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the legend of kannagi

The Tamil epic Silappathikaram details the story of Kovalan, the son of a wealthy merchant from Kaverippattinam who married Kannagi. Kovalan leaves Kannagi enamored with Madhavi, a danseuse, on whom he gradually spent all his wealth. He ultimately incurs heavy loss in his trade and goes back to Kannagi. The couple moves to Madurai, with a hope to revive the trade and regain the lost fortune. At Madurai when the merchant offered to sell his wife’s anklet, the local goldsmith brought the anklet before the Pandya king and made the king to believe that it was his queen’s lost anklet. The king immediately passed the orders of beheading Kovalan even without examining the accused.

Angered at the injustice, Kannagi walked into the king’s court and broke her anklet to establish the innocence of her husband. Her anklet included emerald, while the queen’s anklet was filled with pearls. The king, was shocked and realized his misjudgment. He lost his life on the throne itself and his queen died on the spot too because of the shame and guilt. Kannagi, unable to quench her anger due to her personal tragedy, uttered a curse that the entire city of Madurai be burnt. After walking for 14 days, she enters the Chera kingdom.

Kannagi (Kannaki Amman) is eulogized as the epitome of chastity and is worshiped as a goddess. She is praised for her extreme devotion to her husband in spite of his adulterous behaviour. She is worshiped as Goddess Pathini in Sri Lanka by the Sinhalese Buddhists, Kannaki Amman by the Sri lanka Tamils Hindus’ and as Kodungallur Bhagavathy (Kodungallur Devi / Kodungallur Amma) and Attukal Bhagavathy (Attukal Devi / Attukal Amma) in Kerala.

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