Neṭunalvāṭai (Tamil: நெடுநல்வாடை, lit. "good long north wind", metonymically "cold season") is an ancient Tamil poem in the Sangam literature.[note 1] Also referred to as Nedunalvadai, it is a blend of a love and war story, highlighting the pains of separation of a queen waiting for her lover to return from the distant war. Authored by Nakkirar, it is the seventh poem in the Pattuppāṭṭu anthology. The poem is generally dated to the late classical period (2nd- to 4th-century CE).
Nedunalvadai contains 188 lines of poetry in the akaval metre. It is a poem of complex and subtle artistic composition, its vividness and language has won it many superlatives, including one by the Tamil literature scholar Kamil Zvelebil, as "the best or one of the best of the lays of the [Sangam] bardic corpus". According to G. John Samuel, the "Netunalvatai belongs to the great corpus of ancient classical erotic poems of the world which include the beautiful love poems of the Grecian world, the Song of songs of the Hebraic world, the ancient pastoral poems of the Latin literature and the Muktaka poems of the Sanskrit tradition".
The poem weaves two themes, one of a beautiful palace with a queen inconsolably weeping and missing her husband, another of a chaotic war camp with the Pandya king Netunceliyan busy and attending his injured soldiers. The former is the akam-genre poetry, the latter the puram-genre. The poem neither names the king nor the queen, but this is alluded to by the metaphors and the words that paint where she lives with her attendants (palace) and by the role and achievements of the man who is at the war front. Similarly, the city itself is not explicitly named, but alluded to by the details included. In the Tamil tradition, as linked in a medieval commentary on this poem, the unnamed king is presumed to be Netunceliyan.
The poem paints the Tamil region in the cold season, with the northerly wind and retreating monsoonal rains. The people are described as huddling around fires, people then putting their warmed hands on their cheeks, how animals and birds shiver. Women wear simple clothes and minimal jewelry (wedding bracelets) inside their homes and mansions, as their husbands are away on war. In contrast, on the war front, men are decked up in their protective gear inside their simple tents.
The Netunalvatai verses provide social and cultural information. Musical troupes were accompanied by dancing girls in the city. Women prayed to Korravai (Durga, Parvati) goddess in temples seeking the safe return of their husbands (lines 48–52, 185–194). They would light lamps, offer flowers and rice with their prayers. The city gates have Lakshmi goddess emblem, while inside the bedroom of the queen is an icon of Rohini – the traditional lover of Krishna. The temple sanctum is alluded to with the phrase "room named after the womb" (garbha ghriya). The poem has many Sanskrit loan words, and cases where Sanskrit and Tamil are fused into a complex word. Lines 101–102 suggest that Tamil merchants traded with Greek-Romans (yavanas) for designer lamps.
- Kamil Zvelebil 1974, pp. 18–19.
- A. Kiruṭṭin̲an̲ (2000). Tamil Culture: Religion, Culture, and Literature. Bharatiya Kala Prakashan. p. 58. ISBN 9788186050521.
- JV Chelliah 1946, p. 167.
- Kamil Zvelebil 1973, pp. 60–61.
- Kamil Zvelebil 1973, pp. 29, 58.
- Kamil Zvelebil 1973, pp. 41–42.
- G. John Samuel (2006). On Tamil poems and poets: essays and speeches. Institute of Asian Studies. pp. 67–71. ISBN 978-81-87892-37-3.
- JV Chelliah 1946, pp. 167–168.
- Kamil Zvelebil 1974, pp. 21–22.
- JV Chelliah 1946, pp. 170–171.
- JV Chelliah 1946, pp. 167–169.
- JV Chelliah 1946, pp. 167–169, 177, 183.
- JV Chelliah 1946, pp. 168–170.
- Chedarambattu Margabandhu (1996). Spectrum of Indian culture. Agam Kala Prakashan. pp. 246, 249 with note 16. ISBN 978-81-7320-022-9.
- JV Chelliah (1946). Pattupattu - Ten Tamil Idylls (Tamil Verses with Englilsh Translation). Tamil University (1985 print).
- Edward Jewitt Robinson (2001). Tamil Wisdom: Traditions Concerning Hindu Sages and Selections from Their Writings. New Delhi: Asian Educational Services.
- Mudaliyar, Singaravelu A., Apithana Cintamani, An encyclopaedia of Tamil Literature, (1931) - Reprinted by Asian Educational Services, New Delhi (1983)
- Pillai, M. S. Purnalingam (1994). Tamil Literature. Asian Educational Services. p. 115. ISBN 81-206-0955-7.
- Ray, Himanshu Prabha (2003). The archaeology of seafaring in ancient South Asia. Cambridge: Press Syndicate of the University of Cambridge. ISBN 9780521011099.
- Selby, Martha Ann (2011) Tamil Love Poetry: The Five Hundred Short Poems of the Aiṅkuṟunūṟu, an Early Third-Century Anthology. Columbia University Press, ISBN 9780231150651
- Takanobu Takahashi (1995). Tamil Love Poetry and Poetics. BRILL Academic. ISBN 90-04-10042-3.
- Kamil Zvelebil (1973). The Smile of Murugan: On Tamil Literature of South India. BRILL. ISBN 90-04-03591-5.
- Kamil Zvelebil (1974). Tamil Literature. Otto Harrassowitz Verlag. ISBN 978-3-447-01582-0.
- Zvelebil, Kamil (1992). Companion studies to the history of Tamil literature. BRILL. p. 73. ISBN 90-04-09365-6.