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.


(Literature and the Ancient World, Critical Edition)

Cātanār’s primary aim was to spread Buddhism in the Tamil country through the use of lively discussions on religion, philosophy, and supernatural elements.

Additional Resources

(Literature and the Ancient World, Critical Edition)

Hikosaka, Shu. Buddhism in Tamilnadu: A New Perspective. Madras, India: Institute of Asian Studies, 1989.

Natarajan R. Manimekalai as an Epic. Madras, India: Shantha, 1990.

Richman, Paula. Women, Branch Stories, and Religious Rhetoric in a Tamil Buddhist Text. Syracuse, N.Y.: Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University, 1985.

Subbiah Pillai, K. The Contributions of the Tamils to Indian Culture. Madras, India: International Institute of Tamil Studies, 1994.