Natalie Savelyeva

Tutu Poetry – Messenger poems in Indian Literature

Tutu (or duta in Sanskrit) means "message". Tutu (or Sandesha in Sanskrit) is also the genre of poetry when the message is sent through uyartinai (class of superior beings) or akrinai (class of inferior beings) from lady in love to her lover or vice versa.

According to Kamil Zvelebil (8), tutu is a poem defined schematically and formally as a genre in Kalivenpa meter which purports to be a message of love sent though a companion to effect reconciliation between the lovers.

In Tholkappiyam it is mentioned that the messages can be sent though heroine’s confidant, mother, Brahmin, hero’s friend, minstrel, bardess, youngsters, guest, actor/dancer or danseuse/actress, noble and seers. There are ten types of objects which could carry the message, such as swan, peacock, parrot, lady’s maid, bush myna, cloud, cuckoo, heart, wind and bee.

Later on, in medieval period the poets employed such kind of media as money, Tamil language, South wind (tendral), conversation, love, paddy, tobacco, pieces of dress, crow, deer, donkey, flowers, etc.

Messenger poems in Sanskrit literature

According to (12), Sandesha kavya (Sanskrit) is defined as a literary form established by the celebrated Meghadutam of Kalidasa. In it, a lover separated from his beloved woman finds some way of sending a message of love to her.

According to (3), Meghadutam by Kalidasa, the most celebrated poem of the genre designated by Indian tradition as Duta or Sandesha kavya. The sources of Kalidasa’s inspiration are the story of Nala from Mahabharata (where Nala sends a message to Damayanti with a goose which later brings Damayanti’s answer to him) and the episode of Hanuman’s embassy to Lanka taken from Valmiki’s Ramayana.

Kalidasa’s poem generated imitations; the earliest among them is, perhaps, Chandraduta by Jambukavi (between 8 and 10 century AD). The next one is Dhoyi’s Pavanaduta.

There are about 55 Sandesha kavyas (also known as Duta kavyas) in Sanskrit and may others written is other languages (there are Muslim and Christian messenger poems, poems in Sanskrit and Manipravalam, poems in Sri Lanka written in Sinhala language are also existing.)

Most of the poems are between 100–200 verses, although some as are little as 30 odd stanzas and one stretches to 374. Each follows Kalidasa’s Meghaduta to a greater or lesser extent. They involve two separated lovers, one of who sends the other a message, and thus are designed to evoke Sringara rasa (’feeling of love’). They adhere to a bipartite structure in which the first half charts the journey the messenger is to follow, while the second describes the messenger’s destination, the recipient and the message itself.

Messengers change with the subject matter of the poem. In poems centered on love relationship between the heroine and the hero the poets used objects of nature connected with particular seasons as the messengers, for example cuckoo or bee of vasanta (spring), peacock of varsa (monsoon) and the swan of Sarat (autumn), even the moon and various breezes.

In philosophical Sandesha kavyas the poets used metaphorical objects as messengers, for example, manas (mind), smriti (memory), prajna (transcendental wisdom) and svapna (dream).

Kalidasa: Meghadutam

Meghaduta composed by Kalidasa (4–5 century AD), is the first and most famous Sandesha kavya which describes the sorrowful life of a Yaksha, servant of Kubera, the king of Alaka and the God of wealth. He was separated from his wife and staying on the mountains of Chota Nagpur. He sends message to his loving wife through the cloud. He gives the route map to Alaka from his place. The cloud is to travel north west from Ramagiri in central India, stop off at Ujjain to enjoy its attractions (consisting chiefly of alluring women), visit the Mahabharata battlefield, Kurukshetra, and then fly through the crack in Mount Kraunca to reach Alaka and deliver his message.

Sandesha Kavyas in Sanskrit

Pavanaduta or "Wind Messenger" was composed by Dhoyin or Dhoyi, a poet at the court of the Sena king Lakshmana who ruled Gauda (contemporary Bengal) during the latter part of the 12th century CE. His Pavanaduta is probably the earliest surviving example of the many messenger poems which were written in imitation of the Meghaduta. It tells the story of Kuvalayavata, a gandharva maiden from the south who falls in love with King Laksmana when she sees him during his victory tour of the world. She asks the south wind to take her message to the king at his court.

Hamsa–Sandesha or "The message of the Swan" written by Vedanta Devika (Vaisnavite Saint of 13th AD) is probably the earliest Sandesha kavya that takes the Valmiki’s Ramayana as its base. It is short lyric poem of 110 verses. Here Hanuman has just returned to Mount Malyavan with a message from Sita, imprisoned in Lanka, to her husband Rama: "Come as fast as you can. I won’t last much longer."

Rama prepares to set off with his army the very next morning but just as dawn breaks he sees a swan, newly arrived from its monsoon retreat in the Himalayas, and is suddenly overcome with intense longing for his elegant wife. When he comes to, he decides to ask the swan to take a second message to Sita to console her and reassure her that he will soon rescue her.

Hamsaduta or "Swan Messenger" was composed by Rupa Gosvamin in the early part of the 16th century CE. Rupa Gosvamin was one of the most famous poets of the Gaudiya sampradaya (devotees of Krishna, ruling dynasty of Bengal). In the Hamsaduta Krishna has left Vrindavan or Mathura, abandoning the many cowherd girls who adore him. Chief among them was Radha, and she is distraught. Her friend Lalita meets a swan on the banks of the Yamuna and begs him to take a message to Krishna.

Bhringadutam literally meaning "Bumblebee messenger", is a minor poem of the Duta kavya (messenger–poem) genre composed by Jagadguru Rambhadracharya. The poem consists of 501 verses divided in two parts. Set in the context of Krishna khanda of Valmiki’s Ramayana, the poem describes the message sent via a bumblebee by Lord Rama, spending the four months of the rainy season on the Pravarsana mountain in Kiskindha, to Sita, held captive by Ravana in Lanka.

Some features of the epic compared with previous Duta kavyas

PoemComposerMessengerSenderRecipientMessenger’s journey
MeghadutaKalidasaCloudAn unnamed YakshaAn unnamed YakshiRamadri to Kailisa
HamsasandeshamVedanta DesikacharyaSwanLord RamaSitaPampa lake to Lanka
PavanadutamDhoyiWindGandhava named KuvalayavatiKing Laksmana SenaFrom South India to Bengal
HamsadutamSri Rupa GosvamiSwanLalita, a companion of RadhaLord KrishaVraja to Mathura
BhingadutamSvami RamabhadracharyaBumblebeeLord RamaSitaKiskindha to Lanka

Minor Sandesha Kavyas in Sanskrit

Ghata Karpara was contemporary of Kalidasa. His work is a tiny work in 22 verses, where love message is sent by a young wife to her lover through a cloud.

Candraduta was written by Jambukavi between 8 and 10 century AD.

Bhramara Duta by Rudra Nytya Pascina and the Abda Duta of Krishna Sricandana Nabhi are two other Sandesha kavyas based on Ramayana. Here the bee and the cloud are used to pass message from Rama to captured Sita.

In Hanumad Duta by Nitya Nanda Sastri Hanuman is employed as the messenger.

In Vata Duta by Srikrishna Natha Nytya Apascinana a northern–bound breeze used as messenger to Sita?.

Kokila Sandesa was composed by Uddhanda Kavi, the poet belongs to Tamil Nadu became an honored poet in the court of the Zamorin of Calicut in early 15th AD.

There is one more poem called Hamsa Sandesa by Vamana Bhatta Bana (other than Venkata natha’s work) was written in 15th AD.

Examples of Sandesha kavyas in other languages

Unnuneeli Sandesham is one of the oldest literary works in Malayalam language. In this work, a message is sent by a lover to his lady–love staying at a far–off place. The work was written in the 14th century AD, when transport and communications were very limited in Kerala. The messenger in the poem is, therefore, a carrier pigeon. The poem is written under the pen–name Amruthanilakshi, and some believe that it was written in 1362 AD.

The exact identity of the author remains a mystery, but it is widely believed that one of the members of Vadakkumkur (Travancore) Royal Family wrote it.

Nala Charitram is another famous Malayalam work written by Unnai Varier in late 17th–early 18th cent. It is the most famous attakatha of Kerala. Based on the Nala–Damayanti story, it is in four parts, each of which can be performed all night. This poet was the first to adopt the story for Kathakali performance.

Messenger poems in Tamil literature

The motif of messenger was widely used in Tamil literature since Sangam age. It runs as continuous thread and allows us to understand development of poetical genres. From short stanzas of Sangam age centered on human love it moves to more elaborates lyrics of Bhakti age speculating on human and divine relationships.

The Sanskrit duta poetry had probably a trigger effect on the "message" poems so that they developed into a full–fledged and productive genre, narrative and erotic, with many sub–types during medieval period. Later on Tutu poetry influenced such poetical and musical forms Padam, Javali and Varnam, significance of which for dance is immense. Tutu motifs also can be found in Kalampakam, Kovai and Kuravanji literature.

Embryonic messenger poems in Sangam literature

Mu. Varadarajan (9) has shown that the "message" poems were current in embryonic form even in the early bardic poetry where different animals, birds as well as inanimate natural objects such as clouds and air were utilized imaginatively as messengers in love poems or envoys of the kings in heroic lyrics.

For example, in Kuruntokai 266, the heroine asks her confidante how it was that the hero had forgotten to leave a message though the bird’s mouth. In Akananuru a love–lorn lady, who had not seen her lover at the sea–shore addresses a hurriedly running cab in the following manner (Mu. Varadarajan, 4):

Oh crab! My lover lives in the town near by.

You should go and tell my sorrow to him.

This grove near the shore would not help me.

This lagoon, which runs along the county of my lover,

will not convey my distress to him.

Only you could go and tell him my pitiable conditions.

(Akananuru 170)

One more poem of longing we find in the work of Kamil Zvelebil (2), here the hero addresses North wind as envoy of his love to the heroine:

Be god to her, O North Wind,

And may you prosper.

There, among thin silver rills

That look like hanging snake skins,

High on the hill

There herds of elk

Plunder the gooseberry

In the courtyards,


Lies my good woman’s village

Of grass–thatched cottages.

(Kuruntokai 235, translated by A.K. Ramanujan)

The poem is utterance of thalaivan (the hero) who returns from his separation, and sends the cool north wind (vital) to protect her. Thus, the stanza represent embryonic tutu poem.

Very often there is a mediator or messenger (tutuvan) who speaks for the husband and seeks to retain wife’s acceptance of the husband back home (this messenger is almost always his friend or her female–companion).

There exists a Vidu tutu poem in Tamil which is however of a very different kind: in fact, it is one of the most exquisite short poems in Tamil literature; but its date, unfortunately, cannot be fixed. It is ascribed to an otherwise unknown bard, Cattimurrap pulavar, and goes under the title Naraividututu, "The stork–messenger". The poet, a native of Cattimurram (near Kumbakonam), sends a stork to his wife with a message from Madurai, describing his poverty in a delicate and at the same time very powerful way.

Mu. Irakavaiyankar in anthology on Peruntokai, (10), quotes from the commentary on Colamantala catakam the following moving poetic message ascribed to the poet Cattimurruppulavar, which says:

Stork! Stork! Red–logged stork!

Red legged stork with the sharp red beak

Like the cleft root of the fruit–bearing palmyra palm!

When you and your female have bathed

At the Southern Kumari, if you should return

to the North and bath in Kaviri,

stop at the home of Cattimurram

and tell my wife, who must be watching

the clicking lizard on the rain–wet wall,

that in the city hall of our king Valuti

without a garment, shivering from cold,

covering my body with my legs,

and sighing like a snake in a basket

opening its mouth with its sharp teeth

the miserable me you have seen here.

(Peruntokai, poem 1463)

Messaging is not restricted to just between lovers alone. Tutu songs were used to describe how messengers negotiated between kings. According to Mu. Varadarajan (4), since olden days it has been a common practice to a king to send an envoy to another king. From one of the poems in Purananuru, we learn that the king Atiyaman sent poetess Auvaiyar as his envoy to Tontaiman. Kings usually sent their envoys on matters concerning war or other state matters.

In one of the poem of Purananuru, when Picirantaiyar, a poet from the Pandya kingdom, wanted to sing the praise of his bosom friend Kopperuncolan, a Cola king, the poet addressed a swan flying on the direction of the Cola country in the following manner:

Oh swan! You are flying towards the Cola country.

When you sight the king’s palace, alight and enter into it.

Then introduce yourself to the king, using my name.

On hearing my name the king will offer everything you want

including the jewellery you need for your wife.

(Purananuru 231)

Messenger poems in Tamil Bhakti literature

According to Mu. Varadarajan (4), messenger poems are found in the subsequent period of Bhakti literature, in Tevaram, Tiruvacakam and Nalayiram (composed during the period from 6 to 9 century AD). The Nayanmars and Alwars send their messengers to the God. They used cuckoo, anril, bee, dove, parrot and stark as their imaginative envoys to express their love for God.

According to Indira Peterson(5), the embryonic tutu poems can be found in Tevaram. According to Kamil V. Zvelebil (8), ten hymns by Sambandar are messages of love. In the following examples Sambandar employs the bee and the parrot as his messengers to the Lord:

King bee

Who hums melodious tunes,

Drinking honey from lotuses

In lovely ripping pools

In the company of you mate!

Out of compassion for me,

Won’t you tell my state

To the Lord of the bright crescent moon,

Who wears a garland of bones on his chest,

The pantarankam dancer

Who lives in holy Tonipuram?

Simple parrot

Imprisoned in you cage,

Come here I will give you

Milk and honey to drink,

As much as you wish,

If you will speak for me just once

The sweet name

Of the Lord who wears the bight young moon,

King of Tonipuram by the sea,

Where the beach is strewn

With clustered coral and pearls!

(Tevaram, Poem 182, Cambandar I.60, Tonipuram or modern Cirkali)

Manikka Vasahar also appealed to different messengers (11, Hymns Of Tamil Saivite Saints). In the following examples he sends his message of love and devotion, in one case by a humming bee, in the other by the cuckoo, to Lord Siva who dwells in Tillai, i.e. Chidambaram.

The Bee’s Message

110. Hard–hearted thief, stiff–necked was I, but no such name He called me;

My stony heart He melted, and by mercy He enthralled me.

The swans abound in Tillai’s lovely hall of gold, His dwelling.

Fly, king of bees, at His gold anklets hum, my message telling.

111. Cur though I am, my lord has set me His great glory singing ;

To me, the mad, His patient grace is aye forgiveness bringing ;

Scorning me not. He deigns to take the service I can do Him.

Mother and God. Go, king of bees, hum thou my message to Him.

112. Far would my heart and mind have gone from Him, but He compelled me.

The lord with tangled locks, and His fair spouse, they saved and held me.

He is the sky, the mighty sea, east, west, north, south, indwelling.

His feet with honey drop. There, king of bees, my praise be telling.

113. In this world’s treasure false immersed lay I, and self–deceived,

Held it for treasure true, but for His own He me received.

My precious life itself is He, in Tillai’s hall abiding.

Go, king of bees, at His red lotus feet my words confiding.

The Cuckoo’s Errand

114. Hear, little cuckoo in the honey’d orchard groves.

Heav’n did He spurn ; to save us men, to earth He came,

Boundless in giving, recking naught of flesh of mine.

Entered my mind, and there my very thought became.

He, the alone, the spouse of her whose pure eye’s ray

Shames the gazelle in softness, call Him hither pray.

In the world of Vaisnavite literature, both Nammazhvar and Andal have used birds as messengers in their verses although neither wrote a full fledged ’messenger poem’. For example, there are ten verses by Andal, in her "Nachiyar Tirumozhi", where she sends the clouds as messenger to the lord of Tirupati.

Development of Tutu poetry as the separate genre during medieval period

Vidu tutu genre was rigorously patronized by local rajas, poligars, high officials of state and rich zamindars of the 17–19th centuries, since they gave scope of stories of love and sex as well as to praise of the patrons. According to Mu. Varadarajan (4), it became a custom to write elaborate work of vitu tutu type. During this period Tutu became a new literary genre.

The length of the poems grew and the objects of envoys grew in number as well:

  • A female companion or virali (danseuse) traditionally served as messengers.
  • The animals as the swans, peacocks, parrots, cuckoos, the myna bids, dear, crow are employed. For example, there are "pura vidu tutu", (message sent via dove) "maan (deer) vidu tutu", "mayil (peacock) vidu tutu", "naarai vidu tutu" (the crane or stork).
  • The unanimated objects as the clouds, the south wind (tendral), paddy, cloth served as mediators. In one of the tutu poems, tobacco, a newly arrived commodity in the country, is utilized as the messenger.
  • The heart, mind was addressed to as messengers (see below).
  • Tamil language itself was used as the messenger (see below).

Umapati Sivachariyar, a devout Saivite and great Saiva Siddhanta teacher lived in 14th century was a pioneer of Vidu Tutu genre. He composed a poem called Nenju Vidu Tutu or the "Heart Messenger", which has become an independent work of this genre and the first messenger poem in Tamil. It is a devotional poem in the form of 129 double lines. The poet sends his heart as a messenger with an important message to his Gnanaguru Maraingana Sambandar identified with God.

Tamizh vitu tutu of Maduraiyik Cokkanatar is a famous Tamil prabandham of 268 couples composed in 16–17th century AD. The author of the poem is unknown. The Tamil language itself is deputed as heroine’s love messenger to Lord Chokkanadar of Madurai (13):

"You are fit to fulfill my mission successfully and you have the capacity to express adequately my longing to my lover."

The poet envisages the Tamil as a king and describes in detail many facets of the language and literature. The heroine refers to Sundarar sending Lord Siva himself as a messenger to Parvati and says: "You sent the Lord as a messenger; now I am in such a plight that I am forced to send you as my messenger."

Cokkanata Pillai (or Palapattataic Cokkanata Kavirayar) was a pious Saivite. He wrote many Prabandhas and several Tutu poems. He lived during the reign of Tirumalai Nayakar, between 17th and 18th century. He wrote Patmakirinatar tendral vidu tutu, Canpakanallurc killai vidu tutu civaperuman vidu tutu, Alakar killai vidu tutu, and Panam vitu tutu (composed between 1710 and 1715 AD). The hero of the last work is Mutu Vijaya Ragunata Cetupati., who reigned over Ramanatapuram and was known for his generosity and philanthropy. This work gives description of his qualities, customs, habits and manners of his people. The heroine’s maid sends the message (money) on behalf of the former. The importance and role of money in human life are clearly pointed out in this poem (there are 36 terms by which money are called).

According to Kamil Zvelebil (7, pp. 260–262) vitu tutu genre includes two sub–genres: the Katal or "love" poems and the Virali vidu tutu, "the virali as messenger".

In the Katal poems, the heroine tells her friend about her love and sorrow at having being separated from her lover, and uses this occasion the narrate the entire story of the hero and her love for him; she sends her friend and messenger to the hero to ask him to return to her. The earliest Katal work is possibly the one composed by a Virapattirar (middle of the 17th cent).

Virali Vidu Tutu is the separate sub–genre of tutu which gained popularity about 17th century. The main intention of this class of poems is to eulogize the patron and his munificent gifts. In this kind of poems Virali (female minstrel) is employed as messenger, and amorous sports (sambhoga sringara) are described in detail. Thus, Virali vidu tutu became very popular among the local chiefs, and many compositions appeared from 1600 to 1750 AD. In all the poems of this type a Brahmin falls from his pedestal (leaves his wife and house, for example), succumbs to carnal desires (meets a beautiful dancer and expert prostitute and falls in love with her) and makes fool of himself (spends all his fortune on the mistress and chased out of her house). The story is narrated by Brahmin himself, who shows his mastery over several fields of learning, including Kokkoka Sutra (analog of Kama Sutra). Very explicit description of sexual union is the feature of this genre.

Deivachilaiyar virali vidu tutu by Kumaacuvami Avatanti is one of the earliest Virali vidu tutu poems. It was composed in honor of Nayaka agent in Tirunelvelli about 1600 AD.

The most famous of this class of poems is Kulappa Nayak Virali Vidu Tutu composed by Supradeepa Kavirayar (1680–1746) on Kulappa Nayak of Nilakkotai in 1720. He was a Vaisnava Bahman from Srirangam, great Tamil scholar and teacher. He lived under the patronage of Kulappa Nayaka of Nilakkotai, the ruler of a fortress. The interesting moment is, that in this poem the names of all ragas are given there along with complete sequence of dance performance.

Supradeepa had many imitators. The most outstanding among them was Caavana Perumal Kavirayar (18the cent) from Mutukulattur (Ramnad district), one of the traditional poets of Cettinatu. He was the court poet of Mutturamalinka Cetupati (2nd half, 18th cent) and author of Pana vitu tutu or "Money as Messenger".

Muvaraiyan Virali Vidu Tutu was composed by Chirrambalak Kavirayar of Mallaiyur (Ramnad district) in about 1650 AD.

Influence of Tutu poetry on later poetical forms used in dance

How can we show inner world of the hero or the heroine on the stage? How to portray her feelings, moods, emotions in subtle and suggestive manner characteristic for Bharatanatyam abhinaya? How to make her go out of herself and tell us how she feels? Even to our closest friends and relatives such things are difficult to communicate... When we are overfilled with emotions or find ourselves in difficult situation, without any hope for understanding and help from majority of the people, whom can to appeal to?

Those questions were answered many times by the poets. One of the ways is to communicate the problem to the messenger, the object of Nature (universal mother) or even to some conceptual object like mind, love, conversation, heart (metaphor of loving affection and life itself).

Instructing the messenger the heroine is involved into a conversation, she allows herself to express and pour out her love, sorrow or dreams. How she selects the objects, how she gets in contact with it, how she communicates her problem and how she describes the recipient of the message – all those things are extremely useful for the stage performance of hidden drama of the heroine.

One more feature is that communication through the messenger is usually undertaken in strict secrecy, thus, we can observe the most inner, hidden sides of emotional life of the heroine. We can see the heroine without social and other masks, as she is. Varnams, Padams and Javalis are centered on love–relationships between Nayaka and Nayaki, thus the theme of a mediator in form of a messenger inevitably arises in such musical and dance forms.

Kirtanam nI uraippAi hanumAnE (Ragamalika, Adi) by Yazhpanam N.Viramani Iyer

In this composition Sri Rama sends his message to Sita (Janaki) throught Hanuman. Sri Rama instructs Hanuman what to say to his wife so she would believe the messenger and accept a token of love sent by Sri Rama.

Keertanam Karanam Kettu Vadi (Poorvikalyani, Adi) by Gopalakrishna Bharatiyar

In Pallavi the heroine asks her friend, why her lover, Lord of Cidambaram, has not visited her yet. In Charanam she tries to find a reason and asks: "Did I strike him with stones or the bow (like Kannapar did)? Did I send him to carry a message to a house which is prohibited? Did I even attempt to do something which should not be done?"

Padam thiruvil varano (Kamas, adi) by Muthu Tandavar

The heroine is waiting for Lord Natarajan who is going in procession from temple along her street. In Pallavi she’s asking: "Will he not pass this way and favor me with a backward glance?" In second Charanam she says: "Time does not pass and there is no one to take a message", which is illustrated by the following Sanchari (14):

  1. Time hangs heavily and she feels there is no one the take her message.
  2. She requests the moon to take the message to Siva. He goes, sits of Siva’s head and never returns.
  3. She wonders if she should use a deer as her messenger but feels he may forget while grazing.
  4. She pleads with the clouds to oblige her. They go but become Siva’s locks.
  5. She orders Kamadeva to fetch her Lord, she hears that he has been reduced to ashes.
  6. Finally she sends her heart and it never returns.

Padam yAr pOi (Todi, Misracapu) by Aidisvarankoil Subbaramayyar

The Nayika addresses the Annam (it can be a swan, or a comely maiden) and laments that there is no one to tell her Lord about her situation, and she doesn’t know what she can do. She describes the Nayaka as the Lord Subrahmanya, the embodiment of virtue, and respectability or dignity who resides atop mount Tiruttani.

In Anupallavi she says: "In the famous great hill of Tituttanigai lives Murugaiyan who is worshiped by SeyamArar and who is an embodiment of purity and truth. Who will take this message to Him?"

Padam solla vallAyO (Ragamalika, Tisra Adi) by Kavariman

A conversation between the lovelorn Nayika and her parrot (Kili) is described. She is coaching the bird to ask some questions the way she wants them to be posed and sends it to Lord Muruga. In Pallavi she asks: "Oh parrot (kiLiyE) would you (nI) find it impossible (vallAyO) to say these words (Solla) to my beloved?"

Padam kaNDEn nikaTE (Kamas) from Nalacharitham by Unnayi Variyar

The heroine (Damayanti) is talking to the swan, her messenger to Nala. This padam falls under the category of ’annam vidu tutu (swan as messenger). Damayanti appears to tell the swan that she will confide her innermost thoughts and feelings, if the swan is ready to become her companion.

Pada varnam nee indha mayam (Dhanyasi, Adi) by Papanasam Sivan

The lovelorn Nayika is suffering extreme physical distress at being ignored by the Lord of Madurai. Instead of sending her friend, or her pet swan/parrot/dove as a messenger, she decides to argue her case directly. She alternates between desperate pleading, and exasperated chiding.

Pada varnam svAmi nI (Shriranjani, Adi) by Papanasam Sivan

The composer is the messenger himself. A love–lorn Nayika is waiting for Muruga to come to her. In Pallavi, the poet says: "Oh Lord Kumaraswami, are you not the repository of kindness in the world? Please take pity on me and hear my plea – I come here as the messenger of a young and beautiful woman".

In the Anupallavi, the messenger describes the consequences of delay. He says: "Please come with me, oh Nephew of the great Vishnu, for if you do not make haste, the maiden will die of a broken heart."

Pada varnam annamE aruginil vA (Valaji, Adi) by Sri Subbudu

The heroine (Devayanai) addresses the swan (Annam) and asks it to listen her secret concerning her love for Lord Muruga, who fell in love with Valli, went away and left her alone.


The theme of message and messenger is very characteristic for Indian poetry. The seeds of this genre can be traced to Sangam poetry, where messengers are employed in official (as ambassadors of the ling) or love affairs. In Bhakti poems messengers connects heat of devotee and the God. In Sanskrit and medieval Tamil literature duta or tutu poems are developed in a separate genre. Besides Sanskrit and Tamil, we can find Tutu poems written in Telugu, Malayalam and many other languages.

The theme of message itself runs as a red thread through centuries, from Sangam and early Sanskrit classics, through medieval poetry into contemporary poetical and literary forms. It connects together minor poetical forms and long poems, appears in plays written intended for staging and in lyrical padams intended for dance and music kutcheris.

The "message of Tutu" is (imho) as follows:

  • everything inhabiting this planet is interconnected. If we cannot reach understanding directly, we can seek assistance of a mediator;
  • sometimes it is very useful to discuss the problem with some mediator to understand the problem or our own feelings better;
  • for the stage purposes such device as addressing messenger is very useful as we can as if peer into the inner, hidden and secret world of the character without disturbing it.


  1. Nityasumangali. Devadasi tradition in South India by Saskia C. Kersenboom
  2. Literary conventions in Akam poetry by Kamil V. Zvelebil
  3. Tutu poems in Tamil poetry. //Dubyanskiy Alexander
  4. A History of Tamil Literature by Mu. Varadarajan, Sahitya Akademi, 1988, Delhi
  5. Poems to Siva. The hymns of the Tamil Saints by Indira Viswanathan Peterson. Motilal Banarsidas Publishers, Delhi, 2007
  6. Tamil Literature by M. S. Purnalingam Pillai
  7. Tamil Literature by Kamil V. Zvelebil, Vol. 2, Part 1
  8. Tamil Literature by Kamil V. Zvelebil, Vol. 10
  9. In a Type of Apostrophes in Sangam Literature, a paper read before the Third International Conference (Seminar of Tamil Studies in Paris, July 1970)
  10. Peruntokai by Mu. Irakavaiyankar, 1935–36
  11. Hymns Of Tamil Saivite Saints F. Kingsbury and G. E. Phillips, Association Press, Madras, 1921
  12. A Dictionary of Indian Literature: Beginnings–1850 by Sujit Mukherjee
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  14. Aspects of Abhinaya by Kalanidhi Narayanan, Chennai, 1994
  15. Illustrations, messangers in painting and sculpture (at