[Kampan] (1180-1250 / Tiruvaluntur, Tanjore, India)

Biography of Kambar

Kambar poet

Kambar (Tamil: கம்பர்) also known as Kamban or Kampan, was a medieval Tamil poet and the author of the Tamil Ramayanam Ramavatharam, popularly known as Kambaramayanam, the Tamil version of Ramayana. Kambar also authored other literary works in Tamil such as Erezhupathu, Silaiezhupathu, Kangai Puranam and Sarasvati Anthati.


Kambar belonged to the Ochchan or Occhan caste, traditionally nadaswaram players in southern India. But he was brought up in the household of a wealthy farmer in Vennai Nellur in south India. The Chola king having heard of this talented bard, summoned him to his court and honoured him with the title Kavi Chakravarthi or The Emperor of Poets.

Kamban flourished in Therazhundur, a village in the culturally rich Thanjavur District in the modern state of Tamil Nadu in South India. Kamban was a great scholar of India's two ancient and rich languages, Sanskrit and Tamil. In a scholarly biography, Kavichakravarty Kamban, Mahavidwan R. Raghava Iyengar wrote in detail about this 12th-century poet.

He was supported and patronized by his friend Vallal Sadaiyappar Gounder and he wrote the Kongu Mangala Vazhthu song for Kongu Vellalar.

Kamba Ramayanam

The original version of Ramayana was written by Sage Valmiki. This epic of 24,000 verses of a Raghuvamsa prince, Rama of Ayodhya, whose wife Sita is abducted by Ravana, a mighty emperor. In Hinduism Rama is the Seventh incarnation of Lord Vishnu, one of the Hindu holy trinity (Brahma and Shiva completing the trinity).

The Ramavataram or Kamba Ramayanam of Kamban is an epic of about 11,000 stanzas as opposed to Valmiki's 24000 couplets. The Rama-avataram or Rama-kathai as it was originally called was accepted into the holy precincts in the presence of Vaishnava Acharya Nathamuni.

Kamba Ramayana is not a translation of the Sanskrit epic by Valmiki, but an original retelling of the story of the God Rama. The poetic work is well known for its similes.

Legend has it that the entire episode was written in one night by Lord Ganesha. Ganesha is said to have written the poems that Kambar dictated to him during the night, as Kambar procrastinated the work till the day before the deadline set by the King.

There is also a legend that Ottakuthar, an eminent Tamil poet and a contemporary of Kambar also composed Ramayanam. Tradition has it that Ottakoothar was ahead of Kambar as the former had already finished 5 Cantos but when the king asked for an update, Kambar, a master of words, lied that he was already working on the Setu Bandhalam, upon which Ottakoothar feeling dejected threw away all his work. Feeling guilty, Kambar recovered the last two chapters of Ottakoothar's composition and added into his own. Bala kaandam, Sundara kaandam, Yudha kaandam, Ayodhya kaandam are four main parts of six parts called Kaandam in Kambaramayanam.

Kambar's Praise

Many Tamil poets, statesmen, kings and common people have praised Kambar for his Kambaramayanam which has more than 10000 songs forming one of the greatest epics of Tamil. Kambaramayanam has more than 45000 lines.

A common word of praise attributed to Kambar is that even the mill in his house would sing (Kambar veettuk kattuththariyum kavipadum; கம்பர் வீட்டுக் கட்டுத்தறியும் கவிபாடும்). He is considered special in singing poems under "Viruthapa".

"Kamba Sutram" (கம்ப சூத்திரம்)is a phrase used by Tamil people in their day-to-day activity. It was actually Kamba Chithiram only denoting Kambans Art. However, Over period of time it rendered as Kamba Sutram. The phrase is used just like 'Rocket Science', which clearly denotes that skills of Kambar in writing poem with viruthapa is as difficult as 'Rocket Science'.

Kamba Ramayana was first delivered in Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple, Srirangam at the court hall near Thaayar sannithi.

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