Women in Tamil Land

There is a famous Tamil song that says, ‘தமிழன் என்றொரு இனமுண்டு; தனியே அதற்கொரு குணமுண்டு’ (There is an ethnic group known as Tamilian and they have special character.)

Of course such hyperbole and claiming of greatness for one’s own ethnicity can be seen in nearly all groups. But when it comes to Tamilnadu, the way they brag about their own greatness has some truth added with exaggeration. As another poems claims:

கல்தோன்றா மண்தோன்றா காலத்தே
வாளொடு முன்தோன்றிய மூத்தக்குடி

(Even before the stone and earth was formed
This is the primordial community which appeared with a sword)

So when it comes to the topic of women, as a Tamilian, I was a bit shocked how women are condemned and attacked in Tamil literature by saints like Ramalinga Vallalar. Though Tamilians tend to brag about the way they give freedom and show respect to women, they depict them in the worst terms in their literature and treat them badly in real life.

Tamil zealots always hide behind the glorious period of the Sangam age when women enjoyed equal and sometime more rights than men. But selectively quoting from some literature that supports their view and ignoring the others won’t do justice to their claim.


I must confess that I have never done any proper research on women in Sangam literature, though I have read most of it. In my straight reading, I have never seen anything conveying any different or glorious space for women. I should read some scholarly works on women in Tamilnadu, but my sharing here is based on my limited reading and understanding of a few secular and religious works.

As Hart says, the exalted status supposedly given to women in Tamil society is all to make them qualified for life as a wife. “One of the most important elements in ancient Tamil society is fitness. The king must be fit to rule, and his fitness must constantly be reinforced and recreated. A woman must be fit for being married: she must wear the proper ornaments, marks, and flowers…”1

This fitness also includes the ability for a man to possess her and gain some power for himself.

The point is that in these (akam) poems, love between a human couple is not described for merely pleasure-giving purposes. Rather, hidden in the poems is a whole worldview that stresses and inculcates the notion that the Tamils have even today regarding marriage and the relationship between a man and woman. The poems2 mirror the view that the woman is a locus of sacred power and hence the man who would possess a woman—especially a young, chaste woman, and especially a man who possesses her in an unorthodox manner by meeting her secretly—is exposing himself to great danger for the sake of a sacred, transfiguring experience.3


Valluvar and Women:

Here it will be relevant to reveal what Thiruvalluvar says about women. His Thirukkural is often claimed to be the greatest of all Tamil literature and reflects the true character of Tamil society.4 But referring to other parts of the same Kural where Valluvar talks about women won’t do full justice to either Valluvar or women. I would like to share two sections by Valluvar about women:

The first is ‘Goodness of a wife’—51-60, which he puts after the importance of a family/domestic life (41-50):

An ideal wife maintains dignity of home; And lives within her husband’s income (51)
Barren is life when a wife is not good; Other glories are only falsehood. (52)
Nothing is really lacking when wife is worthy; What does one possess if she is unworthy? (53)
There is nothing nobler than a wife; Who upholds chastity in life. (54)
If a wife worships no other god but her husband; it will rain at her command.(55)
Who guards purity, tends her husband, upholds; Family fame and tires not is an ideal spouse. (56)
Of what use is keeping women in confinement?; Guarding themselves by purity is paramount. (57)
A woman who serves her husband well; Shall be honoured where gods dwell.(58)
A man with a wife who preserves not honour; Has no lion’s gait before his despiser. (59)
An excellent wife is indeed a domestic bliss; God children are priceless ornaments.(60)5

But here comes the other side about them by Valluvar from the section called Being Henpecked: Kural 901-910:

Craving for wife brings no greater gain; Such a craze dutiful men disdain. (901)
Wealth of one doting on wife neglecting duty; is an utter shame and brings ignominy. (902)
A man who is servile and henpecked; is among the good ever disgraced. (903)
A henpecked man who gains no heavenly bliss; Never gains glory even through manly acts. (904)
Who fears his wife will always dread; To do good to the good. (905)
Who fear the bamboo-like arms of their wives; Are mean though they live like the gods. (906)
The modest womanhood is much more dignified; Than manliness of a henpecked husband. (907)
Who blindly obey the wishes of their wives; Won’t help friends and do good deeds. (908)
Virtuous acts, wealth and other deeds; Are not seen in henpecked husbands. (909)
Those of thoughtful and in mind; Are never foolish to dote on wives (910)6

I will give the author’s comments at the foot note with the Tamil text.7 The plain meaning of these kurals needs no further comment. But what is interesting for me is that all of them are male-centric rather than presenting a woman for her worthiness as a wife, though as I already said the concept of western individualism is irrelevant to Indian context. This is not merely a problem of Tamilians but it is part of our civilization, as Frits Staal points out:

…It is true that the Rigveda emphasized the male lineage. Throughout the Vedas, ancestors are referred to as pitr, ‘fathers’. Transmission of the Vedic tradition was and remained patrilineal. Wendy Doniger’s statement on the Rigveda remains valid for the early compositions of Middle Vedic: ‘The Rigveda is a book by men about male concerns in a world dominated by men; one of these concerns is women, who appear throughout the hymns as objects, though seldom as subjects’ {The Rig Veda: An Anthology. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books Ltd.,1981, page number is not given by the author in the notes—db}….— Frits Staal, Discovering the Vedas,: Origins, Mantras, Rituals, Insights, New Delhi, Penguin Books, 2008. p. 73.


A Comparison

The global situation is no way better than that of India. Though I have focused on women in Tamilnadu here, we can see the observations of missionaries who came to serve the Indians from outside had similar male dominated orientation:

…Women were physically present at subsequent decennial conferences, reading and discussing papers on work among women and children. But male generosity appears to have gone only so far as permitting women to discuss women’s issues. For example, there is no indication that women were able to participate or comment on general issues relating to Hinduism. Certainly they made comments on Hindu attitudes and domestic rituals but were not involved in discussions of more, general topics and issues relating to Hindus. In that sense, and in spite of their increased importance as workers in the mission field, the woman’s voice is conspicuously absent from many of the most important deliberations on Hinduism which took place during the second half of the nineteenth century.— Geoffrey A. Oddie. British Protestant Missionary Constructions of Hinduism, 1793-1900. New Delhi, SAGE Publications, 2006, p. 240.

This is true even today. Women, particularly minister’s wives, are considered as assistants to their husband’s work. Where women workers are posted separately, their work is treated as subordinate to the male workers’ ministry. What really surprises me is that even in our ashram when we do some study, most of the women participants will be present in the beginning. But at the end most of them will be gone and the entire study and discussion will be among men. We never ask them to leave (though they want to have a separate meeting to discuss women’s issues), but rarely I have seen a woman present till the end of the study or discussion. When few time I jovially pointed this, the husbands used to say that they will give the summary to their wives — which rarely happens, I think. The secular mindset of Europeans was not different from the missionaries as pointed by Peter Gottschalk:

While the materials they disseminated became data (and some of their works became inspirational) for male academic foklorists in Europe, these women tended to view themselves as collectors, not scientists, and some had men write introductions or commentary complementing their collections….In other words, a European man provides the metanarrative frame for the narratives published by a European woman who collected them from an Indian woman….— Peter Gottschalk, Religion, Science, and Empire, New Delhi, Oxford, 2013, pp. 241-242.

These two examples from west should not surprise us, as they inherited it from their past civilizational value as described by Rodney Stark:

…The status of Athenian women was very low. Girls received little or no education. Typically, Athenian females were married at puberty and often before.8 Under Athenian law a woman was classified as a child, regardless of age, and therefore was the legal property of some man at all stages in her life. Males could divorce by simply ordering a wife out of the household. Moreover, if a woman was seduced or raped, her husband was legally compelled to divorce her. If a woman wanted a divorce, she had to have her father or some other man bring her case before a judge. Finally, Athenian women could own property, but control of the property was always vested in the male to whom she “belonged” (Guttentag, Marcia, and Paul E. Secord 1983. Too many Women? The Sex Ratio Question. Beverly Hills, CA:Sage.; Finley. M. I. 1982. Atlas of Classical Archaeology. New York: McGraw-Hill.; Pomeroy, Sarah B. 1975. Goddesses, Whores, Wives, Slaves: Women in Classical Antiquity. New York: Schocken Books.).— Rodney Stark, The Rise of Christianity, Harper San Francisco An Imprint of Harper Collins Publishers, 1977, p.102.


Woman in Religious Scriptures

Returning back to Tamilnadu, it is beyond my ability to quote all the religious literature that talks about women. When I was reading Arutpa by Ramalinagswami, I was at first a bit surprised at the way he used some graphic words to talk about women. I started to note them down at the end of the book. When I completed, I was amazed to find so many poems in which he described women in mean terms. The same I followed for volumes 2 & 3 and then gave up.9

I know many won’t agree with me and will point that we have to take the larger view of Vallalar rather than quoting a few words or poems in isolation. The main theme of this article is not about the overall view about Vallalar, but how women are treated in India. To do full justice to this topic of women, I cannot quote all of them or even a small fraction to prove my point.


Condescending Words by a (modern) Commentator:

Not only Vallalar, but even the way a modern commentator like V. Duraisamip Pillai adds his own words indicate the common view of the religious world about women. For example:

My stone like heart which is en-twined by the
Eyes of the deceitful woman is drowned in the
Sea of sorrow which is beyond to describe…(a rough translation by me)

Commentary: my stone like heart finds no good company which is tied by the cord of evil women’s eyes which enchant me to drown in the sea of sorrow….

Explanation: Women is called here as ‘deceiver’ because by showing womanliness in youth and becoming a devil in old age, she gives trouble to those who live with her.10

கல்லளவா நெஞ்ச மென வஞ்சமாதர்

கண்மாய மென்னும் கயிற்றாற் கட்டுவித்துச்

சொல்லளவாத் துன்பமெனும் கடலில் வீழ்த்தச்…

உரை: .. .கருங்கல்லின் தன்மையையுடைய என் நெஞ்சத்தை வஞ்சம் பொருந்திய மங்கையரின் மயக்கென்னும் கயிற்றால் பிணிப்பித்துச் சொல்லும் அளவைக் கடந்த துன்பமாகிய கடலில் தள்ளுவதால் தளர்கின்ற எனக்கு நல்ல துணையில்லை….

{விளக்கம்}…இளமையிற் பெண்மை காட்டி முதுமையில் பேயாய்மாறி உடன் வாழ்வார் மனநிலையைக் குலைத்து அலைத்தலால் ’வஞ்ச மாதர்’ என வுரைக்கின்றார்….

Note here the extra harsh comment by Duraisamip Pillai. Vallalar only said that his heart is enchanted by the woman and drowned in the sea of sorrow. But using the word, ‘deceiver’, Duraisamip Pillai adds that in youth women use their womanliness but in old age they become devils to give trouble to those who live with them. Is a woman the only cause of trouble in old age to those who live with them?

If I quote all the songs in volume one of Arutpa along with the comments by Sri Duraisamip Pillai who is called the ‘King among the Commentators’, (உரைவேந்தர்) I can write a separate book. I have given the references for those songs in volume one for those who are interested to read about it in the end notes. (see note 9)


Woman and Kamban:

One person I was talking with refused to believe that Kamban described women in a romantic/erotic way. Then when I showed the texts to him and explained a few words with which he was not familiar (but are clearly explained by the commentator); he was bit shocked. The main reason for this is that a kind of elitist and puritan view is presented to many educated people about religious and secular literature.11 But there are poems in both religious and secular literature which carry another picture about which many have no knowledge.

I am not sure I can use the word ‘romantic’ or ‘erotic’ for the way Kamban describes the body of a woman. From the puritan point of view they are erotic but for ancient Tamilians it could be termed as ‘romantic’. Again I am in constraint to quote all of them here with my comments. I will quote them in Tamil (in the appendix) without any translation and those who are interested can further research through the Internet, as English translation is now available for most of the famous Tamil Literatures.


Feminism and bhakti

However my view that women in Tamil society received the same kind of treatment in other Indian societies can be authenticated by a plain reading of the texts themselves.12 Their worthiness is always in relationship with a man — as a wife, mother, daughter etc. Similarly though women are condemned in harsh terms in many religious scriptures, feminism is also used to express bhakti.13 However this could be influence from the North.14 About this Hopkins says:

…the language of human love, the touching and sexual mingling of human bodies. The erotic lexicon of swallowing and devouring, of kissing, of entering, of tasting and being tasted is far more common, and more significant, in the Tamil and Sanskrit poetry of the southern Vaisnava tradition….15

Similar language of human love expressing in ‘rati’ and ‘kanta’16 bhava can also be found in several Saivite writings like Tiruvasagam and Arutpa. But what surprises me is that most of these poems are written by men expressing their devotion through a woman’s voice, yet women are condemned in harsh terms. If these men need a woman’s heart and mind to express their devotion, how can they condemn them in such terms?

One reason for this could be that because of their hegemonic attitude, they failed to understand women for their own sake but ‘used’ their heart and mind from their point of view to express their devotion. This could be one reason for men to use such open erotic terms used without feeling any personal shame.

One exception to this rule is Andal. Being a woman, her erotic expression has a natural flavour of feminism, particularly in ‘Nachiyar Tirumozhi’ in Divyaprabhandam. But when it comes to using erotic expressions, men never felt ashamed to use them to any extent. At the same time they never felt shame for the same erotic attraction/power to receive their mukti.


Male devotee and woman’s body

Again Vallalar alone comes to my mind. In ‘Ingitamalai’ a girl asks the question to her friend about Siva’s words and actions since she couldn’t understand them. If one reads a few songs (1781, 1790, and 1805) where Vallar uses so many erotic words even mentioning the private parts of woman that too uttered by a girl make me wonder why he needs the heart and mind of a woman to express his thoughts?17 What is more interesting is the comments given by Duraisamip Pillai, particular for the terms ‘Kekeyabandam’ (கேகயபதம்), ‘sikinahappadam’ (சிகிநகப்பதம்)and ‘Dandabandam’ (தந்தபதம்)18 referring to the erotic language. How such people can revile woman in harsh terms is unthinkable to me.

Of course in the Indian philosophical tradition, every erotic act of god is interpreted as not talking about a physical act but the mingling of atman with Brahman. I am not speaking to that point. But when men need the heart and mind of a woman to express their bhakti, they should have restrained themselves when they turn around and condemn her in harsh terms.

Before going to see those few poems in which woman is condemned in harsh terms, it is good to read some references about the way a woman’s body is illustrated in Tamil literature. As I mentioned about Kamban, I have taken a few references only from Kambaramayana as mere representative of such ‘romantic’ view about woman.

In one song Rama complains about the way the beauty of Sita pains him.19 After Rama broke the bow, when Sita heard about the good news, she tells to her breasts to do tapasya (austerity) soon to be hugged by Rama.20 The other songs21 which I have given in the notes, I cannot translate for obvious reasons. Those who are interested can easily find Kambaramayana in English.

But what is more interesting is that while describing the decoration in a city, Kamban uses only the woman body’s part to compare those decorations like the banana tree which resembles the thigh of a woman.22 Even when he was explaining a sad situation in which the women weep, the way Kamban illustrates it looks more like obscenity than eroticism.23 I can only indirectly mention it here. While describing the origin and where tears finally reach, he says that it is like rainwater carrying with it the pearls and muds from mountain and reaching the sea.

Leave Kamban, even modern-day secular literature needs the ‘service’ of women in every form. If you see the weekly Tamil magazines, 99% of them will have a woman on the cover. Similarly whenever they share any news about a woman (particularly a film star), the woman’s pictures with very little clothes on her body in compromising poses will fill the pages.

Even electronic media needs women for their advertisements. I can understand if women are used to advertise the products they often use. But even to promote products like shaving cream, shaving blades, shoes, ties, etc., they use a woman with her body exposed which has nothing to do with the advertisement. Not only male domination, but also male obsession about women is rightly questioned by feminist activists, about which I will come later.

I heard once in a TV discussion that Subrahmanya Bharatiyar became tired when his patron wanted to discuss pornographic poems with him and even expected him to write a few. As Bharati was not that kind of person, he left him and went to Varanasi. For those who do not believe this, I will just give the reference from a book for such poems and they can read themselves, as I cannot quote them even in the foot notes.24


Woman in secular literature:

I would like to quote a few Tamil poems where women are condemned in harsh terms.25

In Song 14, the author says that if a husband has a suitable wife, somehow he can live with her. But if he has one who often argues and fights with him, it is better for him to take sannyasa without informing anyone. (p.14)

Song 35 says that a devil is better than a wife who argues and opposes her husband. (p.22)

Song 59 stresses the importance of praising others and says that a friend should be praised in his absence, a teacher should be praised everywhere, children should be praised within the heart, servants should be praised after they completed the work, and a wife should be praised when one is with her on a perfumed bed. Note that a woman is worthy to be praised only to get pleasure for a man and at no other times. I also read somewhere that in order to get sexual pleasure from a woman a man can give any kind of promise or tell all kinds of lies. (p. 36)

Song 64 glorifies the importance of a wife by saying if others have gone from one’s life, he will miss only one part (food with mother, support from a brother etc.,) but all will be gone when wife is gone. (p. 38)

Song 49 is supposed to be written by Ambigapati, the son of Kamban himself. In this song, Ambigapati was appointed to teach Tamil to the princess. They fall in love. In order to stop the marriage, the king put one condition that Ambigapati should sing one hundred spiritual songs. Agreeing, he begins to sing. But the first song is considered as ‘kappu’ which is never counted. So when Ambigapati completes his 99th spiritual song, the princess, Amaravati, wrongly calculating the songs, comes out from the screen behind. On seeing her face, Ambigapati, forgetting himself sings this song in erotic nature. As he failed, he was beheaded by the king.

What is more interesting for me is that this song also reflects the post-modern era of puritanism. Because the very song was used in the Tamil film Ambigapati. But Kannadasan, who wrote the song for the scene for the film, changed the first few words which described the big and swelling breasts of Amaravati as praised by Ambigapati. He replaced them with the words ‘the flowing hair’.

Pattinattar (Song 1, p. 234) says that a woman doesn’t know what goodness is. Sivapragasa Swami (Song 9, p. 243) says it is better to be possessed by a devil than to have a woman. The poet Kalimuttu, after describing the breast of a woman in graphic terms, says that they create a struggle everyday in him. (Song 7, p.327) The poet Arunachala of Sirkazhai says that one who listens to a woman is equal to a devil. (Song 4, p.10, vol. 2)

Only Vedanayagam Pillai laments whether his body can survive once his wife is gone who is the very breath/life to him. (Song 50, p.156)

Veeraragava Mudaliar in his song describes every part of woman with illustration. (Song 2, pp.218-19). He also gives one important point that could be true in the past about the way Tamil woman dressed. This point is endorsed by the sculpture in Tamilnadu, where the upper part of woman was never ducked with any cloth. He gives advice to write poems not like the way a Tamil woman exposes her breasts completely without covering them, or like the Kuchali woman who completely cover them, but like the Telugu woman who cover, but half exposes their upper part. (Song 75, p.260)

In Song 98, pp. 275-76, there is another song where every part of the woman is described with illustrations, and Song 139 is completely devoted to a woman’s lip. (p. 315)

Another song (362, p. 437) tells that nature of a good wife who will have grace/mercy like a mother, humbleness like a slave, beauty like goddess Lakshmi, patience like earth, give pleasure like a prostitute, intellect like brave minister in giving advice to a king. This is again woman as a wife and from man’s point of view. And another song (407, p. 466) tells that a wife is like a lamp to a house.

In another collection of songs (Periya Jnakkovai) I found Pattinatar complaining to God about forgetting Him because as he was possessed by a devil called a woman who captured him through her eyes, enchanting him through her breasts, trapping him making him to fall in her private parts allowing her to loot his salvation.

In Nijanand Bodagam, the author says that foolishness is the ornament for woman. Agastiya says that many sins coming together take birth as a woman.


I know that these quotes from secular and religious literature about women in Tamilnadu may leave a negative impression to some. But the way woman are worshipped and thrashed, and glorified and condemned in these texts never undermines the importance of women in life. Though Tamil land is in no way different when it comes to the approach about woman, yet comparing with other parts of Indian societies women enjoy greater freedom and respect in this land. Women remain a paradox and riddle to men all the time and Tamil land manages to celebrate and perplex simultaneously.


See the full appendix with the Tamil songs here.


  1. The relation between Tamil and classical Sanskrit literature. George L. Hart. In Passages: relationships between Tamil and Sanskrit, ed. By Kannan M. Jennifer Clare, Institute Francais De Pondichery, Tamil Chair, Department of South And Southeast Asian Studies, University of California At Berkeley, 2009, 19—57, 40
  2. In these love poems, both Sanskrit and Tamil, natural and cosmic phenomena are used as similes for the state of union. In both the purpose is to express the (p.38) sacred nature of the experience, to communicate that just as the earth is useless without rain, so are the lives of man and woman useless without their union. This attitude towards fertility explains why in both traditions the description or suggestion of erotic conduct on the part of the couple is deemed proper even in poems which are self-consciously religious.—pp. 38-39
  3. — The relation between Tamil and classical Sanskrit literature. George L. Hart. In Passages: relationships between Tamil and Sanskrit, ed. By Kannan M. Jennifer Clare, Institute Francais De Pondichery, Tamil Chair, Department of South And Southeast Asian Studies, University of California At Berkeley, 2009, 19—57, p. 29
  4. There is no ancient work of North India that I know of that, like the Tirukkural, is based upon such ethical subjects as love, forbearance, and family life….— The Theory of Reincarnation among the Tamils. George L. Hart, III., in Wendy Doniger O’Flaherty , Karma and Rebirth in Classical Indian Traditions, Delhi, Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, (1983) Reprint 1999, p. 131
  5. Thirukkural, trans. M. Rajaram, New Delhi, Rupa & Co, 2009, op. cit. pp.12-13
  6. pp. 184-85
  7. Goodness of a wife. I am giving the Tamil text in the appendix. Those who know Tamil can understand it better than in reading in English.

A good wife maintains the dignity of the family and lives within the means of her husband.(51); Domestic life, however dignified, will come to nothing if wife is not good.(52; A man lacks nothing if his wife is good. He has nothing if she is not good.(53); There is nothing of greater value to a man than a woman of purity.(54); Even if a wife does not worship god, but worships her husband, it will rain at her command.(55) One who guards chastity, nurses her husband, preserves fame and remains tireless is an ideal wife.(56); Nothing else can guard women’s purity except their own will.(57) A woman who is devoted to her husband can gain honour in the world of gods.(58); A man without a good wife cannot walk majestically like a lion before his slanderer.(59); A good wife is a blessing to the family and good children are precious jewels.(60)—pp.12-13

Being Henpecked:

As surrendering to wife can never bring greatness, dutiful men avoid it.(901); The wealth of a man infatuated with his wife unmindful of his duties will brig shame and disgrace.(902); A person who submits to his wife will always be put to shame in the midst of the virtuous.(903); A henpecked husband who gains no heavenly bliss will not achieve glory even through his manly deeds.(904); He who fears his wife will always be afraid of doing good deeds to the virtuous.(905); No one will respect those who fear the tender shoulders of their wives, though they live like gods.(906); The modest womanhood is more honoured than the manliness of a henpecked husband.(907) Men who submit to their wives cannot help their friends and do anything good.(908); Men who submit to their wives’ instigation will gain no virtue, wealth and joyful deeds.(909); Men with a thoughtful and strong mind will be free from the folly of submitting to their wives.(910)

  1. In still later periods the dread of postpuberty marriage became so terrible that the Smrtis brought down the marriageable age still lower. They divide the marriageable girls into five classes: (1) Nagnikaa or naked, (2) Gaurii, eight years old, (3) Rohinii, 9 years old, (4) Kanyaa, 10 years old and (5) Rajasvalaa, above ten years….—Rajbali Pandey, Hindu Samskaras: Socio-Religious Study of the Hindu Sacraments, Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi, (Second Revised Edition, 1969), Reprint, 1987, pp.188.….Marriage, in course of time, came to be regarded as a gift by the father to her husband. A gift is given once and should not be replaced; moreover, a thing already enjoyed should not be given in gift; its disregard is sinful. Unfortunately (p.189) the mythical gods, Gaandharva and Agni who were believed to help the physical development of a girl [RigVeda. x. 85. 40], came to be held as the enjoyers of her person. So the religious father of a girl became anxious to give her away in marriage before she was enjoyed by these gods. A Nagnikaa was preferred for this very reason.—ibid. pp.189-90.This custom of showing the bride naked to the wooer would not have been very common even when and where there was no seclusion of women. With the introduction of the Purdah system in the Hindus, when women became invisible to outsiders, the very demand of showing a girl became absurd, and more absurd became her naked examination.—p.194
  2. Songs: 8, 23, 106, 107, 112, 121-22, 140, 150, 230, 246, 247, 250, 252-261, 263-271, 285, 292-298m 304, 311-326, 337-446, 356, 376-77, 380-389, 394, 422, 430-39, 457, 479, 486, 488, 490-492, 558, 568, —Tiruvartpa, original with commentary by Owai S. Duraisamippillai, Vadalur, (1983), 2006, Ten volumes, from Vol. One.
  3. vol. 1, song 107, lines 1-3, p. 214
  4. …The rather morbid idea that the desire of flesh is always to be frowned upon as something sinful and must be associated with the feeling of guilt is conspicuous by its absence in many epic tales. I do not wish to suggest that the cultural-religious history of Hinduism eventually did not catch up with the idea of guilt and sin when Hindus talked about sensual pleasure and its irreligious nature. Puritanical attitudes towards sex occasionally became dominant in the tradition, and (p.146) under this pressure there was a great drive to find allegorical and symbolic meanings for unabashed statements of sensuality in the religious context. There was a complete volte face in the latter Bhakti tradition of devotionalism. However, as far as the epic material is concerned, we do not note this attempt.—pp. 146-47
  5. The Tamil bhakti hymnal literature derived all its major themes, myths, worldview and institutional forms from the Puranas and the Agamas, while, at the same time, used purely Tamil classical motifs drawn from the Sangam classics (the Puram and the Akam themes). Tamil bhakti brings several strands together—the typical Sangam humanism; anthropocentric religion; emotional and sensuous character of worship (ecstatic dancing and singing); and the northern Brahmanical and Sanskritic concept of a transcendental absolute (monotheism, together with several mythological structures)….— Champakalakshmi, Religion, Tradition, and Ideology: Pre-colonial South India, Oxford, New Delhi (2011), 2012 notes. 20. P. 42
  6. For example:… Manikkavasagar’s own attitude toward women was ambivalent. In his poetry, he often condemns women as seducers whose sexual allure entraps men, preventing them from pursuing their religious and social duties. But he is also—as one might surmise—fascinated by female beauty, and he uses almost identical erotic imagery to describe both the goddess who is Shiva’s consort and women themselves….— C.J. Fuller, Camphor Flame Popular Hinduism and Society in India, New Delhi, Viking, Penguin India, p.197

Religious and cultural influences from the north appear to have penetrated into the Tamil region even before the period of the Tamil Brahmi inscriptions, probably in the pre-Mauryan period. Buddhist and Jaina influences must have followed the Mauryan imperial penetration into peninsular India….(p. 200) {and} …the anthologies {Sangam Poems} and the Tolkappiyam are predominantly reflective of the prevalence of popular and folk traditions of worship and a gradual infiltration of Brahmanical and Puranic religious ideas, leading to acculturation and integration of many of these into the Brahmanical tradition….(p.340)… ….It was a fluid situation and the Sangam literary texts present a picture of religious co-existence and a humanistic approach to life and belief systems, while the tribal and egalitarian character of society and chiefly polities marks it as a heroic age.(359) —‘Buddhism in South India. Patterns of Patronage’; ‘The Sacred Geography of the Murukan Cult’,and ‘Janism in Tamil Nadu. A Historical Overview, in Champakalakshmi, Religion, Tradition, op. cit. pp.200, 340 & 359

  1. — Steven Paul Hopkins, Singing the Body of God, New York, Oxford, 2002, p. 150
  2. The six kinds of bhava (attitude towards God) that prepare a devotee for this are: 1) dasya (servant); 2) sakhya (friend); 3) vatsalya (parental/filial); 4) santa (child); 5) kanta (wife); and 6) madhurya or rati (romantic lover).—Dayanand Bharati, Understanding Hinduism, p. ?
  3. 1781 (p. 26, vol. 4), 1790 (p.36) and 1805 (pp. 51-52), Arutpa, Vo l. 4, op. cit.
  4. ‘Kekeyabandam’ (கேகயபதம்), ‘sikinahappadam’ (சிகிநகப்பதம்) and ‘Dandabandam’ (தந்தபதம்)—Kekeyabandam means the mark of the nails of peacock and Dandabandam that of teeth. Further I cannot explain what these terms mean, as one can easily infer about it in the act of sex with a woman, which Duraisamippillai explains in detail in his commentary to the song 1805, pp. 51-52.
  5. வண்ண மேகலை தேரொன்று வாணெடுங்

கண்ணி ரண்டு கதிமுலை தாமிரண்டு

உண்ணி வந்த நகையுமென் றொன்றுண்டால்

எண்ணுங் கூற்றினுக் கித்தனை வேண்டுமோ.- பாடல், 706. ப. 501

(யான் எப்போதும்) நினைத்துக் கொண்டிருக்கிற கன்னிகையாகிய யமனுக்கு, அழகிய (ப.501) மேகலை என்னும் ஆபரணத்தை அணிந்த தேர்த்தட்டுப் போன்ற அல்குலொன்றும், வாளாயுதம் போன்ற நீண்ட கண்களிரண்டும், இறுமாந்தது போன்ற தனங்களிரண்டும், வாயினுள்ளே (அடங்கிச்) சிறந்த புன்சிரிப்பு என்ற ஒன்றும், உள்ளன; (அந்த யமனுக்கு என்னைக் கொல்ல) இத்தனை கருவிகளும் வேண்டுமோ?

சீதையினுடைய அல்குல் கண் முலை நகை என்ற இவற்றுள் ஒவ்வொன்றும் என்னை (இராமனை) வருத்துகின்றதென்பது கருத்து.—— உரையாரிசியர் வை. மு. கோபாலகிருஷ்ணமாச்சார். சென்னை, உமா பதிப்பகம். 2006, முதல் தொகுதி. பாலகாண்டம். மிதிலைக் காட்சிப் படலம் ப.502


  1. இளைக்கலாத கொங்கைகா ளெழுந்துவிம்மி யென் செய்தீர்

முளைக்கலா மதிக்கொழுந்து போலும்வாண் முகத்தினான்

வளைக்கலாத விற்கையாளி வள்ளன்மார்பி னுள்ளுறத்

திளைக்கலாகு மாகிலான செய்தவங்கள் செய்ம்மினே. (பாடல், 569). ப. 569

இளையாமலிருக்கின்ற (மேன்மேற் பருக்கின்ற) தனங்களே! மேன்மேல் எழுந்து பருத்து, என்ன காரியம் செய்தீர்? (வானத்தில்) தோன்றுதலில்லாத (என்றும் ஒருபடியாயுள்ள) சந்திரனை யொத்த ஒளியுள்ள முகத்தையுடையவனும், (பிறரெவராலும்) வளைக்க முடியாதபடி அரிதாயிருந்த சிவதநுசை (எடுத்து வளைத்துக்) கையாண்டவனுமாகிய, உதாரகுணம் படைத்த ஸ்ரீராமனுடைய, மார்பினுள், இறுகத் தழுவுதல் (உங்கட்குக்) கைகூடும் வகை ஏற்படுமாயின் (அதற்கு) ஏற்ற, செய்யத்தக்க தவங்களை செய்ம்மின்.-ibid. கார்முகப் படலம் , ப. 569

  1. See the appendix for them in: Tamil songs from Kambaramayana and other Tamil literature for the blog article
  2. Song 129. P. 97, vol. 1 (see in appendix)
  3. Song , p. 344, vol. 1 (see in appendix)
  4. See the two poems about copulation In Thanippadal Thirattu, 107 & 108,pp. 285-86 (see in appendix)
  5. For the original songs in Tamil, see appendix. I am giving both the number of song and page number in the text itself. But there will some variation in sequence as the editor gave the number as per the authors. For example after song 64 song 49 will come. But they are by different authors.