Valayapathi (Tamil: வளையாபதி) is a fragmentary Tamil Jain epic. Tamil literary tradition places it among the five great epics of Tamil literature, alongside such works as Silappatikaram, Manimegalai, Civaka Cintamani and Kundalakesi. The first mention of the "Aimperumkappiyam" (lit. Five large epics) occurs in Mayilainathar's commentary of Nannūl. Mayilainathar does not mention the names of the five epics. The names of the epics are first mentioned in the late 18th century - early 19th century work Thiruthanikaiula. Earlier works like the 17th century poem Tamil vidu thoothu mention the great epics as Panchkavyams.
Of the five great epics, Valayapathi and Kundalakesi are not available in full. Only fragments quoted in other literary works and commentaries have survived. The loss of the epic happened as recent as late 19th century CE. Tamil scholar and publisher of classical literature, U. V. Swaminatha Iyer mentions in his autobiography that he once saw a palm leaf manuscript of Valayapathi in the Thiruvaiyaru library of his teacher, Meenakshi Sundaram Pillai. However, when he later searched for it for publication, it had disappeared. Another Tamil scholar V. Subramania Mudaliar has also written about seeing a palm leaf manuscript of Valayapathi. The epic has been mentioned by name in the Parimelalagar's commentary (14th century CE) of Tirukkuṛaḷ and a 12th-century commentary of Ottakoothar' Thakkayagaparani. Currently, 72 stanzas of the epic have been recovered from various secondary sources. Fragments have been found in commentaries of Yapperungala Viruthi Ceyyul and Ilampuranar's and Nachinarkiniyar's commentaries of Tolkāppiyam. Adiyarkkunallar's commentary on Cilappatikaram and an anonymous commentary of Yapperungalam contain 3 and 2 stanzas of the epic respectively. Three stanzas have been found in. Majority of the currently available verses (66 of them) are found in the 14th century anthology Purathirattu.
Valayapathi's story cannot be discerned from the currently available fragments of the epic. However, some scholars contend that the epic's story has been retold in the 35th chapter of Vaisyapuranam or Vanikapuranam written by Chintamani Pulavar in 1855. Chintamani Pulavar describes the chapter as the story of "Vaira Vanikan Valayapathi" (Valayapathi the Diamond merchant) of the Panchakavyam (five great epics). But the text itself does not contain the word Valayapathi. Tamil scholars M. Arunachalam and Kamil Zvelebil consider this hypothesis as doubtful. The content of the recovered verses are consistent with the ideals of Jainism and have led to the conclusion that this epic is a Jain religious work. Rejection of worldly pleasures, advocation of asceticism, misanthropy and praise for chastity, horror at meat eating, the vision of constant change and transiency all point to the epic's author being a Jain monk. The 345th verse of Tirukkuṛaḷ is quoted in the epic.
According to Tamil scholar S. Vaiyapuri Pillai, Valayapathi is one of the earliest works done in the Viruttham metre. The quality and beauty of the epic has been praised by Adiyarkkunallar who quotes from it and praises its quality of poetry in his commentary of Cilappatikaram.
Valayapathi has been dated to the early 10th century CE by Vaiyapuri Pillai, while Arunachalam has dated it to the early 9th century.
Verse 1 (Invocation to God):
உலகம் மூன்றும் ஒருங்குடன் ஏத்துமாண்
திலகம் ஆய திறல் அறி வன் அடி
வழுவில் நெஞ்சொடு வாலிதின் ஆற்றவும்
தொழுவல் தொல்வினை நீங்குக என்று யான்.
- Mukherjee 1999, p. 277
- Zvelebil 1992, p. 73
- M.S. 1994, p. 115
- Krishna Murthy 1987, p. 102
- vanava. Thurayan (27 May 2004). "Kundalakesi: Some notes". www.thinnai.com (in Tamil).
- Mukherjee 1999, p. 416
- Pillai 1994, pp. 132-136
- "Valayapathi". www.tamilreader.com (in Tamil).
- "Valayapathi, The fourth great epic". www.chennailibrary.com (in Tamil).
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