The authorship of Silappatikaram is credited to the pseudonym Ilango Adigal (“Prince-Ascetic”). He is reputed to be the brother of Chera king Senguttuvan, although there is no evidence in the Sangam poetic works that the famous king had a brother.
- Kovalan – Son of a wealthy merchant in Puhar
- Kannahi – Wife of Kovalan
- Masattuvan – A wealthy grain merchant and the father of Kovalan
- Madhavi – A beautiful courtesan dancer
- Chitravathi – Madhavi’s Mother
- Vasavadaththai – Madhavi’s female friend
- Kosigan – Madhavi’s messenger to Kovalan
- Madalan – A Brahmin visitor to Madurai from Puhar
- Kavunthi Adigal – A Jain nun
- Neduncheliyan – Pandya king
- Kopperundevi – Pandya Queen
Silapathikaram is one of the five great epics written in Tamil language. This Master-piece was written by “Elangovadigal”. The story of Kannagi plays an important role in history of Madurai. There lived a merchant by name “Maasaathuvaan” in Kaveripoompattinam. He had a son called “Kovalan”. He was married to “Kannagi” who was the beautiful daughter of a merchant by name “Maanaikkan”.
Later Kovalan fell in love with a dancer called “Madhavi”. He became a spendthrift and soon he lost all his property. On the occasion of “Indira ” festival in Kaveripoomopattinam, he had a dispute with Madhavi and he went back to Kannagi. Inorder to regain his property, he went to Madurai along with his wife kannagi to start a business. They were accompanied by “Kavunthiadigal”.But she continued her journey after leaving the Kovalan and Kannagi in “Puranjery” where they were accompanied by “Madhari” who was a cowherdess. She helped the couple in all ways.Kannagi gave her Jewelled anklet (“Silambu”) to Kovalan and asked him to sell it so that he can start his new business. Kovalan went to market to sell one of Kannagi’s anklets.
In the meantime, the queen of Pandiyan King Nedunchezhiyan,lost her anklets (“Silambu”). Actually, the court Jeweller had robbed the queen’s anklets. Once the wicked jeweller happened to see Kovalan with Kannagi’s anklets in the market. He seized the anklet from Kovalan and informed the king about it. The king sent gaurds to arrest Kovalan. Kovalan was accused of having stolen the queen’s anklets and was killed as per the king’s order.
When Kannagi came to know about the news, she went out into the town,with her eyes ablaze with anger, carrying the remaining anklet in her hand as proof of her husband’s innocence. She made the king realise the truth by breaking her anklet which was made of Manickam. When Pandiyan king came to know that he had punished an innocent ,he died in his throne by saying “Oh! I am the thief and he is not the thief”. The queen also died at that spot.Kannagi burnt Madurai into ashes in consequence to the injustice caused to her husband Kovalan.