This translation of the ancient Tamil epic poem by Ilango Adigal, speculated to be written in the second century ad, was first published in 1935. It was part of a project to bring to light the priceless literary treasures of Tamil for non-Tamil readers. There is no doubt of the excellence of this epic about Kovalan, a young merchant and Kannaki, his virtuous wife. Kovalan had set out for Madura to dispose of an anklet to raise the capital needed to pursue a trade. In the bazaar he meets a state goldsmith. The latter had stolen the queen’s anklet similar to the one on Kovalan’s hands and reports to the king that he had found the thief. He is arrested and executed. Kannaki comes to Madura to prove her husband`s innocence. The Pandyan king dies of remorse realizing his mistake. Kannaki, to avenge her husband`s death tears off one breast and throws it at the city of Madura which goes up in flames.
In ancient Tamil Sangam tradition, the book contains exceptional descriptions of the rivers like the Vaigai and Kaveri, cities like Puhar and Madura, technical accounts of different dance forms, celebration of marriages, the intermingling of Greek, Arab and Tamil peoples – all affording data for the reconstruction of ancient Tamil society.