Cheran Senkuttuvan picture from World Tamil Conference Souvenir


Research Paper Written by London Swaminathan 


Date: 12 JANUARY 2018


Time uploaded in London  6-57 AM




Post No. 4609

Pictures shown here are taken from various sources such as Facebook friends, Books, Google and newspapers; thanks.








Introduction and Background Premise

Issues Addressed in Paper

CONTENT ( the 3 docs can be combined appropriately)




(This research article was submitted to Swadeshi Conference held in December 2017 in Chennai)



A Brahmin by name Matala Maraiyon plays an important role in the Tamil epic Silappadikaram. It is amazing to see that Ilango Adikal, considered to be a Jain by some scholars, has not only introduced Matala Maraiyon, but gives him a commanding role. He commands the mighty Chera King Senkuttuvan to do good things such as Vedic rituals and the king readily obeys him. The Brahmin is amply rewarded by the king. Matala Maraiyon is the one who fills in the gaps in the epic by telling the king what happened to Madhavi and others. He is the main link in the story. Another Brahmin Alamar Selvan (Dakshinamurthy) is introduced by the author Ilango to show the state of Vedic education in those days. Apart from this, Brahmins play the role of ambassador and actor. This shows the respect Brahmins commanded in the second century CE Tamil Nadu. This paper goes into the details with supporting information from the epic.



it is very interesting to see that Ilango, author of most famous Tamil epic Silappadikaram, has introduced several Brahmin characters from the very first chapter to the last chapter.


Matala Maraiyon is the most interesting character in the epic. He commands a great influence over the mighty Chera Emperor Cheran Senkuttuvan. The king gave him gold weighing his body weight. He listened to the advice and performed Vedic Yajnas according to the instructions of the Brahmin.


Silappadikaram praised the Brahmins as chaste Tamil speakers (Vandamiz Maraiyor). That proved that Brahmins were sons of the soil.


The Parasaran- Dakshinamurthy (Aalamar selvan) episode is another Brahmin episode which  showed that the Vedic education among the Brahmins of second century CE was of very high standard.


Tollkappiam says that one of the roles of Brahmins is the job of an ambassador. Ilango introduced a Brahmin (Kosikan= Kausikan) ambassador.

(English translation of prof. V R Ramachandra  Dikshitar in his book The Cilappatikaram , 1978 is used in this article with some spelling changes)




1.Wedding with the help of a Brahmin Priest

Silappadikarm is the first ancient book to show that marriages were conducted by Brahmin priests in the Second century CE Tamil Nadu.


“That was the day on which the moon moving in the sky approached the Star Rohini, when Kovalan who walked  around the holy fire in accordance with the scriptural injunctions as directed by the revered Brahmin priest, approached his bride, divinely fair resembling the star Aruntati. How fortunate were those who enjoyed such a splendid sight!

–Mankala valtup patal

Akananuru verses 86,136 and Vedic literature say that the Hindus conducted marriages under the Rohini asterism. But Akananuru verses did not mention the Brahmin priests or the sacred fire.

Picture by Maniam Selvan


2.Here comes Matala Maraiyon!

Ilango introduced the Brahmin Matala Maraiyon in the Ataikkala Katai, in the following words:


“Kovalan went outside the gates of the Madurai fortress, into the grove wherein dwelt monks engaged in in imparting of Dharma.

And while he was narrating to the sage Kavunti the undiminishing prosperity of Madura and the prowess of the Pantyan king, MATALAN OF TALAICCENKANAM, THE FIRST AMONGST BRAHMANAS, WELL VERSED IN THE FOUR VEDAS, APPEARED AT THEIR RESIDENCE IN THE GROVE SORROUNDED BY A SHALLOW MOAT. He had come there to obtain relief from the fatigue of his journey while returning to his own family, after circumambulating the hill (Potiyil, sacred to the sage Agastya).

To him Kovalan prostrated himself, while the Brahmana skilled in speech, on being addressed, replied as follows.


Ilango deliberately puts some incidents into the mouth of Matalan, praising the Brahmins:


3.Kovalan Saves a Brahmin

The first incident was about a shipwreck and the person saved by the deity of the sea, Manimekalai, whose name was given to courtesan Matavi’s daughter. So Matalan gives some new information about what happened to Matavi after Kovalan left her.

Matalan continues: “On that day when you sat with that happy lady Matavi, and showered gifts of gold with your beautiful hands, a Brahmana, with bent body, having attained the very limits of knowledge and good conduct, came feebly along with the aid of a stick in order to receive the gifts. Seeing him in the clutches of a fast and furious elephant which had thrown its mahout and was rushing in all directions to the loud noise of the drum, O merciful hero, you stepped forth instantly with a cry, after rescuing the man of high birth, you released yourself from its curved hollow trunk and remaining between the white tusks, stood on its nape like a Vidhyadhara on a dark hill, and curbed the still furious elephant

One should note the high sounding respectful epithets given to the Brahmana.

4.Kovalan Helps a Brahmin Lady

Matalan continues: “on another occasion, a Brahmana left for the north abandoning his wife who had caused the death of a young mongoose. When she followed him, the Brahmana said “it is not proper for me to eat food served by your hands. You give this note containing a Sanskrit verse to people leading a virtuous life”. With this the Brahmana lady went through the bazars where the tall mansions of the wealthy merchants were, and showed the note from house to house proclaiming, “ O will no one relieve me of my sins and enjoy the fruits of s doing? At once you called to her and asked “What is your trouble and what is this note? The lady narrated to you the great distress she was in, and said “take this leaf on which has been written the verse, and by giving me money absolve me from my great sin.” You replied to her, “ Do not fret. Do not be afraid. I shall relieve you of your difficulty” and in order that her sinful deed might be atoned for, you made gifts in accordance with the instituted rules and relieved the lady of her worry. O wealthy man of imperishable riches! Then you made her husband, who had left for the forest come back and live with her in the right path by giving them copious wealth of out of your limitless riches.


5.Bhutam Devours a bad man!

The last incident is about a Bhutam (goblin or ghost) devouring a man who gave false evidence and Kovalan supporting the chaste lady and her family for several years.

Then Matalan continues: I know all the good things you have done in this birth, but owing to your deeds in the past birth, O Gopala (Kovalan is the Tamil version of Gopala) of ripe knowledge, you have fallen into incredible suffering along with your gem like young wife who is like Lakshmi herself.”


Then Kovalan narrated a nightmare he had in the previous night portending the bad events.


Ilango cleverly used Matalan to show that Gopalan’s help to Brahmins and his knowledge in Sanskrit etc.

to be continued……………………………



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