Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Literary Treasure - Thandialangaram - Part 2

Thandialagaram never ceased to amaze me when I read it. In continuation to Part 1 of the post, we will see more constructs and literary beauty that will amaze us more. Not just that Chithirakavi part of it that is so amazing, the other sections are equally beautiful and full or surprises that we can be proud of the language being so rich and vibrant that it allows itself to be bent to your imaginations.

There are few constructs that are a different form of poetry called  the Viththaara Kavi, they are special in a way that they embed/hide one song in another. In other words, you can find another song by collecting letters in a specific fashion or dissecting the song in a specific way. The first one that we will see is the Kaadhaikarappu.

Kaadhaikarappu is where the alternate letters are gathered starting from the last but one letter of the last but one word of the poem. The gathered letters in that order will form another poem by itself. Let’s see that in the following illustration


தாயேயா நோவவா வீரு வெமதுநீ
பின்னை வெருவா வருவதொ ரத்தப
வெம்புகல் வேறிருத்தி வைத்திசினிச் சைகவர்
தாவா வருங்கலநீ யே

Thaaiyae Yaan Novu Ava Eeru Yemadhu Nee
Pinnai Veruvaa Varuvadhu Oru Aththaba
Empugal Vaer Iruthi Vaithisin Ichchai Kavar
Thaava Arungalam Neeyae

meaning, You are our mother, You remove our sorrows. You standby us to protect, yet at time You appear scary. After all this you provide a solace to remain in peace. You are the armour that protects us.

தாயேயா நோவா வீரு வெதுநீ
பின்னை  வெருவாருதொத்
வெம்புல் வேறிருத்தி  வைத்சினிச் சைர்
தாவாருங்லநீ யே

Starting with the letter க, which is the last but one letter of the last but one word of the poem, the letters that alternate traversing in the reverse for each line, we end up with the following subset of the poem which itself is another poem.

கருவார் கச்சித்
திருவே கம்பத்
தொருவா வென்னீ
மருவா நோயே

Karuvaar Kachchi
Oruva Venni
Maruvaa Noyae

meaning, when the mind recite the name of Kachiappar at Thiruvekambam, the curse of being born again will be eliminated

It seems that this construct, could have been a forerunner of cryptography/steganography, where one could conceal the actual message without even encrypting and without causing any doubt. Simple and effective, however I haven’t come across any historical references of using it in secret transmission of messages.

Next is the even more interesting form, the Chakkara Bandham. The letters of the poem are written along the rim and the toggle in a specified way. There are variants to this Chakkara Bandham based on the number of toggles/spokes that wheel has 4,6 and 8 called as Naalaarai Chakkara Bandham, Aaraarai Chakkara Bandham and  Ettaarai Chakkara respectively. We shall see these forms in that order

நாலாரைச்சக்கர பந்தம்

Naalarai Chakkara Bandham has 4 spokes in the wheel

மேரு சாபமு மேவுமே
மேவு மேயுண வாலமே
மேல வாமவ னாயமே
மேய னானடி சாருமே

Meru Saabamum Mevumae
Mevumae Unavu Aalamae
Melavaam Avan Aayamae
Meyanaan Adi Saarumae

meaning, The One who has the mountains has his bow; The One who intakes the great poison as if it was food; The One who plays with His devotees as a friend. Surrender to that One - Lord Shiva - at his feet.

Naangaarai Chakkarabandham - High resolution image here

The following song is a variant of the same form.

மாதவா போதி வரதா வருளமலா
பாதமே யோத சுரரைநீ தீதகல
மாயா நெறியளிப்பா யின்றன் பகலாச்சீர்த்
தாயே யலகில்லாத தவ

Maathava Bodhi Varadha Arul Amala
Paadhamae Odha Asurarai Nee Theedhu Agala
Maayaa Neri Alippaaiyin Thann Anbagalaa Seer
Thaayae Alagillaadha Dhava

meaning,  the One who is deep meditation, bestow Your blessings. Praising your blemishless feet, You remove the sins that torture us as the Asuras. You enlighten us by eliminating the illusion of ignorance (Maayaa); You show Your love like a mother. You are an immeasurable Supreme Being.
This song can be interpreted to refer Lord Shiva who is always in a deep meditation under a peepul tree (Lord Dakshinamoorthi) and as Lord Buddha who meditates under the Peepul Tree.

Naangaarai Chakkara Bandham - High resolution image here

In the image, you can observe the that hub has the letters that read - “வசுதாரை” - “Vasudharai”
ஆறாரைச்சக்கர பந்தம்

Aaraarai Chakkara Bandham has 6 spokes in the wheel

தண்மலர் வில்லிதன் போரன தஞ்ச நமக்களித்த
கண்மலர்க் காவிக் கெதிர்வன வன்று கரமளந்த
பண்மலர் யாழ்பயில் வாரன்பு சூழ்பதி நாகைமிக்க
தண்மைய கத்துப் பதுமத்த மாதர்த் தடங்கண் களே

Thann Malar Vill Idhan Por Ana Thanjam Namakkalitha
Kann Malar Kaaviku Edhirvana Andru Karam Alandha
Pann Malar Yaazh Payilvaar Anbu Soozhpadhi Naagai Mikka
Thannmai Agaththu Padhumaththa Maadhar Thadam Kangalae

meaning,  When Manmadhan drew his love arrow and aimed at us, the blue eyes that provide the shelter at that time, can never be compared to the cool lotus like eyes of the women of Nagapattinam where genial people practice the entrancing Yaazh music with their broad arms

Aaraarai Chakkara Bandham - High resolution image here

If you observe the image, the hub has the letters that read “போதிவானவன்” - “Bodhivaanavan”

எட்டாரைச்சக்கர பந்தம்

Ettaarai Chakkara Bandham has 8 spokes in the wheel

மலர்மலி சோலை யகநலங் கதிர்க்க
மடமயி லியற்றக மாதிரம் புதைத்து
வளைந்து புகன்மேக வல்லிருண் மூழ்க
வரியளி துதைந்த கதுப்பினி தடைச்சி
மன்னுமா மடமொழி வடிவாள் வளவன்
கன்னித் துறைவன் கனகச் சிலம்பே

Malar Mali Solai Aga Nalam Kathirkka
Mada Mayil Iyatra Agamaadhiram Pudhaithu
Valaindhu Puganmega Vallirul Moozhga
Variyali Thudhaindha Kadhuppu Inidhu Adaichi
Mannuma Madamozhi Vadivaal Valavan
Kannith Thuraivan Kanaga Silambae

This song describes about beauty and how the queen/the king’s lover standing in his garden. She stands in the garden with her long braided hair covered in garlands. The garden is blooming with flowers that have blossomed, surrounded with peacocks in every direction, and the rain clouds gathers over making the sky dark and covered. The bees humming to drink the nectar from the flowers in the trees.

Ettaarai Chakkara Bandham - High resolution image here

In the image, the hub would contains that would read “யறமே தநமாவது” which when corrected would read - “அறமே தனமாவது” which means “Righteousness is wealth”   


The Suzhikulam depicts the whirlpool where the content of the same poem could be read as a spiral, the way an eddy/whirlpool looks

கவிமுதி யார்பாவே
விலையரு மாநற்பா
முயல்வ துறுநர்
திருவ ழிந்துமாயா

Kavi mudhiyar paavae
Vilai Aruma Narpa
Muyalvadhu Urunar
Thiruvazhindhu Maayaa

meaning, The well learned and experienced poet would be able to compose great poems that are invaluable, though will it take more effort and relentless endurance, but it will stand as a wealth that would never perish

Suzhikulam - High resolution image here

Another illustration of the same form

மதந  விராகா வாமா
தநத  சகாவே நீவா
நதத நதாதா வேகா
விசந விரோதா காரா

Madhana Viraagaa Vaamaa
Thanadha Sagaavae Neevaan
Adhuadhan Thaadhavae Vega
Visana Virodhaa Kaara

meaning, The One who is free of desires and with great brightness; You are the friend of the person of great wealth (Lord Mahalakshmi/ Kuberan); The One who is more benevolent than the clouds that bestow the rains; The One who looks scary because of the scary mount; Remove our troubles and sorrows

Suzhikulam - High resolution image here


Saruppadhopaththiram is the form where the poem is written in a 8x8 grid containing 64 cells, the first four rows contain one letter each of the poem as is and the second four rows is the mirror image of the first four rows. Each corner can be used as an entrance and if we traverse the cells like a snake for four rows or columns, we get the same poem. Interestingly, each of those rows/columns are palindromes

மாவா நீதா தாநீ வாமா
வாயா வாமே மேவா யாவா
நீவா ராமா மாரா வாநீ
தாமே மாரா ராமா மேதா

Maava Nee Thaadha Vaama
Vaayaa Vaa Aamae Maevaai Aavaa
Neeva Rama Maara Vaan Nee
Thaamae Maar Aar Aamamae Thaa

meaning, You are a great Being, Just and Wealthy. When You are within me, what else would one need. You are like Lord Rama and also like Manmadham who showers the arrows of love. You are benevolent like the rain clouds. You are generous and we request a place in your heart.

Sarupadhopathiram - High resolution image here


Neerottam is a in interesting piece of poetry, thought it might not belong to the Chithira Kavi form, but it is notable that when the poem is sung, the words are used in such a way that the lips DO NOT touch each other when singing. The words that have the syllable formed by these letters - “உஊஒஓ ஒளபம வ” are not present.

சீலத்தால் ஞானத்தால் தேற்றத்தால்சென்றகன்ற
காலத்தால் ஆராத காதலால் - ஞாலத்தார்
இச்சிக்கச் சாலச் சிறந்தடி யேற்கினிதாங்
கச்சிக்கச் சாலைக் கனி

Seelaththaal Gnanaththaal Thaetraththaal Sendragandra
Kaalathaal Aaraadha Kaadhalaal Gnalaththaar
Ichichikka Saala Sirandhadiyaerk Kinidhaang
Kachichikkach Saalaik Kani

meaning, The One who is disciplined, learned, and with clarity of thought. The memorable time that passed in thinking about You. The never ending affection in You. You are very kind even to the mean and the modest like me. With all these characters, You are fruit that resides in Thirukachi.


Murasabandham  is much complex form of poem, where the first two line are “Komoothri bandham” by themselves and so are last two lines. For detail on the Komoothri bandham, see Part 1 of this post. Additionally, the lines of the poem run along the strap of the percussion instrument Murasu - hence the name - also called as Thavil or Mridhangam

கான வாரண மரிய வாயினனே
தான வாரண மரிய வாயினனே
மான வாரண மரிய வாயினனே
கான வாரண மரிய வாயினனே

Gaana Vaar Ranam Ariya Ayinanae
Thaana Vaaranam Ariyavaai Inanae
Maana Vaaranam Ariya Vaayinanae
Kaana Vaaranam Ariya Aayinanae

Which says the place where the Chola King waged war was a place that was abundant with raging elephants, forest fowls and roaring lions.

Murasa bandham - High resolution image here


Thiribangi is a form of poem where the poem as a whole gives a meaning. In addition, the poem can be split into three parts vertically and each of those parts are poems themselves. This is a form of the Viththaara Kavi, as mentioned earlier

ஆதரந் தீரன்னை போலினியாய் அம்பிகா பதியே
மாதுபங்கா வன்னிசேர் சடையாய் வம்புநீண்முடியாய்
ஏதமுய்ந் தாரின்னல் சூழ்வினை தீரெம்பி ரானினியார்
ஓதுமொன் றே!உன்னு வாரமு தே!உம்பர் நாயகனே

Aadhuram Theerannai Pol Iniyaai Ambikapathiyae
Maadhubanga Vannisaer Sadaiyaai Vambuneen Mudiyaai
Yaedha Muyandhaarinnal Soozhvinai Theerembinnaarin Iniyaar
Odhum Ondrae Unnuvaar Amudhae Umbar Naayaganae

meaning,Like a mother who showers her affection to her full on her child, You show affection to your devotees. The consort of Goddess Ambika, The One who has shared half of the body to His consort. The God with long hair who holds fire in his arms. The long locks of hair that hold a pleasant fragrance. Those who have realised you get their troubles and sins eliminated and being praised by the noble people. The nectar to those who consume your thoughts. The leader of the Devars.

The poem can be split vertically as follows and each of them standing as separate poems by themselves
ஆத ரந்தீர்
மாது பங்கா!
ஏத முய்ந்தார்
ஓது மொன்றே
அன்னைபோ லினியாய்
வன்னிசேர் சடையாய்
இன்னல்சூழ் வினைதீர்
உன்னுவா ரமுதே
அம்பிகா பதியே
வம்புநீண் முடியாய்
எம்பிரா னினியார்
உம்பர்நா யகனே

Aadharam Theer
Maadhu Panga
Yaedham Uyindhar
Odhum Ondrae
Annai Pol Iniyaai
Vannisaer Sadaiyaai
Innal Soozh Vinaitheer
Unnuvaar Amudhae
Ambika Pathiyae
Vambuneen Mudiyaai
Embiraan Iniyaar
Umbar Nayaganae

Corresponding meaning in the corresponding cells
The realised praise the one Universal Being - Maadhu Pangan (Lord Shiva) who half of his shared the body with his consort Goddess Shakthi
Kind and affectionate like a mother
The One who wears the flowers of the Vanni tree on his head
Remove the troubles and sins that surround me
The nectar to sings Your praise
Consort of Goddess Ambika
Having long hair with pleasant fragrance
You are the God to the Noble people and the leader of the Devas

With that we have come to the end of the post, however we have just scratched the surface of what Thandialangaram actually contains. This great treasure contains even more interesting pieces of poetry like the Varukka Paadalgal - ஒரு வருக்கம் (Oru Varukkam), இரு வருக்கம் (Iru Varukkam), மூவருக்கம் (Moo Varukkam) - where Oru Varukkam is a song sung using only the letters of one series of alphabets, for example, க, கா, கி, கீ, etc. Likewise there are poems that use only the Vallinams, Mellinams and Idai Inams. The tamil alphabets are classified in the aforesaid group based on the sounds.

Thandialangaaram is one drop in an ocean where there are a lot to explore and cherish for our lifetime. No wonder that there are many people who have dedicated their lifetime’s effort to actually find out the example illustrations - taken from the works of Thirugnanasambandhar, Arunagirinathar, Kaalamega Pulavar, Ramalinga Adigalar and many more - to these different forms that Thandialangaaram defines. We will definitely delve deeper into this treasure in the future posts.

More to come, until then...


Sara Dhatta said...

Hi Prabhu,

I really appreciate your sense of sharing these great articles to all.

Above those, your knowledge and patience on learning those is great!!

I feel so happy and amazing while reading your articles... Anyway don't know why I feel this much satisfied..

Please continue your writings and expecting more and more from you...

Yaan Petra Inbam, Peruga Ivvyyagam.... :)


R. Prabhu said...

Thank you very much Udayalakshmi! Glad to know that you liked the post as much as I liked reading and writing it.

Vettipullai said...

It’s a wonderful write up

Unknown said...

Great work sir. Really interesting. If u can also explain how to split words of each சீர் and understand it woyld be more interesting. I m interestef to know the grammar of that

R. Prabhu said...

Thank you Vettipullai and Anon.

@Anon, will try to post what you have requested. Thanks

kavi said...

I would highly appreciate if you guide me through this. Thanks for the article…
Nice One...
For Tamil News Visit..
https://www.maalaimalar.com/ | https://www.dailythanthi.com/

Venkat Ranganathan said...

Nice work! I had bookmarked your site a few years ago and just hit it today by chance and had a great time reading this. Ani ilakkanam in Tamil has fewer treatises like Thandialangaram (compared to Sanskrit) for example which has several and also the examples are many in Sanskrit. Having something like this is Tamil is very helpful for people to understand the beauty and presence of these literary gems in Tamil.