PURANANURU: A critical introduction to the gem of Sangam Literature

தமிழ்ப் பாரம்பரியம்
(Tamil Heritage Trust)
A critical introduction to the gem of Sangam Literature

Prof C Jambunathan

at 5.30pm on Saturday, April 6th, 2013
at Vinobha Hall, Thakkar Bapa Vidyalaya, T Nagar.

About the topic:

Sangam Literature refers to the Tamil poetry written between 3rd century BCE and 3rd century ACE.
George Hart, Professor Emeritus, University of California, says that Sangam Literature is on par with, or slightly more significant than the best classical literatures of the world, since it is unique, very original and not modelled on any other traditions/genres.  Sangam Literature is broadly classified into Pathinen Melkkanakku (18 books-upper) and Pathinen Kilkkanakku (18 books-lower). The former is further subdivided into Pathuppattu and Ettuthokai, which are 10 long poems by individual poets and 8 anthologies (collection of poems by different poets), respectively.

Purananuru is considered to be the most significant among the 8 anthologies. Though the title is 400 poems, two are missing and the first is an invocation poem to Lord shiva, and this one seems to have been written much later than all the other poems. So actually Purananuru is a collection of 397 poems and several lines are missing from many of these poems. More than 170 poets' names are attributed to these 397 poems/songs.

Several commentators in Tamilnadu, from the ancient times to the modern, have written copious  explanations/interpretations/commentaries.  George Hart, has translated Purananuru into English and that too in the verse form (with the help of his friend).

Several features make PURANANURU, one of the greatest literary works of the world.  A few poems here try to answer almost successfully, the eternal question, "What is the sanction for morality?" (Why should we act rightly and not wrongly?) The answer is given without any refernce to God, Heaven, Hell, Rebirth and so on. The following poem, which deals with the reason for charity, is a good example-

Aay, is no ethical business-man trading in virtue for his own profit,
Thinking what he does in this birth will serve him in his next,
But because before him other noble men
Have followed this right path, his generosity is what it is.

Aay Andiran was one among the seven ancient philanthropist kings (Kadai Ezhu Vallalkal).

A careful and detailed analysis of at least a few poems of PURANANURU will make us revise our ideas about EHICS, drastically.
About the speaker:

The speaker, C. Jambunathan, is currently working as Principal of Vidyaa Vikas College of Education at Tiruchengode in Namakkal district.

Formerly he was a Professor and Principal of Government College of Education, Pudukkottai, from 1975 to 2005. His profession is Teaching of English as a second/foreign language and teaching of philosophy and psychology of education. His varied interests include mathematics, archaeology, Tamil literature- especially Sangam literature.

He has published several articles in The Hindu and most of the Tamil Dailies.

He is the author of 2 books in Tamil, one being a translation of Oliver Goldsmith's, "THE DESERTED VILLAGE" and the other one is about re-conditioning the Indian rivers and providing jobs to 40 crores of our people without much expenditure to the governments.    


A. Annamalai, Gandhi Study Centre - gandhicentre@gmail.com; 94441-83198
Badri Seshadri: Kizhakku-p-padippakam - badri@nhm.in; 98840-66566
S. Kannan - 2498 5836
S. Swaminathan - sswami99@gmail.com; 2467 1501
R. Gopu - writergopu@yahoo.com, 98417-2464
T. Sivasubramanian - siva.durasoft@gmail.com, 98842-94494