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Tamil literature (Tamil: தமிழ் இலக்கியம்) refers to the literature in the Tamil language. Tamil literature has a rich and long literary tradition spanning more than two thousand years. The oldest extant works show signs of maturity indicating an even longer period of evolution. Contributors to the Tamil literature are mainly from Tamil people from South India, including the land now comprising Tamil Nadu, kerala, Sri Lankan Tamils from Sri Lanka, and from Tamil diaspora. Also, there have been notable contributions from European authors. The history of Tamil literature follows the history of Tamil Nadu, closely following the social, political and cultural trends of various periods. The early Sangam literature, starting from the period of 2nd century BCE, contain anthologies of various poets dealing with many aspects of life, including love, war, social values and religion. This was followed by the early epics and moral literature, authored by Hindu, Jain and Buddhist authors, lasting up to the 5th century CE. From the 6th to 12th century CE, the Tamil devotional poems written by Nayanmars (sages of Shaivism) and (Alvars, sages of Vaishnavism) heralded the great Bhakti movement which later engulfed the entire Indian subcontinent. It is during this era that some of the grandest of Tamil literary classics like Kambaramayanam and Periya Puranam were authored and many poets were patronized by the imperial Chola and Pandya empires. The later medieval period saw many assorted minor literary works and also contributions by a few Muslim and European authors. By having the most ancient non-Sanskritized Indian literature, Tamil literature is unique and thus has become the subject of study by scholars who wish to delineate the non-Aryan and pre-Aryan strands in Indian culture.
A revival of Tamil literature took place from the late nineteenth century when works of religious and philosophical nature were written in a style that made it easier for the common people to enjoy. The modern Tamil literary movement started with Subramania Bharathi, the mutli-faceted Indian Nationalist poet and author, and was quickly followed up by many who began to utilize the power of literature in influencing the masses. With growth of literacy, Tamil prose began to blossom and mature. Short stories and novels began to appear. Modern Tamil Literary criticism also evolved. The popularity of Tamil Cinema has also interacted with Tamil literature in some mutually enriching ways.
குறிஞ்சி - தலைவன் கூற்று
யாயும் ஞாயும் யாரா கியரோ
Red earth and pouring rain
What could my mother be
A poem from the Eight Anthologies collection.
Sangam literature comprises some of the oldest extant Tamil literature, and deals with love, war, governance, trade and bereavement. Unfortunately much of the Tamil literature belonging to the Sangam period had been lost. The literature currently available from this period is perhaps just a fraction of the wealth of material produced during this golden age of Tamil civilization. The available literature from this period has been broadly divided in antiquity into three categories based roughly chronology. These are: the Major Eighteen Anthology Series comprising the Eight Anthologies and the Ten Idylls and the Five Great Epics. Tolkaappiyam, a commentary on grammar, phonetics, rhetoric and poetics is dated from this period.
Tamil legends hold that these were composed in three successive poetic assemblies (Sangam) that were held in ancient times on a now vanished continent far to the south of India. A significant amount of literature could have preceded Tolkappiyam as grammar books are usually written after the existence of literature over long periods. Tamil tradition holds the earliest Sangam poetry to be over twelve millennia old. Modern linguistic scholarship places the poems between the first century BC and the third century AD.
Sangam age is considered by the Tamil people as the golden era of Tamil language. This was the period when the Tamil country was ruled by the three 'crowned kings' the Cheras, Pandyas and the Cholas. The land was at peace with no major external threats. Asoka's conquests did not impact on the Tamil land and the people were able to indulge in literary pursuits. The poets had a much more casual relationship with their rulers than can be imagined in later times. They could chide them when they are perceived to wander from the straight and narrow. The greatness of the Sangam age poetry may be ascribed not so much to its antiquity, but due to the fact that their ancestors were indulging in literary pursuits and logical classification of the habitats and society in a systematic manner with little to draw from precedents domestically or elsewhere. The fact that these classifications were documented at a very early date in the grammatical treatise Tolkappiyam, demonstrates the organized manner in which the Tamil language has evolved. Tolkappiyam is not merely a textbook on Tamil grammar giving the inflection and syntax of words and sentences but also includes classification of habitats, animals, plants and human beings. The discussion on human emotions and interactions is particularly significant. Tolkappiyam divided into three chapters: orthography, etymology and subject matter (Porul). While the first two chapters of Tolkappiyam help codify the language, the last part, Porul refers to the people and their behavior. The grammar helps to convey the literary message on human behavior and conduct, and uniquely merges the language with its people.
The literature was classified in to the broad categories of 'subjective' (akam) and 'objective' (puram) topics to enable the poetic minds to discuss any topic under the sun, from grammar to love, within the framework of well prescribed, socially accepted conventions. Subjective topics refer to the personal or human aspect of emotions that cannot be verbalized adequately or explained fully. It can only be experienced by the individuals and includes love and sexual relationship.
Recognizing that human activities cannot take place in vacuum and are constantly influenced by environmental factors, human experiences, in general, and subjective topics in particular, are assigned to specific habitats. Accordingly land was classified into five genres (thinai): kurinji (mountainous regions), mullai (forests), marutham (agricultural lands), neithal (seashore), paalai (wasteland). The images associated with these landscapes – birds, beasts, flowers, gods, music, people, weather, seasons – were used to subtly convey a mood, associated with an aspect of life. Kuruntokai, a collection of poems belonging to the Ettuthokai anthology demonstrates an early treatment of the Sangam landscape. Such treatments are found to be much refined in the later works of Akananuru and Paripaatal. Paripaatal takes its name from the musical Paripaatal meter meter utilised in these poems. This is the first instance of a work set to music. Akaval and kalippa were the other popular meters used by poets during the Sangam age.
எப்பொருள் யார்யார்வாய்க் கேட்பினும் அப்பொருள்
The three centuries after the Sangam age witnessed an increase in the mutual interaction of Sanskrit and Tamil. A number of words and concepts relating to ethics, philosophy and religion were mutually borrowed and exchanged between the languages. Around 300 CE, the Tamil land was under the influence of a group of people known as the Kalabhras. The Kalabhras were Buddhist and a number of Buddhist authors flourished during this period. Jainism and Buddhism saw rapid growth. These authors, perhaps reflecting the austere nature of their faiths, created works mainly on morality and ethics. A number of Jain and Buddhist poets contributed to the creation of these didactic works as well as grammar and lexicography. The collection the minor eighteen anthology was of this period.
The best known of these works on ethics is the Tirukkural by Thiruvalluvar. The book is a comprehensive manual of ethics, polity and love, containing 1,330 distichs or kural divided into chapters of ten distichs each: the first thirty-eight on ethics, the next seventy on polity and the remainder on love.
Other famous works of this period are Kalavali, Nalatiyar, Inna Narpathu and Iniyavai Narpathu. The Jain texts Nalatiyar and Pazhamozhi Nanuru each consist of four hundred poems, each of which cites a proverb and then illustrates it with a story.
|The twelve volumes of Tamil Shaivite hymns of the sixty-three Nayanars|
|Padal petra stalam|
|Padal Petra Stalam|
|Raja Raja Chola I|
After the fall of the Kalabhras around 500 CE saw a reaction from the thus far suppressed Hindus. The Kalabhras were replaced by the Pandyas in the south and by the Pallavas in the north. Even with the exit of the Kalabhras, the Jain and Buddhist influence still remained in Tamil Nadu. The early Pandya and the Pallava kings were followers of these faiths. The Hindu reaction to this apparent decline of their religion was growing and reached its peak during the later part of the seventh century. There was a widespread Hindu revival during which a huge body of Saiva and Vaishnava literature was created. Many Saiva Nayanmars and Vaishnava Alvars provided a great stimulus to the growth of popular devotional literature. Karaikkal Ammaiyar who lived in the sixth century CE was the earliest of these Nayanmars. The celebrated Saiva hymnists Sundaramurthi, Thirugnana Sambanthar and Thirunavukkarasar (also known as Appar) were of this period. Of Appar's verses 3066 have survived. Sambandar sang 4,169 verses. Together these form the first six books of the Saiva canon, collected by Nambi Andar Nambi in the tenth century. Sundarar wrote Tiruttondartokai which gives the list of sixty-two Nayanmars. This was later elaborated by Sekkilar in his Periyapuranam(4,272 verses). Manikkavasagar, who lived around the eight century CE was a minister in the Pandya court. His Tiruvasakam consisting of over 600 verses is noted for its passionate devotion.. These Saivite Hymns collectively called Thirumurai (திருமுறை) is described as SIXTH VEDA next to Bhagavath Geetha in Hindu Tradition.
Along with the Saiva Nayanmars, Vaishnava Alvars were also producing devotional hymns and their songs were collected later into the Four Thousand Sacred Hymns (Naalayira Divyap Prabhandham). The three earliest Alvars were Poygai, Pudam and Pey. Each of these wrote one hundred Venpas. Tirumalisai Alwar who was a contemporary of the Pallava Mahendravarman I wrote such works as Naanmugantiruvadiandadi. Tirumangai Alvar who lived in the eighth century CE was a more prolific writer and his works constitute about a third of the Diyaprabhandam. Periyalvar and his adopted daughter Andal contributed nearly 650 hymns to the Vaishnava canon. Andal symbolised purity and love for the God and wrote her hymns addressing Vishnu as a lover. The hymn of Andal which starts with Vaaranam Aayiram (One Thousand Elephants) tells of her dream wedding to Vishnu and is sung even today at Tamil Vaishnava weddings. Nammalvar, who lived in the ninth century, wrote Tiruvaimoli. It comprises 1,101 stanzas and is held in great esteem for its elucidation of the Upanishads. This corpus was collected by Nathamuni, around 950 CE and formed the classical and vernacular basis for Sri Vaishnavism. These Hymns 'Naalayira Divya-p-Prabhandham' is respected at par with Vedas by Sri Vaishnavites in sanctity and holiness and hence referred to as 'Dravida Vedam' (திராவிட வேதம்).
Cilappatikaram is one of the outstanding works of general literature of this period. The authorship and exact date of the classic Cilappatikaram are not definitely known. Ilango Adigal, who is credited with this work was reputed to be the brother of the Sangam age Chera king Senguttuvan. However we have no information of such a brother in the numerous poems sung on the Chera king. The Cilappatikaram is unique in its vivid portrayal of the ancient Tamil land. This is unknown in other works of this period. Cilappatikaram and its companion epic Manimekalai are Buddhist in philosophy. Manimekalai was written by Sattanar who was a contemporary of Ilango Adigal. Manimekalai contains a long exposition of fallacies of logic which is considered to be based on the fifth century Sanskrit work Nyayapravesa by Dinnag. Kongu Velir, a Jain author wrote Perunkathai based on the Sanskrit Brihat-katha. Valayapathi and Kundalakesi are the names of two other narrative poems of this period written by a Jain and a Buddhist author respectively. These works have been lost and only a few poems of Valayapathi have been found so far.
|Topics in Sangam literature|
|Iṉṉā Nāṟpatu||Iṉiyavai Nāṟpatu|
|Kār Nāṟpatu||Kaḷavaḻi Nāṟpatu|
|Aintiṇai Aimpatu||Tiṉaimoḻi Aimpatu|
|Aintinai Eḻupatu||Tiṉaimoḻi Nūṟṟu Aimpatu|
|Tamil history from Sangam literature||Tamil literature|
|Ancient Tamil music||Sangam society|
The medieval period was the period of the Imperial Cholas when the entire south India was under a single administration. The period between the eleventh and the thirteenth centuries, during which the Chola power was at its peak, there were relatively few foreign incursions and the life for the Tamil people was one of peace and prosperity. It also provided the opportunity for the people to interact with cultures beyond their own, as the Cholas ruled over most of the South India, Sri Lanka and traded with the kingdoms in southeast Asia. The Cholas built numerous temples, mainly for their favourite god Siva, and these were celebrated in numerous hymns. The Prabhanda became the dominant form of poetry. The religious canons of Saiva and Vaishnava sects were beginning to be systematically collected and categorised. Nambi Andar Nambi, who was a contemporary of Rajaraja Chola I, collected and arranged the books on Saivism into eleven books called Tirumurais. The hagiology of Saivism was standardised in Periyapuranam (also known as Tiruttondar Puranam) by Sekkilar, who lived during the reign of Kulothunga Chola II (1133–1150 CE). Religious books on the Vaishnava sect were mostly composed in Sanskrit during this period. The great Vaishnava leader Ramanuja lived during the reigns of Athirajendra Chola and Kulothunga Chola I, and had to face religious persecution from the Cholas who belonged to the Saiva sect. One of the best known Tamil works of this period is the Ramavatharam by Kamban who flourished during the reign of Kulottunga III. Ramavatharam is the greatest epic in Tamil Literature, and although the author states that he followed Valmiki, his work is not a mere translation or even an adaptation of the Sanskrit epic. Kamban imports into his narration the colour and landscape of his own time. A contemporary of Kamban was the famous poetess Auvaiyar who found great happiness in writing for young children. Her works, Athichoodi and Konraiventhan are even now generally read and taught in schools in Tamil Nadu. Her two other works, Mooturai and Nalvali were written for slightly older children. All the four works are didactic in character. They explain the basic wisdom that should govern mundane life.
Of the books on the Buddhist and the Jain faiths, the most noteworthy is the Jivaka-chintamani by the Jain ascetic Thirutakkadevar composed in the tenth century. Viruttam style of poetry was used for the first time for the verses in this book. The five Tamil epics Jivaka-chintamani, Cilappatikaram, Manimekalai, Kundalakesi and Valayapathi are collectively known as The Five Great Epics of Tamil Literature. There were a number of books written on Tamil grammar. Yapperungalam and Yapperungalakkarigai were two works on prosody by the Jain ascetic Amirtasagara. Buddamitra wrote Virasoliyam, another work on Tamil grammar, during the reign of Virarajendra Chola. Virasoliyam attempts to find synthesis between Sanskrit and Tamil grammar. Other grammatical works of this period are Nannul by Pavanandi, Vaccanandi Malai by Neminatha, and the annotations on the puram theme, Purapporul Venpamalai by Aiyanaridanar.
There were biographical and political works such as Jayamkondar's Kalingattuparani, a semi-historical account on the two invasion of Kalinga by Kulothunga Chola I. Jayamkondar was a poet-laureate in the Chola court and his work is a fine example of the balance between fact and fiction the poets had to tread. Ottakuttan, a close contemporary of Kambar, wrote three Ulas on Vikrama Chola, Kulothunga Chola II and Rajaraja Chola II.
The period from 1300 CE to 1650 was a period of constant change in the political situation of Tamil Nadu. The Tamil country was invaded by the armies of the Delhi Sultanate and defeated the Pandya kingdom. The collapse of the Delhi Sultanate triggered the rise of the Bahmani Sultans in the Deccan. Vijayanagar empire rose from the ashes of the kingdoms of Hoysalas and Chalukyas and eventually conquered the entire south India. The Vijayanagar kings appointed regional governors to rule various territories of their kingdom and Tamil Nadu was ruled by the Madurai Nayaks, Thanjavur Nayaks and Gingee Nayaks. This period saw a large output of philosophical works, commentaries, epics and devotional poems. A number of monasteries (Mathas) were established by the various Hindu sects and these began to play a prominent role in educating the people. Numerous authors were of either the Saiva or the Vaishnava sects. The Vijayanagar kings and their Nayak governors were ardent Hindus and they patronised these mathas. Although the kings and the governors of the Vijayanagar empire spoke Kannada and Telugu they encouraged the growth of Tamil literature as we find no slowing down in the literary output during this period.
There was a large output of works of philosophical and religious in nature, such as the Sivananabodam by Meykandar. At the end of the fourteenth century Svarupananda Desikar wrote two anthologies on the philosophy os Advaita, the Sivaprakasapperundirattu. Arunagirinathar who lived in Tiruvannamalai in the fourteenth century wrote Tiruppugal. Around 1,360 verses of unique lilt and set to unique metres these poems are on the god Muruga. Madai Tiruvengadunathar, an official in the court of the Madurai Nayak, wrote Meynanavilakkam on the Advaita Vedanta. Siva prakasar, in the early seventeenth century wrote a number of works on the Saiva philosophy. Notable among these is the Nanneri which deals with moral instructions. A considerable par to the religious and philosophical literature of the age took the form of Puranas or narrative epics. A number of these were written on the various deities of the temples in Tamil Nadu and are known as Sthala Puranas, based on legend and folklore. One of the most important of the epics was the Mahabharatam by Villiputturar. He translated Vyasa's epic into Tamil and named it Villibharatam. Kanthapuranam on the god Murugan was written by Kacchiappa Sivachariyar who lived in the fifteenth century. This work was based broadly on the Sanskrit Skandapurana. Varatungarama Pandya, a Pandya king of the period was a littérateur of merit and wrote Paditrruppattanthathi. He also translated into Tamil the erotic book known as Kokkoha from Sanskrit.
This period also an age of many commentaries of ancient Tamil works. Adiyarkunallar wrote an annotation on Cilappatikaram. Senavaraiyar wrote a commentary on the Tolkappiyam. Then came the famous Parimelalagar whose commentary on the Tirukkural is still considered one of the best available. Other famous annotators such as Perasiriyar and Naccinarikiniyar wrote commentaries on the various work of Sangam literature. The first Tamil dictionary was attempted by Mandalapurusha who compiled the lexicon Nigandu Cudamani. Thayumanavar, who lived in the early eighteenth century, is famous for a number of short poems of philosophical nature.
The seventeenth century also saw for the first time literary works by Muslim and Christian authors. The population of Muslims and Christians were growing in Tamil Nadu with the influences of the Delhi Sultanate and the growing European missionaries. Syed Khader known in Tamil as Sithaakkathi, lived in the seventeenth century and was a great patron of all Tamil poets. He commissioned the creation of a biography on the Islamic prophet Muhammad. Omar known in Tamil as UmaruPulavar, wrote Seerapuranam on the life of Muhammad. Costanzo Giuseppe Beschi (1680–1746), better known as Veeramamunivar, compiled the first dictionary in Tamil. His Chathurakarathi was the first to list the Tamil words in alphabetical order. Veeramamunivar is also remembered for his Christian theological epic Thembavani on the life and teaching of Jesus Christ.
During the eighteenth and the nineteenth century Tamil Nadu witnessed some of the most profound changes in the political scene. The traditional Tamil ruling clans were superseded by European colonists and their sympathisers. The Tamil society underwent a deep cultural shock with the imposition of western cultural influences. The Hindu religious establishments attempted to stem the tide of change and to safeguard the Tamil cultural values. Notable among these were the Saiva monasteries at Tiruvavaduthurai, Dharmapuram, Thiruppananthal and Kundrakudi. Meenakshi Sundaram Pillai(1815–1876) was a Tamil scholar who taught Tamil at one of these monasteries. He wrote more than eighty books consisting of over 200,000 poems. He is more famous however for encouraging U.V.Swaminatha Iyer to go search for Tamil books that have been lost for centuries. Gopalakrishna Bharathi lived during the early nineteenth century. He wrote numerous poems and lyrics set to tune in Carnatic music. His most famous work is the Nandan Charitam on the life of Nandanar who having been born in a sociologically lower caste, faces and overcomes the social obstacles in achieving his dream of visiting the Chidambaram temple. This work is a revolutionary social commentary considering the period in which it was written, although Gopalakrishna Bharati expanded on the story in Periyapuranam. Ramalinga Adigal (Vallalar) (1823–1874) wrote the devotional poem Tiruvarutpa is considered to be a work of great beauty and simplicity. Maraimalai Adigal (1876–1950) advocated for the purity of Tamil and wanted to clean it of words with Sanskrit influences. One of the great Tamil poets of this period was Subramanya Bharathi. His works are stimulating in their progressive themes like freedom and feminism. Bharathy introduced a new poetic style into the somewhat rigid style of Tamil poetry writing, which had followed the rules set down in the Tolkaappiyam. His puthukkavithai (Lit.:new poetry) broke the rules and gave poets the freedom to express themselves. He also wrote Tamil prose in the form of commentaries, editorials, short stories and novels. Some of these were published in the Tamil daily Swadesamitran and in his Tamil weekly India. Inspired by Bharathi, many poets resorted to poetry as a means of reform. Bharathidasan was one such poet. U.V.Swaminatha Iyer, was instrumental in the revival of interest in the Sangam age literature in Tamil Nadu. He travelled all over the Tamil country, collecting, deciphering and publishing ancient books such as Cilappatikaram, Kuruntokai, etc. He published over 90 books and wrote En caritham, an autobiography. a famous writer is veeama munivar about him; her real name was kanstant joshph beag her place is Italy A.D8.11.1680 to A.D 4.2.1747
The novel as a genre of literature arrived in Tamil in the third quarter of nineteenth century, more than a century after it became popular with English writers. Its emergence was perhaps facilitated by the growing population of Tamils with a western education and exposure to popular English fiction. Mayuram Vedanayagam Pillai wrote the first Tamil novel Prathapa Mudaliar Charithram in 1879. This was a romance with an assortment of fables, folk tales and even Greek and Roman stories, written with the entertainment of the reader as the principal motive. It was followed by Kamalambal Charitram by B.R. Rajam Iyer in 1893 and Padmavathi Charitram by A. Madhaviah in 1898. These two portray the life of Brahmins in 19th century rural Tamil Nadu, capturing their customs and habits, beliefs and rituals. Although it was primarily a powerful narration of the common man's life in a realistic style spiced with natural humour, Rajam Iyer's novel has a spiritual and philosophical undertone. Madhaviah tells the story in a more realistic way with a searching criticism of the upper caste society, particularly the sexual exploitation of girls by older men.Mr.D.Jayakanthan - the real trend setter in modern day Tamil novels.He has not only enriched the high traditions of literary traditions of Tamil language but has also made outstanding contribution towards the shaping of Indian literature. His literature presents a deep and sensitive understanding of complex human nature and is an authentic and vivid index of Indian reality. His famous novel Sila Nerangalil Sila Manithargal notable one.
Since the 1990s the post modernism writers emerged as a major figures, including Jeyamohan, S.Ramakrishnan, Charu Nivedita. The critically acclaimed works include Vishnupuram by Jeymohan, Ubapandavam by S.Ramakrishnan, Zero degree by Charu Niveditha, Konangi ( Paazhi), yumaa vasuki - Ratha vurvu (Blood Relation), Lakshmi Manivannan ( appavin Thottathil neer payum idangal ellam ...), nakulan - ninivu-p-padhai., and Konangi, who mixes classical Tamil inflections with experimental sound poets.
There is another less recognized, but rich literary work - novels translated from other languages, which are ignored by Tamil pundits. The works include " Urumaatram" (Translation of Franz Kafka's Metamorphosis), Siluvayil Thongum Saathaan ( Translation of "Devil on the Cross" by Ngugi wa Thiango),Thoongum azhagigalin Illam ( Translation of "House of Sleeping Beauties"- by Yasunari Kawabata). The writers like Amarantha, Latha ramakrishnan are contributing for these works.
The increasing demand of the literate public caused a number of journals and periodicals to be published and these in turn provided a platform for authors to publish their work. Rajavritti Bodhini and Dina Varthamani in 1855 and Salem Pagadala Narasimhalu Naidu's fornightlies, Salem Desabhimini in 1878 and Coimbatore Kalanidhi in 1880, were the earliest Tamil journals. In 1882, G. Subramaniya Iyer started the newspaper Swadesamitran. It became the first Tamil daily in 1889. This was the start of many journals to follow and many novelists began to serialise their stories in these journal. The humour magazine Ananda Vikatan started by S.S. Vasan in 1929 was to help create some of the greatest Tamil novelists. Kalki Krishnamurthy (1899–1954) serialised his short stories and novels in Ananda Vikatan and eventually started his own weekly Kalki for which he wrote the enduringly popular novels Parthiban Kanavu, Sivagamiyin Sabadham and Ponniyin Selvan. Pudhumaipithan (1906–1948) was a great writer of short stories and provided the inspiration for a number of authors who followed him. The 'new poetry or pudukkavithai pioneered by Bharathi in his prose-poetry was further developed by the literary periodicals manikkodi and ezhuttu (edited by Si Su Chellappa). Poets such as Mu Metha contributed to these periodicals. Tamil Christian poets also added to the body of Tamil literature. Tamil Muslim poets like Pavalar Inqulab and Rokkiah too have made significant contributions to social reforms. The pioneering fortnightly journal Samarasam was established in 1981 to highlight and cater to the ethnic Tamil Muslim community's issues. Another remarkable work was done in Tamil novel field by Mu.Varatharasanar.[Agal vilakku] [Karithundu]. And last but not least Akilan the unique Tamil novelist,short story writer and a social activist is famous for his works like 'Chithirapavai' 'Vengayinmaindan' 'Pavaivilaku'.
The first Tamil periodical was published by the Christian Religious Tract Society in 1831- The Tamil Magazine.
The increasing demand of the literate public caused a number of journals and periodicals to be published and these in turn provided a platform for authors to publish their work. Rajavritti Bodhini and Dina Varthamani in 1855 and Salem Pagadala Narasimhalu Naidu's fornightlies, Salem Desabhimini in 1878 and Coimbatore Kalanidhi in 1880, were the earliest Tamil journals.
The first regular newspaper in Tamil was Swadesamitran in 1882, started by G.Subramaniya Iyer, editor and sponsor of The Hindu and founding member of the Indian National Congress. He created a whole new Tamil political vocabulary. He) was conscious that those with a knowledge of English are a small number and those with a knowledge of Indian languages the vast majority. He felt that unless our people were told about the objectives of British rule and its merits and defects in the Indian languages, our political knowledge would never develop. When Subramania Aiyer quit The Hindu 1898, he made the Swadesamitran his full-time business. In 1899, the first Tamil daily. It was to enjoy this status for 17 years.
Subramania Aiyer's "pugnacious style, never qualifying words to soften the sharp tenor of a sentence," his use of words "dipped in a paste of extra pungent green chillies," made the Swadesamitran sought by Tamils wherever they lived in the world. And the daily became even more popular when Subramania Bharati joined it in 1904. The next year, when Lala Lajpat Rai was arrested and agitation followed in the Punjab, Subramania Aiyer's attitude to the British changed and he became a trenchant political critic of the Raj. His whole political gospel can be summed up in these words: `Peaceful but tireless and unceasing effort.' Let us sweat ourselves into Swaraj, he would seem to say." Swadesamitran is credited for coining new Tamil words to deal with science, politics and administration. It had the most comprehensive budget of news among all the regional language papers of that time.
In 1917, Desabhaktan, another Tamil daily began with T.V. Kalyansundara Menon as editor. He was succeeded by V.V.S. Iyer, a colleague of the Savarkar brothers. These two editors were scholars with a natural, highly readable but polished style of writing.
The freedom movement and the advent of Gandhi also impacted Tamil journalism. Navasakthi, a Tamil periodical edited by Tamil scholar and freedom fighter V. Kalyanasundaram. C. Rajagopalachari began Vimochanam, a Tamil journal devoted to propagating prohibition at the Gandhi Ashram in Tiruchengode in Salem district.
In 1926, Dr P. Vadarajulu Naidu, who was conducting a Tamil news-cum-views weekly ‘Tamil Nadu’ started a daily with the same name. Its forceful and colluqial style gained it a wide readership but after the paper failed to take sides with the 1930 Civil Disobedience Movement, the Congress Party decided to bring out a new Tamil daily- India, edited by renowned poet Subramania Bharati. India showed great promise but could not establish itself financially, and folded up soon after Bharati was exiled to Pondicherry. All these papers were published from Madras.
In 1933, the first Tamil tabloid- the 8 page Jayabharati began at a price of ¼ anna. It closed in 1940 as the price could not sustain even its postage.
In September 1934, S. Sadanand (who was running The Free Press Journal) started the Tamil daily Dinamani with T. S. Chockalingam as editor. It was priced at 6 pies, contained bright features and was fearlessly critical. It was highly successful and its circulation eclipsed the total circulation of all other Tamil dailies. Soon ‘India’ was incorporated into Dinamani. Dinamani made a studied and conscious effort to make the contents of a newspaper intelligible even to the newly literate. In 1935, Viduthalai was begun, but it was more of a views-paper than a news-paper. The Non-Brahman Movement also gave an impetus to Tamil journalism. Newspapers like the ‘Bharat Devi’ were strong supporters of this movement.
Many magazines began in Tamil Nadu during the 1920s and '30s. The humour magazine Ananda Vikatan started by S.S. Vasan in 1929 was to help create some of the greatest Tamil novelists. It is still running successfully after 80 years and the Vikatan group today also publishes Chutti Vikatan, Junior Vikatan, Motor Vikatan and other special interest magazines. R. Krishnamurthy serialised his short stories and novels in Ananda Vikatan and eventually started his own weekly Kalki. The name Kalki denotes the impending tenth Avatar of Lord Vishnu in the Hindu religion, who it is said, will bring to an end the Kali Yuga and reinstate Dharma or righteoueness among the worldly beings. He used the name because he wanted to bring about liberation of India.
In 1942, Dina Thanthi (Daily Telegraph) was started in Madurai with simultaneous editions in Madras, Salem and Tiruchirappalli. It was founded by S.P. Adithanar, a lawyer trained in Britain. He modeled Thanthi on the style of an English tabloid- The Daily Mirror. He aimed to bring out a newspaper that ordinary people would read, and which would encourage a reading habit even among the newly literate. In the past, the daily newspaper which was printed in Madras reached the southern Tamil region after at least one day. Thanthi used the public bus system to distribute the paper throughout the south Tamil region and capitalized on the hunger for war news that arose after Singapore fell to the Japanese. Due to financial constraints, its Salem and Tiruchirappalli editions had to be closed down for a while. Thanthi emphasized local news, especially crime and the courts. It used photographs extensively and brought banner headlines to Tamil journalism. It could fit one story on an entire broadsheet page, mainly filled with large easy-to-read headlines. One of its biggest scoops was the murder of the editor of a scandalous film magazine by two actors. Thanthi covered the trial in Madras in detail, and its reporters phoned the daily account to the printing centre in Madurai. Thanthi was the first Tamil paper to understand the people’s fascination with crime and film stars. The paper was popular and it was said that Tamils learned to read in order to read the newspaper.
Dina Thanthi became one of the largest Tamil language dailies by circulation within a few years; it has been a leading Tamil daily since the 1960s. It has today 14 editions. It is the highest circulated Tamil daily in Bangalore and Pondicherry. It issues a book called 10th, +2 Vina Vidai Book, on every Wednesday during the second part of the year. The model question papers of all the subjects of Standard 10 and 12 are provided with answers along with the question papers of board exams that are conducted previous year.
Crime and detective fiction has enjoyed wide popularity in Tamil Nadu since the 1930s. Popular authors in the years before independence included Kurumbur Kuppusami and Vaduvur Duraisami Iyengar. In the 1950s and '60s, Tamilvanan's detective hero Shankarlal carried readers to a variety of foreign locales, while using a pure Tamil with very few Hindi or English loan words. From the 1980s to the present, leading authors include Subha, Pattukkottai Prabakar and Rajesh Kumar (who also writes science fiction and other genres). These writers are often extremely prolific, with hundreds or even thousands of short novels to their credit, and one or more short novel published in a monthly periodical. Indra Soundar Rajan, another popular modern author, writes supernatural crime thrillers usually based around Hindu mythology.
In 1940's and 1950s Kalki Krishnamurthy was notable for his historical and social fiction.
In the 1950s and 60s, Chandilyan wrote a number of very popular historical romance novels set in medieval India or on medieval trade routes with Malaysia, Indonesia and Europe.
Modern romance novels are represented by the current bestselling author in the Tamil language, Ramanichandran.
Though sales of Tamil pulp fiction have declined since the hey-day of the mid-1990s, and many writers have turned to the more lucrative television serial market, there remains a thriving scene.
The rise of the Internet has triggered a dramatic growth in the number of Tamil blogs and specialist portals catering to political and social issues. Even Tamil literature is available as mobile books.
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