(9th Century / Tamil Nadu / India)

Biography of Tirutakkatevar

Tirutakkatevar was a Jain poet saint who composed the Tamil literary epic titled Civaka Cintamani, one of the five greatest epics of Tamil literature. Tirutakkatevar formed a new type of meter called viruttam. He, as a local king, also supported to create Kamban, one of the most famous poets of Tamil literature.

Tirutakkatevar, also known as Tiruttakkatevar, was a much respected Jain poet saint from the Tamil country. He composed the Tamil literary epic titled Civaka Cintamani, also called Jivaka Chintamani, which is among the five greatest epics of Tamil literature. The literary works of Cilappatikaram (Silapadhigaaram), Manimekalai (Manimegalai), Valayapathi (Valayaipathi), and Kundalakesi (Kuntalakeci), along with Civaka Cintamani (Jivaka Chintamani) constitute the five great epics of Tamil literature. Tirutakkatevar, as a local ruler, also supported the Tamil poet Kambar or Kamban, the composer of Kambaramayanam and one of the most prominent poets of Tamil literature. During the ninth century Tirutakkatevar formed a new type of verse form or meter called viruttam. The Tamil poet propagated and popularised the form by composing the entire epic of Civaka Cintamani in three thousand viruttam verses.

A viruttam comprises of four lines of equivalent length with same number of syllables in each. The poets from the later periods showed their skill in composing unique works in viruttam.

Life of Tirutakkatevar

Tirutakkatevar is a descendant of the Chola dynasty and is believed to have become a Jain ascetic monk during his early life and stayed in the great city of Madurai. As Tirutakkatevar was a Jain poet, he was challenged by other non-Jain authors and poets to compose a literary work on the Akam or internal tradition of Tamil literature. This genre comprises of poems mainly on the themes of love and human emotions. Thus, Tirutakkatevar wrote an erotic epic rhyme named Mananul, meaning the book of marriage. When the poem was publication, other scholars and pots doubted his ascetic status, due to the content of the poem Mananul. According to legends, Tirutakkatevar held a scorching hot iron rod in his bare palms in order to prove his purity and celibacy.

Literary Works of Tirutakkatevar

He composed one of the five greatest epics of Tamil literature, Civaka Cintamani. The epic narrates the tale of the king Civakan who married eight women in his lifetime. The main protagonist of the epic Civaka Cintamani or Jivaka Chintamani is Civakan who is portrayed as the perfect and ideal man. Civakan is a brave warrior, expert of all arts and an unrivaled lover. He is calm, considerate and gentle, full of compassion and contains kindness for all living creatures. Moreover, the leading hero of the tale is in utter harmony with the surroundings.

Other than writing Civaka Cintamani, Tirutakkatevar also composed a minor literary work titled Nariviruttam, where the Jain poet focused on particular ethical standards by depicting the instances from the activities of a fox. According to legends, it is said that Tirutakkatevar wrote Nariviruttam, a minor work to show his talent as a poet. He also wrote the erotic Tamil poem titled Mananul.

Further more, Tirutakkatevar introduced a novel meter in poetry called the viruttam meter, which was based on Tamil folk songs and poetry. Peots of the later periods, namely Kambar (Kampar) and Sekkizhar (Cekkilar) utilised the viruttam meter in their composition and versification as this new meter was more effective in expressing a range of human emotions and feelings.

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