Epics of the Sangam Age of Tamil Literature
The age of Tamil literature is more than two and a half millenniums, beginning in 600 BC approximately. The oldest period of Tamil literature is known as the Sangam Age of Tamil Literature. There was a Tamil myth that a now vanished continent once existed in the south of India where three Sangams or gatherings of poets were organized to write down the entire bulk of the Tamil literature that previously existed mainly in the oral tradition. Hitherto originated the name Sangam Age, which was a witness to many great classics of Tamil Nadu, including the Eight Anthologies, the Ten Idylls, the two grammar works Agattiyam and Tolkappiyam and above all, the five Tamil epics of the Sangam Age. Those five Tamil epics of the Sangam Age were Silappatikaram, Manimegalai, Kundalakesi, Civaka Cintamani, and Valayapathi.
Civaka Cintamani: A Tamil Epic of Sangam Age
Civaka Cintamani is one of the five great classical epics that were composed in the Sangam Age of Tamil Literature. Civaka Cintamani [Jivaka Cintamani in Sanskrit] is a Jain religious text, and the author of Civaka Cintamani was a Jain ascetic named Tirutakkatevar. A stylistic analysis of the form and structure of Civaka Cintamani firmly establishes it as one of the precedent models of the Ramayana by Kamban. The Chola Kings, being great admirers of the indigenous literature, had quite exaltedly received Civaka Cintamani in the Chola Court. Ever since then, Civaka Cintamani has successfully secured a place within the canon of Tamil literature, as well as in the core of the heart of millions of readers and admirers of the classical text. Whether in terms of the quality of poetic diction, or a moving plot, or the philosophy it conveys, Civaka Cintamani had been almost unparalleled in the Tamil literature of the Sangam, nay in the entire bulk of literary works the Tamil language has ever produced.
The Plot of Civaka Cintamani
Civaka Cintamani narrates the story of King Caccantan. King Caccantan was so busy in spending his days in sexual pleasures, very much like Agnivarna of Raghubangsham by Kalidasa, that he could manage little time for managing his kingdom. Accordingly, King Caccantan handed over the control of his kingdom to his minister Kattiyankaran.
Now, Kattiyankaran, the minister of King Caccantan, was a corrupt person. Gaining power, he attacked King Caccantan himself. Before his death, King Caccantan sent his pregnant wife away on a flying peacock. Later, in the cremation ground, the Queen gave birth to Prince Civakan, the protagonist of the epic. Civakan was fostered by a Jain merchant until he became a heroic figure and a leader of the Jain community. From this point, the epic almost becomes a bildungsroman to trace the various adventures by Civakan, and the manifold love affairs and marriages Civakan got involved in.
Finally, Civakan would return to his fatherland, from where his pregnant mother was exiled, to avenge the assassination of his father King Caccantan. Civakan will defeat and slay Kattiyankaran and recover his ancestral throne. Civakan will then rule for long amidst peace and prosperity, until he grew old. As Civakan grew old, his mundane attractions began to fade away. As Civakan met Mahavira, he at once renounced the mundane world and acquired salvation.