Kannaki’s Anklet

It is also interesting to note that Ilango Adigal, who was a Jain monk, has woven a masterpiece of an epic, which does due justice to all the major religions that it portrays—Hinduism, which is practised by the central characters; Jainism, in the form of another character, Kavunti, who is the guiding principle to the central characters; and Buddhism, which was gaining prominence during the times when this epic was written. Besides the three main religions, it also highlights the religious beliefs of the tribes and others, and does justice in bringing to the fore, the salient aspects of certain cults, and the harmonious coexistence of all in those times. All this by a monk is laudable. Besides the religious aspects which have been depicted well, one must also laud the depiction of the lives of commoners and courtesans by a monk who is far removed from such a life. Not once does such depiction impinge on the epic at large. This is the master-craftsmanship of Adigal, a practising Jaina monk!

Adigal also deserves credit for writing an epic which is contrary to all the well known epics of the world. Adigal’s epic is revolutionary in that the central character is neither semi-divine nor male, two very important aspects of any epic. Adigal makes a strong departure from these two givens. Rather, this could be the only epic, which has a female hero at the centre of activities, unlike all others, anywhere in the world! That despite the absence of any heroic and magical acts, or a war, Adigal manages to create endearing human characters, speaks volumes of his creative abilities.

Kannaki’s Anklet is an effort to bring the Tamil epic Shilappadikaram, to a larger audience and in a relatively easy prose format. While the epic has been translated by eminent scholars, Kannaki’s Anklet is an effort to make it easy reading for the modern reader who is exploring the hidden gems of regional literature, without getting into the academics of it. This book is an easy translation, and to enable a smooth flow, certain aspects of the original, which was more of a cultural show-case, have been eliminated or touched upon just very briefly. An episode like the Prologue has been added to bring in the dramatic element of the narrative, but other than that and some very minor characterisations, no major liberties have been taken, to ensure that the true flow of the original narrative is retained. Also, certain names have been spelt in the modern form.

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