Old Tamil Cankam poetry consists of eight anthologies of short poems on love and war and a treatise on grammar and poetics The main part of this corpus has generally been dated to the first centuries AD and is believed to be the product of a native Tamil culture.
The present study argues that the poems do not describe a contemporary society but a society from the past or one not yet affected by North-Indian Sanskrit culture Consequently the main argument for the current early dating of Cankam poetry is no longer valid Furthermore on the basis of a study of the historical setting of the heroic poems and of the role of Tamil as a literary language in the Cankam corpus, it is argued that the poetic tradition was developed by the Pantiyas in the ninth or tenth century.
The present book deals with the identification of the various genres of Cankam poetry with literary types from the Sanskrit Kavya tradition Counterparts have been found exclusively among Prakrit and Apabhramsa texts which indicates that in Cankam poetry Tamil has been specifically assigned the role of a Prakrit As such, the present study reveals the processes and attitudes involved in the development of a vernacular language into a literary idiom.
Herman Tieken (1952) taught Sanskrit, and later also Tamil, at the University of Leiden from 1976 to 2010. He has published on Kavya literature, classical Tamil poetry, the Mahabharata, Jaina canonical texts, and Indian inscriptions. He is also the author of Between Colombo and the Cape: Letters in Tamil, Dutch and Sinhala, Sent to Nicolaas Ondaatje from Ceylon, Exile at the Cape of Good Hope (1728-1737), 2015.
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