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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,
9. Thamizh PurANangaL (புராணங்கள்) and Minor Poems (தனிப்பாடல்கள்)
9.1. Introduction One of the consistent features of the history of Thamizh literature is the close parallelism between the rise and fall of the Kings ruling the region and the religious and philosophical convictions of the poets who depended on their patronage. In turn the growth of Thamizh was influenced heavily by the fortunes of the religious sects dominating the scene. The conflicts between the followers of AzhvArkaL (ஆழ்வார்கள்) and n^AyanmArkaL (நாயன்மார்கள்) continued to persist, each gaining dominance from time to time.
VEdhic religious systems spread southwards and began to make a tremendous impact on the spiritual and social attitudes of people. Though it is difficult to estimate how long the process was in progress, it was certain that the VEdhic systems made necessary adjustments to accommodate the indigenous customs and beliefs slowly but steadily. After centuries of various degrees of adjustments and accommodations on either side, a new philosophical system, currently referred to as Hinduism evolved. This is a concept which people outside India find it difficult to comprehend so that Hinduism is always looked upon as a well defined religion like others founded by individuals. This background would facilitate the understanding of the change in the direction of developments in Thamizh during the next few centuries. Along with the n^AlAyirat thivyap Praban^tham, the Saivaite doctrines (சைவசித்தாந்தங்கள்) were propagated actively by a number of scholars.
The pitfalls of the new VEdhic system have been pointed out by the Sitthars (சித்தர்)and a number of Saivaite scholars. Adhi Sankarar (ஆதிசங்கரர்) appeared on the scene and, using his powerful skill in debate, interpreted the upanishads with his system of advaitham (அத்துவைதம்), the inseparableness of the self and the Absolute. rAmAnujar(இராமானுஜர்) came up with his theory of VishistAdvaitham. These VEdhAnthic concepts (வேதாந்தக்கருத்துகள்) extracted from Sanskrit scriptures, became popular because they were based on sound metaphysical hypotheses.
More than the religion, the Prakritic languages had even a higher impact upon the literature and culture of the Thamizh society. Contrary to opinions in the southern region, there was an incredible interaction between the north and the south. The religious impact was only one of the many consequences that followed. Scholars moved freely across the entire subcontinent. As discussed in the previous section, many outstanding Thamizh poets and authors were proficient in both Thamizh and Prakritic languages.
The Pallava city of KAnchi (காஞ்சி) became a busy center bubbling with arts, architecture, music, sculpture, religious and literary discussions and, in general, a microcosm of cultural confluence. The Pallava Kings were instrumental in bringing about these desirable changes in society. Under these circumstances the Thamizh poets could not help imbibing the style and conventions used in Sanskrit literature and this was evident from the literary works from this point on.
9.2. PurANam (புராணம்)
In the present day when scientific proof is demanded for every phenomenon, any reference to purANam (புராணம்)becomes engulfed in an aura of mysticism and skepticism. The word PurANam is derived from Sanskrit and literally means an ‘old legend’(பழங்கதை). The view that it includes sacred works attributed to VyAsar (வியாசர்) is also held by some experts.
By redefining purANs as ‘mythological legends documented in good literary style’, one could circumvent the difficulty whether the author or the reader should subscribe to the veracity of the contents. Thus literary quality rather than the accuracy of the legends would become the yardstick of their merit. After all, when it comes to mysticism and supernatural events, it does not really matter whether they are Hindu, IslAmic, Judaic or Christian in origin !
According to Sanskrit tradition, any literary work should include the
following points to qualify for inclusion as a purANam:
9.2.2. Thamizh PurANam (தமிழ் புராணம்)
The word purANam is not found either in the Thamizh n^ikaNdu (நிகண்டு) or in ancient Thamizh texts. The very first reference to purANam has been made in MANicka VAchakar’s (மாணிக்கவாசகர்) (10th century) ThiruvAchakam (திருவாசகம்). The invocation (வாழ்த்துத் திருவகல்) in this work had been named Siva PurANam (சிவபுராணம்). The next purANam to appear was Periya PurANam (பெரியபுராணம்) by SEkkizhAr (சேக்கிழார்) in the 12th century.
In either of these works, the 5 conditions of purANas stipulated in the Sanskrit tradition were not followed. ThiruviLiyAdal purANam (திருவிளையாடல் புராணம்).written by PerumpaRRap puliyUr n^ampi (பெரும்பற்றப்புலியூர் நம்பி) was the next Thamizh PurANam in which the great deeds of Sivan were described.
In the 14th century, Kacchiappa SivAchAriyAr (கச்சியப்ப சிவாசாரியார்)wrote Kan^tha PurANam(கந்தபுராணம்) using Skanda PurANa in Sanskrit as his basis. This was followed later by a series of purANams written by others (கோயிற்புராணம், ஆதி புராணம், மேருமந்திர புராணம், சீறாப் புராணம்)
18.104.22.168. Kan^tha PurANam (கந்தபுராணம்)
Though the mythology of Kan^tha purANam was of VEdhic origin, Kacchiappa SivAchAriyAr (கச்சியப்பசிவாசாரியார்) took it upon himself to adopt the biographical details of Kan^than (கந்தன்) to make into a true Thamizh epic as stated by the author in the following poem.
The original Sanskrit work, Skanda PurANA was made up of six sections of which the Sankara Sankithai (சங்கர சங்கிதை), the fifth and the largest, contained the Siva rakasiya kANdam(சிவரகசிய காண்டம்).. The latter is made up of seven chapters (காண்டம்) of which the first six were modified by the author and the seventh, the upadEsa kANdam (உபதேச காண்டம்) by his student GnAna VarOdhayar (ஞானவரோதயர்) to constitute the Kan^tha purANam in Thamizh (10345 poems).
Kacchiappa SivAchAriyAr (1350-1420 A.D.) was a scholar in Thamizh, Sanskrit, the scriptures as well as in Saiva SitthAn^tham (சைவசித்தாந்தம்).
What made his work monumental is his love of the Thamizh culture and personal devotion to Kan^than or Murugan(முருகன்). Out of all the mythological details arising from the VEdhic systems, the one retained by the Thamizh people without any hesitation pertains to the image of Murugan, the second son of Sivan. Whether this partisan attitude is due to Murugan's origin in the SaravaNa spring (சரவணப்பொய்கை)or to his upbringing by the six Thamizh women (கார்த்திகைப்பெண்டிர்) is not known. It is also possible that his marriage to the hunter girl, VaLLi (குறமகள் வள்ளி) and his patronage of the Thamizh language through his blessings to the legendary agatthia Munivar(அகத்திய முனிவர்) could have contributed to his popularity in the Thamizh region.
In addition, Thamizh people have always been captivated by the beauty and power of Murugan. He is believed to the personification of Lord Sivan himself and has been an integral part of the Thamizh culture. It is no surprise, therefore, that a Thamizh epic devoted exclusively to praise Kan^than's glory was very well received.
In one sense, Kacchiappa SivAchAriyAr's work was the Saivaite equivalent of Kampan's adoption of the Vaishnavaite epic, rAmAyaNam. Both the poets used the legends as their models and made appropriate changes in the story to depict the literary style, the culture and values unique to the Thamizh people. The sentiments of the Thamizh people regarding how high they cherished this work are reflected in the following proverbs: .
Dr.K.Zvelebil's "The Smile of Murugan" is an example of its universal literary appeal.
22.214.171.124.1. Salient Features of Kan^tha PurANam
a) The legendary aspect of Murugan's blessings (அருள்) to the author is revealed in the invocation to Vin^Ayakar (விநாயகர் காப்பு)wherein the following sentence is found: (திகட சக்கரச் செம்முக மைந்துளான்). When he was criticized that the syntax when (திகழ் + தசக்கரம்) to give (திகடசக்கரம்) was wrong, Murugan himself came in the form of a poet next day and proved that there was a grammatical precedence in VIra SOzhium (வீரசோழியம்) in support of the questionable syntax.
b) Kan^tha PurANam is well known for crystallizing the Saiva SitthAn^tha doctrine (சைவசித்தாந்தம்) as can be seen in the following poem. The advaitha philosophy that the AnmA(ஆன்மா) and Sivan (பிரமம்) are not two different things but are the same is explained beautifully:
The absolute devotion (பக்தி) of Kacchiappa SivAchAriyAr to Lord Murugan is evident in the following poem. He had reiterated very clearly that absolute devotion to the Supreme Being (பிரமம்) which is capable of manifesting himself in an abstract or concrete form, all in one and one in all, is the only way for salvation.
c) In the midst of his preoccupation to convey the doctrines of Saivaite philosophy, Kacchiappa SivAchAriyAr did not miss any opportunity to discuss the lighter sides of love and romance. When VaLLi, the hunter girl, was indifferent to Murugan's approaches, he pleaded as follows: "If you do not speak, if you do not even smile, if you do not caste a glance at me, if you do not appreciate my feelings of lust and love, be rest assured that you have to pay for it eventually".
d) The literary finesse of the poet is depicted in the following poem where the enemy, SUrapanman (சூரபன்மன்) goes on his grand rounds with pomp and show. Hearing him coming accompanied by his vast army, the entire world was trembling in its shoes and was seeking shelter:
126.96.36.199. PattinatthAr (Pattinatthup piLLaiyAr) (பட்டினத்துப் பிள்ளையார்)
This poet who lived in the 14th century A.D. was a devout Saivaite ascetic and a Thamizh scholar. He is not to be confused with PattinatthatikaL of the 11th century. His style of Thamizh is extremely simple and contains many colloquial words so that ordinary people find it easy to understand. He is a hard core ascetic and condemns the usefulness of family life (இல்லற வாழ்க்கை) strongly.
It is hardly possible that his level of earthly renunciation can be emulated by ordinary people in any walk of life. Critics consider him to be a negativist and a pessimist. Despite these citicisms, his poems have been collated into a Thanip PAtal Thirattu தனிப்பாடல்திரட்டு). These collections are very popular and thought provoking. A few examples which are self explanatory are given below:
188.8.131.52. PatthirakiriyAr ((பத்திரகிரியார்)
This poet, who was a local chieftain, became disenchanted with the worldly turmoils and became the disciple of Pattinatthup piLLaiyAr. His philosophy is similar to that of his master. His poems are also simple in style and are in the form of desperate and passionate appeals (புலம்பல்) to God to relieve him from the earthly sufferings.
184.108.40.206. Villi BhAratham (வில்லிபாரதம்)
The two great mythological legends (இதிகாசம்) popular throughout the Indian subcontinent are rAmAyaNam and MahA BhAratham (மகா பாரதம்) which deal with the incarnation of Lord VishNu as rAman and KrishNan respectively. These two legends were handed down from generation to generation through a few millenniums and have become an integral part of our cultural heritage. The original BhAratham (பாரதம்) in Sanskrit is attributed to VyAsar(வியாசர்). Because of its high literary caliber and religious sanctity the work was regarded as the fifth VEdham (வேதம்).
It is incredible how a single author could have ever undertaken the arduous task of conceiving, let alone writing, a story line so complex with literally hundreds of characters in the cast portraying different human traits. BhAratham is essentially a story of human behaviour at its best and at its worst with several shades in between. The divine interventions in human thought and endeavour, the metaphysical transactions, and of the ultimate triumph of good over evil have made BhAratham an extremely popular story in all parts of India.
220.127.116.11.2. VilliputthUrAr BhAratham (வில்லிபுத்தூரார் பாரதம்)
Perun^thEvanAr (பெருந்தேவனார்)(9th century A.D.) was the first to write the story of BhAratham in Thamizh. His BhAratha VeNpA (பாரதவெண்பா)has been specifically referred to by reputed commentators. Unfortunately except for a few songs, this work is not available. In the 13th century aruNilai VisAsan (அருணிலைவிசாசன்) is said to have written BhAratham in Thamizh but no other details are known. It was only in the 17th century that VilliputthUr AzhvAr (வில்லிபுத்தூராழ்வார்) succeeded in writing the Thamizh version of BhAratham. He condensed the original 10 carukkam (சருக்கம்) into 7 paruvankaL (பருவங்கள்).
It has to be emphasized that Villi BhAratham is not a mere translation of the original Sanskrit work. The author took all precautions to make sure that the names of places, Kings and social environments are typical of the Thamizh region. Even the story has been modified without affecting the main theme to make it representative of the Thamizh culture.
18.104.22.168.3. Salient Features of Villi BhAratham
It is difficult to summarize the literary niceties of a work of this magnitude in a few paragraphs. A few points to illustrate why the work is so highly regarded are given below.
a) Most of the Thamizh literary formats prescribed for an epic have been strictly adhered to by VilliputthUrAr. Though it is necessary to indicate the hero for an epic, one can appreciate the difficulty in choosing one from over 300 characters made up of human beings, demons and gods in human form.
b) The author has also followed the stipulations pertaining to the discussion of akam (அகம்) and puRam (புறம்) topics. For example, the practice of wearing the flowers of thumpai (தும்பைப்பூ) and the dances of ghosts to indicate specific undertakings such as battles are typically of Thamizh tradition.
c) Overlap of akam and puRam topics.
Though the definition and classification of akam and puRam are given in TholkAppiam, it has been noted that there are several areas where the two overlap in a subtle manner. This point had been well recognized by VilliputthUrAr. One of the most memorable verses in Villi BhAratham capable of moving the hardiest souls lie in his description of scenes in which chastity, loyalty and integrity mix freely. Unlike descriptions of nature, the translation into words of human emotions (akap poruL) calls for an exceptionally high standard of literary skill. In the following episode in BhAratham, the human drama involving the sensitivity and fidelity of the Queen, the innocence and loyalty of the friend and the magnanimity and confidence of the King in a most bizarre context is expressed by VilliputthUrAr movingly and precisely.
King DhuriyOdhanan's wife and his step brother, KarNan (கர்ணன்) are playing a game of chess alone in the Queen's private chambers; unexpectedly the King walks in behind KarNan unobserved; realizing the delicate situation, the Queen springs up to her feet; unaware of what was going on KarNan holds her back by grabbing at her necklace, which snaps spreading the rubies all over. When the Queen and KarNan stand frozen with a sense of remorse and apparent guilt, King DhuriyOdhanan says unperturbed " Do you want me to merely pick up the rubies or shall I thread them back into the necklace?" (எடுக்கவோ கோக்கவோ, என்ன்).
d) Thamizh cultural background of Villi BhAratham.
At every point in the narration of this great story, VilliputthUrAr was always conscious that he should make it conform to the Thamizh cultural environment. While describing the great philanthropic quality of KarNan, he used the name of a King and river in Thamizh region in the poem below. He says that KarNan's hands became red due to his endless showering of gold upon others:
The influence of Sanskrit on Thamizh language and culture had been referred to in the introduction. Recognizing that he had to keep this as minimal as possible, VilliputthUrAr translated many Sanskrit words and names into the Thamizh equivalents either partially or completely: (கோஷம்= கோலம், விஷணு=விண்டு, விஜயன்= விசயன், அசுவத்தாமா= இவுளித்தாமன், சுக்கிரீவன்= மணிக்கழுத்துடையவன்.)
e) The description of how VIman (வீமன்)destroyed the elephant battalion of the hundred brothers is a typical example of Villi's inspirational style, in which the rhymes and rhythms of the verses reverberate aptly to depict the melee of elephants going to pieces:
f) The similes in BhAratham have been employed with wide imagination. While describing the army of DhuriyOdhanan (துரியோதனன்)without their chief, VIduman (வீடுமன்)looked like the sky without moon, flower without fragrance, country without river, harp without strings, life without wealth, heart without virtue and rituals without VEdhic rules:
g) VilliputthUrAr recognized the similarities between BhAratham and the other popular epic, rAmAyaNam. Wherever possible he compared and contrasted the characters in the two epics by pairing them appropriately: archunan(அர்ச்சுனன்) and rAman, VIman (வீமன்) and Hanuman (அனுமன்), and KarNan and KumpakaruNan (கும்பகருணன்). The manner in which of KarNan (கர்ணன்)expressed his indebtedness to his step brother and patron, DhuriyOdhanan (துரியோதனன்), was directly comparable to the sentiments (செஞ்சோற்றுக்கடன்கழிப்பது) made by Kumpa KaruNan (கும்பகருணன்) towards his brother, rAvaNan இராவணன்) in rAmAyaNam.
h) The majority of yAppu (yapfp<) employed in BhAratham were aRucIr viruttham ((அறுசீர்விருத்தம்), kaliviruttham (கலிவிருத்தம்)and ezhucIr viruttham (எழுசீர் விருத்தம்).
Though Villi BhAratham does not enjoy the same level of popularity as Kampan's rAmAyaNam, the complexity of the story line, the large number of characters in the cast and the heavy religious and legendary overtones provide formidable challenges to anyone undertaking the onerous task of writing the Sanskrit work in Thamizh. VilliputthUrAr's superior literary style, his adherence to Thamizh literary format and his success in painting a Thamizh cultural background to the story have made Villi BhAratham a highly regarded Thamizh epic.
9.3. Minor Poems (தனிப்பாடல்கள்)
In addition to the poets ,literary personnel, (புலவர்கள்) who were very well known for the high caliber and magnitude of their works, there were many who have authored a large number of short independent poems (தனிப்பாடல்கள்). Though the quality of these minor poems is not as high as the works from the earlier periods, they do depict a literary style which was different and unique in many respects.
These pulavars belong to a category of unsung heroes whose literary manipulative skills were very much enjoyed and appreciated by many. Many of them were too poor to be taken notice of by the royal courts and depended on the philanthropy of middle level patrons for their livelihood. In fact they were the personification of the traditional poverty associated with Thamizh pulavars.
The works of these pulavars did not contain any profound philosophical concepts or carry any moral or ethical messages. On the contrary, the works portrayed the frustrations of poverty stricken poets who earned their bread by praising unworthy patrons. Quite frequently they ended up condemning the miserly attitude of the rich who did not appreciate their literary worth. When one is hungry and the competition is severe, it is but human that one resorts to various tactics to prove their superiority over others or , in some cases, to put down the competitors at all costs. This led to the development of literary works in which the pun and juggling of letters, words and phrases to give a double or different meaning became the order of the day. PiLLai and a few others collated these colourful poems into 5 volumes which provide excellent and humorous reading material for the enjoyment of everyone at all times. A few of these works are discussed below.
9.3.1. KALamEkam (காளமேகம்)
He lived in the 15th century and was considered to be an Asu kavi (ஆசுகவி) one who is capable of composing original literary works at the spur of the moment without any preparation. His name is derived from the fact that literary materials come out bursting through his mouth like a torrential rain. In two of his literary works, KALamEkam has followed the conventional literary style: a. ThiruvAnaikkA ulA (திருவானைக்கா உலா) wherein he describes the slow procession of the hero coming on his city rounds. b. Chitthira Matal (சித்திரமடல்) which deals with the penance of a disappointed lover.
KAlamEkam’s fame came from his ability to write poems with double meanings (சிலேடை). He has used this format effectively to display his literary manipulative skill, to snub his opponents and make critical remarks on anyone who takes advantage of him. In the poem given below, a riddle is given which can be applied either to a snake or the sesame seeds: the subject dances and gets inside the receptacle, makes noises while it dances, the face can be seen if the lid is opened, the head will have a reeling sensation if it grabs and it has a split tongue or by using the syntax differently, one can make oil cake (பிண்ணாக்கு) out of it. What is it ?
Another example of double meaning is the similarity between a coconut and Sivan:
The ankatham (அங்கதம்) style has been used to make satirical comments as well. When there was an enormous delay for the food to be served in a choultry, KAlamEkam wrote the following poem wherein he says: "By the time rice arrives it will be sunset; by the time the rice is prepared and put in boiling water all activities in the town will be over; by the time a spoon of cooked rice is served it will be almost dawn":
The most popular satire KALamEkam made was the one when the butter milk sold was found to be very dilute. He says “ (This butter milk) was known as cloud when it was in the sky; it was called water when it came down as rain; it is called butter milk when it reaches the milk maid. All the three are the same:
The rearrangement or recombination of letters at different places was another format for which kALamEkam was famous. In the following poem, the letters combine with the letter, (D) placed adjacently at the end of the line and, when combined with the first five letters individually, yield a new word , Sivan:
The letters, (ஓ, கா, மா, வீ , & தோ) combine with the letter, (டு) at the end to give (ஓடு, காடு, மாடு, வீடு & தோடு) respectively indicating that the poem refers to Sivan.
Another intriguing style is the use of a single consonant and its series without any other letter in the poem. In the poem below the maiden sends a message through a parrot to her lover. The only consonant used is the (t) series.
(தாதி தூதோ தீது) = my messenger is of no use;(தத்தை தூது ஓதாது) = the parrot won't go as my messenger; (தூதிதூது ஒத்த இதம் தூது அதே) = as a friend you will be my best messenger; (தாதொத்த துத்தி) = my own skin irritation ; (தத்தாதே) = without increasing; (துதித்து)= in praise; (தேத்து ஒத்து ஈது) = according to my present circumstances; (தித்தித்தது ஓதித்திதி) = take my sweet words to my lover and save me.
9.3.2. irattaip pulavarkaL (இரட்டைப் புலவர்கள்)
The literary skills of two pulavarkaL (புலவர்கள்), iLancUriar (இளஞ்சூரியர்) and MuthucUriyar (முதுசூரியர்) and their spontaneous poetic retorts under a variety of circumstances are extremely popular in Thamizh literature. One of them was lame and the other was blind and they always traveled together each complementing the other to circumvent their physical disabilities. The one thing they had in common was their literary expertise and ready wit. The first one composed the first two lines of a verse while the other completed the other two lines which were partly humorous and party critical with a pungent remark.
In the following poem, the first pulavar addresses the deity and asks in disgust “ You Gods are noted for granting all the boons requested. Where have you all gone away as a group?”; the other one responds mimicking God, “ Yes, we know, but listen, after doing that for a long time, we have now become mere stones and brass”.
In another instance they were hungry and waiting for the food which is distributed to the visitors after offering to the God but nothing was forthcoming from the priests. The first two lines in this poem were “Oh, allALiappa, when you are getting all the food, is it fair that we go hungry ?” The twin realized that the priest was cheating and the tray which was presented to the deity did not contain any food at all. He retorts as if God was replying and complaining about his own plight, “ (you are talking about your hunger) with all the sounds of the drums and noise of the bugle which fool ever got any food in this temple’ !
When the two were walking through rocks and puddles along a mountainous road, one of them said in disgust and great physical discomfort, "My God, when will we ever see the end of this? ". The other said, " as long as we keep on chasing after these misers and praise them as great and noble, we will never see the end of this".
The following examples illustrate the reflections of a poverty stricken pulavar thanking and glorifying Thamizh by comparing it to the sun in moments of extreme happiness. When the patrons turn him down, on the other hand, he becomes dejected and curses Thamizh by comparing it to Saturn (சனி) :
ஓங்கல் இடைவந்து உயர்ந்தோர் தொழவிளங்கி
அடகெடுவாய் பலதொழிலு மிருக்கக் கல்வி
One of the patrons who always supported the pulavars at all times was the great islAmic philanthropist, SIthakkAthi (சீதக்காதி) . When SIthakkAthi died, the pulavars felt they lost a very close friend. In the following poem, PatikkAsup pulavar says, " What does it matter if all the misers live or die; what does it matter if the bitter tree (எட்டி)( bears seeds or not ; SIthakkAthi was the only one who really counted; he was the one who gave gold in handfuls to the pulavars who went to him begging with torn clothes around them".
9.3.4. azhakiya Chocka n^Athap pulavar (அழகியசொக்கநாதப்புலவர்)
The literary maneuverability of the pulavars can be appreciated from the following poem. This is a typical example of pun in Thamizh literature. A word is chosen and, by deleting or rearranging the letters or juggling sections of the word in various combinations, new words are coined. The various steps used to create the new words are stated in the form of a poem with the chosen word appearing in the last line.
In the word, (புதையல்) , if the first half is removed it becomes, (அல்) (dark); if the first letter, (பு<) is deleted it becomes (தையல்) (girl); if the second half is deleted a command (புதை) (bury) will result; by adding the first letter (பு) to the second half you get (புயல்) (cloud); if the first and last letters only are retained it becomes (புல்) (grass) eaten by animals; the second letter in the word is the name of a month, (தை).