Sithalai Sattanar

(300-700 / Tamil Nadu / India)

Biography of Sithalai Sattanar

Sattanar is the Tamil Buddhist poet who composed the epic called Manimekalai. He lived in the period of Ilango Adigal. He was also known as Seethalai Sattanar or Sīthalai Sāttanār.

The full name of the author of Manimekalai was Madhurai Kūlavāṇikan Sīthalai Sāttanār. Madhurai refers to his native city, Madhurā. Kūlavāṇikan indicates his profession as that of a grain merchant. Sīthalai means ‘from whose (fore-) head pus flowed.’ It is told that when he found mistakes in the works of contemporary poets scrutinized by him, he used to strike his forehead with his iron style and this caused frequent wounds which suppurated. Sāttanār is an honorific address of his personal name, Sāttan. He was not only a first class poet and an eminent literary critic, but also an able exponent of the Buddhist doctrine. Well versed in religion, logic and philosophy, he showed the superiority of Buddhism, evaluating it against the background of contemporary religious thought.

There were several other poems by him, verses from which are found in poems such as Naṟṟiṇai, Kurunthokai, Puṟanāṉūṟu and Akanaṉūṟu. The aim of writing the Maṇimekhalai was the propagation of the Buddha Dharma. It is seen that Maṇimekhalai was written after the Tirukkural was composed, because there are two verses from the Tirukkural quoted in Maṇimekalai. Therefore it can be assumed that Sāttanār lived in the latter half of the 2nd century.

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