It is appropriate to quote Dr. Eva Wildon of the Pondichery French Institute of Oriental Studies (Ecole Francaise d’Extreme-Orient), from her introduction to the 17 volume study of Tamil Grammar authored by Pandit T.K. Gopal Iyer. .
“Tamil grammar and poetics are old and venerable disciplines interwoven in a complex system the beginnings of which are rooted in antiquity.
What is available is a textual tradition representing two millennia.
To give a rough chronology for the first millennium we have one treatise encompassing grammatical and poetical tradition, the venerable Tolkapiyam consisting of three parts – Phonology (Eluthu), Morphology and Syntax (Chol) and Poetics (Porul).
Poetics subdivides in to Love Poetry (Akham) and Heroic Poetry (Puram)”
The Kural devotes 250 couplets to portray the romantic tradition and the love life of the Tamil people. The mental agony suffered by the young wife separated from her husband who had gone abroad for the purpose of making Porul (wealth) is brought out in all its poignancy.
Sangam Literature belonging to the period between 300BC to 500AD closely follows the rules, principles and disciplines set down in the Tolkapiyam. The Tirukural too does the same. The 250 couplets are a rendering of the lustful longing of the young damsel languishing in loneliness. Her love too is given equal characterization.
Speaking about the lip to lip kiss shared by the young couple Kural 1121 says “the honey and milk liquid flowing from her teeth” are ambrosial.
Kural 1137 speaks about the lust that is bigger and stormy like the high sea and Kural 1134 that the same sea of lust is powerful enough to sink the modesty of the girl and the manliness of the youth.
Chapter 117 in its entirely speaks about the physical changes in the woman who is lusting for her mate’s embrace. Her complexion is changed, her body loses its lustre. She becomes thin and the bangles on her wrists slip and fall to the ground.
Kural 1192 says that the love a youth showers on his girl of choice is like rain falling on a parched earth. It is rejuvenating and is a vital force that multiplies as the days progress. Even the temporary separation is a factor that is in a sense welcome because it increases the love and desire.
Shakespeare says “Parting is such sweat sorrow“.
Kural 1302 points out that the lover’s quarrel should be of short duration, limited scope and should be forgotten in quick succession. The tiff heightens the love and enjoyment of the coitus that follows the quarrel.
The Kural is a work of many parts and Inbam adds to the richness of the total effect. The Kama Sutra, a Sanskrit work is often compared to the Inbam part of the Kural. This comparison is odious.
The Kama Sutra describes various techniques of intercourse which is not the subject-matter of the Kural. There is a spiritual quality in the Kural comparable to the longing of the soul with the Godhead. Care is taken by the author not to transcend the moral and ethical principles of Aram. There is nothing to titillate the senses like what is said in Giovanni Boccaccio’s The Decameron which represents decadence and debauchery.
A.K.Ramanujan translated the Akham poetry of the Sangam Age under the heading “The INNER Landscape“. The title speaks volumes, the emphasis is on the heart, the inner landscape. What the Kural aspires to portray is the inner longings and the outer manifestation of same. Translated more than 60 years ago it is still unrivaled for its perfection. It elevated the Tamil Language and literature to a global level.