Ottakoothar was a Tamil Court Poet to three Later Chola kings, namely Vikrama Chola, Kulotunga II, and Rajaraja II. He wrote poems in praise of these three kings.
The poet’s memorial is believed to be still in a place known as Darasuram in Kumbakonam, just opposite the famous Airavatesvara Temple. According to legend, he became a famous poet when the goddess Saraswati blessed him in Koothanur.
Family of Ottakoothar
According to a legend, Muchukundan, a Chola King, had his capital at Karur. He won the favor of God Murugan after deep penances and the latter is said to have offered him his bodyguards to assist him in his wars.
Muchukundan Chola then married Chitravalli, daughter of the warrior chief and Murugan’s bodyguard called Virabahu, and produced a new line. The poet Ottakoothar is shown as the child of the family of this Sengunthar chief in his work Eeti-elupattu.
The poet is famous for his Ula poems on the three successive kings, Vikrama Chola, Kulothunga Chola II, and Rajaraja Chola II. The Ula poems are written in honor of the king and explain the triumphant procession of the king amidst the people and his subjects. He also authored a work dealing with the Kulottunga II’s childhood called Kulottunga Cholan Pillai Tamil.
During this period when he was very popular, the Sengunthar community, the one to which he belonged, asked him to compose a work in their honor. He initially refused but then later agreed provided they brought him 1008 heads of their firstborn sons.
Accordingly, 1008 members of the community sacrificed their lives so that he could write about their history. The poet then wrote, Eetiyelupattu, a poem consisting of seventy verses in honor of the spear and extolled the glorious past of the Sengunthar chiefs and soldiers. He later wrote another poem called Eluppelupattu to bring back the 1008 dead members to life.
When he sang it the heads are said to have miraculously attached to their bodies and the dead became alive once again. The poet Koothan thus came to be known as OttaKoothan for he attached the heads to the bodies.
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