The Logic of Tinai in Akam Poetry

What little I know of Tamil poetry, I learned from Nazir and his blog. Here he discusses the concept of “tinai,” which resonates with me. So much to learn, so little time…

Classical Tamil Poetry

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The Tolkappiam, in Porulatikaram, begins by identifying seven tinais out of which the middle five (“naduvan aintinai”) constitute the “world rimmed by the sea” (“padutirai vaiyam”) (Verse 1 and 2). These five tinais become known as kurinchi, mullai, palai, neidal and marutam. Then it goes on to make magisterial pronouncements designating the time and place as mutal, meaning first. The gods, the food, the animals, trees, birds, occupations, the musical instrument and melody, the flowers, the water source are the karu or things embryonic to the mutal. The human mood appropriate to each tinai is the uri. The tinai, identified by an emblematic flower and sharing certain specific geographic features, becomes a vehicle for the mutal, the karu and the uri. In other words, the tinai encapsulates the mutal, the karu and the uri. By doing so, it becomes a spatial, temporal, spiritual, gastronomic, biological, occupational and emotional…

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