Kuruntokai (Tamil: குறுந்தொகை), a classical Tamil poetic work, is the second book of Ettuthokai, a Sangam literature anthology. Kuruntokai contains poems dealing with matters of love and separation (அகம்) content matter and were written by numerous authors. Nachinarkiniyar, a Tamil scholar living during the sixth or the seventh century C.E. has annotated this work.
Red earth and pouring rain
|குறிஞ்சி - தலைவன் கூற்று
யாயும் ஞாயும் யாரா கியரோ,
|What is my mother
to yours? How is my father related
(Kuruntokai - 40)
A beautiful poem from Kuruntokai is the famous Red earth and pouring rain by the Sangam age poet Sembula Peyaneerar. This poem is the verse 40 in the Kuruntokai anthology. The image of "red earth and pouring rain" evokes pictures of the first monsoon rains falling on the red-earthed hills typical of the Tamil lands to mingle with the dry, parched soil forming a cool, damp clay, and of the flowers blooming in the rain. The mood created is that of lovers, clandestinely meeting in the hills, their hearts waking suddenly, unexpectedly, to each other.
A second level of meaning is created by the imagery of progression. The poem opens with the possible bonds of friendship, and then kinship, between the parents. Then, it moves to bonds formed by two people learning and getting to know each other. From these abstractions, it comes to concreteness with the picture of red earth in the rain, drawing a parallel with the lover's journey from aloneness to union.
Finally, there is the image of the kurinji flower itself. Though never mentioned in the poem, it is nonetheless present as a fundamental part of a landscape of hills. A kurinji flower only blooms once in twelve years, the period associated in Tamil tradition with the coming of a girl to sexual maturity. Unspoken, but present, in the poem through the image of the flower is a sense of a woman awakening to herself and to union.
- The latest flowering was during 2006.
- Mudaliyar, Singaravelu A., Apithana Cintamani, An encyclopaedia of Tamil Literature, (1931) - Reprinted by Asian Educational Services, New Delhi (1983)
- Project Madurai Kuruntokai eText - http://www.projectmadurai.org/pm_etexts/pdf/pm0110.pdf
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