Cilappatikaram is a Tamil epic poem written by Ilanko Atikal in the 5th century CE. It is one of the world's masterpieces and India's finest epic in a language other than Sanskrit. It tells the story of Kovalan and Kannaki, a merchant couple from Pukar, who face love, betrayal, tragedy and justice in the three Tamil kingdoms of Chola, Pandya and Chera. The poem is also a rich source of information about Tamil culture, religion, art and history.
The epic consists of three books: The Book of Pukar, The Book of Maturai and The Book of Vanchi. The Book of Pukar narrates the love affair between Kovalan and the courtesan Matavi, which leads to his ruin and estrangement from his wife Kannaki. The Book of Maturai recounts how Kovalan and Kannaki go to Madurai, the Pandya capital, where Kovalan is falsely accused of stealing the queen's anklet and executed by the king. Kannaki proves his innocence by breaking her own anklet, which contains rubies instead of pearls, and curses the city with her wrathful breast, causing a great fire that destroys Madurai. The Book of Vanchi describes how the Chera king honors Kannaki as a goddess of chastity (pattini) and erects a stone image of her in his capital after a victorious expedition to the Himalayas.
The poem is written in a blend of Tamil and Sanskrit poetry, with various forms of verse and prose. It also incorporates songs, dances, dialogues and descriptions of nature and city life. The poem is praised for its poetic beauty, dramatic intensity and moral vision. It has been translated into several languages, including English by R. Parthasarathy[^2^].Ilanko Atikal was a Jain prince and poet who lived in the 5th century CE. He was the younger brother of the Chola king Senguttuvan, who is also a prominent character in the epic. According to legend, Ilanko renounced his royal life and became a Jain monk after witnessing the suffering of a peacock that was shot by an arrow. He composed the Cilappatikaram as a penance for his past sins and dedicated it to his guru. He is considered one of the greatest Tamil poets and a pioneer of epic literature.
Some of the themes or symbols in the poem are love, fate, justice, dharma, karma, anklet, fire and stone. Love is portrayed as both a source of joy and sorrow, as well as a force that transcends death and transforms the human into the divine. Fate is shown as an inevitable and mysterious power that shapes the lives of the characters, often in tragic ways. Justice is sought and delivered by both human and divine agents, sometimes with mercy and sometimes with wrath. Dharma is the moral duty and law that guides the actions of the characters, especially the kings and the merchants. Karma is the law of cause and effect that determines the consequences of one's actions, both in this life and the next. Anklet is a symbol of wealth, beauty, fidelity and identity, as well as a key evidence in the plot. Fire is a symbol of destruction, anger, purification and sacrifice, as well as a manifestation of Kannaki's power. Stone is a symbol of permanence, memory, honor and devotion, as well as a representation of Kannaki's image. ec8f644aee