Kalidasa’s Women and Tamil Women

ramalakshmana sita hanuman

Tribhanga pose of Rama, Lakshmana, Sita wth Hanuman.

Research paper written by London Swaminathan

Research article No.1526; Dated  28    December 2014.

The concept of womanhood, physical features of women, their beliefs, the customs they followed were amazingly similar from Himalayas to Kanyakumari, the Land’s end. This shows that their thoughts, words and deeds were same from their birth to death from North to South. It stands as a proof for the sons of the soil theory. They did not come in to India from foreign lands. They were born and brought up here and died here with their own beliefs. Wherever they went they took their beliefs. If they had come from outside India, customs like swayamvaram would have existed outside India. Hundreds of such customs are not found anywhere in the world except in Tamil and Sanskrit literature. Even their standing pose (tribhanga) was same from Indus valley to the southernmost tip.

Hindus have a custom of describing a woman’s body features from head to foot if it is human. If it is a goddess they have to describe her features from foot to head. This customs is followed in Tamil and Sanskrit literature. No one dares to look at the Goddess straight into her eyes. Even her side glance is enough to fulfil all the desires of millions of people, they believed. So they started describing her from foot to head. For ordinary women it was vice verse.

odissy tribhanga

Tribhanga in Odissi Dance

Following body features are same in Kalidasa and Sangam Tamil literature. We can see most of them in Valmiki Ramayana as well.

1.Women were always compared with the rivers and cities. Rivers were women and the sea was their husband.

2.Women were married on the Rohini Nakashatra (asterism) day as she was considered the favourite wife of the Moon.

3.Moon was considered the husband of all the 27 Stars. In other cultures Moon was a woman.

4.All the good qualities and virtues are given feminine names. This custom is followed until today (Karuna, Shanti, Satya, Anandi,Saumya, Saubhagya etc)

5.If someone sneezed, women thought some other women are thinking about their husbands.

6.Women counted their days when their husbands went on travel or Government service (such as war, foreign trips with Kings). It is in Meghaduta of Kalidasa and Sangam literature.

7.Kalidasa described women as wonderful creations of Brahma. He described them as Brahma’s Art Work! In Tamil they were compared to Anangus, who can “kill “anyone by their look.

8.Each City in India has a goddess protecting the city (Nagara Devata). Even Ravana’s Lanka had a city goddess- Lanka Devi.

pinnu senchataiyal

  1. Women’s Body Features:

Hair – It is always compared to peacock feather in Kalidasa and Sangam literature

Gait- It is always compared with swan or goose

Thigh – Trunk of an elephant or Plantain/Banana Tree stem

Eyes: Deer

Voice: Koel or Parrot

Belly Button: whirlpool; vortex

Eye throbbing: Left is good for women; Right is good for men.

Hair do: If the husband is away they don’t decorate their hair

Fasting: They fast for good children and Husband’s long life

Chaste women: Chaste women have miraculous powers, but they rarely use them.

Symbol of Love: Chakravaka birds are described as symbol of love; they always remain together.

Tree and Creeper: Men are trees and Women are creepers in both the languages.

Face of Women: Bright and cool like Moon

Paintings: Both men and women had paintings of their beloveds

Teeth are compared to white flowers

Lips are compared with corals or Bimba fruit

Broad Chest/breast, Narrow waist, Broad Thighs are the features of Indian women.

Women longed for children and believed male children will help them to go to heaven.

Women wanted heroic children and mothers were called Veea Mata in Tamil and Sanskrit literature.

More than 200 topics are similar in Kalidasa and Tamil literature including the above topics on women. This shows that Sangam Tamils knew very well Kalidasa’s works and used them. Unknown Prakrit poets of Gatha Saptasati also imitated Kalidasa, but they were not known to anyone, because their products were secondary productions. Very rarely we see originality; may be one or two like Hala are exceptions.

dance line drawing

Gatha Sapta Sati never touched Tamil God Skanda where as Kalidasa and Sangam Poets dealt with Skanda Murukan in the same way. Gatha Spata Sati touched Lord Ganesh where as neither Sangam poets nor Kalidasa dealt with Lord Ganesh.

My forty year research in to Sanskrit, Tamil and Prakrit literatures show that Tamils and Prakrit poets knew Kalidasa works by heart. Rev G U Pope who studied Tamil and Sanskrit works wrote about it 150 years ago.

Under 200 topics I have more than 1000 references. I have given one below:

In Syama – vine I see your slender limbs;

Your glance in the gazelle’s startled eyes

In the cool radiance of the moon in your face

Your tresses in the peacock’s luxuriant train

Your eye brows graceful curve in stream’s small waves

But alas! O cruel one, I see not

Your whole likeness anywhere in any one thing – Kalidasa’s Megadutam 103

kerala beauties

“Conferring the radiance of the moon

On the faces of lovely women,

the entrancing tones of wild geese

on their gem-filled anklets,

the Banduka’s vibrant redness

on their luscious lower lip,

the splendour of bountiful autumn

is now departing – to who knows where – 3-25- Kumarasambhava

Also Sakuntala Act 2-10,11, Rtu Samharam 3-24/26`

Tamil Kalitokai 55, 56 (This part of Kurinji Kali was composed by Brahmin poet Kabilan, who was well versed in Sanskrit)

Dr G U Pope said that Kabilan followed Kalidasa.

“ Hero wanted to say something about my features. He looked at my forehead which was like crescent moon, but it was not the crescent moon. Face looked like moon but there were no dark spots like moon; shoulders looked like bamboos; but this was not born in the hills; eyes were like lotus flowers; but not from the pond; she walks like a peacock, but she is not a bird; she spoke like a parrot; but not actually a parrot. He pretended praising me like this.

“ Your glance is like the glance of a deer; your hair is soft like swan’s; you are like a pea cock; your shoulders are like bamboos and they are the boats that helps one to cross the Sea of Lust; your breasts are like the buds of areca nut tree.

thathrupam pen

Comparing women of Kalidasa with Sangam Tamil works bring out many literary gems from both the literatures.

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Tolkappian on Women in Business Trips!

tolkappian katturai

Written by London Swaminathan
Post no. 1192; Dated 24th July 2014.

Tolkappian was a great genius. Unlike other grammar works of the world, he added one more chapter to the usual grammar topics. The uniqueness of Tolkappiam lies in this last chapter called Porul Adikaram where he deals with the themes of literature. It gives lot of information about Tamil’s view of life, way of life, values in life and rules to write various themes in life. The most interesting point is his instructions about matters concerning sex.

Hindus have been following certain rules from the Vedic times. Though Sringara Rasa is dealt with in literature by poets like Kalidasa, explicit sex is not dealt with. Only in books like ‘Kamasutra’ of Vatsyayana we come across such things as explicit sex. It is not meant to be read by the common folks. It is probably meant for sexologists or psychologists who can advise youths in matters of sex. They can solve problems concerning sex.

Tolkappian , author of the oldest Tamil book Tolkappiam, advises people regarding topics on love.
Tamils have divided their literature into two parts Akam and Puram; Akam poems are about love and family life. Puram poems are about war, kings, death, values, poets’ lives, beliefs and generosity and philanthropy of kings and chieftains.

The first and foremost rule in Akam (love) poems is that you should never reveal the identity of the people involved. No name is found in Akam verses (Porul Adikaram Sutra-1000).

Tolkappiar says that wives are banned from foreign travel. When husbands go on travel for business, war or delivering messages, wives can’t accompany them.

Likewise when kings go on war expeditions, queen should not accompany the king (Porul Adikaram 1121). But musicians and dancers are allowed to travel with them. One of the powerful Tamil kings Senguttuvan took 102 dancing girls with him when he went to the Himalalayas to fetch a stone for Kannaki’s statue. But he left his wife at Vanji, the capital of Chera country (Kerala in South India).

cheran senguttuvan

Cheran Senguttuvan going in procession with Kannaki statue.

Mullaippattu and Nedunal vadai, two Sangam books, have vivid scenes of the camps in the battlefields. There we see women with swords guarding the camps, but not the queens or the wives of the army commanders. Some women were used to maintain the camps. Karpiyal section of Tolkappiyam has the rules for women in the camps.

Whenever some Tamil novels or films with explicit sex come out, big controversies erupt. People who oppose them quote ethics. People who justify them say that they are showing the real world. But yet whether it is real or artificial, fiction or fact, there are some norms to follow (Porul: 999):

Nataka vazakkinum ulakiyal vazakkinum
Patal Sandra pulaneri vazakkam (999)

In this sutra ‘pulaneri vazakkam’ is explained as only that is good, self controlled and cultured can be reported in writing.

Tolkaapiyar , in another sutra (couplet), talks about women’s virtues:
For the modesty and the simplicity in the act of love belong to the feminine nature, her amorousness will be known only by gesture and environment in accordance with the code of love.
Kamam thinaiyir kannindru varuum
Nanum madanum penmaiya (Porul -1054)
Even in the modern Western world, it is men who propose to women and not vice verse.

Please read my earlier posts on Tolkappiyam:—

Tolkappian – A Genius — posted by me on 12 September 2012
Did Tolkappian copy from Sanskrit Books? – posted by me on 10 September 2012
Who was Tolkappiar? posted by me on 9 September 2012
Agni in Tolkappiam – posted on 31 March 2014.
Indra in the Oldest tamil Book — posted on 14th June 2013
Vedic God Varuna in Oldest Tamil Book — posted on July 8, 2013
Four Tamil articles on the Age of Tolkappiam are posted in the blog.

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Most Intelligent Woman in the Ancient World

tamil penkal

A community’s development can be easily measured by the level of women’s education or status. If we take all the ancient cultures into account, India has a unique place in the world. Lot of countries gave women– education, freedom, right to inherit property, right to attend religious ceremonies and a status —several centuries after ‘India that is Bharat’ gave them.


Vedas and Sangam Tamil literature have the highest number of women poets (poetesses) in the world. It is amazing to see they were able to compose poems and attend assemblies. Gargi Vachaknavi was the only example one can quote for women’s education and freedom from the most ancient days. She was invited to attend an assembly of scholars to discuss philosophical matters. King Janaka of Videha convened the conference. It happened at least 3000 years ago. Even the foreign scholars, who always underestimate and underrate anything Indian, gave the date 800 BC for the Brihad Aranyaka Upanishad, where Gargi appears for the first time. Gargi, a great philosopher, not only attended the conference, but also challenged the most revered philosopher of the day, Yajnavalkya.


Thousand years later, the grand old dame of Sangam Tamil literature Avvaiyar appeared on the scene. She was able to attend the great assembly of the three most powerful kings of the Tamil speaking world– Chera, Choza and Pandya. The occasion was the great Rajasuya Yajnam done by Choza king Peru Nar Killi. She praised them for their unity and wished them long life. She was able to enter any palace without a permit or visit any country without a visa. Poets and ascetics had more rights than the diplomats of the modern world. They can challenge the kings in the assemblies and question their misbehaviour.


We have over 25 Vedic poetesses and over 25 Tamil Sangam poetesses. No culture in the world had so many poetesses 2000 years ago. It was a world dominated by men. Law giver Manu said that a community will be destroyed if women are not respected.

tamil kili

Indian women were so intelligent that they can easily solve knotty problems. A boy wanted to study Vedas. But he knew only his mother Jabala. When he went to the teacher he asked what was his Kulam, Gotra (clan and sub sects), names of parents etc. He replied truthfully that his mum asked him to give the mother’s name only as Jabala. The teacher was so impressed by his honesty, he took him immediately as his student. He gave the boy a new  name– Satyakama (one who seeks truth) Jabala.

Vedic and Sangam Tamil period women did not sing only about Gods and Kings. They sang about everything in the world. Women like Draupadi and Kannaki challenged the most powerful kings of the day. They vowed to destroy injustice and they did it. Women like Damayanti and Savitri fought for their husbands and won the cases. Sita and Mandodari, wives of rivals, were praised for their chastity. They will inspire women for generations to come.


In Vedic days, women were teachers as well. Panini, the first and foremost grammarian in the world, explains the distinction between acaryaa and acaryani, upadhyayaa and updhyayini.


Manu, author of the great law book Manava Dharma Shastra, says,

‘’women must be honoured and adorned by their fathers, brothers, husbands and bothers-in-law, who desire their own welfare. Manu 3-55

‘’Where women are honoured, there the gods are pleased; but where they are not honoured, no sacred rite yields rewards. Manu 3-56

Where the female relations live in grief, the family soon wholly perishes; but that family where they are not unhappy ever prospers. 3—57

The houses,  on which the female relations, not being duly honoured, pronounce a curse, perish completely, as if destroyed by magic’’ Manu 3-58

Hence men, who seek their own welfare, should always honour women on holidays and festivals with gifts of ornaments, clothes and dainty food. 3-59


Sanskrit and Tamil literature even entered the magic or the superstitious world to show that chaste women can do miracles. They can bring fire and rain by their power. But women never abused their powers. Sita says to Hanuman, the first International ambassador, that she can burn the 14 worlds with her power, but she wanted her husband to take the credit of finishing the demon king Ravana of Sri Lanka.


Great poet Valluvar went one step further and says that any chaste woman has the power to make rain at her bidding (Kural 55)


Seeing Arundhati Star

Arundhati: Wife of great ascetic Vashista. Symbol of faithfulness, symbol of Indian womanhood and astral goddess in the Saptarishi Mandalam (Great Bear Constellation in the Northern Sky). Every Hindu must see the star on the First Night in the sky. She was the most praised woman on earth. 5000 year old Vedas and 2000 year old Sangam Tamil literature praised her sky high.

tamil aru

Manu says

‘’Akshamala, a woman of the lowest birth, being united to Vashista and Sarangi (being united) to Mandapala became worthy of honour’’(4-23).Akshamala=Arundhati.


Sangam Tamil literature refers to Arundhati in several places: Ainkuru.442; Puram.122; Kali.2-21;pari 5-44, madu.610.

In the later days we have great women poetesses like Karaikal Ammaiyar,

Andal, Gangadevi , Mirabhai and Lalleswari.


Two thousand years ago Hindus believed in the same values from Kashmir to Kandy in Sri Lanka. This is another blow to the racists who advocated Aryan Dravidian Race Theory.


Here are the Lists of Vedic and Sangam Tamil Poetesses:

Aditi,  Apala, Dakshina, Gosha, Indrani ,Juhu, Kadru, Lopamudra, Ratri, Romasa,  Sasi, Sashvati, Sikandini kashyapi, Sraddha, Sarama, Sikta, Sudevi, Surya, Sarasvati, Ushas, Urvasi,Visvara, Visvruha, Vispala, Vakambhirini, Vachukra’s wife, Vac, Yami


From Sama Veda – Nodha, Agnishta basha, Sikatani vavari, Ganpayana,

Later day great women—

Gargi vachaknavi, Maitreyi, Nalayini, Savitri, Kaikeyi, Sita, Mandodari, Ahalya, Arundhati, Kunti, Draupadi. (Kaikeyi was a great driver. She rode the chariot when Dasaratha went to war with the demons and defeated them)


Tamil Poetesses

(Like Rig Vedic compiler Vyasa, Tamils also followed Vyasa’s technique of naming anonymous poets with abstract expressions. So we don’t know for sure how many poetesses were there in Vedic period or later. But poetesses were there, which is confirmed by later day mythologies. Slight change of spellings or some suffixes to names made enthusiasts to count more number of poetesses!! One surprising thing about Sangam Tamil names is most of them have prefixes like Sanskrit names Su=Nal. Lot of poetess’s names have this Nap or Nal prefix.


This shows ancient Indians followed the same method in naming. I have already written about the Sanskrit names among Sangam Tamil poets such as Valmiki, Damodaran, Markandeyan, Kamakshi, Kesavan, Mahadevan, Nagarajan,Paliyathan,Vishnu dasan, Kannadasan etc.


1.Avvaiyaar  2.Aadimanthiyaar 3.Anjil anjiyaar 4.Uunpiththai

5.Kaamakkanipsalaiyaar 6.Kaavarpendu 7.Kuramakal kuriyeyini

8.Maarpiththiyaar 9.Maasaaththiyaar 10.Nachchellaiyaar  11.Nakkannaiyaar

12.Nedumpalliyathai 13.Nalvellaiyaar 14.Nalveliyaar 15.Nanmullaiyaar  16.Nappasalaiyaar  17.Naagaiyaar 18.Paari makalir 19.Perungkoppendu

20.Peymakal ilaveyini 21.Ponmaniyaar 22.Ponmudiyaar  23.Puunkan uththiraiyaar 24.Pullaankanniyaar 25.Vennik kuyaththiyaar 26.Velli viithiyaar

27.Venpuuthiyaar 28.Kakkaipaadiniyaar.


Pictures are taken from World Tamil Souvenire;thanks.

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