingss extended approximately till the end of the 13th century. With their headquarters located in and around ThanjAvUr they ruled the fertile delta formed by the river kAviri and its tributaries, a rich rice growing area (சோழவள நாடுசோறுடைத்து). The ChOzha Kings were renowned for their contribution to the temple architecture with the characteristically shaped towers (கோபுரங்கள்) at the four entrances. People of Thamizh origin owe their present legacy of music, dance and literature largely to the ChOzha Kings under whose patronage they flourished.
The ThanchAvUr big temple is a magnificent masterpiece of Thamizh architecture and is now preserved as a national monument. Every year it is visited by millions of tourists for its architectural splendour. It is unfortunate that a big fire which broke up during the renovation ceremony (கும்பாபிஷேகம்) in 1977 caused loss of several lives. It is my understanding that the damage was restricted to temporary structures constructed for the occasion. In this fertile ChOzha Kingdom was born Kampan (கம்பன்) who made Thamizh literary history with his epic, rAmAyaNam (ராமாயணம்).
In spite of his fame and glory as the author of a great Thamizh literatury piece, all other aspects of his personal life including his real name, the place and date of his birth and his religion are topics of controversy. Kampan is believed to be the son of a priest (உவச்சன்) in a KALi (காளி) temple.
Periodic conferences of scholars had been held to discuss Kampan's dates exclusively. Critically analyzing all the available evidence, wading through inconsistencies and discrepancies in the dates of contemporary Kings, patrons and poets and sorting out interpolations from the main text based on their style, Zvelebil (1995) has suggested two probable dates for Kampan, 855 or 1185 A.D. This will correspond to the reign of utthama ChOzhan(உத்தம சோழன்)or KulOthunka ChOzhan III (குலோத்துங்க சோழன்).
An anonymous poem states that Kampan presented his rAmAvathAram (ramavtarmf) in the Thamizh month of Pankuni (பங்குனி) in the year 807 of the Saka (சக) calendar. This is equivalent to 895 A.D. in the Christian calendar. According to the following anonymous poem, Kampan made his presentation in Thiruvarangam (திருவரங்கம்) in the presence of his patron, Satayappa VaLLalசடையப்ப வள்ளல்) of ThiruveNNai n^allUr ( (திருவெண்ணெய் நல்லூர்)
Other works attributed to Kampan are Sarasvathi an^thAthi (சரஸ்வதி அந்தாதி) , SatakOpar an^thAthi (சடகோபர் அந்தாதி) , Erezhupathu ("erZpT) and Thirukkai Vazhakkam (திருக்கை வழக்கம்). His extraordinary skill in the epic narration type poems and devotion to ThirumAl have earned him the prestigious titles of Kampa n^AttAzhvAR (கம்பநாட்டாழ்வார்), kampa n^Adudaiya VaLLal (கம்பநாடுடைய வள்ளல்) and the 'learned Kampan' (கல்வியிற் பெரியவன் கம்பன்)
It is said that even inanimate objects in Kampan's house are capable of composing poems (கம்பன் வீட்டுக் கட்டுத்தறியும் கவிபாடும்). In recent times, SubrAmaNiya BhArathiyAr (சுப்பிரமணிய பாரதி) paid the highest complement possible by saying that to the best of his knowledge, poets like Kampan, VaLLuvar or iLangO have not been born anywhere in the whole world (யாமறிந்த புலவர்களிலே கம்பனைப்போல், வள்ளுவர்போல், இளங்கோவைப்போல் பூ மிதனில் யாங்கணுமே பிறந்ததில்லை).
6.1.2. Background to Kampa rAmAyaNam (கம்பராமாயணம்)
Setting aside the contradictory views on Kampan's specific dates, a more pertinent and rather intriguing question is why Kampan, endowed with an extraordinary talent to write an epic of his own imagination, chose to rewrite an ithikAsam (இதிகாசம்) , rAmAyaNam, very well known to Thamizh since the Sangam period. Though one will never know Kampan's own reason, certain speculations had been made by scholars. The views of Professor GnAna Sampan^than(அ.சு. ஞானசம்பந்தன்) (1993) appear logical and deserve serious consideration.
During the days of the n^AyanmArkaL and AzhvArkaL it is no exaggeration that a devotional wave was spreading through the Thamizh country side. Extreme devotion to anything, however sacred it may be, is not conducive for the stimulation of open discussion or for a critical or unbiased analysis of alternate ideologies. This is particularly true of religious dogmas.
After the exit of the Buddhists and Jains from the scene, the devotees of the VishNu and Saiva groups indulged in attempts to establish their respective sectarian superiority. With the momentum of the Bhakthi movement slowing down, rivalry between the two groups grew worse. Though the spell of the devotional music still lingered, the underlying principles of the prayers and idol worships were forgotten in the medley of sectarian views. Creeds were valued more than principles. TholkAppiar's definition of clandestine love (களவியல்) with reference to the role of unchaste women (பரத்தையர்) was probably misconstrued for legitimacy of the evil practice. The advice of the Buddhist and Jain monks on the control of the five senses (ஐம்புலனடக்கம்) for a spiritual life was not heeded. ThiruvaLLuvar's teachings on virtues also fell on deaf ears.
The chastity of KaNNaki, the fidelity of MAdhavi and the renunciation of MaNimEkalai remained only as fictional entities. To add to these perversions of individuals, the four Thamizh Kings, who spoke the same language, indulged in constant wars to expand their territory. The killing of Thamizh by Thamizh became the order of the day. Bravery, heroism and valour lost their sanctity. In general, there appeared to be an overall deterioration in the virtuous conduct of the people. Though the temples offered an ideal location for spiritual uplift and promotion of music and dance, the discipline of the mind by the people, at large, did not materialize. It is at this juncture Kampan appeared on the scene with a different strategy to inculcate virtuosity in the conduct of people.
6.1.3. Kampan's Philosophy
Regardless of whether the above summary of events paints an accurate picture of the social and cultural developments at the time, a study of the literature, which is generally regarded as an excellent window of its people, would lend support to such a contention. It is therefore likely that Kampan, who has been described as 'learned' both by his own peers and successors, would have observed the forces which were weakening his society. Being a scholar he was perhaps aware that great and powerful empires and civilizations in the world have crumbled, when people indulged in excesses and deviated from the moral pathway. Being proud of the richness and antiquity of his language, he could not tolerate such a tragedy happening to his own people.
Prompted by these considerations, Kampan thought it appropriate, it seems, to write a literary piece, which would improve the situation. This would give him ample scope to emphasize the excellence of virtuosity, chastity, brotherhood and the oneness of the Absolute Being. To accomplish this objective, he chose the story of rAman (ram[f) which was already very popular among Thamizh people. As an idealist he realized that the story offered him the latitude to introduce his own brand of ethical instructions which would supplement the earlier efforts of ThiruvaLLuvar and iLango atikaL. Without changing the main story he was in a position to mould it to satisfy the literary and religious tastes of the Thamizh community. In this respect, his knowledge of Sanskrit enabled him to study and appreciate the subtleties in the original text by VAlmIki (வால்மீகி).
6.1.4. The story of rAmAyaNam (ராமாயணம்)
King Dasarathan (தசரதன்) , the ruler of ayOdhya, had 3 wives, KOsalai (கோசலை) , KaikEyi (கைகேயி)and Sumitthirai (சுமித்திரை) KOsalai had one son, rAman (ராமன்) KaikEyi had one, Bharathan(பரதன்) ; and Sumitthirai had the twins, lakshmaNan (இலட்சுமணன்)and Satthurukkanan(சத்துருக்கனன்)f.
When rAman was crowned as the prince, a hunch backed maid , KUni (கூனி)spoiled the mind of KaikEyi who trapped King Dasarathan into yielding to her boon, that rAman should be sent to the forest for 14 years while Bharathan, her own son should become the King. rAman followed by his wife, SIthai (சீதை) and one of the twin brothers, lakshmaNan, proceeded to the forest as per the wishes of KaikEyi and King Dasarathan. Unable to bear the injustice he had done, the King died. During their exile in the forest, the ten headed King , rAvaNan (இராவணன்) from the island of ilankai (இலங்கை) , got infatuated with the beauty of SIthai, cunningly abducted her to the island and forced her to love him.
SIthai maintained her chastity in the midst of untold misery in the confinement of rAvaNan's garden. With the help of Kuhan, (குகன்)Hanuman(அனுமன்), SugrIvan (சுக்ரீவன்)and others, rAman found out where SIthai was held captive and, after a fierce battle, rescued her from the clutches of rAvaNan. rAman returned to ayOdhya with everyone and was crowned as the King. For a detailed and excellent version of the story, rAjagOpAlAchAriyAr's (ராஜாஜி) rAmAyaNam may be consulted.
6.1.5. Versions of Kampa rAmAyaNam (கம்பராமாயணம்)
The compilation of any ancient literary work has always been confronted with the problem of weeding out interpolations (இடைச்செருகல்) and addenda. The existence of different versions (பாடபேதங்கள்) add further to the difficulties.
Thanks to the efforts of Kampan Academy (கம்பன் கழகம்), Chennai, a committee of scholars was set up who were able to complete this difficult job under the chairmanship of Professor T.P.MInAtchi sun^tharan (தெ.பொ.மீனாட்சிசுந்தரன்). The result is the publication of "Kampa rAmAyaNam" in 1976 which serves as the standard authority commonly used at present. The revival of interest in Kampa rAmAyaNam is evident by the organization in several towns of annual debates and discussion groups in which reputed scholars participate. Some people believe that Kampar's adoration of rAman as the incarnation of ThirumAl perpetuates caste differences.
The book has 6 chapters (காண்டங்கள்) : BAla KAndam (pal) , ayOdhyA KAndam (அயோத்தியா) , AraNya KAndam (ஆரண்ய) , KitkindhA kAndam(கிட்கிந்தா), Sun^thara KAndam (சுந்தர), and yuttha KAndam (யுத்த).
Each KAndam is divided into a number of sections (படலம்). There are 118 sections which collectively contain approximately 12000 poems. Kampan has elegantly employed the viruttham (விருத்தம்) meter in his compositions. Kampan's ability to use the san^tham (சந்தம்) in its varied dimensions to express human emotions faithfully adds colour to his poems and sets a musical flow to his verses. For example, the way Hanuman saw the withering SIthai in rAvaNan's garden (அசோகவனம்) is an example of the poet's tremendous capacity to capture thoughts and actions through san^thams and meticulous choice of words:
6.1.6. Salient Features of Kampa rAmAyaNam
The noteworthy feature of Kampan's work is that his style is simple, yet very appealing. There is no need for frequent references in the dictionary(அகராதி). As an idealist and a humanist he takes every opportunity to express his philosophy in clear terms. His casting of specific characters to portray the trait(s) he wished to emphasize and the way that trait is maintained throughout the play are examples of his brilliant mind and well conceived plan to convey his message.
18.104.22.168. Kampan's concept of the Divine
It is true that, unlike VAlmIki (வால்மீகி) , Kampan regarded rAman as the incarnation of ThirumAl(திருமால்).. However, he used the name ThirumAl, in its broadest sense to refer to the Supreme or Absolute Being. Even at the outset he had expressed his secular views very clearly as seen in the invocation given below. Inded he followed ThiruvaLLuvar in this regard by first paying homage to the Divine (மெய் உணர்வு) , then to learned people (நீத்தார் பெருமை)and finally to the ascetics (அறவோர்):
Kampan's concept of the Divine is beautifully expressed through the words of rAvaNan after his first encounter with rAman in the battle field. After getting a taste of rAman's strength, the almost invincible rAvaNan says that the man he fought with was not Sivan or PirAman or ThirumAl but someone above all of them, the Ultimate or Absolute Being described in the VEdhAs (வேதமுதல்வன்) :
In describing the course of the river, Sarayu (சரயு) Kampan introduces another profound concept as if to appease the religious tensions prevailing at the time. He states that the big expanse of the river initially arises as trickles from among the rocks, gathers more and more water all along before joining the sea. The simile he employs is that the big river that flows through many villages and towns with different names has only one origin. This resembles the Absolute Being, that cannot be described fully by the Scriptures but is sought by different religions under different names, is ultimately only one. The following lines illustrate Kampan's religious broad mindedness and universal views of the Supreme Being.
The manner in which Kampan expresses his acknowledgement to VAlmIki in the following verse shows the humility one could expect only from a person of Kampan's high moral caliber. He states in the invocation that, of the three poets, VAlmIki, (வால்மீகி), Vacittar, (வசிட்டர்), BhOdhAyanar, (போதாயனர்),who wrote the story of rAman in Sanskrit, he followed the first author, VAlmIki, for his Thamizh version.
22.214.171.124. Kampan's concept of virtue (அறம்)
When he describes the place, the people, the King and his ministers, Kampan's idealism comes to play immediately. He portrays that both the people and the rulers lead a virtuous life with tranquillity and peace. Right in the beginning Kampan does not waste any time in driving home his first message of control of the five senses. The river, Sarayu, he says, flows through the beautiful KOsala country, where people have complete discipline over their five senses so that they do not let their passions carried away by the dazzling eyes of (unchaste) women :
Describing the kind of people in that country, Kampan uses his imagination and creates an ideal society where there is no philanthropy because there is no one to accept; there is no heroism because there are no enemies, there is no such thing as truth because no one utters lies; there is no ignorance because everybody is well read:
Kampan continues his concept of the ideal society by stating the attributes of King Dasarathan; he loved his subjects like a mother; his actions were always directed towards their welfare; he lead them like a son along the right path. he punished them like disease without showing favouritism; he served as their spiritual head by leading them with his wisdom and behaviour:
126.96.36.199. Love redefined
The most significant contribution Kampan made to Thamizh literature and to humanity, in general, is his definition and clarification of love (அன்பு) . This word, unfortuntely, has been grossly misused, in recent years in a restricted sense or confused to denote only the physical aspects of love.
According to Kampan, love refers to deep devotion or faith with perfect fusion of the minds. If this love is directed towards the Divine (பக்தி, தூயஅன்பு ) , it becomes extremely unselfish and absolute. Love towards other human beings is mixed with varying degrees of selfishness. Love which comes close to divine love is that of the mother to the child (தாய் அன்பு); love between man and woman is (காதல்); love between brothers or family members is pAsam (பாசம்); love between friends is natpu (நட்பு). Kampan exploited the characters in rAmAyaNam to emphasize these subtle differences as described below.
a. Love (காதல்)
Kampan demonstrated his concept of love and chastity between man and woman using rAman and SIthai as the ideal couple; he used rAvaNan as an example of a very learned man degrading himself with infatuation (காமம்) with somebody else's wife. Perhaps this is Kampan's way of disagreeing with previous references to unchaste women (பரத்தையர்) in the literature by married men. In the following poem, Kampan describes the feelings of love that developed spontaneously between rAman and SIthai. When their eyes met, says Kampan, there was fusion between their feelings (நிலைபெது உணர்வும் ஒன்றிட). As if to reemphasize the point, he added that because their minds fused with each other, there was mutual exchange of their hearts (உள்ளம் ஈர்த்தலால் மாறிப்புக்கு இதயம் எய்தினர்):
b. Chastity (கற்பு)
The two significant lessons from Kampan's story are the value of chastity in both man and woman and the concept of one man, one woman in marital life. These are brought about in SIthai's own words, when Hanuman met her in rAvaNan's palace garden, asOka Vanam. These words were spoken when Hanuman asked SIthai whether she had any specific message for rAman. "Please tell rAman that I still remember the promise that he made on the eve of our marriage that he will not see another woman even through his mind", she said. This is how high and noble one could get in married life.
SIthai then reiterated her own steadfastness by saying that if, by chance, she died in captivity, the only thing she would pray was that she should be born again and rAman should come back and touch her body:
c. SIthai, the Queen of chastity. (கற்புக்கரசி)
Not satisfied with his efforts to stress the value of chastity, Kampan once again makes Hanuman to reinforce his points in the course of his report to rAman of what he saw in asOka Vanam and how SIthai was getting along. Hanuman said, " I did see SIthai with my very eyes; I did see SIthai, the embodiment of chastity, across the sea in ilankai. Please forget your sorrow and doubts".
To assure rAman that SIthai had not changed at all during her confinement, Hanuman continued, " Her behaviour was impeccable becoming of your wife, becoming of the daughter-in-law of King Dasarathan and becoming of the daughter of the King of Mithilai Janakan. Please rest assured she is all right".
d) Universal Brotherhood (சகோதரத்துவம்)
To demonstrate his vision of universal brotherhood, Kampan drew examples from rAman's own family as well as from that of rAvaNan. After rAman's departure to the forest, Bharathan, who was away at the time, returned to ayOdhya and found out what happened. Along with his step mother, KOsalai, Bharathan decided to follow rAman and plead with him to return. Kuhan, the hunter, helped Bharathan and his retinue to cross the river in his boats. Kuhan bowed towards the magnanimous lady in the boat and asked Bharathan who she was. In Bharathan's reply Kampan packed deep emotions, remorse and brotherly love in three short sentences: "She is the senior wife of the King of kings, Dasarathan and the unfortunate mother of the great rAman, a treasure which she has lost because I was born."
rAman's friendship knew no boundaries and did not discriminate between friends or enemies. He did not even exclude members from the monkey family or the demon family if his friendship was sought with sincerity. He first embraced Kuhan (குகன்) , who was an illiterate belonging to a low caste; then he embraced SugrIvan (சுக்ரீவன்), the monkey King who was ill treated by his brother, VAli (வாலி); finally he accepted VibIdaNan (விபீடணன்), the brother of RAvaNan. To make it more effective, Kampan made these words come directly from rAman when VibIdaNan (விபீடணன்) sought refuge with him. rAman said: " In my family there were four brothers; with Kuhan we became five; when SugrIvan, the King of mountains joined us we became six; now you have come to us with great love and affection so that we are now seven. Our father will certainly be proud of us".
Going to rAvaNan's camp, one finds the same kind of deep attachment of the two brothers, VibIdaNan and KumpakaruNan (கும்பகருணன்) both of whom tried their utmost to put some sense into their brother's head in vain. VibIdaNan tries his best to persuade KumbakaruNan to leave rAvaNan and join RAman in the name of virtue. In a few moving passages, Kampan packed all the emotions associated with the conflicts in their values namely: their helplessness in correcting their brother's sinful actions; their acceptance of the inevitable situation gracefully; finally their parting from each other, realizing at the same time, that this is going to mark the end of their brotherly relationship.
In responses to VibIdaNan's plea, KumpakaruNan, who was himself a very learned man said, " In order to enjoy the transient worldly pleasures, I have been brought up by our brother, who fed me, clothed me and prepared me for the war; my duty therefore is to be on his side; I would rather die on his behalf instead of fleeing to the other side; my dear brother, do not worry about me; please go and join rAman as quickly as you can".
KumpakaruNan then becomes philosophical and says " When the time comes, everything has to come to an end no matter how badly one may cherish it; there is no one who appreciates this truth more than you; please do not feel sorry for me".
In the following poem, the parting embraces of the two brothers, the hesitating slow retreat of VibIdaNan, his eyes full of tears, leaving his brother with 'a longing lingering look behind' are described. The thought that this would mark the end of his brotherly relationship ran through VibIdaNan's mind.
One of the noblest qualities of man is forgiveness which had been described as 'divine'. rAman's magnanimity is revealed when, at the close of the first day of the battle, he found rAvaNan exhausted and said, " What a man you are! You are shattered like the petals of the pULai flower (பூ ளைப்பூ ) ; you better go away today and come back tomorrow to resume our fight."
When Dasarathan was sent down from heaven to appease rAman, he requested his son to ask for a boon. Anxious to have his step mother, KaikEyi, forgiven for all she had done, rAman realized that, if he asked his father directly to excuse KaikEyi, he would not comply with his request. He, therefore, requested Dasarathan, " I want the one person whom you abandoned as wicked to be my mother whom I worship; I also want your son, Bharathan, to be my brother again." Lesser mortals than rAman would not have asked for forgiveness for a person like KaikEyi.
f) Kampan and VAlmIki (வால்மீகி)
Though Kampan followed the original story by VAlmIki, he certainly did not choose to undertake a translation of the same for two reasons. First he knew that, in general, translations never have the same impact on people as the originals. Secondly, by choosing the popular VAlmIki's story, Kampan was in a position to introduce his own ethical messages to his society in a smooth manner. By keeping the main story intact there was enough latitude for him to change the scenario to suit his own cultural environment. For example he depicted rAman as the incarnation of ThirumAl because that was the accepted trend during the days of the Bhakthi movement. Throughout the story, however, he maintained that by using the latter name he was in reality referring to the Divine.
Secondly small changes in the story put him in a better position to project the weakness of his society, as he perceived them. Over indulgence in sensual pleasures, the role of unchaste women in the society, the lack of seriousness in observing chastity in both males and females and above all, a general deterioration in moral standards were some of the observations he wished to address with VAlmIki's story as his background. With this end in mind he had removed, added or modified sections of the original story as he thought fit.
In conclusion, Kampan made intelligent use of VAlmIki's story, introduced
appropriate changes in accordance with the tradition and culture of the Thamizh
people and presented his own ideologies to rectify social problems.
To minimize disruption of married life by uncontrolled passions and the involvement of unchaste women (பரத்தையர்), he introduced the 'one man-one woman' concept as his central theme.
To improve universal brotherhood regardless of caste or creed he set up the example of rAman, Kuhan, SugrIvan and VibIdaNan.
To emphasize the nobility of forgiveness, he made rAman skillfully manoeuver Dasarathan forgive KaikEyi. Finally Kampan's genius may be ascribed to his deep moral conviction and idealism, to his capacity to express them with his tremendous literary skill, and to his success in conveying them to ordinary folks.
He first made the Absolute Being (முலப்பொருள்) born in the world as a human being, rAman. Once in this world, Kampan made rAman go through all the sufferings like ordinary men. At the end virtue won. SugrIvan's, the monkey King, on seeing rAman reflected that, after all, humanism won (மானிடம்வென்றது) :
The moral is that man can win over all his obstacles if he leads a virtuous life (அறவாழ்க்கை). This advice would be an excellent remedy to most of our social problems today! No wonder that Kampan is acclaimed as the King of literary kings (கவிச்சக்கரவர்த்தி கம்பன்).
Though the AzhvArkaL and the n^yAnmArkaL succeeded in spreading the ideology of Bhakthi through devotional music and complete surrender to the Divine, the use of Sivan or VishNu to represent the Divine divided the Thamizh into 2 classes, the Saivaites and VaishNavaites. To strengthen their respective creeds, the followers indulged in efforts to collate information on the protagonists of these sects and their contributions. While the ThirumuRai (திருமுறை) and n^AlAyirat thivya Praban^tham (நாலாயிரத்திவ்யபிரபந்தம்) contain the devotional poems by the leading saints of these sects, relatively less is known about the literary works or personal accounts of others in the creed. Recognizing this limitation, one of the staunch devotees in the Saivaite group, SEkkizhAr (சேக்கிழார்) decided to devote his life to gather the information on all the n^AyanmArkaL, the details of which constitute the Periya PuraNam.
6.3.2. Periya PuraNam (பெரியபுராணம்)
SEkkizhAr (சேக்கிழார்)(11th or 12th century A.D) was a minister in the royal court of the ChOzha King. Opinions differ whether he lived during the reign of KulOthunga ChOzhan II (குலோத்துங்கசோழன், அனபாயன்) or rAja rAja ChOzhan II (ராஜராஜசோழன்). His conviction in the Saivaite philosophy was so deep that he quit his job and indulged in religious activities. He also wished to impress the King with the superiority of the Saiva faith over Jainism towards which the King tended to lean favourably. In particular SEkkizhar adored the devotion of Sun^tharar and his compilation of Thirut thoNdat thokai (திருத்தொண்டத்தொகை) in which a brief sketch was available on most of the n^AyanmArkaL.
Another source of information was a small book, Thirut thondar Thiruvan^thAthi (திருத்தொண்டர் திருவந்தாதி)by n^ampi ANdAr n^ampi (நம்பி ஆண்டார்நம்பி). With these two resource books, SEkkizhAr found an opportunity to fulfill his desire to write a Thamizh equivalent of the Jain purANam, MahA purANam (மகாபுராணம்). Literally Periya PuraNam means 'big literary work' and the name given by SEkkizhAr was ThoNdar PurANam (தொண்டர்புராணம்) meaning the PurANam of 'the servants of God'.
This work was classified as the 12th ThirumuRai in the Saivaite canon books. The book is divided into 2 chapters (காண்டங்கள்) and 13 sections (சருக்கங்கள்). It contains 4253 poems according to umApathi SivAchAriAr (உமாபதிசிவாசாரியார்)f. A critical review of Periya PurANam has been recently (1994) published by Professor A.S. GnAna sampan^than (அ.ச.ஞானசம்பந்தன்).
While writing his own account of his idol, Sun^thara MUrthy n^AyanAr (சுந்தரமுர்த்தி நாயனார்) , SEkkizhAr traveled to all the places visited by Sun^tharar. These visits gave him the opportunity to learn about the n^AyanmArkaL about whom he wrote in detail before concluding his work with Sun^tharar's own life.
6.3.3. Salient Features of Periya PuraNam
a) The high esteem Thamizh people have for Periya PuraNam may be ascribed to its simplicity and the purity of the language which is not as highly Sanskritized as in contemporary works. This enabled SEkkizhAr to communicate effectively with people and deliver them the message of the excellence of Saiva philosophy. The poems are in the viruttham (விருத்தம்) style with a musical touch.
b) It is said that SEkkizhAr lacked the vivid imagination of other poets in his description of people's habitats and avocations. On the other hand, he certainly did have a specific message to give and he did it with passion. This may be contrasted to the Sangam poets, like TholkAppiar, who did not have any previous literature to draw lessons from in terms of format. They were therefore preoccupied with codifying concepts, defining and classifying habitats, people and laying down grammatical stipulations. They chose to be precise and rigid in their literary formats. In the epic period, the poets had as their priority the narration of a story wherein they emphasized some moral principle or a religious concept. They had to be imaginative in their descriptions and make them appealing to people.
The poets in the Bhakthi period were inspirational and musically oriented to cater to people's aesthetic senses. SEkkizhAr had no such compulsions except to record the biographical sketch of the n^AyanmArkaL and describe the social background of the habitats and people in the places he visited in a straight forward manner. The reason why SEkkizhAr's PeriyapurANam is considered to be a national epic by the Thamizh community is due to its simple but heart moving style, to its relatively least amount of Sanskritization and to its emphasis on spiritual democracy whereby anyone from any caste or creed is equal before the eyes of the Divine.
The following passage is an example the easy flowing style of his poem in which he says "These servants of God (அடியார்கள்) are great comparable only to themselves; by sheer service they win over us; they are capable of winning the world with their uniqueness; they are harmless; they attain impossible status in life; they seek happiness through love of others; they can get rid of the influence of 'mAyA' (மாயை) due to previous births; let us go and join them."
SEkkizhAr's absolute devotion (பக்தி) to Lord Sivan and the humble manner in which he pleads for His grace are described through the prayers of KAraikAl ammiyAr (காரைக்கால் அம்மையார்).
"I pray for the infinite happiness of Your love; I do not want to be born again; if I do, I do not want to forget You forever; if I do, I want to be happily singing in Your praise under Your feet as You are dancing".
c) Though references to the word 'literature' (இலக்கியம்) have been made in SIvaka ChinthAmaNi, (சீவகசிந்தாமணி, நெஞ்சென்னும் கிழியின் மேலிருந்து இலக்கித்து, 180) and in Kampa rAmAyaNam (கவி, செய்யுள், நூல், பனுவல்) , only in SEkkizhAr's Periya PurANam, one finds the word literature, (இலக்கியம்) employed in the specific context as used at present.
The simple style of Thamizh employed by both Kampan and SEkkizhAr in their major epics would provide enough incentive to anyone interested in taking up the study of Thamizh literature seriously and enjoy the growth of our progress up to this point. Whereas Kampan packed rAmAyaNam with values of virtues and feelings of love and chastity, SEkkizhAr filled Periya PurANam with deep feelings of devotion to God. Both the epics remind us of the advances we have enjoyed in the field of literature so early during the march of civilization.