This is collection of 10 poems. They are Tirumurugatrupadai, Porunaratruppadai, Mullaipattu, Maduraikanchi, Nedunalvadai, Kurinjippattu, Pattinappalai, Malaippadukadam, Sirupanatruppadai and Perumpanatruppadai. Of these, Mullaippattu, Kurinjipattu and Pattinappalai belong to Ahattinai and the rest belong to Purattinai.
Atruppadai is the name of a variety of literary compositions, which means 'to guide one on the right path'. In the beginning of these works, one observes a contrast between the poverty of the artiste and the majesty of the art. Finally, it ends in the disappearance of this contrast in the presence of the patron, who restores harmony.
The musicians were broadly classified in to Porunar, Panar and Kuttar. Porunar were supposed to be well versed in martial music like Parani, and were also able dancers. The Panar were both vocalists and instrumentalists. The Kuttar were dancers who possessed a sound knowledge of the art of dancing and were adept in portraying the feelings and emotions of a character.
The Porunar were further divided in to 3 sects:
* Erkalam Paduvar: Those who entertained farmers and peasants and were folk musicians.
* Porkkalam Paduvar: Those who accompanied kings to the battlefield. They played on instruments and music appropriate to the time of battle and also during recess so as to infuse courage in the hearts of the warriors and also to soothe the pairs of wounded men. They played on Tandaripparai.
* Parani: They displayed their musical talents in festivals. They probably sang the valorous deeds of the kings in the battlefields. Once the festival was over in one place, they moved to another. Parani is also said to be a type of Kuttu or dance. Hence, these Porunar must have also been adept in dancing and must have made their presentations in the form of dance operas.
The Panar had the following groups:
* Isaippanar: Vocalists
* Yazhppanar: Instrumentalists who were mainly the Yazh players. There were two subsections in the Yazhppanar. They were the Perumpanar who played on the Periyazh and the Siruppanar who played on the Seeriyazh.
* Mandaippanar: Those who sang with begging bowls.
In Maduraikanchi, there is a reference to the Perumpanar having lived in Madurai and Kaveripatnam.There are references in Malaippadukadam to the Panar being versatile and having had knowledge of the 7 notes and 3 octaves.
The importance of Patthupattu lies in its description of Yazh with its constituent parts, as it was during the Sangam period. The Periyazh with 21 strings and Seeriyazh with 7 strings played by the Perumpanar and Sirupanar respectively are mentioned in this work. Patthupattu is the earliest of the Sangam works to exhaustively deal with the details of the yazh. There were four kinds of Yazh, namely, Periyazh with 21 strings, Makarayazh with 19 strings, Sagodayazh with 14 strings and Sengottuyazh with 7 strings.
The flute was the most popular among the wind instruments. The process of making holes in the flute is explained in Perumpanatruppadai. The holes were bored on the tube by placing a burning log at required intervals. There is a reference in Kurinjipattu to shepherds standing at different places and playing Ambal Pann on the flute.
The other wind instruments referred to in Malaippadukadam are:
a) Pili, a small trumpet also called Siruchinnam,
b) Kodu or Kombu,
c) Kanvidutumbu - This has a larger circumference than flute and is supposed to have been as long as the trunk of an elephant, and
d) Kuruntumbu - a small flute. The pitch of this was supposed to be “Ili” or Panchamam. The ordinary flute also acted as a drone in addition to producing sweet music.
Of the various percussion instruments referred, the Murasu was the most popular and used on all occasions. During festivals, Murasu was played all day as it conveyed joy and gaiety. This reference is found in Maduraikanchi. There are references in Pattinappalai and Maduraikanchi to Muzhavu accompanying girls when they sang. Yazh is also mentioned as one of the accompanying instrument. There is mention of the Viraliyar playing the Seeriyazh and also dancing to the Tala played by the hand on the Muzhavu which has Marcchanai on the drum face. The Pormurasu or war drum, was a very important instrument, which was played in the battlefield to frighten enemies and also infuse courage and enthusiasm in the hearts of the warriors. The Murasu seemed to have been as important as a national flag as the victorious king always captured the Murasu of the defeated king. Reference to this is found in Maduraikanchi. The selection of wood and method of making Murasu is mentioned in Maduraikanchi.
Malaippadukadam refers to the construction and tuning of Murasu. The sides were covered with skin, which were kept in position by leather straps. The left drum face was tuned to Panchamam (Ili) while the right one was tuned to Shadjam (Kural). Maduraikanchi refers to the Porunar playing Kinaipiri. In Porunaratruppadai, this instrument is referred to as Udukkai with the impression of the palm of the player on the drum face, resembling the dark colour of the hood of dancing snake. The Porunar is supposed to have played on this drum with the Tala known as Irattai Talam.
The Malaippadukadam refers to Muzhavu, Aguli or Siruparai and Tattai. The Tattai is also known as Karadijai. The sound of this Parai is said to resemble the croaking of a frog and also that of the bear. This was a crude folk instrument made out of bamboo stick. Numerous slits were made across the stick and sound was produced on it by striking it on a stone or any other hard surface. The Kurinjipattu refers to this instrument being used by peasant women to scare the pigeons and parrots from the field along with another drum called Kulir. Malaippadukkadam refers to a drum called Ellari, which was also called Salli or Sallikai.
The Purananuru and Ettutogai refer to a percussion instrument called Padalai. Another name for this was Orukanmakkinai. The Ghana Vadyam referred to in Malaippadukadam in Kancha talam is known by the name Pandil, made of bronze. Paditrupattu refers to Kalappai, where all the instruments were kept and this was carried by the singing bards everywhere.
There are a number of references to specific Panns to be sung during worship and during ceremonies. Maduraikanchi refers to women singing Sevvazhi pann to invoke the mercy of God during childbirth. Malaippadukadam refers to Viraliyar singing Kurinjipann to offer worship to the deities residing in the hilly regions. The same work also refers to Virali singing Marudappan before singing the eulogies of kings. Malaippadukadam also refers to the people trying to overcome their fatigue by singing Marudappan after working in the fields. There is a very interesting reference to Panns and birds/insects in Perumpanatruppadai. It says that the beetles liked to listen to Kurinjipann played on Vilyazh thinking it to be the voice of its own kith and kin, while they hated to listen to Palaipann played on flute. There are also references to the Panar taking delight in mastering one Pann, e.g. Naivalam.
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