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Among the Tamil epics written during the Sangam age, only a few survived to this day. Manimegalai is one such. It is written as a sequel to the Sillapadikaram, taking the story forward of Kovalan and Madhavi's daughter, Manimegalai. The Sillapadikaram is about the injustice of the Madurai kingdom in the execution of Kovalan, which turned Kannagi, his wife into a goddess seeking vengeance for her husband's death. Kovalan, before his death, has an affair with a court dancer, Madhavi, and his daughter, Manimegalai, is said to begin a different tradition among the Tamils.
The epic, written by Sattanar, introduces Buddhism to Dravidian culture, something that has been alien to them for years. Manimegalai is the protagonist, who flees constantly from the pursuit of Chola prince Udhayakumara, and tries to lead an ascetic life. Throughout the plot, Buddhist tenets are used to avoid the culmination of a love-story. Manimegalai is believed to be the anti-love story sequel to the Sillapadikaram.
A complete work of Tamil epic written by hand on leaves Image source: wikimedia commons
The Sillapadikaram was written by a Jain monk, Illango Adigal, and Sattanar, uses the sequel to question Jainism. It is almost a political battle between two new religions competing for a place in a predominantly Hindu society. Parts of Manimegalai even go to the extent of opening ridiculing Jain practices and beliefs.
Critics of Tamil literature have stated that while the Tamil epics have great poetic significance, they are inferior to other world epics when it comes to clearly portraying religious affiliations. In fact, they refer to the newer religions with an infant's perspective. Some scholars have found that Sillapadikaram has more ethical substance than its sequel, but in and of itself, despite being written by a Jain monk, reads like Hindu poetry (Subhramanya Aiyar, 1906).
Keywords: Manimegalai, Sillapadikaram, Tamil Epic, Sattanar, Ilango Adigal, Chola kingdom, Sangam Age, Buddhism
The Tamil Culture began in India during the Sangam age, when the three kingdoms of the South, Pandya, Chera, and Cholas ruled the Southern peninsula. Together they contributed immensely to the heritage, literature, and the religion of South India. Among the many literary texts of the age, Sillapadikaram is an important epic that deeply impacted the city of Madurai, and established a cult among the Tamils which thrives even today.
A temple dedicated to Kannagi Amman Image source: wikimedia commonswikimedia commons
Sillapadikaram tells the story of a woman named Kannagi who was a devoted wife to her husband, Kovalan, who lost his wealth to a female courtesan Madhavi. Kannagi and Kovalan left the city and tried to make a living with what was left of their wealth. Kannagi offered to sell one of her anklets, which contained diamonds inside, to make ends meet. Coincidentally, the queen of Madurai also had the same kind of anklets, but they were filled with pearls. When Kovalan reached the city, he happened to go to the goldsmith who had made the queen's anklets, and he was executed on the assumption that he had stolen her anklets. Kannagi hears about this and comes to Madurai enraged. She curses the king and the city for their injustice. The entire city burned and Kannagi became known as a symbol of chastity and loyalty to her husband.
A museum containing artifacts of Kannagi in Poompuhar Image source: wikimedia commonswikimedia commons
From this epic, the cult of Kannagi, or the Kanaki Amman cult was born in the south. Since the burning of the city led to immense rain, Kannagi also became known as the celestial goddess of rain, and is worshipped as Mari Amman (Goddess of Rain) in Tamil Nadu. The Sinhalese of Sri Lanka worship Kannagi as Pattini Deviyo, or the chaste wife. The Sinhalese are a Buddhist cult who see Pattini Deviyo as a form of the Bodhisattva. They follow a different epic source to fund their beliefs. In Kerala, some versions of the Kannagi goddess are worshipped.
In the Southern most tip of India, the Kannagi temples were converted into shrines for Mary according to the Catholic tradition when missionaries came to India. The Kannagi cult directly translated into devotion for Mary. Velankanni in Tamil Nadu, is a famous coastal township that serves as a pilgrim spot for many South Indian Catholics. A statue depicting Kannagi holding out an anklet and demanding justice for her husband stands at Marina Beach in Chennai.
Keywords: Sillapadikaram, Kannagi, Sri Lanka, Tamil epic, India, Peninsula, Madurai
The last of the kings of Srirangapatna, Tipu Sultan fought like a Tiger against British Imperialism in the 18th century. He succumbed to the East India Company's power in the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War, and is survived by the immense architecture and legacy that dots Mysore in places today. He was succeeded by the Wodeyars of Mysore, who currently inhabit the Mysore Palace.
Tipu's summer palace in Srirangapatna is a well-crafted example of Indo-Islamic architecture. The walls are carved from teak wood, and lined with gold, silver, and precious stones. It houses the remains of the dynasty that Hyder Ali, Tipu's father, established in the princely state. Coins, artillery, clothes, and paintings are displayed in the ground floor of the palace, while the first floor is reserved for the view of the gardens from the pristine balconies.
The balconies of the summer palace overlook the stunning gardens Image source: wikimediawikimedia
The weapons that Tipu's army used in the Anglo-Mysore wars were sourced from the French, with whom Tipu Sultan was affiliated. His treaty with Napolean Bonaparte aided him immensely in protecting his authority over the state of Mysore. But the British managed to outsmart his efforts. The large wooden cannon that stands the end of the museum is perhaps the only surviving artifact of Tipu's army.
Outside the summer palace, elaborate, expansive gardens are maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India. Back in the day, Mysore was known for its climate and natural beauty. Near the palace stands Ranganathittu bird sanctuary which is considered a paradise for thousands of bird species that migrate here every year to breed. It sits near the banks of the Cauvery River sangam.
The wooden walls are decorated with elaborate motifs and designswikimedia
After Tipu's death, the palace was briefly used by the British Administration as its Secretariat. Later on, it was converted into a museum which is open to the public every day between 8.30 am and 5.30 pm. Tipu's fort in Bangalore is sometimes confused with his summer palace owing to its large size, but it is only the fort that protected against invasion into the capital of the Kingdom of Mysore. Between the bordering hills and the state of Mysore, there is a place called Tipu's drop, where it is believed he used to drop the criminals from a great height, or hang them off a metal rack. It is believed that he himself died on the roadside, owing to injuries from battle. The most famous painting of his bravery is the Storming of Seringapatnam (Old name of Srirangapatna) which is displayed in the darbar (court) room of the summer palace.
Keywords: Tipu Sultan, Kingdom of Mysore, Srirangapatna, Summer Palace
By Prakhar Patidar
Archetypes are characters with universal appeal. We know them enough to be familiar, but not too much for them to be redundant like stereotypes. They are notably recurrent in the human experience. Think about the protective father or the intuitive mother. There are 12 archetypal characters and in this article, we look at the archetype of the Jester in Indian mythology.
The Jester is known for his fun demeanor. Often the comic relief, or the trickster, and on occasions, the wise truth sayer. Their strong suits are humor, insight, and light-heartedness, but what falls weak about these characters is that they can come across as annoying.
We don't have to think too much to spot the jester in Indian mythology. If you are familiar enough with Hindu deities or have grown up watching any renditions of Mahabharat or Ramayana, you'd know about the Vedic sage Narad Muni. He is a traveling musician and storyteller who acts as a carrier of news and wisdom.
He carries a Veena and travels through heaven and earth carrying important messages. In popular representations, he is depicted as a jovial figure who often talks in riddles. These riddles hide warnings and pearls of wisdom for others and even provide predictions. He is often seen saying his catchphrase "Nayaran, Nayaran" before and after delivering news.
He is known to have been birthed out of Brahma's mind. The popular instances of Narad's appearance in our epics are in Mahabharata where he tells Yudhishthira the story of Prahlad, and in Ramayana where he comes to warn Ravan.
Keywords: Indian mythology, archetypes, narad muni