Monday, June 30, 2008


Tamil Nadu was divided into three principal kingdoms, namely, Chera Nadu, Chola Nadu and Pandya Nadu, and ruled by Chera, Chola and Pandya kings. (This arrangement goes back to from the very beginning of written Tamil history.) During the reign of Rajathi Raja Cholan II over Chola Nadu (1163 - 1179), there was a quarrel within the Pandyan royal family for the throne of Pandiya Nadu. Both Parakkirama Pandyan and Kulasekhara Pandyan claimed the throne. Local chieftains within Pandya Nadu (who ruled small principalities subservient to the Pandya throne) took sides and a civil war ensued in Pandya Nadu.

Parakkirama Pandyan held the capital city of Madurai and Kulasekhara Pandyan laid siege to it. Instead of keeping the fight within Pandya Nadu or even seeking help from a fellow Tamil king, Parakkirama Pandyan sought help from the Sinhala king Parakramabahu who was ruling the nearby island of Lanka. (Lanka is today called Sri Lanka. British called it Ceylon when it was part of the British Empire. Tamils used to call it Eelam or Ilankai. In recent years "Tamil Eelam" is used to refer to the historical Tamil homeland in the northern and eastern regions of the island.) Parakramabahu sent an army under the command of a Sinhala general, Lankapura (Lankapuri in Tamil). Before the army reached Pandya Nadu, Kulasekhara Pandyan capture Madurai and killed Parakkirama Pandyan. His son Veera Pandyan fled the capital and went into hiding. By now the Sinhala army landed in Pandya Nadu with orders from King Parakramabahu to defeat Kulasekhara Pandyan and put Veera Pandyan on the throne. The Sinhala army captured the coastal town of Rameshwaram and destroyed much of the famed Hindu temple for Lord Sivan (Lord Siva).

The Sinhala army marched from the coast into the interior of Pandya Nadu. It looted and burned many Tamil villages on the way. In the ensuing battles between the Sinhala army and Kulasekhara Pandyan's army, the latter met with defeat after defeat. Lankapura brought Veera Pandyan from hiding and installed him as the Pandya king in Madurai.

Kulasekhara Pandyan gathered all forces in Padya Nadu loyal to him and waged war again and won a major victory against Lankapura. Veera Pandyan fled Madurai again. Lankan King Parakramabahu sent reinforcements under the command of another Sinhala General, Jagat Vijaya (Jagat Vijayan). The combined forces of Lankapura and Jagat Vijaya defeated Kulasekhara Pandyan. The latter fled to the south (what is now known as Thirunelveli District) and sought help from the Chola King Rajathi Raja Cholan II. Rajathi Rajan sent an army under General Pallavarayan (Pallavarayar) to Pandya Nadu. He fought several battles with the Sinhalese army. Some of the major battles were at Thirukkanapaer, Thondi, Pasipon Amaravathi, Manamerkudi and Manjakudi. In the end Sinhalese army lost and Kulasekhara Pandyan became king of Pandya Nadu.

Furious at reports of the devastation of Pandya Nadu under the Sinhala army (looting and burning of villages, killing of villagers, desecration of the Rameswaram temple), Rajarthiraja Cholan ordered General Pallavarayan to capture and execute General Lankapuri who commanded the Sinhala army in Pandya Nadu. Pallavarayan pursued Lankapuri, captured him and beheaded him. The severed head was hoisted on a spear at the gates of Madurai, the Pandyan capital. Crows and other birds ate the flesh of the head, and the skull remained on display at the gates for months. Thus ended the occupation of Pandya Nadu (about one-third of Tamil Nadu) by the Sinhalese army. [NOTE: The beheading and the public display of the severed head may look uncivilized and barbaric today but it was not an uncommon practice in those days. Today war criminals are executed in private (example: many German and Japanese officers were executed after the Second Word War in the 1940s).]


The history of this pond is as old as Madurai itself.When Kumari Kandam sank into the Indian ocean by repeated deluges, the TenMadurai of the Mudhal Sangam age and Kabadapuram of Idai sangam age submerged into the ocean depths. Later down history, the Pandyan Kings were on the look out for a place to build a new capital that will recapture the legendary glory of the sunken Madurai of their forefathers. According to legend , some merchants passing through a forest known as Kadambavanam saw a beautiful lotus pond and a wooden temple on its bank.They were so fascinated by this location that they reported about it to their king Kulasekara Pandian on return. Soon a 'lotus shaped' city was planned with the pond and temple as its center.
The lotus tank evolved into an important city center in the height of the last Pandian era. The area around this pond was the meeting place of the Kadai Sangam - the last of the ancient academy of poets.

The pond is now a source of too many myths or rather jokes…One is about the Tamil sangam… The story goes that the academy judged the worth of any work of literature presented before it by throwing it into this pond. Only those that did not sink were considered worthy of attention. Another joke i heard is that , the pond is the drop of nectare that fell form Shiva's hair and hence the city was named madurapuri (drop of nectare)! Iam pained to see that reputable and learned people of the city saying stuff like this and making a mockery of our great Sangam culture and our basic common sence!

Friday, June 27, 2008


The Sangam Age in Tamilnadu witnessed prosperity in all spheres of life. The land was divided into Kurinji, Mullai, Marudam, Neitha! and Palai. The life of the people in these divisions differed. The hunters and honey gatherers lived in Kurinji, Mullai and Palai regions. The farmers and the fishermen lived in Marudam and Neithal lands respectively. The people of Sangam Age had a well-organized social life. They lived in both towns and rural areas. Agriculture, pearl fishing and weaving were some of the important occupations of the people. Fine arts like music, dance, drama and painting flourished. Temple architecture also flourished well during the rule of the ancient Tarnil kings.The hospitality of the ancient Tamils is proverbial. It was in high order and the tradition is continuing even today. Thiruvalluvar wrote much about hospitality in his Thirukkural.
Arruppadai speaks at length about the kings and the Feudatories who patronized the poets and the scholars.
The Tamil people had observed certain social, religious and moral customs. They possessed the qualities of courage, honour, courtesy and loyalty. The Chera king Neduncheralathan went up to the Himalayas and returned victoriously. He assumed the title of Himayavaramban. A Chola king hoisted the tiger flag on the Himalayas. The ancient Tamils also had the practice of raising hero stones called Virakkals in honor of the heroes who died while fighting for the king. Receiving wounds in the battlefields at the back was considered as a shameful deed.
The women of the Sangam Age enjoyed respectable position. However, male chauvinism prevailed. Some women were educated. We come across women poets like Kaakkai Paadiniyar, Pon Mudiyar and Avvaiyar. Some of them had knowledge in politics. At times they used to advise the kings. Chastity was the most important virtue of Tamil women. They considered Karpu much more important for them than life itself. They were highly devoted towards their husbands. Chaste women were greatly respected in the society.

The Sangam people had brisk internal trade. The wholesalers, retailers and hawkers had indulged themselves in brisk trade. Barter system prevailed in internal trade. The business people sold their goods by openly announcing the profits that they were aiming at. Honest trade led to increased trade and the increased trade led to the increased prosperity. Integrity in trade was accepted as a general principleThe people of the Sangam age traded with Rome, Greece, Africa, Sri Lanka and South East Asia. The Romans liked the pearls of the Pandya kingdom. Gemstones, ivory, sandalwood, peacock, cotton and silks textiles and spices were exported to Greece and Rome.
The ancient Tamils were religious minded. They worshipped Mother Goddess. They also worshipped Siva, Vishnu, Brahma, Indra and Varuna. Festival were organized periodically. The Sangam monarchs gave importance to justice. Hence their rule was benevolent.


During the period of the second sangam the Pandyas had their capital at Kapatapuram and because of that they were also called as Kapata by the ancient custom of a person being called with the name of the place/Ur from where they come from. Thus the Pandyas were also called as the Kapatas. This Kapatas got transformed into Guptas during later period. When natural disaster struck Kapatapuram and destroyed the city the Pandyas capital has to be shifted along
with the people. They settled in present day Madurai on the banks of Vaigai away from the sea. After moving the capital to Madurai and extending/building the Meenakshi temple, the King started the third sangam there. The Cholas and the Elagais helped the Pandyas during this time. The Cholas already a matrimonial relationship with the Pandiyas as King Vijayalaya Cholan had already married a Pandyan princess. After the deluge Cholan men married lot of destitute Pandyan womens who had suffered because of the natural disaster. Some of them moved to Elagai as some(Northern) portion was ruled by the Cholas that time. This is mentioned in the Mahavamsa - the ceylonese chronicle. The pandya men joined the miltary
in large numbers. The Pandya king had to find a way to settle his uprooted people and provide land for agriculture to compensate for the lost land. He looked up North and that starts the campaign to get more land and starts the movement of Tamils to the North one of the many in history. This king was called Nilamtaru Tiruvir Pandyan or the Mudathirumaran the


The Tamil Sangams form one of the main parts of history for the Tamil people. It is a
tradition that they cherish and have been passing it on from generation to generation. Nobody knows exactly what it means and how it came about. According to some it was a literary academy where the scholars or poets met to discuss and criticize various things including literature in Tamilaham. It is mentioned in a commentary on the Iraiyanar Ahapporul.
It is said to have been composed by the sangam poet Nakkirar. According to tradition it was a literary academy established and supported by the Pandyan Kings. The first sangam or Talai sangam was established at Ten Madurai the capital of the Pandyan kings on the Indian Ocean shores. When a deluge destroyed Ten Madurai the capital was shifted to Kapatapuram and the second sangam called the idai sangam was established there. After sometime when kapatapuram too was destroyed by the sea the capital was shifted to present day Madurai away from the sea on the banks of the Vaigai. Madurai became the latest capital of the Pandyan kings and third sangam or Kadai sangam was established there. There are a number of historical persons and kings associated with these sangams. The Pandiyan king who ruled during the period of establishment of the Third sangam was Mudattirumaran who was lame. His other name was Ariyappadaikadanda Nedunjeliyan. He was contemporary of Karikalan Cholan and Senguttuvan Cheran and Elangai Gajabahu.


When Tamil histrorians talk about King Raja Rajendra Chola's exploits in South East Asia, we hear only the name of Kadaram that goes by the modern name of Kedah, a state in Malaysia today. Kedah has a wealth of ancient temple structures in the world famous Bujang Valley. Apart from Kadaram, there was also the Kingdom of Gangga Nagaram that lies in ruins today further down south after destruction by King Raja Rajendra.

There is yet another forgotten thousand year old city of Kota Gelanggi, raided by the same King, far down South, in the state of Johor. Its ruins in thick jungle have been established via aerial photos and a ground level expedition is being planned.

The discovery of this place hit the headlines of today's The Star newspaper, the major English in Malaysia.

This is the single most exciting news on the ancient history of Malaysia apart from the Bujang Valley.

That makes me wonder, what was King Raja Rajendra Cholan up to in Malaya? Kadaram lies at the northern extremity, Gangga Nagaram lies a little south of Kadaram, whereas Kota Gelanggi lies in the southern extremity of Malaya. All these were destroyed by King Raja Rajendra Cholan. That seems to me the total destruction of the then existing Malay Kingdoms. This was no ordinary battle but all out war.

Thursday, June 19, 2008


Books in English
  • History of the Tamils: from the earliest times to 600 A.D.
    P.T. Srinivas Iyengar
    New Delhi: Asian Educational Services, 1982, Reprint

  • A short history of the ancient Tamils and their literature
    Ratnaswami, Subramaniam
    Annamalainagar: Thaiyalnayaki Velideeyu, 1979

  • The history of the growth of Tamil during the Indian War of Independence
    M.P. Sivagnanam; translated by K. Chellappan
    Madras: University of Madras, 1980

  • Tamil renaissance and Dravidian nationalism 1905-1944
    K. Nambi Arooran
    Madurai: Koodal Publishers, 1980

  • A topographical list of inscriptions in the Tamil Nadu and Kerala states
    T.V. Mahalingam
    New Delhi: Indian Council of Historical Research: S. Chand, 1985-

  • Neolithic and megalithic cultures in Tamil Nadu
    B. Narasimhaiah
    Delhi: Sundeep Prakashan, 1980

  • The Manipravala literature of the Srivaisnava Acaryas : 12th to 15th century A.D.
    Koil Kandadai Appan Venkatachari
    Bombay : Ananthacharya Research Institute, 1978.

  • European impact on modern Tamil writing and literature
    Somalay [i.e. S.M.L. Lakshmanan Lena].
    Trivandrum : Dravidian Linguistic Association ; Madras,1976.

  • Tamil ilakkiya varalaru, Ki. Pi. 1 nutal: Camanamum Tamilum, Pauttamum Tamilum, Vainavamum Tamilum
    E.S. Varataraja Aiyar
    Annamalainakar]: Annamalaip Palkalaik Kalakam, 1979

  • The brahmin in the Tamil country
    N. Subrahmanian
    Madurai: Ennes Publications, 1989

  • Tamil polity, c. A.D. 600-c. A.D. 1300
    Rajalakshmi, R.
    Madurai: Ennes Publications, 1983

  • Symbols of substance, court and state in Nayaka period Tamilnadu
    Velcheru Narayana Rao, David Shulman, Sanjay Subrahmanyam
    Delhi; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992

  • History of Tamil Nadu, 1565-1982
    K. Rajayyan
    Madurai: Raj Publishers, 1982

  • The role of feudatories in later Chola history
    M.S. Govindasamy
    Annamalai Nagar: Annamalai University, 1979

  • Selections from history of Tamilnadu, 1565-1965<^br> K. Rajayyan
    Madurai: Madurai Pub. House, 1978

  • A history of the Maravas, 1700-1802
    S. Kadhirvel
    Madurai: Madurai Publishing House, 1977

  • The congress in Tamilnad: nationalist politics in south India, 1919-1937
    David Arnold
    Columbia, Mo.: South Asia Books, 1977

  • March to freedom in Madras Presidency, 1916-1947
    Saroja Sundararajan
    Madras: Lalitha Publications, 1989

  • The national movement in Tamil Nadu, 1905-14: agitational politics and state coercion
    N. Rajendran
    Madras; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994

  • Tamil: Sprache als politisches Symbol: politische Literatur in der Tamilsprache in den Jahren 1945 bis 1967: mit besonderer Berucksichtigung der Schriften der Fuhrer der dravidischen Bewegung E.V. Ramacami und C.N. Annaturai
    Dagmar Hellmann-Rajanayagam
    Wiesbaden: Steiner, 1984

  • A history of the Tamil siddha cult
    R. Venkatraman
    Madurai: Ennes Publications, 1990

  • Folk beliefs of the Tamils
    translated and edited by M. Shanmugam Pillai (1920 - ), Erica A.E. Claus
    Madurai: Muttu Patippakam, 1981

  • Caste, nationalism and ethnicity: an interpretation of Tamil cultural history and social order
    J. Pandian
    Bombay: Popular Prakashan, 1987

  • Play, Symbolism, and Ritual : A Study of Tamil Brahmin Women's Rites of Passage
    Vasumathi K. Duvvury
    American University Studies, Series Xi, Anthropology and Sociology,4);
    Peter Lang Publishing, June 1991, ISBN: 0820411086

  • The Powers of Tamil Women
    Susan S. Wadley (Editor)
    Syracuse Univ, November 1991, ISBN: 0915984423
    Foreign and Comparative Studies/South Asian Series, No 6)

  • Shakti : Power in the Conceptual Structure of Karimper Religion
    Susan S. Wadley
    Univ of Chicago, June 1975, ISBN: 0916256014

  • Tamil research through journals: (an annotated bibliography)
    A.A. Manavalan
    Madras: International Institute of Tamil Studies, 1975

  • Mission and Tamil society: social and religious change in South India (1840-1900)
    Henriette Bugge
    Richmond: Curzon, 1994

  • Chieftains of the Sangam age
    K.D. Thirunavukkarasu (Tirunavukkaracu, Ka. Ta., 1931- )
    Madras : International Institute of Tamil Studies, 1994.1st ed.

Books in Tamil
  • Tamil nattuppura iyal ayvu
    patippaciriyar Ca. Ve. Cuppiramaniyan (Subramanian, Shanmuga Velayutham, 1929- )
    Cennai: Ulakat Tamilaraycci Niruvanam, 1979, 1st ed.
    International Institute of Tamil Studies Publication no.13

  • thamizh naattup pazhankuti makkaL: vaazhvum varalaarum
    Cu. Caktivel (S. Sakthivel)
    Citamparam: Manivacakar Nulakam, 1980

  • Tamizhum pirathuraikaLum
    patippaciriyar Na. Katikacalam. Ed. Cennai : Ulakat Tamilaraycci Niruvanam, 1994.1st.
    International Institute of Tamil Studies Publication, no. 191.