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Topics in Sangam literature
Sangam literature
Akattiyam Tholkāppiyam
Eighteen Greater Texts
Eight Anthologies
Aiṅkurunūṟu Akanāṉūṟu
Puṟanāṉūṟu Kalittokai
Kuṟuntokai Natṟiṇai
Paripāṭal Patiṟṟuppattu
Ten Idylls
Tirumurukāṟṟuppaṭai Kuṟiñcippāṭṭu
Malaipaṭukaṭām Maturaikkāñci
Mullaippāṭṭu Neṭunalvāṭai
Paṭṭiṉappālai Perumpāṇāṟṟuppaṭai
Poruṇarāṟṟuppaṭai Ciṟupāṇāṟṟuppaṭai
Related topics
Sangam Sangam landscape
Tamil history from Sangam literature Ancient Tamil music
Eighteen Lesser Texts
Nālaṭiyār Nāṉmaṇikkaṭikai
Iṉṉā Nāṟpatu Iṉiyavai Nāṟpatu
Kār Nāṟpatu Kaḷavaḻi Nāṟpatu
Aintiṇai Aimpatu Tiṉaimoḻi Aimpatu
Aintinai Eḻupatu Tiṉaimalai Nūṟṟu Aimpatu
Tirukkuṛaḷ Tirikaṭukam
Ācārakkōvai Paḻamoḻi Nāṉūṟu
Ciṟupañcamūlam Mutumoḻikkānci
Elāti Kainnilai

Kuṟuntokai (Tamil: குறுந்தொகை, meaning the short-collection[1]) is a classical Tamil poetic work and traditionally the second of the Eight Anthologies (Ettuthokai) in the Sangam literature.[2] The collection belongs to the akam (love) category, and each poem consists of 4 to 8 lines each (except poem 307 and 391 which have 9 lines). The Sangam literature structure suggests that the original compilation had 400 poems, but the surviving Kuruntokai manuscripts have 402 poems.[2][3] According to Takanobu Takahashi – a Tamil literature scholar, these poems were likely composed between 100–300 CE based on the linguistics, style and dating of the authors.[4] The Kuruntokai manuscript colophon states that it was compiled by Purikko (உரை), however nothing is known about this compiler or the patron.[3]

The Kuruntokai poems are credited to 205 ancient poets.[3] Of these, according to Kamil Zvelebil – a Tamil literature and history scholar, about 30 poets names are of north Indian roots (Indo-Aryan) and rest are of Dravidian roots.[2] The poems include Sanskrit loan words, contain 27 allusions to historical events and there are 10 borrowings from this work into the two famed post-Sangam Tamil works: Tirukkural and Silappatikaram.[2]



குறிஞ்சி - தலைவன் கூற்று

யாயும் ஞாயும் யாரா கியரோ,
எந்தையும் நுந்தையும் எம்முறைக் கேளிர்,
யானும் நீயும் எவ்வழி யறிதும்,
செம்புலப் பெயனீர் போல,
அன்புடை நெஞ்சம் தாங்கலந் தனவே.

-செம்புலப் பெயனீரார்.

What is my mother

to yours? How is my father related
to yours? Although
you and I knew not each other in any way,
just as red earth and pouring rain:
the love-filled hearts merged.

(Kuruntokai - 40)

மெல்ல மெல்ல நம் காதல் மாரி பெய்யலீல் நீர் உவமையிடவதி்ல் என் தந்தை மற்றும் உங்கள் தந்தை, எப்படி அவர்கள் தொடர்புள்ளனர் என்றும் நானும் நீயும் எப்படி ஒருவருக்கொருவர் அறிந்திருக்கிறோம் என்றும் புரிய செய்தது.

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,[7] 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.

In popular culture[edit]

The poem has been used in the song Narumagaye in Iruvar and in the song Yaayum in Sagaa which was itself a remake of the song Yaayum from the Singapore Tamil drama Kshatriyan.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ A Mariaselvam (1988). The Song of Songs and Ancient Tamil Love Poems: Poetry and Symbolism.
  2. ^ a b c d Kamil Zvelebil 1973, p. 51.
  3. ^ a b c Takanobu Takahashi (1995). Tamil Love Poetry and Poetics. BRILL Academic. pp. 2, 47–48. ISBN 90-04-10042-3.
  4. ^ Takanobu Takahashi (1995). Tamil Love Poetry and Poetics. BRILL Academic. pp. 47–52. ISBN 90-04-10042-3.
  5. ^ [dspace.pondiuni.edu.in/jspui/bitstream/pdy/353/1/T%202593.pdf English renderings of Kuruntokai - Problems in Translation]
  6. ^ Assamese poet first to find Estonian audience
  7. ^ The latest flowering was during 2006.

External links[edit]