Akananuru (Tamil: அகநானூறு, literally introspective four hundred, meaning four hundred poems on interior (akam or agam) themes), a classical Tamil poetic work, is the seventh book in the anthology of Sangam literature, namely Eight Anthologies (Ettuthokai). It contains 400 Agam (subjective) poems dealing with matters of love and separation. Other names for Akananuru include Neduntogai or Nedunthokai ("the long anthology"), Ahappattu, Ahananuru, and Agananuru.
As many as 145 poets are said to have contributed to Akananuru collection. Perunthevanaar, who translated the Mahabharatham into Tamil, is one of the authors. Rudrasarman compiled this anthology at the behest of the Pandya king Ukkiraperuvazhuthi.
It is highly likely that the poems in Akananuru collection were prevalent independently before they were collected and categorized in this present form. The anthology is dated to around the first century BCE and the second century CE. The poems probably are of an earlier date. Some of the poems could belong to the period of 400 BCE–200 BCE, as some of the poems (69, 251, 281) have references to the Maurya empire.
Aganaṉūṟu book comes under the Agam (subjective) category in its subject matter. Ancient Tamil poems was categorised into two broad categories, namely, Agam(அகம்), which is subjective, dealing with matters of the heart and human emotions, and Puram (புறம்), which is objective, dealing with the tangibles of life such as war, politics, wealth, etc. The poems of this anthology are of the Akaval meter.
In the poems on Agam, the aspects of love of a hero and a heroine are depicted. The story of love is never conceived as a continuous whole. A particular moment of love is captured and described in each poem as the speech of the hero or the lady-companion or somebody else. A young man leading a peaceful life of love and affection with his wife is referred as "A bird with two heads and one soul". Women are always referred as Mangala Mahilar, Melliyal Mahalir, Seyelai Mahalir and Manaiyal – all of these indicating the soft characterization and glorifying the house hold presence of women folk during the Sangam period. The auspicious time of wedding was considered to be the harvest season. A high standard of moral virtue seems to have prevailed among women of household.
Akananuru contains 401 stanzas and is divided into three sections
- Kalintruyanainirai (களிற்றுயானைநிறை), 121 stanzas
- Manimidaipavalam (மணிமிடைபவளம்), 180 stanzas
- Nittilakkovai (நித்திலக்கோவை), 100 stanzas
Bharathidasan University, Tiruchirapalli has published a full translation of all the 400 songs by Professor A.Dakshinamurthy in 3 Volumes in 1999. This is the first complete English translation of the anthology.
Akananuru: Mullai - Poem 4
(The heroine’s companion consoles her friend at the advent of the rainy season)
The rumbling clouds winged with lightning
Poured amain big drops of rain and augured the rainy season;
Buds with pointed tips have sprouted in the jasmine vines;
The buds of Illam and the green trunk Kondrai have unfolded soft;
The stags, their black and big horns like twisted iron
Rushed up toward the pebbled pits filled with water
And leap out jubilantly having slaked their thirst;
The wide expansive Earth is now free
From all agonies of the summer heat
And the forest looks exceedingly sweet;
Behold there O friend of choicest bangles!
Our hero of the hilly track will be coming eftsoon,
Driving fast his ornate chariot drawn by the steeds
With waving plumes and trimmed manes
When the stiffly tugged reins
Will sound like the strumming of Yal.
As he drives, he has the chariot bells tied up
So as not to disturb the union of bees
That live on the pollen of the blossoms in the bushes.
He rushes onward thinking all along of your great beauty.
O friend whose fragrance is like unto the blossoming Kantal
On the mountain, tall and huge,east of Urantai of dinsome festivity!
—Translated by Prof A.Dakshinamurthy
Akanaṉūṟu has a reference to the Ramayana in poem 70. The poem places a triumphant Rama at Dhanushkodi, sitting under a Banyan tree, involved in some secret discussions, when the birds are chirping away. This seems to indicate that the story of the Ramayana was familiar in the Tamil lands before the Kamba Ramayanam of the 12th century.
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