Which one of the following explains the practice of ‘Vattakirutal’ as mentioned in Sangam poems?

UPSC Prelims 2023 Question:

Which one of the following explains the practice of ‘Vattakirutal’ as mentioned in Sangam poems?

a) Kings employing women bodyguards

b) Learned persons assembling in royal courts to discuss religious and philosophical matters

c) Young girls keeping watch over agricultural fields and driving away birds and animals

d) A king defeated in a battle committing ritual suicide by starving himself to death

Correct Answer: Option d) A king defeated in a battle committing ritual suicide by starving himself to death

Explanation:

  • Sangam poems are pervaded with a warrior ethic. The goal of the hero of the puram poems was pukal (glory, fame) and a heroic death was greatly valued. 
  • It was believed that the spirit of a warrior who died in battle dwelt in paradise. A poem in the Purananuru suggests that the bodies of warriors who did not die in battle were cut with swords before the funerary rites, to simulate death in battle. 

Practice of Vattakirutal

  • Vattakirutal was a Tamil ritual of fasting till death, especially widespread during the Sangam age. The Tamil kings, in order to save their honour, and prestige, were prepared to meet their death facing North ('Vatakkiruttal') and never would they turn their back in battle. It was a Tamil martial. This was either done alone or as a group with the supporters of the captured king.
  • Vatakkiruttal was a practice in which a defeated king committed ritual suicide by starving himself to death, accompanied by those who had been close to him during his lifetime. This was done to avoid the humiliation of being captured by the enemy and to preserve one's honour and prestige.
  • The practice of Vattakirutal is mentioned in a number of Sangam poems, which are a collection of Tamil poems dating from the 3rd century BCE to the 3rd century CE. These poems describe the heroic deeds of Tamil kings and warriors, and they often mention the practice of Vattakirutal as a way for defeated kings to die with honour.

Therefore, option (d) is the correct answer.

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