Jivaka Chintamani -- Post Sangam Literature

Jivaka Chintamani -- Post Sangam Literature

Jivaka Chintamani is among the five most important Tamil epics. The epic was composed in the early 10th century by Tiruttakkatvar, a Jain monk from Madurai. It describes a prince who is the ideal master of all arts, warrior, and lover with numerous wives. Also referred to as the Mana Nool, the epic is divided into thirteen cantos and contains 3,145 quatrains written in the virutham metre. Its original author is credited with writing 2,700 of these quatrains, while his master and another unknown author wrote the remaining quatrains.

Jivaka Chintamani - The Epic

  • The epic begins with a description of a treacherous coup by a minister of the king. During the absence of the monarch and queen, the king delegated temporary control over the capital. The monarch helps his pregnant queen escape in a peacock-shaped flying vehicle, but is killed by the minister's troops.
  • While hiding in a remote cemetery, the queen gives birth to a child. She entrusts the care of her child, Jivaka, to a devoted servant before becoming a nun herself.
  • The boy matures into a man, or rather a superhero, who is flawless in every art, talent, and field.
  • Jivaka excels in combat and erotica, kills his enemies, seduces and marries every beautiful woman he encounters, and eventually reclaims his father's homeland.
  • Jivaka renounces the world and becomes a Jaina ascetic after enjoying power, sex, and fathering numerous children with his many wives.
  • The epic concludes that all of Jivaka's worldly pleasures were illusions that led him away from the path of spiritual liberation.

Jivaka Chintamani - Significance

  • In numerous ways, the epic is singular. It was written by a Jain ascetic and contradicts the widely held belief that historic Jainism was a "austerely ascetic" religion.
  • There are graphic and poetic descriptions of physical pleasures and sex in the epic. The epic casts doubt on Jainism's long-held academic concepts and the teachings of its most influential past philosophers.
  • The epic is most likely a compilation of numerous earlier, fantastical, fictional Tamil folk tales.
  • The poet skillfully combines the martial exploits of the incredibly brilliant superman with graphic sexual depictions of his affairs and lyrical interludes extolling his qualities such as benevolence, duty, sensitivity, and affection for all living things.
  • The love scenes in the epic are sensual and full of metaphors and double entendres.
  • The poetic style of the epic is evident in Tamil poetry literature written by Hindu and Jain scholars, attesting to its literary value. The style becomes basis of Kambana's Ramavataram, first Tamil Ramayana.

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