In the following lectures I have attempted to consider first of all the question what the question what the position of manimekhalai is among the Tamil classics generally and how far the general judgment of the Tamil literary public that it is one among the five great classics is justifiable on grounds of literary merit and general classical excellence. As such, it was necessary to consider whether it could be regarded a Sangam work, and if so, in what particular sense of the term, whether as a work which was presented to the Sangam and which received the Sangam imprimatur,or whether it should be taken to be merely a literary work of classic excellence, as often-times the expression is used in that sense in leter Tamil literature. The investigation and enquiry into Tamil literary tradition leads to the conclusion that it is a wok of classic excellence in Tamil literature and may be regarded as a Sangam work in that sense. We have no information that it was ever presented to the Sangam, although, according to Tamil tradition, the author was one of the Sangam 49, and, being so close to the age of the Sangam work, though not presented to the Sangam.
This position receives additional support in the contents of the two works, which constitute a twin Epic, namely, Silappadhikaram-Manimekhalai. The subject-matter of the two is one continuous story, and describes what befell a householder and his wife of the city of Puhar, and, as a consequence, the renunciation of the daughter of the hero of her life as the first courtezan of the Chola capital. The author of the one is described to us as the brother of the contemporary Chera ruler, Senguttuvan, a Sangam celebirity, and the author of the other is similarly introduced to us as a personal and admiring friend of the Chera sovereign and his ascetic younger brother. Other details of a contemporary character introduced in the story, all of them, are referable to incidents which find mention in relation to various rulers of the Tamil tradition that the author of the Manimekhalai himself was one of the Sangam 49, all alike seem to tend to the conclusion that is, the age of Senguttuvan Chera as the Sangam, that is, Chera as the dominant ruler of South India.
Tamil early adopted a system of grammar, and so far as literary productions in the language go, follow the these works do not lend themselves exactly to that kind of investigation of a linguistic and philological character which could be more appropriately adopted in regard to works where the language is more flexible and has not attained to the classic fixity of an accepted system of grammar. But it still lends itself to a certain amount investigation clearly reveals the intimate connection self as literary works, products of a single age, a single tradition, and of a very similar atmosphere. If comparisons are made of these with genuine Sangam classics themselves, the similarity is no less pronounced, apart from the similarity of historical matter and of geographical sorroundings. Thus from the point of view of literary criticism. We have good reason for regarding these an classics of Tamil, which may be treated as of the same literary character as Sangam works.
The historical and geographical details which can be gathered round a character like Senguttuvan Chera and just a few others who happen to figure in these romantic poems, when carefully collected and collaborated, tell the same tale of contemporaneity between the works themselves and between the two works and other Sangam works so-called. Specific instances of historical incidents are dealt with in full detail in the lectures themselves. We need hardly do more here than merely to point out that the four capitals of Puchar. Madura, Vanji, and kanchi occur in the poem, Their condition and the rulers that held sway over them are described incidentally in the course of the story, and these admit of definite treatment in comparison with the condition of these capitals, as we find them described in the Sangam works. One point which clinches the matter and provides a definite test of the age is that throughout the story as narrated in these two works, kanchi remained a viceroyalty under the authority of the Cholas, who, under Karikkala, are credited uniformly by Tamil tradition with having civilized this land and brought it into the pale of Tamil civilization. Without going into too much detail her, it may be said that the country round Kanchi which became peculiarly the territory of the Pallavas, remained under Chola rule, and a Chola, a prince of the blood very often, held the viceroyalty. The one remarkable change for which we have evidence in the Sangam works is the placing of this viceroyalty in the hands of a Tondaman chief by name ilam-Tirayan.
This took place in the last period of the age of the Sangam from the evidence of the Sangam literature itself. In the classics with which we are concerned, there is no evidence of our having reached the stage when kanchi was under the rule of Tondaman-Ilam Tirayan; nor have we any vestige of evidence that would justify the assumption that the Tondaman chif had ruled and passed away. Other historical details can be recited in number. It is hardly necessary to take up those details here, which are dicussed elsewhere in the course of this work and in other works of ours. The conclusion to which we are, therefore, irresistibly driven is that we are in an age when the Sangam activity had not yet ceased, and this view is in full accord with all the evidence available regarding the Sangam and its age in the vast mass of literature in which that evidence lies scattered.
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