Paripādal : Suitable for Dance & Music

tamil puu parithal

Post No 862 Date: 24 February 2014

By Dr R Nagaswamy

Parpādal is a form poetry best suited as a musical composition mainly for dance along with another poetic form “Kali”. This is defined by “Tolkāppiyam ” in the chapter on “Ahattinai Iyal”, sutra 53.

According to the sutra, “the songs suited for enactment both in dance tradition and in worldly tradition ( Nātya dharmi and Loka dharmi) are to be either in Kali or Paripādal format, and this is applicable for Aham themes”. Naccinārkkiniyār, the commentator holds that these two formats ( Kali and Paripādal ) were meant for the five sub divisions of the Aham, ( Kuruncii, Mullai, Marutam, Neiḍal and Pālai) , may not come for other themes . They may be found in some rare instances in the “Kaikkilai” and “Peruntinai” songs which are also subdivisions of Aham. Kali format is confined to Aham themes but Pari pādal may be employed in songs on Gods and Aham themes. So the poems meant for “abhinaya” are found in songs of Kali and Parpādal form for Aham themes. This clearly indicates that all Kali songs are meant for dance.The other poetic formats like, Āciriyam, Venpā, and Vanci may be used for for both Aham and Puram themes.

There are two types of vocal accompaniment for dramatic enactment. One is prose dialogue and the other is vocal music. The first is generally delivered by the actor and the second is generally by background music. The first is generally worldly actions and the second includes both dance modes and worldly actions. The sutra here seems to be relating to the later especially with reference to the background of musical songs. This is evident from the usage in the sutra ” pādal cānra Pulaneri valakkam.” Pulaneri valakkam stands for abhinaya that relates both to visual and audio perceptions meaning dance traditions. ( dramatic art was a branch of dance tradition in ancient times.) So Pulaneri valakkam relates to both visual and vocal actions. Further this sutra says ” pādal cānra” meaning relating to music, in other words musically rendered actions. The sutra therefore relates to musical composition only and that too for dance recitals. In the sense Kali songs are exclusively suited for the five sub divisions of Aham and also for Kaikkilai and Peruntinai, for realizing Śringāra rasa. Paripādal is suited for Aham themes and can also be dedicated to praise of gods as prayer songs. However both the poetic formats are essentially musical compositions for dance -Nātaka valakku and Ulakiyal valakku.

This sutra would clearly demonstrate that both “Kalittokai” anthology and “Paripādal” anthology were dance compositions

Among the present Paripādal collections that have survived we have

5 songs on Vishnu,
9 songs on Murugan and the rest
8 are on Vaikai River.
The first 14 are therefore Devapāni songs falling under prayer songs and the rest are Aham poems on Śringāra.

The Vaikai songs nos 6, 7, 10′,11, 12, and 22 centre around dance accompanied by vocal and instrumental music like Yāz, flute, Mridangam , and Murasu or Mulavu forming a complete troupe of musicians for dance which indicate that they were meant to be danced. The other two poems on Vaikai also refer to dance or music but not with the whole troupe. Evidently all these Vaikai songs are clearly intended for dance. Further it is seen that even the other “Paripādal” poems, though are songs of prayers on gods especially the ones on Murugan, include Sringāra elements. These songs give at the beginning, and end praises of the god, his prowess, his grace etc. They introduce heroes, heroines, and public girls and their different amorous sports mainly with out mentioning the name of either the heroes or other women, in the spirit of Aham tradition and are essentially songs on “Kāmam” theme. So it is evident that the rules of Tolkāppiyam grammar have been followed by these surviving Paripādal songs.

It is well known that Kalittokai songs of sangam anthology were also meant for dance by the very first poems. These establish that the Sangam songs were connected with dance creations.

Dr R Nagaswamy has kindly permitted me to publish the above article. For more of his scholarly articles,
please visit

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