Tōlāmolittēvar Analysis


(Literature and the Ancient World, Critical Edition)

Tōlāmolittēvar (toh-LAW-moh-lee-TEH-vahr) was the writer of a celebrated south Indian epic tale called Cūlamāni (between 200 and 600 c.e., also known as Śūlamāni; the crest jewel). He is counted among the five minor kāvyas (poets) of Tamil literature. The work consists of 2,130 verses.

Tōlāmolittēvar was a Jain and, therefore, his writing includes a great deal of Jaina philosophy and strict enforcement of the principle of ahimsā, or nonviolence or noninjury to any living thing, including the prohibition against eating meat and taking alcoholic beverages. Throughout the epic, he explains that a good life stresses nonviolence and the seeking of salvation through self-sacrifice.

The story centers on a Jaina king who seeks to govern according to Jaina tenets. Included is the story of a prince who engages in various youthful escapades and numerous love affairs but who eventually renounces the world in typical Jaina fashion. It is through the character of the prince in particular that the writer explores erotic, heroic, and religious themes. In beautiful, mellifluous verse, Tōlāmolittēvar provides rich descriptions of his characters, city life, and rural scenes. He also explores and combines both the natural and supernatural worlds.

The dating of the Cūlamāni and, therefore, the life of Tōlāmolittēvar is problematic. Many specialists argue for an early date between 200 and 600 c.e. Others believe that the work has characteristics common to later Tamil and place the work as late as the ninth to tenth centuries.


(Literature and the Ancient World, Critical Edition)

Tōlāmolittēvar provided a detailed and colorful tale about ancient Tamil culture. He is a rich resource for practical understanding of the everyday application of Jaina beliefs.

Additional Resource

(Literature and the Ancient World, Critical Edition)

Chakravarti, Appaswami. Jaina Literature in Tamil. New Delhi, India: Bharatiya Jnanapitha Publications, 1974.