Tiruttakkatevar Analysis


(Literature and the Ancient World, Critical Edition)

Tiruttakkatevar (TEE-rew-TAH-kah-TEH-vahr) is the author of the celebrated Tamil epic Cīvakacintāmani (c. 900 c.e.). A descendant of the Cōlas, Tiruttakkatevar is said to have become a Jaina ascetic at a young age and lived in Madurai. The epic hero of Cīvakacintāmani, Cīvakan, is depicted as the perfect man—a peerless lover, brave warrior, and master of all arts, who is gentle and considerate, full of sympathy and consideration for all living beings, and in total harmony with his surroundings. Tiruttakkatevar’s ascetic status prompted non-Jaina poets to challenge his contribution to the akam (internal) genre, which consists of love poems. To counter this criticism, he composed an erotic epic poem titled Mananul (the book of marriage), the publication of which triggered doubts regarding his ascetic status. It is said that he held a red-hot iron rod in his bare hands to prove his celibacy.


(Literature and the Ancient World, Critical Edition)

In Cīvakacintāmani, Tiruttakkatevar introduced a new poetical meter known as viruttam, which he re-created from the existing folk poetry. Later poets such as Kampar and Sekkizhar adopted viruttam meter in their poetry, finding it more suitable for expressing a variety of emotions. Unlike akaval, the prevalent meter, which is written in four-foot lines with a difference in rhyme, viruttam is a very flexible meter that allows any number of metric feet per line but mandates that the poem itself must have only four lines and that every line must have the same number of metric feet.

Additional Resources

(Literature and the Ancient World, Critical Edition)

Ramanujan, A. K. Poems of Love and War from the Eight Anthologies and the Ten Long Poems of Classical Tamil. New York: Columbia University Press, 1985.

Varadarajan, Mu. A History of Tamil Literature. Translated by E. A. Viswanathan. Delhi, India: Sahitya Akademi, 1988.