Lesson - 3 : A01113
This lesson tells you about the epic, MANIMEKALAI. You can also learn about the poet Seetthalai Saatthanaar, the age in which he lived, other works written by him, the structure of the epic, the literary devices employed by the poet, its literary merits and so on.
MANIMEKALAI is the second great epic which appeared after SILAPPATHIKAARAM. Together, these two epics are referred to as the twin epics. The poet who wrote this epic is Seetthalai Saatthanaar. This is the first Buddhist epic in Tamil. It expounds Buddhist ideals and philosophy, in addition to various other religious principles. It is believed to belong to the 2nd or 3rd century A.D. It has as its theme, the asceticism of Manimekalai, the daughter of Kovalan and Madhavi of SILAPPATHIKAARAM fame. Dealing with the social service rendered by Manimekalai, the epic has a number of gods and supernatural beings as characters.
While epics in Sanskrit had male characters as protagonists, it is only in Tamil that epics were written with female characters as protagonists. Manimekalai is, in reality, the name of an ornament. It (mekala) is worn at the waist by women. As it is made of rubies (mani), it is called manimekalai.
This epic was written by Seetthalai Saatthanaar.
This lesson gives you only a glimpse of the greatness of MANIMEKALAI. There are several other things which should be studied in detail, such as the wealth of information it contains and its literary merits. We have not dealt with the religious disputes which Manimekalai enagages in, because they can be understood only by those who are familiar with religious principles. It is worth mentioning here, that this is the first epic which contains religious disputes. In fact, Manimekalai’s arguments advocating asceticism are so convincing, that a person reading them with involvement is likely to become an ascetic himself. The prime motive of the poet in writing this epic seems to be the exposition of the theory of Rebirth and Karma and the advocay of asceticism as the only solution to man’s problem of attaining salvation.
You can learn all this in detail, if you study MANIMEKALAI, the great epic.