THE FIVE MINOR EPICS
This lesson teaches you about the five minor epics in Tamil. One of them, CHOOLAAMANI, which is considered to be a major epic. The lesson also tells you about the background of CHOOLAAMANI, the life of its author, the story of the epic, and the social, religious and political attitudes of the age in which the work was composed. We can learn from these epics, the impact of the Jain monks on Tamil literature.
The five minor epics in Tamil are: CHOOLAAMANI, YASODARA KAAVIYAM, NEELAKESI, UDHAYANA KUMAARA KAAVIYAM and NAGA KUMAARA KAAVIYAM, DANDIALANKAARAM, the grammatical work, stipulates that a great epic should have the four codes of Aram, Porul, Inbam and Veedu. Even if one of these is missing, the work is considered as a minor epic. Many scholars feel that as CHOOLAAMANI contains all the four codes, it cannot be categorised as a minor epic. Indeed, CHOOLAAMANI is considered to be equal to SEEVAGA CHINTAAMANI in greatness. However, it is treated as a minor epic. Various explanations are given as to why the epic was titled CHOOLAAMANI. Its author is Tholaamozhi Thevar.
Except for CHOOLAMANI and NEELAKESI, the other three minor epics have the word ‘Kaaviyam’ in their titles. Nevertheless, their literary merit is not as great as that of the first two mentioned earlier. YASODARA KAAVIYAM tells the story of the king, Yasodaran. Its is noteworthy that this story is not to be found in any other literary work written in Tamil. We do not know for certain who wrote this epic.
NEELAKESI is believed to have been composed as a rejoinder to KUNDALAKESI. While the latter propounded the greatness of Buddhism, the former claims that Jainism is greater than Buddhism. NEELAKESI contains 894 verses.
In Tamil literature, there is a tradition of composing shorter versions of great classics like KAMBA RAMAYANAM and SEEVAGA CHINTAAMANI, UDHAYANA KUMARA KAAVIYAM is considered to be such an abridged version of Koonguvelir’s PERUNKADHAI. It is believed to have been written by a female Jain ascetic called Kandiyar. It consists of 369 verses.
NAGA KUMARA KAAVIYAM is also a Jainist work. It is supposed to belong to the 12th century A.D. We do not know who wrote this work. It is noteworthy that all the five minor epics are based on Jainism.
Thus, this lesson teaches you all about the five minor epics, their distinguishing features, their authors and so on.