THE ANKLET AND THE LEAVES OF THE EPIC
Destiny predominantly manifested itself and wilfully fulfilled in the
lives of Kovalan and Kannagi through an anklet of artistic beauty the”
Silambu “ It seems that fate has conspired with villainy in their
blossoming young lives. Ilango-Adigal declared to Chittalaisattanar
that he would write the tragic story in Poetic form (Pattudaicheyyul).
This is the account of the origin of the great epic. These lines are
found in the 'Pathikam' poems in Silappathikaram.
ILANGO’ IN THE EPIC (SILMBU)
illustrious Ilango-Adigal narrated the story in poetic form, which were
heard by Kulavanikan Sattanar of Madurai.Sattanar strongly felt that the biography of Kannagi the queen of
Chastity,is an epic and only Ilango has the art and style to present
it to posterty.POOMPUHAR---MARUVURPAKKA
Poompuhar,the harbour Capital city divided into three major
In Maruvurpakkam the lower
class of artists who excelled in several minor arts and crafts had
their respective localities. They led flawless lives.
Pattinappakkam in Poompuhar was celebrated by the presence
of highly renowned great men. In an extensive open space, on the
outskirts of the city were quarters occupied by the cavalrymen with
swift horses elephant warriors, chariteers with lofty chariots and
infantrymen with fearsome looks.
cool Zephyr seeking sport in the pleasure garden of fragrant flowers
entered the ever –mirthful market –place (Nalangadi) and pervaded the
streets of puhar. The
Nalangadi is literally a day market while the evening market was known
as Nalangadi. They were busy centres of business.
- KOVALAN MARRIAGE ANNOUNCED
Kovalan was the son of the merchant prince Masathuvan and Kannagi was
the daughter of the celebrated sea captain Manaikan.
worthy parents longed to see on a happy day, as a bridal pair; happy in
such thoughts, they sent forth fair maidens seated on an elephant’s
neck, to invite, to the wedding, all those in that great city.
FOR THE BRIDAL PAIR
tastefully decorated marriage pandal resembled the blue sky studded
with the twinkling silver stars. The maidens who looked like moving
golden creepers and whose hair was decked with scented flowers,
showered blossoms on the bridal pair saying: “May you like flawless
life, with a love that knows no separation, and held in close and
AND KOVALAN IN THE MOONLIT OPEN TERRACE
Kannagi and Kovalan entered their domestic life. In the noval flat of
their lofty mansion, they seated themselves on a gemledged couch, which
looked as if it had been made for them by the celestial carpenter
MADHAVI’S MAIDEN DANCE PERFORMANCE AND MAGNIFICIENT HONOUR OF
Thalaikkol or the staff was the central shaft of a splendid white
umbrella captured in the battle –field from monarchs of great repute.
It was covered over by Jambunatham, a kind of gold, its joints bedecked
with nine gems. This shaft represented Jayantha, Indra’s son, and as
such was worshipped in the palace of the protecting King of the White
Umbrella (the Chola)
THE GLORY OF TALAIKOL
day when the Talaikkol was to be used by the dancing – girl, she had to
bathe it with holy waters, bring in a golden pitcher, and afterwards to
garland it. Then it was handed over with a blessing to the State
elephant already adorned with a plate of gold and other ornaments in
its forehead To the
accompaniment of the drums proclaiming victory and other musical
instruments, the king and his five groups of advisers were to
circumambulate the chariot and the elephant and give the Talaikkol to
the musician poet on the top of the chariot. Then they went round the
town in a procession and entering the theatre they placed the Talaikkol
in its appointed position.
DANCE PERFORMANCE OF MADHAVI
The stage in which the Arangetram of
Madhavi took place was chosen in accordance with the time-honoured
tradition and the horps set by the architects. The canopy was painted
with many beatiful pictures from which were hanging loosely garlands of
pearl. It showed the novel and attractive appearance, which the stage
MADHAVI’S IMMACULATE PERFORMANCE
Madhavi was a superb exponent of the art of
dancing. In her nimble movement she looked like a golden creeper
animated with life. Her dance was perfect impeccable. In the
auditorium of pearls Madhavi’s superb are kept the audience spell
THE KING’S GIFT TO MADHAVI
The king in due recognition, of Madhavi’s
skill and dexterity in the art, presented her with a garland and one
thousand and eight Kazhanjus of gold which was the customary present
given to dancers who held theTalaikkol and exhibited their talents
for the first time.
BUYS THE GARLAND
Chitrapthi the mother of Madhavi handed
over the garland to a haunch-backed woman, asked her to stand out in
the street and announce, “this garland is worth a sum of 1,088
kazhanjus of gold. He who buy’s the garland becomes the husband of
representing the large lotus –eyed Madhavi was purchased by Kovalan and
he accompanied the hunch-back to Madhavi’s home.
ENTERS MADHAVI’S ABODE
Madhavi’s mansion was decorated with
artistic beauty and Kovalan was overwhelmed by the opulence of the
reception accorded to him.Kovalan entered Madhavi;s bridal chamber,
and he embraced her, he was captivated so much by her charm that he
forgot himself and did not like to part from her, and became an
– MADHAVI IN THE MOON - LIT TERRACE
Evening made his triumphant entry to the
delight of the lovers. Kovalan Madhavi were seated in the open moon
–lit terrace. Madhavi with a throbbing eager heart gave her love
immense pleasure with intermittant bouderie (love’s feigned wrangle).
KANNAGI, SAD AT HEART
kannagi seperated from her beloved Kovalan
was sad at heart and forgot to decorate herself . Neither was her dark
lock softened by oil nor did the jewels adorn her hair. Lonely and
filled with sorrowful thoughts of the moonlit nights made her drop
pearl like tears.
Kovalan and Madhavi celebrated the
christening of their beloved child. When the aged dancers desired that
fitting name should be given to the child Kovalan
of mine had a misfortune of falling into the sea when the boat in which
he travelled broke down. But he was saved by the Goddess
Manimekalai.who was our familly diety.” Then a thousand courtesans
with jewlled girdles blessed the child with the name “Manimekalai” On
that day Kovalan showered gifts of gold as liberally as the rain
KOVALAN --- A WARRIOR OF COMPASSION
On the occasion of the christening of
Manimekalai, Brahmin with bent body came feebly along with the aid of a
stick in order to receive gifts. Seeing him in the clutches of an
elephant which had run amuck Kovalan stepped forth instantly with a
cry, and after rescuing that panick stricken victim in the noose of the
furious elephant and through a series of adroit and hazardous
manoevures he controlled the elephant.
A brahmin in Kaveripoompattinam left for
the north abandoning his wife who had caused the death of his pet, a
young mongoose. When she followed him, he handed her a note to be given
to “people leading a virtuous life” She roamed about the showing the
note from house to house, Kovalan received the note and said, “Do not
fret. I shall relieve you of your difficulty”. He made gifts in accordance with instituted
rules and relieved that lady of her worry. Then he made her husband who
had left for forest live with her in the “right path”. by giving
copious wealth out of his limitless riches.
INDRA FESTIVAL IN POOMPUHAR
To the delight of the earth and the
admiration of heaven, the festival of Indra was celebrated by the
people of Puhar. One thousand and eight kings bore on their heads gold
pots filled with cool and holy water, rendered fragrant by floating
pollen of flowers of the Cauveri taken from where it merges the sea,
and performed the bathing ceremony of the Lord of Gods, India.
MADHAVI--- TOWARDS SEASHORE
were rushing towards the sea to have a dip and to celebrate of Indra.
Madhavi saw the people hurrying to the beach in search of amusement and
expressed her desire to go.Kovalan gave his consent . Madhavi adorned
herself with exquisite and artistic jewels and Kovalan wore sparkling
jewels on his garlanded chest and like a prodigal cloud, mounted his
mule while the deer –eyed Madhavi got into her chariot.
KOVALAN PLAYS THE HARP
on a white –ledged couch with a canopy of picturesque paintings,
surrendered by a screen set on the newly spread sands in the shade of
the “Punnai” tree standing in the wide expanse enclosed by the
blossoming kaidai which swept away the foulness of the (fish –smelling)
sea, Kovalan received the harp from Madhavi. He began playing odes to
the cauveri and songs appropriate to the seashore (Kanalvari).
“Hail to thee, cauveri ! Even if our Chola king, whose garlanded
parasol is as white as the moon, extends his righteous sceptre far and
weds Ganges, thou wilt not sulk. I have learnt o fish –eyed one that
not sulking even though he weds the ganges, is the supreme virtue of
chaste ladies Hail to thee, cauveri”. At that time Madhavi of the long
beautiful eyes. Who listended to the lyric (of Kovalan) felt that his
song was indicative of a change of heart on his part.
zealous Madhavi received the harp from Kovalan pretending that she was
pleased though (really) sulking Then she began to play, purposefully an
ode to the sea so fine that the goddess earth wondered at her skill:
and all people were in ecstasy when they heard her sweet voice
appropriately accompanying the notes of the harp. The feigned quarrel
of Madhavi sowed the seeds of suspicion in the mind of Kovalan.
SEPERATION OF KOVALAN
Kovalan thought that her song revealed her dubious character; he
wrongly believed that she had somebody in her mind, which mad him,
wrathful. He said “I sang the Kanalveri: but she the cunning one
combining several deceitful lies sang with her mind upon someoneelse.
Meanwhile the sun has sunk and daylight has faded. Goaded by
indomitable destiny, which made the music of the harp its pretext, her
gently with drew his embracing hand from his fullmoon –faced consort.
Kovalan leaving Madhavi alone went off with his retinue.
THE LONE RETURN OF MADHAVI
Kovalan left her, Madhavi with a heavy –dazed heart returned home,
without being consorted by her dear lover.
held sway over the ferlite Tamil country and his filled Madhavi with
the sorrow of seperation. Taking the spotless harp in her grasp she
began to sing a sweet song but fell into langour. Then she took up a
garland formed by trying together with fragrant roots and flowers and
choce petals of the red lily interwined with the white bent flowers of
the ripe screw pine. On this she wrote a letter to Kovalan under the
influnce of cupid who single-handed exercised his righteous sceptre
over the vast world with his flower arrows. She took in her hand the
long salk of a flower and dipping it in the writing paste made of red
lac and agar she wrote the letter. She
then called her maid Vasanthamalai on that pensive evening and asked
her to inform Kovalan of all that had been written in the episite and
to bring him back to her.
KOVALAN’S REPLY TO MADHAVI’S LETTER
the epistle Vasanthamalai of the lance like long eyes went to Kovalan,
living in the quarter where grain was stored and handed it over to
KANNAGI AND DEVANTHI
Kannagi narrated an evil dream she had in the previous night to her
friend Devanthi who said “if you wish to wipe ooff the evil, go to the
confluence of cauveri and the roaring sea.There is a park where the
neydal field opens its petals and where two sacred tanks are dedicated
to the sun and the moon respectively.Those woman who bathe in them and
worship the god of love enshrined there will ever enjoy the company of
their husbands in the world.
the be –jewlled Kannagi said in reply to the charming lady “that does
not become of me.
KOVALAN IN KANNAGI’S HOUSE
While Kannagi and Devanthy were conversing Kovalan entered the house.He was
smitten with grief at the sight of the pale Kannagi, his fair wife and
said “by consorting with a delilah (false woman) who makes every false
thing appear like truth, I have lost the rich sore of my ancestral
wealth. O, the poverty I have caused (to our house) makes me ashamed of
myself”. Comforting him with a fascinating smile on her brightening face of
Kannagi replied, O do not grieve! You yet have my anklets. Accept them,
she was under the impression that he had come to get money for his love
JOURNEY TO  MADURAI
soon as Kannagi afforded her anklets Kovalan replied to his dame, “O my
good girl, listen. I will use this anklet as my capital to recover all
the jewels and all my wealth I have lost , Rise up, O lady with the
stresses decorated with choice flowers ! come with me to the city of
Madurai highly renowned for its towers!”
Impelled by destiny he decided to start before the heavy darkness of
the night was dispelled by the sun.
KOUNTHI GUIDES THEM
Kovalan and Kannagi passed out of their outer gate and worshipped in
the temples. They reached the cottage of Kounth, a Jain run and
prostrated themselves before her.
Kovalan told the nun that he was going to Madurai to make a fortune.
The venerable Kounthi took up her sacred begging –bowl and her netted
bag suspended from her shoulders. Holding a Peacock’s feathers in her
and praying that the Panchamantra might be their guide on the way
Kounthi unrivalled in the practice of virtue, accompanied the other two
in their journey.
KAUSIKAN’S ENCOUNTER WITH KOVALAN
Kovalan lodged the holy saint and his loving wife in a harmless place
and passed along a great road in search of water.Owing to grief and
tiresome long journey, Kovalan’s altered form was not recognised by
Kousikan at once. To make sure he addressed the greenleaved Madhavi
plant and said that the plant shed all its flowers like Madhavi who was
fallen into deep affiliation unable to bear Kovalan’s seperation from
her. The moment he heard the messenger uttering the name of Madhavi he
begged in Paradon. He learnt the sorrows of Madhavi as well as his
parents. Then in a reminicent mood he realised that Madhavi was not at
fault and that he was to be blammed. Then
he resumed his journey.
KOVALAN IN THE COMPANY OF TROUBADOURS
Kovalan loved music intensely that even in this grief -striken mood,
he joined the company of troubadours.who were signing the goddess
Durga’s valorous dance. He took up the harp, a kind of lyre and played
on it according to the well-established scientific conventions of
THE RIVER VAIGAI
divine damsel, by name vaigai who is ever in the tongues of the poets,
belonged to the Pandyas (one of the crowned Kings of Tamil Nadu).
Kovalan and Kanagi praised its charm affluently saying, “ O this is no
stream of waters but a stream of flowers.”
crossed over the river on a raft accompanied by the saint to a fragrant
grove full of beauteous flowers on the southern bank.
MADALAN REMINDS KOVALAN OF HIS PAST GLORY
While Kovalan was narrating to the sage Kounthi undiminishing prosperity of
Madurai and the Prowess of the Pandya king there appeared madalan , a
learned man and a narrative of Puhar who was retuned from his
pilgrimage. Modalan learnt the tragic episodes of Kovalan’s life, which
reminded him of his past acts of valour and sympathy.
KOVALAN ---KANNAGI AS MATHARI’S GUESTS
saint Kounthi observed that kovalan and Kannagi should leave the out
–skirts and enter the city of Madurai, Mathari, an old woman of the
cowhered caste and also a devotee of kounthi came and prostrated
herself before the jain nun.The saint introduced Kovalan and Kannagi to
Madhari and explained to her about the reputation of the Illustrious
families of Kovalan and Kannagi and requested her safe custody.Mathari
glaad at heart took them to her house.
SUMPTUOUS MEAL SERVED BY KANNAGI
Kannagi with the aid of
the fire of straw lit by Aiyai (daughter of Madhari.) cooked, to the
best of her ability.for her husband. When that loard had seated himself
made from the white leaves of the Palmyra tree by a trained maid with
her flower- like hands . She sprinkled water from an earthern –pot over
the feet of her lord.She spread a tender plaintain leaf and served food
and said “ Here is food, O, Lord ! Please eat.
THE FINAL FAREWELL
his sumptuous dinner Kovalan drew his darling nearer to expressed his
sorrow ruefully for his past licentious life. Kannagi consoled her
wailing husband by saying that she was ever an infalliable wife and it
was her bounden duty to obey his commands implicity. He said “I shall
go with one of the anklets that adorn thy beatiful feet and return
after exchanging it for money. Till then do not lose heart”.
KOVALAN’S ENCOUNTER WITH GOLDSMITH
Kovalan reached the bazaar and
there he saw a goldsmith who, with a
coat on was walking at some distance, pincers in hand, followed by a
hundred goldsmiths. Thinking within himself that this must be the chief
goldsmith of the much-celebrated Pandean, Kovalan asked him whether
he could estimate the price of the anklet, suitable for the queen of
the benevolent king.
Kovalan who came to sell his wife’s anklet was accused of stealing the
anklet of the great queen.The king held no enquiry but ordered to kill
the innocent Kovalan . At this an unlettered person, in a fit of
drunkenness, hurled his well polished sword from his hand (upon
Kovalan) cutting him across. The blood that gushed forth from the wound
spread over mother Earth who felt extreme agony. Vanguished by
pre-destined fate, Kovalan fell, causing the Pandyan sceptre to bend,
which denoted the injustice done to Kovalan.
KANNAGAI IN PANDYA COURT
Kannagi heard about the death of Kovalan, She sprang up in rage and
then fell down on the earth as if the rising moon had fallen with the
cloudes on the wide earth. Filled with ire, she hurried to the court of
Pandyan Nedunchezhian to the indicate her husband’s innocence. She
addressed with vehemence, “O Lord of Korkai, you have fallen from your
righteous course! My golden anklet contains gems inside.” The
king said,”Our anklet contains pearls inside”.Kannagi dashed her
beatiful anklet on the ground and a gem flew into the king’s
face.When he saw the gem he said “Am i a ruler; I listened the words of
a goldsmith ? It is I who am the thief,”The king with his ambrella
falling and his sceptre faltering fell down dead. His queen collasped
saying, “ It is impossible for a woman to replace the loss of a
THE TRIBALS BEFORE SENGUTTUVAN AT THE BANK OF PERIYUR
Senguttuvan the king of chera country and brother of Ilango desired to
feast his eyes with the emeraldine scenic beauty of the blue mountains,
reached the river periyar,He was accompanied by his queen Venmal sage
Ilango and the celebrated poet Seethali Sattanar.
tribals of the mountain, awaited the arrival of the great monarch with
rare gifts and narratted to him their amazing experience of how a lady
with a face agonising ---a heart pining and breast lost, stood under a
Vengai tree Before their very eyes they saw her emplanning celebrated
by the celestials.There
upon the poet Sattanar who stood beside the king portrayed the tragic
story of Kannagi.
TRUMPETTING OF CHERA’S WAR AGAINST NORTH
Senguttuvan hearing the loudable life of Kannagi decided to deify her
and raise a temple in honour of this Goddess of Chastity (Kannagi) He
declared that a stone from Himalayas should be brought to fasion her
image. If any monarch refused to give the stone he would be met in the
battlefield. He further wanted that this declaration should be conveyed
to the rulers of the north. But Azumbilvel, a minister said since the
spices of all countries are roaming about in the captial city itself it
is sufficed that the king’s Proclamation is tom –tomed in Vanji alone.
upon it was proclaimed thus “Our guardian monarch marches forth to
procure a stone from the Himalayas and all ye who are kings of the
northern countries come forth to meet him with tributes “ The wind
echoed the proclamation of the king to all the four corners of the
STONE CARRIED BY KANAGA AND VIJAYA
Senguttuvan was challenged in the battle field by a few northern headed
by Kanaka and Vijaya; In the terrific battle ensued the enemies were
unable to withstand. The on-slaught of Senguttuvan’s army and fled But
Kanaga and Vijaya were taken as captives. He commanded several
differently armed units of his army to secure from golden crested
Himalayas a stone slab which was placed on the resplendent crowns
of Kanaka and Vijaya.
SENGUTTUVAN ON THE SOUTHERN BANK OF THE GANGES
Senguttavan had the sacred stone immersed in the holy waters of the
ganges with all its religious rites of Pomp and grandeur.
southern bank of the crystalclear ganges the king seated himself in
his tent created especially by his friendly as well as the vanquished
kings of the north . The monarch rewarded all his soldiers with Vahai
flowers made of gold.
NARRATION TO CHERA
While Cheran Senguttuvan was seated on his throne the scholar Madalan arrived
on the spot. He was greeted by the king and the remarked sarcastically
that the seashore song of the lady Madhavi cracked the crowned heads of
Kanaka and Vijaya. The ruler asked him to explain the meaning of his
enigmatic utterence. Then he narratted the episode happened at Puhar.
record of narration signified the happenings at puhar and the tribal
folk’s narrations pertained to Vanji and the account of Sattanar
portrayed the incidents in Madurai.
further learnt from Madalan that Madhavi entered the Buddha – Vihara
and received holy instruction, the pre requisites to become a Buddhist
CHERANS TRIUMPHANT ENTRY TO HIS CAPITAL
conches blew, seated on the topmost point of swift state elephant,
under the garlanded white umbrella Senguttavan with a Vahai wreath on
his crown, entered Vanji welcomed by its hilarious citizens in a
procession of carts drawn by elephants. Thereon entered his capital
with a triumphant smile fitted with pride and glory.
SENGUTTUVAN BUILT TEMPLE TO KANNAGI
venerable lady, a shrine constructed in accordance with prescribed
rules, was dedicated. In the solemn cere mony of
consecration, Senguttuvan stood proffering his respect and in front of
him,, the Arya kings released from prison , the Kongu ruler, the king
of Malava and Kayavagu the ruler of Ceylon . Prayed to the deity
thus:”Please grace our countries by your presence on the eve of the
sacrificial rites performed in honour of Imayavaramban on his birth day
just have done on this auspicious day”