Written by London swaminathan
Date: 23 FEBRUARY 2017
Time uploaded in London:- 9-59 am
Post No. 3663
Pictures are taken from various sources; thanks.
Silappathikaram is the earliest among the available Tamil epics. It was written by a poet cum prince Ilango. The story of the epic is as follows:-
Kannaki came to Madurai along with her husband Kovalan to sell her anklet and start a new life. But, her husband was unjustly accused of stealing the anklet of the Queen and was killed under the orders of the King. To prove the innocence of her husband, and expose the heinous crime of the Great Pandya King, Kannaki went to his court with one of her anklets. She accused the Pandya King of having ordered the death of her husband without conducting proper trial. The Pandya Queen’s anklet had pearls whereas the anklet of Kannaki had gems inside. She broke her anklet in the presence of the king and proved that her husband Kovalan was not guilty. Immediately Pandya King and Queen died, probably of massive heart attack.
Afterwards Kannaki burnt the city by twisting one off her breasts and throwing it in the streets of Madurai City , Capital of the Pandya Kingdom, sparing the elderly, invalids, children, Brahmins and women. In other words, all the bad people were burnt alive. Later she went to Chera Nadu (present Kerala in South India) and ascended to Heaven in the Pushpaka Vimana that came from the Heaven. When the Chera King Senguttuvan heard about it from the forest tribes who witnessed her ascension, he decided to go to Holy Himalayas to take a stone and bathe it in the holy Ganges and then carve a statue out of it for Kannaki. King Senguttuvan’s brother Ilango composed the Silappadikaram. Though the incidents happened in the second century CE, the epic in its current form is from the fourth or fifth century CE (Post Sangam Period).
Kannaki is worshipped in Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka as the Goddess of Chastity. Of the five Tamil epics, Silappadikaram (Cilappadikaram) is the most popular one. Chera King Senguttuvan was very powerful and he defeated the sea pirates and the Romans in the West coast of India. He was a great devotee of Lord Shiva. Just before leaving for the Himalayan Mountains, he went around the Shiva Temple with the sandals of Lord Shiva on his head. Later when the priests from the nearby Vishnu temple brought ‘prasadam’, he placed them on his shoulders. When he completed the Himalayan journey successfully and erected a statue for Kannaki, all the powerful North Indian Kings and Gajabahu of Sri Lanka were invited to see the consecration of the statue. A Brahmin by name Madalan figured in the epic from the very beginning. At the end, he blessed the king to live for eons, i.e. his name and fame will live for thousands of years. Madalan also praised him as a great devotee of Lord Shiva.
Let us look at the description of his devotion to Lord Shiva in the words of great poet Ilango:–
“The sovereign lord of the sharp sword, decorated his crown of gems with Vanci blossoms form the unflowering Vanci when the morning drum sounded at the gate, announcing the time for other kings of the earth, to pay their tributes. With the vicorious Vanci wreath were worn THE SANDALS OF THE GREAT GOD IN WHOSE FORM THE WHOLE UNIVERSE MANIFESTS ITSELF (SIVA), AND WHO WEARS THE CESCET MOON IN HIS LONG, DARK MATTED HAIR; AND HAVING LAID THE HEAD THAT BOWED TO NONE ELSE AT HIS HOLY SHRINE, HE CIRCUMAMBUATED IT. The sweet fumes from the sacrificial fires offered by the Vedic Brahmins deprived his garlands of its luxurious colour. He then mounted the nape of his proud war elephant.
There appeared before him some persons bearing the pracaatam pf the Lord Vishnu who slumbers in a yogic trance at Aatakamaatam and addressed him with benedictory words: May success attend on Kuttuvan, the Lord of the West! Since the king already placed on his crown of gems the beautiful sandals of the Lord whose matted hair bears the Ganga, he received this pracaatam and carried on his fair, bejewelled shoulders.”
–from Kalkot Katai, Cilappatikaram, Translated by Prof.V R Ramachandra Dikshitar, 1939
This shows that Senguttuvan was a follower of orthodox religion which consisted in the worship of Siva and Vishnu.
Aatakamaatam is identified with the Padmanabhaswamy temple of Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum). Some scholars thing it was another temple at Karur, which was known as Vanchi in the olden days.
There are numerous references to Lord Shiva in the epic. Siva’s dances and Siva’s temples are referred to in other sections.
Here is what the great Brahmin Madalan said in his blessings:
“It is not strange that people who do good things attain heaven and people who have worldly minds are reborn, and that good and bad deeds have their own reward and those dead should be reborn. Those are ancient truths. You who were born through the grace of HIM WHO RIDES ON THE SACRED BULL and have won distinction as king in the wide world, saw clear as an object held in the palm of your hand, the fruits of righteous deeds and the forms of holy people. Live long from aeon to aeon protecting the earth! Live long, gracious monarch.”
“Please with what the Brahmin Matalan said, the king endowed grants to the temple of the very youthful Pattini (Chaste woman) who twisted off her breast and there by raised flames which enveloped the noisy Kuutal (Madurai’s other name) of the great Pantiyan Kingdom, much celebrated in poetical themes.”
Silapadikaram has innumerable references to Hindu customs. Commentator Adiayrkkunallar has added encyclopaedic information about ancient Tamil Nadu.