Natalie Savelyeva


Ula is a literary work based on the theme of temple festival procession accompanied by folk songs and dance. The oldest Ula is Tikukaiyaya Nana Ula by Ceraman Perumal Nayanar (9 cent AD). It is also known as Ati Ula (the first Ula).

Ula–s were written on kings as representations of the Gods. Ula–s were composed up to 18 cent AD. In 19–20 cent Ula–s lost their importance.

Along with Kuravanji, Ula–s were successfully staged and performed as part of temple festivals.

Plot of Ula

All Gods in heaven appeal to Siva to appear before them in procession. Siva consents.

Parvati adorns Siva with jewelery. Manmada sends flower garland.

Siva comes out in procession, passes gateway of Kailas, and gets blessings of seven hermits, Twelve Attinars greet him.

Agastya plays yazh. Agni burns incents. Varuna brings auspicious vessels filled with holy rivers waters. Vayu sweeps the streets. Clouds sprinkle water.

Chandra holds royal umbrella. Kubera scatters alms. Ganga and Yamuna fan Siva. Lighting and thunder become Sivas flags and drums.

Dancers Arampai and Urvasi stage dance performance.

Murugan goes on peacock ahead of Siva. Indra follows on the elephant. Brahma sitting on his swan come at right side of Siva, Vishnu sitting on his eagle comes to the left side of Siva. Manmadas army comes ahead of procession.

All women admire beauty of Siva.

There are seven types of women portrayed in Ula (which is very interesting, as they emphasize features of certain age reflected in appearance, behavior and relation to the hero):

  1. petai — a girl, even child, ignorant of love. She sees the hero and some change takes place in her mind. She falls in love.
  2. petumpai — 7–11 years old girl. Adolescent girl, looks like a peacock, face like lotus, eyes like fishes. Lips like fruit, teeth like pearls, eyebrows like a bow. She wears no bangles (in Tamil Nadu they believe that bangles help to control passions, thus they are necessary to be worn by mature girls), but puts on golusu (ankle chain), rings, applies sandal paste and puts on flowers on the head. Ornaments cover her shoulders and breast. She tempts the youth by her sighs, teasing. She is mature mentally, but immature physically. She has no clear conception of love. She is stunned by seeing the hero in procession.
  3. mankai — 12–13 years old girl. She has attractive manners, thin waist, pretty shoulders like a bamboo, wears a lot of ornaments round her neck and many flower garlands, has attractive breasts. She holds a parrot on her hand. She is not shy. She wants to embrace the Lord. She craves for Sivas love.
  4. matankai — 14–19 years old girl. She has hairs like dark cloud, lips like coral, eyes like a spear, waist like creeper, face like blossomed lotus, thighs like banana tree. She talks tactically. She is very conscious to keep distance. She wants to embrace the Lord and expresses her pleasure through her face. She shares her thoughts of love with her friends.
  5. arivai — 20–25 years old lady. She wears ornaments made of pearls (in Tamil Nadu they believe that pearls cool the body, which is heated by love passion). She has beautiful lips, dazzling eyes shining like stars. Her natural beauty is in full bloom. She is conscious of her attractiveness and beauty. She wants to merry the Lord and is not interested in other man. She pines for Sivas love.
  6. terivai — 26–30 years old lady. She well–built physical body. She speaks sweetly, talk suggestively and communicates her desires through her words and eyes. Color of her body is like tender leaf of mango tree (those leaves are of tender chocolate color when just unfold from he bud). People can die to see her. She gives intoxication to people. She wears many layers of necklaces. She walks like a breeze. She does not show shyness. She is confident that the Lord will come and embrace her. She is lovelorn, yearning for Sivas love.
  7. perilampen — 30–40 years old lady. She steadfast in her behavior. White patches cover her body (those patches appear on dark skin of Tamils as signs of hormonal changes). She hands are like a flower. She has beautiful breasts and fragrant hairs. She knows what the pleasure is. She is used to give disease of love to males. She can even change a saint by her beauty. She does not look on people directly. She drives people crazy. She longs for Sivas love, suffers mentally and physically.

Existing Ula plays:

  • Alataiya Pillayar Tiruvula Mulai by Namriyantar Nambi (11 cent AD)
  • Mulavar Ula by Ottakkuttar (13 cent AD)