Kings, Kids, and Death…Basic Summary of Puram Poetry

Puram is one of two genres of Classical Tamil Poetry. Puram poems reflect the Tamil community’s culture and traditions. The Puram poetics are not nearly as demanding as their counterparts, Akam poets, because the themes presented in Puram poetry is foregrounded in the objective. Puram poetry also differs from Akam poetry in that it is more specific, public, the authors are encouraged to take on voices other than their own. The publicity of the Puram poems offers a wider range of social topics and are articulated in a wider range of voices. The concept of lifestyle of human beings falls in two categories: personal and public. Puram poetry is public, while its counter, Akam, is personal.  Though the two great ancient Indian literary traditions differ vastly in almost all aspects, there seems to be a unity in terms of a tendency to write according to schemes that can be classified.

All of Tamil poetry had been divided into Akam or Puram. Akam dealt with the inner world, love poems, written in highly structured forms. Puram poems are usually set in cities and towns; they are about real people and real places, public issues and places, and common problems and tragedies. The theme in Puram poems are on the outer world, and dealt with public life, war, death, and the glory of kings. They provide graphic details of the society and the life of the kings, merchants and common people in a cosmopolitan, trade-oriented, and religiously tolerant society. These poems laid the foundation for Tamil poetry, a tradition so strong that it was only from the nineteenth century onward that poets began to struggle to break, as the translators say, “free [from] traditional and prescribed forms of prosody… speak with new voices and address a wide audience in the modern political and social world.” Puram leads to consideration as a historical record by Tamil literary scholars as it has details such as names of the kings, poets, and places. The Puram concept speaks on excellency of lifestyle of different people. As the kings are famous, their life-styles of war and gifts are spoken in plenty.

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Tolkappiyam, the earliest work of Tamil grammar and literature available in Tamil, divides each genre into seven strands comparing and connecting the one in personal with the other in public life of style. Another work that belongs to a period of a thousand years later, Purapporul Venpamalai, divides the puram concept into twelve, without concerning the other part life-style. Puram leads to consideration as a historical record by Tamil literary scholars as it has details such as names of kings, poets, and places.

In the Sangam literature, the Tamil language reached a level of maturity and began to serve as a powerful and elegant medium of literary expression. It had already developed an elaborate code of conventions governing the portrayal of social life in literature. This must clearly have been the result of evolution and development spread over some generations.The language of this early poetry is formalized and standardized. The poets were true to nature and their poems abounded in descriptions of nature perceived with a keen eye. They speak volumes about the powers of observation and attention to details of the poets of this age.

An example of Puram poetry is “The Exterior Landscape,” also known as “This World Lives Because.” In the poem, the idea of not having anger and not striving for selfishness makes the world exist. Honorable men and women symbolize all that is good in the world. The poem states that if everyone was selfless and did for others, the world would become a Utopian kind of world.

Another example of Puram poetry is “Children.” In the poem, the author state that though child are messy and annoying, they are the most precious gift. The poem goes on to list all of the irritable things that children do, but then states that without them, a man’s life has no meaning. “If he does not have children…and overcome reason with love, all his days have come to nothing” (Norton 983).

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In the poem, “A Mother’s List of Duties,” the author, Ponmutyar, writes about a mother’s duties, stating that it is a mother’s duty to bring up a son who is as noble as his father, and to show his way with the spears for the kings. In the poem, it seems that it is a mother’s job to bring up a man who will fight battles and butcher animals and come out alive.


Puchner, Martin, et al. The Norton Anthology of World Literature. 970-972, 982-983. 4th ed., B, W.W. Norton & Company, 2018.