(Last Updated on : 05/12/2017)
Manimekalai is considered to be one of the five great epics
of Tamil literature
. It was probably composed in the 6th century CE. It is an epic poem that is a poem in 30 cantos. Its story is basically a sequel to Cilappatikaram
. It narrates the story of the conversion to Buddhism
of the daughter of Kovalan and Madhavi. Manimekalai is the only existing Tamil Buddhist literary text.
Central Story of Manimekalai
The epic is set in the town of Kaveripattinam
, in Tamil Nadu, and in Nainatheevu of Naga Nadu, a small grimy island
of the Jaffna Peninsula in modern Sri Lanka. In the story, the dancer
-courtesan Manimekalai is pursued by the loving Chola
n prince Udyakumaran, but to a certain extent wants to set aside herself to a religious life. The sea goddess
Manimekala Theivam puts her to sleep and takes to the island Ma?ipallavam (Nainatheevu). After waking up and travelling around the island Ma?imekalai comes across the Dharma
-seat, the seat on which Buddha
had taught and settled two martial Naga princes, which was placed there by the God Indra
The sea goddess also forecasts that Bhikshu Arava?a A?igal in her local town will teach Manimekala further. Manimekalai then used the mantra
which the sea goddess had given her. She then becomes a Buddhist nun or Bhikshuni and practices to rid her from the repression of birth and death
and attain Nirvana
Significant Characters of Manimekalai
Following are the significant characters of Manimekalai:
Manimekalai: The daughter of Kovalan and Madhavi, who was born with courageousness and virtues.
Udayakumaran: The Chola King, who was madly in love with Manimekalai. He was an imprudent king, who wanted things to be completed only the way he wanted them to be.
Sudhamati: Manimekalai's most dependable and truthful friend.
Manimegala: The sea goddess who look after Manimekalai.
Deeva Teelakai - Guardian Goddess of the Dharma seat. She was born in the town of Puhar and got married to a merchant. Her husband once travelled to trade. Even after so many days he didn't return. She was also guided by the voice to travel to the Dharma seat and protect Amirta Surabhi until she meets her destiny.
The epic Manimekalai gives much information on the history
of Tamil Nadu
, Buddhism and its place in earlier period, modern arts
and culture, and the customs of the times.