(Last Updated on : 06/01/2012)
Ilanko Atikal or Ilango Adigal, also known as Ilahko Atikaj was a Tamil poet and a Jain monk who existed during the Sangam age
of Tamil literature
. Ilanko Atikal composed one of the Five Great Epics of Tamil Literature titled Cilappatikaram
. It is widely considered that Prince Ilanko was the brother of Cheran Chenguttuvan, the Chera
king. But there are no evidences available in the poems of Sangam literature
that verify this, as there is no mention that the famous king had a brother. Ilanko Atikal or Ilango Adigal was born in the Chera dynasty which ruled parts of modern day Kerala
, but was a part of the Tamil country.
According to a fable, an astrologer once predicted that Ilanko Atikal would become the sovereign of the land. The young prince opted to become a Jain monk in order to prevent this from occurring as his elder brother was the rightful heir and was still alive. After he became a Jain ascetic, he was renamed as Ilango Adigal, where Adigal indicates that he had become a Jain monk. Ilanko Atikal (Ilahko Atikaj) was a multi-faceted and versatile personality. Although he enjoyed a royal life from his birth, Ilanko renounced that life and became an ascetic monk and portrayed the best of human qualities in life. Even though he lived in the Chera kingdom, Ilanko Atikal or Ilango Adigal had a broad vision and considered the Chera, Chola
regions as a combined Tamil Nadu
. Moreover, he had a creative and artistic mind which is revealed by his detailed description of several aspects of music and dance and also by the elaborate narration of human emotions in his epic Cilappatikaram. In the Tamil epic, objects in nature are explained in different places to express conflicting moods which also reveals his artistic talent.
Ilanko Atikal was interested in both fine arts and folk arts. He could comprehend the rhythm of life in the folk arts and used them in suitable places in Cilappatikaram. Among the 30 chapters in the epic Cilappatikaram, the Vettuvavari, Kanalvari, Kunrakkuravai and Aycciyarkuravai are dedicated to folk music and dances. The folk songs of the shepherds, the highwaymen and the natives of montane region are also found in the epic. Ilanko introduced new kinds of metrical compositions in Cilappatikaram to depict different types of emotions that were unknown to his forerunners.
He commenced new kinds of poetical compositions which were rich in melody, rhythm and form, which helped in portraying a range of moods and emotions. Folk music is provided a prominent place in Cilappatikaram by Ilanko Atikal, who prepared new types of poetry from the folk songs which were in trend. Those new poetic forms are unquestionably a significant contribution to Tamil literature of Sangam age.