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The oldest Tamil Sangam literature

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Tolkappiyam is the only remaining text of the ‘Second Sangam’.  The treatise was written by ‘Tolkappier’, one of the twelve worthy disciples of Agastya Rishi.  This book, written in the Sutra style, is the oldest grammar text in the Tamil language.  Eight types of marriages are mentioned in this Sangam text.  In this treatise, love marriage has been called ‘Panchtinai’,  while one-sided love as ‘Kaikkinai’ and inappropriate love as ‘Perundinai’.


Shilappadikaram is known as the first epic of ‘Tamil literature’.  It literally means “the story of Nupur”.  This epic was composed by Ilango Adigal, brother of Sen Guttuvan, ruler of the Chera dynasty, in the second-third century BCE.  The entire story of ‘Shilappadikaram’ revolves around Nupur.  The hero and heroine of this epic are ‘Kovalan’ and ‘Kannagi’.  This epic is divided into three parts as ‘Puharakkandam’, ‘Madaraikkandam’ and ‘Vanjikkandam’.  These three parts describe Chola, Pandya, and Chera states respectively.  In the epic, the poet has given a living  and vivid picture of the then Tamil society as well as introduced the dances, occupations etc. prevalent in the society.

 Jeevak Chintamani:

Jeevak Chintamani is the immortal work of Jain sage and poet ‘Tirutakkadevar’.  This book is counted among 5 famous texts of Tamil literature.  Divided into 13 sections, this book has a total of about 3,145 verses.  In the epic Jeevak Chintamani, the poet presents the biography of a prince named ‘Jeevak’.  The hero of this poem performs eight marriages.  After consuming all the happiness and sorrows of life, he renounces the state and family and takes sanyas.  Eventually, he gets physical liberation.  The author of ‘Jivak Chintamani’ has clarified the nature of household life according to Jainism.  Shringar Rasa is mainly used in this book.  The treatise describes eight marriages, hence it is also called ‘Mananool’ (marriage book).  Some important, such as up, metaphor, etc. have been used as Malankara.  In the verse, ‘Tiruttam Chand’ is used.  The literary, religious and historical significance of this epic is intact.


The Manimekhalai epic was composed of ‘Sitalai Sattanar’, a Buddhist merchant from Madura.  This epic was composed after ‘Shilappadikaram’.  It is believed that where the story of ‘Shilappadikaram’ ends, from there the story of ‘Manimekhalai’ begins.  ‘Manimekhalai’, the heroine of this epic, ‘Sattanar’, was the daughter of Madhavi, (a prostitute), the second wife of ‘Kovalan’, the hero of ‘Shilappadikaram’.  ‘Manimekhalai’, like witnessing goddess renounces common pleasures for the sake of human beings.  Humanity has been given an important place in this epic by reflecting human sensations.  Important in some later works related to ‘Manimekhalai’ – ‘Manimekhalai Venwa’,  composed by Bharatidasan.  In this, the character of ‘Manimekhalai’ and ‘Madhavi’ has been highlighted.  ‘Manimekhalai’ tells the story of a dancer turning into a Buddhist nun.

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