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.
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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. Kannaki is heartbroken, but as the chaste woman, she waits despite her husband's unfaithfulness. During the festival for Indra , the rain god, there is a singing competition. Matavi then sings a song about a man who betrayed his lover. Each interprets the song as a message to the other.
Kovalan feels Matavi is unfaithful to him, and leaves her. Kannaki is still waiting for him. She takes him back. Kannaki and Kovalan leave the city and travel to Madurai of the Pandya kingdom.
Kovalan is penniless and destitute. He confesses his mistakes to Kannaki. She forgives him and tells him the pain his unfaithfulness gave her. Then she encourages her husband to rebuild their life together and gives him one of her jeweled anklets to sell to raise starting capital. The king arrests Kovalan and then executes him, without the due checks and processes of justice.
She learns what has happened. She protests the injustice and then proves Kovalan's innocence by throwing in the court the other jeweled anklet of the pair. The king accepts his mistake. Kannaki curses the king and curses the people of Madurai, tearing off her breast and throwing it at the gathered public.
The king dies. The society that had made her suffer, suffers in retribution as the city of Madurai is burnt to the ground because of her curse. The royal family of the Chera kingdom learns about her, resolves to build a temple with Kannaki as the featured goddess.
They go to the Himalayas, bring a stone, carve her image, call her goddess Pattini , dedicate a temple, order daily prayers, and perform a royal sacrifice. The Silappathikaram is an ancient literary masterpiece.
It is to the Tamil culture what the Iliad is to the Greek culture, states R. It is a Tamil story of love and rejection, happiness and pain, good and evil like all classic epics of the world. Yet unlike other epics that deal with kings and armies caught up with universal questions and existential wars, the Silappathikaram is an epic about an ordinary couple caught up with universal questions and internal, emotional war. The palm-leaf manuscripts of the original epic poem, along with those of the Sangam literature, were rediscovered in Hindu monasteries in the second half of the 19th-century by UV Swaminatha Aiyar — a Shaiva pundit and Tamil scholar.
After being preserved and copied in temples and monasteries in the form of palm-leaf manuscripts, Aiyar published its first partial edition on paper in , the full edition in Since then the epic poem has been translated into many languages including English.
It therefore connotes a "story that centers around an anklet". In it or elsewhere, however, there is no evidence that the famous king had a brother. The Ilango Adigal name appears in a much later dated patikam prologue attached to the poem, and the authenticity of this attribution is doubtful.
The mythical third section about gods meeting Kannaki after Kovalan's death, in the last Canto, mentions a legend about a prince turned into a monk.
This has been conflated as the story of the attributed author as a witness. However, little factual details about the real author s or evidence exist. According to Ramachandra Dikshitar, the ascetic-prince legend about Ilango Adigal as included in the last canto of Silappadikaram is odd. In the epic, Ilango Adigal attends a Vedic sacrifice with the Chera king Cenkuttuvan after the king brings back the Himalayan stone to make a statue of Kannaki.
Ilango Adigal has been suggested to be a contemporary of Sattanar , the author of Manimekalai. However, evidence for such suggestions has been lacking. In the modern era, some Tamil scholars have linked the Ilango Adigal legend about he being the brother of king Cenkuttuvan, as a means to date this text. A Chera king Cenkuttuvan is tentatively placed in the — CE, and the traditionalists, therefore, place the text to the same period.
The Sangam era texts of the — CE period are strikingly different in style, language structure, the beliefs, the ideologies, and the customs portrayed in the Silappathikram , which makes the early dating implausible. These point to a much later date. According to Zvelebil, the Silappathikram that has survived into the modern era "cannot have been composed before the 5th- to 6th-century". According to other scholars, such as Iyengar, the first two sections of the epic were likely the original epic, and third mythical section after the destruction of Madurai is likely a later extrapolation, an addendum that introduces a mix of Jaina, Hindu and Buddhist stories and practices, including the legend about the ascetic prince.
The hero Kovalan is long dead and the heroine Kannaki follows him shortly thereafter into heaven, as represented in the early verses of the third section. This part adds nothing to the story, is independent, is likely to be of a much later century.
Other scholars, including Zvelebil, state that this need not necessarily be so. The third section covers the third of three major kingdoms of the ancient Tamil region, the first section covered the Cholas and the second the Pandya. Further, states Zvelebil, the deification of Kannaki keeps her theme active and is consistent with the Tamil and the Indian tradition of merging a legend into its ideas of rebirth and endless existence.
The Silappatikaram is divided into three kantams book, Skt: khanda , which are further subdivided into katais cantos, Skt: katha. The three kantams are named after the capitals of the three major early Tamil kingdoms: .
The katais range between 53 and lines each. In addition to the 25 cantos, the epic has 5 song cycles: . Kannaki curses the king and curses the people of Madurai, tearing off her breast and throwing it at the gathered public, triggering the flames of a citywide inferno. The remorseful king dies in shock. Madurai is burnt to the ground because of her curse. Kannaki leaves Madurai and heads into the mountainous region of the Chera kingdom.
Gods and goddesses meet Kannaki, the king of gods Indra himself comes with his chariot, and Kannaki goes to heaven with Indra. The manuscripts of the epic include a prologue called patikam. This is likely a later addition to the older epic. We shall compose a poem, with songs, To explain these truths: even kings, if they break The law, have their necks wrung by dharma; Great men everywhere commend wife of renowned fame; and karma ever Manifests itself, and is fulfilled.
Twenty five cantos of the Silappatikaram are set in the akaval meter, a meter found in the more ancient Tamil Sangam literature. It has verses in other meters and contains five songs also in a different meter. These features suggest that the epic was performed in the form of stage drama that mixed recitation of cantos with the singing of songs.
The Tamil epic has many references and allusions to the Sanskrit epics and puranic legends. For example, it describes the fate of Poompuhar suffering the same agony as experienced by Ayodhya when Rama leaves for exile to the forest as instructed by his father.
According to Zvelebil, the Silappatikaram mentions the Mahabharata and calls it the "great war", just like the story was familiar to the Sangam era poets too as evidenced in Puram 2 and Akam These were popular and episodes from such maha-kavya were performed as a form of dance-drama in public.
The Silappatikaram is a Tamil epic that belongs to the pan-India kavya epic tradition. According to D. Dennis Hudson — a World Religions and Tamil literature scholar, the Silappatikaram is the earliest and first complete Tamil reference to Pillai Nila, Nappinnai, Radha , who is described in the epic as the cowherd lover of Krishna.
In the canto where Kannaki is waiting for Kovalan to return after selling her anklet to a Madurai merchant, she is in a village with cowgirls. The dance begins with a song listing Krishna's heroic deeds and his fondness for Radha, then they dance where sage Narada plays music. Such scenes where cowgirls imitate Krishna's life story are also found in Sanskrit poems of Harivamsa and Vishnu Purana , both generally dated to be older than Silappatikaram.
According to Zvelebil, the Silappadikaram is the "first literary expression and the first ripe fruit of the Aryan-Dravidian synthesis in Tamilnadu".
In early 20th-century, the Silappadikaram became a rallying basis for some Tamil nationalists based in Sri Lanka and colonial-era Madras Presidency.
The epic is considered as the "first consciously national work" and evidence of the fact that the "Tamils had by that time [mid 1st-millennium CE] attained nationhood",  or the first expression of a sense of Tamil cultural integrity and Tamil dominance. According to Norman Cutler, this theme runs in recent works such as the re-rendering of the Silappadikaram into Kannakip Puratcikkappiyam by Paratitacan, and the play Cilappatikaram: Natakak Kappiyam by M. The Tamil nationalistic inspiration derived from the Silappadikaram is a selective reading and appropriation of the great epic, according to Cutler.
Yet, states Cutler, the same book places an "undeniable prestige" for a "rock from the Himalayas", the "river Ganges" and other symbols from the north to honor Kannaki. These and numerous other details in the epic were neither of Dravidian roots nor icons, rather they reflect an acceptance of and reverence for certain shared pan-Indian cultural rituals, symbols and values, what Himalayas and Ganges signify to the Indic culture.
The epic rhetorically does present a vision of a Tamil imperium, yet it also "emphatically is not exclusively Tamil", states Cutler. According to V R Ramachandra Dikshitar, the epic provides no evidence of sectarian conflict between the Indian religious traditions. In addition, they give help and get help from the Jains and the Ajivikas.
Yet, all these references are embedded in a cordial community, where all share the same ideas and belief in karma and related premises. The major festivals described in the epic are pan-Indian and these festivals are also found in ancient Sanskrit literature. Swaminatha Iyer CE , a Shaiva Hindu and Tamil scholar, rediscovered the palm-leaf manuscripts of the original epic poem, along with those of the Sangam literature, in Hindu monasteries near Kumbhakonam.
These manuscripts were preserved and copied in temples and monasteries over the centuries, as palm-leaf manuscripts degrade in the tropical climate. This rediscovery in the second half of the 19th-century and the consequent publication brought Cilappatikaram to readers and scholars outside the temples. This helped trigger an interest in ancient Tamil literature. Aiyar published its first partial edition in , the full edition in Since then the epic poem has been translated into many languages.
S Ramanathan CE has published articles on the musical aspects of the Silappadikaram. To some critics, Manimekalai is more interesting than Silappadikaram , but in terms of literary evaluation, it seems inferior. A review by George L.
The tale of an anklet
This article will be permanently flagged as inappropriate and made unaccessible to everyone. Are you certain this article is inappropriate? Email Address:. He is reputed to be the brother of Senguttuvan from Chera dynasty. As a literary work, it is held in high regard by the Tamils.
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. Kannaki is heartbroken, but as the chaste woman, she waits despite her husband's unfaithfulness.
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. At last, penniless, Kovalan realised his mistake and returned to his wife Kannagi.