Silappadikaram & Manimekalai

Silappadikaram & Manimekalai

Product ID: 6352

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Author: Lakshmi Holmstrom
Publisher: Orient Longman
Year: 1996
Language: English
Pages: 182
ISBN/UPC (if available): 8125010130


This retelling of great classics of ancient Tamil poetry seeks to capture the anguish and overwhelming fatalism which characterize Silappadikaram and likewise it reflects the serene austere tone of Manimekalai with its theme of renunciation.

Silappadikaram and Manimekalai, usually seen as parallel verse-epics, are among the great classics of ancient Tamil poetry. The two poets, Ilanko Adigal, younger brother of the Cheran King Senguttuvan, and Sattanar, who was from Madurai, were friends and contemporaries. The poems are considered a part of Sangam literature and their writing is attributed to a time between the third and seventh centuries AD.

Silappadikaram is the story of Kovalan, Kannagi his wife, and Madhavi. We learn of the bonds of love in which they are seized, and the strange course of events in which Kannagi is transformed from her role as Kovalan's loyal wife to the outraged seeker of justice on his behalf. In the process Kannagi destroys the city that has been the cause of her suffering.

Manimekalai, the only extant Tamil Buddhist poem, is about the daughter of Kovalan and Madhavi. It recounts Manimekalai's formidable spiritual journey through the bonds of attachment - emphasized further by the story-within-story structure - to become a renunciant.

Together with the text, the illustration by A V Ilango bring to the modern reader - in form, composition and color - the texture of the times, the beliefs and practices, and the contrasts in lifestyles across town, village, river, hill and forest in the Tamil country.


LAKSHMI HOLMSTROM is a freelance writer and translator who studied in Madras and Oxford. Among Lakshmi's early published works is Kannagi of which the text in this book is a fuller version. She has also edited The Inner Courtyard, short stories by Indian women. Lakshmi's major interest has been novels and short fiction by contemporary Tamil writer. Her translation work includes A purple Sea, a collection of short stories by Ambai, Ashokmitran's Water and Neermai, short stories by Na Muthuswamy.


A V ILANGO was a lecturer in mathematics in a college when he decided to pursue his real interest in art. His early work centers on the theme of mythology and sculpture. Since then he has moved to abstract forms. His figures are derived from the wooden dolls of South India and terracotta figures. Temple and domestic architecture as well as the folklore of Tamilnadu are subjects of intense interest, as is his affinity with classical Tamil literature and cityscapes of Madurai and Gobichettipalayam. Ilango has exhibited his work with groups as well as solo in India and abroad.