Saturday, April 19, 2008


The Tamil society during the early Pandyan age had several class distinctions among the people, which were different from the Aryan classification of Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras. The highest class, among the Tamils, was the Arivar or the sages. They were the ascetics that renounced materialism and mostly lived outside the cities. Next in rank were the Ulavar or the farmers. Following the Ulavar, were the Aiyar or shepherds, then Vedduvar or hunters, followed by artisans such as goldsmiths, blacksmiths etc., then Padaiadchier or the armed men, the Valayar or fishermen and finally the Pulayar or the scavengers. The higher classes enjoyed more privileges than the lower classes - for example, when the higher classes passed in the streets, the lower classes made way for them. The Pulayan, for ex., bowed in supplication if he met a nobleman. The class distinctions were quite conspicuous in many aspects of life - the dress worn by the people, the way they groomed themselves and the kind of food they subsisted on were all different from one class to another. In spite of such class-based social inequalities, there was no slavery in the society.
There was legal and social inequality between the sexes. Women had no rights on property and, in general, were subordinated by men. However, women mixed freely in the business and amusements of social life. In towns and cities, women of lower classes were employed as hawkers, vendors, shopkeepers or servants in rich households and in the villages, they worked in the fields and gardens along with men and shared their hardships. The ladies of the higher classes were more confined to their homes, but they were not secluded from society. The plight of widows was miserable – they were considered inauspicious and had to live life according to very strict rules. They were prohibited from decorating themselves or participating in any form of amusement. The practice of Sati was also prevalent in ancient Tamil country and was known as tippaydal. When the Pandyan king Pudappandiyan died, his queen killed herself by ascending the funeral pyre of the king. Women were exposed to education, a fact testified by the presence of many women poetesses in the Sangam works – some of them include Avvaiyar, Mudatamakkanniar, Kaakkaippaadiniyaar, Naachchellayaar, Naagaiyaar, Nanmullaiyaar, Ponmudiyaar, Ilaveyiniyaar and Nappasaliyaar.
A variety of clothing was used by people during this age, including those made of cotton and silk. People living in hilly and deserted areas wore dresses made of foliage and flowers. Sheaths of grassy weeds (Korai) were used for making dress by the hill and forest area people. Skins of animals and barks of trees were also used. Men of the poorer classes wore only one piece of cloth around the waist. Women covered their upper body with a kind of dress called, kachchu. Among the higher classes, men wore two pieces: one around the waist and the other, the upper cloth, thrown over the shoulders. Women of sophisticated society wore half sarees, made of the finest cotton and silk fabrics, with embroidery. Both men and women sported long tresses of hair. The diet was plain, rice being the staple cereal, with maize, millet, milk, butter and honey being in common use. Meat eating was common - people ate flesh of rams, deer, hare, fowl, porcupines, pigs and boar, fresh and dried fish. The kind of housing was determined by the type of geography of the land and the economic status of the occupants. The rich built their houses with tiled roofs and walls made of burnt bricks and mud, while the poor built their huts with mud and thatched it with grass, coconut leaves or palmyra palm leaves. Both in the huts and houses, the flooring was smeared with cowdung. The affluent had houses with porticoes, many storeys, open terraces and furnished their houses well. The inner walls of their houses were decorated with flowers and paintings, with cottages to protect them from the wind. Cots were in common use – the rich had luxurious beds decked with swan’s feathers and flowers, while the common people had beds woven with the straw of maize and the poorest people used beds made of grass or hay.


Scholars have constructed the political history of the ancient Pandya country based on the classical works such as Purananuru, Pattu paatu and Padirrupattu. Even though these works don’t throw much light on the exact timelines of each king and their reign, they are considered trustworthy accounts that present facts as they occurred.
The first Pandyan king who has been mentioned in the Sangam works recovered so far is Nedunj Cheliyan I, who ruled from the coastal town of Korkai, at the mouth of river Tamraparni. During this time, the Tamil country consisted of several small kingdoms ruled over by independent chieftains, in addition to the three monarchies of Cheras, Cholas and Pandyas. In a bid to expand his territory, Nedunj Cheliyan I invaded the kingdom of Kudal (later renamed Madurai), which was under the rule of an independent chieftain, Akutai. He defeated Akutai and moved the capital of Pandyan kingdom to Madurai. This king also defeated an invading army from the Deccan and hence was called Aariyap Padaikadantha Pandyan or the king who conquered the Aryan army. He was succeeded by his son Pudappandiyan, who expanded the kingdom by conquering Ollaiyur (near modern day Pudukkottai) – an act that earned him the name Ollaiyur thantha Pudappandian. Both Pudappandiyan and his predecessor, Nedunj Cheliyan I, were poets themselves who contributed to the Purananuru collection.
The successor of Pudappandiyan was Nedunj Cheliyan II also known as "Pasumpun Pandyan." Immediately after ascending the throne, he marched with his troops to the north of Vaigai and defeated the chieftain Evvi II. He then headed west and captured the Aayi territory controlled by another chieftain, Atiyan. Both Evvi II and Atiyan were made commanders of the Pandyan army for his battles against Kongu country that was further west. From here he expanded the Pandyan kingdom almost to the western coast, which earned him the title Vidambalamba Ninra Pandyan (the Pandyan whose kingdom was washed by two seas). Since he was responsible for expanding the Pandyan kingdom by annexing several kingdoms, he was also called Pannadu thantha Pandyan (the Pandyan who annexed many lands). His successor, Mudukudumi Peruvaludhi, was also a great warrior and carried the devastation into enemy territories. He performed yagas with the aid of Brahmin priests, similar to the tradition in northern India at that time.
The next king in the hierarchy was Nedunj Cheliyan III, who is considered the greatest of all the early Pandyan kings. Since the Pandyan kingdom was considerably larger than a few generations ago, he had to defend it against many neighbors invading from various fronts. Not only did he succeed in defending his territory, he also seems to have advanced into the enemy territories – the southern province of Cholas and eastern province of the Cheras. At one point, it is said that a coalition of his neighbors including the Cheras, Cholas and five other kingdoms, met him at a pitched battle in Talaialanganam, in present day Tanjore district. Nedunj Cheliyan emerged victorious in the battle that ensued and ended up annexing several new territories to his kingdom. He thus came to be known as Talaialanganathu Seruvendra Pandyan. The genealogy after this king is not very clear but there are at least four other kings who are thought to have ruled in the immediate succeeding generations. Notable among them were, Musiri Mutriya Cheliyan for the fact that he conquered the town of Musiri on the coast of the Arabian Sea and Ukkirap Peruvaludi for the fact that it was in his court that the famous poet Tiruvalluvar submitted his much-acclaimed work Tirukkural.


Ayyanar or Sathanar worship is a very ancient ancestral clan-based worship system linked to nature and fertility worship. The festivals of Ayyanars,a popular village deity in and around madurai are celebrated in Sacred Groves during spring season by all the related clan. Ayyanar shrines are usually located at the peripheries or boundaries of rural villages and the deity is seen riding a horse with a sword. Weapons such as a trident or a lance are also associated with the shrine. Most officiating priests are non-Brahmins and derive from local lineages that had initiated the cult centers generations ago.
The worship pattern is non-agamic and is associated with sacrificial offerings of pure vegetarian food. However animals such as chicken and goats are offered to few of the selected 21 associate deities (Kaval deivangal) such as Karuppa samy, Sudalai maadan samy and some other Amman deities located within Ayyanar temple for favors. In return the local priest might offer holy flowers or Veeputhi (holy ash) to the worshippers. Folk Tales like koothu and Folk arts like villupattu are enacted to bring out the message of the Ayyanar folk story to one and all.


Why do the Hindi politicians who control the Indian Government refuse permission to install Emperor Raja Raja Cholan's statue within the outer walls of the Thanjai Big Temple?
Many thousands of Hindu devotees and tourists from around the world visit the Thanjai Big Temple. If Raja Rajan's statue is installed on the temple grounds for all to see, they may ask the others and tour guides about him and will come to know of his conquests, his majesty and the glorious days of the Second Golden Age of Tamil Nadu. The Hindian controlled Indian Government does not want people to know about this glorious past and the great kings of Tamil Nadu who are second to none. Hindian politicians and elite want people to think that all the glorious past of Indian history is centered on the Hindi heartland of today. They want to hide and put under a blanket all other histories, be it that of Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bengal, Karnataka, Kerala or Tamil Nadu, for example.
Read the history books used at schools under the jurisdiction of the Indian Government (Central Schools and schools accredited under the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE)). You will read in detail about the kings and emperors who ruled from what is today the Hindi heartland, for example, Chandra Guptan, Ashokan, Akbar, et al. But you will not read very little about the Tamil kings or the Bengali kings or the Assamese kings, etc. (Count the pages in those books. Tamil kings get less than 5% of what is allotted for kings from the present Hindi belt region. Great kings like Senguttuvan and Karikalan are not even mentioned.) In the Indian history according to Hindians, these lands do not have a glorious history worth mentioning although, in truth, every one of these nations has a rich past. Refusal to grant permission to install the statue of one of the greatest emperors of South Asia on the grounds of the temple he built is just another attempt by the Hindian politicians to hide the glorious past of the Tamil people.
(NOTE: Emperor Raja Raja Cholan is not the only one whose history the Indian Government wants to hide. About two decades ago, the then Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi tried to distort the history of Emperor Rajendra Cholan's conquest of the Ganges Plains (today's Hindi land). )


Who is this Raja Raja Cholan (more precisely, Raja Raja Cholan-I)? Readers who are fans of the popular Tamil novelist Kalki may be familiar with his historical novel "Ponniyin Selvan". That novel is woven around the life of Raja Raja Cholan, also known an Arunmoli. Of course, much of the novel and many of the characters in it are fiction although that fiction is wrapped around historical events. What we present in this section are historical facts taken from such authoritative works as Dr. M. Rajamanickam's "Cholar Varalaru", Nilakanta Sastri's "The Cholas" and T. V. Sadasiva Pandarathar's "History of the Later Cholas".
Raja Rajan reigned between 985 AD and 1014 AD. It can be rightly said that the Second Golden Age of Tamil Nadu started with his reign and continued for another two centuries. (The First Golden Age of Tamil Nadu in known Tamil history was in the days of the Third Tamil Academy (Third Tamil Sangam)). He built one of the most glorious empires of South Asia that peaked during the regin of his son Rajendra Cholan - I and continued for another 200 years or so under his sons, grandsons and great grandsons. He was not only a great warrior king in the tradition of Cheran Senguttuvan, Cholan Karikalan and Pandian Nedunchezhian, he was also an able administrator, a patron of the arts and a devote Saivaite Hindu.
During that period, Sinhala kings from Ilankai (now known as Sri Lanka and Ceylon) had the habit of interfering in Tamil Nadu by allying with one Tamil king against another, usually allying with Cheras or Pandias against the Cholas. (Of course, the blame should rightly be put on those Tamil kings who invited foreign interference and not on the Sinhala kings who made use of the opportunity.) So, after decisively defeating the Cheras and Pandias, Raja Rajan Cholan turned his attention to the Sinhalese King Mahinda-V. He assembled a naval armada and sent it to Sri Lanka. The Chola Navy defeated King Mahinda. After the military victory Raja Rajan built a Hindu temple there in Polonnaruva.
Having defeated the enemy in the south, he moved north. The Chola army under the command of Crown Prince Rajendran marched north, all the way up to what is now Bijapur. The army defeated all who opposed its march north, including the powerful army of Chalukya Emperor Satyasraya who ruled the Deccans.
As noted before, Raja Rajan's legacy is not just wars and conquests. He is remembered today primarily for the construction of the Tanjore Big Temple (Thanjavur Peria Koil). The temple is also called "Rajarajeswaram" after him. This Saivaite Hindu temple is one of the most beautiful and magnificent architectural monuments in South Asia. The magnificent tower and the delicate sculptures are truly a feast for the eyes. Not only Hindus from all over the world, but also tourists from around the world visit this temple.
Though Raja Rajan was a devote Saivaite Hindu, he respected other religions. He built Vishnu temples in Mysore after he conquered the region. He not only permitted Silendra Emperor Srimara Vijayottunga Varman to build the Buddhist shrine Chudamanivihara in Tamil Nadu at Nagapattinam, he also contributed money for its construction.
Many arts - sculpture, painting, drama, dance and music - flourished during his time. He conductedd a survey of his kingdom and is considered a major achievement of that time. He divided the kingdom into a number of administrative units and appointed administrative officers for each unit. Villages were governed by local elders (a type of self-government). According to Dr. M. Rajamanickam, Raja Rajan's administrative structure is comparable to modern administrative structure seen around the world.
Raja Raja Cholan is truly one of the greatest rulers in Tamil history. This is in fact the reason why Hindi politicians who dominate and control the Indian Government refuse permission to install his statue within the outside walls of Thanjai Big Temple that he built.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


It is festival time in Madurai -Goddess Meenakshi Thirukalyanam and Alagar aartil irangum vaibhavam!The devotees in hundreds are awaiting andworshipping Alagar on his way to Madurai to attend the wedding of Meenakshi. Well the story goes that the celestial wedding gets over, before Alagar reaches Madurai. So Alagar changes his plan to cross river Vaigai to attend the function. Instead he just gets in the Vaigai and enthralls the thousands of devotees with his dharshan and returns back to Algar Koil, along the banks of the river. Before reaching, he gives dharshans in various attires in different mandapams. In the Ramaraya Mandapam, Dasavadaram is enacted! People in their new dresses and some devotees dressed up in their special shorts and long zari, decorative caps, carrying leather bags containing water - all eager to see the God - is really a sight to be seen. Alagar rides the golden horse and steps into the river; this is when the devotees pump out water from the leather bags on to the thronging Bhakthas. These devotees are so enthu. ;they travel with Alagar back to Alagar Koil. This Chithirai thiruvizha was started by Thirumalai Nayak to unite the saivaites and vaishnavites. Hundreds of people from villages around Madurai come to celebrate the festival. Exhibition - the chithirai porutkatchi - is a regular feature every year!
It is not chithirai thiruvizha but "peruvizha" enjoyed not only by devotees but also children and people of all ages

Tuesday, April 8, 2008


Madurai Kamaraj University, located in Madurai town (in southern Tamil Nadu, India) established in 1966, has 18 Schools comprising 72 Departments. The Directorate of Distance Education of the University has a student strength of about 1.30 lakhs. The University has 109 affiliated Colleges (9 Autonomous) including other approved institutions and 7 evening colleges. There are centres which promote research potential of teachers. Madurai Kamaraj University, or simply Madurai University was named after the historical city of Madurai, the ancient capital of the Pandyan rulers and the seat of three famous Tamil academies going back to the beginnings of the Christian and even perhaps an earlier Era, was inaugurated on 6th February 1966 at the heart of the city. Its nucleus was the Extension centre of the University of Madras located at Madurai. Two years later, the foundation stone for a new campus was laid by Dr Zakir Hussain, the then President of India on Madurai - Theni road, 13 kilometers to the west of the city. Since then the campus has grown into a beautiful University township with an extensive area of about 750 acres (3.0 km²), appropriately called in Tamil "Palkalainagar" (means university township). And in 1978, the name of the University was changed to Madurai Kamaraj University to honour one of the most illustrious sons of our country, Late Mr Kamaraj (ex-Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu). Official Website:

Tuesday, April 1, 2008


Tirupparankundram, a hill five miles southwest of Madurai, is the fourth pilgrimage site of Muruga. A cave temple dedicated to the element of earth and mentioned in various classical Tamil texts as the 'Southern Himalaya' where the gods assemble, Tirupparankunram is also mentioned in legend as 'the place where the sun and moon abide'. Murugan was married to Devasena(or Devayani) upon the hill and for many centuries the Tamil people have considered it the most auspicious place for their own marriages, especially during the time of the Pankuni Uttiram, the festival of marriage held in late March. Besides the fantastic temple to Murugan on the hill, there is also a Muslim shrine dedicated to 'Sekunder' or Alexander, the great who is associated with Murukan by the Muslim pilgrims. "Sikandar was a friend of Murugan at the time when Murugan was King here," they say.
Tirupparankundram is situated three miles southeast of Madurai on the main railway line. It is one of the Aru padai veedugal or six sacred places selected by Lord Subrahmanya for his abode. The importance of this temple is that here was celebrated the marriage of Lord Subrahmanya with the daughter of Indra, Devayani.
Long, long ago, when Lord Subrahmanya was staying at Kanda Verpu, the two daughters of Lord Maha Vishnu, Amrita Valli and Sundara Valli, cherished the desire of becoming the consorts of Subrahmanya. With this aim in mind they both went to Saravana Poigai and commenced austere penance to fulfil their desires.
Pleased with their prayer and worship, Lord Subrahmanya appeared before them and told Amrita Valli, "You will be brought up by Indra as his daughter and I shall marry you in due course." Her younger sister Sundara Valli was also graced with a similar blessing. She was born to sage Sivamuni and brought up by Nambi, the headman of Veddas.
Amrita Valli took the form of a female child and went to Mount Meru, the abode of Indra, and told him, "I am the daughter of Maha Vishnu and the responsibility of looking after me has been entrusted to you." On hearing this, Indra became very happy and directed Airavatam, his white elephant, to take care of the child.
The elephant with all love brought her up and affection and she attained the age of marriage in course of time. Hence she came to be known as Devayanai, one who was brought up by the heavenly elephant of Indra (yānai in Tamil means elephant).
The six sons of sage Parasara were cursed to become fishes in the Saravana Poigai. On request for redemption, these six boys were ordered to pray to Lord Subrahmanya.
When they got his darshan, they could get redemption. It was also made known to them that Lord Subrahmanya would come to Tirupparankunram after vanquishing the demon Surapadma. Anxiously they waited for the arrival of Subrahmanya.
When the mission of Subrahmanva to vanquish Surapadma was over at Tiruchendur, on his way, he came to this spot followed by all the devas and heavenly beings whom he had released from the untold miseries caused by Surapadma.
On his arrival at Tirupparankunram, the sons of Parasara received Subrahmanya and, at their request, he consented to stay there. He at once ordered Viswakarma to construct a beautiful abode for himself, for the devas and for others.
He also suggested to the heavenly architect to build roads and erect a city around them. Indra, the king of the angels, desired to get his daughter Devayanai married to Subrahmanya, as a mark of his gratitude for relieving him and the devas from the depredations of the demon Surapadma.
He expressed his desire to Brahma and Vishnu who were present there. They were only too glad to hear the proposal. When they communicated the desire of Indra to Lord Subrahmanya he readily agreed to it and said: "Devayanai has been praying at Saravana Poigai in the Himalayas for this happy marriage. Now the time has come for its being solemnised." As Subrahmanya agreed to this marriage, Indra sent a messenger to bring his wife Indrani and daughter Devayanai from Mout Meru.
The marriage took place at Tirupparankunram, after the victory of Subrahmanya over Surapadma. All arrangements for marriage were made and the marriage was performed at the Tirupparankunram Temple. All the devas, Siva and Parvati attended the marriage and blessed Subrahmanya and Devayanai. Since then, the temple has become a very famous abode of Subrahmanya