Silappadikaaram, A Tale of Three Cities

With this translation, one can feel the wonder of the times and minds of that age and the skill with which Illango Addigal spun the tale and of course the dexterity with which it has been flawlessly translated, without removing any of the wonder…Read on and be impacted.

-Radha Eswar

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A Tale of Three Cities is a faithful English translation in blank verse of what is in fact the very first known epic poem written in Tamil. It is one that every Tamilian will know about and be proud of. Be prepared to go on an adventure penned down in the 2nd century AD. A story about love, fate and above all, virtuousness.
Beautifully illustrated by Smt. Lalitha Thaygarajan



She stood for all qualities that were held sacred as belonging to those that a wife should possess of the times that Silapadikaram narrates to us. Kannagi, wedded Kovalan much to the delight of all relatives and friends.

After getting married with all the pomp and glamour, she soon loses him to an artful dancing courtesan, Madhavi. Kovalan is infatuated by Madhavi who is well versed in classical music and dance.

Kovalan loses his wealth and returns to his wife Kannagi as a prodigal husband. As a virtuous wife, Kannagi accepts him and offers her only remaining jewellery, a pair of anklets (Silambu, and hence the name of the epic) to be sold and the proceeds used for establishing a new business. The couple leave to another city, Madurai the capital of Pandiyan king, escorted by a Jain nun.

At Madurai, Kovalan falls into a trap of a goldsmith who had stolen the queen’s gold anklet. The goldsmith incriminates Kovalan as the thief and gives him away to the king. The king orders execution of Kovalan in a hasty judgement that is quickly carried out.

Kannagi is shocked and enraged immensely at the injustice meted out to her beloved husband. She rushes to Pandiyan’s court, accuses the king of injustice, and proves her case by breaking the silambu that was recovered from her husband. The anklet of the queen was filled with pearls and Kannagi’s anklet was filled with rubies. The shock of remorse kills the king first, and the queen on the spot. Kannagi’s rage turns to the city of Madurai and she burns it down by her spiritual powers of a chaste wife.

Little details of the way people lived, thought and acted; details of the way they crafted environments around them, create a fascination for the times that used-to-be for every reader who has the fortune of reading this wonderful book.


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Dr. Parthasarathy Desikan has always had a love of languages. He has devoted many years to the study of classics in Tamil and Sanskrit. He has been writing sporadically on subjects of both religious and general interest and doing some serious translation work. 


Janani Silappadikaaram, A Tale of Three Cities
“I love how I knew with every word, every expression that I was reading a Tamil story.”
- Janani Eswar


Me in shirt modified Silappadikaaram, A Tale of Three Cities“In short, Dr. P. Desikan’s English translation copiously enhances the beauty of the original epic in its content and style. I recommend this excellent book to all who are interested in ancient culture of India from Himalayas to Cape Comorin.” – M.K.V Narayan


KME small Silappadikaaram, A Tale of Three Cities“Dr. D has lived inside the minds of Ilango Adigalar. It is like Valmiki rewriting Ramayana with what he heard from the Lord himself. Dr. D has precisely presented Adigalar’s Tamil verses in the original format adorned by words of the British. Truly, he is a carpenter of words.”
- Krish Murali Eswar