The Cilappatikaram is set in a flourishing seaport city of the early Chola kingdom. Kannaki and Kovalan are a newly married couple, in love, and living in bliss. He falls for her, leaves Kannaki and moves in with Matavi. He spends lavishly on her.
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Book : Silappadikaaram The Tale of the Three cities. Most of us know about the Sanskrit epics of India Ramayana and Mahabharata. There are two Tamil works of equal importance Silappadikaaram and Manimegalai that are lesser known.
These are two out of five old Tamil classics given the Tamil title Perum Kappiyangal, meaning epics. Desikan justifies by proper reasoning that the two Tamil compositions qualify to be called Tamil epics similar to Ramayana and Mahabharata and the European epics of Homer's Iliad and Ulysses. Desikan has presented this clear and pristine translation to read and enjoy the beauty of Silappadikaaram to all those who cannot read and understand Tamil, particularly the classical Tamil of the 5th century AD.
I say it is pristine because he has not diluted the content with extraneous ideas in his English idiom. He has kept his own comments and background history as addenda at the end that help us to correlate the epic to our known sociological setting.
The story of Silappadikaaram is simple. The heroine of the story Kannagi , the virtuous wife of Kovalan a rich merchant of Poompuhar suffers two personal misfortunes in her life. The first misfortune she pardons gracefully but to the second one she reacts forcefully and takes revenge on the offender.
It is remarkable that for both these actions, her chastity Pativrata Dharma is the motivator. After getting married with all the pomp and glamour to her Kovalan , she soon loses him to an artful dancing courtesan.
Kovalan is infatuated by Madhavi who is well versed in classical music and dance, not knowing that as a crafty courtesan she cares for his wealth rather than his love and lute-playing prowess. Kovalan loses his wealth and returns to his wife Kannagi as a prodigal husband.
As a virtuous wife Pativrata , Kannagi accepts him and offers her only remaining jewellery, a pair of anklets Silambu to be sold and the proceeds used for establishing new business. The couple leave to another city, Madurai the capital of Pandiyan king, escorted by a Jain nun. At Madurai , Kovalan falls into a trap of a goldsmith who had stolen the queen's gold anklet. The goldsmith incriminates Kovalan as the thief and gives away to the king. The king orders execution of Kovalan in a hasty judgement that is quickly carried out.
Kannagi is shocked and enraged immensely at the injustice meted out to her beloved husband. She rushes to Pandiyan's court, accuses the king of injustice, and proves her case by breaking the silambu that was recovered from her husband. The anklet of the queen was filled with pearls and Kannagi's anklet was filled with rubies. The shock of remorse kills the king and the queen on the spot. Kannagi's rage turns to the city of Madurai and she burns it down by her spiritual powers of a chaste wife.
The story actually ends with this tale of two cities. The third city Vanji of Chera dynasty on the west coast comes into the epic as an extension portraying the development of the story conveyed by bards to the Chera king into a poetic literature and the deification of Kannagi as Goddess of Chastity Pattinidaivam.
The Chera king builds a temple for Kannagi and his younger brother Ilango, a Jain monk, composes the poem. The story itself is built around two main beliefs, the uprightness of Tamil kings and the divine power of chastity of married women.
The beauty of the original Tamil poetry and the scholarly translation by Dr. Desikan lies in the portrayal of the life style and traditions of Tamils years back and the high cultural level of Tamil civilisation that was further enriched by the amalgamation of incoming Sanskrit culture from the north.
The mixture of Tamil and Sanskrit cultural practices appear in many places in the episodes. One such example is in the description of Kovalan-Kannagi wedding. Carrying of sprouted seeds Paligai thelichal by the women in the procession was an old Tamil custom.
On the other hand, circumambulation of sacred fire Saptapathi was a Vedic custom. I will also give a couple of examples to show the beauty of poetic translation of Dr. The wealth of the three regions of royalty is portrayed in three places beautifully. The first region was Chola country Chola vala nadu in the east, famous for its rice cultivation in the Cauvery river basin. A proverb goes "Chola vala nadu sorudaithu" meaning, "the Chola fertile land is rich in food". Desikan begins the epic with the following words in the first five verses of the wedding chapter:.
Moon, Sun and Rain are all important for the delta cultivators and anglers of Chola region. Rain and Sunshine are godly for rice farming; Moon is godly to the seafarers who go fishing at night. Moon's causing high tide is necessary for their saltpans.
This was Tamil thinai culture of Marudam and Neydal eco-regions. Vedic culture too worshiped nature first. It is a wonderful start. Pearl collection Muthukkulithal from the southern ocean was the ancient primary business activity of Tamils of this region.
Pearls were collected, graded and sold worldwide for many centuries in distant past. In the crucial key episode of Silappadikaaram, when Kannagi broke her anklet to display gems instead of pearls the king got the shock of his lifetime. Pearls of Pandiyan betrayed him. The Paral filler was not pearl of Pandyan pride but the Cholas' pride, the ruby of traders. Pearls had betrayed him or did good to reveal the injustice done. Beautiful presentation. The wealth of the third region of Chera royalty in the west was of course 'elephants'.
The saying goes, " Chera nadu Vezhamudaithu ". When the Chera king Chenguttuvan returned from his campaign Digvijayam of the north and brought the Himalayan stone for sculpting Kannagi's idol, people greeted him with elephants in the forefront.
Desikan writes,. Her white bangles slipped from her hand, even as she heard the conch with right handed spirals boom out triumphantly,.
Wearing victorious Vaagai , Chenkuttuvan arrived riding his fast crown elephant under his umbrella and wearing lovely garlands;. Vanji welcomed him with a herd of elephants even as he entered the city". In short, Dr. Desikan's English translation copiously enhances the beauty of the original epic in its content and style. I recommend this excellent book to all who are interested in ancient culture of India from Himalayas to Cape Comorin.
The city of Puhar in the poem refers to the ancient city called Kaviri puhum pattinam meaning the city where the river Cauvery enters the sea. Later the name changed to Kavirippoompattinam and still later to Poompuhar or in short Puhar. View More. Home Talk Property Beat. My Dashboard. Search Member Search Keyword.
Silappadikaaram- Tamil epic in English translation-Author: Dr. Narayan M. All Comments 3. Topic Related Articles. More Articles.
Book : Silappadikaaram The Tale of the Three cities. Most of us know about the Sanskrit epics of India Ramayana and Mahabharata. There are two Tamil works of equal importance Silappadikaaram and Manimegalai that are lesser known. These are two out of five old Tamil classics given the Tamil title Perum Kappiyangal, meaning epics. Desikan justifies by proper reasoning that the two Tamil compositions qualify to be called Tamil epics similar to Ramayana and Mahabharata and the European epics of Homer's Iliad and Ulysses.
The tale of an anklet
Dance company Ragamala is presenting a Bharatnatyam recital, titled Sthree, based on the famous epic Silapathikaram which celebrates the strength of women The ancient Tamil epic Silapathikaram narrates the story of Kovalan and Kannagi, a couple who were living happily in Kaveripoompattinam in Tamil Nadu. Things take a turn for the worse when Kovalan falls in love with a dancer named Madhavi and loses his wealth to her. He comes back to Kannagi and they decide to move to Madurai where Kovalan can start anew by selling Kannagi's anklet referred to as Silambu in Tamil. The queen of Madurai had a similar anklet, which was stolen by the court jeweller. When the jeweller spots Kovalan with the anklet, he takes him to the king and falsely accuses him of being a thief. Without a second thought, the king orders his men to behead Kovalan. On hearing this, Kannagi marches into the court in rage and proves to the king that the anklet is indeed hers as they contain rubies while the queen's anklet had pearls in them.
Eric Miller. This essay concerns the significance of one story in the culture of Tamil Nadu, south India. The source material for the paper is primarily personal experiences and observations. I have been a student of stories and storytelling for a number of years. I have performed as a storyteller, and have written and produced plays. My favorite stories portray the relationship of the individual to society, history, and the cosmos.
Kannagi , sometimes spelled Kannaki ,  is a legendary Tamil woman who forms the central character of the Tamil epic Silapathikaram. The society that had made her suffer, suffers in retribution as the city Madurai is burnt to the ground because of her curse. The earliest Tamil epic Silapathikaram features her as the central character. The Kannagi story first appears in the Sangam era poem Narrinai Kannagi was the daughter of the merchant and ship captain Manayakan from Puhar. She marries the son of Macattuvan , Kovalan , whose family were sea traders and had the sea goddess Manimekalai as patron deity.