Lesson - 2 : A01112
This lesson teaches you the greatness of the first Tamil epic, SILAPPATHIKAARAM -- its author, its background, its structure, its literary beauty, and its social and political significance. It also gives you information about the customs and beliefs of the Tamils.
SILAPPATHIKAARAM is the first great epic in Tamil. It contains the three important components of Iyal. Isai and Natakam. It integrates not only the three great rulers of Chera, Chola and Pandya kingdoms through its story, but also the religions of Buddism, jainism and Vaideegam that is (Vedic orthodoxy). The epic is divided into three cantos, named after the capitals of the three kings, Pugaar Kaandam, Madurai Kaandam and Vanjik kaandam. Instead of having a king as a protagonist, it has two women -- one belonging to the merchant class, and the other, a courtesan -- as its protagonists. This epic is distinguished by the beauty of its language, the strength of its theme and its literary value. It refers to the differenct traditions, customs and beliefs of that time. Thus, it is a repository of social, religious and political ideas and thoughts. Above all, SILAPPATHIKAARAM is the only epic which glorifies womanhood.
‘Silambu’ means ‘anklet’. Two anklets play an important role in this epic -- one, worn by Kannagi, which contains rubies and the other worn by Paandimaadevi, containing pearls. The confusion caused by the similarity in the appearance of these two anklets, is the nucleus of this epic. Hence the titile, SILAPPATHIKAARAM: a ‘chapter’ on the ‘silambu’.
The poet, Ilango Adigal, was the younger son of Cheran Cheralaathan, As he was younger, he was called Ilavarasan or Ilango. As he renounced a princely life and became an ascetic, he was called Adigal. SILAPPATHIKAARAM is believed to have been written in the 2nd century A.D. It has been compared to Virgil’s AENEAD.
Thus, this lesson teaches you all about SILAPPATHI KAARAM, the first great epic in Tamil, its distinguishing features and its place in Tamil literature.