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The Editor of Illustrated Weekly of India, A. S. Raman, was a connoisseur of the arts and tirelessly promoted artists by covering them in the weekly. In 1964, he decided to take Silappadikaram to a national audience through a series of articles in Illustrated Weekly of India. To captivate the reader interest, he requested the eminent painter K. K. Hebbar, if he could render the epic in line drawings. Hebbar read Illango Adigal’s work several times and over few months brought out the epic in fifty one drawings.
As a young man Hebbar studied Kathak for two years under the guidance of Pandit Sunder Prasad, who was the guru of the renowned Birju Maharaj. It was this intimate knowledge of the performing arts that helped Hebbar understand the rhythm and movement of the body which led to him developing his own uquie drawing style nicknamed ‘Singing Lines.’ With his affinity to dance and music and his sensitive social conscience, Hebbar was the perfct artist to illustrate the epic ‘Silappadikaram’. He has created several artworks for the Illustrated Weekly of India.
Illustrated Weekly of India, 1964
NGMA - Hebbar Centenary Show, 2011
ONE OF FIVE TAMIL EPICS
Silappadikaram is one of the great epics of Tamil literature according to later Tamil literary tradition. A Jain poet-prince from Kochi (in modern Kerala) referred to by the pseudonym Ilango Adigal is credited with this work.
As a literary work, one among the five perumkdppiyams (inahdkdvyas of Sanskrit literature), the Silappadikaram may come under the category of iotarnilaicceyyul. Silappadikaram is held in high regard by the Tamil people.
The nature of the book is non-religious, narrative and has a moralistic undertone. It contains thirty chapters and a total of 5270 lines of poetry.
THE EPIC OF THE ANKLET
The term Silappadikdram is made up of two words, silanibu and adikdram. Literally the title means ‘the story that centres around a silambu or anklet’. The hero and the heroine of the story, Kovalan and Kannagi, set out for Madura to dispose of a silambu and thereby raise the capital needed to pursue a trade.
In the bazaar street of Madura Kovalan meets the state goldsmith. The state goldsmith who has stolen the queen’s anklet (similar to that in Kovalan’s hand) reports to the king that he has found the thief. The king blindly believes the goldsmith and has poor Kovalan executed.
The heroine proves to the king her husband’s innocence by breaking open her other anklet and showing that the contents of her anklets are different from those of the queen. The Pandyan king dies of grief on realizing his blunder in having ordered the execution of Kovalan without proper investigation.
Kannagi destroys the city of Madura by fire to avenge the execution of her husband, and is finally proclaimed the goddess of chastity.
I L L A N G O A D I G A L - J A I N M O N K
Illango Adigal a Chera prince from 2nd century CE is the author of Silappadikaram. Illango is said to be the brother of Kodungallur based Chera King Senguttuvan. According to legend, an astrologer predicted that he would become the ruler of the land. To obviate such a happening, especially when his elder brother, the rightful heir, was alive, the prince became a Jain monk taking the name of Illango Adigal. Astrologers predicted that he will be famous and remain in people’s heart for a long time. He rendered the epic in Tamil poetry and has remained famous and in people’s hearts.
The complete set of images has not been illustrated here. For more details please contact us.