Tuesday, December 30, 2014


(BY M. P. C.)

    Turning over the pages of the "Madras Review" for August last, I came across an article written by Mr. Kanakasabhai, B.A.L.L.B, Madras, and headed "The Conquest of Bengal and Burma by the Tamils" to which Mr. Krishnasamy Ayengar, M.A., has evidently, attempted a reply in his paper headed. "The Chola Ascendancy in Southern India" also published in the same issue of the journal. It would be mere waste of time to endeavor to add to the praises which the first article has already called down on the head of its learned author from Indian epigraphists and the editors of the leading Indian Journals. Mr. Kanakasabhai has done a service to the Tamil people for which they cannot better thank him than by giving him every encouragement to carry on his researches with greater energy in future. Mr. Iyengar's article is, apparently, based more on prejudice than on epigraphical evidence. He is, obviously, unware of the fact that what Mr. Kanakasabhai has now established by epigraphical evidence is fully supported by Tamil literature, for instance by "Kulotunga Cholan Ula, Kalingattu Parani, Vikrama Cholan Ula, and other similar works and it is wonderful that the articles which Mr. Kanakasabhai wrote to the Indian Antiquary years ago on this point has failed to attract the attention of Mr. Krishnasamy Ayengar, who is himself a subscriber to that Journal.

    It is not my intention to pass in review the whole article of Mr. Ayengar in which truth and error are coupled in unholy alliance. The only point which I now propose to notice is the following statement of his viz: "Karikala, the hero of the two poems Pattina Palai and Porunararrupadai, is reputed to have built embankments on the Kaveri River, etc. On the strength of such reference as this we find in Tamil literature, the Hon. Mr. Kumaraswamy of Ceylon would place Karikala in the first century of the Christian era."

    Mr. Iyengar has been very unfortunate in making the above statement. He has evidently not made himself acquainted with what the histories of Ceylon say on this subject. All the extant histories of Ceylon except the Maha Vansa, mention that Gaja Bahu I invaded the Chola country in the year 113 A. D. The omission in the Maha Vansa need not disconcert any honest mind on the reliability of the account as given in the other histories, as the Maha Vansa is more an account of the progress of Buddhism in the island than an avowed political history of the Sinhalese kingdom. The Ceylon histories say that the Cholas invaded Ceylon during the three years of Gaja Bahu's father's reign and carried away 12,000 Sinhalese captive to their country and employed them at work on the banks of the river Kaveri. And it would appear that the Chola king had so much overawed the people of the Island that bands of Sinhalese had periodically to go the Chola Mandalam and work on the bank of the river by turns, until Gaja Bahu succeeded in putting down the power of the Cholas in the Island, promulgated the news of the victory by beat of tom-tom and commanded his subjects not to quit the Island to work on the banks of the Kaveri. The Ceylon histories further state that it was Gaja Bahu I, who introduced worship of Pattini into the Island, and it was, doubtless, this fact that lies at the bottom of the indifference with which the priestly authors of the Maha Vansa treated the victory of Gaja Bahu over the Cholas and the heretical worship of Pattini which accompanied it. There can hardly be any doubt that the orthodox priesthood would have viewed the inauguration on the cult of Pattini in the Island with a sense of alarm and indignation.

    We learn from the Tamil records Karikala I was a great conqueror who subdued even the kings of North India. He was a contemporary of Kannagi and Kovalan. He was the father-in-law of the Chera king, Seralatan, the father of Chenkuttuvan, the brother of the reputed author of the Tamil epic "Silappathikaram" in which the deification of Kannagi is described in detail. Thus it is clear that Karikala, Kovalan, Kannagi, Seralatan, and Chenkuttuvan were contemporaries. Karikala was an ancestor of Ko Chenkannan, an ancestor of Vijayalaya, who was the grandfather of Parantaka I of the eighth century of our era. Karikala is alluded to in Tamil literature as the Chola king "who caused the banks of the river Kaveri to be raised by means of labor exacted from those whom he had conquered in war." These facts are inapplicable to Karikala II of the ninth century whose only exploit was, according to Mr. Iyengar himself, the defeat of the Pandyan V in his early years. There may be some truth in the statement of the author of the Kongu Chronicle that Karikala II constructed a dam across the bed at the river Kaveri. But this has no reference to the work done by the first monarch of that name, which is work done by the first monarch of that name, which is described to have consisted in the raising of the banks, evidently, to prevent floods during the months of heavy flow. The object of the dam built by the second Karikala was quite the reverse of the above, namely, to raise the waters to a level higher than the normal with the view to conducting them into canals of irrigation. Moreover, it is stated in "Silappatikaram" that Gaja Bahu, king of Ceylon, was present on the occasion of the installation of the worship of Kannagi or Pattini by the Chera king Chenkuttuvan in his capital, and that he introduced the cult into the Island on his return. The Ceylon histories mention only two Gaja Bahus, the second of whom lived so late as the twelfth century A.D., while the first was a contemporary of Chenkuntuvan, a grandson of Karikala in whose court Madhavi the sweetheart of Kovalan is said to have danced and won very valuable presents. Further, it is absurd to say that "Pattinapala was composed about two centuries later than the hymns of Sambandar. The style of the former is, palpably, far more archaic than the compositions of Sambandar who himself lived about three centuries before Karikala II, whom Mr. Ayengar seeks to identify with its hero.

    Mr. Krishnasamy Ayengar does not stand alone in the opinion that the Gaja Bahu of the "Slap" was not identical with Gaja Bahu I of the Ceylon historians, Mr. L. C. Innes himself has advocated the same view in the Asiatic Quarterly Review for April last, Mr. Innes arguments are, however, far from conclusive if not altogether faulty. The poem "Pattina Palai" is mentioned by name in Kalingattu Parani composed in the beginning of the eleventh century, or about 140 years before the time of Gaja Bahu II, - a fact which has not at all been taken into consideration by Mr. Innes. The second Gaja Bahu was no conqueror like the first, and it is not even hinted in the records of Lanka that he ever went to India and much less he ever defeated a Chola king. The traditions of Ceylon do not even remotely identity him with the first patron of the cult of Pattini in the Island.

    What is then the obvious conclusion which all the facts above referred to would seem to drive us to? The issue is so plain that even a very neophyte in historical criticism can hardly fail to see it. In other words the statement of Mr. Kumaraswamy that Pattinapalai was composed in the first century of our era contains the most satisfactory solution of the problems connected with the age of Karikala I of the Tamil books.

  • The Ceylon Standard.

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