Valayapathi: The Manuscript Mystery

Valayapathi is one of the five ancient Tamil epics that were written in the Sangam Age of Tamil Literature, the manuscript of which was mysteriously lost in the 19the century.

Valayapathi: A Tamil Epic of the Sangam Age

Valayapathi is one of the celebrated five Tamil epics of the Sangam period, other than Silappatikaram, Manimekalai, Civaka Cintamani, and Kundalakesi. Like the rest, Valayapathi is also a valuable gem in the treasury of the Tamil literature. Valayapathi is a fragmentary epic in nature, which is, in Sanskrit poetics, known as the Khandakavya. The writer of Valayapathi was some anonymous Jain ascetic. Since the text of Valayapathi is available only in fragments, its first parts are missing and we cannot get the exact name of the writer of Valayapathi. The estimated time of the composition of Valayapathi is 9th century CE. The text of Valayapathi cannot be availed in full. Valayapthi was a Jain didactic text by nature.

Valayapathi: The Sources

Of the five classical Tamil epics of the Sangam period Tamil literautre, only the texts of Silappatikarm, Manimekalai and Civaka Cintamani are available in full. Unfortunately, the complete manuscript of Kundalakesi as well as the manuscript of Valayapathi, do not exist any longer. In fact the original manuscript of Valayapathi has not been found. We manage to know about Valayapathi only through references and citations and quotations made in other contemporary texts as well as in the texts of later dates.

Valayapathi: The Unfortunate Loss of the manuscript of Valayapathi

Unfortunately, unlike the manuscript of Kundalakesi which was perhaps destroyed long ago by the anti-Buddhists because of its Buddhist didactic nature, the manuscript of Valayapathi has only been lost in the very recent times. In fact the loss of the manuscript of Valayapathi happened as lately as in the 19th century CE. The celebrated scholar of ancient Tamil classical literature Mr. U. V. S. Iyer has asserted that he had himself once witnessed a palm leaf manuscript of Valayapathi. He saw the manuscript of Valayapathi in the Thiruvaiyaru library which was owned by his guru Meenakshi Sundaram Pillai. When Mr. Iyer looked for the manuscript of Valayapathi in later times with an intention to publish it, he could find the manuscript of Valayapathi no more.

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