Saturday, November 29, 2014


[* This is a review of the article "The Dravidian Kingdoms" in the Tamilian Antiquary No. 8. – Ed. L. T.]

    We have much pleasure in perusing the article above mentioned written by the well known authors whose opinions on any subject will be gratefully received by the Tamil public. They have evidently taken the greatest pains in distilling facts from fiction. The masterly way in which they have handled the subject in its epigraphical and archaeological points of view is indeed admirable and in it we get a glimpse of our ancient kings in the most critical and scientific light.

    The learned authors have made some conjectures regarding the origin of Pandiyans and their capital, but we regret that we are not given any clue as to the origin of the other two Tamilian kingdoms. We are furnished with the derivation of the words Pandiya and Madura which, with due deference to them, we have to dissent from. And nothing is suggested to us regarding the names of the other Tamilian kings and their capitals. The Chera country is practically left out. The Cheras are referred to in our standard works as independent kings, and Kamban is said to have regarded them as having been superior even to Chola in some respects. And it is an obvious fact that, during the age of Kamban, the three Tamilian monarchies were quite independent, none of them accepting any suzerain.

    The records that are available in our literature from which we can roughly infer the history of our ancient and medieval Tamil kingdoms may be classed under three arbitrary divisions viz., those that relate to the Pandiyans, those that deal with Cholas and those that refer to Cheras. The first category is pretty large whereas under the second we possess only a sufficient number, and the third thought we have only a few, has some good points for comparison. The cause of such a disparity is due to the physical and economic conditions of the countries. The Chera kingdom consists mainly of mountainous tracts wherein there was a better scope for physical culture than for the intellectual. Unlike the Chola and the Pandiyan, there was ever in Chera country a sort of struggle against nature. The power exercised by Cheras over their hilly tribes seems quite weak, and warfare with them was a matter of daily occurrence. Hence the Chera Patrons of Literature were few and far between. So there is neither a regular chronicle nor any continuous tradition of literature in this Tamil kingdom. Yet we can gather here and there certain facts concerning Cheras.

    The earliest Buddhists reference to Cheras is available in Manimekhalai. There we hear something of the once renowned city of Vanji and the popular Chera King Senkuttuvan. Whatever may be the date of Manimekhalai, and whether we are at one with Dr. Pope or not in that controversial matter, it is certain that at least in the first century B.C., Buddhism had considerable influence in the Chera country. Again some decades after Tiruvacagam we find there are predominance of Vaishnavitism. The traditions relating to the life "சேரலர்கோன்" Kulasekara Alvar, show that his courtiers and advisers unsuccessfully attempted to get rid of the Vaishnavites. Again two centuries later during the time of Sundaramurti Nayanar we hear of a Saivite Chera. These facts suggest that there was a conflict of religions even in this Tamilian Switzerland and Cheras, as a race, had no settles creed throughout.

    Regarding the literature of the Chera country we have not much which can be said to occupy an eminent position in the poetic sphere. Simplicity and straightforwardness seem to be the distinct characteristics of the whole Chera Kingdom. If Alvars are the true representatives of their land of birth, certainly the characteristics of Kulasekarar apply to the whole Chera country. Contrast his poetry in Nalayira Prabandham with the musical and rhetorical devices of Tirumalisai Alvar, the philosophical poetry of Nammalvar and Tondaradippodi, and the aesthetic disquisitions of Andal and Periyalvar, and you will find his poetry standing aloof from the rest by its simplicity of thought and sincerity of feeling.

    The Chera kingdom seems to be the earliest Tamilian kingdom in Southern India. There is some meaning in the compound word "சேர
," wherein Chera happens to be the first word. In our language a certain method is always exhibited in the building of any compound word. Unlike European languages, we have not so much freedom of choice in Tamil. A definite purpose always underlies any such action. In compound proper nouns of the Masculine gender in Tamil, the first word represent the senior the succeeding words being juniors in order. The order is thus the only permutation permitted in literary use. For instance, we say ராமலட்சுமணர்
and not
. And a permutation like சோழ
, produces a jarring sensation in our ears.

    It is probable that the earliest race of the Dravidian invaders from the South is Cheras who gave up sea faring if any and preferred to lead a jungle life. Perhaps the whole race was found of Palmyra trees either on account of its juice or fruit being agreeable to the warriors throughout the Indian summer. In determining the origin and the unknown history of any royal race, the flag, the garland and other emblems handed down from generation to generation, are not factors that can be neglected.

    It seems that in ancient days there were large tracts of land some hundreds of miles of Cape Comorin, the ancient abode of the Tamilians which we miss in our modern geography. We hear of at least three deluges before the fire of Madura spoken of in "the Chapter of the Anklet" (சிலப்பதிகாரம்). When they occurred and how much of the tracts was washed away and what still remains, remain yet to be discovered. But it is certain that three Tamilian races invaded the Southern India one after another. Cheras seemed to have occupied at first some portion of Tinnevelly and then, either owing to further inroads, or for love of adventures in more fertile regions, they seem to have traced their way safe into the hilly and forest regions of the Western Ghats, and subsequently kept themselves aloof, joining neither Cholas nor Pandiyas. Perhaps this neutral nature brought them the name Cherar, a corruption of the Tamil word சேரர் (Literally those that will not join). The main root of the word Cherar seems to be சேர்
(a pure Tamil word) though the latter half அர், is capable of being interpreted in many ways. Whether it is a nickname or not, it is not unusual among the ancient tribes to declare their policy openly and assume names consistent with it for fear of their being attacked by their more powerful neighboring tribes.

    The literary lethargy of the Chera Kingdom is perhaps due mainly to the fact that, unlike the Pandiyan, it had not civilized environments. Yet it was not wanting in its love for our literature. Poets like Kamban are alleged to have sought refuge in Chera court during their exile. But great poets preferred richer plains of Chola or Pandiya. The reason seems to be that Cheras were not rich enough to bestow much wealth on poets and poetry. But deserving men were not neglected. Hence we find only a minor order of Pandit congregation in the Chera Durbar, whose ambition was limited, caring more to learn what was created in the adjacent Nadus, than to create anything worth preserving. Owing to this we are disappointed even in the works that refer to Cheras to know that we are not able to trace any consistent history of their past.

    The learned article now reviewed has given us an interesting account of Cholas only from the tenth century A.D., and after. Their history before the tenth century A.D., is not one totally unknown. Taking the reliable elements in our Puranic accounts, we find that Cholas were thorns in the side of Pandiyans from time immemorial [i.e., from the time of puranic accounts, ever since the time Madura had been founded]. There were constant excursions from the north to the South into the Pandiyan territory. Again and again Cholas were driven out. Yet it had been the chief object in the life of a Chola King to conquer Madura. This is very similar to, and reminds us of, the fact in English history that every powerful English King in the middle ages wanted to recover his lost possessions in France. It is highly probable that the name Chola (சோழன்) means "the untiring", symbolized by the Tiger-flag. The sound ழா
peculiar only to the Tamilian is but a corrupted form of ரா as we find such instances in the English pronunciation of the letter R in words fastly repeated. So it is probable that the name (சோழர்) might have originally been (சோரார்) the indefatigables. Even when the Pandiyan power was at its zenith, Chola inroads were dreaded at Madura.

    Cholas appear to have invaded Southern India by the South and pushed their way onwards to the North into the plains of the Eastern Ghats. The change of their capital from one place to another especially from the South to the North implies that there were necessities for shifting the centre for concentrating the forces of their country. They were practically hemmed in one both sides – the Aryans from the North and Pandiyans from the South. This race was progressing in spite of the two counter currents that had tried to engulf it. In spite of the very powerful Aryan influence, Cholas preserved to some extent their individuality, for they had less affinity with the Aryans than their neighbors the Pandiyans.    

    In the Chola country, we find purer Tamilian characteristics in arts and literature than in the Pandiyan. Even in architecture the Pandiyan is different from the Chola. In the one, we find the richness of beauty par excellence, and in the other, strength combined with moral tone. In the Chola country, we have the most beautiful varieties of the different classes of land. For it was neither purely inland nor purely hilly. In Devaram we find excellent tropical sceneries incidentally described. Of such, those that often invited the observation of our Tamil saints and stirred up their enthusiasm are generally parts of the Chola country. The nature poetry therein, besides proposing complex, archaeological problems, instruct us at the present day as to the state of the Chola country during the 5th and the 6th century A.D. For instance, there are some hints in Devaram that Cholas encouraged ship-building. Perhaps they had to protect themselves even in the sea. The Bay of Bengal, now a quiet water, was turbulent once and some sea-coast towns had to float in water for days together.

    Leaving aside all traditions and Puranas, and confining ourselves to the internal evidence furnished by Tirunavukkarasu Nayanar Devaram, we find that "Saint Appar" was a true representative of the Chola kingdom. During his time the Chola country was something like a neuron irregular in shape, and capable of contracting and projecting its branches. But in the whole country, we find certain uniform characteristics that stand in contradistinction with those of the Pandiyan. Though in this country, Buddhism and Samanam had great influence, it was yet the stronghold of the Saivaites. Herein Sivam with stood the attacks of other religionists. In one of its sea-port towns was born the sage Jnana Sambandhar. Many a saint was born, and brought up here, and even now here are innumerable Hindu shrines by no means less important than any in other parts of the Tamilian work.

    Even during the Sangam ages, the Chola country was in no way illiterate. In learning as in other respects, it was a worthy rival of the Pandiyan. In the story of Tamil-Ariyum Perumal (தமிழறியும்
), Narkirar's success was by no means fairly won. Rejecting the unrealistic elements in the story, what can safely be extracted from it, is that the Pandit-standard in the Chola Durbar was as efficient as, if not better than, that of Madura Sangam-board. Tiruvalluvar and his sister the grand old lady may be said to have imbued with the Chola spirit.

    For at least four centuries after the abolition of the last Tamil Sangam at Madura, there is a dark gap in our literature. Nothing but unrest in both the Chola and Pandiyan kingdom could have been its primary cause. The conflict of religions and their interference in politics had much to do with it. Though we have strong grounds for presuming that many works were then brought out, it is indeed deplorable that not even a single work can, with any amount of certainty, be pointed out as belonging to the first four centuries A.D. (after the death of Tiruvalluvar). From the past we open our eyes as if awakened from a dream like the China wood-cutter enchanted in the demon-cave and are puzzled with a future which cannot logically be linked with the past. The dying distinctions between the Aryan and the Dravidian were buried and forgotten. And even the races were completely mixed up and coalesced with one another. It is to this coalescence we have to trace the folly of our myths in the wrong identification of our Tamilian kings with Kshatriyas, Velalas with Vaisyas or Sudras and their eighteen servant castes with Sudras and so forth.

    In determination the age, history or chronology of any ancient Tamil king, it is extremely dangerous to rely upon the accounts given either in the Sanskrit or in the Tamil Puranas. For their origin is comparatively late and they embody only certain fantastic flights of imagination in matters unknown. They were produced at a time when facts were not critically examined. It is an admitted fact that the Tamilian was earlier than Aryan in Southern India. Yet its literary growth was very much facilitated by the Aryan from the very beginning of our literature. The first (known) Tamil grammarian and the president of the first academy of Madura was one of the Sapta Rishis (seven immortal Aryan Sages). The Aryan or rather the Brahmanic influence in Southern India was all-absorbing. Their slow and steady pouring into the credulous ears of the Tamil kings that they are descendants of the famous Kshatriya races, lunar or solar, according to their temperaments, flattered them to the highest pitch. Thus arose various traditions which were multiplied in infinite varieties and were subsequently absorbed in the Aryan and Tamil Puranas. Yet there are small facts inseparable from the ancestry of our Tamil kings which negative the assumption of Puranas that the Tamil kings belonged either to the lunar or to the solar race.

    In discussing this question we are sorry we have to differ from the views expressed in the learned article as to derivation of the words Pandiya and Madura. The derivation of such old words is always puzzling, and many suggestions* may be made as to the origin of those words, but the correctness of any cannot be guaranteed. [* Panars (பாணர்) or the abbreviated பாண் caste seem to be a Tamilian tribe. In Malabar we find a caste known by the name Tiyars who by their complexion and their rank below Brahmans and Nayars (the descendants of Brahmans) seem to be a Tamilian race put down by the Brahmanic influence. Perhaps Pandiyan may be a combination of பாண்+தியன். But this is a matter that demands considerable research before expressing any definite opinion on the point.] The name Pandiya has no doubt a sound similar to that of the Sanskrit Pandavas. But similarity of sound is often misleading especially in our Etymology. Even in Mahabharata, Arjuna is alleged to have married a Pandiyan princess which presupposes that even if she were a relative she was beyond the prohibited degrees of consanguinity to him. The Puranic accounts only point out that Pandiyans were as ancient a race as that which ruled over Hastinapura. Marco Polo's reference of Sundar Bandi gives us no idea of anything pre-Aryan as the word Sundar itself is a Sanskrit word and the five brothers might have been named after the Pandavars long after the introduction of the Aryan civilization and religion. Our scholars contend that the word Pandiya is of a pure Tamil origin like the names of the other Tamil kings and the other names of Pandiyan.

    There is some peculiarity about the Margossa garland of Pandiyas. It is neither noted for its smell nor for beauty nor is it invested with any sacred quality by the Sastras. It is sacred only to one deity which is, in all probability, pre-Aryan. It is popularly known in our parts as Mari-Atta (மாரியாத்தா). In our parts we find even now the reminiscence of this deity-worship. She is a sort of Diana (Artemis) or a Kali wielding influence over epidemics like cholera, small pox etc., and protecting her devotees and doing a good lot of functions imposed upon her by the whims of superstition. A பாண்டம் (or a mid pot) is the vehicle with which she is worshipped and perhaps the worshippers of this deity were styled Pandiyas. This suggestion is not only strengthened by the peculiar garland but also by the Pandiyan fish-flag. Among the Dravidians the pictures in the flag were not drawn at random and we generally find some meaning and purpose in them. As for instance, the flag of Velalas contains representation of the implements of husbandry indicating their occupation. The original occupation of Pandiyas might have been fishing in the seas, for even in later days Pandiyas had control over several fisheries which were their main source of income. The virgin of the seas (worshipped by the Hindu fisherman) to whom Margossa is sacred, is undoubtedly a pre-Aryan deity worshipped even now by the fishermen of the Coromandal coast. So, whatever may be the origin of the word Pandiyan, it may be stated with a greater amount of probability that it has nothing to do with Pandu or Pandavas. It is doubtful whether any Aryan royal race had anything to do with the industries connected with the sea or its production.

    The learned authors deduce the word Madura form Muttra. Whether Muttra was named after the Pandiyan Capital which was very flourishing in ancient days, or the latter was named after the former, is not an easy matter to conjecture. Arguments are not wanting on both sides. Perhaps the coincidence is accidental. The word may be derived even from Tamil roots as the formation of the word itself is so very plastic, that it may be cast into different moulds.

    The historic Ugra Pandiyan, the contemporary of Tiruvalluvar, ought not to be confused with the mythical Ugra of our Puranas. The mother of this Romulus Tadatagai Piratti, is alleged to have ruled the whole of India and waged war with God Siva in the Mount Kailas. Her rule over the Pandiyan Kingdom is symbolic of the sway of the virgin goddess referred to (to whom Margossa was sacred), and her subsequent union with Siva represents the adoption in the Tamil land of the Aryan Saiva Religion. The blending of the two religions represents the marriage of Siva with Tadatagai Pirattiyar. Beyond this inference, we have only extremely dangerous grounds to tread upon. How many Ugras ruled after the mythical Ugra is one which cannot be determined for want of any reliable source. What we now possess are bits of historical information collected around the leading Tamil poets. We know something of Pandiya a little before the Christian era (the final stage of the third Sangam). Again for four centuries till the rise of Manikkavacagar, we have a big gap in the history of our literature itself. Again for a century till the rise of "Muvar" or the three saints, we have a small gap and after them till the tenth century A.D., we have no history. These gaps demand further research in the field of Tamilian Archaeology.

    The inscription taken notice of by the learned authors of the article supplement certain facts that we had already learnt about the triad of the golden age of our literature. Ottakuttan, Kamban and Pugazbendhi, the bards of the Chola court, have left us permanent monuments in our literature during the twelfth century A.D. The history of their lives is closely connected with the history of the Tamil kings. One of them at least was not a mere Court bard but virtually a minister or the ruler of the Chola state. Allowing a certain margin for the omnipresent hyperbole in all the writings of that period in prose or in poetry, the inscriptions corroborate certain results achieved with great difficulty by our scholars regarding the date etc., of Kamban and his contemporaries. When we survey the state of southern India during the period, we shall understand how these inscriptions help us in our researches.

    The beginning of the ninth century A.D., marks the commencement of a new era in the history of Saivaitism in Southern India. It marks the complete annihilation of Buddhism and Samanam in the Tamil countries. Even in Sundaramurti Nayanar's Devaram, we breathe the calm atmosphere of religious peace. There, we do not find the volleys of Sambandar or his pungent criticisms of other faiths nor the mild but biting sarcasms of Appar on Samanam and the Atheistic Buddhism. If we pass thence to Sekkizhar we suspect a tendency in his age for a revival of an imperfect Samanam which found no toleration. Hence we find a caricature of that religion even in Peria Puranam. The compilation of Tirumurai (திருமுறை) shows the peace of mind in the Tamil kingdoms and an ardent desire to know something about the past when our religion passed through the greatest ordeals. On the whole, we have almost a continuous period of literature from Sekkizhar to Kamban which implies that there were not long and continuous wars between the Chola and the Pandiyan kingdom.

    Among the industrial arts that found patronage in the Tamil kingdoms and obtained distinct individually, is the art of Sculpture. Though Sculpture seems to have flourished in India some centuries before Christ, it had been one in the hands of a select few who undertook works form kings. During the time of our early Tamil Saints, it was chiefly in the hands of the Samanas and Buddhists. The unrest of our country referred to hindered its progress. When Hinduism was permanently established, the long desired peace was obtained. During the tenth century A.D., Sculpture became less costly and different classes of sculptors arose who undertook works in various departments of their art for moderate changes. It found field side by side with Architecture and the building of various temples were undertaken by wealthy citizens or from subscriptions collected from the people. The Puranas that were patronized by our saints found real representations in temples and other places of worship. The unused rocks were well used by our artists. A tendency for laying foundation for the construction of history began to show itself. This is the reason why we find some good and useful inscriptions from the tenth century and after. Our people's attention towards arts shows that the Tamil nation was at its equilibrium. As we pass on from the medieval world of Devaram to the almost modern days of Ottakkuttan, we find a tendency for a thorough change in fashions and the degeneracy of peace slowly setting in.

    Behind the curtain of traditions narrated in Peria Puranam, we see some glaring facts. We can infer from them that even the hunchback Pandiyan's Durbar was in a precarious state. In it he had many conflicting uncontrollable elements. It is the genius of his minister that had much to do with the success of Sundara Pandiyan as a sovereign. It seems that the same degeneracy continued unto the last and the dissensions in the Pandiyan Royal family were quite common, and consequently there were innumerable intrigues with the Cholas. And these seem to be the cause of Chola's success in the Pandiyan territories. But the Chola wars and invasions never seem to have been systematic or continuous. For the policy of Cholas from the time of Karikalan and his successors was almost identical with that of Chingis Khan or Timur. Kalingattuparani would make them gods in human form. Perhaps it was sung by a bard who travelled gods in human form. Perhaps it was sung by a bard who travelled with Gangi Kondan Chola's in the campaigns against the valleys of the Ganges. The inscription of the Conjiveram temple may refer to one of such campaigns against the Pandiyas and a Pandiyan might have been killed in a skirmish. One such fact would be sufficient for his courtiers to style him with the name Madurantaka. For in the past Cholas, according to the Puranic accounts, never seem to have had any success over the Pandiyans. As observed before, a margin ought to be allowed for the exaggerative character of any writing of this period.

    The life of Ottakkuttan, in spite of gross injustice done to him by our scholars, gives us some clue as to the state of the Chola country during the early part of the twelfth century A.D. There is no doubt about his great statesmanship. It was he who induced his Chola (?) to marry a Pandiyan princess. To carry out this piece of diplomacy he was sent as an ambassador to the Pandiyan court. There is a deeper and an inner meaning in the stanza uttered by him in the Pandiyan court which was parodied by Pugalendi. There was a definite important motive in the very proposal of the match. Ottakkuttan's expression was really intended to give hints to the Pandiyan that the Chola help may be indispensable to him at some moment and that he should consider that he is fortunate in his alliance with the Chola.

    The probable date of this marriage seems to be the middle of the 12th century A.D. The war between the Chola and Pandiyan Kingdoms that resulted in the breaking down of the Pandiyan power seem to have commenced after the publication of Kamba Ramayanam. For we have no clear account of the closing period of the lives of the "triad" that ornamented the Chola court. Kamban is alleged to have been murdered by a Pandiyan. Even as to this point there is a difference of opinion. There are two readings for the stanza "வில்லம்பு சொல்லம்பு" which Kamban is alleged to have sung when he breathed his last. One set of Pandits prefer the reading "பார் வேந்தே" and the other "பாண்டியன்" of which the former is said to refer to Chola. Of the last part of the lives of the two other poets we do not know this much at least. We have no information as to how Ottakkuttan and Pugalendi ended their lives. The inscriptions mentioned in the learned article help us to understand the reason why it is so. There ought to have been a sudden outburst of some war in the Tamil states which diverted the attention of the people to more important and inspiring themes than the devotion to poetry and its imaginative realms.

    In conclusion, we are only sorry that the part I alone of the interesting essay on the Dravidian Kingdoms has been published by the Secretary of the Tamilian Archaeological society. It is always highly desirable that such learned essays ought not to be published piecemeal. So we hope an early publication of the remaining part or parts.

    E. N.T.

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