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Samanam in Tamil Literature Essay

This lesson discusses the role of the Samanars or Jains in the growth of the Tamil language. It examines the pioneering efforts of the Samanars in enriching the Tamil language. It analyses some of the most important grammar, literary and religious texts composed by the Samanars. It also refers to a wealth of information on the Samanars found in other Tamil literary works. The Tamil language owes its growth to various religious movements that flourished in ancient Tamilnadu. By using Tamil as a means of propagating their doctrines, these religions indirectly shaped the Tamil language. The Samanars played a significant role in developing the Tamil language. Like the Pandyas who established the Tamil Sangam, the Samanars founded the ‘Tiramila Sangam’ through which they contributed to the growth of the Tamil language. This Sangam was divided into 4 sects namely Nandi Kanam, Sena Kanam, Simha Kanam and Deva Kanam.

Of these Nandi Kanam was the most popular. In 470 A.D., a Samanar called Vachira Nandi divided the Nandi Kanam into 2 groups and established the new group as Dravida Kanam in Madurai. The Dravida Kanam contributed a great deal to the growth of the Tamil language. Though the Samanars hailed from the Northern kingdom of Magada, they used Tamil to convey their philosophy. Samanars have the credit of writing the first grammar texts in Tamil. They also pioneered the compilation of ‘nigandugal’ or Thesaurus in Tamil and composed the early epics. ‘Indra Kaleeyam’, ‘Yaaparungalam’, ‘Neminatham’ and ‘Nannool’ are some of the famous grammar texts written by the Samanars. There is a belief that ‘Tholkappiam’ is a Samana text. ‘Divakara Nikandu’ and ‘Pingala Nikandu’ are 2 popular thesauruses compiled by the Samanars. Three of the 5 great epics in Tamil- viz. ‘Silapathigaram’, ‘Valaiyapathi’ and ‘Seevagasinthamani’ were written by Samanars.

Among the 5 minor epics, ‘Soolamani’, ‘Neelakesi’ and ‘Yasodara Kaviyam’ were composed by the Samanars. The religious rivalry between Samanam and Buddhism prompted the Samanars to write texts that condemned or belittled Buddhist philosophy. ‘Neelakesi’, ‘Pingalakesi’ and ‘Anjanakesi’ were such texts. Of these only ‘Neelakesi’ is available today. 4 of the Pathinen Keezhkanakku Noolgal are attributed to the Samanars. ‘Sree Puranam’, ‘Merumanthira Puranam’, ‘Santhi Puranam’, ‘Jain Ramayanam’ and ‘Narada Sarithai’ are the puranas written by Samanars. Several literary texts in Tamil allude to Samanam and Samanars. Ilampuranar who wrote the commentaries for ‘Tholkappiam’ is said to have based his explanations on one of the basic tenets of Samanam.

There are several stone inscriptions to prove that Samanars lived in and around Madurai. ‘Madurai Kanchi’ which is one of the ‘Pathu Paatu’ anthology speaks of a temple dedicated to the Samana God Aruhar in Madurai. ‘Pattina Paalai’ which is also one of the Pathu Paatu anthology mentions the presence of a samana monastery in Kaveripoompattinam. 14 poems in ‘Purananuru’ allude to ‘vadakkiruthal’, a ritual in which a person sits facing the north and gives up his life by fasting.

This ritual is associated with Samanam. ‘Thirukkural’ one of the renowned Tamil texts contains several ideas along the lines of Samana doctrines. There is also a widespread belief that Thiruvalluvar who sang the Thirukkural was a Samanar. ‘Periya Puranam’, an important Saiva text, records the rivalry between Saivam and Samanam. Mayilai Seeni Venkatasamy, a Tamil scholar, asserts that Nikandanar, one of the Sangam poets, was a Samanar. Similarly, another poet of the Sangam period called Ulochanaar is also said to be a Samanar.


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