Ilango Adigal

Ilango Adigal

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Category: Religion

Ilango Adigal Profile

  • Name:
  • Ilango Adigal
  • Profession / Known For:
  • Poet

Ilango Adigal Biography

Ilango Adigal was a Chera Prince of the famous Chera dynasty who lived in the second century in present-day Kochi, Kerala. Kodungallur, a gateway of many foreign religions to India, is his correct birth place. He is known for authoring one among the five great epic works of Tamil classic literature – Silappatikaram. The other four epics are Manimekalai - a continuation of Silappatikaram authored by Chithalai Chathanar, Civaka Cintamani authored by Tirutakkatevar, Ramayana of Kambar and Tiruppavai work of the twelve Alvars in praise of the Lord Perumal. There is a popular belief that he was a contemporary of Chithalai Chathanar, who wrote the next part of the epic written by him. Historians believe that Manimekalai was written in 6th century CE, and Silappatikaram in 5th or 6th CE, though there is no solid evidence. Ilango Adigal was a poet who believed in Jainism.


He was the younger brother of Chera king Cheran Chenguttuvan from Kodungallur, who was also known by the name, Cheralathana Chenguttavan. But there is no evidence in the Sangam period works that the famous king had a brother. Less facts are known about Ilango Adigal. As per legends, an astrologer predicted that he would become the ruler of the land, and as he felt that his elder brother truly deserves the throne, he renounced kingdom to become a Jain monk. This Jain poet-prince from Kochi used the pseudonym Ilango Adigal to write the epic, Silappatikaram. It told the tragic story of an ankle bracelet, and the story revolves around Kannagi – a loyal wife, her husband Kovalan and Madhavi, a courtesan.


Silappatikaram is a great asset to south Indian literature and many legends, beliefs and stories are connected to it. The work details Tamil culture and religious customs prevailed during the period when it was written. The book contains three chapters and a total of 5270 lines of poetry, and is equally loved by all Tamilians. In fact, the story of Kannagi is a part of Tamil culture.

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Updated: June 19, 2016

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