Kambar (poet)

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A modern artist's impression of Kambar
A modern artist's impression of Kambar
BornTiruvaluntur, Thanjavur district, India
Periodc. 1180 – 1250
Notable worksKambaramayanam

Kambar (Kamban in casual address) (c. 1180, Tiruvaluntur, Thanjavur district, India – 1250)[1][full citation needed] was a medieval Tamil Hindu poet and the author of the Ramavataram, popularly known as Kambaramayanam, the Tamil version of the epic Ramayana.[2][full citation needed][unreliable source?] Kambar also authored other literary works in Tamil, such as Thirukkai Vazakkam, Erezhupathu, Silaiezhupathu, Kangai Puranam, Sadagopar Anthathi and Saraswati Anthathi.[2][full citation needed]


Kambar was brought up in the household of a wealthy farmer named Sadaiyepa Vallal in Vennai Nellur in Tamil Nadu.[3][full citation needed] The Chola king—having heard of this talented bard—summoned him to his court and honoured him with the title Kavi Chakravarty (The Emperor of Poets).[2][full citation needed]

Kamban flourished in Therazhundur, a village in the culturally rich Nagapattinam District in the modern state of Tamil Nadu in South India. Kamban was a great scholar of both Tamil and Sanskrit - two of India's oldest and richest languages in terms of literary works. In a scholarly biography, Kavichakravarty Kamban, Mahavidwan R. Raghava Iyengar wrote in detail about this 12th-century poet.[citation needed]

Literary works[edit]

Kamba Ramyanam Mandapam at The Ranganathasamy Temple, Srirangam, the place where Kambar is believed to have first recited the epic

Kamba Ramayanam[edit]

Statue of Kambar at the Marina Beach

The original version of Ramayana was written by Valmiki. It is an epic of 24,000 verses which depicts the journey of Rama, a prince of Ayodhya who belonged to Raghuvamsa (Solar dynasty). In Hinduism, Rama is the seventh incarnation of Lord Vishnu, one of the Trimurti (the Hindu holy trinity which includes Brahma and Shiva).

The Ramavataram or Kamba Ramayanam of Kamban is an epic of about 11,000 stanzas, as opposed to Valmiki's 24000 couplets.[4][full citation needed][5][unreliable source?] The Rama-avataram or Rama-kathai as it was originally called was accepted into the holy precincts in the presence of Vaishnava Acharya Naathamuni.[6][full citation needed] However, Kambar is generally dated after the vaishnavite philosopher, Ramanuja, as the poet refers to the latter in his work, the Sadagopar Andhadhi.[7]

Kamba Ramayana is not a verbal translation of the Sanskrit epic by Valmiki, but a retelling of the story of Lord Rama.[6][full citation needed]

Legend has it that the entire episode was written in one night by Lord Ganesh.[citation needed] Ganesha is said[citation needed] to have written the poems that Kambar dictated to him during the night, as Kambar procrastinated the work till the day before the deadline set by the King.

There is also a legend that Ottakuthar—an eminent Tamil poet and a contemporary of Kambar[8][9]—also composed Ramayanam. Tradition has it that Ottakoothar was ahead of Kambar as the former had already finished five cantos, but when the king asked for an update, Kambar—a master of words—lied that he was already working on the Setu Bandhalam, upon which Ottakoothar was dejected and threw away all his work. Feeling guilty, Kambar recovered the last two chapters of Ottakoothar's composition and added these into his own.[10][full citation needed]

Kamba Ramayana was first delivered in Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple, Srirangam at the court hall (Kambar Arangetra Mandapam) near Thaayar sannithi.[citation needed]

Legend says that when contemporaries objected to Hiranyavadaipadalam ("Story of Hiranyakasipu", which occurs as Vibhishana telling Ravana while warning against his false sense of invincibility), Kamban read it in front of the Narasimha Swami temple in Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple. The Swami applauded by laughing out aloud from his Sanctum Sanctora (Mettu Narasimhar Sannidhi), and this was taken as proof of approval.[citation needed]

Kambar's praise[edit]

Many Tamil poets, statesmen, kings, and common people have praised Kambar for his Kambaramayanam, which has more than 10,000 songs and 45,000 lines, forming one of the greatest of Tamil epics.

A common word of praise attributed to Kambar is that even the mill in his house would sing ("Kambar veettuk kattuththariyum kavipadum"; "கம்பர் வீட்டுக் கட்டுத்தறியும் கவி பாடும்"). He is considered special in singing poems under "Viruthapa".

"Kamba Sutram" (கம்ப சூத்திரம்) is a phrase used by Tamil people in their day-to-day activity. It was originally "Kamba Chithiram", denoting Kamban's art. However, over a period of time, it came to be rendered as "Kamba Sutram". The phrase is used just like "rocket science", which clearly denotes that skills of Kambar in writing poem with viruthapa is as difficult as "rocket science".


  1. ^ "Kamban." Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2011. Web. 23 December 2011. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Kampan
  2. ^ a b c The Cyclopaedia of India and of Eastern and Southern Asia By Edward Balfour
  3. ^ India's Communities by Kumar Suresh Singh, Anthropological Survey of India – Ethnology – 1992 – 4146 pages
  4. ^ Legend of Ram By Sanujit Ghose
  5. ^ Gopal, Madan (1990). K.S. Gautam (ed.). India through the ages. Publication Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India. p. 212.
  6. ^ a b Rays and Ways of Indian Culture By D. P. Dubey
  7. ^ Robert Caldwell. A Comparative Grammar of the Dravidian Or South-Indian Family of Languages. Trübner, 1875. p. 136.
  8. ^ Biographical vistas: sketches of some eminent Indians, page 52
  9. ^ The Tamils and their culture, page 82
  10. ^ Tamil Literature, page 220