Kapilar or Kabilar (Tamil: கபிலர்) was a Tamil poet of Sangam period. He was a contemporary of Karikala Chola, Irunkōvēl and Vēl Pāri. He was the close friend and confidant of Vēl Pāri, one of the Vēlir kings.
Kabilar was born in Thiruvadhavur in the Pandyan Kingdom. Initially a poet at the Pandyan court, he left Madurai at an early age to travel across various kingdoms. Kapilar heard about the generosity and virtue of Vēl Pāri, a powerful Vēlir King who ruled over Parambu nādu and paid him a visit. He became a friend and confidant of Pāri and stayed with him until the latter's death.
Siege of Parambu
The three crowned Tamil kings Cheras, Cholas and Pandyas expanded their kingdoms ruthlessly and turned their attention towards independent Vēlir Kings thus turning them into subordinates or eliminating them and assimilated their kingdoms. They laid siege to the heavily fortified country of Parambu, but Vēl Pāri refused to give in and the war dragged for years. Kabilar approached the kings and asked them to turn back describing his patron Pari as an unconquerable warrior (excerpt from Purananuru: song 109):
Aftermath and death
Kapilar become the guardian of Pāri's two daughters, Angavai and Sangavai after Pari's death and the three of them left Parambu country. Kapilar unsuccessfully approached different Vēlir kings to find grooms. He would be let down each time as the other Vēlir kings would fear retribution from the three crowned kingdoms. The most notable of these encounters is when he sings to Irunkōvēl and the latter would insult Kabilar. He would finally leave the two princesses in the care of Brahmins. Later, poet Avvaiyar takes care of them and marries them off successfully into the family of another Vēlir king Malaiyamaan Kaari.
The death of his friend Pāri affected Kabilar and he later took his own life by vadakirrutal, one of the Tamil ways of committing suicide. He sat facing north and starved himself to death in Kabilar Kundru.
Works and contribution
Kabilar made huge contributions to Tamil literature of Sangam era. Kurincippattu is a poetic work in the Pattuppattu series of Pathinenmaelkanakku anthology in Tamil literature containing 261 lines of poems in the Achiriyappa meter written by Kabilar. An ancient note states that Kapilar wrote this to explain the beauty of Tamil poetry to a north Indian king names Brhadatta. Kurincippattu describes the kurinchi landscape of the mountainous terrain and mentions almost 100 different plant names. Kabilar also contributed to Puṟanāṉūṟu in the Eṭṭuttokai series of sangam literature.
- Studies in Tamil Literature and History by Ramachandra Dikshitar, pages 55-59
- Poets of the Tamil Anthologies: Ancient Poems of Love and War, page 164
- Great women of India, page 309
- Poems of love and war: from the eight anthologies and the ten long poems of classical Tamil, page 145
- The Four Hundred Songs of War and Wisdom: An Anthology of Poems from Classical Tamil, the Purananuru, Translations from the Asian classics By George L. Hart, Hank Heifetz