The Function of Poets in the Purananuru

Keywords: Sangam Literature, Purananuru, Vadakkiruttal, Natukal, George Hart, Kaniyan Poongundrun, Alathur Kilar


Praised for its literary, historical and cultural contributions, the Purananuru is acknowledged to be the most important among the eight anthologies of the Ettutokai. The one hundred and forty nine known poets to whom the three hundred and eighty three poems are clearly attributable have not only provided us with a wealth of information and wisdom, but have also, unobtrusively, told us something about themselves. The main reason for this disclosure is to be found in the nature of puram poetry itself: freed as it was from the strict, universalizing and impersonal conventions of akam poetry where such revelations will be intrusive, it allowed greater latitude to the poets to say more of themselves. This lifting of the mask or persona gives startlingly clear images of the poets and the variety of functions they were called upon to perform as value givers, moralists, friends, philosophers, counsellors and diplomats. This article analyses these functions – the nobility, dynamism and the sheer stability their interventions provided to a society always on the brink of war.

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