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Topics in Sangam literature
Sangam literature
Eighteen Greater Texts
Eight Anthologies
Ten Idylls
Related topics
SangamSangam landscape
Tamil history from Sangam literatureAncient Tamil music
Eighteen Lesser Texts
Iṉṉā NāṟpatuIṉiyavai Nāṟpatu
Kār NāṟpatuKaḷavaḻi Nāṟpatu
Aintiṇai AimpatuTiṉaimoḻi Aimpatu
Aintinai EḻupatuTiṉaimalai Nūṟṟu Aimpatu
ĀcārakkōvaiPaḻamoḻi Nāṉūṟu

Kalittokai (Tamilகலித்தொகை meaning the kali-metre anthology) is a classical Tamil poetic work and the sixth of Eight Anthologies (Ettuthokai) in the Sangam literature.[1] It is an "akam genre – love and erotic – collection par excellence", according to Kamil Zvelebil – a Tamil literature and history scholar.[1] The anthology contains 150 poems and was compiled by one of the authors named Nallantuvanar.[1][2] The collection has a different tone, metre and style than earlier Sangam literature, evidence that it is a late Sangam work, likely from the 3rd-century CE or after.[3][2] Naccinarkiniyar, a Tamil scholar who lived during the 14th-century CE, has commented on this work.[1][4]

It is unclear whether the Kalittokai was authored by more than one author. Some scholars attribute the collection to five authors, including one by the famed Sangam poet Kapilar.[1][2] Others, such as S.V. Damodaram Pillai and K.N. Sivaraja Pillai consider it the work of one poet.[5]

The Kalittokai anthology uses the kali metre of varied length. This metre is more advanced and complex than the akaval metre found in earlier Sangam poetry. The kali metre combines aciriyam and venpa, creating opportunities to set dialogues within the metre. The poets who composed the Kalittokai created what comes across as a "one-act plays", sometimes with "coarse, spicy, racy, rude, bawdy, or humorous" dialogues, states Zvelebil.[6] According to Herman Tieken, these compositions are examples of lasya minor dance scenes as described in the chapters 19 and 31 of the Natyasastra.[7] The kali metre has several structural subtypes, each suited for different literary purposes.[8]

The poems include cultured love situations, as well as erotics, folkmotifs and vulgar situations.[1] Its poems are categorised into the five tinais according to the mood and subject matter conforming to the Sangam landscape. The first part (2-36) deals with paalai setting, the second (37-65) with kurinchi, the third (66-100) with marutam, the fourth (101-117) with mullai and the fifth (118-150) with neital. These five section were each written by a separate author. Perunkadunkon wrote the paalai songs, the poet Kapilar is attributed to the kurinchi, Ilanaagan the marutham songs, Nalluruthiran the mullai songs and the poet nallanthuvan the neithal songs.

The Kalittokai poems are notable for the relatively higher number of Sanskrit loan words, lexical and structural innovations, the practice of quoting lines of earlier poems such as Kuṟuntokai 18.5, and the lack the names of chieftains, kings or poets.[9] The anthology is also notable for including allusions and references to pan-Indian love and moral legends found in Epics– and Puranas–genre Sanskrit texts. According to Zvelebil, some examples in the Kalittokai include Duryodhana's evil plans to kill the Pandava brothers in poem 25, the battle of Murugan and Surapadma in poem 27, Ravana of Ramayana epic in poem 38, Bhima in poem 52, Krishna killing Kansa in poems 52 and 134, Shiva's legends in poems 101 and 150, the love story of Urvasi and Tilottama in poem 109, among others.[9]

The poems of Kalithogai show evidence of the ancient music of the Tamil people with its rhythmic phrases.[citation needed]


O dwarf, standing piece of timber,
you've yet to learn the right approach
to girls. Humans do not copulate
at noon: but you come now to hold
our hand and ask us to your place.
– Kalittokai 94 (partial), Translator: A.K. Ramanujan[10]


ஆற்றுதல்' என்பது, ஒன்று அலந்தவர்க்கு உதவுதல்;
போற்றுதல்' என்பது, புணர்ந்தாரை பிரியாமை;
பண்பு' எனப்படுவது, பாடு அறிந்து ஒழுகுதல்;
அன்பு' எனப்படுவது, தன் கிளை செறாஅமை;
அறிவு' எனப்படுவது, பேதையார் சொல் நோன்றல்;
செறிவு' எனப்படுவது, கூறியது மறாஅமை;
நிறை' எனப்படுவது, மறை பிறர் அறியாமை;
முறை' எனப்படுவது, கண்ணோடாது உயிர் வௌவல்;
பொறை' எனப்படுவது, போற்றாரை பொறுத்தல்.

Goodness is helping one in distress;
Support is not deserting one who is dependent;
Culture is to act in unison with the ways of the world;
Love is not surrendering ties with one’s kin;
Wisdom is to ignore the advice of the ignorant;
Honesty is not to go back on one’s words;
Integrity is to ignore others’ faults;
Justice is awarding punishment without partiality;
Patience is to suffer the ill-disposed.

Kalithogai 133—Translated by C.K. Swaminathan


  1. Jump up to:a b c d e f Kamil Zvelebil 1973, pp. 119–120.
  2. Jump up to:a b c Takanobu Takahashi 1995, pp. 2, 18-19.
  3. ^ Kamil Zvelebil 1973, pp. 28–29, 46, 117, 119–120.
  4. ^ Ta Irācēcuvari (2015). Kalittokai: mūlamum Naccinārkkin̲iyar uraiyum. École Française D'extrême-Orient.
  5. ^ Kamil Zvelebil 1973, p. 123.
  6. ^ Kamil Zvelebil 1973, pp. 119–122.
  7. ^ Herman Tieken (2010). Karin Steiner and Heidrun Brückner (ed.). Indisches Theater: Text, Theorie, Praxis. Otto Harrassowitz Verlag. pp. 66–67. ISBN 978-3-447-06186-5.
  8. ^ V. S. Rajam (1992). A Reference Grammar of Classical Tamil Poetry (150 B.C.--pre-fifth/sixth Century A.D.). American Philosophical Society. pp. 181–186. ISBN 978-0-87169-199-6.
  9. Jump up to:a b Kamil Zvelebil 1973, pp. 122–123.
  10. ^ Kamil Zvelebil 1973, pp. 120–121.

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