Yesterday, we read about how Kovalan and Kannagi’s happy married life was broken up by Kovalan’s affair with a dancing girl, Matavi and how due to a misunderstanding with Matavi, Kovalan returns to his wife. Kovalan and Matavi decided to start a new life in the nearby town of Madurai.
Part 2 - In the city of Madurai, Kovalan came across a goldsmith and showed him the anklet for sale. The goldsmith had in reality stolen a similar anklet of the Pandian Queen. He took the opportunity to absolve himself. He asked Kovalan to wait for him as he wanted to show the anklet to the Queen, as such an anklet could be bought only by her. The goldsmith then went to the King and told him that he had found the thief who had stolen the Queens anklet and was waiting at his shop. During those days, the Queen was not on talking terms with the King due to some misunderstanding. The king seized the opportunity to impress upon her and without getting into the facts of the matter, ordered immediate execution of the ‘thief’. The soldiers reached the goldsmiths shop and killed Kovalan, who had no idea of what had happened behind him.
When Kannagi came to know about her husband’s execution, she rushed to the palace. She proved to the King that the anklet shown by the goldsmith was hers and not the Queen’s as she had the other one too. Besides, her anklet had rubies inside it, while the Queen’s had pearls. The King realised his mistake and as a sign of his guilt, his sceptre had bent for all to see the injustice committed by the King. The King died of shock and so did the Queen. But Kannagi’s wrath had not been satiated with the death of the King and the Queen. She was angry that her husband was killed without even being heard and the crime was done by none less than the king. In a state of extreme anger, she pulled out her left breast and hurled it at the city, invoking the god of fire; to burn down the entire city which had wronged her and her husband, albeit, leaving the good.
The epic mentions that due to the power of her chastity, fire was compelled to burn down the city of Madurai. The patron goddess of the royal family approached Kannagi and calmed her. She explained to her the reason behind the tragedy. According to the goddess, both Kovalan and Kannagi were connected in their previous birth. In their previous life, Kovalan had killed Kannagi’s husband by mistake, and in sorrow Kannagi had committed suicide – both having committed the sin of taking life, Kovalan took someone else’s, while Kannagi took her own. No matter how virtuous a life one leads, one cannot escape the sins of one’s previous life and the tragedy that both had faced was due to their past sins.
Having learnt the cause of her troubles, she withdrew
her curse and the fire abated. On the advice of the goddess, she reached a hill in the nearby kingdom of Chera, where after fifteen days, she died. Lord Indra himself came down and took the soul of Kannagi to the heavens, where she was united with Kovalan. In the meanwhile, the story of her death spread all over and in due course of time, Kannagi was deified and people started worshiping Kannagi (aka Pattini in Sri Lanka) as the goddess of chastity and fidelity!
Part 3 - In the final segment of the epic, the King of Chera heard the story of Kannagi and how it was from his region that she had left for the heavens. The King was impressed by the journey of Kannagi through three kingdoms of the Tamil kingdom and took it on him to build a statue of Kannagi. He journeyed to the North to get a block of stone from the Himalayas for carving her idol. After a journey to the North and back, through some battles, the King returned with a block of stone suitable for carving the idol of Kannagi. A temple was built in honour of the goddess Kannagi and hailed as the symbol of chastity and fidelity.
This brings us to the end of the epic. In the next part, we will read an analysis of the epic. Keep reading.......