Royal Attributes as Reflected in Caṅkam Poetry


  • Alexander Dubyanskiy Moscow State University



caṅkam poetry, Tamil kings, royal signs, symbolic plants


A figure of the ancient Tamil king occupies the central place in the division of the old Tamil poetry called puṟam. Along with his qualities as a warrior and a generous patron, his material attributes are described by poets. Many of them represent formal signs of royal power. The role of such objects as the royal scepter, the parasol and the drum is analyzed, their symbolic meaning is discussed. A special stress is laid on the connection of Tamil kings with plants. The role of chaplets made of flowers and the importance of ‘guarding trees’ are revealed. The traces of development of the poetic usage from a simple cliché to more complicated images are pointed out.

PlumX Metrics of this article


Tamil Texts and Abbreviations

AN = akanāṉūṟu, with commentaries by nāvalar tiru veṅkaṭacāmi nāṭṭār, karantai kaviyaracu ra. veṅkaṭācālam piḷḷai, tirunelvēli teṉṉintiya caivacittānta nūṟpatippuk kaḻakam: ceṉṉai 1962.

CP = cilappatikāram, with commentaries by tiru po. ve. cōmacuntaranār, tirunelvēli teṉṉintiya caivacittānta nūṟpatippuk kaḻakam: ceṉṉai, 1977.

KT = kuṟuntokai, with an introduction and commentaries by u. ve. cāminātaiyāravarkaḷ uraiyuṭan. tirunelvēli teṉṉṉintiya caivacittānta nūṟpatippuk kaḻakam: ceṉṉai, 1955.

MK = maturaikkāñci. pattuppāṭṭu mūlamum uraiyum. irantām pakuti tiru cōmacuntaranār urai. tirunelvēli teṉṉintiya caivacittānta nūṟrpatippuk kaḻakam: tirunelvēli– ceṉṉai, 1968.

Pati = patiṟṟuppattu mūlamum uraiyum, with commentaries by tiru auvvai turaicāmi piḷḷai, tirunelvēli teṉṉintiya caivacittānta nūṟrpatippuk kaḻakam: ceṉṉai, 1973.

PN = puṟanāṉūṟu mūlamum paḻaiya uraiyum, ed. with an introduction and commentaries by u.v. cāminātaiyaravarkal, ṭākṭar cāminātaiyar nūṟ nilaiyam: ceṉṉai 1971.

Ppan = perumpāṇarāṟṟuppaṭai. pattuppāṭṭu mūlamum uraiyum. mutaṟpakuti, with commentaries by tiru po. ve. cōmacuntaranār urai, tirunelvēli teṉṉintiya caivacittānta nūṟpatippuk kaḻakam: ceṉṉai 1962.

Secondary Sources

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Dubyanskiy, A. 2007. Elements of Poetic Technique in old Tamil poetry. In: Theatrum Mirabiliorum Indiae Orientalis. Rocznik Orientalistyczny. Tom LX, 2: 98–105.

Hart, G. L. III. 1975. The Poems of Ancient Tamil. Their Milieu and their Sanskrit Counterparts. Berkley–Los Angeles–London: University of California Press.

Kailasapathy, K. 1968. Tamil Heroic Poetry. Oxford etc.: Clarendon Press.

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Zvelebil, V. K. 1973. The Smile of Murugan. On Tamil Literature of South India. Leiden: E. J. Brill.




How to Cite

Dubyanskiy, Alexander. 2013. “Royal Attributes As Reflected in Caṅkam Poetry”. Cracow Indological Studies 15 (December):307-24.