Manimekalai


Manimekalai
Topics in Sangam literature
Sangam literature
Akattiyam Tolkāppiyam
Patiṉeṇmēlkaṇakku
Eṭṭuttokai
Aiṅkurunūṟu Akanaṉūṟu
Puṟanāṉūṟu Kalittokai
Kuṟuntokai Naṟṟiṇai
Paripāṭal Patiṟṟuppattu
Pattuppāṭṭu
Tirumurukāṟṟuppaṭai Kuṟiñcippāṭṭu
Malaipaṭukaṭām Maturaikkāñci
Mullaippāṭṭu Neṭunalvāṭai
Paṭṭiṉappālai Perumpāṇāṟṟuppaṭai
Poruṇarāṟṟuppaṭai Ciṟupāṇāṟṟuppaṭai
Patiṉeṇkīḻkaṇakku
Nālaṭiyār Nāṉmaṇikkaṭikai
Iṉṉā Nāṟpatu Iṉiyavai Nāṟpatu
Kār Nāṟpatu Kaḷavaḻi Nāṟpatu
Aintiṇai Aimpatu Tiṉaimoḻi Aimpatu
Aintinai Eḻupatu Tiṉaimoḻi Nūṟṟu Aimpatu
Tirukkuṛaḷ Tirikaṭukam
Ācārakkōvai Paḻamoḻi Nāṉūṟu
Ciṟupañcamūlam Mutumoḻikkānci
Elāti Kainnilai
Tamil people
Sangam Sangam landscape
Tamil history from Sangam literature Tamil literature
Ancient Tamil music Sangam society
edit

Manimekalai or Maṇimekhalai (Tamil: மணிமேகலை), written by the Tamil Buddhist poet Seethalai Saathanar is one of the masterpieces of Tamil literature. It is considered to be one of the five great epics of Tamil literature. Manimekalai is a poem in 30 cantos. Its story is a sequel to Silapathikaram or Sīlappadhikāram and tells the story of the conversion to Buddhism of the daughter of Kovalan and Madhavi. It is the only extant Tamil Buddhist literary text.

Contents

Description

As a continuation of Silappatikaram (Tamil: சிலப்பதிகாரம்), this epic describes how Manimekalai, the beautiful daughter of Kovalan and Madhavi, followers of Jainism, converts to Buddhism. According to the poem, Maṇimekalai studies the six systems of philosophy of Hinduism and other prevalent religions of the time and compares them to the teachings of the Buddha. She is most impressed with Buddhism. Later, upon hearing doctrinal expositions from the Buddhist teacher Bhikshu Aravaṇa Aḍigal, she becomes a dedicated Buddhist nun.

The aim of the author, Sīthalai Sāttanār (or Cīttalai Cāttanār) was to compare Buddhism favourably with the other prevailing religions in South India in order to propagate Buddhism. He criticizes Jainism, the chief opponent and competitor of Buddhism at the time. While exposing the weaknesses of the other contemporary Indian religions, he praises the Buddha's Teaching, the Dhamma, as the most perfect religion.

The poem Manimekhalai gives much information on the history of [[Tamil Nadu], Buddhism and its place during that period, contemporary arts and culture, and the customs of the times. The exposition of the Buddhist doctrine in the poem deals elegantly with the Four Noble Truths (ārya-satyāni), Dependent Origination (pratītyasamutpāda), mind (citta) and Buddhist practices like virtue (Śīla) and non-violence (ahimsa).[1] [2]

The poem is set in both the harbour town of Kāveripattinam, the modern town of Puhar in Tamil Nadu, and in Nainatheevu of NākaNadu, a small sandy island off the Jaffna Peninsula in modern Sri Lanka. The story runs as follows: The dancer-courtesan Manimekalai is pursued by the amorous Cholan prince Udyakumāra, but rather wants to dedicate herself to a religious celibate life. he sea goddess Manimegala Theivam or Maṇimekhalai Devī puts her to sleep and takes to the island Maṇipallavam (Nainatheevu). After waking up and wandering about the island Maṇimekhalai comes across the Dharma-seat, the seat on which the Buddha had taught and appeased two warring Naga princes, and placed there by the God Indra. Those who worship it miraculously know their previous life. Manimekalai automatically worships it and recollects what has happened in her previous life. She then meets the guardian goddess of the Dharma seat, Deeva-Teelakai (Dvīpa Tilakā) who explains her the significance of the Dharma seat and lets her acquire the magic never-failing begging bowl (cornucopia) called Amṛta Surabhi (”cow of abundance”), which will always provide food to alleviate hunger. The goddess also predicts that the Bhikshu Aravaṇa Aḍigal in her native town will teach her more. Manimekalai then used the mantra which the sea goddess had given her and returns to Kāveripattinam, where she meets the Bhikshu Aravaṇa Aḍigal, who expounds her the Buddha's Teaching. She then becomes a Buddhist nun or Bhikshuni and practices to rid herself of the bondage of birth and death and attain Nirvana.[3]

Notable characters

Manimekalai - The daughter of Kovalan and Madhavi, who was born with bravery and virtues. Udhayakumaran - The Chola King, who was madly in love with Manimekalai. He was a foolish king, who wanted things done only in the way he wanted them to be done. Sudhamadhi - Manimekalai's most faithful and trustworthy friend. The sea goddess Manimekalai, who protects the heroine.

Disappearance of Kāveripattinam or Puhar

The poem relates that the town Kāveripattinam or Puhār was swallowed up by the sea (i.e. destroyed by a tsunami or flood) due to the Cholan King not holding the annual Indra festival and thereby causing the wrath of the sea goddess Manimekhalai. This account is supported by archeological finds of submerged ruins off the coast of modern Poompuhar.[4][5] Ancient ruins of a 4th-5th century Buddhist monastery, a Buddha statue, and a Buddhapada (footprint of the Buddha) were also found in another section of the ancient city, now at Pallavanesvaram.[6] The town of Kāveripattinam is believed to have disappeared in between the 3d and the 6th century CE. [7]

Date of Composition

Although there is some controversy about the exact date of this work, it probably was composed in the 6th century CE.[8]

Survival of Text

The Manimekhalai is the only extant Tamil Buddhist literary work of what once was an extensive literature. The reason for its survival is probably its status as the sequel to the Silapathikaram or Sīlappadhikāram.[9] Tamil Nadu produced many Buddhist teachers who made valuable contributions to Tamil, Pali and Sanskrit literature. Reference to their works is found in Tamil literature and other historical records. Lost Tamil Buddhist works are the poem Kuṇḍalakesī by Nāgaguttanār, the grammar Vīrasoliyam, the Abhidhamma work Siddhāntattokai, the panegyric Tiruppadigam, and the biography Bimbisāra Kadai.[10]

Buddhist School Affiliation

The work contains no direct references to Mahayana as propagated by Nagarjuna, etc., and appears to be a work of an early early Buddhist, Sravakayana school such as the Sthavira or Sautrantika school. According to Aiyangar, the emphasis on "the path of the Pitakas of the Great One" (i.e. Tipitaka) and the exposition of Dependent Origination, etc, in Chapter 30, could suggest that it is work of the Sautrantika school.[11] In the conclusion of the poem, Aravaṇa Aḍigal encourages full liberation from the three roots of evil—greed, hatred (rāga, dosa, moha). The final sentence of the poem states that Maṇimekhalai strove to rid herself of the bondage of birth. This emphasis on liberation from the defilements (kilesa), ending the cycle of birth, old age and death (samsara), and becoming an arahant, also suggests that the author of the poem was affiliated to an early Sravakayana Buddhist school. [12].

Buddhist logic

Aiyangar (p.80) suggests that the Buddhist logic as expounded by Aravaṇa Aḍigal in Chapter 29 of the Maṇimekhalai antedates the logic of Dignāga and his school.

Translations

The first translation of Manimekalai by R. B. K. Aiyangar, was published in Maṇimekhalai in its Historical Setting.[13] Extracts of this were republished in Hisselle Dhammaratana's Buddhism in South India [14] A more recent translation of the poem was done by Alain Daniélou with the collaboration of T.V. Gopala Iyer [15] There is also a Japanese translation by Shuzo Matsunaga, published in 1991.

Bibliography

  • N. Balusamy, Studies in Manimekalai, Madurai: Athirai Pathippakam, 1965.
  • Brenda E.F. Beck. The three twins : the telling of a South Indian folk epic, Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 1982.
  • Alain Danielou, translator, with the collaboration of T.V. Gopala Iyer, Manimekhalai: the dancer with the magic bowl, New Delhi: Penguin Books, 1993.
  • Hisselle Dhammaratana, Buddhism in South India, Kandy, 1964. Available online at Buddhist Publication Society Online Library Buddhism in South India
  • Gaur A. S. and Sundaresh, Underwater Exploration off Poompuhar and possible causes of its Submergence, 1998, Puratattva, 28: 84-90. Available online at [9]
  • Shu Hikosaka, Buddhism in Tamilnadu: a new perspective, Madras: Institute of Asian Studies, 1989.
  • K. Kailasapathy, Tamil Heroic Poetry, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1968.
  • S.N. Kandaswamy, Buddhism as expounded in Manimekalai, Annamalainagar : Annamalai University, 1978.
  • R. Kasirajan, Evolution and evaluation of epics in Tamil, Madurai: Mathy Pathippakam, 1990.
  • Krishnaswami Aiyangar, Manimekhalai in its historical setting, London: Luzac & Co., 1928. Available at [10]
  • R. Natarajan, Manimekalai as an Epic, Madras, 1990.
  • P. Pandian (Bacon), Cattanar's Manimekalai translated from the Tamil, Madras: South India Saiva Siddhanta Works Pub. Society, 1989.
  • R. Parthasarathy, The Cilappatikaram of Ilanko Atikal : an epic of South India, New York: Columbia University Press, 1993. Series title: Translations from the Asian classics.
  • Rao, S.R. ”Marine archaeological explorations of Tranquebar-Poompuhar region on Tamil Nadu coast” in Journal of Marine Archaeology, Vol. II, July 1991, pp. 6. Available online at [11]
  • Paula Richman, ”Cīttalai Cāttanār, Manimekhalai” summary in Karl H. Potter ed.,The Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies: Buddhist philosophy from 350 to 600 A.D., New Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publ., 2003, pp.457–462 and footnotes on p. 609–612.
  • Paula Richman, Women, branch stories, and religious rhetoric in a Tamil Buddhist text, Syracuse, 1988. Series title: Foreign and Comparative Studies. South Asian series no. 12.
  • Peter Schalk, editor-in-chief, A Buddhist woman's path to enlightenment : proceedings of a Workshop on the Tamil Narrative Manimekalai, Uppsala University, May 25-29, 1995. Uppsala, Academiae Ubsaliensis, Stockholm, 1997.Series title: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis. Historia religionum 13.
  • S.V. Subramanian, Descriptive grammar of Cilappatikaram, Madras, 1965.

References

  1. ^ Rao Bahadur Krishnaswāmi Aiyangar, Maṇimekhalai in its Historical Setting, London, 1928, p.185, 201, etc.. Available at www.archive.org [1]
  2. ^ Paula Richman, ”Cīttalai Cāttanār, Manimekhalai” summary in Karl H. Potter ed.,The Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies: Buddhist philosophy from 350 to 600 A.D. New Delhi, 2003, pp.457–462.
  3. ^ Hisselle Dhammaratana, Buddhism in South India, Buddhist Publication Society, Kandy, 1964. Available at Buddhist Publication Society Online Library [2]
  4. ^ Gaur A. S. and Sundaresh, Underwater Exploration off Poompuhar and possible causes of its Submergence, 1998, Puratattva, 28: 84-90. Available online at [3]
  5. ^ Marine archaeological explorations of Tranquebar-Poompuhar region on Tamil Nadu coast, Rao, S.R.. Journal of Marine Archaeology, Vol. II, July 1991, pp. 5–20. Available online at [4]
  6. ^ Marine archaeological explorations of Tranquebar-Poompuhar region on Tamil Nadu coast., Rao, S.R.. Journal of Marine Archaeology, Vol. II, July 1991, pp. 6. Available online at [5]
  7. ^ ”Indian town sees evidence of ancient tsunami”, Associated Press report, Poompuhar,1/14/2005. Available online at [6]
  8. ^ Paula Richman, ”Cīttalai Cāttanār, Manimekhalai” summary in Karl H. Potter ed.,The Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies: Buddhist philosophy from 350 to 600 A.D. New Delhi, 2003, pp.458.
  9. ^ Paula Richman, ”Cīttalai Cāttanār, Manimekhalai” summary in Karl H. Potter ed.,The Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies: Buddhist philosophy from 350 to 600 A.D. New Delhi, 2003, pp.458.
  10. ^ Hisselle Dhammaratana, Buddhism in South India, Kandy, 1964. Available online at Buddhist Publication Society Online Library Buddhism in South India.
  11. ^ Rao Bahadur Krishnaswāmi Aiyangar, Maṇimekhalai in its Historical Setting, London, 1928, p.xxvii, p. 85, 104, 188. Available at www.archive.org [7]
  12. ^ Aiyangar p. 230.
  13. ^ Rao Bahadur Krishnaswāmi Aiyangar, Maṇimekhalai in its Historical Setting, London, 1928. Available at www.archive.org [8]
  14. ^ Hisselle Dhammaratana, Buddhism in South India, Kandy, 1964. Available online at Buddhist Publication Society Online Library Buddhism in South India.
  15. ^ Alain Daniélou & Iyer, Manimekhalai: the Dancer with the Magic Bowl by Shattan, New York, 1989.

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