PSYCHO-SCAPING KANNAKI: A RE-READING OF THE CILAPPATIKARAM
“Nencai allum Cilappatikaram.”- Bharati (Parthasarathy Preface)
As the Tamil poet Subramaniya Bharati aptly defines, The Cilappatikaram “rends the hearts” of the readers, pouring in them the dynamics of duty, wealth and desire. Centuries of studies on this Tamil epic written by Ilanko Atikal has thrown light on the magnificent aesthetics of the poem apart from addressing it from a mythical level. The Cilappatikaram is ‘the tale of an anklet’. But the pivotal consideration lies on Kannaki, the heroine of the epic. Kannaki at present is venerated as goddess Pattini. “Pattini (Skt. patni) is a wife, wedded to her husband by word and deed, comparable to Anasuya of the Sanskrit lore” (Rajarajan 406). Kannaki’s chastity is unquestionable. But it seems highly queer that a woman of such immense strength is neglected or rather spoken very little about by the poet in the first section of the epic. Kannaki becomes the overarching figure only after the death of the husband. Therefore, the task lies in unfurling the image of Kannaki prior to her husband’s death. This could be done by plunging into her psyche using the method of psychoanalysis. As mentioned earlier, though vivid detail is not offered by the poet about Kannaki’s emotional ‘self’, the poet nevertheless leaves clues in the mannerisms of Kovalan, from which the readers can delve into Kannaki’s self.
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