Sunday, February 19, 2017

Naviram Hills (Parvathamalai) and Chieftain Nannan as Portrayed in Sangam Poem Malaipadukadam

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Naviram Hill (Nanviramalai) (நவிரமலை) is one of the hill range described in Malaipadukadam (மலைபடுகடாம்),  a Sangam poetic work in Pattuppattu (பத்துப்பாட்டு) anthology. Before two thousand years ago the Javadhu hill-range (ஜவ்வாதுமலை), an extension of the Eastern Ghats comprising the modern Tiruvannamalai and Vellore districts of Tamil Nadu, was known as Palkunrakkottam ('பல்குன்றக் கோட்டம்'). Thondai Nadu (தொண்டைநாடு), a historical region situated in the northern part of Tamil Nadu, was divided into 24 districts or 'Kottams.' Palkunrakkottam was one among the 24 kottams. Palkunrakkottam means the land surrounded by hillocks (குன்று சூழிருக்கை நாடு). The Javadhu hill range extends about 50 miles (80 km) wide and 20 miles (32 km) long and lies at about 2350 feet to 3500 feet above sea level. In the opinion of U.V.Swaminatha Iyer, the Naviram hill range, situated in Thenmathimangalam village, Kalasapakkam taluk,  Tiruvannamalai district, Tamil Nadu, India, is now known as "Parvathamalai. Most of the scholars agree his view. Lines 81-84 and 579 of Malaipadukadam refers Naviram hills and "Kariyundikkadavul," (காரி உண்டிக் கடவுள) "the god who drank poison," as the Lord of Naviram Hills.

நீரகம் பனிக்கும் அஞ்சுவரு கடுந்திறல்
பேரிசை நவிர மேஎ யுறையும்
காரி உண்டிக் கடவுள தியற்கையும் (மலைபடுகடாம்.81-84)
(Know the greatness of the god who resides in Naviram who ate poison, who causes the earth surrounded with water to tremble!)

கழைவளர் நவிரத்து மீமிசை ஞெரேரென (மலைபடுகடாம்,579)
Nannan showers unspoiled wealth like the rain showers on Naviram Mountain, the lord of the country surrounded by mountains... )

The present presiding deity of the hill temple of Parvatamalai (பர்வதமலை) is named in Sanskrit as "Kalakanteshvarah" (காலகண்டேஸ்வரர்) - 'the god whose neck is dark blue.' The hill temple is popularly known as Lord Mallikarjunaswamy (மல்லிகார்ச்சுணசுவாமி) (Lord Shiva) temple. The resemblance of the name of the presiding deity stands as evidence for assigning Naviram Hill as Parvatamalai. Parvathamalai is also known as Kandhamalai, Mallikarjunamalai, Naviramalai, Parvathagiri, Sanjeevigiri, Thenkailayam and Trisulagiri.

அடிக்கொரு லிங்கம் அண்ணாமலை,பிடிக்கொரு லிங்கம் பர்வதமலை

Palkunrakkottam was ruled by Nannan, son of Nannan, the Velir Chieftain of Chenkanmä (பல்குன்றக் கோட்டத்துச் செங்கண்மாத்துவேண்மான் நன்னன் சேய் நன்னன்), a Velir chieftain. Naviram Hill formed part of his country. He was also the lord of Cheyaru valley.

குன்று சூழ் இருக்கை நாடு கிழவோனே
(Nannan, the lord of the country surrounded by mountains)

Malaipadukadam narrates Naviram hill as Nannan's hill. The poet Perunkausikanar addresses a group of Kuttar and advises them to seek the patronage of king Nannan son of Nannan whose territory includes Naviram Hill. Chenkanma (செங்கண்மா) was the capital of Nannan's country. Chenkanma is presently identified as Chengam (செங்கம்), a town in Chengam taluk in Tiruvannamalai district of Tamil Nadu state, India.

Parvatamalai (பர்வதமலை)

The geographical coordinates of Parvathamalai are 12°26'11"N latitude and 78°58'19"E longitude. The steep vertical rock cliff is 1219 m (4000 feet) high from sea level and spans around 5500 acres.  The hill is 20 km from Polur 25 km from Chengam, 25 km from Kadaladi and 35 km (approx) from Tiruvannamalai.. Chengam, Kadaladi, Tiruvannamalai and Polur are located on the south eastern side of the Javadhu hills.

How to Get There?

There are two routes to reach on top of Parvathamalai hill. One route is through Thenmathimangalam village located in Polur - Chengam road. Another route is through Kadaladi (north of Tiruvannamalai). Kadaladi route is shorter than Thenmadhimangalam route. People find it is easy to climb through Thenmathimangalam route.The flight of steps leading to the hill commences from foot hills and there is a balipeeta as well as shrines of Vinayaka and Subramaniyar with consorts Valli and Devayani.

However both Thenmathimagalam and Kadaladi routes meet at the common junction and from there it is a single route leading to the summit of the hill.  It is the steep and rocky terrain. Trekking on top of Parvathamalai cliff is a very challenging task. A steep climb offering more than 1219 m (4000 feet) vertical feet . The rough terrain path has iron rod steps, track steps, ladder steps, and sky steps (Agaya padi) usually not found at other such sacred mountains. Kadapparai (crow bar) path section is considered as the most toughest phase of the hike. Iron rods are planted after drilling the rock and the chains between the rods help the trekkers to cross the sharp ascent. The view on the way up is scenic with medicinal flora. Mounaguruswamy Ashram is located near to the temple. Feeding the devotees (Annadhanam) is taking place during full moon day occasions.

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The prime deity of the hill-temple is Sri Mallikarjunaswamy and goddess Sri Bramarambigai also known as Sri Akilandesvari amman.  The temple is not protected by doors or compound wall. Surprisingly no priests are available to perform puja rituals or ablution. The devotees is free to do puja and ablution. The hill attracts a lot of devotees every full moon day.

Chenkanma (Chengam) செங்கண்மா (செங்கம்)

Chenkanma was the capital of Nannan son of Nannan. At present this Sangam era town is known as Chengam and is located in Chengam taluk in Tiruvannamalai district of Tamil Nadu state, India PIN 606701. Chengam lies on the geographical coordinates of 10.15654°N and 76.208982°E and the elevation / altitude is 272 meter (892 feet).  It is located 36 km towards west from district head quarters Tiruvannamalai. There is no railway station near to Chengam in less than 10 km. However Katpadi Jn. Railway station is the major railway station located 92 km from to Chengam.

Nannan, son of Nannan, the Velir Chieftain of Chenkanmä of Palkunrakkottam ruled the town Chenkanma. Over the period of time the name Chenkanma transformed into Chengam. Dr. U.V. Swaminatha Ayyar and other scholars unanimously hold this view. Inscriptions also refer this town as Chenkanma as well as Chengama. Literally Chenkanma in Tamil means the animal with red eyes (Chenkan = red eye and Ma = animal). Perhaps this town might have named after an animal. The town according to Malaipadukadam was located on the southern bank of the river Cheyaru. Present town also located on the southern bank of the river Cheyyaru.

இரை தேர்ந்து இவரும் கொடுந்தாள் முதலையொடு 
திரைபடக் குழிந் தகல்அகழ் கிடங்கின்
வரை புரை நிவப்பின் வான்தோய் இஞ்சி
உரை செல வெறுத்த அவன் மூதூர் மாலையும் 
"Listen now to what I have to tell you about his town with sky-high fort walls surrounded by a wide moat with waves, where crocodiles with curved legs search for prey!" (Malaipadukadam 89 - 94)

வியல் இடம் பெறாஅ விழுப்பெரு நியமத்து … 
யாறு எனக் கிடந்த தெருவின் சாறு என
இகழுநர் வெரூஉம் கவலை மறுகின்
கடல் என கார் என ஒலிக்கும் சும்மையொடு
மலைஎன மழை என மாடம் ஓங்கி
துனிதீர் காதலின் இனிது அமர்ந்து உறையும்
பனி வார் காவின் பல் வண்டு இமிரும்
நனி சேய்த்தன்று அவன் பழவிறல் மூதூர் (480 – 487)
"The streets are wide as rivers and the opulent markets are huge.  People gather together like constant festivities.  The forked streets cause fear in enemies.  There are loud sounds like those from the ocean and the rain.  In the tall mansions that are like mountains and clouds, there are loving people.  There are groves with dew where flowers are swarmed by bees in his ancient, old town that is not far away." (Malaipadukadam 480 - 487)

பொருந்தாத் தெவ்வர் இருந்தலை துமிய
பருந்துபடக் கடக்கும் ஒள் வாள் மறவர்
கருங்கடை எஃகம் சாத்திய புதவின்
அருங்கடி வாயில் ... (488 - 491)
"The protected gates of Nannan is guarded by warriors who chopped the black heads of enemies for kites to descend. The warriors lean their bright spears with black handles on the walls of the gate.." (Malaipadukadam 488 - 491)
Cheyaru (Cheyyaru) சேயாறு (செய்யாறு)

Cheyyaru also known as Ceyaru is a river which originates in Javadhu hills and flows through Tiruvannamalai district before emptying into the Bay of Bengal. Northeast and Southwest monsoons bring most of its rain and is the major source of irrigation for several villages, including the town Cheyyaru. It is the main tributary of Palar river. In Malaipadukadam, the river Cheyyar is called "Cheyaru," the river of Cey, usually understood to be Murugan (The word Cey means "ed" and "son" Today the river goes by the name Shanmuganadhi, the river of Shanmuga or Muruga.

The guiding bard gives a detailed account on the ways and means to reach Nannan Sei Nannan's ancient town situated on the bank of Cheyaru. The lines 474 - 477 points out the prosperous Cheyaru river:

வனைகலத் திகிரியின் குமிழி சுழலும்
துனை செலல் தலைவாய் ஓவு இறந்து வரிக்கும்
காணுநர் வயாஅம் கட்கு இன் சேயாற்றின்
யாணர் ஒரு கரைக் கொண்டனிர் கழிமின்
"If you see a rushing stream with bubbles and whirlpools that whirl like wheels of potters, go on the other  side of the prosperous river Cheyaru which is sweet to behold." (Malaipadukadam 474 - 477)

Malaipadukadam மலைபடுகடாம்

Malaipadukadam (Tamil: மலைபடுகடாம்) (also known as Kuttar Arruppadai (கூத்தர் ஆற்றுப்படை) is one of the poetic work forming part of Patiṉeṇmelkaṇakku (Tamilபதினெண்மேல்கணக்கு) collection and further categorized under Pattuppattu (Tamil: பத்துப்பாட்டு) sub-collection (Ten Idylls). The meaning of the title Malaipadukadam is the "rut that produced by the mountain."  The author is Kousikanar of Iranyamuttam Perungunrur  (இரணிய முட்டத்துப் பெருங்குன்றூர்ப் பெருங்கெளசிகனார்). The lengthy Sangam anthology comprise 583 lines of poetry in the Aciriyappa meter.

Arruppadai (ஆற்றுப்படை)

Among the 'puram' poems, the Arruppadai (ஆற்றுப்படை) had been the earliest. In Pattuppattu there are five Arruppadai poems i.e., Tirumurugarruppadai (திருமுருகாற்றுப்படை), Porunararruppadai (பொருநராற்றுப்படை), Perumpanarruppadai (பெரும்பாணாற்றுப்படை), Cirupanarruppadai (சிறுபாணாற்றுப்படை) and Malaipadukadam (மலைபடுகடாம்)..The title of the poem is 'Malaipadukadam' is unique since this poem in the Pattuppattu anthology do not have the Arruppadai suffix.

Tolkappiyam,  an ancient Tamil Sangam grammatical treatise, prescribes rules for the different types of poetic composition. The third book is Porul adhikaram. Of its nine sections, five deals with aham, one section with puram (புறம்), one each with similes, prosody and idioms. The puram section is concerned with the activities connected with war and also grouped into seven categories or 'tinai.' Patan tinai prescribes grammar to praise the victorious king. Arruppadai poems fall in this category.

கூத்தரும் பாணரும் பொருநரும் விறலியும்
ஆற்றிடைக் ஆட்சி யுறழத் தோன்றிப்
பெற்ற பெருவளம் பெறாஅர்க் கறிவுறி இச்
சென்றுபய னெதிரச் சொன்ன பக்கமும் 
(Tolkappiyam தொல்காப்பியம்-1037)

Arruppadai poems, the unique Sangam literary form, where in one bard or the minstrel (பாணர்), who is returning with bounteous gifts from a Maecenas or Patron (usually the king / chieftain). In all arruppadai poems the bard or the minstrel gained immense opportunity to detail the nature of 'Sangam' terrain', (its beauty, fertility, and other resources) and its territory to be traversed. There is an emphasis on the tedious journey to reach the fort palace of the Maecenas. Among the five arruppadai poems, one of them differs from the others i.e., Tirumurugarruppadai, which directs devotees not to a  Maecenas but to God Murugan.

Sangam Era Musicians

The Sangam musicians were generically categorized into Kuttar (கூத்தர்), Panar (பாணர்), Porunar (பொருநர்), and Viraliar (விறலியர்). The Kuttar were dancers and actors; the Panar were both vocalists and instrumentalists; Porunars, also known as war-bards, were well versed in martial music like Parani (பரணி) and they used to travel with warriors. Viraliyars were female dancers cum singers. Porunars were further categorized into Erkalam Paduvar (ஏற்களம் பாடுவார்), Porkkalam Paduvar (போர்க்களம் பாடுவார்) and Parani Paduvar (பரணி படுவார்). The Panar had the following group: Isaippanar (இசைப்பாணர்), Yazhppanar (யாழ்ப்பாணர்) and Mandaippanar (மண்டைப்பாணர்). Maduraikanchi mentions about Perumpanar (பெரும்பாணர்). The panars mentioned in Malaipadukadam were bestowed with knowledge and skills of the 7 notes and 3 octaves. Pattuppattu books also describes Yazh, the stinged instrument of the Sangam period. Perumpanars (பெரும்பாணர்) played Periyazh (பேரியாழ்) (21 strings) and Sirupanar (சிறுபாணர்) played Seeriyazh (சீறியாழ்) (7 strings). The other yazhs (யாழ்) played by panars include Makarayazh (மகரயாழ்) (19 strings), Sagodayazh (சகோடயாழ்) (14 strings) and Sengottuyazh (செங்கோட்டுயாழ்) (7 strings).

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The wind instruments mentioned in Malaipadukadam include 1. Pili (பிளி) also known as Siruchinam (சிறுசினம்) - a small trumpet; 2. Kodu (கோடு) a.k.a Kombu (கொம்பு), letter 'S' shaped long trumpet; 3. Kanvidutumbu (கண்விடுதும்பு), a flute like instrument with larger  circumference and appears like the trunk of an elephant; and 4. Kuruntumbu (குறுந்தும்பு),. a small flute. Pattuppattu refers several percussion instruments and Murasu (முரசு) was the most common instrument and was in use on all occasions. Malaipadukadam details about the construction and tuning of Murasu. The top of the instrument was covered with skin and tied with leather straps. It also mentions about Muzhavu (முழவு), Aguli (ஆகுளி) or Siruparai (சிறுபறை)  and Tattai (தட்டை)  or Karadijai (கரடிஜை) . It also bring outs a drum known as Ellari (எல்லரி) also known in varied names as Salli (சல்லி) or Sallikai (சல்லிகை). The instrument parai, made out of bamboo stick produced sound resembling the croaking of frog or the bear.
The poem opens with the poet Kousikanar of Iranyamuttam addressing to the chief of the clan of artists or ''Panars" or bards accompanied by their dancers or viralis.  The length of the poem is 583 lines and the poet devotes about 380 lines to describe the harmful mountain path, (துன்பமான மலைநாட்டு பாதை) leading through village of forest dwellers (கானவர் குடி), village on the path (வழியிலுள்ள சிற்றூர்), Kariyundikkadavul temple (காரியுண்டிக் கடவுள் கோவில்), sparse woodland in the mountain (குன்றுகளில் உள்ள குறுங்காடு), Nannan's  secondary forest (நன்னனின் கானெயில்), Memorial stone area (நடுகற்கள் அமைந்த பகுதி), enemy's land (பகைவர் நிலம்), Mullai (craggy) land (முல்லை நிலம்), Protected outskirts of craggy land  (நாடு காவலமைந்த முல்லை நில புறங்காடு), Farming land (மருத நிலம்), Cheyaru river (சேயாறு) to reach Nannan's abode in the mountain country (நன்னனது மலைநாடு). Nannan would welcome them promptly. The song describes many facets of life in different communities in the hero’s land.  There are exquisite descriptions of nature. The poet compares the mountain range to a herd of elephants. The tall Naviram peak resembles like the mighty elephants.

Sound scape of Malaipadukadam

In all arruppadai poems there is an emphasis on the tedious journey to the abode of the king or chieftain. The poem also stresses the abundance of Nannan's mountain including hills, forests and farm lands. and narrates vast kingdom of Nannan. The poem details the weary and dangerous way as well as many facets of life in the different communities in Nannan’s land and the journey is marked by short stay at strange habitats. Sound, in Malaipadukadam (lines 292 to 348), is often expressed in habitat. The poet employs the word Chummai (சும்மை) and skillfully brings out the connection between the habitats and the sound scape:

The bard begins with the musical sound (இன் இசை) produced by celestial maidens (வான் அர மகளிர்) by scooping water with their hands while bathing in waterfalls. The poem draws comparison of the sound with the drums of the dancers. Another din produced is the strident noise (புரிவளைப் பூசல்) of the hunters (மீமிசைப் பணவைக் கானவர்) by encircling the trapped elephant.  The weeping (அழுகை) of wounded hunters (கானவர்) attacked by spines (எஃகு உறு முள்) of the hedgehog (எய்) is heard and the songs of Kodichiyar (கொடிச்சியர்) women who comfort their wounded hunters (husbands) (கொடுவரி பாய்ந்தென கொழுநர் மார்பில் நெடுவசி விழுப்புண்). In the tall mountains, the young women who raise confusing/protective noises (இடி உமிழ் தழங்கு குரல்) (interpreted by commentators as ‘vengai’, ‘vengai’ meaning ‘tiger’ ‘tiger’ (புலி புலி), when she was leaped and attacked by a bright colored mighty tiger (ஒண் கேழ் வயப்புலி பாய்ந்தென). Her spouse went to get food and take care of her. Poet compare noise with the the painful roaring trumpets of a naive, tender-headed pregnant cow elephant and her herd (கன்று அரைப்பட்ட கயந்தலை மடப்பிடி). The aggrieved black-fingered female monkey (கைக் கோள் மறந்த கருவிரல் மந்தி) and her troop (கிளை) produced continuous loud sounds inarticulately (களையாப் பூசல்) when she lost the clung of her untrained baby monkey (கல்லாப் பார்ப்பு) which fell into the rock crevices (அருவிடர் வீழ்ந்த).

Aboriginal hunters (கானவர்) bring forth joyous sound when they harvested huge honeycombs (தேன்கூடு) with honey (தேன்) collected by bees honey  (பெரும் பயன் தொகுத்த தேம் கொள் கொள்ளை) on the tall mountain after climbing on bamboo ladders  (நிலை பெய்து இட்ட மால்பு நெறி ஆக). The hunters, who drank liquor during the day (நறவு நாட் செய்த குறவர்), celebrate happily since they have destroyed forts of their enemies (அருங் குறும்பு எறிந்த கானவர் உவகை), and that the loot got will serve as gifts to Nannan with perfect spears (திருந்து வேல் அண்ணற்கு).    The hunters drink liquor and celebrate loudly (கல்லென) with kuravai dances in the sky-high mountain (வான் தோய் மீமிசை அயரும் குரவை), with their matrons, to the accompaniment of small, loud deer hide parai drums (மான் தோல் சிறு பறை கறங்க). There are roaring sounds produced by rivers with rocks as they enter rocky crannies (கல் யாறு ஒலிக்கும் விடர் முழங்கு இரங்கு இசை), appearing like beautiful chariots riding in a row (நல் எழில் நெடுந்தேர் இயவு வந்தன்ன).

There are clamors of  mahouts (பாகர்கள்) (elephant trainers or keepers), who speak different professional language (விரவு மொழி பயிற்றும் பாகர் ஓதை). The mahouts bind their fierce elephants to tall posts to reduce their rage, after saving them when they fell into huge whirlpools.  The rattle sounds raised by girls by rattling bamboo (ஒலி கழைத் தட்டை புடையுநர்), to scare the parrot from millet fields and protect standing millet crops (கிளி கடி மகளிர் விளிபடு பூசல்). The tumultuous sound heard from the fight with great rage between the fine bull with large hump, that strayed from its herd (இனத்தின் தீர்ந்த துளங்கு இமில் நல் ஏறு) and the male elk that came from the mountains (மலைத் தலைவந்த மரையான்) and this fight ruined thick-petaled kulavi flowers and kurinji plants (வள் இதழ்க் குளவியும் குறிஞ்சியும் குழைய). The vocal sound made by boys (மகாஅர்), who thrash the seeds of sweet arils (bulbs) of the jack fruit (பலாச்சுளை) that was dropped on the ground  by many who ate the fruits (வண் கோட் பலவின் சுளை விளை தீம் பழம் உண்டு), by driving calves (கன்று கடாஅவுறுக்கும்) with the ladle like petals of fragrant gloriosa (kanthal) flowers (காந்தட் துடுப்பின் கமழ் மடல் ஓச்சி). The typical noises of machines which crush sugarcane with nodes rapidly (ஞெரேரெனக் கழை கண் உடைக்கும் கரும்பின் ஏத்தமும்) in all the factories (ஆலைதொறும்), that appear like the sounds of rain (மழை கண்டன்ன). The young women pound the millet by singing Vallai song (a kind of folk song) (தினை குறு மகளிர் இசைபடு வள்ளையும்) The beating of parai drums produced beat sound to chase the pillaging and plundering pigs ( பன்றிப் பறையும்) and protect turmeric plants and chēmpu yam (Colocasia antiquorum, Colocasia esculenta) (சேப்பங்கிழங்கு) crops (சேம்பும் மஞ்சளும் ஓம்பினர் காப்போர்).

... ... ... .................. குன்றகச் சிலம்பும்
என்று இவ் அனைத்தும் இயைந்து ஒருங்கு ஈண்டி
அவலவும் மிசையவும் துவன்றிப் பல உடன்
அலகைத் தவிர்த்த எண் அருந் திறத்த
மலைபடு கடாஅம் மாதிரத்து இயம்ப (Malaipadukadam 344 - 348)

"All these and other sounds (குன்றகச் சிலம்பும் என்று இவ் அனைத்தும்) , countless in numbers (அலகைத் தவிர்த்த எண்) join together (இயைந்து ஒருங்கு ஈண்டி), are heard in the canyons (அவலவும்) and peaks (மிசையவும்) in all directions (மாதிரத்து இயம்ப). The sounds join together and ooze from the mountain (மலைபடு கடாஅம்) like musth flowing from a bull elephant, rare to hear alone."

Food scape in Malaipadukadam

Food is the perennial theme in Sangam arruppadai poems. The guiding bard praises about the benevolence of the king or chieftain to the travelling bard. In an interesting manner food features an important place in the context of the guiding bard, travelling bard and the patron in Arruppadai poems. In Malaipadukadam the guiding bard speaks about the hospitality of the chieftain Nannan's land as well as his citizens.

"When you reach the prosperous small village of the forest dwellers (கானவர் குடி), who carry honey, tubers and flesh of small-eyed pigs (சிறுகட் பன்றி) with unwanted parts removed, using tusks of dead elephants as carrying poles, you and your large clan of relatives will receive abundant food." (Malaipadukadam 151 - 157).

பரூஉக்குறை பொழிந்த நெய்க்கண் வேவையொடு
குரூஉக்கண் இறடிப் பொம்மல் பெறுகுவிர் (Malaipadukadam 167 – 169)

"Hospitality in a Village on the Path: 

"Now hear what kind of food you will receive. When you reach a village on the mountain slope and if you tell them that you are the respected musicians of the honored king Nannan, you will receive from them dishes with big pieces of deer meat roasted in ghee along with colorful millet rice. Along with food they will give you sweet liquor aged in bamboo pipes (வேய்ப் பெயல் விளையுள் தேக்கட் தேறல்) and toddy made from rice (நறவு மகிழ்ந்து), which you can drink without limits. And for your hangover to go, in the morning they will serve you scattered seeds of fruits brought down by waterfalls mixed with sour-sweet tamarind fruit and buttermilk in just proportion (வெண்புடைக் கொண்ட துய்த்தலைப் பழனின் இன் புளிக் கலந்து மா மோர் ஆக); and while cooking it she stirs it so that  fragrance of the food is felt throughout  the hills. She serves it with boiled white bamboo rice (வால் அவிழ் வல்சி அகம்)." (Malaipadukadam 170 - 185)

அகம் மலி உவகை ஆர்வமொடு அளைஇ
மகமுறை தடுப்ப மனைதொறும் பெறுகுவிர் (183 – 185)

Hospitality on the Mountain Path:

"When you go on the mountain path you will see a dead boar with wounds on his chest, its tusks ruined by digging, killed by a forest guard from high above with arrows. Roast it in the dry bamboo fire which burns without much smoke, remove the hair and eat it. Relax and drink clear water from the beautiful sapphire colored fresh spring. Carry the excess meat in heavy bundles. At night enter a mountain cave and treat it like it is your home". (Malaipadukadam 245 - 255)

Hospitality in Nannan's Enemy Land:

"If you reach the land of Nannan's enemies by night, the noisy place where sounds in the forest are like those from the ocean, with many herds of sheep and goat mixed together (தகர் விரவு துருவை வெள்ளையொடு விரைஇ) like the different colors of rice (பகர் விரவு நெல்லின் பல அரி அன்ன) obtained through bartering, you will be given milk and food that they cooked for themselves". (Malaipadukadam 394 - 420)

“If you see warriors with sharp arrows and curved bows tell them you are going to see Nannan, they will force feed you with abundant meat and tubers. They are the ones that will protect you, not hurt you. Such is the nature of the forest".  (Malaipadukadam 421 - 427) 

Hospitality in Village Huts:

“At night in the villages with huts you will be served cooked bamboo rice and rice grown on high grounds along with tamarind gravy with avarai beans. In all the villages with huts you will receive huge balls of rice made with tiny perfect rice, butter and meat of white goats. You will also get dishes made with fine millet flour mixed with powdered sugar. Leave in the morning when the birds start chirping". .  (Malaipadukadam 434 - 448) 

Hospitality in the Agricultural Land:

"In the farmlands fishermen's wives mix slices of large necked valai fish with large slices of varal fish and cook. Along with these they serve rice from mountain-like haystacks kept on mounds near the fields. They will also serve liquor made with paddy sprouts".. .  (Malaipadukadam 454 - 470) 

Nannan's Generosity:

"At Nannan's palace you will receive fresh meat and white rice with no limits. You will enjoy this throughout your stay, as much as you want. He will give you perfect clothing, and tall chariots that run like flowing water, large herds of cattle, and horses with tufts decorated with gold jewels. He fills the hands of poets who have nothing with his large hands"..  (Malaipadukadam 560 - 570) 

Nannan's Ancestors 

This Sangam anthology extols the hero of the poem, Nannan, son of Nannan, the Velir Chieftain of Chenkanmä, his qualities, his wealth, and his generosity.  The father of Nannan, the hero of Malaipadukadam, whose name also Nannan, ruled the Ezhil Hills (Ezhilmalai) and Param town of Konkana Nadu (Tulu Nadu i.e., Tulu-speaking region spread over parts of the Karnataka and Kerala states of India) during 2nd century AD. Paranar, famous Sangam era poet, refers to Nannan, who was ill famed as woman killer (பெண்கொலை புரிந்த நன்னன்), in a number of poems.  He was known as Konkanathu Nannan (கொங்கணத்து நன்னன்). The woman was sentenced to death by Nannan for the fault of eating a mango fruit that came to her floating down the stream in which she was bathing. Thus Nannan got bad reputation for killing a woman. Nannan denied to commute the death sentence in spite of being offered eighty one tusker elephants and the gold image of woman as compensation. It is not certain that this event is fact or legend.

மண்ணிய சென்ற ஒண்ணுதல் அரிவை
புனல்தரு பசுங்காய் தின்றதன் தப்பற்கு
ஒன்பதிற் றொன்பது களிற்றொடு அவள்நிறை
பொன்செய் பாவை கொடுப்பவுங் கொள்ளான்
பெண்கொலை புரிந்த நன்னன் போல
வரையா நிரையத்துச் செலீஇயரோ
(குறுந்தொகை, Kuruntokai 292, 1-5). 

Kalladanar in Akananuru poem 199 spoke about Konkanathu Nannan who was defeated and killed by Kalankai-Kanni Narmudi Cheral. Patirrupattu also refer the defeat of Nannan by  Kalankai-Kanni Narmudi Cheral who also engaged in cutting his Vagai tree . He could have lived much earlier to our Nannan, the hero of Malaipadukadam.

Akananuru poems 97 and 152 refer Nannan Venman as the chieftain of Pali (பாழி), Viyalur (வியலூர்), Param (பாரம்), and Pirambu (பிரம்பு) of Konkanam region. 

"நறவுமகிழ் இருக்கை நன்னன் வேண்மான்
வயலை வேலி வியலூ ரன்ன" 

"இசைநல் லீகைக் களிறுவீசு வண்மகிழ்
பாரத்துத் தலைவன் ஆர நன்னன்
ஏழில் நெடுவரைப் பாழிச் சிலம்பில்" 
(Akananuru 152)

Akananuru poem 396 : line 2 -6 refer another Nannan. The friend of Nannan is Ay Eyinan, a chieftain who fought with Minili in Pali battle (பாழி போர்) and got killed (Akananuru 396 : 2-6). Paranar most often refer this Nannan, who could be the father of Nannan, t,he hero of Malaipadukadam. 

பொலம்பூண் நன்னன் புன்னாடு கடிந்தென
யாழிசை மறுகில் பாழி யாங்கண்
அஞ்சல் என்ற ஆய் எயினன்
இகலடு கற்பின் மிஞிலியொடு தாக்கித்
தன்னுயிர் கொடுத் தனன்          
(Akananuru. 396 : 2-6)

இரும்பொன் வாகைப் பெருந்துறைச் செருவில்
பொலம்பூண் நன்னன் பொருதுகளத் தொழிய
வலம்படு கொற்றந் தந்த வாய்வாள்
களங்காய்க் கண்ணி நார்முடிச் சேரல்
இழந்தநாடு தந்தன்ன வளம்
(Akananuru. 199 : 18-24)

Yet another Nannan Udiyan is referred by Paranar in Akananuru 258 line 1 - 4 and he belonged to ancient Velir clan (Tonmudir Velir) of Pali town (பாழி நகர்). Udiyan was the name of a family tree.

Nannan son of Nannan: As Delineated in Malaipadukadam

The poet Perunkausikanar addresses a group of Kuttar and advises them to seek the patronage of king Nannan whose territory includes Naviramalai, a mountain range in Tiruvannamalai district, which features prominently in the poem. Many scholars agree with U.V.Swaminatha Iyer's assignation of Naviramalai, the Sangam era hill range, with the present "Parvatamalai" One of the pieces of evidence which favors this assignation is the name mentioned in the poem, "Kariyundikkadavul," (காரியுண்டிக்கடவுள்) the god who drank poison, referring to god Shiva who resides in this hill. (Malaipadukadam 83). Today the deity, who resides in this hill temple, is called by the Sanskrit name "Kalakanteshvarah" (காலகண்டேஸ்வரா) - the god whose neck is dark blue. There is also a river which flows in this region. In the poem it is called "Ceyaru," the river of Cey, usually understood to be Murugan (The word Cey means "ed" and "son" Today the river goes by the name Shanmuganadhi, the river of Shanmuga or Muruga.

Malaipadukadam provides a vivid description of Nannan's wives in the first instance and then proceed to introduce Nannan as their husband. "Nannan is the husband to women with curved, rounded arms that resemble bamboo; moist eyes that appear like flowers, and painted, pretty breasts. His chest, decorated with sandal paste, has flower garlands on which bees swarm.  His large hands are trained to use bows.  He has great strength to ruin enemy lands, a man of clear thinking who avoids evil thoughts.  He has the lovely nature to donate to bards who plant seeds of praise."

புனை தார்ப் பொலிந்த வண்டுபடு மார்பின்
வனை புனை எழில் முலை வாங்கு அமைத் திரள் தோள்
மலர் போல் மழைக்கண் மங்கையர் கணவன் (56 - 58)
முனைபாழ் படுக்கும் துன்அருந் துப்பின்
இசை நுவல் வித்தின் நசை ஏர் உழவர்க்குப்
புதுநிறை வந்த புனல் அம் சாயல்
மதி மாறு ஓரா நன்று உணர் சூழ்ச்சி
வில் நவில் தடக்கை மே வரும் பெரும் பூண்
நன்னன் சேய் நன்னற் ... ... .. (Malaipadukadam 56 - 64)

"Nannan has the ability to bring his enemies under his control, and he gives totally to those who praise his kingship. Like the unfailing skies that drop pure water drops, with a peaceful countenance, he gives without keeping for himself.  In his happy court, he is surrounded by the wise who protect and express the views of those with limited abilities who are unable to express themselves in front of others."

பலர் புறம் கண்டு அவர் அருங்கலம் தரீஇ
புலவோர்க்குச் சுரக்கும் அவன் ஈகை மாரியும்
இகழுநர்ப் பிணிக்கும் ஆற்றலும் புகழுநர்க்கு
அரசு முழுது கொடுப்பினும் அமரா நோக்கமொடு
தூத்துளி பொழிந்த பொய்யா வானின்

வீயாது சுரக்கும் அவன் நாள் மகிழ் இருக்கையும்
நல்லோர் குழீஇய நா நவில் அவையத்து
வல்லார் ஆயினும் புறம் மறைத்து சென்றோரைச்
சொல்லிக் காட்டி சோர்வு இன்றி விளக்கி
நல்லிதின் இயக்கும் அவன் சுற்றத்து ஒழுக்கமும் (Malaipadukadam 71 - 80)

"Know the greatness of the god who resides in Naviram who ate poison, who causes the earth surrounded with water to tremble!  Know the faultless, splendid nature of Nannan who is like the sun that rises, chasing wide spread, pitch darkness, to usher in the day!"

நீர் அகம் பனிக்கும் அஞ்சு வரு கடுந்திறல்
பேர் இசை நவிரம் மேஎய் உறையும்
காரி உண்டிக் கடவுளது இயற்கையும்
பாய் இருள் நீங்கப் பகல் செய்யா எழுதரும்
ஞாயிறு அன்ன அவன் வசை இல் சிறப்பும் (Malaipadukadam 81 - 85)

"He marched far into distant enemy countries and routed their armies.  He performed charitable duties to his noble warrior brigades with spears, for ruining the tall battle elephants of enemies.

இகந்தன ஆயினும் தெவ்வர் தேஎம்
நுகம் படக் கடந்து நூழிலாட்டி
புரைத்தோல் வரைப்பின் வேல் நிழற் புலவோர்க்குக்
கொடைக்கடன் இறுத்த அவன் தொல்லோர் வரவும் (Malaipadukadam 85 - 88)

"Nannan the honoured king whose victories in battles cannot be handled by enemies."

நோனாச் செருவின் வலம்படு நோன்தாள்
மான விறல் வேள் வயிரியம் எனினே (Malaipadukadam 163 - 164)

"Nannan has fought many great battles, who has Lakshmi on his chest."

தொல்முறை மரபினர் ஆகி பல்மாண்
செருமிக்குப் புகலும் திரு ஆர் மார்பன் (Malaipadukadam 355 - 356)

 "There are tall forts with army leaders who don’t leave the side of Nannan of great fame.  There are huge bull elephants resembling rain clouds that ruin enemy kings. "

உரை செல வெறுத்த அவன் நீங்காச் சுற்றமொடு
புரை தவ உயரிய மழை மருள் பல்தோல்
அரசு நிலை தளர்க்கும் அருப்பமும் உடைய... (Malaipadukadam 376 - 378)

"There are many memorial (hero stones) stones on confusing, forked paths planted for warriors of fine, unspoiled fame who fought and died, embarrassed after enemy uproars in the field."

ஒன்னார்த் தெவ்வர் உலைவு இடத்து ஆர்த்தென
நல்வழிக் கொடுத்த நாணுடை மறவர்
செல்லா இல்இசைப் பெயரொடு நட்ட
கல் ஏசு கவலை எண்ணு மிகப் பலவே (Malaipadukadam 386 - 389)

"Nannan’s ancient town has tall houses with wealth and citizens who do not move away."

நிதியம் துஞ்சும் நிவந்து ஓங்கு வரைப்பின்
பதி எழல் அறியாப் பழங்குடி ... (Malaipadukadam 478 - 479)

“Nannan! You are the heir of those with truth and great fame, know that their fame should not  stop today, but stay until this world stays, since the great ones who analyzed and knew died!  You are a great one that knows the duties of generosity!”

இன்று இவண் செல்லாது உலகமொடு நிற்ப
இடைத் தெரிந்து உணரும் பெரியோர் மாய்ந்தென
கொடைக் கடன் இறுத்த செம்மலோய் என (Malaipadukadam 341 - 343)


The following poetic inscription dated 12th century was found in Shiva temple, Tiruvannamalai. 
நல்லிசைக் கடாம்புனை நன்னன் வெற்பில் 
வெல்புக ழனைத்தும் மேம்படத் தங்கோன் 
வகையும் குரங்கும் விசைய முந்தீட்டிய 
ஆடல்புனை நெடுவேல் ஆட்கொண்ட தேவன் 

The poetical inscription refer "musically echoing (Naviram) hill of Chieftain Nannan" (நல்லிசைக் கடாம்புனை நன்னன் வெற்பில்).
Anubambigai Samedha Rishabeswarar temple (அனுபாம்பிகை  சமேத ரிஷபேஸ்வரர் ஆலயம்) is located on the banks of river Cheyyar in Kannai (கண்ணை), Chengam town. Poetic inscription dated 12th - 13th century was discovered in 1972 by Mr.M.Chandhiramurthi, Deputy Director (retired), Department of Archeology, Government of Tamil Nadu, Chennai. This poem was sung on one Kangeyan, a chieftain of this region. Kangeyan has conquered the southern king and the army. He became angry and his eyes turned red. The battle was so fierce and devastating. Where it happened? It happened in the hill (Naviramalai) that was the subject matter in the Pattuppattu anthology Malaipadukadam.  The battle ended in a massacre and nothing more than a bloodshed. The blood flowed like river and soaked the hill with the loss of several hundred thousand people..Please note that the word "Malaikadam" (மலைகடாம்) and the phrase Malaipadukadam Pattunda Malvarai (மலைகடாம் பாட்டுண்ட மால்வரை) linking Naviramalai and its chieftain Nannan, son of Nannan, chief of Chenkanmä. Meaning: 

மூவண்டறை தார்மன்னர் மலைப்படைத் தென் மன்னரை 
வென்கண்ட  திறற் காங்கேமன் கண்சிவப்ப பண்டே 
மலைகடாம் பாட்டுண்ட மால்வரை செஞ்சொரி 
அலைகடாம்  பாட்டுண்டது.   (Ref. Kalvettu Quarterly no 5, p. 13.)
When the eyes of the Ganga chief,

The conqueror of the crowned kings three

And more so the victorious ruler
Pandya of mountain ranges like army,
Turned red with merciless anger
The great Navirai hill, that received
Praises in days of yore, in
The song Malai kadām pāṭṭu,
Was reddened with waves of blood

The place where the fort of Nannan son Nannan located is now called as "Kottaimedu" (கோட்டைமேடு) (Fort Mound). Another village by name 'Mudalaimadu' (முதலைமடு) also can be linked with the fort. The village Karimalaippadi (கரிமலைப்பாடி) suggests link to training the elephants by mahouts. Urn burials are noticed in Chengam town.

Archaeological Excavations

Andipatti is located in Chenagam taluk, Tiruvannamalai district and the village is situated 15 km away from Chengam town. The State Department of Archeology, Chennai carried out systematic excavation in the year 2004 - 2005. At two habitation mounds locally known as Nattamedu (நத்தமேடு) and Sambalkadu (செம்பைக்காடு), the archaeologists laid twelve trenches and unearthed a terracotta bull image, shell bangles, "Mother Goddess" figurines, spindle whorls, pottery with graffiti marks of Megalithic and Historic periods. The potteries comprise black and red-ware sherds as well as coarse red-ware sherds. The Department of Archeology also discovered three potsherds with Tamil-Brahmi inscriptions. One of the potsherds deciphered the Tamil Brahmi inscription as "kan narpo" and the department epigraphists ascertained the date between 4th - 5th century AD. Another two Tamil Brahmi inscriptions inscribed on pot lids read  "... aa th tha... " and "...ku ma... " and the date could be assigned to an earlier period.

Based on the unearthed antiquities, it is ensured that Andipatti site has been continuously occupied since 1st century BC through 12th century AD. Terracotta figurines of Mother Godess has been found in three locations in Tamil Nadu including Adichanallur near Tirunelveli, Melaperumballam near Poompuhar and Poluvaampatti near Coimbatore.. At Andipatti the team also unearthed two figurines mostly human parts i.e., hand and leg portion and mother goddess and the two figurines discovered by Archaeologists at Andipatti belong to 8th to 12th century AD. About 143 lead coins of the 2nd century A.D. were unearthed during an excavation in 1968. According to Iravatham Mahadevean, the coins could have minted by chieftains who ruled this land between 2nd and 3rd century AD. The coins bear the graffiti of two mountain ranges and goad and inscriptions of Sangam era names like "Thinnan" and "Sendhan." They have used the unique Sangam era character "." (period) punctuation on the coin. The goad mark indicates the presence of elephants in abundance and mahouts engaged in training them. Army camps also existed to protect the elephants.

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A bull, made of terracotta, found at Andipatti PC: State Arch Dept
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Terracotta, found at Andipatti PC: State Arch Dept
In a garden of an old house in a Chengam intersection they have discovered the burial urn, human skulls, teeth, red and black potsherds  When dug in Nattamedu here, they have observed dilapidated structures and retrieved the gold coins, icons of Buddhist and Jain monks. The State Department of Archeology has discovered over 45 hero stones in the Chengam region and Malaipadukadam also mentions about Memorial stones

  1. A slice of life in an ancient period. Ramakrishnan T. The Hindu. June 23, 2005 (
  2. Ancient Tamil Literature (from the Introduction to Landscape and Poetry, 1966 Father Xavier S. Thaninayagam). (
  3. Andipatti. Department of Archaeology. (
  4. Essays on Indian Society. Raj Kumar. New Delhi, Discovery, 2003. History and Culture Series (New Delhi, India). p. 83.
  5. History of the Tamils : from the earliest times to 600 AD. P T Srinivasa Iyengar New Delhi : Asian Educational Services, 1983. p. 546. (
  6. Kongu Vellala Gounder (wiki). ஜூலை 10, 2011 (
  7. More on Tamil Music: Patthupattu (
  8. Mother Goddess figurines found in Tamil Nadu. T.S. Subramanian. The Hindu May 22, 2005. (
  9. Parvathamalai Mountain. Wikimapia (
  10. Pathuppāttu – Malaipadukadām. Sangam Poems Translated by Vaidehi. (
  11. Pattupattu, Tamil Literature. IndiaNetzone. (
  12. Poetics of Place in Early Tamil Literature. Muthukumar, N. Dissertation for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy,  University of California, Berkeley, USA (
  13. Poets in Sangam Age. Indianetzone. (
  14. South Indian Shrines Illustrated. PV.Jagadisa Iyer. Asian Education Services. 1982.  Pp.11
  15. Tamil Eighteen Hundred years ago. V.Kanagasabhai. Asian Educational Services. 1904. Pp. 203
  16. ஆற்றுப்படை. வேர்களைத்தேடி May 19, 2009. (
  17. பத்துப்பாட்டு – மலைபடுகடாம். Learning Sangam Tamil.  
  18. சங்கம் வளர்த்த செங்கம் காரியுண்டி, சேயாறு, நவிரமலை மலைக்க வைக்கும் மலைபடு கடாம். உண்மையின்பேரொளி மே 28, 2014
  19. மலைப்படுகடாம். ஒரு சித்திரம். வளவ துரையன். திண்ணை. April 15, 2004 ((
  20. மலைபடுகடாம் நூலின் பாட்டுடைத் தலைவன் நன்னனின் வரலாறு. மு.இளங்கோவன். 10 ஜனவரி, 2008 
Mann Pesum Sarithiram Episode 285. Vasanth TV

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Muziris (Muciri), A Sangam Era Port in Kerala: History Through the Ages

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Muziris (Malayalam: മുച്ചിരി) or Muciri (Tamil, முசிறி)  also called various names from ancient times, Mahodayapuram (Malayalam: മാക്കോതയാപുരം) (Tamil: மகோதயபுரம்), Makotai (Malayalam: മകോതൈ) (Tamil: மகோதை), Muyirikode (Malayalam: മുയിർക്കോട്) (Tamil: முயிர்க்கோடு), was an ancient seaport and urban center on the West Coast. The Sea submerged the flourishing port town Muziris at the mouth of the river Periyar (Malayalam: പെരിയാര്) (Tamil: பேரியாறு), overlooking the Arabian sea, and at present the Muziris Heritage Site (MHS) straddles across the borders of Ernakulam (North Paravur municipality) and Thrissur districts (Kodungallur municipality) of central Kerala. The historic towns of Kodungallur (Malayalam കൊടുങ്ങല്ലൂര്) (Tamil: கொடுங்களூர்), Pattanam (Malayalam: പട്ടണം) (Tamil: பட்டணம்) and Paravur (Malayalam: പറവൂർ) (Tamil: பரவூர்), forming part of MHS, are located at the hinterland, the Periyar Basin. Cherai Beach, in the MHS project area, is a major tourist destination.

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Pattanam (Malayalam: പട്ടണം), is a small village situated in the Periyar river delta in Paravur taluk, Eranakulam district, Kerala state, India PIN 683 522. It is located 1 km from Vadakkekara, 5 km from north of Paravur, 9 km south of Kodungallur (Cranganore), 25 km north of Kochi (Cochin), 28 km towards north from district head quarters Kakkanad. and 236 km from State capital Thiruvananthapuram. Pattanam lies on the geographical coordinates of 10.15654°N and 76.208982°E and the elevation / altitude is 12 m above sea level.  Pattanam is currently identified by Prof. P.J. Cherian, Director of the Pattanam excavations as Muziris. Some scholars contradict this view. Ancient Tamil Sangam literature assigns it as Muciri.

Kodungallur (Malayalam കൊടുങ്ങല്ലൂര്) (anglicised name: Cranganore), a municipal town, is located in the south-west border of Thrissur district, Kerala, India PIN 680664. Kodungallur lies on the geographical coordinates of 10.233761°N and 76.194634°E and the elevation / altitude is 9 m above sea level. According to A Sreedhara Menon, the author of the title 'A Survey of Kerala History,' Kodungallur is the ancient Muziris. but no evidence of maritime or mercantile activity could be found there. About 5000 years ago Kodungallur and Paravur were part of the sea and the radiocarbon dating of peat samples prove this hypothesis. The temple at Kodungallur is conceived to have been built by Chera king Senguttuvan (சேரன் செங்குட்டுவன்), for Kannagi (கண்ணகி), heroine of Silappadikaram (சிலப்பதிகாரம்).  It is believed that Kannagi gained her ascension in Kodungallur and therefore she has been enshrined here.

Early Cheras (Samgam Period) 270 BC - 710 AD

Chera dynasty (சேர வம்சம்), an ancient Dravidian dynasty of Tamil descent, that ruled parts of the present-day states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu. The earliest stone inscription with a reference on "Kerala" is the "Edicts of Ashoka" (BC 274-237). Kerala is mentioned as "Keralaputho" (Malayalam: കേരളപുതോ) (Tamil: கேரளபுதோ) (Kerala Puthra meaning Cheraman) in the second and thirteenth Ashoka Sthambhas. Few Tamil Brahmi inscriptions mention some Sangam Era kings: Neduncheliyan in Mangulam inscription, Athiyaman in Jambai inscription, and Irumporai dynasty in Pugalur inscription. The inscription discovered in Aranattarmalai (Tamil: ஆறுநாட்டாமலை, புகலூர்), near Pugalur in Karur district, Tamil Nadu refers to three generations of Chera rulers Ko Adan Cel Irrumporai (Tamil: கோ ஆதன் செல் இரும்பொறை), his son Perumkadunkon (Tamil: பெருங்கடுங்கோன்), and his son Ilamkadungo (Tamil: இளங்கடுங்கோ):

‘மூதா அமண்ணன் யாற்றூர் செங்காயபன் உறைய்ய 
கோ ஆதன் செல்லிரும்பொறை மகன் 
பெருங்கடுங்கோன் மகன் இளங் 
கடுங்கோ இளங்கோ ஆக அறுத்த கல்’
(Aranattarmalai Inscription, near Pugalur in Karur district)

செல்வக்கடுங்கோ வாழியாதன் (Patirruppattu 7th set of Ten Poems பதிற்றுப்பத்து 7ஆம் பத்து),
பெருஞ்சேரல் இரும்பொறை (Patirruppattu 8th set of Ten Poems பதிற்றுப்பத்து 8ஆம் பத்து)
இளஞ்சேரல் இரும்பொறை (Patirruppattu 9th set of Ten Poems பதிற்றுப்பத்து 9ஆம் பத்து)

It also refers to ‘Pon Vaanigan,’ gold merchant from Karur (Tamil Nadu). The date assignable to the inscription (based on its paleography) to the first-second century A.D.

Cheras are referred to as Cherala (சேரல) and Cheraman (சேரமான்) in Sangam literature and it vaguely describes a long line of Chera rulers.  It records the names of the kings, the princes, and the court poets who extolled them. However their dating is clearly absent and genealogy is lacking. The term "Kerala" never occurred in Sangam works.

Patirruppattu (பதிற்றுப்பத்து), also known as Pathirruppaththu (the ten sets of ten poems), is one of the works of the Eight Anthologies or books of the Ettuttokai (எட்டுத்தொகை). The anthology consists of one hundred verses.  The first and the last ten poems have been lost beyond recovery. The poems are composed by various Tamil Sangam poets. The poems glorify the affluence of ten kings of the Chera dynasty from Uthiyan Cheralathan (உதியன் சேரலாதன்) a.k.a "Perum Chorru Udiyan" (பெருஞ்சோற்று உதியன்) to Perunceral Irumporai (பெருஞ்சேரல் இரும்பொறை).

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PC Tamil and Vedas Blog
Vanchi (வஞ்சி)

Vanchi (Tamil: வஞ்சி) also known as Vanchi Muthur (வஞ்சி மூதூர்) was the capital of Chera dynasty (சேரர் வம்சம்). Archaeological evidence attest that Vanchi lies in the outskirts of present day Kodungallur and some historians contradict this view. Few historians also recognize Vanchi as Karur (கரூர்) located on the banks of Amaravathi river, the ancient capital city of the Cheras, in present-day Karur district, Tamil Nadu state.

குடபுலங் காவலர் மருமா னொன்னார்
வடபுல விமயத்து வாங்குவிற் பொறித்த
எழுவுறழ் திணிதோ ளியறேர்க் குட்டுவண்
வருபுனல்வாயில் வஞ்சியும் வறிதே யதாஅன்று . . 
(Sirupanarruppatai சிறுபணாற்றுப்படை 47 - 50)

Sirupanarruppatai (சிறுபாணாற்றுப்படை), a Sangam anthology, speaks about Cheran Kuttuvan's (சேரன் குட்டுவன்) expedition to Himalayas and imprinting the Chera's royal emblem i.e., bow and arrow on the face of the Himalaya. It also describes about the Chera capital Vanchi.   

.'துஞ்சா முழவின் மூதூர் வாயில் '
(Pathirruppaththu பதிற்றுப்பத்து  236)
(Uniterrupted beat of the drum is heard in the entrance of the town)

In Silappadikaram (சிலப்பதிகாரம்), the Tamil epic composed by Ilango Adigal (இளங்கோ அடிகள்) in the 2nd century AD, a part is devoted on Vanchi town, the capital of Cheras and named as Vanchikandam (வஞ்சிக்காண்டம்), Vanchi Part or third part of the book.

‘ வஞ்சி மூதூர் மணிமண் டபத்திடை' (Amidst the temple mandapam of Vanchi Muthur town)  
(Silappadikaram Varantharu Kadhai 173-174)

மண்ணகம் நிழல் செய, 
மற வாள் ஏந்திய, 
நிலம் தரு திருவின் நெடியோன்-தனாது 
வலம் படு சிறப்பின் வஞ்சி மூதூர்
(Silappadikaram Nadukar Kadhai நடுகற்காதை 1 - 4)

முறைமையின் இந்த மூதூர் அகத்தே
அவ்வவர் சமயத்தறிபொருள் கேட்டு
மெய்வகை இன்மை நினக்கே விளங்கிய
பின்னர்ப் பெரியோன் பிடக நெறி கடவாய்
(Manimekalai Vanchi Manakar Pukka Kadhai (வஞ்சிமா நகர் புக்க காதை) 63 - 65)

·         Vanchi (Tinospora Cardifolia) (Tamil: சீந்தில் கொடி) is a kind plant found in India. Kapilar (கபிலர்), the author of Kurinjippattu (குறிஞ்சிப்பாட்டு), a sangam anthology, had mentioned 99 flowers found in the Kurunji region (Mountainous region). Vanchi flower is mentioned as the 79th flower in this list. The Tamil kings and chieftains wore different flowers in the battlefield to denote different heroic activities. While invading an enemy's territory the soldiers wore Vanchi' flowers and enter in to the territory for cattle raids.. 

P    Periyapuranam (பெரிய‌ புராண‌ம்) also known as Tirutontarpuranam, is the 13th century great purana or Tamil epic , depicts the legendary lives of 63 Saivite saints (Nayanmars). Kalarrarivar Nayanar Puranam (கழறிற்றறிவார் நாயனார்), (Puranam 47)  mentions Vanchi as Tiruvanchaikkalam (திருவஞ்சைக்களம்) and Kodungallur (கொடுங்களூர்). The epic also describes about the fort walls and gardens.

Muziris or Muciri (முசிறி)

Indian west coast had numerous ports when compared with Indian east coast. The reason for concentration of ports in west coast could be that they were easily approached by the traders of Roman empire. Muciri (முசிறி), an ancient port town, is popular among the port towns in the west coast (Chera country). Greeks or Yavanas called this port as Muziris. Muziris means cleft lip and the coastline resembles as the cleft lip from aerial view. Valmiki Ramayana mentions this port as 'Murasi (முரசி).' Like the internationally renowned Kaveripoompattinam in the east coast, Muciri was also far-famed for overseas trade in the west coast. 
மலைத் தாரமும் கடல் தாரமும்
தலைப் பெய்து, வருநர்க்கு ஈயும்
புனலங் கள்ளின் பொலந்தார்க் குட்டுவன்
முழங்கு கடல் முழவின் முசிறி யன்ன,
Purananuru புறநானுறு 343, 7-10

Poet Paranar describes natural wealth of Muciri in Purananuru Poem 343, 7-10: "With its streets, its houses, its covered fishing boats, where they sell fish, where they pile up rice-with the shifting and mingling crowd of a boisterous river-bank were the sacks of pepper are heaped up-with its gold deliveries, carried by the ocean-going ships and brought to the river bank by local boats, the city of the gold-collared Kuttuvan (Chera chief), the city that bestows wealth to its visitors indiscriminately, and the merchants of the mountains, and the merchants of the sea, the city where liquor abounds, yes, this Muciri, were the rumbling ocean roars, is give to me like a marvel, a treasure. ."

The Chera country (Kerala) often referred to as the "Spice Garden of India" or the land of spices and this spicy commodity have an effect upon socio - geopolitics of the world. Pepper also pushed the port town onto the center-stage. The Indo - Roman trade commence in first century BC following the reign of Augustus and his conquest of Egypt. The Romans sailed to India with 'amphorae of olive oil and wines, chests of gold and silver and their famed pottery.' They established trading settlements in Chera land. In the first century BC Muziris was one of India’s most important trading ports, whose exports – especially black pepper – kept even mighty Rome in debt. 
மீன் நொடுத்து நெல் குவைஇ
மிசை யம்பியின் மனைமறுக் குந்து!
மனைக் கவைஇய கறிமூ டையால்.
கலிச் சும்மைய கரைகலக் குறுந்து
கலந் தந்த பொற் பரிசம்
Purananuru புறநானுறு 343, 1-5 

During Sangam era most trade was by barter. Paddy was the most popular commodity and the well accepted medium of exchange. They also exchanged purified salt. honey and roots against fish liver oil and arrack. According to Purananuru, the boat sail on the river with loads of fish and would  return with paddy exchanged against fish. It seems that Muziris was a shallow port and hence the ships anchored far off from the shore. The  boats with loads of pepper bags would sail towards the anchored ships to exchange gold jewels brought through ships by overseas traders.
‘சுள்ளியம் பேர்யாற்று வெண்ணுரை கலங்க
யவனர் தந்த வினைமாண் நன்கலம் 
பொன்னொடு வந்து கறியொடு பெயரும் 
வளங்கெழு முசிறி
(Akananuru அகநானூறு, 149:9-11) 

Here lies the thriving town of Muciri, where “the beautiful vessels, the masterpieces of the Yavanas (Greeks), stir white foam on the Periyar, river of Kerala, arriving with gold and departing with pepper.” (Akananuru 149:9-11).

The Pandyan port city of Korkai was the center of the pearl trade. The coastal town Muciri was also popular for its pearls. The pearl fishery was popular occupation in Periyar river estuary. Chanakya (Kautilya) refers that Chaurneyam (Tamil: சூர்னியம்) (a kind of pearl specially found in Periyar or Churni river (Tamil: சூர்ணியாறு) was brought to North India in the 4th cent. BC. Periyar river was known as `Churni river' in Sangham poetry. According Pathirruparru, the pearls of Muciri were sold in a port known as Bandhar (பந்தர்) and rare gold jewels were sold in another port called Kodumanam (கொடுமணம்). Bandhar is an Arabic term which means market place. The term stands as evidence for Arab trade links in Muciri.

இன்னிசைப் புணரி இரங்கும் பௌவத்து
நன்கல வெறுக்கை துஞ்சும் பந்தர்க்
கமழுந தாழைக் கானலம் பெருந்துறை
(Pathirruppaththu பதிற்றுப்பத்து  6th set of 10, 5th Poem)

Ships anchored at the port Bandhar

‘கொடுமணம் பட்ட வினைமான் அருங்கலம்
பந்தர்ப் பயந்த பலர்புகழ் முத்தம்’
(Pathirruppaththu பதிற்றுப்பத்து  8th set of 10, 4th Poem Line 5-6)

At Bandhar ornate ships brought far-famed pearls from Kodumanam

Foreign Records on Muziris

Periplus of the Erythraean Sea

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Hippalus, a Yavana (Greek) navigator and overseas trader, is believed to be the captain of the Greek explorer Eudoxus of Cyzicus' ship. The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea (Periplus Maris Erythraei) also known as the Periplus of the Red Sea, is an unknown Greek periplus (merchant - mariner's handbook) devoted to new fields of geographical discovery and commercial achievement. The text describes about the navigation from Egyptian and Roman ports along the Red sea coast and others along Northeast Africa and the Sindh and South western India. The date assignable to Periplus of the Erythraean Sea is mid first century AD. This text gives credit to Hippalus for discovering the direct route from the Red Sea to India over the Indian Ocean. Hippalus seems to have plotted the scheme of the sea and arrived the correct the location of the trade ports along the west coast. In short Hippalus is credited for discovering the monsoon wind which is also named as Hippalus (the south-west monsoon wind).. The use of Hippalus' direct route helped the Greco-Roman ships in frequenting to Muziris port from the 1st century BC on wards. Muziris served as the pre-historic gateway to India. The ships sailed with loads of coral, copper, tin, lead and mirror and returned with Indian spices, silk, cotton, pearls, glass and stone beads. Pepper was preferred as the favorite commodity in Rome and hence known as 'Yavanapriya' (Tamil: யவனப் பிரியா).

Periplus of the Erythraean Sea mentions Kerala as "Cerobothra" and also provides an account on this ancient port: ”Muziris "abounds in ships sent there with cargoes from Arabia, and by the Greeks; it is located on a river, distant from Tyndis by river and sea 500 stadia, and up the river from the shore 20 stadia"... "There is exported pepper, which is produced in only one region near these markets, a district called Cottonara."

The handbook refer "Musiri, a city at the height of prosperity, was two miles distance from the mouth of the river on which it is situated and was the seat of the Government of the Kingdom under the sway of Kaprobothras." It also bring out how this coastal town became the key trade port for the Chera land. The merchant ships frequented from Roman empire as well as northern India and the settlement of the overseas traders in Muziris showed keen interest in promoting foreign trade. The warehouses stacked black pepper brought from Chera hinterland and awaited for the export opportunities through Roman traders. The shallow waters of Muziris port disallowed foreign vessels with deep hull from sailing upstream to the port. The overseas freighters were constrained to stay at the border of the lagoon. Therefore their consignments were shifted upstream on light boats.

Pliny the Elder's Natural History

Pliny the Elder (Gaius Plinius Secundus), a Roman author, naturalist, and natural philosopher, as well as naval and army commander of the early Roman Empire, published Naturalis Historia (Natural History), a comprehensive work in Latin, It is encyclopedic in scope and considered as the unique voluminous treatise survived from the Roman empire to the modern world  It intents to disseminate all ancient knowledge to the modern world.  According to Pliny's Natural History, Muziris is described as “the first emporium of India”, “not to be sought because of pirates nearby." and "the station for ships is at a distance from the shore and cargoes have to be landed and shipped by means of little boats. There reigned there, when I wrote this, Coelobothros". Pliny calls Kerala as "Caelobothras."

Papyrus Vindobonensis or Muziris papyrus 

Papyrus Vindobonensis G 40822, widely known as the “Muziris papyrus,” is the most significant pieces of evidence concerned with Indo-Roman trade. This second century AD Greek papyrus contract document involves an Alexandrian trader, importer and financier. The papyrus document records particulars about the cargo consignment worth around nine million sesterces was imported from Muziris, on board a Roman merchant vessel named as Hermapollan. This document enabled the economists and lawyers to analyse international trade and overseas trade laws in depth. 

Muziris, as shown in the 4th century Tabula Peutingeriana
Peutinger Map (Tabula Peutingeriana)
Peutinger Map (Tabula Peutingeriana) is an odd sized medieval copy of an ancient road map. The map dates back to second century AD. In this map Muziris and Tondi ports are well indicated. The map also shows a large lake behind Muziris. It also marks the presence of Temple Augustus (Templ(um) Augusti).

Muziris Devasted by Cataclysmic Event 

It is assumed that Muciri and its famous port were devastated by cataclysmic event (கடல் கோள்) in 1341 and consequently lost its commercial importance thereafter.. The apocalyptic calamities may be due to Tsunami, sea incursions, erosion and flood in Periyar river. As a result the geography of the region was altered. According to Dick Whittakker and Rajan Gurukkal, who made a study and published a document titled "In Search of Muziris," the cataclysmic event geographically altered the access to Periyar river. It not only formed Vembanad back water system but also opened up the Kochi (Cochin) harbour. The regional geological survey of the region reveals that before 200 - 300 years the shoreline was laid about 3 km east to the present coast. It could have moved even further east say about 6.5 km before 2000 years. At present Muciri region is identified and earmarked as Muziris Heritage Site (MHS) and historic towns of Kodungallur, Pattanam and North Paravur forming part of MHS.

Muziris Archaeological Excavations

1945: Series of excavations undertaken at Kodungallur since from 1945. The teams could recover only antiquities of the 13th century or afterwards.
1969 Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) carried out an excavation in 1969 at Ceraman Parambu, 2 km north of Kodungallur. Only antiquities of the 13th and 16th century were recovered.
1983: A huge hoard of Roman coins was discovered at a site around six miles from Pattanam.
2007 - 2014: A series of pioneering excavations carried out by Kerala Council for Historical Research (KCHR, an autonomous institution) at Pattanam since from 2007

Pattanam Excavations 2007 - 2015

For the first time multi-disciplinary archaeological excavation was carried out by KCHR (with the approval of ASI) from 18th February to 8th April 2007 (first phase) in the historic village Pattanam. The site at Pattanam covers approximately 1.5 sq. km and the core area measures about 600 x 400 m. KCHR team carried out nine excavations (2007 - 2015) and unearthed130,865 artefacts, circa 5,16,676 diagnostic potsherds, 141, 348 non-Indian pottery sherds and circa 4.5 million local body sherds. It includes Mediterranean amphora, terra sigillata sherds, Roman glass fragments and gaming counters (dated 100 BC - 400 AD); turquoise glazed pottery, torpedo jar fragments and frankincense crumbs of West Asian, South Arabian Mesopotamian origin (dated 300 BC - 1000 AD); Chinese blue on white porcelain sherds (dated 1600 AD - 1900 AD); Local black and red ware sherds, Indian rouletted ware, gemstones, glass beads, semi precious stone beads / inlays / intaglio, cameo–blanks, coins, spices, pottery terracotta objects and human bones. They have also identified iron, copper, gold and lead objects as well as crucible slag, furnace installations, lapidary remains of semi-precious stones and spindle whorls suggesting industrial character of the settlement. Two important objects i.e., the semi precious stone carved with the figure of a pouncing lion and the micro metal object with intricate designs, were retrieved during ongoing excavations. The haul also includes 112 early coins including 3 lead coins of the Chera kingdom.
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The team is surprised with the discovery of burnt bricks and roof-tiles. The remains of ancient brick wall, a brick platform,   a ring well, storage jars, toilet features, lamps, stylus and scripts on pottery suggests about the existence of a prominent urban settlement and the date assigned between 100 BC and 400 AD. They have taken note of a wharf with bollards and a six meter long wooden canoe lying parallel to the wharf, about 2.5 meter below ground level. 

The Institute of Physics, Bhubaneshwar carried out carbon dating and concluded that Pattanam habitation goes back to the first millennium BC. It is believed that this place was under continuous occupation from second century BC to tenth century AD. The Indo - Roman trade at Pattanam was in its peak since from first century BC.

According to Prof. PJ, Cherian, Director of the Pattanam excavations, “The discovery, in the Kerala context, has a great significance because of the dearth of evidence so far of the pre-Brahminical past of Kerala, especially in relation to the socio-cultural and religious life of the people. The KCHR team has unearthed (at a two meter depth) the Tamil Brahmi script on a pot rim, reading "a ma na" (Amana meaning a Jaina). This ancient Tamil Brahmi script with two symbols deciphered as Megalithic graffiti serves as the evident for the prevalence of Jainism on the Malabar coast at least from 2nd century AD. 

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Oxford Univ. Archaeologists @ Pattanam Excavation site PC Thulasi Kakkar
Another pot-sherd with the Tamil-Brahmi letters reading “ur pa ve o” was deciphered by Dr. V. Selvakumar (Tamil University, Thanjavur) and Dr. K.P. Shajan (Geo-archaeologist, KCHR), the Co – Directors. Yet another another Tamil-Brahmi script with the letters “ca ta [n]” was also recovered. The exact spot of Pattanam is not clearly identified. Dr.K.P.Shajan. Shajan maintains that Periyar river had changed its course over the centuries and believes that the ancient port might have been at Pattanam. Discovery of broken pottery and ancient fired bricks during excavation suggests him the changes in the course of the river over the centuries. However historians like R Nagaswamy, KN Panikkar and MGS Narayanan have disagreed with the identification of Pattanam as Muziris and called for further research. KCHR chief maintains, "whether Pattanam was Muziris is not of immediate concern to us,"

According to Dr. Wendy Morrison of the Oxford University, the trade links of Southern India with Rome in the early Iron Age is reminiscent of the Roman invasion of England around the same period, She linked with the excavations by Oxford research team at Dorchester Village. England have come out with interesting finds on the country’s cultural and trade links with Rome. Pattanam excavations and the unearthed archaeological treasures have revolutionized the cultural history of Kerala

The Kerala State government sensed the tourism potential of the Pattanam discovery and established the Muziris Heritage Project (MHP) and the budget allocated for the first phase of the project was Rs.1,400 million. MHP envisages preservation of monuments and intends to restore old bazaars, roads, bridges, canals etc., spread across two municipal towns and 6 panchayats. The Government also sent proposal to UNESCO for declaring Muziris a world heritage site.

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  14. Political History of Modern Kerala. A. Sreedhara Menon.  D C Books. 1987.p. 22.
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  16. Tamil-Brahmi script found at Pattanam in Kerala by TS.Subramaniyan. The Hindu March 14, 2011 (
  17. The Ancient Roman Connections with Tamil Nadu. (
  18. The Chera Coins (Tamil Coins - A Study; R. Nagaswamy). Tamil Arts Academy (
  19. What is the history of the Indian city of Muziris? Yahoo Answers.  (
  20. பண்டைத் தமிழகம் வணிகம் - நகரங்கள் மற்றும் பண்பாடு  மயிலை சீனி. வேங்கடசாமி ஆய்வுக் களஞ்சியம் - 4 நியூ செஞ்சுரி புக் ஹவுஸ் பிரவேட் லிமிடெட். பக்கம் 97 - 100 (
  21. வஞ்சி, முசிறி இருப்பிடம். தமிழ்த்துளி October 13, 2014 (

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