Page Created by Jijith Nadumuri on 05 Dec 2011 15:03 and updated at 15 Dec 2011 15:42






Ilanko {ilan-ko} (the younger prince) was a member of the Chera {cheral} royal family that ruled the Western {kutakku} country. He was a man of noble character {kunavaan, skt. gunavaan}. He renounced {turantu} the kingdom {aracu} to become an ascetic {atikal} Thus he became Ilanko Atikal. He lived in a temple {kottam}. (As per different sources, he became an ascetic so that his elder brother chenkuttavan would become the king, rather than him. It was predicted in his childhood that the younger one ilanko would become the king or earn fame equal to that of a king.)


While Ilanko was once seated in the court of his brother, viz, king Chenkuttavan, some members of the Kurava tribe, the inhabitants of hilly tracts and mountains {kunram}, assembled {kuuti} there, eager {orunku} to report some astonishing event they witnessed. Seated along with Ilanko was his friend Chattan, a poet of graceful Tamil {tan tamizh}. (chattan, also known as sattanar was the authore of the epic manimekalai, a sequel to the epic silappatikaram).

The people from the mountains, eagerly reported thus:- 'We saw a virtuous women {pattini} with one breast {oru mulai}! She stood in the dark shadow {kozhu nizhal} of the Venkai tree (kino tree) having golden flowers {polam puu} glowing with luster {kilar}. There came Indra the king {aracan} of the Amaras {amarar} (immortals) along with his kinsmen {tamar}, the other Devas. He revealed to the women her loving husband {kaatal kozhunan}. Then the Devas went with her to Swarga {vinpulam} (heaven) in front of our very sight {katpulam} ! '


Hearing this amazing {irumpuutu} account of the mountain people, the Tamil {tamizh} poet Chattan, seated in that place {uzhai} said thus:-

Well, I know {yaan ari} what these naive {kuvan} people are saying. In the ancient {muutuur} and renowned {chirappu} city {nakaram}, by the name Pukar {pukaar}, ruled by the Chola king adorned with Atti flower garland {aaran kanni}, lived a Merchant {vanikan} named Kovalan. He was infatuated with a courtesan {kanikai} named Matavi, an expert in dance {naatakam}. He ruined {ketura} and wasted all the hard earned wealth {arum-porul} he possessed {kolkai} upon her.

Kovalan had a wife {manaivi} named Kannaki. She had two costly Anklets {cilampu} on her legs {kaal}. The couple decided to sell it for a price {pakartal} to generate some capital so that Kovalan can start a new business with it. To sell the Anklet, he traveled to the city of the Pandyas of great prospirity {perun cheer}, praised in the songs {paatal chaal} as Maturai, the city full of towers {maata}. Reaching the city, Kovalan walked into a street {maruku} where Jewl-caskets {peetikai} of royal fame {man perum} are sold. Kovalan showed the Anklet to a Goldsmith {pon-chey-kollan}.

The Goldsmith exclaimed:- 'There is none other except {allatai} the chief queen, Kopperuntevi, who is fit to wear this Anklet {chilampu}. None outside {puravu} the palace can buy it. Stay right here{irukka}'. Soon he informed the Pandya king:-'O king, I saw the Anklet of rare variety {cil ari} that I had once created {pantu taan konta} for the queen, in the hands of a stranger {piranor} who seems to be the thief {kalvan} who stole it.'

Kovalan's time {kaalam} to reap the fruits {vilai} of his Karma {vinai} became fully visible {aatal}. The Pandya king wearing a garland of Margosa (neem) flowers {vempan}, without any proper enquiry {teran aakik}, ordered {kuuy} his guards {kaavlar}:- 'Killing {knonru} that thief {kalvan} , recover the Anklet {cilampu} immediatly'.

'Thus Kovalan was murdered {kolai} by the guards of the king. Kovalan's wife {manaivi}, now lost all senses {nilai kalam kaanaa, lit. :- lost sense of where she is standing and in which place} and with full of tears {neeru} in her wide eyes {netun kan}, she collapsed. She was a chaste Wife {pattini} and her chastity punished the Pandya king. She cut off {tiruki} one of her breasts {mulai}, from her chest {maarpu} adorned with Pearl garlands {muttaara} and threw {eri} it. It struck like an elongated Comet {neel eri} which stood {nilai} bright {kezhu}, uniting {kuutal} with the city . Thus she fed {uutti} the city with fire {eri} which lasted for a long time {neel}. This women became the Pattini {pattini}, praised by many {palar pukazh}.'

Hearing this wonderful account of his friend, Ilanko then asked in a bold {viraloy} tone:- 'You said, the time to reap the fruits {vilai} of Kovalan's Karma {vinai} arrived. How did his Karma {vinai} become ripe {vilavu}?'

For this Chattan replied:- 'This is what happened once in the ancient {muutuur} city of Maturai of great fame {atiraa chirappu}. There is a Silver hall {velli ampalam} shrine of lord Siva, whose matted hair {chatai (skt. jata) muti}, was adorned with Konrai flowers (indian laburnum). It was situated in a public place {manra-p-potiyil}. I was lying {kitanten} there in the thick darkness {nal irut} of the night to take rest.

There I saw the deity {teyvam} of Maturai appearing before the brave Pattini {veera pattini} who lost {uttu} all relatives {aaranar}. The goddess spoke thus to her:- 'From thy breast {konkai} has sprung the great fire {koti azhal} of anger {cheettam}. The Karma {vinai} of thy past life {mutir} has ended {mutintu}. In thy past life {mun pirappu}, thou and thy husband {kanavan} harmed {chinkaa} the wife {maniavi} of the Merchant {vanikan} named Chankaman who lived in the city of Chinkapuram (skt. simhapuram) of great fame {van pukazh}. Thou endured the consequences of her curse {chaapam; skt. saapam}.'

'O woman of glowing long hair {vaar oli kuuntal}, within fourteen days {eer ezh naal}, thou shall again see thy husband {mana-makan}, thy lord {tannai}. He shall come separating {neenki} the Sun {ellai}. Thou shall perceive {kaantal} him in a form {vativu} which is like the Devas {vaanor} own {tankal} form; not in the form {vativu} of those who are of this world {eenor}.'

Chattan continued:- 'This is the proclamation {katturai} that I heard in the temple {kottam}.'


Listening to this wonderful narration, Ilanko, then spoke thus:- ' Dharma {aram} becomes Yama {kuuttu} to those who breaks {pizhaitor} the Law {araiciyal}, even if they be kings. Pattini of great fame {urai chaal} is sung by learned men {uyarntor}. Karma {uul vinai} of the past life always manifests {uruttu vantu} itself and make one eat {uuttu} its fruits (suffer its conseqences). Let us compose a poem {paattu} to explain all these. Let this poem be named {peyar} Cilappatikaram, the epic of the Anklet, as it is the Anklet {chilampu} that acts as the cause {kaaranam} of investigation {choozh} that bring these truths of Karma {vinai} to forefront.'

Then Chattan replied:- All the Three Tamil Kings {ventar muuvar} having glowing tuft of hair on their head {muti kezhu} are to be described here. O Atikal (sage), do thou author {aruluka} it thyself. No one else is competent to do this.' Hearing these words, Ilanko Atikal composed a great poem with thirty chapters titled as follows:-

The song {paatal} of praise {vaazhtu}, the story {kaatai, skt. gaadha} of setting up a home {manai} by Kuravar (for Kannaki and Kovalan), the story of the first performance {arankettu} of the dancer woman {natam navil mankai} Matavi, the story in praise {chirappu} of the evening {anti maalai}, the story of the festival {vizhavu} of Indra {intira} conducted in the city {uur} and the story of bathing and playing in the sea {katal aatu}.

The song {vari} of sea-side garden {kaanal} full of Screwpines with their petals {matal} opened {avizh}, the story of weaping {iranki} of Matavi, realizing her fault {tirut} in the arrival of spring {venil}, the story of narrating the distressing evil {teetu utai} dream {kana}, the story of seeing the country side {naatu} asking questions {vinaa}, the story of seeing the forest {kaatu}, the song and dance of the Hunters {vettuvar}, the narration of Kannaki adorned with beautiful flowers {tot alar} in her hair {kotai} waiting in the outskirts {puran-cheri} of the city and the story of the sights of the city {uur kaan} filled with the sounds {karanku icai} of drums.

The story of Kannaki the noble woman {nankai} full of grace {ceer kaal} living as a refugee {atai-kal}, the story of the murder {kolai kalak} and the Kuravai dance (cirular dance performed by women hailing from hilly tracts and mountains) of the honourable elder women {aaychiyar} (mothers).

The poem {maalai} of the fire {tee} and the resultant sorrow {tunpa}, the song {vari} of the midday {nan pakal} trembling {natunki} of the city {uur}, the story of Kannaki's wrathful utterances {vazhak-k-urai} before the Pandya king {ventan} of great fame {cheer kaal}, the poem of battle {vanchina maalai}, the story of the great fire {azhal} and the proclamation {katturai} by the formless {aru} goddess {teyvam} of Maturai that was heard indirectly {tonri} and the song of Kuravai dance (circular dance) of the woman of the mountains {kunram} with their hair {kotai} adorned with flowers {alar} dripping honey {mat}. These are those {enru ivai} chapters.

Besides these comes next {anaittu utan} the story of selecting a stone by sight {kaatchi}, the removal of the stone along with planting a pole {kaalkol} to initiate a festival, the purification of the stone with sacrad water {neer patai} and the dedication of the memorial stone {natukal}, the story of benediction {vaazhttu} and the granting of a boon {varam taru} by the goddess.

This great poem contains many narrations {urai} interspersed {itai} with many songs {paattu}. The composer of the poem, Atikal, of great fame {urai chaal}, narrated {arula} all of these to Chattan, who was a Grain Merchant {kuula vanikan} of Maturai. He listened {kettanan} to the narration of the poem from which various aspects of earthly life {paal-vakai} can be learned {terinta}. This prologue {patikam} introduces and establishes {marapu} this epic and describes how it came to be authored.

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