Kannagi is a legendary Tamil woman who forms the central character of the Tamil epic Silapathikaram (100-300 CE). The story relates how Kannagi took revenge on Pandyan King of Madurai, for a mistaken death penalty imposed on her husband Kovalan, by cursing the city.
Kovalan was the son of a wealthy merchant in Kaveripattinam who married Kannagi. Kovalan met a dancer Madhavi and fell in love with her which prompted him to spend all his wealth on the dancer. At last, penniless, Kovalan realised his mistake and returned to Kannagi. Kovalan hoped to recoup his fortunes by trade in Madurai with the capital earned from selling the precious anklets of Kannagi.
Madurai was ruled by Pandya king Nedunj Cheliyan I. When Kovalan intended to sell the anklets, it was mistaken for a stolen anklet of the queen. Kovalan was accused of having stolen the anklet and was immediately beheaded by the king without trial. When Kannagi was informed of this, she became furious, and set out to prove her husband's innocence to the king.
Kannagi came to the king's court, broke open the anklet seized from Kovalan and showed that it contained rubies, as opposed to the queen's anklets which contained pearls. Realizing the fault, the king ended his own life having failed to deliver justice. Kannagi uttered a curse that the entire city of Madurai be burnt. The capital city of Pandyas was set ablaze resulting in huge losses. However, at the request of Goddess Meenakshi, she calmed down and later, attained salvation. The story forms the crux of Silapathikaram written by poet Ilango Adigal.
Idolization and Worship
Kannagi or Kannaki Amman is eulogized as the epitome of chastity and is worshiped as a goddess in select regions. She is worshiped as goddess Pattini in Sri Lanka by the Sinhalese Buddhists, Kannaki Amman by the Sri Lankan Tamil Hindus and as Bhagavathy in the South Indian state of Kerala.
In popular culture
A statue of Kannagi holding her anklet, depicting a scene from Silapathikaram was installed on Marina Beach, Chennai. It was removed in December 2001 citing reasons that it hindered traffic. The statue was reinstalled in June 2006.
- Shankar Radhakrishnan HAI Bubbling over with devotion The Hindu news.
- "Presidency College ground ideal for Kannagi statue: panel". The Hindu (Chennai: The Hindu). 16 June 2002. Retrieved 9 Oct 2011.
- "Kannagi statue to be reinstalled on Jun 3: Governor". One India News (OneIndiaNews.com). 24 May 2006. Retrieved 9 Oct 2011.
- Menon, Jaya (16 May 2006). "On Marina beach, Karunanidhi keeps date with Kannagi". Indian Express (indianexpress.com). Retrieved 9 Oct 2011.
- Tiwari, Binita (23 August 2007). "Kannagi's statue adorned Marina Beach". Newstrack India (Newstrack India). Retrieved 9 Oct 2011.
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