The theme of
Silappadikaram is well known. At the time of the story, South India was divided into three
kingdoms, Chola, Pandya and Chera. The incidents connected with this great romance start
in the Chola Empire continue in the Pandyan kingdom and end in the Chera Empire.
At Pukar, the capital of the Chola Empire, there were two merchants.
The beautiful daughter of one-Kannaki and the handsome son of the other-Kovalan--got
married. At the same time, there was a young and beautiful dancer, named Madhavi. Kovalan
somehow fell for her and he lived with her forgetting his own wife, Kannaki, for a while.
In due course they were, however, estranged. Kovalan
returned to his faithful wife, Kannaki. But he was penniless, having lost all his riches
during his life with Madhavi.