[Ambalak Koothar] (11th - 12th Century / Tamil Nadu / India)

Biography of Ottakoothar

Ottakoothar poet

Ottakoothar (Tamil:ஒட்டகூத்தர்) or Othakkoottar or Ottakuthar also known as Ambalak Koothar, was a tamil court poet of three Chola kings namely Vikrama Chola, Kulotunga II and Rajaraja II. He wrote poems in praise of these three kings namely Vikrama Cholan Ula, Kulothunga Cholan Ula and Rajarajan Ula. Ottakoothar had also written Kulothungan Pillai Tamil in praise of Chola king Kulothunga II and Saraswati Andhadhi in praise of Saraswati the Goddess of knowledge.

The poet's memorial is believed to be still in a place known as "Darasuram in Kumbakonam" Just opposite to the famous Airavatesvara Temple. According to legend, Goddess Saraswati blessed him in the place koothanur, then he became a famous poet.

He was a contemporary of Tamil poet Kamban (Kambar). Ottakoothar composed various hymns and verses eulogizing the three great Chola emperors which include Vikrama Cholan Ula, Rajarajan Ula and Kulothunga Cholan Ula. Ottakoothar had also composed the literary work of Kulothungan Pillai Tamil which extols the Chola ruler Kulothunga II. The Tamil poet has also made great contributions to devotional poems in Tamil literature by writing the Saraswati Andhadhi (Saraswathi Andaadhi) which worships and praises Goddess Saraswati, the Goddess of music and learning.

Ottakoothar`s other notable literary works include Takkayaakaparani. He was a part of the Shaivism literary movement and was a Chozhar by nationality. Ottakoothar is believed to have enjoyed the patronage of the majestic Chola Kings.

Legends related to Ottakoothar

According to legends, Goddess Saraswati blessed Ottakoothar, who was not much creative originally, in the region of Koothanur (situated near Poonthottam). It was after receiving the blessing of the goddess, he became a renowned poet in the Chola court. The legend mentions that a young devotee who desired knowledge performed relentless sacrament at the shrine of Goddess Saraswati in Koothanur during the period between 11th century CE-12th century CE), looking for the blessings of the goddess.

Saraswati took the appearance of a courtesan and emerged before the devotee. She expressed her wish to sanctify him. But the devotee declined to accept the blessings of the Goddess, as he failed to realize her true identity. Ottakoothar, on the contrary, recognized Goddess Saraswati`s real identity and hurried to the location. He laid down on his face in reverence at the feet of the Goddess, seeking her blessings. It is said that Goddess Saraswati blessed Ottakoothar and eventually his popularity as a poet spread throughout the Tamil country after this incident. It is also believed that the name of the place Koothanur is derived from the name of the poet Ottakoothar.

Religious Significance of Ottakoothar

According to legends, the shrine of Goddess Saraswati at Koothanur is believed to have been installed by Ottakoothar, the Tamil poet during the early 2nd millennium CE. The poet also celebrated the festival of Vijaya Dasami (Dussehra), after day Navaratri festival, in the Tamil month of Purattasi, in the region of Koothanur. There are various stone inscriptions which validate the antiquity of the Koothanur temple.

The memorial of Ottakoothar is believed to be still in existence in a region called Darasuram in Kumbakonam, situated near the well known Airavatesvara Temple.

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