KARI for Elephant is Not a Tamil Word- part 5 (Post No.11,292)


Post No. 11,292

Date uploaded in London – 24 SEPTEMBER 2022         

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So far, we have seen what Tamil poet Tiruvalluvar said about elephant in 8 couplets and what Manu said in 13 couplets.

Now let us look at 2000 year old Tamil Sangam Literature. It has 18 books called Ettuthokai (8 Ettuth thokai) and Pattupattu ( 10 Paththuppaattu ). Let us look at some interesting poems.

Malaipatukatam (kataam) is one of the ten idylls (Pattuppattu).  The author of this idyll is Perumkaucikanaar. Out of the 583 lines, he describes in fifty lines, the various sounds heard in a mountain(malai). He compares the mountain to an elephant, the whole noise becomes the rut of the elephant and hence the book is called Malaipatukataam meaning ‘the rut of the mountain’.

The poet reminds us of the Sanskrit words for elephant and mountain. In Sanskrit Nagha is mountain and Naagha is elephant.

Aalankuti vankanaar compared the leaves of the Aaampal plant with the ears of the she-elephant (Pidi in Tamil) in Natrinai verse 230.

Aalamperi saattanaar paints another picture through his poem in Natrinai verse 255 which tells us that the thunder during heavy rain struck and killed a cobra that was searching for its disgorged gem (Naaga ratna). He also describes the fight between a tiger and an elephant.

Fight between an elephant and a tiger is a common scene in the forests of Tamil Nadu in those days.

Avur Muankilar(aavuur muulan kizaar), a poet of the agricultural region compared the breathing of an elephant to the sound of mutton frying in oil (Purananuru verse 261). He was a keen observer of nature.

Izattu Putan tevanar (eezatthup puuthan thevanaar), probably a Sri Lankan poet settled in Tamil Nadu, described the fight between a tiger and an elephant (Akanaanuru). In another verse he says the flow of rut of the elephant attracts bees and their humming sound is musical enough to attract acunam which listens to it and mistakes it for the tune of lyre (Yaal in Tamil).

Mythical Acunam and Snake attracting Nagin Tune

Acunam is a mythical animal which likes anything that is musical, but it would die if the music is loud. So hunters played light music and attracted them and beat the drums very hard and made the sound harsh and caught them. Some described it as a bird and others as an animal. Even snake was called Maa Acunam

Tamils probably used it for all creatures which are attracted by music. In Tamil Nadu there is a belief that you can play on Makuti  instrument, a wind pipe, and attract snakes. Punnaaka varaali (Nagin tune) is the raga/tune the snake charmers play on Makuti instrument.

A few days back I attended Mr Udaiyalur Kalyanaraman’s performance of Radha kalyan (Divine Wedding of Lord Krishna with Radha) in London. He was singing an Ashtapadhi verse (of Jayadeva) in Punnaaka varaali raga. He was jokingly said “please beware of Snakes. Look under your feet’ and then he added that “actually a snake came when the particular Ashtapadhi was sung in another place in Tamil Nadu”.

Nagha and Naaga are interesting words in Sanskrit which mean mountain, elephant and snake and poets use them liberally in double entendre (Siledai in Tamil) verses.

In another verse Putan Tevanar says that the form of the tinai (millet plant) ear looking like the trunk of an elephant (Kunthokai verse 360)

To be continued………………………………….

Tags- Acunam, snake, Nagin tune, Punnaga varali, Elephant, Kari,  Sangam Literature, Udaiyalur Kalyanaraman

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1 Comment

  1. Subramania Aiyer Govindaswamy

     /  September 25, 2022

    Dear Sir
    There are number of transliteration software for typing in English and getting prints in Tamizh. As English is not a phonetic language, English alphabets are inadequate to get the exact pronunciation of names in Indian languages.
    I have suggested changes in some names in this article

    Ezhaththp pUdandEvanAr


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