Kambar not only wrote the great epic Ramayana, his works include the Saraswathi Andhadhi, Sadagopar Andhadhi and Yaer Yezhubadhu. Andhadhi is a form of poem in Tamil literature, in which the last word of verse forms the starting of the next verse. This one of the difficult and most toughest form in Tamil poetry which only a few poets have sung. Andhadhi itself is a sufficient proof for Kambar’s eloquence and literary capacity. There is one more interesting incident in the life of Kambar which explains the presence of mind and the level of knowledge Kambar had.
There was practice that was followed by the Tamil Kings for generations. That is, if a poet sings any song in praise of the King or his country, the poet will be rewarded amply and will honoured for his poetic ability. Not only when praising of Kings did the poets were revered, but in general, all poets were revered and patronaged. Getting back to the story; during Kambar’s time, there lived a man in the then Chola Kingdom wanted to sing a song in praise of the King and get the rewards. He had no prior experience in writing Tamil poetry. In spite of that his desire to get the rewards made him to write a poem. So he sat in the corridor of his house to write a poem. As he never wrote any poem before he did have a lead, so he was just watching the ambience to get a lead. He came up with the following poem by observing the ambience.
“Mann Unni Maappillayae Kaavirayae
Kooviryae Ungappan Kovil Peruchaali
Kanna Pinna Manna Thenna
Chola Ranga Perumaanae”
His song did not have any indepth meaning, he just scribbled whatever he saw. He never cared if what he wrote would be wrong. All that was in his mind was to get the reward. Small kids were playing a game called Mannunni Maappillai – meaning Sand eating, son-in-law – where one person would bend over and the others would jump over him by placing their hands in support. If the bending person does not stand steady he would pushed to the ground by the jumper and would be eating the sand. If the jumper does not jump correctly, he would fall and eat the sand. So this formed the lead for his song – Mann Unni Maappilayae.
Then a crow crowed, so he added – Kaavirayae. Then the cuckoo sang in its sweet voice – he added Koovirayae. And then a bandicoot (a large sized rat) ran from the inside the nearby temple onto the streets. On seeing that he wrote, Ungappan Kovil Peruchali.
He wanted to add something on his own as the third line so he added – Kanna, Pinna, Manna, Thenna. The phrase, “Kanna Pinna”, is used as an interjection where it means disorder, scurrying or any such unclear work. Manna means Kings, Thenna means person from the South.
Then he saw the Srirangam Gopuram which was in the Chola Kingdom so he added the last line – Chola Ranga Perumanae. Ranga Peruman denotes Lord Ranganathar (Vishnu) at Srirangam. The word “Peruman” is used denote Gods, Kings and people of high rank. And there he completed his poem.
He then went to the King and sang this song. The King and his ministers got very angry on hearing this song because the song was insulting the King, by referring as the person eating Sand, shouting and crying unpleasantly and his father being a temple rodent. The King grew furios and ordered his men to imprison that man and give him a death punishment for insulting the King.
Our new poet got terrified and frightened and realised his mistake that writing a poem is not a simple thing. But Kambar who sat in the court was looking at this patiently and understood that the man just came out of the desire to get the reward from the King, but he does not have an intent to insult the King.
Kambar stopped the King and told that the song that the man sung has a great meaning though it might sound insulting in the first look. All the other poets and court staff were flummoxed by Kambar’s statement. They all including the King demanded an explanation. Kambar started explaining
Mann Unni means Lord Krishna because he ate the sand and showed the entire Universe within his mouth. Maappilai means son-in-law. Lord Krishna married Andaal, the girl of the Chola kingdom, and therefore becoming the son-in-law of Chola Kingdom. So summing up Kambar said that the Chola Kingdom has Lord Krishna as the son-in-law and its a great thing to have the God as the son-in-law.
Kaavirayae – means Kaakkum Iraivan – Saving God. This refers to the King that he the saviour of the people and hence comparable to God.
Koovirayae – Koopita Kuralukku Varum Iraivan – The King attends peoples’ requests as a God who answers the prayers of his devotees.
Ungappan Kovil Peruchaali: Ungappan = Un (Your) + Appan (Father), Ko – means God, King or Cow and in this context King, Peruchaali mean Perum (Big, Great) + Aali (Emperor, Ruler) – Summing up, your father is an emperor or great ruler among Kings.
Kanna means Lion, it also means Karnan who was very generous
Pinna – Descendant. Referring the King, heir of the Chola Throne.
Manna – King
Thenna – Man of the South. In this context, the King ruling the Southern region.
Chola Ranga Perumaanae – which can also be interpreted as Chola + Aranga (Kingdom, Stage) Perumane.
When Kambar gave this explanation, everyone was amazed including the King. They were really amazed at Kambar’s knowledge, presence of mind, shrewdness and the ability to change a poem that was considered meaningless to a poem that has great indepth meaning. The King rewarded the man who wrote this poem in spite he knew that it was Kambar who saved him. Kambar met that man in person and in private and told him to learn the Tamil language properly and then start writing poems. And explained to him what would have happened in case he was not in the court. The man realised his mistake and promised Kambar that he would not write poems until he qualifies for the same.
This really, proves what Kambar was and why he is such a venerated and highly acclaimed poet (Kavi Chakravarthi) in Tamil Literature.
More to come, until then…