Music in Vaishnavite Tamil literature

– Suganthy Krishnamachari

This is the concluding segment of the exposition on dance and music in Vaishnavite Tamil literature. The three-part article is based on information culled from various Tamil discourses of Kidambi Narayanan.

Panns for pasurams

The Azhwars mention music in many places in their pasurams. In Tirumangai Azhwar’s Peria Tirumozhi, there are at least eight mentions of ‘panuval’, which means a song with a classy tune. Nathamuni, who retrieved the lost Divya Prabandham, classified the verses as ‘iyarpa’ and ‘isaippa’. The former is just poetry without music. The latter is verse set to music, and includes the following: Periyazhwar Tirumozhi, Andal’s Tiruppavai and Nachiar Tirumozhi, Kanni nunn Sirutambu, Peria Tirumozhi, Tirukkuruntandakam, Tirunedintandakam, Perumal Tirumozhi, Tiruchanda viruttam, Tirumaalai, Amalanadipiran and Tiruvaimozhi. Nathamuni set the verses of the isaippa section to music, and we know of at least 30 panns that he used. The panns used in Divya Prabandham are: Gandharam, Kurinji, Kavvanam, Kurandi, Kolli, Seekamaram, Senduruti, Serundi, Takka ragam, Takkesi, Todi, Nattapadai, Nattaragam, Naattam, Naivalam, Panchamam, Panchuram, Pazhamchuram, Pazhamtakka ragam, Pazham panchuram, Palaiyazh, Puraneermai, Mudirnda Kurinji, Megharaga Kurinji, Viyandam, Vyaazha Kurinji and Andaali. (This writer recalls musicologist, the late S.A.K. Durga mentioning in a conversation that ‘Mudirnda Kurinji’ finds a place only in the Divya Prabandham, and not in the Tevaram).

Acharya Hridayam, a work on Nammazhwar, was written by Azhagiya Manavala Perumal Nayanar. Manavala Mamunigal wrote a commentary for Acharya Hridayam. Explaining the 69th sutra of Acharya Hridayam, Manavala Mamunigal says that just as Sanskrit has alankara, Tamizh has panns. He mentions a few panns like Mudirnda Kurinji, Nattabhashai, Nattaragam, Sendiritiyam and Taindalam. He also mentions the Tamil names for the seven swaras. He mentions the talas Gajakarna, Choragati and Makharadhwaja. He quotes a sloka here which talks of some talas — Lakshmikeerti, Paani paadau, Gauri, Panchaanana, and Garudadhwaja… read more