music. Prominent among these were the panar and viraliyar who moved
about the country in companies carrying with them all sorts of quaint
instruments. They seem to have been the representatives of primitive tribal
groups who preserved the folk-songs and dance of an earlier age.
The arts of music and dancing were highly developed and popular.
Musical instruments of various types are described and included many kinds
of yal (a stringed instrument like the lute) and varieties of drums. Viralis
sometimes danced at night by torchlight and particular danceposes of the
hands are mentioned by names as in the Natyasastra of Bharata.
A conscious and systematic attempt was made to bring together and
synthesise the indigenous pre- Aryan modes (desi) with those that came from
the North (marga), the result of which is reflected fully in the
Silappadigaram. The dancing-girl was often a serious rival to the wife, and
the whole plot of the celebrated story of Kovalan and Kannagi turns on this
rivalry. Like Vatsyayana’s Kamasutra, the Manimegalai indicates that
hetaerae underwent a regular course of instruction extending over a number
of years and comprised court dances, popular dances, singing, playing on the
lute and flute, cookery, perfumery, painting, flower-work and many other
No single method was adopted for the disposal of the dead; both cremation
and inhumation with or without urns are freely mentioned. A widow offered a
riceball to her dead husband on a blade of grass (darbha) and the pulaiyan
had a part to play in this funeral ritual. Sati was fairly common, though by no
means universal. The heroism and devotion of the sati were doubtless
applauded by public opinion, but the practice was certainly not encouraged,
much less enforced.
Agriculture was the main occupation. The chief crop was rice, while other
crops included cotton, ragi, sugarcane, pepper, ginger, cardamom, turmeric,