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Bhagavatam In Tamil

One of the prominent Tamil versions of Srimad Bhagavad Purana (Bhagavatam) is written by Sevvai Sooduvar (16th century CE). It comprises 12 skandhas or books and has details of the avatars (ten incarnations) of Bhagavan Sri Vishnu.

The term ‘Bhagavatam’ has two components – Bhagavatah + idam mean ‘of god.’ God (Bhagavan) possesses six bhagas or divine majesties – Aishwarya (omnipotence), virya (power), yashas (fame), shri (beauty and auspiciousness), jnana (omniscience) and vairagya (renunciation). Bhagavatam celebrates the glory of Bhagavan. Bhagavatas are the learned scholars who conduct discourses on Bhagavatam. This celebrated text has been translated into many Indian and foreign languages.

Of the seven types of Sanskrit Bhagavatam categorized in Puranas, Iitihasa Bhagavatam and Purana Bhagavatam alone have translated into Tamil.

Sevvai Sooduvar, a Vaishnava Brahmin, was perhaps the first to write Itihasa Bhagavatam. Dr U.V. Swaminatha Iyer, the doyen among the Tamil scholars, has edited this book under the title Bhagavatam, which has 155 chapters and 4970 poems. The dasama skandha or the tenth book glorifies the birth of Bhagavan Sri Krishna in 54 chapters.

Arulaladasar alias Varadaraja Iyengar translated Purana Bhagavatam into Tami. This text, Vasudeva Katai (1543 CE) has 131 chapters and 9159 poems. The ‘introduction’ to this book, contrary to the oral discourse recorded in the original Bhagvatam, offers a different version, that Narada narrated Bhagavatam tale to the child Pratti, daughter of the Vidarbha king. The other unique features of this text include Rukmankata Caritram, available only in Padma Puranam, the story of Dadhipantan, an oral narrative and the history of Nappinai (Bhagavan Sri Krishna’s spouse), acknowledged in Paripatal and Nalayira Divya Prabandham. This Bhagavatam, for the first time, describes the wedding of Nappinai in 36 poems.

Apart from these to Bhagavatams, other prose translations were attempted by Venugopalachariar and A.V. Narasimhachariar. Bhagavata Saram (Tandava Shastrikal), Bhagavata Vavanam (Uvathi Cinnaiyan) and Bhagavata Vina-vitai (Kasturi Rengaiah) are some of the different versions of Tamil Bhagavatams available.

The dashama skandha, which narrates the story of Bhagavan Sri Krishna, is considered to be the pivotal point of the Sanskrit Bhagavatam. Its descriptive style and poetic structure have induced many scholars to translate this chapter alone into Tamil. Madhurakavi Srinivasa Iyengar (19th century CE) had published Sri Kannan Avataram, an expansion of the dashama skandha in 24 chapters and 1232 poems. Ananthabharati Swamikal has rendered the same chapter as a musical composition. This text, Sri Bhagavata Dashama Skandha Kirtanai has two parts; the second part was published in 1907.

Sankaramurthy Konar’s Bhagavata Ammanai (1932) paraphrases in simple style, the tenth, eleventh and twelfth chapters of Sevvai Sooduvar’s Bhagavatam. Another text in the same mode by M. Mariappa Kavirayar is now available.