Tamil Hindu Encyclopaedia- 12 (மஹாபாரதம்) Mahabharata in Sangam Tamil Books -Post.11,364)


Post No. 11,364

Date uploaded in London – 17 OCTOBER 2022                  

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Ancient Tamils were more attracted to Mahabharata, than Ramayana. Though Tamil Sangam poets tell us new Ramayana anecdotes that are not found in Valmiki or Kamban, Mahabharata is found in more Sangam Tamil Books. This shows that Mahabharata spread to nook and corner of Tamil Nadu 2000 years ago. They were part and parcel of Tamil life. The inscriptions say that there were people who were translating entire Mahabharata in Tamil. The person who wrote Prayer verse for most Sangam works is known as Mr Mahadevan who composed Mahabharata (in Tamil Bhaaratham paadiya maathevan= Mr Mahadevan)

It looks like that he was the one who tried on Mahabharatham around 4th century CE; unfortunately, we lost it. Later versions of Villliputarar and others are available only in parts.


Now let us enter Sangam Tamil works:-

The oldest reference comes from poet Mr Nagarajan in Purananuru (pura naanuuru verse 2 by Muranjiyuur Mudi Naagaraayar).

He talks about two things:

“Five Pandavas and 2X50 Kauravas fought and you were the one who gave them Perum Choru”.

Many have translated and interpreted this verse wrongly. They said ‘Oh Chera King, you were the one who provided food to both the armies of Paandavaas and Kauravaas’.

It is impossible. This Chera/Kerala king could not have given food in Dwapara Yuga; It is historical anachronism. Perun Choru is the Big Feast that is provided in memory of the dead people. Even today all the Tamil Saivite Mutts do Guu Puja in memory of the dead Saivite Saints and feed the people. Since the feast is in the name of Big/Great person it is called Big Food/feast.

The language and style of the poem clearly show that it belongs to first century CE. Even if one interprets that Chera king’s forefather as doing this , we have no supporting evidence from any other source.

The poet Mr Nagaraja’s mention about the Himalayas, the saints in Himalayas doing Yagas with Brahmins Three Fires and Four Vedas, Five Elements in Big Bang order, Sun Rise and Sunset at Kanyakumari and the greeting ‘Long Live like the Himalayas’ etc make very interesting reading.


Verse 233 of Akananuru

Akananuru (naanuuru) poet Mamulan (maamuulanaar = Maha Mulan) also sang about this Perum Choru/ Big Food and Mahabharata war where the interpreter gave us correct information.

The poet says, Chera king Uthiyan Cheral gave big food in memory of the departed people who went to heaven and at that time the ghosts were there to take the Pindam (rice balls offered to departed souls) offered by him. From this interpretation we know that Perum Choru is a ritual feast. We may take it as Food given to spirits or Food given to people in memory of the dead.

But the mention pf Mahabharata story is more important for us than the interpretations.


Kalittokai has more references to Mahabharata than other Sangam Tamil books.

Kali.104-57; 25-1; 25-7; 52-1; 101-18; 101-30; 139-33; 38-1

We have at least eight references from this work composed by five different poets.

Apart from this book we have 3 more references from Perumpaanaatruppatai- line 415, Siru paanaatruppatai- lines 238-241 an Pathitruppaththu – 14-5

Let us look at what the poets say in Kali.

Brahmin Poet Kapilar (kabilar) compared an elephant tearing the flesh of a tiger with its tusks with Bhima tearing the thighs of Duryodana I Kurinjikkali (Kali 52)


Mullaik kali by Chozan Nakkuruththiran (Kali 101) described how Asvattama killed Shikhandi in the dark night by screwing his shoulder/ head.  This is also a comparison of a bull tearing a bull fighter in the Yadava game of Bull Fighting (Jallikattu or Manjuvirattu)


Rare story of Yayati in Mahabharata

Rare story of Yayati in Mahabharata in Neitharkali by Nallanthuvanar (Kali 139) shows that ancient Tamils were thorough with Mahabharata.

All the Mahabharata references in Tamil are used as similes, not as Mahabharata recitation. That means people were well versed in Mahabharata. Strangely most of them are found in poems of Love and Family Life; secular literature!!!

Naalnthuvanar refers to Yayati going to Swarga/heaven.

One youth who failed in Love speaks to the assembled scholars there and requested them to advise correctly like the king who reached swarga after proper advice and penance. Interpreters gave the story of Yayati here.

What is the story?

Yayathi was an ancestor of Kuru dynasty; he was the son of Nahusha. He exchanged his old age with his young son Puru and enjoyed family life with three women Sharmishta, Devayani and Apsara Viswachi. Later he realised sexual pleasure was not real fulfiiling and gave back his youth to his son Puru and went to heaven. 

He took austere penances and gained much merit/punya and entered Swarga. There Indra stopped him and asked him questions to test his fitness; he gave arrogant answers. Yayati said that no one among men, saints, seers, Gandharvas was comparable to him in penances/ tapas. This being ruled boastful, Indra pronounced that Yayati should fall back to earth. But Yayati requested Indra that he should fall among the good people. Indra granted it.

While he was falling, he was stopped by several wise men who held a prolonged discourse with him and they also learnt a lot from Yayati. Later he returned to heaven with Ashtaka, Shibhi,Vasumana and Pratardhana. They also gave their Punya to Yayati so that he can use them to climb up.

Penance of seers is the fuel that would help any soul to do inter galactic travel in space. 


Kali 104. by Chozan Nalluruththiran and Perum. Lines 415-417  by Mr Rudraksha of Kadiyalur (kadiyaluur uruththirankannanaar in Tamil) simply refereed to the five (Pandavas) killing the 100 (Kauravas).


Best Cookery Book

Sirupan. Composed by poet Nallanthuvanaar refers to the epic  (lines 238 to 241) and give us two interesting information.

1.Arjuna burning down the Khaandava  Vana/forest.

2.His bother Bhima writing a Cookery book

Both are very important because the word Khandava vana gave birth to the English word ‘Gondwana land’ and thus enabled the Nagas of Khandava forest migrating to Central and South America to establish the famous Aztec, Olmec and Mayan civilizations.

Hindus always praise Nala and Bhima as the best cooks in the world.

More interesting epithets are sued for Arjuna and Bhima. Arjuna was given the epithet’ the famous’ (Pukazon) wearing embroidered flowery cloth belt or lower garment.

Bhima is given the epithet ‘Panivarai maarban’ meaning chest as broad as the snow clad hill (Himalayas) or Himavaan (the king of Himalayas)


Palace of Lacquer (lakshagraha)

Ancient Tamils even knew the minute details of Mahabharata. One poet refers to the burning down of Lacquer Palace by Duryodhna. It is in Kali lines 25-1/b composed by Chera king Perum Katung Ko (paalai paatiya perumkatunko in Tamil)

Here the blind kind Dhritaraashtra is beautifully described by the poet ‘as one who has the name of 12 in the Aditya mandala’.

The story is Bhagan, one of the 12 Adityas is blind. This is used for the blind kind Dhritarasshtra. His son Dhuryodana secretly built a place in Varnavrata outside the capital Hastinapura and asked the Pandavas to enjoy over night stay there. But his secret plan of killing Pandavas in the Palace of Lacquer (in Tamil Arakku malikai) failed because the insider Vidura informed the Pandavas. When the place was set on fire Bhima helped every one of his kith and kin to escape unscathed. That was compared to by the poet to an elephant that was caught in a forest escaping with his herd. Even for a natural catastrophe Tamils used the epic simile.


Mysterious Akkura

Pathitru. 14-5/7 composed by Kumattuur Kannan (Mr Krishna of Kumattur) gives one rare information which even great scholar like U VE Saminatha Iyer coud not understand. Here the poet praised the king as generous, philanthropical as Akkuran who helped the war prone 100 (2X50) in the battle, that is the Kauravas.

This Akkura is not known to anyone from any other source. He may be one of the Middle Seven Philanthropists or may be Karna. Hindus recount 21 famous philanthropists as First 7, Middle 7 and Last 7.

So, Tamils give us even rare information from the Mahabharata.

To be continued……………

Tags- Mahabharata anecdotes, in Sangam literature, Akkura, Bhima, best cook, Palace of lacquer, Yayati, Pandavas, Kauravas

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