SILAPPADHIKAARAM or the Anklet Story is one of the five major epics of the Tamils, and easily the most literary and impressive and effective, variously dated from the 2nd to the 10th century it is a moral tale narrating how the results of past events overtake present lives. It incidentally explores how a mortal woman gets recognition as an immortal Goddess.
The epic is unique in that it has a heroine instead of a hero flouting epic conventions and in that it tells a highly emotional story in a literary manner that can be recognised as achieving emotional stasis. The body of the work is in blank verse and attempts a most realistic manner in spite of the supernatural etc. in it it is interspersed with metrical compositions forming a rare collection of folk songs.
It is in 30 cantos. It tells of the marriage of Kannagi to Kovalan both of the merchant community how Kovalan got estranged from Kannagi by love for a courtesan Maadhavi, how after a time with her he came poor to his waiting faithful wife; how anxious to retrieve his fortunes by setting up anew in trade with the proceeds of the sale of his wife’s precious anklet he reaches Madurai city. When Kovalan offered his wife’s anklet for sale in Madurai he was accused by a thieving royal goldsmith of having stolen the pandya Queen’s anklet and was killed without enquiry, Kannagi rose in sorrow and anger, demonstrated the innocence of her husband and brought about the King’s death and set the city on fire. She then went into the Chera Kingdom and was hailed as a Goddess by the Gods and the hill tribes. The Chera King desirous of building a temple to Kannagi went on an expedition north reducing Aryan Kings to bring Himalayan stone for carving the image of Kannagi; he consecrated a temple to her at which many contemporary kings worshipped. The epic thus takes into its survey the three traditional kingdoms of the Tamils.