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Villiputhurar Bharatham – Tamil Mahabharata Of 14th Century CE

Villiputhurar Bharatham is Tamil Mahabharata written in the 14th century CE. The author Villiputhurar was born in Saniyur, near Tirumunaipadi in Thanjavur district in Tamil Nadu. He was well versed in Sanskrit and Tamil. The author was patronized by a chieftain named Varapati Atkondan of the Kongar family.

The original Sanskrit version of Vyasa was written in eighteen carukkams or parvas (sections), whereas the Tamil version has only ten sections and forty-six sub-divisions. The poem is of great merit and contains 4350 verses ending with the events of the great war. Villiputhurar’s account was not a complete translation of the Sanskrit version, instead it was a transcreation. He took precautions to make sure that the name of kings, places, social environment are typical of the Tamil region. He even modified the story without affecting the main theme to make it representative of Tamil culture.

The epic is highly regarded piece of literature, not only for the strict adherence to Tamil literary formats but also for the many memorable original verses which were not found in the Sanskrit version. One such example is the scene involving the magnanimity and confidence of King Duryodhana, the innocence and loyalty of his friend Karna, and the fidelity of Duryodhana’s queen during a game of chess.

Another scene where the author’s ingenuity can be seen is when Bhima destroys the elephant battalion of Kauravas. It is depicted in such a style that the verses reverberate aptly to describe the melee of elephants shattering to pieces.

Villiputhurar recognized the similarities between the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Whenever possible, the author compared and contrasted the characters in the two epics. He compares Arjuna with Rama for his prowess in the art of bow and arrow; Bhima with Hanuman for his strength, Karna with Kumbhakarna, when the former expresses his indebtedness to Duryodhana which is similar to the sentiments made by Kumbhakarna towards his brother Ravana.

Although Villiputhurar was an ardent Vaishnava Brahmin, he also glorified Lord Shiva, in keeping with the spirit of his time, which witnessed a change in the religious attitudes of Hindus towards a synthesis of the faiths and the emergence of a Hindu solidarity.