Revisiting Sangam Poetry
B. Mangalam
LOVE STANDS ALONE:SELECTIONS FROM TAMIL SANGAM POETRY by M.L. Thangappa Penguin/Viking, 2010, 202 pp., 399
October 2010, volume 34, No 10

Sangam Poetry has long since fascinated and intrigued readers from different cultures. Fiercely treasured and guarded by Tamil pundits, chauvnistically valorized in Dravidian politics, Sangam corpus lays bare an entire worldview and civilizational ethos in cryptic, lyrical precision, leaving readers of every generation awe-struck and engrossed.

A.K. Ramanujan’s rendition of these poems into English in the 1960s and his explication of the Akam, Puram and their respective Tinai(s) introduced to non-Tamil, English reading public some of the chief characteristics and tenor of this body of poetry. Ramanujan’s translation was, however, far from impeccable, as it hovered between free translation and literal paraphrasing and many of his interventions were prompted by his assumptions regarding the process of translation in general and of his target readership in particular. Nonetheless, his translations evoked keen interest and scholarly debate in the academic domain.

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