Cātanār Analysis


(Literature and the Ancient World, Critical Edition)

Cātanār (SHAW-tah-nahr), the son of a grain merchant (kulavanikan), is considered to be one of the eminent poets of the third Cankam, having contributed at least ten poems in four anthologies including Akanānūru (second or third century c.e.; English translation in Poets of the Tamil Anthologies, 1979). He is the author of Tiruvalluvar Malai (third or fourth century c.e.; poems in honor of Tiruvalluvar) and the famous Tamil epic Manimekalai (third or fourth century c.e.; English translation, 1911), the story of a dancer and courtesan. This epic is a continuation of the story of Kōvalan and Mātavi of Cilappatikāram (c. 450 c.e.; The Śilappadikāram, 1939) by Ilankō Atikal. Manimekalai, the daughter of Mātavi, is torn between her passion for a princely lover and her spiritual yearnings. Encouraged by her grandmother and mother, Manimekalai runs away from the prince, who pursues her. She attains magical powers, overcomes all dangers, becomes a Buddhist nun, and goes to Pukār (Cōla capital). Later, Manimekalai proceeds to Vañci (Cīra capital) to help with famine relief work.