Madhavi (Silappatikaram)

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Madhavi is an important character in the Silappatikaram, one of the epics in Tamil literature. Silapathikaram is the first Kappiyam (epic) among the five in Tamil literature.[1] It belongs to the Sangam Period. She was a dancer and on those days these kind of people are made in the society to recreate the people, particularly those who are rich in their wealth. This requirement fulfillment includes the innate need and intrinsic urge that happens to every human.

However, Madhavi is unique and different among the dancers, who sell themselves for their livelihood. She practiced chastity even though she born to this sect of dancers (Parathiyar). She lived with Kovalan happily for some time. During that period, Madhavi's mother got all the wealth of Kannagi the wife of Kovalan by using Kovalan's ring-kannaiyali without the knowledge of Madhavi and Kovalan. After 3 years, Kovalan got difference of opinion on identification of fault in the kaveri kanal vary (song) during Indhra festival. He got angry with Madhavi and again returned to Kannagi. After Kovalan left her, Madhavi came to know of her mother's criminal activities. Then she returned all the wealth of Kovalan to his father and she became a Buddhist monk.

Manimegalai, the daughter of Madhavi and Kovalan, who is the main character of the another epic called "Manimegalai", written by Seethalai Sattanar, born to them in this period of love in between them at Kaveripoompatinam.


Kovalan, the son of a wealthy merchant and the husband of Kannagi, met Madhavi in a performance in Chozha king Karikalan's court. Enamoured of her beauty, he fell in love with her. Eventually, Kovalan left his wife and moved in with Madhavi, with whom he stayed for a year. Madhavi bore him a daughter Manimekalai. However, after spending all his money on Madhavi, he realised his mistakes and returned to his wife.

Kovalan and his wife left for Madurai to restore their fortunes by trade. In an unfortunate twist of events, he was mistakenly arrested for having stolen the queen's anklet and beheaded. Upon hearing this, Kannagi set out to the court of the Pandya king Neduncheziyan and proved her husband's innocence. On realizing his mistake, the king died instantly. Kannagi took revenge by burning the whole city of Madurai with her curse, which she later took back due to request of the city goddess.

Upon learning the tragic turn of events, Madhavi shaved her hair and became a Buddhist nun.


  1. ^ "Silappathikaram Tamil Literature". 22 January 2013.