Inscriptions of Prasat Hin Phanom Rung, Thailand

The iconographic representation of Karraikal Ammai – the Demon Devotee of Shiva, in Prasat Phanom Rung in Northeast Thailand, was discussed in the previous post. This post focuses on the inscriptional evidences in and around Buriram Province of Thailand, to which Prasat Phanom Rung belongs.

The victory of the Tamils across the sea, in neighbouring Srilanka and farther Kingdoms of today’s Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos beyond the Andaman Sea is well documented in Rajendra Chola’s Meikeerthi ‘Alai kadal naduvum pala kalam cheluthi’ (Thirukkadaiyur Inscription). The Chola Dominance in the above mentioned areas could be considered as the Apex Point of Tamil influence in Southeast Asia.

As an effect of Rajendra’s mighty navy ‘sweeping the high tides in their numerous vessels’ (alai kadal naduvum pala Kalam cheluthi) across several kingdoms of Southeast Asia, the introduction of the sculpture of Ammai in Khmer Temples could have happened in the 11th century CE. But the inscriptions in the province of Buriram, provide an expansive view of the Tamil influence in the region as far as Northeast Thailand, centuries prior to Ammai’s structural representation in Khmer Architecture.

Evidences of Tamil influence in Thailand during the Pallava Era are found as early as 3rd century CE. The touch stone of a goldsmith was discovered from Kuan Luk Pat in Krabi Province in Southern Thailand, on the shores of Andaman Sea. The Tamil words -‘Perum Pathan Kal’ was inscribed in the touch stone, which Professor Karashima assigns to 3rd or 4th century CE. (pg. 330, Tamil Edition of Nagappattinam to Swarnadwipa)

The Pallava Grantha inscriptions in Buriram to be discussed below only reverberate that Tamil Traders and their influential Guilds had their settlements in several parts of today’s Thailand too, long before the massive naval victory of the medieval Cholas. The Pallavas had clearly made a solid platform for the medieval Cholas, to proceed with their unstoppable fray of political and economic triumph that saw its zenith under Rajendra I, son of Rajaraja I, the Great.

Pallava Grantha Inscriptions

Pallava Grantha Script was an invention of the Tamils of ancient Thamizhagam/Thamilagam, in the first centuries of the Common Era to write Sanskrit. The ancient Language of Thamizhagam- Tamil was written in Southern Brahmi Script and the Pallavas developed the Grantha Script by improvising the prevalent Brahmi script to add more consonants, in order to write texts in Sanskrit. This Pallava Grantha, has travelled to several South-east Asian countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar and Thailand and has played a pivotal role in the development of native scripts in these countries.

According to the Database of Thai inscriptions, so far, there are 104 Pallava Grantha inscriptions found across the country. That’s a huge number, for a foreign script to be used as the only script to represent a native language, and remain a dominant script of several other neighbouring countries for centuries. Pallava Characters as they are mentioned in Thailand and Cambodia, were used to write Sanskrit, Pali and Mon Khmer Languages. They include stone inscriptions, Dvaravati silver coins and baked clay seals.

Province of Buriram

The Database of Thai inscriptions, provides the list of inscriptions found at several temples in Thailand. Among the inscriptions discovered in the province of Buriram, three inscriptions from Tham Pet Thong cave in the district of Pakham, southwest of Buriram are written in Pallava Grantha script. The language of the inscriptions is Sanskrit and belong to 12th Buddhist century, equivalent to 7th century CE. The three inscriptions highly dilapidated, mention the name of King Mahendravarman of the Chenla Kingdom.

Pallava Grantha Inscription of Tham Pet Thong, Buriram

courtesy: Chaowanee LekklaTracing Zhēnlà Beyond Cambodia: Archaeological Findings on the Lower Mekong River Basin

Chitrasena, brother of Bhavavarman I of the Chenla Kingdom took the coronation name Mahendravarman (590-611 CE). Incidentally, Mahendravarman I (600-630 CE), son of Simhavishnu of the Pallava dynasty in Tamilagam, who ruled approximately in the same decades of Mahendravarman of the Chenla Kingdom (590-611 CE) of Cambodia, had glorious titles Chitrakarapuli and Vichitrachithan.

On the earliest inscription of Phnom Bayang Temple (in the Takeo province of today’s Cambodia), K.A.N.Sastri, in his ‘South Indian Influences in the Far East’ says, ‘It bears two dates in the Saka Era, 526 and 546, corresponding to 604 and 624CE…………………………. The inscription most probably spans the reigns of Bhava(varman), Mahendra(varman) and Isana(varman).

Chitrasena Mahendravarman succeeded his brother Bhavaraman and Isanavarman succeeded his father Mahendravarman.

Historian Shastri on the Pallava Grantha inscription of Phnom Bayang writes-

Like all the other inscriptions of the time its characters are unmistakably South Indian, and if its provenance were not known, no epigraphist could distinguish it from, say, a Pallava inscription of the seventh century.

pg.40, 41, South Indian Influences in the Far East

Prior to the analysis on the inscriptions of Phnom Bayang, KAN. Sastri, on Chitrasena Mahendravarman’s inscriptions and Mahendravarman of the Pallava Empire in Tamizhagam says-

pg. 37, KAN Sastri, South Indian Influences in the Far East

This interesting similarity is not only one of several important fields for future analysis, but also a strong reminder of two of the most prominent connections that the Tamil Pallava Kings had with Southeast Asian countries, most importantly Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam, namely-

  1. The Legend of Nagi of Thamizhagam that is also found in the annals of Cambodia and Thailand
  2. The Royal connect of a collateral lineage of the Pallavas in modern day Cambodia or southern Vietnam

The brother of the Pallava King Simhavishnu (575-600 CE), Bhimavarman, migrated to a far away Land and founded a collateral line of Kingship. From that faraway Land, considered to be today’s Cambodia or southern Vietnam, Nandivarman II , at a tender age of 12, was brought back to his ancestral soil, Kanchipuram- the capital of the Pallavas, and was crowned the King.

As per the Genealogy provided by Kasakkudi Plates of Nandivarman II, (S.I.I., vol.2, part 3), below is the collateral line of Kingship –

  • Bhimavarman
  • Buddhavarman
  • Adityavarman
  • Govindavarman
  • Hiranyavarman
  • the sixth Generation Nandivarman II

The exact period of reign of Nandivarman II is disputed among scholars. KAN Shastri (pgs. 148 to 151, A History of South India) assigns Nandivarman II to 731 CE and his son Dantivarman to 795 CE, while R. Gopalan (pgs. 119 and 134, History of the Pallavas of South India) assigns Nandivarman II to 710 CE and his son Dantivarman to 775 CE.

Bhimavarman left Kanchi in the last quarter of the 6th century CE. Within a time span of more or less 125-150 years, the sixth generation Nandivarman II, son of Hiranyavarman was brought back to the same capital of the Pallavas, from a faraway Land, whose Kings possessed the same title ‘Varman’ as the Pallavas of the Tamil Land.

The corpus of inscriptions written in Pallava Grantha script in Thailand and Cambodia are indeed evidences of the spread of the influence of the Pallava Kings and the Maritime Trade Links of the Tamils through their Trader Guilds in particular.

The earliest Tamil inscription in Thailand found at Kuan Luk Pat (in the 3rd century CE) and the Takuapa Tamil inscription (in the 9th century CE), are both from Krabi and Phang Nga provinces respectively, near Andaman Sea – South Thailand. Pallava Grantha inscriptions have been found in several provinces across the country, irrespective of the cardinal directions. This only proves that the Tamil Trader settlements had comfortably stationed themselves for generations in Thai provinces, and enjoyed considerable influence on the Language and Religion of the host land.

Inscriptions of Phanom Rung

With the above mentioned apparent facts, the inscriptions of Phanom Rung could be seen in the light of the Tamil influence in Khmer Temples of North east Thailand.

There are 8 inscriptions recorded from Phanom Rung Temple and its premises. The inscriptions cover 8th century CE to 13th century CE.

The earliest among the inscriptions (Phanom Rung inscription1/B.R.8) is from 13-14th Buddhist century, equivalent to 8-9th century CE. Like the Tham Pet Thong cave inscription of the 7th century CE viewed above, this inscription too is written using the Pallava script, but a slight variant- which developed into ‘Post Pallava’ script, the language written being Sanskrit.

Inscriptions from the 10th century onwards are scripted in Old Khmer, the languages being Khmer and Sanskrit.

Phanom Rung Inscription 2/B.R 11- belongs to Saka Year 911, equivalent to 989 CE. The name of the Temple as ‘Vnam Run’ gets mentioned in the inscription, as proof of existence of the temple in its present name, at least since the 10th century CE. The King who ruled the Khmer Empire during that time was Jayavarman V, son of Rajendravarman II.

Inscriptions 4,5,6 of Phanom Rung (B.R-9/B.R-12/PR 6) belong to 16th century Buddhist Era, anywhere between mid 10th to mid 11th century CE. Though the inscription doesn’t mention any King, with the period 11th century indicating Suryavarman I, a connoisseur of temples on mountains like Phnom Chissor and Preah Vihear, a few researchers have suggested that the temple of Phanom Rung could have achieved its grandeur during his reign.

On Prasat Phanom Rung, Briggs says,

In its lonely grandeur, its position in the slope of a hill, its lay-out in successive courts instead of concentric enclosures, its series of stairways and causeways, with their mile-posts and naga-balustrades and in other respects, it bears a close resemblance to the monuments of the latter part of the reign of Suryavarman I – to which period it probably belongs – and especially to Phnom Chissor.

pg.182, Lawrence Palmer Briggs, The Ancient Empire

If one goes by Briggs’ suggestion, like Phnom Chissor in Phnom Rung too, the sculpture of Adavallan/Dancing Shiva, finds a place with his Demon Devotee Karaikkal Ammai. The fascinating pediment is located in the eastern antechamber that connects to the Main Sanctuary of the temple.

Apart from the temples of Phnom Chissor and Preah Vihear, in temples at Vat Baset, Vat Ek and Banteay Srei in Cambodia that Suryavarman I had undertaken restoration, the sculpture of Dancing Shiva with Karaikkal Ammai has occupied an important place.

glorioustamils.com/2019/07/18

The earliest representation of Karaikkal Ammai in Tamil temples was in the 10th century by Chembian Madevi, and the earliest representation of Ammai in Khmer temples according to available evidences was in the 11th century by Suryavarman I (discussed in several previous posts). The 11th century inscriptions of Phanom Rung and Inscription of Suryavarman I found at Prasat Hin Phimai (which also hosts the sculpture of Ammai with Adavallan/Dancing Shiva), both temples in Isan – northeast Thailand, certainly provide a hint that the same King might have included the sculpture of our interest in the temple of Phanom Rung.

Inscription 8/B.R.14 belongs to 17th Buddhist century (12th century CE) and Inscriptions 7 and 9/B.R.1 and B.R.19 are assigned to 18th Buddhist century (12th to 13th century CE), which suggest the reign of Suryavarman II, the latter two specifically indicating the last years of his Kingship.

Inscription 7 provides the genealogy of the Mahidharapura Dynasty listing the names of Jayavarman VI, Dharanindravarman and Suryavarman II.

While the focal point of the Khmer temples in discussion is Karaikkal Ammai with Adalvallan/Dancing Shiva, does any of the inscription talk anything related to either of the duo?

Inscription 8 refers to the installation of sculpture of Dancing Shiva. This Phanom Rung inscription belongs to Suryavarman II, 12th century CE. It mentions the construction of a pond named ‘Sri Surya’ and erection of holy sculptures of Dancing Shiva, Vishnu, Madhusudana and Devi.

In the inscription, Dancing Shiva is referred as ‘NruttaSamboh’; Vishnu as Lakshmidrta; and Krishna as Madhusudhana, in Sanskrit.

pratimāṃ sthāpayāmāsa yobhaktyāvidhināyutaḥ – – ———————————————————————spada-ādarāt ———————————sthāpayāmāsavidhinā————————–yobhaktyāmahatānvitaḥ – – – – – – – – – – ——————————————————maheśasya saṃnṛttaśambhoḥ lakṣmīdhṛtāṅghrermadhusūdansyadevyānimām saṃvarṇamayinnyadhat

However, in view of the usage of the word ‘prathimam’, it appears what is spoken of could be the golden image of these Gods for the Temple- (‘Prathimaam Sthaapayaam’) and not regarding the Dancing Shiva in the pediment. The practice of providing golden images of Gods to temples has been seen in Preah Vihear too.

Narendraditya’s Golden Swing and Manickavasagar’s Ponnoosal (Golden Swing)

In inscriptions 7 and 9 of Phanom Rung, Narendraditya is mentioned along with Suryavarman II. The character ‘Narendraditya’ in Isan and 12th century Khmer history needs deep research. Some researchers call him the nephew of Suryavarman II, a few more think he might have been an important vassal King of Suryavarman II, who fought and brought victories for the Khmer Emperor. So much so that, with no single King to directly claim the major construction of Prasat Phanom Rung, there is also ambiguity whether the true builder in its refined state could’ve been Narendraditya, the then ruler of the area, under the Khmer Emperor Suryavarman II. In this connection, it is also believed that, the Pond named after Suryavarman II – ‘Sri Surya’, according to inscription 8 of Phanom Rung, was dug and named by Narendraditya, in lieu of his respect for the King of the Dynasty. (pg.127, Prasat Phnom Rung, Thai Fine Arts Department Publication)

Inscription 9 of Phanom Rung has 4 faces of written content. Face I talks of two swings offered by Narendraditya. One swing- ‘Indradolakhyadolam’ for Lord Sri Bhadresvara – Shiva of Phanom Rung and a Golden swing- ‘hemadolam’ for Devi. The Sanskrit ‘Dola’ can also denote a Palenquin.

(nare)ndrādityanāma bhṛt

indradolākhyadolāṃ yaś

śrībhadreśvara īśvare

dadau tatra dadau nāga

pattaraṃ sthūlādriśambhave

devyāṃ rājaguhāyāṃ yo

yānatātām satāṃ matāṃ

hemadolāṃ vīlasitāṃ

mānyamāturadānmudā

When translated as ‘Swing’ in connection to Lord Shiva, the connect of Tamil Saiva Saint Manickavasagar cannot be missed. Manickavasagar’s Thiruvasagam is categorized as the 8th Thirumurai, among the 12 Thirumurais or the Holy Text of the Tamil Shaivites. Dr. G.U. Pope translated Thiruvasagam to English and the magnum opus was published in 1900.

Manickavasagar’s ‘Thiruponnoosal’ or Singing the glory of Lord Shiva on a Golden Swing is a delightful composition, where he imagines himself as a young girl, calling other girls to join on the golden swing to sing the praise of Shiva. The fact that the Golden Swing of Manickavasagar had travelled to Thailand through his devotional hymns has several historic evidences.

One, the Verses of Thiruvempavai are still recited during the coronation of the Thai King, and known as ‘Triyampawai’.

The other, the Giant Swing of Thailand at Wat Suthat Thepwararam in Bangkok.

The Giant Swing of Thailand and Triyempawai Festival

Around 2 minutes walk from ‘Devasathan’ Hindu Temple lies Wat Suthat Thepwararam, a Royal Buddhist temple constructed in the first few decades of the 19th century. A Giant Swing stands in front of Wat Suthat. The Swing predates the Buddhist Wat and was erected in 1784. The Giant Swing was originally constructed in front of the Devasathan Hindu Temple. Later when it got damaged, the tradition stopped. In 1920, the swing was moved to the present location, and became a tourist attraction.

The Giant Swing of Thailand is associated the Tamil Poetry Thiruvempavai (composed by Manickavasagar). It displays the continuous medieval connect between Thamizhagam/Thamilagam and Thailand, that has clinged on till the first few decades of the 20th century CE. The tradition of Swing in Thailand symbolises the ancient tradition of Manickavasagar’s Ponnoosal. Annual Swing festivals are said to have been conducted at several shrines in Siam and Ayuthaya regions, and the festival was itself was called ‘Triyampavai-Tripavai‘ after the holy verses of Manickavasagar and Andal respectively. 

The important ceremony of Tri Yampawai Tripawai, popularly known as Lo Chin Cha
(playing on the swing) was one of the most interesting of all Siamese State Ceremonies. None of the seventeenth century European writers mention this ceremony, with exception of Van Vliet, which was practiced in the Ayutthaya period.

The rite was performed to pay homage to Shiva as to commemorate the God’s annual 
visit to the earth. Once a year the god Shiva comes down to visit this world and stays 
here for ten days. He used to arrive on the seventh day of the waxing moon in the first month and depart on the first day of the waning moon. As thus the Swinging Festival was performed in the first lunar month, but was changed in the Ratanakosin period to the second month. It was not only an important State Ceremony in the former capitals of Ayutthaya and Sukhothai, but was practiced in the other chief cities of the realm in ancient times. 

https://ayutthaya-history.com/Temples_Ruins_SaoChingCha.html

The period of Manickavasagar is not certain. He is apparently not included among the 63 Nayanmars of Tamil Bhakthi Movement, compiled by Nambi (early 11th century CE). Sundarar (9th century CE) doesn’t mention him directly in his ‘Thiruthondar Thogai’, but several scholars have raised doubts as to whether ‘Poyyadimai Illatha pulavar’ that Sundarar notes could be Manickavasagar. Dr. Ma. Rajamanickanar has provided a detailed analysis on why ‘Poyyadimai Illatha Pulavar’, which translates as ‘Poet, who abides by truth’ could be Manickavasagar, in his book ‘Kaala Aaraichi’ – excerpt from the book is given below.

He also asserts that Manickavasagar should have lived during the reign of Pandya Varaguna (792-835 CE), before Sundarar (840-865 CE), who lived during the reign of Nandivarma Pallava III. Manickavasagar praises Varaguna Pandian in his Thirukkovaiyar.

There is no reference of Manickavasagar in Nambi Andar Nambi’s ‘Thiruthondar Thiruvanthathi’, but the latter elaborates ‘Poyyadimai illatha pulavar’ as 49 poets of the later Sangam period, which again Dr. Ma. Rajamanickanar feels might not be right. At the same time, the same author Nambi in his ‘Kovil Thiruppanniyar Viruththam’ writes-

வருவா சகத்தினில் முற்றுணர்ந் 
  தோனைவண் தில்லைமன்னைத்
திருவாத வூர்ச்சிவ பாத்தியன் 
  செய்திருச் சிற்றம்பலப்
பொருளார் தருதிருக் கோவைகண் 
  டேயுமற் றப் பொருளைத்
தெருளாத உள்ளத் தவர்கவி 
  பாடிச் சிரிப்பிப்பரே.  58 

He acknowledges Thiruvasagam and Thirukkovaiyar, both works of Manickavasagar and addresses him as ‘Vadhavoor Chivapaathiyan’, one of the names of the Saint derived from his birthplace Thiruvadhavoor. Nambi Andar Nambi’s works belong to early 11th century.

Rajaraja I and his son Rajendra I introduced the sculptures of Thriunavukkarasar, Thirugnanasambandar and Sundarar in Thanjai Peruvudaiyar Kovil/ Thanjavur Brihadeeswara Temple. According to Dr. Ma. Rajamanickanar, neither Father nor the Son provided the sculpture of the Saint in discussion. In 1056 CE, Manickavasagar’s ‘Thiruvembavai’ is mentioned in the Thirukkovalur Veerattaneswarar Temple inscription of Rajendra II (1054-1064 CE), son of Rajendra I. The Reverred Tamil Scholar feels only after this period, the hymns of Manickavasagar were sung in Tamil Temples.

In the long list of copper images dedicated to the Thanjai Periya Koyil/Rajarajesvara Temple, Thanjavur, the image of Manickavasagar doesn’t appear. Among the Thiruthondar, images of Thirunavukkarasar, ThirugnanaSambandhar, Sundarar, his wife Paravai Nangai, and Chandeswara were provided during the reign of Rajaraja I and images of Thriunavukkarasar, ThirugnanaSambandar, Sundarar, Siruthondar, his wife Thiruvenkaattu Nangai, their son Seerala Thevar were provided during the reign of Rajendra I.

(South Indian Inscriptions, Volume 2, Part II, Inscriptions numbered 33-56)

While the Thevarams of Appar, Sambandhar and Sundarar have been sung in Temples as early as 9th century CE during the reign of Nandivarman III, according to epigraphical evidences, it is an accepted fact that their hymns were very much prevalent in the Tamil society before epigraphic evidences emerged. The same way, the narratives about her life and hymns written by Karaikkal Ammai must have also spread ahead of her iconographic representation, beyond doubt.

With the inscriptional evidence of Manickavasagar’s hymns being part of Temple worship becoming apparent in mid 11th century CE, the songs should’ve been part of societal worship culture decades before. However, it is still a historic surprise that Rajaraja I didn’t include the Saint regarded as the 4th important pillar of Saivism in Tamil Land, in his Master Piece Thanjai Periya Kovil.

As per Ma. Rajamanickanar’s ‘Kaala Aaraichi’, Manickavasagar is believed to have lived before Sundarar, which denotes the period of Varaguna Pandya I in the last decade of the 8th century and first few decades of the 9th century CE. While Dr. G.U. Pope , who passionately translated Manickavasagar’s Thiruvasagam to English, claims that the Saint could have lived in the 7th or 8th century CE.

Additionally, the literary works of Manickavasagar had been included in the Thirumurai List as 8th, following the Venerable Trio who gave the first 7, by Nambi Andar Nambi in early 11th century CE, under Rajaraja I, before the inclusion of Karaikkal Ammai in Khmer Temple Iconography. Thiruvembavai was sung in Tamil temples since 1056, the same Triyempawai that is sung during the Royal Coronation Ceremony of Thai Kings till today. (pgs. 93-118, Manickavasagar Kaalam, Dr. Ma. Rajamanickanar, Kaala Aaraaichi)

We can summarise the connect with events in the chronological order, as per available evidences-

  1. Sculpture of Ammai in Tamil Temples
  2. Inclusion of the hymns of Ammai and Manickavasagar in Thirumurai List
  3. Sculpture of Ammai in Khmer Temples
  4. Sculpture on Manickavasagar and Inscriptions on his hymns in Tamil Temples
  5. Influence of Manickavasagar through Thiruvempavai in Khmer Temples in Thailand

The connect of Manickavasagar’s Swing, can be seen through Thiruvempavai Festival and the Swing in Thailand in the later centuries. But, the Golden Swing- ‘PONNOOSAL’ in the Saint’s own coinage, seems to have had a Khmer association, through Narendraditya in Phanom Rung.

Bridging the Connect

First, was the Pallava connection with the Grantha Script in the province of Buriram to which Prasat Phanom Rung belongs- one 7th century CE Pallava script and another 8th to 9th century CE variant, Post Pallava script. Second, was the erection of the image of Dancing Shiva in Thailand and Cambodia, very similar to the sculptural depiction in Tamilnadu (the demon devotee Karaikkal Ammai joyfully watching the cosmic dancer- Adavallan). Then, came Narendraditya’s ‘Hemadholam’, quite an exact translation of Manickavasagar’s ‘Ponnoosal’ – the Golden Swing. The sway of the Swing had continued through the 20th century. The Swing could have been halted, but the hymns of Manickavasagar still fills the air, at least in parts of Thailand, during special Royal occasions.

As seen previously, the earliest representation of Karaikkal Ammai in the temples of Tamilnadu by Chembian Madevi was in the 10th century. The introduction of Ammai in Khmer Temples by Suryavarman I could have been in the second quarter of 11th century CE. The inscription of Narendraditya’s Golden Swing was in the 12th century. The time period of the sculpture of the Demon devotee of Shiva along side Adavallan in Khmer temples in Isan- north east Thailand, seems uncertain and ambiguous. If it has to be considered as a 12th century CE inclusion, later than Suryavarman I and during the rule of Suryavarman II, that only emphasises the continued patronage received by the Tamil traders settled in the Khmer conquered states of Thailand.

Hence, the sculpture of Adavallan alongwith Karaikkal Ammai in Khmer temples could be one of the several outcomes of continued Tamil influence, especially post Rajendra Chola’s Massive Naval Victory and even a century beyond the Supremacy of the Cholas in the countries along the Andaman sea and Gulf of Thailand.

From the above discussed inscriptional and literary facts, the Tamil Connect in Thailand appears to be an astonishing affair. Several researches of the past and the recent ones, seem to introduce new dimensions in exploring the far-reaching geographic and cultural path of the Tamils in Thailand and in Southeast Asia as a whole. The need is, extensive in-depth research than an assertive conclusion.

Illustrations

A glimpse of the architectural charm of Prasat Phanom Rung-

Causeway that leads to the Main Temple

causeway that leads to the Main Temple

The First Naga Bridge

Closer to the Main Temple

Middle doorway of the eastern gallery

Yogadhakshinamurthy and Indra on Kala

closer view

Scenes from Ramayana

Ravana ubducting Sita

Battle scenes

Krishna

Krishna killing Kuvalayapida, the elephant

Uma Sahithar/ Uma Maheshwara on Nandi

a closer look at the ornate Nandi

MAIN SANCTUARY

the Sanctum Sanctorium

Nandi

Dwarapala – the Guard

Adavallan/Dancing Shiva

Adavallan with Karaikkal Ammai

Lintel below Dancing Shiva – Reclining Vishnu

References:

  • pg.182, Lawrence Palmer Briggs, The Ancient Empire
  • C.Minakshi, Administration and Social Life under the Pallavas

Links:

Ammai in Prasat Phanom Rung,Thailand

The next temple in Isan – North East Thailand, with the sculpture of Karaikkal Ammai alongside Adalvallan/Dancing Shiva is Prasat Hin Phanom Rung. The temple is located in the present day Thai Province of Buriram, nearly 364 kms North-east, from the capital city Bangkok. 

Prasat Phanom Rung is yet another masterpiece temple, which seems to have undergone several innovative inclusions under various Kings, like other Khmer monuments in Cambodia and Thailand. According to the Thailand National Committee on the World Heritage Convention

The Phanom Rung sanctuary compound was constructed over several phases, dated by means of iconography of its art and architectural styles together with its inscriptions. These comprise two foundations of sacred brick buildings of 10th century C.E., the minor sanctuary of 11th century, the central sanctuary built by king Suryavarman II’s relative Narentratitaya in 12th century and two Bannalais (libraries) of the 13th century. Further sacred buildings built in the reign of King Jayavarman VII in 13th century, including the Royal attire Changing Pavilion, the Kudi Rishis of Nong Bua Ray, the medical centre or hospital (Arokayasala) and Prasat Ban Bu, a rest house with fire where travelers could shelter (Dharmasala) on the plain at the foot of Phanom Rung, alongside the road linking Angkor and Phimai.

Structural evidences show that the temple has had constructions and improvisations from 10th to 13th centuries CE.

Inscriptional Evidences found till date (see Database of Thai Inscriptions) shed light on the temple from the 8th century CE to 12th century CE.

The Restoration Project of Prasat Phanom Rung, a collaboration between the Thai and French Governments was launched in 1971. After 17 years of committed zeal and scientific archeological reconstruction, the temple with its additional Avatar as a Historical Park was made open to public in May 1988.

This is a huge temple complex with several features like the stairways, processional walkways, three Naga Bridges, a Pavilion, Inner Galleries and the most important Central Sanctuary or the Main Tower. The two brick sanctuaries, built around 10th century CE are believed to be the oldest structure in the Prasat. The Bannalai or the Library used to store Holy Scriptures – an early 13th century CE structure, appears to be the last Khmer addition in the premises. 

The Central Sanctuary is where the Principal Deity – Shiva in Linga form used to be housed. On the entrance pediment of the Main Sanctuary, the beautifully sculpted statue of Adavallan/Dancing Shiva stands majestically with the exceptional glowing smile on the face. 

As seen in the recent posts on Khmer temples such as Phnom Chissor, Vat Baset, Prasat Preah Vihear, Banteay Srei, museums in Phnom Penh and Battambang, all in today’s Cambodia and Prasat Hin Phimai in today’s Thailand, this particular sculpture, that of Adavallan/Dancing Shiva has been the core of analysis. In Phanom Rung too, the sculpture of Karaikkal Ammai- the Demon Devotee of Shiva, sitting alongside Dancing Shiva, mesmerised by his celestial performance, is the focal point.

From the previous articles, it was comfortably construed that the sculpture of Karaikkal Ammai could have been introduced in Khmer architecture, during the reign of Suryavarman I (1010-1050 CE), with sculptural evidences from Phnom Chissor and temples in Battambang province (Cambodia). Preah Vihear and Banteay Srei too, have had inclusions of structures by the same King.

In Thailand, the period of Prasat Hin Phimai is generally assigned to the last decades of the 11th century. As seen in the earlier post on Isan, inscriptional evidences show light on Suryavarman I’s imprint in the area around the Temple premises, signifying religious tolerance between Buddhism and Saivism. Additionally, the fact that the Khmer expansion in Isan (North-east Thailand) reached its culmination during the rule of Suryavarman I, should not be overlooked. 

Sculptural or Inscriptional evidences from Prasat Phanom Rung, like other Khmer Temples, do not provide any specific date to the inclusion of the sculpture of Dancing Shiva alongwith Karaikkal Ammai.

But more in-depth research of the province of Buriram and Prasat Phanom Rung (where the Main Sanctuary houses the sculpture of Dancing Shiva and two women with sunken breasts), might bring out new historical facts and links, on the inclusion of Karaikkal Ammai in yet another Khmer Temple, in Thailand.

Karaikkal Ammai at the feet of Adavallan in Prasat Phanom Rung

Adavallan/Dancing Shiva with Karaikkal Ammai 
display board in the Prasat

When we analyse the sculpture of Adavallan/Dancing Shiva in the above picture, what captivates the spectator the foremost, is the tranquil smile on the face of Adavallan. The sculptor has showcased his expertise even in the delicate sway of the arms of the Cosmic Dancer. Here too, Dancing Shiva is portrayed as ‘Natakesvara Dasabhuja’ – (Ten Armed Dancing Shiva) as mentioned in the Takeo inscription of Suryavarman I (refer – religious-development-under-suryavarman-i-karaikkal-ammai-in-prasat-hin-phimai/ ), as seen in Vat Basset, Battambang Museum, Banteay Srei, Preah Vihear and Prasat Hin Phimai.

There can be seen in the sculpture, two women seated to the right of Adavallan. The temple description reads, ‘one should be the evil incarnation of Goddess Uma and the other might be Karaikkal Ammaiyar’. Rather than naming her an evil incarnation, Goddess Chamundi can be referred as the fierce or aggressive form of Uma or Parvathi, wife of Lord Shiva. 

With the spread of Hinduism and its Mythological legends far beyond India, evidences of which are available from the mid centuries of the first millennium, Chamundi being part of Shiva’s sculptural panel need not be an inclusion of surprise. But the journey of Karaikkal Ammai, the Demon Devotee of Shiva, an exclusive personality from Tamil Land, to find a seat to view Shiva’s cosmic dance in the Khmer Temples of Cambodia and Thailand, certainly seems to be an astonishing one.

Chamundi is a fierce incarnation as per Hindu Mythology. Ammai was a fearless individual, rather a Human and one of the Pioneer Saints of the Tamil Bhakti Movement, with three literary works to her glory (in Tamil namely Arputha Thiruvanthathi, Thiruvalangaatu Mootha Thiruppathigam and Thiruvirattai Manimalai). She stood unrelented to the societal pressures of womanhood, and took up ‘Peyuru’ or ‘Demonic Image’, to realise and hail the intense dance of Shiva in the Graveyard in the midst of the dead. She threw a number of whips at several social issues as early as the 6th century CE – be it her freedom of choice to take up Spirituality at a young age or to emphasise worship in one’s own mother tongue rather than alien languages regarded sacred by several socio religious factions. 

She addressed herself in her hymns as ‘Karaikkal Pei’ (6th century CE)- the Ghost of Karaikkal and Sundarar in his ‘Thiruthondar Thogai’ (8th century CE) called her ‘Peyar’ – the revered Ghost. Her sculptural representation in her homeland ‘Thamizhagam/Thamilagam’, exactly symbolises her life, an emaciated skeletal figure enjoying the eternal dance of Shiva.

Hence, it is indeed with absolute astoundment that this series of articles regarding the sculptural representation of Ammai in far away Khmer Temples, that is very much similar to her representation at Home (Chola Temples of today’s Tamilnadu), is being written. 

In Prasat Phanom Rung, there is a change in the iconographical representation of Karaikkal Ammai. The usual skeletal depiction as an emaciated figure found in Tamil temples from 10th century CE and in the 11th century and later Khmer temples, seem to have received a transformation in this Prasat. 

The Sculptor or the Royal Architect of Prasat Phanom Rung chose to portray in the Sculpture, two dynamic and powerful Women in the life of Shiva, one – his Divine Spouse and the other – his Demon Devotee. It seems he also chose to give a subtle image to the fierce Chamundi and a more Human like appearance to ‘Peyar’ Ammai. The highly damaged lintel leaves very little to discuss about the facial features of both the Ladies, to comprehend better. The Women are adorned with ornaments in their neck and arms, a very unusual iconographic representation of Ammai. Additionally, each seem to be holding a child on their shoulder. Since the head of the sculpture has not survived, the only clue to holding another figure, is the hand of the women holding an arm with hanging fingers. A closer look would reveal tiny fingers on the right breast of both. The image close to the feet of Adavallan/Dancing Shiva additionally seems to hold a feet on the left side. 

Alternatively, since Ammai’s songs manifest the Lord’s Dance in the Funerary Grounds, the figure holding a tiny arm and feet could also suggest that she could be holding a corpse.

Let’s consider the other sculptures of Karaikkal Ammai alongside Adavallan in Khmer Temples, in Cambodia and Thailand. In almost all the temples, in the Panel that hosts Dancing Shiva, the lone woman to watch him dance is Ammai, always in a seated posture, sometimes with cymbals in hands. Only in the sculpture in Battambang Museum, the Museum booklet says, one figure is that of Devi- Shiva’s consort and the other is of Karaikkal Ammai. As interpreted in Battambang Museum as Devi, here in Phanom Rung too, one among the two women has been analysed as Chamundi, an incarnation of Devi.

Among the blessed to watch the Eternal Dance of Shiva, specifically in close proximity could be none other than His Demon Devotee ‘Peyar’. Ammai in Tamil Temples has always been kept in par with the ‘Ganas’ of Lord Shiva, as she wrote in her Arputha Thiruvathathi – ‘Peyaaya Narganathul Onraaya Naam’ – ‘I am one of His Ganas, in the form of a Ghost’. The same has been seen in Khmer Temples too. 

Like she herself described her appearance in Thiruvalangaattu Mootha Thiruppathigam as ‘Kongai thirangi narambezhunthu’- one with shrivelled breasts, she has always been portrayed as an emaciated figure with shrivelled breasts, with a ghost-like image.

கொங்கை திரங்கி நரம்பெழுந்து 
  குண்டுகண் வெண்பற் குழிவயிற்றுப்
பங்கி சிவந்திரு பற்கள்நீண்டு பரடுயர் 
  நீள்கணைக் காலோர்பெண்பேய்
தங்கி அலறி உலறுகாட்டில் 
  தாழ்சடை எட்டுத் திசையும்வீசி
அங்கங் குளிர்ந்தனல் ஆடும்எங்கள் 
  அப்பன் இடந்திரு ஆலங்காடே. 

திருஆலங்காட்டு மூத்த திருப்பதிகம் 

courtesy: Karaikkal Ammai's Thirivalangaattu Mootha Thiruppathigam

The sagging breast is again a strong indication of Ammai’s depiction.

The sculptor has also given a human like iconography with ornaments adorning the ladies. Yet, they do not possess the aesthetic beauty of Goddesses, Apsaras or normal women found in other panels. This is what makes one strongly feel that, the two should be representations of demonic characters. As such, a Demonic Icon to find a place during Lord Shiva’s celestial performance could be none other than Karaikkal Ammai. Moreover, the ornate accessories could have been provided to synchronise their representation with the intricate carvings around Dancing Shiva and the Panel as a whole. This particular panel, when compared to the panels of Dancing Shiva in other Khmer Temples, is indeed more explicit in its craftsmanship.

Karaikkal Ammai has not only pictured her own appearance in her poetry. She has also illustrated the appearance of Adavallan/Dancing Shiva in beautiful Tamil words, which the Pallavas splendidly displayed (in different Karana postures) in their architectural marvels and the Cholas magnified and glorified as the King of Dances in their monumental Temples in yesteryear Thamizhagam. The Dancing Shiva of the Cholas are exact reproductions of Ammai’s Lord of Dance. That could be analysed in a different post.

Such was the connect that Ammai had with the Lord and His Dance. It was such a divine association, that could not be separated by Geographical boundaries, Kingdoms or Languages. The sculpture of Karaikkal Ammaiyar in Prasat Phanom Rung again reiterates the Tamil Trader Connect in South East Asia, specifically in Khmer Kingdom that covered Cambodia and Northeast Thailand. It asserts the Tamil influence over Hinduism, Temples and Temple Architecture in the above mentioned regions.

Apart from the iconographic representation of Ammai in Prasat Phanom Rung (in the 11th century CE or later), inscriptions in the temple decipher new facts. Further more, the collection of other inscriptions in Pallava Grantha Script around the Buriram Province of Thailand to which Prasat Phanom Rung belongs, illuminates the spread of the Tamils, mainly Traders as far as North East Thailand. The inscriptions stand as evidences to the Tamil influence on the Language of yesteryear Thai Kingdoms, prior to the introduction of the sculpture of Karaikkal Ammai in Khmer Architecture.

If introduction of Ammai’s sculpture was a Chola influence, evidences of Pallava influence in Thailand are found as early as 3rd century CE. The touch stone of a goldsmith was discovered from Kuan Luk Pat in Krabi Province in Southern Thailand, on the shore of Andaman Sea. The Tamil words -‘Perum Pathan Kal’ was inscribed in the touch stone which Professor Karashima assigns to 3rd century CE.

Without getting into details of the overall Tamil influence in Thailand, the next post would concentrate on the Tamil influence seen in Buriram Province in North east Thailand, to which Prasat Phanom Rung belongs, to further strengthen the religious connect of the Tamils through the sculpture of Karaikkal Ammai in Khmer Temples of Thailand.

References

pg.182, Lawrence Palmer Briggs, The Ancient Empire

Links-

Ensemble of Phanom Rung, Muang Tam and Plai Bat Sanctuaries

Ancient Maritime Cross – cultural Exchanges Archaeological Research in Thailand

Chaowanee LekklaTracing Zhēnlà Beyond Cambodia: Archaeological Findings on the Lower Mekong River Basin

PrasatPhanomRung.pdf

Thai Scripts: A 730-Year History

pgs. 40, 41/ K.A.N.Sastri, ‘South Indian Influences in the Far East

M D Muthukumaraswamy, https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/for-1000-years-tamil-life-has-chimed-to-his-verses

Paravai Nangai Isuvaram, Paravaipuram/Panaiyavaram

Rajendra I, recognising his relationship with Anukkiyar Paravai Nangaiyar through his Thiruvarur Inscriptions, and the Thiruvarur Inscriptions of Rajadhiraja I, son of Rajendra I, endorsing the recognition and honour his Father bestowed upon Paravai, were discussed in the previous posts.

This post concentrates on the inscriptions in the Temple of Paravai Nangai Isuvaram, situated in the medieval city of Paravaipuram (presently known as Panaiyavaram), an affirmation of the glory of the Lady and certainly a culmination of the Eminence, Paravai Nangai commanded. The inscriptions recorded from the temple, reveal the distinguished stature of Paravai, beyond the reigns of Rajendra I and son Rajadhiraja I.

Paravai Nangai Isuvaram, Paravaipuram

There are 16 inscriptions documented from the Temple at Panaiyavaram – stone inscriptions numbered- 317-329 of 1917 (Annual Report on Epigraphy mentions as Netroddharakasvamin temple), and inscripitons numbered 752, 753 and 754 of 1903 (South Indian Inscriptions Volume 8, that mentions as Netroddharakesvara Temple).

Among the above mentioned inscriptions, those numbered 319, 320, 321 and 323 provide evidence of this Temple linked to Rajendra Chola I and Paravai Nangaiyar, and hence are reviewed here, in the context of the same.

Inscription 319 of 1917 (ARE)

Documented in the 6th regnal year of Rajendra II (1054-1063), second son of Rajendra I and younger brother of Rajadhiraja I, the inscription mentions the name of the Temple as ‘Paravai Isuvaramudaiya Mahadevar Koyil’. It further specifies, that the Koyil was situated in the nagaram/city of Paravaipuram.

Rajendra Cholavalanaattu Panaiyurnaattu Poraiyurnaattu nagaram paravaipurathu paravai isuvaramudaiya mahadevar koyilil

it says-

‘The temple of Paravai Isuvaram Udaiya Mahadevar, located in the city of Paravaipuram in Poraiyurnadu- a subdivision of Panaiyurnadu; Panaiyurnadu was a district in Rajendracholavalanadu.’

Nagaram, denotes a Merchant Settlement. Hence, the temple of Paravai Isuvaramudaiya Mahadevar, must have been built amidst a Residential Colony of Merchants, an area of economically strong citizens.

A person named, Unnatha Chola Pandiya, donated grains for the purpose of lighting lamps in the temple.

the inscription reads-

vembatrur udaiyaan mannadi koothanaana

unnatha chola pandiya peraiyan

‘Unnatha Chola Pandiya’, with the conferred title ‘Peraiyan’, belonged to the village of Vembatrur.

Inscription 320 of 1917 (ARE)

This belongs to the 8th regnal year of Rajendra II. The facts that the inscription provide, seem to be manifold.

A fragment of the inscription, mentions ‘Paravai Purathu Paravai Isuvaramudaiyar’, the name of the city and the Principal Deity of the temple.

The word ‘Thirumugam’ is mentioned. Thirumugam means a Government Order, mostly issued by the King.

The interesting government order, talks of provisions for the worship and lighting lamps, to the images of Rajendracholadeva and Paravai Nangaiyar.

282 goats were provided, for the purpose of lighting –

Nandha Vilakku – 3 in number; and Sandhi Vilakku – 1 in number .

It further clarifies-

a) 90 goats for lighting of 1 nandha vilakku – hence, 270 goats donated for 3 nandha vilakku.

b) 12 goats for lighting of 1 sandhi village

which sums upto a total of 282 goats.

Below are the impressive lines of the inscription, mentioning the King and his Beloved –

rajendrachola devarum paravai nangaiyarum

ezhundharuli nindru thiruvaaraadhanai kolvathaal

Certainly, a fascinating way to epitomize the Duo.

The name of the shepherd, who would maintain the goats, ‘Paravai Nangai Kon’, also deserves a mention.

There is another fragment of the same inscription, which reads –

‘Paravai Nangai vaitha saalai iranginamaiyaal…’

Saala/Salai, as found in Tamil inscriptions of the Chola Era, has several connotations. It could be a specific area for providing food – to thavasis, shiva yogis, brahmins, apoorvis/vedic brahmins and sometimes to students who learnt Sanskrit. It could also be an institution, equivalent to a college. Probably, that is why, some researchers classify ‘Salai’ – predominantly as a Vedic School alone.

Salai, could also be a Military School- as in ‘Kanthalur Salai’. Respected History Researchers like Pandarathar have identified Kanthalur Salai as a Naval Base. The word, ‘Salai’, as given here, might denote a place to provide food to the above, or an institution, probably donated or initiated by Paravai Nangai.

The complexity of ‘Salai’, as documented in Tamil Inscriptions, needs separate analysis.

The phrase ‘Paravai Nangai vaitha saalai iranginamaiyaal’, could mean a neglected Salai, initiated by Paravai Nangai, revived during the times of Rajendra II.

Inscription 321 of 1917 (ARE)

This fragment of the inscription, doesn’t possess any name, such as the King or the temple. On palaeographic grounds, it belongs to the Cholas. Yet, it gives details on the worship and offerings carried out, which seem to suggest an elaborate worship schedule, implemented in the temple.

Large area of land and huge amounts of grain provided to the Temple, translate to the wealth and the importance the shrine must have commanded.

Land and Grains were provided for –

Vazhipaadu, Padaiyal, Sivadharma padippu, Thiruppathiyam– Worship, Offerings of Food, Reading of Sivadharma, and Recitation of Thiruppathiyam hymns.

Panchakavyam – five sacred things – (milk, curd, clarified butter, cowdung and urine) from the cow, used for sacred bath of the deities

Thiruvizha – Festival

Parisattam – Clothes for the deities

Sandhi Vilakku – Lamps – 32 in number

Namanigai – Sacred bath

Aaraadhikkum Andhanan – Brahmin who performs rituals

Parisaragam – Assistant

Thirumanjanam Poorippaan – One who performs the sacred bath

Musical Instruments of the Tamils, documented in ancient Sangam and Post-Sangam Literature (300 BCE – 600 ACE) and the medieval Bhakti Literature, till the date of Chekkizhar’s Periya Puranam (600 ACE – 1200 ACE), and inscriptions, have been classified into four vast categories, in connection to the means of sound produced.

Narambu Karuvigal- Stringed Instruments

Thulai/Kaatru Karuvigal – Wind Instruments

Kanja Karuvigal – Percussion vessels

Thol Karuvigal – Skin-head Percussion Instruments

Something similar to Victor-Charles Mahillon’s far later version (19th century), adapted from the Indian system- chordophones(stringed instruments), membranophones (skin-head percussion instruments), aerophones (wind instruments), and autophones (non-skin percussion instruments.

This inscription provides information on all four classifications of instruments, played in the temple of Paravai Nangai Isuvaram.

  1. Veenai – String
  2. Kaalam – Wind
  3. Thaalam (kind of symbol), Kaimani (bell), Sekandai (Gongs) – Percussion vessels
  4. Padagam, Mathalam, Karadigai – Skin-head Percussion

In addition, there was also a Dance Master for the temple – the word ‘Nattavam’, authenticates this.

With the Information on different kinds of musical instruments and nattavam, one can imagine the delightful feast, the temple would have presented to the deities, devotees and music lovers alike.

Two kinds of Guards were employed-

  1. Ullaalai Thriuvaasal – Guard for the Sanctum Sanctorium
  2. Purambil Thiruvaasal – Exterior Guard outside the Sanctum

Nandavanakkudi is mentioned in the inscription. There had been a Garden in or around the temple premises, where people resided too.

  1. Pallithaamam Parippaan– one to pluck the flowers
  2. Pallithaamam Thoduppaan – one to string the flowers into a garland

– were also assigned for the Garden.

Person for Thirumezhukku – cleaning and maintenance, Kusavan – Potter and Kanakku – Accountant were also part of the Temple Personnel.

Such an extensive pattern of worship and documentation of the same, ascertains the importance of the temple, during its time.

Inscription 323 of 1917 (ARE)

The inscription gives details of ‘Salai’, which could probably be the Salai, set up by Paravai Nangai, as described in inscription 320 of 1917.

Padaiyal -Food offered

Vilakku -Lamps

Salai Adum Madaiyar – Exclusive Cook for the Salai

Salai Pani Pendugal – Women who worked for the Salai

Salai Vaasal Kaappaan – Guard

Salaikku Kottakari – unable to decipher

Kankaani Kanakku – Accounts Superviser

Naayagan – Supervisor

are all mentioned.

Salaiyur, mentioned in the inscription, might refer to the places that were allocated for running of the Salai, at Paravaipuram. Nayagan, might be the Supervisor, in charge of the maintenance of those places.

Probably, this Salai in Panaiyavaram, was one, equivalent to the School/Hostel/Feeding House as mentioned in Rajendra I’s Ennayiram or Uyyakondan Thirumalai Temple inscriptions, which elucidate the administrative pattern of such Institutions.

Since, the personnel who worked for the Salai are mentioned, this could also be considered as a document issued for maintenance of the institution. Whether Rajendra II, released an endowment, for further conservation or continuation of the esteemed institution, started by Paravai Nangai, his father’s beloved, should be left to Probability, with insuffiicient evidences.

There is also a phrase-

‘Paravai Yetridum Soru’ in the fragment. What it could suggest, seems hard to decipher.

Inscriptions 324, 325, 326, 327, 328 and 329 ( of 1917 ARE)

Inscription 324 and 325, belong to Maravarman Vikrama Pandya, (Pandyas of the Second Empire).

The temple is mentioned as – Puravar Panangattur and the Principal Deity is Kannamanda Nayanar.

Inscriptions 326, 327, 328 and 329 belong to the Vijayanagara and post Vijayanagara Era (13th century ACE to 17th century ACE).

326 belongs to Muthukrishnappa Nayakka. The temple is mentioned as `Vira Paravaipuram’

Inscription 327 belongs to the reign of Kampanna Udaiyar. One of the fragments mentions ‘Paravaipurathu Maduranthaka Isuvaramudaiyar’.

Inscription 328 belongs to the reign of Viruppanna Udaiyar, son of Ariyana Udaiyar (son of Harihara II). The year given is Saka Era 1312, hence 1390 ACE. it mentions Udaiyar Kannamanda Nayanar at Thiruppuravar Panangattur or Paravaipuram.

Inscription 329- Names of Venkatapatideva Maharaja and Muthukrishnappa Nayakka are found in the damaged inscription. The name of the city – Paravaipuram, is mentioned.

South Indian Inscription Volume 8

Three Inscriptions noted from Panaiyavaram in the year 1903, are documented in Volume 8 of South Indian Inscriptions.

  1. Inscription 752 of 1903 – was inscribed in the 48th regnal year of Kulottunga Chola I (1070-1122 ACE). The Principal deity is mentioned as –

Gangaikonda Cholavalanaattu Paravaipurathu Thirupanangaadudaiya Mahadevar

The inscription records the donation of one ‘Araiyan Ponnambala Koothan’. He had provided 12 kaasu for the purpose of lighting 2 numbers of Nanda Vilakku.

2. Inscription 753 of 1903 – belongs to Sundarapandian III (of the Second Pandya Empire). This is yet another interesting inscription. It is an Order of the King which instructs in detail- the special days, offerings, decorations, land, grains and other provisions such as – sugarcane, lilly, coconut, areca palm, jackfruit, banana, turmeric, ginger for the temple.

The Temple and the Deity are mentioned as –

Rajarajavalanaattu Panaiyurnaattu Poraiyurnaattu Thaniyoor Paravaipurathu Thiruppuravaar Panangaattudaiyar Kannamanda Nayanar

3. Inscription 754 of 1903 – belongs to the 3rd regnal year of Adhirajendran (1070).

The temple, as seen in the inscription belongs to-

Panaiyurnadu, a district of Rajendra CholaValanadu.

One of the several adorable features of any inscription is, its ability to talk to the reader, after countless number of years. Like this one-

………………………………………………………………narkaasu

narpathum innilathukku naangal irai irukkak kadavamaga konda

…………………………………………………………………………………… …………………………………………………………….vitru vilai

aavananj cheithukoduthom oorkizhaan rajarajan jeyangonda chozhanaana

senaapathigal irukkuvelaarkku Paravaipurathu Nagarathom

It talks of the details of land sold by Paravaipurathu Nagarathar for 40 kaasu. The amount 40 kaasu was handed over to Senapathigal Irukkuvelar. The purpose of the donation, was for offering food to Apurvis of a Sivadharma Matt in the place.

Another temple close by –

Moolai mangala veedhiyil RajendraChola Vinnagar Azhwar Koyil – named RajendraChola Vinnagar Azhwar Koyil, is also mentioned in the inscription.

Inscription 319 of 1917, ARE, which mentioned ‘nagaram paravaipurathu paravai isuvaramudaiya mahadevar koyil‘ – where the merchant settlement came into sight, can be recollected here.

Paravai Nangai Isuvaram – From Paravaipuram to Panaiyapuram

From the above available sources, one could comfortably conclude that Paravai Nangai Isuvaram and Paravaipuram – the temple and city, were named after Rajendra I’s Anukki Paravai, until further contrasting evidences emerge.

Paravai Nangai Isuvaram and Paravaipuram, the name of the Temple and the City respectively, as continued to be known from inscriptions from 11th century ACE until 17th century ACE – during the reigns of Chola, Pandya, Vijayanagar and Post Vijayanagar Empires -is compiled below-

Cholas – 11th century ACE to 13th century ACE

Rajendra II (1054-1063)- Paravai Isuvaram Udaiya Mahadevar Koyil , Paravai Purathu Paravai Isuvaramudaiyar

Kulothunga Chola I (1070-1122) – Gangaikonda Cholavalanaattu Paravaipurathu Thirupanangaadudaiya Mahadeva

Pandyas of the Second Empire- 12th century ACE to 15th century ACE

Vikrama Pandian – Puravar Panangattur – Principal Deity Kannamanda Nayanar

Sundara Pandian III – Paravaipurathu Thiruppuravaar Panangaattudaiyar Kannamanda Nayanar

Vijayanagara and post Vijayanagara Era 13th century ACE to 17th century ACE

Muthukrishnappa Nayakka – Vira Paravaipuram

Kampanna Udaiyar – Paravaipurathu Maduranthaka Isuvaramudaiyar

Viruppanna Udaiyar – Udaiyar Kannamanda Nayanar at Thiruppuravar Panangattur or Paravaipuram.

Venkatapatideva Maharaja and Muthukrishnappa Nayakka – Paravaipuram

Among the city, temple and the Principal Deity – Paravaipuram, Paravai Nangai Isuvaram and Paravai Nangai Isuvaramudaiya Mahadevar, the name of the city ‘PARAVAIPURAM’ has remained the same for several centuries.

This leads to an unambiguous fact – Today’s Panaiyavaram is the altered/distorted version of Paravaipuram.

Conclusion

Inscriptions 319 and 320 of 1917 (ARE) from Panaiyavaram, belong to Rajendra II, the second son of Rajendra I, who ruled the Chola Land after his elder brother Rajadhiraja I. After Rajendra I’s Thiruvarur inscription and Rajadhiraja I’s inscription from the same temple, substantiating the influence of Anukkiyar Paravai Nangaiyar, this is yet another evidence of the continued importance bestowed upon her, even after two rulers – Rajendra I and Rajadhiraja I.

Was the temple built by Rajendra I, whose heart fell for the Lady and her exceptional qualities; or one of his sons – seems unclear, from the available evidences. But, what is clearly evident, is the significance of Paravai Nangai, specially due to her contributions to Chola Temples.

I quote my verses from one of the previous posts –

The transition from a Danseuse to a Revered Donor, nothing lesser than a Royal Patron, makes Paravai an interesting part of Rajendra’s life. 

The respect, the Father gave to his Intimate Companion, being honoured by both the sons, makes the Lady certainly a unique personality during her times and beyond. The admiration and appreciation, the Persona of the Lady had commanded seems overwhelming.

Neither a Queen, nor a Royal Patron, the Danseuse and Soulmate of Rajendra I, had been given the honour of a City, Temple and Principal Deity named after her. She was a special Confidante of the King – Anukki. Additionally, the title prefixed to her name with Love – ‘Anukkiyar’ and the suffix to Anukki- ‘ar’ and Nangai -‘ar’ with immense respect, indicate her exceptional position.

Several striking features of ‘Paravai Nangai’ known from inscriptions in the Tamil Temples have been discussed in this and the previous series of posts. The most striking among them is the respect Rajendra I showered on Anukkiyar Paravai Nangaiyar, that has resonated for at least five centuries, the last inscriptions available so far with the name Paravaipuram, documented during the Vijayanagar Era.

Two Distinct Deeds of Rajendra I

The two distinct deeds of Rajendra Chola I, one of the world’s greatest Naval Champions, were discussed in the recent series of posts. The King’s affection and warmth towards his Step-Mother, Panchavanmadevi and admiration and fondness towards his Anukki – Paravai Nangai are certainly surprising elements. But, building a Temple in memory of Step-mother (Pallipadai Panchavanmadevi Isuvaram) and glorifying his relationship with his Lady Love – documenting it in his temple inscriptions are unheard of.

The exceptional quality of honoring his intimate relationships, those were exclusively close to his heart, makes the Valiant and Victorious Rajendra I, a Dignified Soul. Specially, when such intimate relationships could create intricate complications – a few domestic, and a few more Political.

Rajendra I, who made a mark in the Chola maritime warfare and trade links across the Bay of Bengal, had deified his step-mother Panchavanmadevi and immortalized his beloved friend Paravai Nangai. These distinguished deeds of the Emperor has revealed to the world, yet another illustrious quality of the Emperor – Respecting and Recognising Unconventional Relationships.

References

Web links-

pgs.28,29- Annual Report on Epigraphy -ARE – 1915-1920

pgs. 383, 384, 385 –South Indian Inscriptions Texts Volume 8

Dr. P. Rajaraman, Sri Netroddharakaswami Temple, Panaiyapuram, pdf.

Thagadur Nadu under Vijayanagar Rule, pdf.

Noboru Karashima, Nayaka Rule in the Tamil Country during the Vijayanagar Period

Five inscriptions copied from Uyyakondan Thiirumalai by Dr. M. Rajamanickkanar Centre for Historical Research. – article published in The Hindu.

Panchavanmadevi Pallippadai – Rajendra I’s Tribute to his Step-Mother

While the inscriptions of Paravai Nangai Isuvaram are still being studied, I thought the other distinct deed of Rajendra Chola I, constructing a Pallippadai Temple for his Step-mother, Panchavanmadevi, could be discussed in this post.

Pallippadai in Tamil denotes a Memorial Temple. The verb, ‘Pallippaduthal’ is ‘to lay a person on fire’, or a ‘burial’. Hence, Pallippadai could be a place, as per Saivite rituals, where the ashes of the person were buried, and a deity for worship- a Shiva Lingam -would be consecrated. With the Primary Deity of worship installed, it becomes a Temple, in honour of the loved one.

The purpose of a Pallippadai, is neither the elevation of the person as a God or Goddess; nor the worship of the loved one, by the society. It is a representation of the profound affection, one had for the Deceased. This act of Deification of a loved one, is purely an ultimate portrayal of respect and love.

Three Pallippadai Temples that belong to the Medieval Cholas, have been found, in the United Thamizhagam under the mighty Cholas.

Adityesuvaram – Pallippadai Temple of Aditya Chola, father of Paranthaka I and the son of Vijayalaya- the victorious King, who revived the ancient glory of the Chola Empire in Tamil Land, is situated in today’s Andhra Pradesh, near Thirukkalathi (today’s Kalahasti). The temple was built by his son, Paranthaka I. It is called ‘Kothanadarameshwara Temple’, now.

Arinjaya Choleesuvaram – Pallippadai Temple of Arinjaya Chola, father of Sundara Chola/Paranthaka II and the son of Paranthaka I, is situated in Melpadi, in Vellore district of Tamilnadu. The temple was built by Rajaraja I, in memory of his grand father.

Panchavanmadevi Isuvaram – Pallippadai Temple of Panchavanmadevi, Queen of Rajaraja I, lies near Patteesvaram, in the district of Thanjavur, Tamilnadu. The temple was built by Rajendra I, in memory of his step-mother. Like several other temples, those have lost their original names, this temple is called ‘Ramanathan Koyil/ Temple’, now.

Why Panchavanmadevi Pallippadai is important in the history of Temple Construction of Thamizhagam- today’s Tamilnadu?

Panchavanmadevi Isuvaram

The temple stands tall, in its representation of Love – Love for a Mother.

 As mentioned in one of the earlier posts, It is normal for a King to build a Monument in memory of His Queen, or a Son for his Mother; But building a Temple in long lasting memory of a Step-mother, is never heard of.

This is a Unique Temple, showcasing Unique Love.

Panchavanmadevi, a Pazhuvettaraiyar Princess, who became the Queen of Rajaraja I, was an eminent Patron of several temples, during the reign of her husband. Several inscriptions in the Thanjai Peruvudaiyar Temple, Thiruppugalur, Melapaluvur temples and several more, mention her contributions. The noteworthy contributions of the Royal Ladies of the Chola Empire, is a well documented fact. Panchavanmadevi, was one among them.

But, what makes the Consort of Rajaraja I exceptional, seems to be her immense affection for Rajendra I, her husband’s son and the heir to the Chola Throne. It is beyond one’s comprehension, how deep should’ve been Rajendra’s attachment towards Panchavanmadevi, that he constructed a Memorial Temple, in her honour.

Such a phenomenal temple, can neither be found in the entire sub-continent nor in other parts of the world. The selfless warmth, Panchavanmadevi must have showered upon her step-son, is still reflected on the walls of the temple, beyond a thousand years.

A Neglected Monument – Failure of a Society?

Temples of Tamilnadu, that stand as Stone Documents of our bygone Eras, face several threats. Reclaiming Temples, Preserving the idols, Saving the documented inscriptions on the walls, have all become challenges. The plight of the documented inscriptions is yet another tragic story. In such case, the society is under a great threat of losing its History. What happens when the common man doesn’t realise that his everyday temple is a store house of historic documents? Tamil Land seems to be leading by example.

The arduous story behind the retrieval of the Temple of Panchavanmadevi, and the struggle to bring out the inscription in the temple, which stands proof of the Temple’s unprecedented identity, is painfully recorded by Dr. R. Kalaikkovan, Founder, Dr. M. Rajamanikkanar Centre for Historical Research, Thiruchirapalli, in his article in varalaaru.com.- ஒரு காலக் கனவின் கண்ணீர்க் கதை (click for link).

The year, the article was published in varalaaru.com, was 2009. The undigestible truth behind this article, is yet another 10 years of laborious attempt (prior to 2009) to bring the temple to light. A total of 30 years, to rescue a monument from Human Negligence. Truly Tragic.

A very recent re-broadcast of Dr. R. Kalaikkovan’s Radio Talk, in All India Radio, was a stunner, in terms of the plight of exceptional temples, in today’s world.

After reading the article, one takes some time to come to terms with reality. Additionally, Deciphering inscriptions, doesn’t seem to be a Herculean task. Protecting the inscriptions, seems to be one.

Due to the relentless pursuit of Dr. Kalaikkovan and his team, the inscription of Rajendra I, in the temple, has been deciphered and documented.

Rajendra I’s inscription of Panchavanmadevi, which mentions the Temple as a Pallippadai.

The unfinished long inscription starts with Rajendra Chola I’s Meikeerthi – ‘thirumanni valara’. The year of the inscription, is the seventh regnal year of Rajendra, 1019. We are talking about a document, which was inscribed more than a 1000 years ago.

Thirumanni valara irunila madanthaiyum……………………….

……………………………………………………………………………..

………………………………………………………………………………

…………………………………………………………..kopparakesari

varmarana sri Rajendra chozha devarkku yaandu

ezhavathu kshatriyasigamani valanaattu thirunaraiyur

naattu pazhai

yaaraana mudikonda chozhapurathu pallippadai

panchavan madevi isuvarathu madevarkkum

The temple is mentioned as ‘Kshatriya Sigamani Valanaattu, Thirunaraiyur Naattu, Pazhaiyaaraana Mudikonda Chozhapurathu Pallippadai Panchavan Madevi Ishwaram’ and the principal deity is Panchavan Madevi Ishwarathu Devar.

The inscription, stands as an illustration of the Administerial Excellence, which the Cholas documented through their Temples. It refers to the Deities of Worship in the temple and the names of temple officials, religious functionaries and workers, employed for the temple. Clear specifications of duties of personnel, the exact amounts of land and grains allotted for the temple activities, oil and food to be offered to the deities – are all unambiguously recorded.

When compared to two of the other Pallippadai Temples of the Chola Era, Panchavanmadevi Pallippadai has noticeable details of attention, the King had registered while constructing the Special Premises.

Important details recorded in the inscription, reveal interesting particulars of the Temple Administration. They are also evidences of transparency in regulations under the Chola Empire, certainly a Golden Era for Temples and Architecture, and Historic Documentation at its Apex.

THE INSCRIPTION

The shares of land, from which grains would be given for the usage of Temple and Temple Officials and Workers, would be received from the village of Sitraadi, under the district of Thirunaraiyur.

The temple officials are cited in these verses–

Under the Orders of – Uyyakondar valanaattu vennaattu keralandhaga charuppethi mangalathu maaraayan Arumozhiyaana Uthamachozha Brahmaraayan,

kallil vettuvikkavendru uyyakond

dar valanaattu vennaattu keralanthaka saruppethi

mangalathu maaraayan arumozhiyaana uthamachozha

brahmaraayan solla

Under the Supervision of Chief Administrative Officer – SriKaryam Seikindra Kshatriya Sigaamani Valanaatu Setroor Kootrathu Maruthathurudaiyan Venkaadan Kovandhai and Pontiff – Madapathy Laguleesa Pandhithar,

iththevarkku srikaryanj

cheikindra kshatriyasigaamani valanaatu setroor

kootrathu maruthathur

rudaiyaan venkaadan kovandhaiyum immadapathi

laguleeswara paditharum kankaaniyaaga kallil

vettiyathu

The Inscription has been documented, under the orders of the General, Uthamachozha Brahmaraayan, under the supervision of Chief Administrative Officer, Venkaadan Kovandhai and Pontiff Laguleesa Pandithar.

Apart from the Principal Deity, Panchavanmadevi Isuvarathu Maadevar, the deities in the temple are Umasagithar, Ganavathiyar and Chandrasekara Devar.

…………….Umasagitharkku moondru sandhikkum thiruvamuthu

arisi arunaazhiyum Gana

vathiyaarkku sandhi ondrukku thiruvamudhu arisi oru naazhi

yum Chandrasekara devarkku sandhi ondrukku thiruvamudhu

arisi irunaazhiyum

Below are the offerings of Food to deities of the temple. Amudhu is a generic word for ingredients to make different offerings of Food. Thiruvamudhu, mentioned in temple records, stands for a Meal offered to the Deities. It has been seen from other inscriptions, that the Grand Meal or a Feast Meal offered in temples, is mentioned as Perunthiruvamudhu.

What we know from this inscription, is the supply of several ingredients, needed to cook different offerings of meals to the deities of Panchavanmadevi Isuvaram.

Thiruvamudhu – Meal

Neiyamudhu – Clarified Butter

Paruppamudhu – Lentils

Kariyamudhu – Vegetabes

Thayiramudhu – Curd/Yoghurt

Uppamudhu – Salt

Adaikkai Amudhu – Betel Nut

Vetrilai – Betel Leaves

The exact amounts of rice grain, clarified butter, lentils, vegetables, yoghurt, betel leaves and betel nuts have been recorded. With the main ingredients, salt for seasoning and pepper as spice, have been used.

……………………………Kariamudhukku

milagu iru sevidaraikku nel iru naazhiyum uppa

mudhukku naal 1kku nel uriyum

Precise description of all essential ingredients for the Temple Offerings, recorded a 1000 years ago, baffles our imagination.

Also, wood used for the cooking stove, for the deities – Udaiyar Panchavanmadevi Isuvarathu Maadevar, Umasahithar, Chandrashekara Devar and Ganavathiyar- is mentioned, in the inscription.

After food, the inscription mentions the lighting of Lamps in the Temple.

……………………………….thirunondhavilakku

moondrukku ennai muzhakkum sandhi vilakku siru

kaalai ettum uchampodhu ettum iraapathinarum

aaga

sandhi vilakku muppathirandu

  1. Thirunandha vilakku -3
  2. Sandhi vilakku – 8 in the morning, 8 in the noon and 16 at night- which makes up to 32 lamps
  3. Small lamps -8 in number, for Sribali (offering of holy food), to be lit 3 times a day.
  4. Bigger Torch Lamps – 2 in number, for Thirumanjanam- (sacred bath) and Thiruvolakkam (public exhibit of the Deities, which is done on a special place in the temple)

Such impressive attention on details.

After providing specifications on grains and ingredients for Food and Oil for Lamps, Sandalwood for Thirumeipoochu -sacred smearing on idols and Kunguliyam (the aromatic sal dammer ) for Thiruppugai – burning incense, is stated.

thirumeipoochchukku naal ondrukku sandhanam………..

…………………………………………………………………………….

……………………………………………………………………………

…………..thiruppugaikku naal 1 kku kungulium……………..

To put it in concise –

Ingredients list of nei amudhu (clarified butter), paruppu amudhu (lentil), kari amudhu (vegetables), thayir amudhu (yoghurt), uppamudhu (salt), milagu(pepper), viragu (wood), adaikkai amudhu (betel nut), and vetrilai (betel leaves) – for Thiruvamudhu (food)

Ennai (oil) for Lamps – for the Deities, Temple premises, offering of Holy Food, the Sacred Bath and Public Exhibit of Deities

Sandhanam (Sandalwood) for Smearing on Deities

Kunguliyum (Sal Dammer) for burning incense

have been specified, and the amounts of grains allotted for these purposes are described in detail.

Instructions on the special celebrations, to commemorate the respective birth-stars of Rajendra Chola Deva, and his wife Nampirattiyar (name not mentioned) are specified.

……………..Udaiyar SriRajendra Chozhadevar

thirunaalaana thiruvathirai thirunaal 1kku thiruvizha ezhun

tharula thiruppallithamamum thiruvamudhu thiruvilakken

naiyum thiruppalli chivikai kaavuvarukku nellu

irukalane iru naazhi uzhak

kaga aanduvarai thiruvadhirai thirunaal 12 um nampiratti

yar iraivathi thirunaal 12 um aaga thirunaal 24 sku

There are two facts that are note worthy, in this part of the inscription-

  1. A Festival to be organised on Thiruvathirai (the birth-star of Rajendra I); and
  2. Monthly ceremonies on Thiruvathirai and Revathi (birth-star of Nampirattiyar – wife of Rajendra I) respectively, which counts to a total of 24 days of celebrations a year.

For these special occasions, grains have been systematically allotted for-

  1. thiruppallithamam – Flower Garlands
  2. thiruvamudhu – Holy Food
  3. thiruvilakkennai – Oil for Lamps
  4. thiruppalli chivigai kaavuvaar – Palenquin Bearers of the sacred Deities
  5. thiruvilakku seelai, thirupparisattam, thirunamanigai, thiruvuthiriyam, thirumelkattu and thiruvidhanam- sacred clothes for different purposes in the temple

This list, is exclusively for the Festival and Celebrations in the name of Rajendra Chola I and his Consort.

The fascinating details of the persons employed with their names, for different services of the temple, are provided.

The persons on duty in the Temple of Panchavanmadevi Isuvaram-

One person to recite Tamil Hymns (probably Thevaram)- Pidaaranthiruvaradhinai seyyum pidaran 1vanukku – for the Agamic Rituals

Two Saivite Brahmins – Siva Brahmanan Kousikan Bharathan Thiripuranthakan and Kousikan Bharathan Narayanan – for the Vedic Rituals

Accounts Officer – Kanakku Araiyan Madhuranthakanaana Chozha Perunkavithi

Treasurer – Pandaari Maruthoorudaiyan Venkaadan Kovanthai

Temple Guard – Thirumeikkaaval Venkaadan Ponnambalam

and – Sivannan Sandilyan Narayanan Pattadhithan

Panel of 6 instrumentalists headed by – one Uvachu koothan

Another panel of 6 instrumentalists headed by – Uvachu Aravanaiyaan Ekaveeran

Deputy to the Accounts Officer – Araiyan Madhuranthakanaana Chozha Perunkavithikku Kaavithimai seivaan

Potter – Kusavan Kannan Thiruvadigal

Maintenance – cleaning and washing – Thiruvalagu Thirumezhukku ida Bharathan Thiripuranthakan and Bharathan Narayanan

The inscription talks in detail, the quantities of grain to be provided to these staf, for their services.

What an extensive Inscription! Who said a research article shouldn’t display emotions? One is fascinated by the sheer lucidity that the inscription exhibits. Every Chola Temple, draws the same amount of inquisitiveness and admiration, with its captivating diverse elements. The restriction of adjectives, in a research article, wouldn’t hold good, while writing about Tamil Temples, as a whole.

While every Chola Temple, is a Unique Treasure Trove… What makes Panchavanmadevi Pallippadai, an Exceptional One?

The other two Pallipadai Temples of the Chola Era, are dedicated to Kings. Panchavanmadevi Pallipadai is the only one, dedicated to a Lady. This is a Temple, constructed in memory of a Son’s love for his Mother. What makes it even more distinct, is that it is a Memorial Temple, in honour of a Step-Mother.

The devoted affection of Rajendra for his Step-mother is amplified multifold, by the construction of this Temple. The Dynamic King has displayed his fondness for Panchavan Madevi, in an unprecedented way.

The inscription of the temple, is yet again Unique, as no other Pallippadai inscription, both Parantaka I’s and Rajaraja’s, are as explicit and elaborate as Rajendra’s. Having a Festival observed in the King’s auspicious day, and special celebrations in the names of Rajendra and his wife, highlights the honour that the Son wishes to provide his mother, in the future years too.

An equivalent of the Love and Affection, that a mother would give her children, is next to impossible. But, the recognition and honour that Rajendra I has showered in reciprocity of the Affection received, also seems next to impossible.

Panchavanmadevi Pallippadai, is not only Rajendra’s Display of Honour for his Step-mother, It is also a Grand Recognition of the selfless warmth and many more extraordinary qualities, the Lady possessed. It is a portray of what Rajendra I wanted the world to recognise – Deification of Motherhood and Glorification of Womanhood.

Rajadhiraja I’s Inscription on Paravai Nangaiyar- A Son’s Tribute to Father’s Intimate Companion!

In the previous post, Rajendra Chola I’s honourable recognition of his Intimate Companion, Anukkiyar Paravai Nangaiyar, through the King’s Thiruvarur inscription was discussed.

This post, aims to throw light on the Thiruvarur inscription of Rajadhiraja I, son of Rajendra I. While Rajendra’s inscription showcases one of the distinct deeds of the Emperor, Rajadhiraja’s inscription certainly commands a noteworthy place, since it is yet another distinct deed- this time that of a Son, in recognition of his Father’s Special Friend.

The Thiruvaroor inscription of Rajakesarivarman Rajadhiraja Chola I, is dated 1042, the 24th regnal year of the King.

Rajadhiraja’s Meikeerthi starts with –

‘Swasthi Sri thingalendharu thanthongal venkudaikeezh

nilamagal nilava malarmagal punarndhu senkolochi………

…………………………………………………………………………………….

uyarndha perupugazh korajakesari panmarana

udaiyar Sri Rajadhiraja Devarkku….’

According to the inscription, the contributions of Paravai Nangai continue to pour into the temple, during the reign of Rajadhiraja I too. There are three places, where Rajendra I and Paravai Nangai have been mentioned together.

Several features that the inscription brings to limelight are as follows-

a. There are details regarding the yield of grains received by the temple, from the land purchased previously by Paravai Nangai, in Theeyankudi.

……………….Udaiyar Sri Rajendhira

Choladevar Anukkiyar Nakkan Paravai

Nangaiyar ikkoyil devadhanam theeyang-

kudiyil munbu vilaikondudaiya nilam……..

b. Details regarding yield from the land previously purchased by Paravai Nangai in Menmangalam-

…….ivare thiruvarur nagarathaaridai

thriuvaraneriyudaiyar devadanam menmangalathu

sabaiyar vilai kondudaiya………………

……………………………………………………

……………………………………………………

kondudaiya nilam

c. From the grains received from these lands, Rajadhiraja orders to arrange for ‘thiruvamudhu’ and ‘parisattam’ to be offered to the icons of Rajendra Chola I and Anukkiyar Paravai Nangaiyar. ‘Thiruvamudhu’ is the ‘holy food offered to deities in temples’ and ‘Parisattam’ denotes the clothes to be offered.

…………………………….udaiyar Sri Rajendhira Devarkkum

Paravai Naachiyaarkkum thiruvamudhukkutpatta…….

………………………………………………………………………………

……………………………………………………………………………..

…………………………………………ivarkalukke parisat-

tathukku kaasu …………………………………………………

The inscription mentions Paravai Nangaiyar along with Rajendra Chola, thrice. First, it introduces her as ‘Rajendra Choladevar Anukkiyar, Nakkan Paravai Nangaiyar’. The second time, she is referred as, ‘Paravai Nachiyar’. The third time, the inscription says- ‘Udaiyar Sri Rajendra Chola Devarkkum Paravai Nangaiyarkkum’.

Through this inscription, Rajadhiraja I, also reinforces the endowments that were formerly offered by Paravai Nangai to the temple of Thiruvarur. The immense patronage the Lady extended to Temples, most strikingly to the Temple of Thiruvarur, had made her name truly be carved in the history of the Temple. So much to say, that the Emperor Son of Rajendra I, endorses the recognition and honour his Father bestowed upon Paravai, in the inscriptions of his era too.

Respecting a Lady, who was his Father’s distinguished companion, and supporting her Patronage, might have been a difficult personal as well as political issue for Rajadhiraja I, the Son and the King. Rajadhiraja’s appreciation of Paravai’s contributions and additionally, documentation of her Generosity, only magnifies the Qualities, for which Paravai must have been looked up with respect.

If this is a magnanimous act of Rajadhiraja I, it is also a significant tribute, Paravai Nangai is glorified with.

If this isnt enough…. Next, a crowning glory to the Lady, a Temple built in her name. This would be discussed in the next post.

Note:

All images of inscriptions- Photo Courtesy:  Dr. Kalaikkovan, Founder, Dr. M. Rajamanikkanar Centre for Historical Research, Thiruchirapalli.

Rajendra Chola I – Two Distinct Deeds of the World’s Greatest Naval Champion

Rajendra Chola I (regnal years 1012-1044), the son of Rajaraja Chola I,  is undoubtedly one of the greatest Emperors the Tamil Land, India or even the World has ever produced. His successful expeditions, in the neighbouring Kingdoms of yesteryear Thamizhagam, as far as the Ganges, surpassing the Kalingas and conquering the Palas, earned him the title – ‘Gangai Konda Chozhan’ – ‘The Chola who conquered the Ganges’.

He learnt political and economic warfare from his accomplished and triumphant Father-  Rajaraja I, the Great. Rajendra I proved that, none other than him could have taken the victorious Baton of the Cholas, not only to the neighbourhood, but to the several countries in South East Asia as well. His successful overseas expeditions documented in his inscriptions, prove his mettle as a Skillful Warrior, a Tactful Administrator, and the most striking feature of all, being a Maritime Champion – Political and Economic.

Tamil Kings and their zeal for constructing Temples is a well acknowledged fact. Temples of Tamilzhagam/Tamilagam are not only religious entities, but store houses of history. The passion with which the rulers – Pallavas, Cholas, Pandyas or their Vassal Kings, have transformed Temples into Architectural wonders, can be felt in each and every Temple of South India. But, the credit of engineering the temples into Massive Monuments with Intricate Sculptural Marvels, unable to capture the total essence of the master piece, even in the best technologically advanced cameras of the present times, is only one of the several distinguished achievements of the Cholas.

That Temples received immense patronage from the Rulers, who showed keen interest in documenting history through inscriptions, is very well known . Temples, being store houses of historic treasures, also preserve several surprises and distinctive facts to be unearthed.  Two such instances associated with Rajendra I’s Temples, accentuates the distinct qualities of the Emperor.

Both instances involve two special women in the life of the accomplished son of Emperor Rajaraja I, the Great.

One, His Lady Love from Thiruvarur, Nangai Paravai. The respect and the special position that the King gave to His special friend and beloved; and her specific interest in Temples and Religious deeds would be discussed in this post, with the available inscriptional evidences.

Two, Rajendra I’s step mother Panchavan Madevi. It is normal for a King to build a Monument in memory of His Queen, or a Son for his Mother ; But building a Temple in long lasting memory of a Step-mother, is never heard of. Temples built in honour of the dead is called Pallippadai in Tamil. Son of Vanavan Madevi and Rajaraja I, Rajendra I, was much attached to his step-mother, Panchavanmadevi. Rajendra’s Pallippadai in memory of Panchavanmadevi would be discussed in another separate post.

A recent radio programme in All India Radio, Thiruchirappalli, anchored by Dr. R. Kalaikkovan, Founder, Dr. M. Rajamanikkanar Centre for Historical Research, Thiruchirapalli, gave a fine introduction to the special relationship between Rajendra Chola I and Paravai Nangai. Dr. Kalaikkovan, a veteran in History, Temple Inscriptions, Architecture and a connoisseur of Arts and Music, is also well known as a charming narrator of history, comprehensible to common man. The elegance with which, he explained the beautiful story of Paravai Nangai encouraged this write-up.

My respectful gratitude to Dr. R. Kalaikkovan, for mentoring and providing authentic evidences and patient explanations, on Rajendra I and Paravai Nangaiyar’s relationship.

Rajendra Chola I and Anukkiyar Paravai Nangaiyar

The temple of Thiruvarur holds a special place in the life of Rajendra Chola I. Two of the Inscriptions in the temple, talk of Paravai Nangai. The inscriptions do not mention her as Paravai Nangai, but with a special status – Anukkiyar Paravai Nangaiyar. Anukki, in tamil means female friend or confidante. As she commanded a much respectful position,  she is introduced as Anukkiyar – with the suffix ‘ar’ that stands for reverence.

First, the story of Paravai Nangai, adapted from the Radio Talk of Dr. Kalaikkovan. During the era of the medieval Cholas, there were several Residential Dance Schools, called Thalichery. Qualified dancers from Thalicherys were sent to perform at different Temples in the Chola Mandalam. The city of Thiruvarur was very much popular for its Thalichery. It was called ‘Thiruvarur Periya Thalicherry’.

During the reign of Rajaraja I, many distinguished dancers were selected from Thiruvarur to perform at the Thanjai Peruvudaiyar Koyil – Rajarajecharam Temple.

The Beloved Friend of Rajendra I, Paravai Nangai too, must have been a product of the Illustrious Thiruvarur Periya Thalichery. As per the interesting narration, after taking over from his Father, as the Emperor of the Cholas, Rajendra Chola I visited several places in Cholamandalam. According to an inscription, he visited Thiruvalanchuzhi, near present day Kumbakonam and had lunch in the Temple Gardens. The same way, on one of his visits to Thiruvarur, he must have met Paravai, the beautiful Dancer.  She must have performed in front of the Lord. Rajendra must have viewed her dance. One of the apt Titles that Rajendra I possessed was ‘Panditha Cholan’- one who is well versed in Arts and Literature.  A true Connoisseur of Arts, Rajendra must have developed a soft corner for Paravai and her Art of Dance.

There are two Inscriptions in the temple of Thiruvarur, that provide evidence of the significant influence of Paravai Nangaiyar.

  1. Thiruvarur Inscription of Rajendra I, provides ample information on the religious services offered by Anukkiyar to the temple of Thiruvarur
  2. Thiruvarur Inscription of Rajadhiraja I, son of Rajendra I, provides evidence of the influence of Paravaiyar. This inscription is of additional significance, as it talks of the respect of the Son towards the special friend of the Father.

Rajendra’s inscription is discussed in this post.

Thiruvarur Inscription of Rajendra I

The long inscription is dated 1032 ACE, the 20th regnal year of Rajendra Chola I. It starts with the phrase ‘Thirumanni Valara…’, the Meikeerthi of Rajendra I. It describes in detail, the enormous amount of jewellery, land and lamps donated by Anukkiyar Paravai Nangaiyar, the Lady Love of the Emperor, to the temple of Thiruvarur. The interest that Paravai Nangai took in reconstructing and beautifying the Temple and its premises is remarkable.

The weights in gold used to built the vimanam of the sanctum sanctorium, the weights in copper used to decorate the doors, the weights of the enormous kuthu vilakku (Lamp) donated and the number of precious stones and pearls offered to the temple by her, are provided in detail.

The significance of this inscription is multi dimensional. This can be ascertained by the contributions of Paravai Nangai to the temple of Thiruvaroor.

Paravai Nangai’s contributions to the temple of Thiruvarur

There were Anukkiyar – friends and close confidantes to Kings, from the times of Adita Chola, in the Chola dynasty. They were all known to the world by their endowments and charities to temples.

But, the difference in Paravai Nangai is in the status, she enjoyed. Her donations to the temple are incomparable, coming from an Anukki of the King.  The inscription also showers light on important mile stones of the Temple. The mile stones of being converted into stone structure and beautification with gold plating of the Vimanam, done by Paravai Nangai, make her name an inseparable part of the temple and its glory, till today.

 

Important segments of the inscription

In the 18th regnal year of the Emperor, The Temple with the principal deity Udaiyar Veedhi Vidangathevar of Thirvarur was converted into a stone structure, by Anukkiyar Paravai Nangaiyar.

 

Udaiyar Sri Rajendra Choladevarkku yaandu

irubadhavathu udaiyar Sri Rajendra Chola Devar Anukkiyar

Paravai Nangaiyar `kshatriya Sigamani Valanaattu

Tiruvarur Kootrathu Thiruvarur Udaiyar

Veedhi Vidangathevar Thirukkatrali eduppiththu

 

‘Thirukkatrali Eduppiththu’  signifies the conversion of the existing structure to stone.

 

In the 18th regnal year of Rajendra I, the work of gold plating and copper plating of the temple, started from the 38th day and was completed on the 199th day. The Vimanam, walls and the entrance of the temple’s Sanctum Sanctorium were plated with Gold; The doors and pillars of the Mañdapam were plated with Copper. The weight of Gold añd Copper used in the beautification process is quite overwhelming. That, Gold weighing 20643 kalanju and copper plates weighing 42000 palam were used is only a fraction of the various contributions of the Lady.

Anukkiyar Paravai Nangaiyar Yaandu

……………………………………………….

………………………………………………

……………………………………………..

meintha pon irupathinaayirathu arunootru

narpathu mukkazhanje ezhu manjaadiyum

……………………………………….

……………………………………………………ik

Koyil munbil mandapathu soozhntha

kodunkaiyilum sopana koodathilum

kathavilum meintha pon narpaththu

eerairaththu…………………..

 

She donated Chowries for the deity with Golden handles. Why I chose to cite this among the other donations is because, these verses are one among the few places, the name of Anukkiyar Paravai Nangaiyar is mentioned along with Rajendra I, in the inscription.

SriRajendra Choladevar Anuk

kayak Paravai Nangaiyar vaitha ponnin

kaichamarai ondru………………………….

 

The volume of the jewellery offered by Paravai to the temple is humongous. Below is a portion of the enormous amount of precious stones and pearls that were offered by Paravai. In one portion, the inscription talks of- 18 Rubies, 252 diamonds, 24 Rubies, 246 diamonds.

 

Among the several lamps that she donated, were two special and huge Pavai Vilakku- one named ‘Pachai Pavai Umai Nangai’ and the other named ‘Pavai Sariya Mulai Nangai’.

Pachai Pavai Umai Nangai

 

Pavai Sariya Mulai Nangai


 

The Exceptional Status of Paravai Nangai

Apart from the above long lists of Paravai Nangai’s contributions to the temple,  few select verses in the inscription, reveal to the world, the influence Paravai Nangai enjoyed and the special position accorded upon her by the Emperor.

Let’s imagine this situation. The King decides to visit the temple. It is normal for a King to witness huge fanfare and reverence from his subjects, on a temple visit, while his Chariot passes the streets. It would be an additional sight of delight for the subjects, to pay obeisance to the King, if he is with his Queen. Such occasions of Kings, Queens, Crown Princes, Princesses, Queen Mothers, Daughters in Law and many more from the Royal Clan, visiting Temples and their endowments have been recorded in Temple Inscriptions.

In the context of this post, the King, Rajendra I decided to visit the temple. He desired to visit with his Beloved, Anukkiyar Paravai Nangai. What makes the incident unique, is that, the King took Paravai Nangai along with him on his Chariot. This is one exclusive recognition that he bestowed upon her.

Apart from taking a tour, with Paravai to the Temple, Rajendra also placed on record in his temple inscription, that He and Paravai Nangai travelled on a Chariot to the Temple.

This specific segment of the inscription presents three facts-

1.Rajendra I and Paravai arrived at the Temple. One Vilakku/Lamp was placed at the entrance point, probably where the Chariot drove into the Temple premises.

………………….Sri Rajendra Chola

Devarum Anukkiyar Paravai Nangaiyarum

thermelezhundharuli puguthikki niluda

vaitha vilakkondrinaal

 

2. Two Kuthu Vilakkus/Standing Lamps were placed inside the Sanctum Sanctorium.

.………………………..Udaiyar SriMoolasthanamudaiyar

Koyilil Ullalai Kuthuvilakku irandum

 

3. One Kuthu Vilakku/Standing Lamp was placed, on the spot where Rajendra I and Anukkiyar Paravai Nangaiyar stood together and worshipped the Lord.

Udaiyar SriRajendra Choladevarum

Anukkiyar ParavaiNangai yaarum nirkumidanth

theriym Kuthuvilakku ondrum

 

The inscription

 

These facts documented by Rajendra I, is a significant proof of his special relationship with Paravai Nangai, which he doesn’t hesitate to permenantly document . The inscription seems to emphasise on the dignity,  he wished to confer upon her. Throwing light on certain defined moments, like placing lamps on the spot of worship, is yet another way to reiterate, the Stature the Lady enjoyed, in his heart and beyond.

Paravai Nangai, suggested to have hailed from one of the Premier Residential Dance Schools of Thiruvarur, known as Periya Thalichery, is acknowledged in the inscription as Anukkiyar Paravai Nangaiyar. The transition from a Danseuse to a Revered Donor, nothing lesser than a Royal Patron, makes Paravai an interesting part of Rajendra’s life. Her endowments to the temple, seem unparalleled in many ways.

The King provides the world, a glimpse of his Profound Affection with honesty. That Paravai Nangai was acknowledged for her Generosity and Charity, especially, with no personal or official holding in the Empire, should have been due to the array of good qualities that she possessed.

The most noteworthy segment of the relationship, lies in the inscription of Rajendra I’s son, Rajadhiraja’s Thiruvarur inscription, which would be discussed in the next post. The inscription reiterates the honour extended upon Paravai Nangai, as his father’s Special Companion or Anukki. The acceptance of Paravai Nangai by Rajadhiraja, is yet another recognition of the Lady’s noticeable reputation.

Note:

All images of inscriptions- Photo Courtesy:  Dr. Kalaikkovan, Founder, Dr. M. Rajamanikkanar Centre for Historical Research, Thiruchirapalli.

 

 

Karaikkal Ammai in Tamil Temples

For the reference of readers : Meanings of a few repeatedly used Tamils words in this article –

  • Adiyar/Thondar – Ardent devotees or Servants of God
  • Thiruthondar – ‘Thiru’ is the reverential prefix to Thondar or the servants of God
  • Peyaar – the Demon Devotee

The iconography of Karaikkal Ammai, Shiva’s Demon Devotee, is a skeletal figure, mostly in squatted position, always sitting beneath Shiva, as the Lord of Dance – Adalvallan/Nataraja. The sculpture of Ammai was introduced by the Chola Queen, Chembian Madevi in the temples she built and in the previous temples she reconstructed or restored, during the 10th century CE. These have already been discussed in the previous post in detail.

Ammai belonged to 5th – 6th century CE. The history of her life was composed by Chekkizhar in his Thiruthondar Puranam or Periya Puranam in the 12th century CE.  From Ammai’s era until the era of Chekkizhar, there is an interesting time gap of almost 7 centuries. It couldn’t have been possible to directly write the history of a saint, after such a long interval, without the spread of her spiritual story in Thamizhagam, throughout the centuries that lay in between.

The fact that Chekkizhar’s literary portrayal of Ammai’s life came after 7 centuries of her existence, inspired the search for more literary evidences between the Saint and the Biographer’s eras.

Karaikkal Ammai

The highest in the ranks of all 63 Nayanmars are the Trio – Thirunavukkarasar, Thirugnanasambandhar and Sundarar. Thirunavukkarasar lived in the 7th century CE (during the reign of Mahendravarma Pallava (Mahendra -:615-630 CE), Sambandhar lived in 7th century CE (during the reigns of Mahendravarman and son Narasimha Pallava (Narasimha :630-668 CE), and Sundarar lived in the 9th century CE (during the reign of Nandivarman III (Nandi III:840-865 CE), according to literary and historic sources.

There have been 17 Adiyar/Thondar or ardent devotees of Shiva, who lived before Navukkarasar and Sambandar, according to Maa. Rasamanickanar in his Periya Purana Aaraichi.  Among the 17, one is Karaikkal Ammai and the first among the three women Thondar.

Though Ammai lived before Navukkarasar and Sambandhar, neither of them seem to have mentioned about Karaikkal Ammai in their verses. We come to know from Chekkizhar’s Periya Puranam that, when Sambandhar went to the temple of Thiruvalangadu, the place of emancipation of Karaikkal Ammai, where she walked on her head and not her feet to worship the Lord, he restrained himself from entering the temple. He felt, he shouldn’t enter the temple with his feet, where Ammai walked on her head. Such was the reverence he paid to the Saint, who saw the Almighty with motherly affection.

Sundarar’s Thiruthondar Thogai – 9th century CE

Sundarar’s Thiruthonda Thogai is the first literary description of the devotees of Shiva – Adiyar/Thondar. The selfless devotee can be called a Thondar or the servant of the Lord, but after learning about the lives of these amorous followers, Sundarar gave them the valuable status of being Shiva’s dearest and most revered  devotees – with the prefix of ‘Thiru’ – as Thiruthondar. 

The first direct mention of Ammai is seen in Sundarar’s Thiruthondar Thogai, in the 9th century CE, almost after 4 centuries of her life. In his list of 60 Thiruthondar, Ammai is mentioned as Peyaar – the demon devotee of Shiva.

peru-nambi – kula-chirai-than – adiyār-kum – adiyën 

peru-mila-lai – kurum-bark-kum – pëyār-kum – adiyën

 

Nambi Andar Nambi’s Thiruthondar Thiruvanthathi – 10/11th century CE

The next literary mention of Ammai comes from Nambi Andar Nambi, in his Thiruthondar Thiruvanthathi. 

Nambi, on the behest of his Emperor, Rajaraja, the Great, compiled the countless verses of the devout followers of Shiva, into 11 Thirumurais.  Nambi’s Thiruthondar Tiruvanthathi, an expansion of Sundarar’s Thiruthondar Thogai,  is included in the 11th Thirumurai.

He mentions Ammai as –

‘நம்பன் திருமலை நான்மிதி 

  யேன்’என்று தாள்இரண்டும்

உம்பர் மிசைத்தலை யால்நடந் 

  தேற உமைநகலும்

செம்பொன் உருவன்’என் அம்மை’ 

  எனப்பெற் றவள் செழுந்தேன்

கொம்பின் உகுகாரைக் காலினில் 

  மேய குலதனமே.  

 

The last two verses say – Karaikkalinil meya kuladhaname.

In these verses, he praises Ammai, as the one introduced by Shiva as his mother to his consort – Umai. This forms the base for the biography of Ammai by Chekkizhar, where he mentions –

‘Varumival Emmai Penum Ammai Kaan’

O’ Parvathi…The one who comes here, is the mother who nurtures me – are Shiva’s verses according to Chekkizhar, on Karaikkal Ammai.

Hence, after Sundarar in the 9th century CE, Nambi scripts a brief description of Ammai in 10-11th century CE, by including her in the list of Thiruthondar. Nambi makes the list of 60 Thondar to 63, by including Sundarar and his parents – mother  Isaignaniyar and father Sadaiyanar.

Ammai’s literary works- Thiruvalangattu Mootha Thiruppathigam, Thiruvirattai Manimalai and Arputha Thiruvanthathi are included in the 11th Thirumurai, among other poets.

The 12th Thirumurai – Chekkizhar’s Thiruthondar Puranam

Panniru Thirumurai or the Twelve Thirumurai – the compilation of works of the Twelve Thirumurai, constitute the Grand Saiva Canon of Tamil Bhakti Movement, from 4th until 12th century CE. 

Next literary mention of Ammai, comes in Thiruthondar Puranam by Chekkizhar.  This is one master piece on the life history of the Thondars – the devotees of Lord Shiva who lived between 4th – 9th century CE, introduced in order by Sundarar and reiterated by Nambi.

Chekkizhar, the author of Thiruthondar Puranam, brought to light the historical evidences of the Saiva Cult through the life of the revered devotees of Shiva. His elaborate documentation of the love and devotion of the Thondar, showcases different facets of the Tamil Bhakti Movement- 

  • the prominence of Shiva worship during the period of the lives of the 63 Thiruthondar
  • connecting with the Lord- especially through one’s mother tongue- Tamil
  • Bhakti, a Sanskrit word- the Tamil equivalent is ‘Anbu’ which translates as Love and Love alone; the strong chord that united all the 63 nayanmars with the Lord was limitless Love and ultimate surrender that comes out of Love.
  • God’s reciprocal connect with the devotees- irrespective of caste, creed, work, gender and other divisions 
  • Devotion across geographical boundaries – in the territories of Pallava, Chola, Pandya and Chera, and in the Lands of other feudatories of yesteryear’s vast Thamilagam and beyond Thamilagam too.

Chekkizhar travelled far and wide to gather details and write on the lives of Thiruthondar. But, it is not to be missed, that Nambi Andar Nambi had already provided an extensively researched, yet brief literary portrayal of their lives in his Thiruthondar Andhathi. 

With Thiruthondar Thogai (Sundarar) in the 9th century CE and Thiruthondar Thiruvanthathi (Nambi) in the 10/11th century CE, as Guiding Lights, Chekkizhar, in the 12th century CE, enhanced the lives of Thiruthondar – the exceptional and the foremost among the Devotees of Shiva, into comprehensive Biographies. Chekkizhar’s original Thiruthondar Puranam was rightly termed ‘Periya Puranam’ by scholars, such voluminous is his account of the Thiruthondar and their love for God – hence immortalising them, into the vast arena called Tamil Bhakthi Era. 

The ardent followers, 60 as per Sundarar and after Nambi included Sundarar and his parents – 63 of them, not only accentuated Shiva worship in the Tamil Land during the 4th century CE until 9th century, but also emphasised on the unconditional Love for God and the reciprocal Love of God towards his devotees. 

Hence, it is clear that literary evidences of Ammai, as per evidences till now, was first known in 9th century CE, then 10/11th and 12th centuries CE. It would have been a satisfying norm if sculptural evidences fell in place, after an elaborate portrayal of the life of the saint, such as Periya Puranam. But, what is surprising, and sometimes astonishing, is that before Chekkizhar could present the life of the Nayanmars in his Periya Puranam, during the reign of Kulothunga Chola II, and even before Nambi could give a brief description of the Thondars in his Thiruthondar Thiruvanthathi, at the behest of the Chola Emperor, Rajaraja, the Great, Rajaraja Chola’s grandaunt – the Grand Old Lady of the Chola Empire, chose to portray the sculpture of Karaikkal Ammai, in the temples constructed and previous temples reconstructed by her.

It is worthwhile to mention here, about an inscription in Rajarajecharam Temple or Thanjavur Periya Kovil. According to the inscription, in the 29th reignal year of Rajaraja I the Great, 7 copper images were installed by Adittan Suryan alias Thennavan Muvenda Velan- headman of Poygai Nadu, who carried out the management of the temple of the Lord Rajarajeshwara. (https://indianhistorybooks4.files.wordpress.com/2015/03/5010010003009-south-indian-inscriptions-vol-ii-part-2-136p-multilingual-1892.pdf)

The inscription describes that seven images – those of the Reverred Trio of Saiva Bhakthi clan – 1. Thirunavukkarasar, 2. Thirugnana Sambandar and 3. Sundarar, along with 4. Paravaiyar – one of Sundarar’s consorts, 5. Rajaraja himself mentioned as Periya Perumal and his Queen 6. Lokamahadevi – both worshipping 7. Lord Chandrashekar were installed. (Pg 51, Thirumurai thoguppu/periya purana aaraichi/sii vol 2- 38)

Rajaraja I, began a new era of worship of the images of the Saiva Saints, alongside the presiding deity Shiva. The interest that Rajaraja I showed in the compilation of Thirumurai by Nambi, seems to have transformed into keen adoration for the primary devotees of the Lord, that he institutionalised reverence into deification. That singing of the hymns or Thirupathigam of the nayanmars was already prevelant from the period of the Pallavas, and continued before Rajaraja’s organised compilation, is not to be forgotten. Additionally, reverence for the hymns as well as the devoted lives of the Tamil Saints, seemed to have had a huge impact on the Spiritual Lives of the Tamils, during the period of the Thiruthondar, that stretches approximately from 4th century until 9th century CE. This Spiritual Impact that the Tamil Saints had already created during the Pallava reign, was rightly channelised by the succeeding Cholas. This channelisation reached its Apex, with Rajaraja I, making a master stroke, with the compilation of the Thirumurai, and building his Magnum Opus Thanjavur Periya Kovil/Brihadeeswara Temple. This path was successfully carried forward by his successors.

Chembiyan Madevi

Therefore, before Chekkizhar’s Periya Puranam, before Rajaraja’s installation of images of the most revered Trio among the Nayanmars, before Nambi compiled the Thirumurai and wrote a brief history through Thiruthonda Thogai, but after Sundarar mention of ‘Peyar’ in his Thiruthonda Thogai,  Chembiyan Madevi, the Queen Mother,  chose to portray Karaikal Ammai in her temples.  As she is most respectfully mentioned – Madevadigal’s temple works extended during the reigns of six consecutive Chola Kings. The Grand Old Lady of the Cholas, was determined to portray another Pioneer Saint, who  wilfully transformed herself from a beautiful young lady to a skeletal being, demanding the boon from Shiva to watch his dance, beneath his feet. One is always exclaimed by the power of the mind to forgo the beauty of the young. She exclusively sung hymns on the Lord in the Grave, dancing on dead bodies.

Chembian Madevi’s innovations in Chola Temple Architecture have already been discussed in previous posts. But, her introduction of the sculpture of Karaikkal Ammai, and the inclusion alongside Dancing Shiva,  needs in-depth research to bring out more astounding facts. 

Madevi takes complete credit to have authored the deification of Karaikkal Pei to Karaikkal Ammai in stone in her temples, even before the great poet Chekkizhar could sculpt her life in words in his ‘Thiruthondar Puranam’ or Periya Puranam in the first half of the 12th century CE. This was aptly understood by her grandson Rajaraja I and great grandson Rajendra I. Their temples stand evident of the legacy of Dancing Shiva with Ammai having been taken forward from 10th century CE into 11th century CE.

https://glorioustamils.com/2016/09/

Hence, not only Sundarar’s Thogai and Nambi’s Anthathi, it was also the sculptural inclusion of Karaikal Ammai by Madevi, that must have supported Chekkizhar in scripting the story of the Demon Devotee of Shiva.

This is an interesting as well as a fascinating occurrence, not only in the history of Bhakthi Literature, but also in the history of Tamil Bhakthi Movement. 

Several direct sources that helped Chekkizhar sketch the memoirs of the Thiruthondar were discussed above. Apart from these, the common man always knew the stories of the Adiyar for centuries.  From the period of Pallavas, when all the Nayanmars lived, the stories of Thondar were popular through hear say stories, singing of hymns in temples and documented hymns of Nayanmars such as Thirunavukkarasar, Sambandar and Sundarar. These indirect sources, play an important role in not only influencing the religious mindset of the people of the era, but also in showcasing the spiritual inclination of the ruling class that dominates the theological arena of their times.

So tremendous must have been the influence of Karaikkal Ammai on Chembiyan Madevi, that her sculptural portrayal is exactly what Ammai wished for. The story of Ammai was so magnetic in the several centuries that followed her era, that her wish to be the Demon Devotee, sitting beneath Adalvallan/Dancing Shiva, is fulfilled in stone too. Additionally, Madevi’s sculptors  have displayed immense bliss and contentment in Ammai’s. expressive face.

Precisely, Chembiyan Madevi, by her depiction of Karaikkal Ammai in her temples, has provided a smooth passage for the travel of the Life of Amma, from the era of the Nayanmar into the era of celebrating the Nayanmar. With her contributions towards architectural innovations in temples, and here especially with the introduction of Ammai beneath Adalvallan, she has been a catalyst towards the historical continuity of the Shaivite Bhakti Movement from 5/6th century to the 12th century.

The stories that travelled through the centuries would have helped Madevi. in the portrayal of Ammai in her temples. But, how Ammai’s own poetry could have left behind enough clues for the innovative Queen Mother, to carve her in stone, would be discussed in the forthcoming posts.

Before a detailed analysis of Madevi’s sculptures of Ammai, in accordance to the hymns of Ammai herself, these are a few temples  of Chembian Madevi that this author had visited, where Ammai sits gloriously watching the celestial dance of Shiva. 

Kailasanathar Kovil, Chembiyan Madevi Gramam

Adavallan – ammai sits to the right of Dancing Shiva

ammai

 

Koogur

Adavallan – ammai to his right

ammai

 

Konerirajapuram/Thirunallam

Adavallan – ammai sits beneath to his right

ammai

Thirukkodikkaval

Adavallan – ammai sits on the right of Dancing Shiva

ammai

Aaduthurai

Adavallan – ammai to the left of Dancing Shiva

ammai

Karunthittaikudi

Adavallan – ammai sits beneath to his left

ammai

Ammai in Rajaraja I’s temples

Thiruppugalur

Adavallan – ammai is sculpted on a panel, placed below Dancing Shiva, amongst Ganas

ammai

Thanjai Periya Kovil

Adavallan – ammai to his left

ammai

 

Rajendra I’s Gangai Konda Cholapuram

Adavallan – ammai on a panel below dancing shiva

ammai

 

Rajaraja II’s  Darasuram Airavateswara temple

ammai in sitting position

Darasuram Temple- ammai in a row of panels, amongst thiruthondar, walking on her head

Thappalampuliyur

A rare panel with Adavallan and consort Sivakami together; sculpture of Adavallan unfortunately missing

ammai in a panel with Ganas

Bavundareegapuram

Adavllan – ammai sitting below his feet

ammai sitting below Adavallan’s feet –  a rare sculpture where the Lord’s feet too close to touch Ammai’s head

Government Museum, Chennai

 

 

Religious Development under Suryavarman I – Karaikkal Ammai in Prasat Hin Phimai


 

The focus of the previous post, was on the Khmer expansion in North-East Thailand (today’s Isan), in light of inclusion of the sculpture of the pioneer Tamil Saivite Saint – Karaikkal Ammai , in a three-fold view-

  1. Political Extension
  2. Economic Expansion
  3. Religious Development.

Political Extension and Economic Expansion have been discussed already. This post explores the Religious Development under Suryavarman I, the King who is attributed with maximum political and economic expansion of the Khmer territory towards north-east Thailand and beyond.

Political and Economic facets play a significant role in a King’s victorious expansion. Religion provides exclusive facts of culture and civilisation of that particular era.  Epigraphy and Literature are main evidences of a King’s political and economic successes, in terms of wars, accessions and trade, and religious inclinations; Temples and Sculptures remain Pinnacle proof of Cultural Heritage and Civilisational Refinement. An interesting aspect of temples is that, the rulers have also used them as store houses of history through Epigraphy.

Culture is a very broad term that aids in studies of specific communities. Religion and Culture are co-related concepts that help in understanding the growth and advent of civilisation within and beyond the geographic boundaries of a particular kingdom.

That is why, a research on the Religious Development under Suryavarman I, might provide critical and culminating evidences on culture and civilization that belonged to the Khmers and the reciprocal cultural factors that influenced the Khmers through political and economic relations with neighbouring and far kingdoms beyond the seas.

Religious Development in North-East Thailand under Suryavarman I

Religious Development under Suryavarman I, that provides clues for the inclusion of the sculpture of Karaikkal Ammai would be discussed in this post.

This search for evidences on Tamil Influence, seems like an adventurous journey of ancient ruins and long lost culture. Having transformed into Buddhist Kingdoms, Cambodia and Thailand facilitate easy access to Heritage Hindu sites, unlike heritage sites back in India, where strong Hindu rituals are still practised. This access enables an independent approach to the sculpted Gods and Goddesses, and provides a direct route to ancient history through epigraphy, archeology, iconography and temple architecture.

Whether existing religion alongside practicing rituals, aids or hinders historical researches is certainly a matter of debate. But, non-practising religious sites like those in Cambodia and Thailand, classified as historical monuments seem to preserve History in a comparatively better way, no doubt.

I intend to analyse, four temples of North-East Thailand, where the sculpture of Karaikkal Ammai is included in the panel of Dancing Shiva, another evidence of her inseparable stature while the Lord is dancing.

இறவாத இன்ப அன்பு வேண்டிப்பின் வேண்டு கின்றார்
பிறவாமை வேண்டும், மீண்டும் பிறப்புண்டேல் உன்னை என்றும்
மறவாமை வேண்டும், இன்னும் வேண்டும்நான் மகிழ்ந்து பாடி
அறவாநீ ஆடும் போதுஉன் அடியின்கீழ் இருக்க என்றார்.

 

“I pray for the infinite happiness of Your love; I do not want to be born again; if I do, I do not want to forget You forever; if I do, I want to be happily singing in Your praise under Your feet as You are dancing”.

http://tamilnation.co/sathyam/east/periyapuranam.htm

 

The temples included for this Research are –

  • Prasat Hin Phimai
  • Prasat Phanom Rung
  • Wat Pra That Narai Jaeng Waeng
  • Prasat Sa Kampaeng Yai

Whether this analysis would lead to facts pertaining to the inclusion of Ammai in different temples during Suryavarman I’s reign or would retrace new paths of other Kings might be an interesting wait. But, the Tamil influence through Traders, spread across centuries and under various Kings beyond seas, is certainly evident through the most influential devotee of Shiva – Karaikkal Ammai.

Reconstruction of Temples

Angkor’s countless temples were hidden for centuries under jungle bushes, rubbles and wreckage, until the French in the early twentieth century, recreated the magic of the magnificent temples.

We see a Khmer monument in its 20th century version after several phases of initiation, construction, innovatory inclusions, restoration, disappearance, wreckage, and finally new-age restoration, in a span of around 1200 years.

a. phase 1- (Angkor Era – 7th century ACE to 13th century ACE ) the temples were initiated and constructed by a King – a continuous process of constant upgradation and innovation by successive Angkorian rulers is seen. Each ruler has made his own impression, which is identified through pediments and lintels, iconographic and inscriptional evidences. All of these provide important inputs to history.

b. phase 2 – Though many temples remained worship places among locals, several others were lost to human negligence. Natural calamities created havoc in pushing many temples under rubbles. Such temples had remained unknown for centuries. This silence inside the jungles and the rubbles had made the temples possibly unrecognisable from the original monuments.

c. phase 3 – later and the latest-  After the French colonisation of Cambodia in 1887, the French found these hidden treasures under rubbles. Active restoration started. While few temples needed restoration, many others needed reconstruction. The French Researchers made the best use of technology to restore the lost glory and convert the yesteryear marvels into heritage monuments that the world views today in awestruck admiration.

While we review the architecture of any khmer temple, we should also keep in mind the enormous amount of restoration process that the temple has gone through, after an interval of more or less 800 to 1000 years. That too, by researchers from the other end of the world, with no or very little knowledge of the local culture including temple building expertise, which the original inhabitants themselves could have moved away from, during centuries of war and calamities.

When one notices a flash of medieval link from another heritage in a place geographically far and culturally different, it is with great interest and inquisitiveness, one travels in search of missing clues for the distinct connect.  

This flash was the sculpture of Karaikkal Ammai in Khmer temples. This isn’t a flash anymore. It seems to be a huge ray of light, which inspires to probe the economic, cultural and spiritual link between two distant Empires – Khmer and Tamil. The inclusion of the sculpture of Ammai with Adalvallan – Dancing Shiva in several temples, reiterates the magnitude of the Tamil Links in the Southeast Asian Kingdoms during the Angkor Era (specifically from 11th century ACE).

Finding historic evidences to the date of inclusion of the sculpture is a strenuous task. Epigraphy here doesn’t directly contribute any evidence for the inclusion of the sculpture. But the clues that we have are :-

  1. Karaikkal Ammai, who hailed from Thamizhagam and sang devotional hymns on the Dancing Shiva was introduced in Tamil temples – in the Chola country in the 10th century ACE by Chembian Madevi (refer post: https://glorioustamils.com/2016/04/07/chembiyan-madevi-pioneer-who-introduced-ammai-in-chola-temples/ ). She is portrayed as a skeletal female figure enthralled in Shiva’s Ananda Thandavam.  Continuing the tradition of placing Adalvallan/Dancing Shiva along with his mesmerised devotee Ammai in Mugamandapam or the Front corridor of the temples, Rajaraja I and son Rajendra I, placed her in their master piece temples – Thanjavur Brihadeesvara Temple (in the final years of the 10th century) and Gangai Konda Cholapuram Temple (in the first decades of 11th century) respectively.

2. With Suryavarman I’s intentions to politically and economically reign supreme in the neighbouring territories along the Isthmas of Kra, his brave diplomatic move was to claim friendly relations with the maritime giants of the southern sea – The Great Cholas. Father Rajaraja I already ruling strong with unbeaten political grip in Srilanka and beyond, Rajendra I had a smooth entry into a stable Empire, unlike Suryavarman I, who had to claim his throne after long years of war and destruction over throwing two competitors- Udayadityavarman I and Jayaviravarman.

Suryavarman I was an ambitious King with an aim to conquer the political as well as the economic arena of the kingdoms alongside his own Khmer. In order to reign supreme over the Sri Vijaya’s in the peninsula, Suryavarman I sought friendship of Rajendra I. Rajendra’s Karandhai Copper Plates of 1020 ACE refers to the chariot presented by a Kamboja King, in order to protect his sovereignty. This Kamboja king in 1020, undoubtedly was Suryavarman I. Rajendra I’s Thirukkadaiyur Inscription of 1027 ACE,  lists his conquests and victories across the rolling sea, capturing different places in Malay Peninsula, Java, Sumatra, Nicobar Islands and the Isthmas of Kra.

3. Rajendra I did not take this political victory too far, he made use of this victory for his Kingdom’s economic enhancement across seas, beyond vast territories. This was completely utilised by the Traders of Thamizhagam, inland and overseas. The overseas Trader settlements could make use of this giant leap in the positive diplomatic ties between Tamil and Khmer Rulers, in strengthening their already well established influences. One of the exclusive influences that the Tamil settlers could propagate, was the sculpture of Ammai, a representative of the Trader community as well as a symbol of continuous assertion of Saivism.

4. Dr. Vittorio Roveda, researcher and author of various books on Khmer Architecture, suggests that the credit of building narrative reliefs in Khmer temples should be given to Suryavarman I. Specific temples he mentions are the dancing shiva and reclining vishnu in Phnom Chissor and the reliefs of Preah Vihear.

5. Apart from the above mentioned temples of Phnom Chissor and Preah Vihear, in temples at Vat Baset, Vat Ek and Banteay Srei in Cambodia that Suryavarman I had undertaken restoration, the sculpture of Dancing Shiva with Karaikkal Ammai has occupied an important place.

6. The strongest political expansion of a Khmer King into Isan – today’s northeast Thailand, was initiated and successfully accomplished by Suryavarman I. Like his contemporary Tamil King Rajendra I, Suryavarman I made the best use of his politically gained territories for economic stability of his reign. Temples are huge evidential storehouses of a King’s political victories and religious alignments. The temples in the territories won over by Suryavarman I, stand as proof of his religious tolerance and hold glimpses of the influential foreign communities settled in Khmer, one among them being the sculpture of Karaikkal Ammai with Dancing Shiva.

7. Suryavarman I is hailed by historians for being one of the key restorers of various temples built by his predecessors. Most Khmer temples are testimony to continuous restoration works and innovative inclusions by successive rulers. But, temples like Banteay Srei, Vat Ek and Phnom Chisor were greatly expanded with elaborate and ornate architectural innovations. Among his temples, Preah Vihear stands monumental in its grace and grandeur on top of the Dangrek mountains. This shows his sustained will to crown his temples as culmination of his political, economic and religious excellence.

Are the above discussed points valid enough evidences to claim that the sculpture of Karaikkal Ammai was erected in temples of Isan, during the reign of Suryavarman I? Certainly not.

The religion specific inscriptions of Suryavarman I might provide few more assertive interpretations.

Religious Tolerance of Suryavarman I

Suryavarman I, a Mahayana Buddhist, has shown keen interest in restoring various Saivite temples, constructing ornate entrance pavilions, establishment of Shiva Lingas and also reconstructing earlier temples on mountains with the most splendid of all monuments being Preah Vihear. He continues the existing pattern of Saivite and Vaishnavite sculptures in temples, at the same time makes Buddhism hold key position in his territory. His religious tolerance is noteworthy and his inscriptions exhibit this special virtue.

i. Lopburi inscription of Suryavarman I

  1. 944 śaka caturdaśī ket bhadrapa
  2. da ādityavāra nu vraḥ pāda kaṃmrateṅ kaṃtva
  3. n añ śrī sūryyavarmmadeva pandval vraḥ ni
  4. yama ru samācāra ta tapra pi bhūvana phoṅ
  5. dval pi thve toy onā sthāna ta pasvi pho
  6. ṅ nu vraḥ paṃ nvas bhikṣu mahāyān a stha
  7. vira O nau ru ta pvas vyat pi nu thvāy tapaḥ ta
  8. vraḥ pāda kaṃmrateṅ kaṃtvan añ śrī
  9. sūryyavarmmadeva o nau ruv anak ta cval sāṃ
  10. pi tamaḥ tapovanāvāsa noḥpi thve
  11. kaṅval pi vvaṃaṃ pān pi tapasvi yogi
  12. phoṅ svat mantra pi nu thvāy tapaḥ ta
  13. vraḥ pāda kaṃrateṅ kaṃtvan añśrī sū
  14. ryyavarmmadeva ti pre cāp pi nāṃ cuñ ta
  15. sabhā stap vyavahāra nirṇṇaya toy

http://www.sac.or.th/databases/inscriptions/en/inscribe_detail.php?id=381

This inscription of Suryavarman I from Lopburi, mentions that the Buddhist monks belonging to two sects – Mahayana and Sthavira and the Brahmins – Tapasvi Yogi lived together in Lava.

ii. Preah Khan of Kompong Svai inscription of Suryavarman I

Preah Khan of Kompong Svai was one of the earliest temples built by Suryavarman I. The inscription which dates back 924 Saka era – 1003 ACE is of 9 Sanskrit verses.

The first verse starts with invoking Dancing Shiva-

‘Natyam Brahmadisevyam sukayathu dayithanandanam chandramauleh’ – roughly translates as – ‘The Dance of Shiva, who adorns the moon, the Dance to which all the Gods bow in respect.’

The second verse is an invocation to Buddha.

Notes d’épigraphie by M.L. Finot, L’Inscription de Prah Khan

Click to access befeo_0336-1519_1904_num_4_1_1361.pdf

This inscription is not only significant in terms of Suryavarman I’s religious harmonious path invoking both Shiva and Buddha, but in invoking Shiva as the Cosmic Dancer.

iii. Takeo Inscription of Suryavarman I

Suryavarman’s awe for the Dance of the Lord doesn’t stop here. His Takeo inscription is specific about the sculpture of Dancing Shiva – Natakeswara Dasabhuja.

One of the Takeo inscriptions of Suryavarman I, starts with an invocation to Shiva in one line in Sanskrit. Rest of the inscription is in Khmer language. It talks about donations made by Yogisvara Pandita of Vyadharapura, at Lingapura, Jayakshetra, Hemasruga, Sri Campesvara and Sri Narendragrama of Bhimapura. It mentions that some golden images of Shiva were installed in the names – Tripuradahanesvara, Sri Natakesvaradasabhuja and Vishnu as Tribhuvananjeya and his consort Bhagavati Sri. (from R.C. Majumdar in ‘Inscriptions of Kambuja’)

The Khmer text reads –

ek śivikā mvāy ti sthāpanā vraḥ kamrateṅ ‘añ śrīnātakeśvara daśabhuja

This Natakesvara Dasabhuja or the Ten armed Dancing Shiva is sculpted in the already discussed Cambodian Temples like – a) Vat Basset, where the pediment is a hugely reconstructed one – with only Shiva’s three arms on the left visible; b) Battambang Museum, where there are three sculptures of Shiva Nataraja- all with ten arms; and c) Banteay Srei and Preah Vihear displaying ten armed Adalvallan/Dancing Shiva. Adalvallan in Phnom Chissor is not ten armed/dasabhuja. He has two arms and plays the string instrument.

Interestingly, in all the above mentioned temples, Karaikkal Ammai is sculpted at the foot of Dancing Shiva, which has been discussed in the previous posts.

Prasat Hin Phimai

photo courtesy: http://www.sundial.thai-isan-lao.com/dharmasalaroute.html

In the previous post, under the sub-title ‘political extension’ of Suryavarman I, the extent of Khmer expansion towards north-west of Cambodia during the 11th century ACE was discussed. The Khmer territory stretched its giant hold as far as Lobpuri, including the  area of this paper’s focus- Phimai.

The Phimai Temple or Prasat Hin Phimai was built in the city of Phimai, located in the present day north-eastern Thai Province Nakhon Ratchasima.

A few historical facts of the city Phimai and the temple Prasat Hin Phimai are listed below-

  1. The city of Phimai as scholars believe might be the ancient ‘Bhimapura’, which has been mentioned in an inscription during the reign of Isanavarman I of Chenla in the 7th century.

The Vat Chakret inscription of Isanavarman I was noticed by Aymonier, the French linguist and archeologist and edited by Auguste Barth, the French researcher in Oriental studies. The inscription, dated 529 Saka Era- 627 ACE – records Isanavarman installing the image of Siva-Vishnu through the vassal chief of Tamrapura, who possessed in addition the towns of Cakrankapura, Amoghapura and Bhimapura.

Inscriptions od Kambuja: R.C. Majumdar https://archive.org/details/in.ernet.dli.2015.181497/page/n67

2. During the first half of the 11th century ACE, with Suryavarman’s conquests stretching towards Isan region (north east Thailand), Phimai rose to limelight. It became the seat of Khmer supremacy. (refer previous post on Suryavarman’s conquests)

3. Usual Khmer temples are oriented towards east, but Phimai faces south. According to Lunet de Lajonquiere, the French soldier and archeologist, “the monument may have been intended to face the great capital Yasodharapura” also known as Angkor. Lawrence Palmer Briggs, author, in his ‘The Ancient Khmer Empire’ states this may be partly due to the river on the east side.

(pg.180, Briggs: The Ancient Khmer Empire)

4. Prasat Phimai is the largest temple in Isan region and is the farthest from Angkor.

5. Suryavarman’s roots are believed to be from Tambralinga (from 15th century Pali chronicles, which is still not fully accepted by several researchers). He was a Buddhist – inclined to Mahayana Buddhism by faith. With revival and restoration of various previous temples, he is also credited to have introduced Mahayana Buddhism into Khmer territory through Prasat Phimai. Phimai is the first and the biggest premises in time, devoted to the Mahayana Path.

6. An inscription in the temple, carved on the pillar of the south gopura of the second enclosure was edited by Prof. Coedes. The date of inscription was deciphered as 1112, during the reign of Dharanindravarman I (1107-1113) .

The inscription says –

1030 śaka ‘aṣṭamī roc puṣya ‘ādityavāra nu vraḥ kaṃmrateṅ ‘añ śrīvīrendrādhipativarmma sruk chok vakula sthāpanā kaṃmrateṅ jagat senāpati trailokyavijaya
senāpati kaṃmrateṅ jagat vimāya xxx jvan khñuṃ ta roḥh noḥh tai pandān kvan tai chke si mūla si kamvṛk tai kantū kvan tai

………………………………………………………………………….

………………………………………………………………………….

pāda kaṃmrateṅ ‘añ śrīdharaṇīndravarmmadeva

Sri Virendradhipativarman, a General to Dharanindravarman I, dedicated an image of a Mahayanist Buddhist deity Trailokyavijaya- who is called Senapati or General, to serve Lord Vimaya- mentioned as ‘Kamrateng Jagata Vimaya’ – a form of Buddha. 

This Lord Vimaya is presumed to be the principal deity of Prasat Phimai. On the basis of the inscription and the decorations in the monument, few researchers believe Prasat Phimai was built during the reign of Dharanindravarman I or earlier in the last decades of the 11th century.

7. During the reign of Jayavarman VII (1182-1218), a road system with rest houses connecting Angkor and  Phimai was established. A stele in Preah Khan dated 1191 ACE, describes rest houses and dharamshalas connecting Angkor to other cities. It mentions the temples along the route from Angkor to Phimai. Hence, the complete credit of connecting Phimai and Angkor and transforming Prasat Phimai into a Buddhism temple is given to Jayavarman VII. But, Mitch Hendrickson (pg.482/483, Historic routes to Angkor: development of the Khmer road system (ninth to thirteenth centuries AD) in mainland Southeast Asia), argues that ‘the strict temporal association ignores the achievements and regional communication history of Jayavarman VII’s predecessors and their successors within the 600 years of Angkorian period’.

Click to access Hendrickson–angkor%20roads-Antiquity.pdf

8. Jayavarman VII is not only credited for his road route from Angkor to Phimai, but is also hailed for bringing a strong religious shift in Angkor towards Mahayana Buddhism. After the end of Angkor era, Theravada Buddhism continued and is still the major religion of present day Cambodia.

The Preah Khan stele mentions that Jayavarman VII, distributed 23 statues of ‘JAYABUDDHAMAHANATHA’ to different temples. Some researchers feel, Jayabuddhamahanatha was the depiction of the King himself as the Buddha- Jayabuddha- the Victorious King, who conquered the Chams. One such statue of Jayavarman VII is seated in Prasat Hin Phimai.

Karaikkal Ammai in Prasat Hin Phimai

Ammai at the feet of Phimai

 

Prasat Hin Phimai, was visited by Etienne Aymonier and the first inventory of the ruins was presented by him in 1901. Most of the restorations were done from 1964 to 1969 as a joint Thai-French project. The historical park, now managed by the Fine Arts Department (of the Royal Thai Government), was officially opened by Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn on April 12, 1989.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phimai_Historical_Park

In the year 1963 to 1966, Bernard Philippe Groslier, the French scholar and conservator of Angkor temples, advised the government of Thailand on reconstruction of Prasat Hin Phimai. https://scholarspace.manoa.hawaii.edu/bitstream/10125/16949/AP-v27n2-obit2.pdf

As discussed above, The Phimai Temple- constructed and restored by several Angkor kings and then re-restored with modern technology in the 20th century ACE, stands tall with loads of unanswered mysteries.

A Mahayana Buddhist by belief, Suryavarman I is credited to bringing Buddhism into Khmer territory in a dominant form.

According to L.P. Briggs,

Suryavarman I’s interest in the north and the ancient representations of the Buddha found at Phimai lead to the opinion that the transformation  from a Saivite Prasat to a Mahayanist sanctuary may have taken place during his reign.

pg.182, Briggs: The Ancient Khmer Empire

After the Phimai inscription of Dharanindravarman found in the door jamb of Prasat Phimai, owing to the inscription and pattern of decorative elements in the temple, authors and researchers have concluded the temple to be of later 11th century. However, with several other clues that the temple has provided, it is not easy to come to an affirmative conclusion.

One more inscription found at Prasat Hin Phimai – dating to 1042, that of Suryavarman I, displays the same religious tolerance that the King is hailed for.

The inscribed stone has two faces written in old Khmer and Sanskrit, one face invoking Shiva and the other side invoking Buddha.

Inscription invoking BuddhaInvoking Buddha

 

Inscription invoking Shivainvoking Shiva

This inscription, which is earlier to that of Dharanindravarman, leaves enough evidence that the temple already existed before his inscription on dedication of the deity Lord Vimaya in 1108 ACE .  Suryavarman I’s inscription on religious tolerance and the repeated pattern of invocation of Shiva and Buddha in the same premises, shows his relentless interest in Shiva, beyond being a staunch Mahayanist, who gloriously attained his posthumous name Paramanirvanapada.

Meanwhile, Suryavarman I seeking Rajendra Chola’s aid in curtailing the Srivijaya’s political and economic aspirations and Rajendra’s naval victory over Srivijaya Empire, thereby giving Suryavarman I an upper hand to expand his territory and stabilise his economic control in the region, are important milestones for the Chola influence in Khmer Empire during the first half of the 11th century ACE. As such, the glory of Adalvallan/Dancing Shiva being well recognised by Suryavarman I’s Natakesvara Dasabhuja must’ve become an important part of Khmer architecture.

Ammai in Rajaraja I’s Thirupugalur Temple

 

Ammai in Rajendra I’s Gangai Konda Cholapuram

 


 

Ammai in Prasat Hin Phimai

 

The same pattern of iconographical representation of Ammai, in the already seen Cambodian temples built by Suryavarman I, as one of the Ganas,  below the feet of Dancing Shiva, like that of the Thiruppugalur temple built by Rajaraja I, and that of Gangai Konda Cholapuram built by son Rajendra I, is not to be ignored. In the light of this fact, the Cambodian Temples and the Angkorian temples of north-east Thailand, where Suryavarman I claims political and economic victory dominating previous Khmer rulers, also display the same iconographic pattern of Rajendra I, the new friend of the Khmer Emperor.

The influence of the Tamil community, inland traders and the maritimers in particular, which was at the highest of the times, with their mighty Emperor’s Naval victory, could’ve resulted in their symbol of Saivism- Karaikkal Ammai be represented in the country they had settled in.

Therefore, with the above available clues, it can be safely concluded that Suryavarman I was the first Khmer King to have initiated the portrayal of Dancing Shiva, in the most imposing visual grandeur, with Karaikkal Ammai sitting at his feet, in the Khmer temples in Cambodia and North-East Thailand, he built and restored, until we get any new evidence to the contrary.

The role of Sivacharya’s, who have always been part of temple construction and dedication of deities as per several inscriptions, will also to be studied in the subsequent posts.

 

Bibliography

  1. Charles Higham – The Civilization of Angkor
  2. Lawrence Palmer Briggs – The Ancient Khmer Empires
  3. Vittorio Roveda – The Images of the Gods: Khmer Mythology in Cambodia, Thailand and Laos
  4. George Coedes – The Indianized States of Southeast Asia
  5. C. Sivaramamurthi – Nataraja in Art, Thought and Literature

 

Web Links

  1. Vittorio Roveda,  The Archeology of Khmer Images – pg 12 –  www.persee.fr/doc/asean_0859_9009_2004_num_13_1_1809#
  2. Hall, Kenneth R. “Khmer Commercial Development and Foreign Contacts under Sūryavarman I.” Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, vol. 18, no. 3, 1975, pp. 318–336. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/3632140.
  3. Chirapat Prapandvidya, Associate Fellow of the Royal Institute, Academy of Arts;
    http://www.royin.go.th/royin2014/upload/246/FileUpload/2553_4454.pdf

 

 

 

 

 

 

Khmer Political and Economic Expansions in Northeast Thailand under Suryavarman I (1010-1050 ACE)

The friendly diplomatic relations maintained by Rajaraja I and the subsequent military conquests of his son Rajendra Chola I in connection with the Kingdoms of Southeast Asia and the consequential increase in the influence of the Tamil Trader community in Khmer temple architecture has been discussed in the previous post.  The impact of the influence of Maritime Tamil Traders through the sculpture of Karaikkal Ammai – an innovative introduction along with Dancing Shiva in Khmer temples, which was the pioneer architectural excellence of Chembian Madevi in Chola Temples in Thamizhagam/Thamilagam from mid 10th century ACE is the focus point of this series of posts – ‘Ammai in Southeast Asian Temples’.

In this post, we continue to concentrate on the Khmer temples with the sculpture of Ammai, but with a shift from today’s Cambodia towards the north-east region of today’s Thailand, which is presently called Isan. The Isan region falls to the north west of today’s Cambodia and shares borders with both Laos and Cambodia.

Several provinces that constitute today’s north-east Thailand formed an important historical part in the Khmer expansion of geographical territory, specifically during the reign of Suryavarman I.  This author proposes to view the inclusion of Ammai in Khmer temples in the light of Khmer expansion towards north-eastern regions of Thailand in three ways-

  1. Political Extension
  2. Economic Expansion
  3. Religious Development

The facts pertaining to the above mentioned three faceted Khmer Expansion during the reign of Suryavarman I, are dealt in an attempt to search evidences, which are epigraphic and non-epigraphic in nature, for the inclusion of the sculpture of the Tamil Saiva Saint, Karaikkal Ammai in Khmer Temples.

Political Extension

The Khmer focus on today’s north-east Thailand or beyond and north of Dangrek Range is believed to have gained momentum during the reign of Rajendravarman II (944-968 ACE). However, it was only after Suryavarman I claimed the Khmer throne in the first decade of the 11th century ACE, that the Khmer expansion took a giant leap, occupying several provinces in today’s Isan and even beyond.

Mitch Hendrickson (currently Asst. Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Illinois, Chicago) holds a Doctorate in Archeology. He focuses his research on communication systems and expansion mechanisms of the Khmer Empire between 9th to 15th centuries ACE. His 2012 publication – Connecting the Dots: Investigating the issue of transportation between the temple complexes of the medieval Khmer (9th to 14th centuries AD), examines the transport routes established as links between various Khmer temples. His paper brings out important geographic and political dimensions of the reigns of various Khmer Kings combined with religion. The research reveals the road routes established by Khmer Kings along the important temples they built and also provides a different interpretation on the connectivity of these temples after the inclusion of several provinces of Dvaravati region (north western region of today’s Cambodia) into the Khmer territory. It also provides us additional details on Suryavarman I and his geographic expansion and the efforts made by him to increase mobility to and from the temple sites built and renovated by him, in Cambodia and northeast Thailand.

If, as assumed, the Khmer temples are part of a greater cultural landscape under politico-religious control, an examination of connections at the regional and supra-regional scales will provide insight into the internal dynamics of the Khmer empire and its geographic history.

Mitch Hendrickson, Old Myths and New Approaches: Interpreting Ancient Religious Sites in Southeast Asia

This analytical paper on the communication corridors of Khmer Kings gives us fascinating details on the expansion of the Empire and the far flung regions controlled by different Kings, in specific context of this paper, Suryavarman I.

The second significant feature is the restricted size of royal territories until the reign of Suryavarman I in the early 11th century. At this time the focus expands significantly to the northwest and south of the Tonle Sap Lake. Interestingly, the areas influenced by subsequent kings largely mirror the 11th century occupation, which suggests that regional communication was formally established at this time.

Mitch Hendrickson, Old Myths and New Approaches: Interpreting Ancient Religious Sites in Southeast Asia

In the picture below, the author shows the communication corridors of Kings, necessarily used to develop transport routes between temple sites.  Additionally the picture also throws light on the comparative mapping of the geographic/political Khmer expansion through their religious entities and storehouses of cultural refinement – ‘Temples’.

 

Mitch Hendrickson, Old Myths and New Approaches: Interpreting Ancient Religious Sites in Southeast Asia

After Udayadityavarman I, the sites influenced by Suryavarman I in the first decade of the 11th century ACE show his sturdy grip as far as the western regions of Cambodia, forging into Dvaravati region. The significant geographic expansion aided in the creation of culturo-religious institutions in form of temples in the newly extended territory.

Pali Chronicles – the Chamadevivamsa and the Jinakalamali (both belonging to the 15th century ACE) and Mulasasana, talk of the story of the Khmer expansion in the Menam Basin and also mention the name of ‘Kambojaraja’. Even if the chronicles can be brushed aside as imaginary, Coedes clarifies that – ‘ we nonetheless have clear manifestations of Cambodian expansion in the era of Suryavarman I in the region west of the Great Lake, where his inscriptions are particularly numerous’.  (George Coedes, pg.137, Three Great Kings, The Indianized states of Southeast Asia).

 

Lopburi inscription of Suryavarman I

  1. 944 śaka caturdaśī ket bhadrapa
  2. da ādityavāra nu vraḥ pāda kaṃmrateṅ kaṃtva
  3. n añ śrī sūryyavarmmadeva pandval vraḥ ni
  4. yama ru samācāra ta tapra pi bhūvana phoṅ
  5. dval pi thve toy onā sthāna ta pasvi pho
  6. ṅ nu vraḥ paṃ nvas bhikṣu mahāyān a stha
  7. vira O nau ru ta pvas vyat pi nu thvāy tapaḥ ta
  8. vraḥ pāda kaṃmrateṅ kaṃtvan añ śrī
  9. sūryyavarmmadeva o nau ruv anak ta cval sāṃ
  10. pi tamaḥ tapovanāvāsa noḥpi thve
  11. kaṅval pi vvaṃaṃ pān pi tapasvi yogi
  12. phoṅ svat mantra pi nu thvāy tapaḥ ta
  13. vraḥ pāda kaṃrateṅ kaṃtvan añśrī sū
  14. ryyavarmmadeva ti pre cāp pi nāṃ cuñ ta
  15. sabhā stap vyavahāra nirṇṇaya toy

http://www.sac.or.th/databases/inscriptions/en/inscribe_detail.php?id=381

This inscription of Suryavarman I from Lopburi, mentions that the Buddhist monks belonging to two sects – Mahayana and Sthavira and the Brahmins – Tapasvi Yogi lived together in Lavo. This is not only a proof of Suryavarman I’s Khmer expansion in the Dvaravati region but also a proof of religious secularism encouraged under him.

Where is Lopburi?

 

Map courtesy: By Hdamm – Own work, GFDL, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4141418

Above map shows Lopburi and Nakhon Ratchasima in arrows. The extent of Suryavarman I’s expansion beyond the Dangkrek Mountains, with Prasat Hin Phimai, which falls under the province of Nakhon Ratchasima and reaching as far as Lopburi was only a beginning to his commercial and architectural expansion – bringing economy and religion under a single umbrella of political conquests…. much similar to Rajendra Chola I, his contemporary Tamil Emperor, whose political conquests resulted in economic and religious expansion of Tamil culture as far as China – beyond Southeast Asia.

Economic Expansion

The geographic expansion of Khmers under Suryavarman I has been briefly discussed above. What would seem most important in the study of the inclusion of iconography of Karaikkal Ammai in Cambodia and north east Thailand is the religious expansion during the first half of the eleventh century. But, there is one more important theory that makes the powerful chain of geographic and religious expansions stronger – that is Economic Expansion. The economic expansion or commercial development of Khmer Kings is a topic of separate, in-depth analysis- already done by several scholars and researchers. The economy aspect of any King’s rule occupies a significant place in his political and religious influences taken from and spread towards other friendly and non-friendly nations. Significantly, economic relations might be more expansive than political, as it additionally aids in cultural and religious give and take.

With the focal point on Karaikkal Ammai in Khmer temples, the economic expansion of Khmer Kings needs to be explored. The political and economic expansions of Rajaraja I and his son Rajendra I of the Chola Empire in Thamizhagam were discussed in the previous post. The maritime Tamil merchants and their stronghold in Southeast Asian economies had led to various cultural reciprocities, the most beautiful among them being the inclusion of Karaikkal Ammai, the demon devotee of Lord Shiva in Khmer Temples.

As written previously, the Tamil Economic upheaval was at its apex during the reign of the father-son duo – Rajaraja I and Rajendra I. Inscriptions on Rajendra I’s Southeast Asia conquests are proof to the political and economic might of the Tamils in the early 11th century ACE, the period corresponding to the reign of Suryavarman I in Khmerland.

Inscriptions in Thamizhagam show an uninterrupted process of maritime trade and political stronghold of the Tamils in Southeast Asia, from Rajaraja I’s successful friendly relations, followed by a new policy of political conquests by son Rajendra I. A century later to Rajaraja I’s reign, Kulottunga Chola’s inscriptions in 1114 ACE, talk of friendly relations sought by Suryavarman II with the Tamil Kings.

Inscription of Kulottunga I  that a stone was provided by Suryavarman II to the Shiva temple of Chidambaram (Chittrambalam or Thillai being its original Tamil name).

 

Photo clicked from Ancient and Medieval Tamil and Sanskrit Inscriptions by Noburu Karashima and Y. Subbarayalu

Researchers and Scholars have analysed the evidences of the glorious commercial expansions under the rule of Suryavarman I, who incorporated the west of the core Angkor area extending till Lopburi (Lavapura) into the then existing Khmer territory. The corresponding cultural and religious networks he created within and beyond his territory might bring in clues to the inclusion of Karaikkal Ammai in Khmer Architecture.

The interest that Suryavarman I showed in his political expansion, continued with the immense emphasis he laid upon administrative and commercial activities internally and internationally.  He focused on enhancing trade and commerce of his kingdom by integrating markets of his then existing territory and newly captured provinces. One of his primary concerns was to dominate the economic scene among the neighboring states, by extending friendly relations with the South Indian Cholas.

Kenneth R Hall’s extensive research on Khmer commercial development during the reign of Suryavarman I has indeed left behind ample references that relate to the Tamil maritime links in and around the Khmer territory.

Epigraphy suggests that prior to Suryavarman’s reign, goods of Chinese origin had entered the Khmer core through the eastern part of the domain, as the inscriptions concentrate on commercial activities in that direction (Coedes: IC,v6; 183-86; Aymonier: 1900-1904, 443). Inscriptions from Suryavarman’s reign reverse this eastern focus, being concentrated in the western region. While the proliferation of inscriptions in the newly integrated areas is a reflection of the period’s administrative expansion, there are strong commercial implications as well.  Once the Khmer had established control in Lobpuri and areas to the south, goods brought from China to say Phanom Wan no longer needed to cross the mountains to the east. Instead, they could reach Lopburi and Phanom Wan via the Chaophraya River system, the same route being used for goods that were coming from India, Persia, and Arabia via Tambralinga. Such a direct interaction with the international routes no doubt was viewed as an asset to the internal development of the Khmer economy in Suryavarman’s time.

Pg. 182, Hall, Kenneth R., A History of Early Southeast Asia: Maritime Trade and Societal Development, 100 – 1500

These economic strong points of the Khmer Empire during the rule of Suryavarman I, could be seen in light of the economic stronghold of Rajendra Chola I across Southeast Asia. While Suryavarman I opened new trade entry points through Phimai and Lopburi, west of Angkor, one of his prime motives as the reigning Khmer Emperor was to surpass the Srivijayas and hail supreme in Southeast Asian Economic Arena. Despite two powerful trade economies – China to the north and Tamil Cholas to the far west of the Khmer Empire of the day, Suryavarman I was very active in establishing a hugely successful Khmer Commercial Presence among the immediate neighboring kingdoms of Southeast Asia, thereby dominating the trade routes of Isthmus of Kra.

The economic empowerment during his reign is also attested by the ‘large scale urbanisation’ –

epigraphy mentions only twelve place names ending in –pura, a Sanskrit term used to identify urban areas, during the reign of Jayavarman IV (928-942), twenty-four in the period of Rajendravarman II, twenty under Jayavarman V, but forty-seven – more than double those of his immediate predecessors – in the reign of Suryavarman I

Pg.320,  Hall, Kenneth R. “Khmer Commercial Development and Foreign Contacts under Sūryavarman I.” Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, vol. 18, no. 3, 1975, pp. 318–336.  JSTOR link : www.jstor.org/stable/3632140.

Khlon Jnval Vanik

Another interesting phrase that might need additional analysis is ‘khlon jnval vanik’, mentioned in Khmer epigraphy. Coedes deciphers in his Inscriptions du Cambodge vol.3 (inscriptions in Prasat Prav) – the various words that refer to merchants. A few special words decoded by Coedes –

Khlon Jnval – residing vendor/local merchant

Khlon Jnval Vanik – Travelling merchant

Travan Vanik – Merchant Quarter

Vap Champa – Cham merchant

Vap China – China Trader

Pg. 321, Hall, Kenneth R. “Khmer Commercial Development and Foreign Contacts under Sūryavarman I.” Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, vol. 18, no. 3, 1975, pp. 318–336. JSTOR link : www.jstor.org/stable/3632140.

As deciphered by Coedes,  ‘Vap’ could refer to a trader from a foreign country, and  ‘Vanik’ might indicate a merchant traveling throughout the territory of the Khmer ruler . According to Hall, among the inscriptions found at Vat Baset and Svay Chek (Bantay Prav), ‘Khlon Jnval’ denoting the local merchants in khmer language seem to dominate in Vat Baset, proving it to be an important local communication center; whereas Bantay Prav inscriptions show that ‘khlon jnval vanik’ denoting traveling merchant, occupies a greater place. Hence, Bantay Prav could have been an important center of communication and exchange between the Khmer core and its western provinces, with Lopburi becoming part of Khmer Land after Suryavarman I’s expansion.

Six of seven inscriptions of a commercial nature from these two temples date to Suryavarman’s reign, while the seventh, an inscription from the reign of Harshavarman III (1071), is the latest inscription examined.

Pg. 327, Hall, Kenneth R. “Khmer Commercial Development and Foreign Contacts under Sūryavarman I.” Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, vol. 18, no. 3, 1975, pp. 318–336. JSTOR link:  www.jstor.org/stable/3632140.

These terms regarding inland merchants during the period from mid 10th century ACE until last few decades of 11th century ACE, signify the extensive trade within the extended Khmer Territory.

According to George Coedes –

Vanik est un mot d’emprunt Sanskrit significant ‘commercant’ that translates as –

‘Vanik’ is a borrowed word from Sanskrit which means Trader.

George Coedes, Pg. Inscriptions du Cambodge, Vol III

This comment by Coedes has made more number of scholars and researchers believe the word ‘vanik’ to be of Sanskrit origin and this fact gets repeatedly mentioned in several later research papers and articles.

Historian K.N. Shastri, in his article on the Tamil Inscriptions of 9th Century ACE, talking of merchant guild ‘Manigramam’ found in Takuapa says –

‘The Manikkiramam deriving its name ultimately from Sanskrit Vanik-gramam (guild of merchants) is a powerful mercantile corporation often mentioned in South Indian Inscriptions

Pg. 29-30, K.A.Nilakanta Sastri,Takuapa and its Tamil Inscription, Journal Malayan Branch, Vol, XXII, Pt. I

There are two points to be discussed here –

  1. Is ‘Manikkiramam’ derived from Vanik-gramam?
  2. Does the word ‘vanik’ have its root in Sanskrit as both these scholars say?

Coedes’ Inscriptions du Cambodge was published in the year 1937 and Sastri’s Takuapa article was published in Journal of Malayan Branch Royal Asiatic Society in the year 1949, though written in 1948. K.A.N. Sastri’s previous and first article on Takuapa, prior to 1949 – ‘The Takuapa Tamil Inscription’ was published in the The Journal Of Oriental Research Madras Vol. Vi, in the year 1932. It is interesting to note that the Sanskrit connection is mentioned only in the 1949 article, after the publication of Coedes’ ‘Inscriptions du Cambodge Vol. III’.

On ‘Manikkiramam’ being derived from Vanik-Gramam, and the root word of ‘Vanik’ to be from Sanskrit,  Dr. Kalaikkovan, Founder, Dr. Rajamanickanar Historical Research Centre, Thiruchirapalli opined through a telephonic conversation in May 2017-

“If the Tamil traders wanted to name their overseas merchant guild based on the word ‘Vanikar’, meaning traders/merchants in Tamil, why should they re-phrase it as Manikkiramam? They might as well have had their guild’s name ‘Vanika Gramam’, which directly specifies the term – Merchant Village. Manikkiramam could have got its name from the product that was traded – pearl or other precious stones/beads.”

This stands true from the fact that Tamizhagam had been a Buzzing Economic Centre since centuries before Common Era. Also, glassware and beads that have been excavated from Southeast Asian coastal towns especially from Malaya and Thailand testify the gem trade between the Tamils and Southeast Asian friends that flourished from Tamil Ports. It is additionally well proven from available Tamil literary sources and travelogues by foreign authors from the early centuries of the 1st millennia that the Tamil Coastal Line was a busy business haven enjoying imports and exports between the Arabs and Southeast Asians.

Trade with Southeast Asia already existed in the early historical period, the focus now (after mid 6th century ACE) shifted towards Southeast Asia, Srilanka and China. Thus the trading activities survived in the later periods. Thirdly not only the luxury goods but even the beads, either of semiprecious stones or glass, were a valuable item of trade. The central role of South India, especially Tamil Nadu, in the international gem trade has led Peter Francis (‘Early Historic South India and the International Maritime Trade’ by Peter Francis Jr.)  to call the region the “Treasure Chest of the Ancient World”.

Pg.132, Vikas Kumar Verma, Maritime Trade Between Early Historic Tamil Nadu and Southeast Asia; URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/44145830

Hence, the ambiguity regarding the word ‘Manikkiramam or Manigramam’ could be viewed wider with the merchandise of the traders  – possibly gem trade and pearl fishery which has been much prevalent between the Malayan Peninsular States and Thamizhagam.

Poetic references of ‘Vanigar’ in Early Tamil Literature

In this case, the root of the word ‘vanik’ needs more scrutiny.  A search for ‘vanik’ in early Tamil Literature gives new light to the belief of scholars. Before making its place in 11th century Khmer epigraphy, ‘vanik’ has found powerful usages in Literary Tamil Language. Before entering into ‘Bhakti Ilakkiyam’  (Saivite Devotional Hymns by Nayanmars and Vaishnavite Hymns by Alwars) which dominates 6th century ACE until 12th century ACE of Tamil Literary Scene, the Tamil Epic Silappadhikaram written in approximately the 2nd century ACE, mentions ‘Vanikar’.

1.Silappadhikaram, (first half of 2nd century ACE – according to Dr. Ma. Rajamanickanar, pg.67 Kala Araichi) the epic written by Ilangovadigal has several mentions of ‘Vanikar’  for example, ‘Aruvai Vanikar Veedhi’  denotes the Textile Merchant Street.  The protagonist of Silappadhikaram, Kovalan himself is introduced as – ‘Kovalan enbaan or vaanigan’ –  ‘A merchant named Kovalan’

‘கோவலன் என்பான் ஓர் வாணிகன்’

Additionally, Silappadhikaram mentions ‘vaniga marabu’, ‘vaanigar’, ‘vaanigan’ and ‘vaaniga peedigai’ – all these words referring to merchants. (pg.1382, Index des mots de la literature tamoule ancienne, vol.III, Institut Francais D’Indologie)

2.Moving backward in time, Thirukkural – (appr. 1st Century ACE to 3rd century ACE according to Dr. Ma. Rajamanickanar, pg.47, Kala Araichi) mentions –

வாணிகம் செய்வார்க்கு வாணிகம் பேணிப்
பிறவும் தமபோல் செயின்.

Thirukkural- 120

Naduvu Nilaimai

Vaanigam seivarkku vaanigam peni
Piravum thamapol seyin

Translation:

A thriving trader is the trader known,
Who guards another’s interests as his own.

http://www.thirukkural.com

3.Puranaanuru (3rd century BCE -3rd century ACE) mentions vanigan and vaanigan in a few poems.

i. Aravilai vanigan ai allan……. (Puram 134)

புறநானூறு 134, பாடியவர்: உறையூர் ஏணிச்சேரி முடமோசியார், பாடப்பட்டோன்: ஆய் அண்டிரன், திணை: பாடாண், துறை: இயன் மொழி
இம்மைச் செய்தது மறுமைக்கு ஆம் எனும்
அறவிலை வணிகன் ஆஅய் அல்லன்
பிறரும் சான்றோர் சென்ற நெறியென
ஆங்குப் பட்டன்று அவன் கைவண்மையே.

Puranānūru 134, Poet Uraiyūr Ēnichēri Mudamōsiyār sang for Āy Andiran, Thinai: Pādān, Thurai: Iyan Moli
Āy is not like a businessman with fair
prices who thinks that the good done in
this birth will help the next one.
His generosity is because of other noble
men before him who followed the right path!

ii.  Yaanor Vaaniga Parisilan Allen ….(Puram 208)

புறநானூறு 208, பாடியவர்: பெருஞ்சித்திரனார், பாடப்பட்டோன்: அதியமான் நெடுமான் அஞ்சி, திணை: பாடாண், துறை: பரிசில்

குன்றும் மலையும் பல பின் ஒழிய
வந்தனென் பரிசில் கொண்டனென் செலற்கு என
நின்ற என் நயந்து அருளி ஈது கொண்டு
ஈங்கனம் செல்க தான் என என்னை
யாங்கு அறிந்தனனோ தாங்க அருங் காவலன்
காணாது ஈத்த இப்பொருட்கு யானோர்
வாணிகப் பரிசிலன் அல்லேன் பேணித்
தினை அனைத்து ஆயினும் இனிது அவர்
துணை அளவு அறிந்து நல்கினர் விடினே.

Puranānūru 208, Poet: Perunchitharanār sang for Athiyamān Nedumān Anji, Thinai: Pādān, Thurai: Parisil
When I stood there and said that I have crossed many
hills and mountains to come to him for a reward, he
showed me great kindness and asked me to take what
I wanted, this king who is difficult to withstand
by his enemies.

I am not like a merchant who considers these gifts
as merchandise
, to take gifts which are given without
being seen.  It would be sweet if he knows my worth
and gives me a gift, even if it were tiny like millet!

https://sangamtranslationsbyvaidehi.com/ettuthokai-purananuru-201-300/

4.Paripadal Thirattu (3rd century BCE – 3rd century ACE) mentions ‘Vanigar’/merchants – the plural of vanigan/merchant –

ஆங்கு ஒரு சார் உண்ணுவ பூசுவ பூண்ப உடுப்பவை
மண்ணுவ மணி பொன் மலைய கடல்
பண்ணியம் மாசு அறு பயம் தரு காருகப்
புண்ணிய வணிகர் புனை மறுகு ஒருசார் . . . 25

on one side, there are decorated streets with shops
where faultless, honest merchants sell food,
fragrant smearing pastes, ornaments, clothes, bright
gems and gold brought from the mountains and ocean.

sangamtamil/paripadal

5.The earliest mention till today is from the earliest Grammar Work available in Tamil Language – Tolkappiyam (3rd – 4th century BCE)

Vaisiyar perume vaniga vaazhkkai (tholkappiyam, poruladhikaram, 622)

http://shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in/bitstream/10603/77849/8/08_chapter2.pdf

The term ‘vanik’ that denotes merchants is available in Tamil Literary texts as early as 3rd Century BCE. This literary evidence that proves the usage of a particular word in a particular language, earlier than other languages, especially before Common Era and its continuous usage through several centuries across the next millenium- proves the root word of ‘Vanik’ need not be Sanskrit but most probably Tamil. The word ‘vanik’ seen in Khmer epigraphy from 10th to 11th Century ACE, also proves the continuity of the well established links of the Tamil traders which is known from travel notes of foreign authors-  from as early as the last few centuries Before Common Era (Dr. Ma. Rajamanickanar on Periplus notes (70-100 ACE)  on Chola Trade, pg. 106,  Cholar Varalaaru) and literary evidences (Tamil Epics Silappadhikaram and Manimekalai that speak of Chola Maritime Trade with Western and Eastern countries in 2nd century ACE). The Takuapa Tamil Inscriptions in Thailand, the earliest epigraphic evidence of maritime tamil traders guild in Southeast Asia,  provide clues to the continuous link of Tamil Vanigars/Traders from early centuries to the final centuries of the millennium. The Khmer Rulers, who have used the same word to denote the same group, which is merchants in their epigraphy, is yet again a proof of the powerful commercial activities of the Tamil Merchants, especially during the reign of Rajaraja I and his son Rajendra I, contemporary Tamil Empires of Suryavarman I.

Names of poets prefixed with Vanigar in Early Tamil Literature

The usages of ‘vanigan’ in Sangam Tamil Literature were seen above.  Additionally, the huge collection of poems of the Sangam Tamil Age mentions the community to which few of the several poets belonged to. Among those, in the context of ‘vanigar- merchant’, in Purananuru, Agananuru and Mullaipaatu – below mentioned poets have their specific trades/merchandises prefixed to their names:

Purananuru-

Poem  59 – written by Madurai Koola vaanigan Seethalai Saathanar – Seethalai Saathanar – Grain merchant of Madurai

Poem 264 – written by Uraiyur Ilampon Vaniganar – Gold merchant of Uraiyur

Poem 329 – written by Madurai Aruvai Vaanigar Ilavettanar – Ilavettanar – Textile merchant of Madurai

Agananuru-

Poem 298 – written by Madurai Panda Vaanigan Ilanthevanar – Ilanthevanar – Grocery merchant of Madurai

Mullaippaattu written by Kaviripoom pattinathu Ponvaniganaar maganaar nappoodhanar – Nappoodhanar – son of Gold merchant of Kaviripoom pattinam

‘Vanigan’ in Early Tamil-Brahmi Inscriptions in Tamilnadu

Apart from these names, one of the earliest of the Tamil-Brahmi Inscriptions found at Madurai Azhagar/Alagar Malai and Pugalur also finds mention of ‘vanikan’.

1.Madurai Azhagarmalai inscriptions – early Tamil Brahmi Script, that dates between 3rd century BCE and 1st century ACE (acc. to Iravatham Mahadevan)

refer – பழந்தமிழ்க் கல்வெட்டுகள் – மா. இலாவண்யா

(Pazhanthamizh Kalvettukkal –www.varalaaru.com/design/article.aspx?ArticleID=866)

Upu vanigan viyagan – salt merchant

Panitha vanigan nedumalan – sugarmerchant (according to Iravatham Mahadevan) or edible camphor merchant (according to Mayilai Cheeni Venkatasamy)

Kolu vanigan elasanthan – plough merchant (according to Iravatham Mahadevan) or Iron merchant (according to Ra. Nagasamy)

Refer –தமிழ் பிராமி கல்வெட்டுகள் காட்டும் தமிழகச் சமூகப் பொருளாதார நிலை’- தி. ஸ்ரீ. ஸ்ரீதர்  – (‘The Socio-Economic Life of the Tamils through Tamil-Brahmi Inscriptions by Sridhar)

2.Inscriptions from Pugalur Jain Temple –  later Tamil-Brahmi Script that dates between 2nd century ACE and 4th century ACE (acc. to Iravatham Mahadevan)  (www.varalaaru.com/design/article.aspx?ArticleID=866)

Karuvur Pon vanigan nathi adhittanam – Gold merchant from Karuvur

Ennai Vanigan veni aadhan adhittanam – Oil merchant

www.tamilvu.org/tdb/titles_cont/inscription/html/pukalur.htm

These early Commom Era inscriptions again refer to traders of different commodities.

These literary and epigraphic evidences in Tamil that show the usage of ‘vanikar’ and that dates from a time span extending from 4th century BCE (tolkappiyam) to 3rd century ACE, are enough proof for the roots of the word to have originated from Tamil Language. With no available literary/epigraphic evidence earlier than these, until a proven evidence of its usage is available in any other contemporary language – it is logical and indeed valid to claim the word could have its roots in Tamil.

With both the terms, ‘vanigar’ and ‘vanika’ denoting merchants or traders been found mentioned in Sangam Tamil Literature and in Tolkappiyam – the oldest Tamil Grammar text found till today, ‘vanik’ could not possibly have its roots in Sanskrit. Apart from the root of the word, its usage in Tamil Literature associated with Tamil Economic activities, that is similar to denote economic activities in Khmer Land, a millenium later, when the Tamil Cholas were at their ‘Vanik’ best in Southeast Asia is certainly an element for further critical research.

Literature centuries before Common Era, systematic Grammar of the language to produce such mature literature and a well established civilisation to cultivate long routed economic activities and strong rooted cultural reciprocities, the Tamils have left behind enough and abundant documentation through literature and epigraphy, the proof of their influences far and wide. It is for the learned scholarly world to recognise or wait for search of more evidences.

Hundreds of centuries with limited evidences – literary, epigraphic and sculptural, History finds its decisions mostly in Probability. As mentioned in the previous posts, with an open-mind to accept new discoveries that would answer satisfactorily various ambiguities in history, with the same theory of Probability as per available evidences till today, this is an honest view on the Tamil and Khmer connection of the word ‘vanikar’ (available in khmer epigraphy as ‘vanik’) which means traders/merchants.

Now, we come back to usage of the same word ‘vanik’ meaning traders/merchants in Khmer epigraphy during the reign of Suryavarman I. The terms ‘khlon vanik’ and ‘khlon jnval vanik’ meaning resident merchants and travelling merchants respectively as quoted by Kenneth Hall from George Coedes, should be seen in the light of Khmer economic development at its expansive best and political and economic stronghold of the Cholas in Southeast Asia under Rajendra I at all time high sidelining Srivijayas. Additionally, a wider view of the Tamil word ‘vanikan’ available in early Tamil Literary sources, would provide evidences of the comfortable positions enjoyed by Tamil Trader Settlements across centuries, not to ignore the Pallava influences seen in ancient provinces of today’s Thailand.

The chart below provides information on the mention of the word ‘vanik’ in khmer epigraphy-

 

pg.177, Eileen Lustig, Money doesn’t make the world go round: Angkor’s non-monetisation, Economic Development, Integration, and Morality in Asia and the Americas – edited by Donald C. Wood

It can also be seen that Vat Baset inscriptions under Suryavarman I leads in numbers. It is also to be noted that the term ‘vanijam’ inscribed previously in 8th century ACE undergoes a change in ‘vanik’ from the 10th and 11th century ACE inscriptions – a closer similarity to ‘vanikar’ of Tamil Language.

Using services of merchants towards temple donations is a prevalent norm even today. Kings have always had close links with merchants and their community for religious and cultural innovations through Temples, which could be done easily with the wealth accumulated by and from the traders. Khmer rulers couldn’t have chosen a different path and Khmer epigraphy provides abundant evidences to this.

Elaborating on the chariot sent by Suryavarman I to Rajendra Chola I, and the Chola raids on Srivijaya, Kenneth Hall reiterates Coedes’ words –

Coedes stated that the Chola expedition led to the reintroduction of Khmer influence in the isthmian region during the second quarter of the century

Pg. 332, Hall, Kenneth R. “Khmer Commercial Development and Foreign Contacts under Sūryavarman I.” Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, vol. 18, no. 3, 1975, pp. 318–336. JSTOR link:  www.jstor.org/stable/3632140.

He adds,

It is the author’s belief that the gifts given to Rajendra by Suryavarman were not intended to “save his own kingdom”, but to establish a friendly trade relationship between Cambodia and Chola ports.

Pg. 334, Hall, Kenneth R. “Khmer Commercial Development and Foreign Contacts under Sūryavarman I.” Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, vol. 18, no. 3, 1975, pp. 318–336. JSTOR link:  www.jstor.org/stable/3632140.

This core emphasis on victorious trade accomplishments of the Khmer Empire under Suryavarman I along the Isthmus of Kra, with the cordial relations of Tamil Cholas could well have contributed to the upsurge and higher influential positions of the Tamil Traders or ‘Vanik’ settled in Khmer territory. This upsurge in the positions of Tamil Traders could have further proved as a catalystic aid in the inclusion of the sculpture of Tamil Saint Karaikkal Ammai in Khmer Temples in Cambodia and north-east Thailand. An important fact here – Karaikkal Ammai, the demon devotee of Lord Shiva from the Tamil country, also belonged to the same ‘Vanigar’(tamil) – trader – ‘vanik’ (khmer) community in 6th century Thamizhagam.

It can be stated rather unambiguously that Karaikkal Ammai – the Pioneer Tamil Saint and Poetess of the Saivite Bhakti Movement in Tamil Land, who belonged to the Vanigar/Vanik/Trader community, would have been the star religious Ambassador for the Tamil Trader Settlements living in far eastern countries – including the land of focus of this research – Khmer Land under Suryavarman I.

References

  1. Mitch Hendrickson, Old Myths and New Approaches – Interpreting Ancient Sites in Southeast Asia
  2. George Coedes, Three Great Kings, The Indianized states of Southeast Asia
  3. Noburu Karashima and Y. Subbarayalu, Ancient and Medieval Tamil and Sanskrit Inscriptions
  4. Hall, Kenneth R. “A History of Early Southeast Asia: Maritime Trade and Societal Development, 100 – 1500”
  5. Hall, Kenneth R. “Khmer Commercial Development and Foreign Contacts under Sūryavarman I.” Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, vol. 18, no. 3, 1975JSTOR.
  6. George Coedes, Inscriptions du Cambodge, Vol III
  7. K.A.Nilakanta Sastri,Takuapa and its Tamil Inscription, Journal Malayan Branch, Vol, XXII, Pt. I
  8. Vikas Kumar Verma, Maritime Trade Between Early Historic Tamil Nadu and Southeast Asia
  9. Index des mots de la literature tamoule ancienne, vol.III, Institut Francais D’Indologie
  10. Dr. Ma. Rajamanickanar, Kala Araichi
  11. Dr. Ma. Rajamanickanar, Cholar Varalaaru
  12. மா. இலாவண்யா , பழந்தமிழ்க் கல்வெட்டுகள்
    Ma. Lavanya, Article : Pazhanthamizh Kalvettukkal, Varalaaru.com
  13. தி. ஸ்ரீ. ஸ்ரீதர் , தமிழ் பிராமி கல்வெட்டுகள் காட்டும் தமிழகச் சமூகப் பொருளாதார நிலை in Keetru.com – (‘The Socio-Economic Life of the Tamils through Tamil-Brahmi Inscriptions by Sridhar)
  14. Eileen Lustig, Money doesn’t make the world go round: Angkor’s non-monetisation, Economic Development, Integration, and Morality in Asia and the Americas – edited by Donald C. Wood
  15. Recueil des inscriptions du Siam, Part II, Inscriptions of Dvaravati, Srivijaya and Lavo by Coedes
  16. Mohamed Nazar, M , Arab trade and traders in the Pandya country – thesis submitted to Manonmaniam Sundaranar University
  17. Dr. S. Sivasankaran, “State of Handloom Weavers, Weaving and Fabric in Tamilnadu Through the Ages”, International Journal of Interdisciplinary Research in Arts and Humanities, Volume 1, Issue 1, Page Number 95-103, 2016.

 

Web links

  1. Old Myths and New Approaches Interpreting Ancient Religious Sites in Southeast Asia
  2. http://www.sac.or.th/databases/inscriptions/
  3. https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4141418
  4. https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=14719726
  5. www.jstor.org/stable/3632140.
  6. http://www.jstor.org/stable/44145830
  7. http://sangam.tamilnlp.com/cilappatikaaram
  8. https://learnsangamtamil.com/
  9. http://www.thirukkural.com/
  10. https://sangamtranslationsbyvaidehi.com/ettuthokai-purananuru-201-300/
  11. http://shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in/bitstream/10603/77849/8/08_chapter2.pdf
  12. www.varalaaru.com/design/article.aspx?ArticleID=866
  13. Keetru.com/index.php/2014-03-08-04-39-26/2014-03-14-11-17-85/19346-2012
  14. www.tamilvu.org/tdb/titles_cont/inscription/html/pukalur.htm
  15. http://www.persee.fr/docAsPDF/befeo_0336-1519_1929_num_29_1_3297.pdf
  16. http://hdl.handle.net/10603/61422
  17. Link to Takuapa and Tamil Inscription by KAN. Shastri in the Journal of Oriental Research, Madras Vol Vi, 1932 – https://archive.org/stream/in.ernet.dli.2015.283291/2015.283291.The-Journal#page/n357/mode/2up

 

The Importance of Rajaraja Chola I and his son Rajendra Chola I in Southeast Asian Tamil Links

Our concern of the sculptural representation of Karaikkal Ammai has to be seen conjointly with the Political Connections of Rajaraja I and his son Rajendra Chola I in the far east. Ample evidences on the Tamil Connection in Southeast Asia have been provided by the available Tamil/Sanskrit inscriptions related to both these Emperors found in Tamilnadu/Southeast Asia. It is important to understand the feats of Rajendra’s father – Rajaraja Chola the Great, who laid a stern carpet of friendly maritime relations with the Southeast Asian countries, that provided a firm pathway for the son to go beyond friendly relations and have a stronghold in trade as well as political supremacy.

While we discuss the religious culmination of both Tamil and Khmer Empires through the specific travel of iconography of Karaikkal Ammai during early 11th century, the extended economic connections of the Maritime Champions of Southern India with other Empires of Southeast Asia provide important resources. It is also well known that the ancient Tamils had successful economic ties with Romans and Greeks before Common Era as per exclusive literary evidences in Sangam Tamil Literature. The entirety of Tamil Land during the first millennium saw vast changes in the Ruling Kingdoms – Chera, Chola, Pandya and Pallava which took turns in capturing respective terrains. Simultaneously, the Maritime Traders from different kingdoms of Thamizhagam and their respective Guilds settled in various Southeast Asian countries never seemed to have seized activity, irrespective of the change in rulers in home land – Thamizhagam.

The Sea has always proved a strong Livelihood Entity for the coastal kingdoms of South and Southeast Asia… be it the yesteryear Pallavas, Cheras, Cholas and the Pandyas of the Tamil Land, Champa, Chenla, Khmer, Srivijaya, Lanka and others in Southeast Asia. The art of tackling forceful waters has been an adventurous game for the sea farers. Or should they be called Sea Darers?

The political ambitions and victories of the Political Masters must have created a smooth path for the Daring Merchants to lead the Economic Arena, and vice versa, the Merchants in strong positions for centuries must have created the smooth passage of friendly relations to political victories for the Ruling Clan.

As Tansen Sen writes about the Chola and Srivijaya Kingdoms-

Because of their geographical locations and powerful naval forces, the two kingdoms already maintained significant control over key segments of Indian Ocean commerce during the eleventh century. The unprecedented naval conflicts between kingdoms in southern and southeastern Asia seem to have been a consequence of attempts by Chola traders and rulers to extend their sphere of influence into the coastal regions of China.

pg. 73, The Military Campaigns of Rajendra Chola and the Chola-Srivijaya-China Triangle; Nagapattinam to Suvarnadwipa : Reflections on the Chola Naval Expeditions to Southeast Asia.

 

The Cholas,  through their inscriptions, not only recorded their achievements and victories over other kingdoms in land and across the seas, but also documented their style of administration, commerce, religion, culture, language and literature and more. They used their architecturally brilliant Temples to chronicle their history and geographic entities for future generations. The inscriptions on stone and copper plates prove significant evidences to their contemporary history and additionally and most importantly serve as linking chains to preceding and ensuing centuries and kingdoms alike.

For knowledge of their military, administration and overseas commerce, the Chola documentation seems to have reached its pinnacle during the reign of Rajaraja I and his son Rajendra I. Both the Kings developed positive diplomatic and maritime trade relations with the kingdoms of South and Southeast Asia, and further expanded their strong military associations with the help of their valiant naval force and economic connections through well established Tamil Trader Guilds.

Epigraphy is regarded the most reliable evidence to prove facts about kingdoms and their activities. There is certainly a void left behind the history of sculpting Karaikkal Ammai in Cambodia and Thailand – void created due to absence of specific epigraphic evidences.

As mentioned in the previous post –

When there is absence of epigraphic clues on the sculpture of Karaikkal Ammai included in Khmer Architecture, the best option as per Finot is to decode the images; Decoding Images not only with the style of particular Kings but a comparative view of contemporary maritime kingdoms with the root of identical religious factors – in this case – Karaikkal Ammai.

https://glorioustamils.com/2016/09/22/ammai-in-banteay-srei-and-the-tamil-maritime-links-in-south-east-asia/

 

Now, with the absence of specific evidences that would provide clues to Ammai’s travel to Southeast Asia – specifically Cambodia and Thailand, it is important to explore different ways to decode the images of Ammai in 11th century Tamil and Khmer Kingdoms.

The very few stone and copper plate inscriptions so far found in Tamil/Sanskrit languages in present day Tamilnadu, that mention the strong ties between the Tamils and Southeast Asian Kingdoms cannot be ignored here. These may not be direct epigraphic evidences to Ammai’s sculptural reference beyond high seas, but might provide a pathway to her explicit travel.

The Pious Lady walked her way to Lord Shiva’s abode with her unparalleled faith in the Lord. The only thing she wanted was to watch her Almighty Dance to Glory. From each one of Ammai’s verses, the tear filled reader can feel the relentless Trust and spiritual Conviction of Ammai on Shiva – the Mystical Dancer.

This Faith in the Mystical Dancer has elevated the Pioneer Tamil Saint of Indian Bhakti Movement way back in the 6th century ACE to more than an Ambassador of the Shaivite Movement spreading the wave of Adalvallan/Dancing Shiva towards Southeast Asia. Nearly four centuries after Ammai’s life, the Temple Builders gave the Eternal Devotee a sculptural identity even beyond high seas, and amazingly the same way she had wanted to remain.

A few important flash points

A few important flash points during the reigns of Rajaraja I and his son Rajendra I in Thamizhagam, during the years 985 ACE – 1050 ACE, which coincides with the reign of Suryavarman I in present day Cambodia (1010 ACE) and north-east Thailand might provide important clues on the strong connections between both states. These flash points with the available inscriptions are strong evidences of the influence the Tamils had on the economy, culture and religion of the Khmer Empire. The impact of the stronghold of the Tamils can be visible through sculptures in their temples and temple architecture.

 

  1. 985 ACE – Rajaraja I ascends the throne as Chola King after Madhurantaka Chola.

2. 1006 ACE – Rajaraja’s Larger Leiden Copper Plate Inscription. The Inscription dated in the 21st regnal year of the King was posthumously added by his son Rajendra I.

It refers to the construction of a Buddhist temple by King of Kadaram (Sri Vijaya) Maravijayothungavarman, son of Chulamanivarman at Nagapattinam, the coastal town of Tamilnadu.  Rajaraja I provides the income of eight thousand nine hundred and forty three kalam and odd of paddy accruing from the payment of land assessment of ninety-seven and odd (veli) of land of that village to the construction of Chulamanivarma vihara. Thats a proof to friendly, co-exisitng communities beyond high seas and religion. (Text of translated version of inscription adapted from article titled – ‘Ancient and Medieval Tamil and Sanskrit Inscriptions Relating to Southeast Asia and China’ by Noboru Karashima and Y. Subbarayalu)

 

 

img_5647Photo of the printed version of Inscription clicked from Tamil version of the book – Nagapattinam to Swarnadwipa – Reflection on the Chola Naval Expeditions to Southeast Asia

For inscription – refer link – page 274,275 –  Ancient and Medieval Tamil and Sanskrit Inscriptions Relating to Southeast Asia and China by Noboru Karashima and Y. Subbarayalu

3. 1010 ACE –

a. Completion of Thanjavur Temple – a mile stone in Chola Temple Architecture. With their economic ties at peak, the Cholas demonstrated their architectural excellence through Thanjavur Periya Kovil.  Before the Cholas, the kingdoms in today’s Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Indonesia were already influenced by religion and temple architecture from Indian kingdoms and specifically showcase impressions of Pallava Architecture in their temples.

Rajaraja projects himself and the Cholas as a friendly yet strong economic power. The already well settled Tamil Merchant Guilds abroad seem to have bloomed suddenly with confidence due to Political Amicability between the Cholas and the host kingdoms of the Guilds.

b. Portrayal of Dancing Shiva in Rajaraja’s Magnum Opus – The Emperor doesn’t forget his grandmother Chembiyan Madevi’s introduction of Karaikkal Ammai at the feet of Adalvallan. He places her watching the Divine Dance to the left of Shiva, somewhat similar to Madevi’s sculptural depiction, in a panel close to the central niche of Dancing Shiva. It is also note worthy to mention that Madevi had experimented the portrayal of Ammai in various ways mostly to the right of Shiva in a separate panel close to the niche placing Adalvallan (Koogur Mampazhamudaiyar – sanskritized name: Ambaravaneswarar temple), with an exotic instrument sirattai kinnari (Thiruppugalur Konapiran – sanskritized name: Vardhamaaneeswarar temple) or at the feet of Shiva among various instrumentalists (exclusive panel of Karunthittaikudi – sanskritized name: Vasishteeswarar temple), etc.

 

Adalvallan in Rajaraja’s Thanjavur Temple

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

(photo courtesy: Dr. Ma.Ra. Kalaikkovan, Founder, Dr. Rajamanickanar Historical Research Centre, Thiruchirapalli)

4. 1010 ACE – Suryavarman I claims Khmer throne after years of turmoil.

5. 1014 ACE – Rajendra I, son of Rajaraja I comes to power after demise of father.

6. 1014/1015 ACE- Nagapattinam Inscription 1 of Rajendra I  -This refers to the grant made by Sri Mulan Agattisvaran, an agent of Srivijaya to erect a gateway to the compound wall of Tirukkaronamudaiya Mahadevar Temple in Nagappattinam. (Text of translated version of inscription adapted from article titled – ‘Ancient and Medieval Tamil and Sanskrit Inscriptions Relating to Southeast Asia and China’ by Noboru Karashima and Y. Subbarayalu)

img_5654Photo of the printed version of Inscription clicked from Tamil version of the book – Nagapattinam to Swarnadwipa – Reflection on the Chola Naval Expeditions to Southeast Asia

For inscription – refer link – page 275,276 –  Ancient and Medieval Tamil and Sanskrit Inscriptions Relating to Southeast Asia and China by Noboru Karashima and Y. Subbarayalu

7. 1015 ACE – Nagapattinam Inscription 2 of Rajendra I –  refers to the grant by an agent of Srivijaya from Menrondripattinam of Rajarajamandalam, who gifts a collection of jewel stones like ruby, emerald etc, weighing 14 and 1/2 kalanju for the silver image of Nagaiyalangarar. (Text of translated version of inscription adapted from article titled – ‘Ancient and Medieval Tamil and Sanskrit Inscriptions Relating to Southeast Asia and China’ by Noboru Karashima and Y. Subbarayalu)

 

img_5648Photo of the printed version of Inscription clicked from Tamil version of the book – Nagapattinam to Swarnadwipa – Reflection on the Chola Naval Expeditions to Southeast Asia

For inscription – refer link – page 276,277 –  Ancient and Medieval Tamil and Sanskrit Inscriptions Relating to Southeast Asia and China by Noboru Karashima and Y. Subbarayalu

8. 1019 ACE – Nagapattinam Inscription 3 of Rajendra I – This refers to the grant by an agent Kuruttan Kesuvan of Srivijaya, for providing food to persons in the Nagapattinam temple and for feeding the deity and Brahmanas. The inscription also specifies the grant for these purposes as 87 and 3/4 kalanju Chinakkanakam (Chinese Gold) and 60 and 3/4 kalanju untikaipon (stamped gold) and the total being 236 and 1/4 kalanju. (Text of translated version of inscription adapted from article titled – ‘Ancient and Medieval Tamil and Sanskrit Inscriptions Relating to Southeast Asia and China’ by Noboru Karashima and Y. Subbarayalu)

 

img_5649Photo of the printed version of Inscription clicked from Tamil version of the book – Nagapattinam to Swarnadwipa – Reflection on the Chola Naval Expeditions to Southeast Asia

Rajaraja’s Larger Leiden Plates of 1006 and Rajendra’s 1014, 1015 and 1019 inscriptions of Nagapattinam show the cordial connect between Cholas and Srivijaya. The available inscriptions co-incidentally talk religion on a mutual tone. While Rajaraja grants a village for a Buddhist Vihara for Srivijaya, the agents of Srivijaya provide grants for Hindu temples in Chola country.

The entangled Religion factor alongside Mercantile is certainly not to be ignored.

The growing power of the Cholas – economically and politically has been recognized by their strong competitors in the Indian Ocean – the Srivijaya. The above mentioned inscriptions which talk of their grants show their desire for cordial relations through their agents in Tamil Land.

Other epigraphical evidences reveal the unambiguous rise of the Cholas as Maritime Champions during the reigns of Rajaraja and his son Rajendra. Rajaraja I conquered the Cheras, Pandyas, Vengi, Gangapadi, Tadigaipadi, Nolambapadi and parts of Andhra Pradesh, Srilanka, Maldives and many more. Alongside successful conquests of Kingdoms, Rajaraja followed friendly diplomacy towards his Southeast Asian neighbors across high seas.

9. 1027 ACE – Thirukkadaiyur Inscription of Rajendra I – Rajendra Chola initially continues father’s policy of amicable relations with the Southeast Asian Kingdoms and also reconfirms Rajaraja’s grant to the Buddhist Vihara in Nagapattinam. There seems to be a sudden deviation in the friendly strategy in 1017, which erupts in 1025 into the largest ever sea battle undertaken by any Indian King as on date, under Rajendra I. His Thirukkadaiyur Inscription lists his conquests and victories across the rolling sea.

 

 

img_5651Photo of the printed version of Inscription clicked from Tamil version of the book – Nagapattinam to Swarnadwipa – Reflection on the Chola Naval Expeditions to Southeast Asia

[Rajendra Chola] having despatched many ships in the midst of the rolling sea and having caught Sangrāma- vijayottunga-varman, the King of Kadaram [Kedah, Malay Peninsula], together with the elephants in his glorious army, (took) the large heap of treasures, which (that king) had rightfully accumulated; (captured) with noise the (arch called) Vidhyādhara-torana at the ‘war-gate’ of his extensive city; Śrī Vijāya [Palembang] with the ‘jewelled wicket-gate’ adorned with great splendour and the ‘gate of large jewels’; Pannai [east cost of Sumatra] with water in the bathing ghats; the ancient Malaiyur [Jambi, Sumatra] with the strong mountain for its rampart; Māyuridingam [Malay Peninsula] surrounded by the deep sea as by a moat; Ilangāśoka [Langkasuka, Malay Peninsula] undaunted in fierce battles; Māpappālam [near Pegu, Burma] having abundant water as defence; Mevilimbangam [near Ligor, south Thailand] having fine walls as defence; Valaippanduru [perhaps Panduranga, central Vietnam] having Vilappanduru(?); Talaittakkolam [at the Isthmus of Kra, southern Thailand) praised by great men (versed in) the sciences; Mādamālingam [Lamuri, north Sumatra]; Ilāmurideśam [Tambralingam, east coast of Malay Peninsula], whose fierce strength rose in war; Mānakkavāram [Nicobar Islands] in whose extensive flower gardens honey was collected; and Kadāram of fierce strength which was protected by the deep sea.

THE CŌḶAS by k. a. nilakanta sastri, (courtesy: http://cw.routledge.com/textbooks/9780415485432/15.asp)

The unexpected reversal of cordial approach to Political and Military Dominance by Rajendra has been a topic of divergent views, with analysts attributing different reasons for such a sea raid. Tansen Sen interprets it as a ‘Trade War’ –

“The Chola raid on Srivijaya can be concluded as an ambitious maneuver with a pretext to remove hindrance from the trade route

the Srivijayan diplomatic and military attempts to block maritime links between  Indian and the Song markets may have been both the principal factors for the Chola naval raids”

page 2, Tansen Sen’s View by Hermann Kulke, The Naval Expeditions of the Cholas in the context of Asian History; Nagapattinam to Suvarnadwipa.

 

If Trade and holding Power of Trade Routes have been reasons behind Rajendra’s Srivijaya attack, the rise of Cholas from a friendly economy to a powerful naval force must have invoked changes in the mindset of the Kingdoms nearby. One of those was the Khmer Kingdom.

“More or less simultaneously with the expansionism of the Cholas under Rajaraja and Rajendra, the kingdom of Angkor for the first time extended its frontiers far beyond its dynastic homelands, and subjugated parts of Laos, central Thailand, and the northern part of the Malay Peninsula. It soon became the dominating power in the Gulf of Siam and Mainland Southeast Asia and was therefore, bound to get into conflict with Dai-Viet and Champa who were competing for the control of the important maritime trade routes on the eastern coast of Mainland Southeast Asia.”

pg.3, Hermann Kulke, The Naval Expeditions of the Cholas in the context of Asian History; Nagapattinam to Suvarnadwipa.

10. 1020 ACE – Karandai Copper Plate Inscription of Rajendra I – refers to the chariot presented by a Kamboja King to Rajendra, inorder to protect his sovereignty.

Photo of the printed version of Inscription clicked from Tamil version of the book – Nagapattinam to Swarnadwipa – Reflection on the Chola Naval Expeditions to Southeast Asia

This inscription is one direct connect between Tamil and Khmer Empires. It doesn’t show any religious correspondence as mentioned in Nagapattinam Inscriptions with regards to Srivijaya. Yet, this is a remarkable evidence of Trade Wars leading to Military Conquests, thereby emphasizing the Chola Influence on other Southeast Asian Kingdoms.

Though all the previously mentioned inscriptions have been translated, discussed and analyzed by various respectable researchers, they have been repetitively mentioned by this writer to re-emphasize the Power of the Chola Naval Forces which was its zenith in the 11th century ACE, which in turn led to successful maritime trade activities through Tamil Merchant Guilds in the Southeast Asian kingdoms and as far as China.

The success in military raids and maritime trade links across the Indian Ocean, cutting across the Straits of Malacca and reaching the Song Dynasty of China, is another way of giving prominent stature to the Tamil Merchant Guilds in the raided countries and neighboring kingdoms alike.

 

The Takuapa Tamil Inscription

While we talk about the Tamil Merchant Guilds called ‘Manigramam’ present in the Southeast Asian Kingdoms during the Chola reign, it is important to mention the Takuapa Tamil Inscription. The Takuapa Tamil Inscription is the first available epigraphical evidence of Tamil Trader Settlement in Southeast Asia written in Tamil Language. The early ninth century ACE inscription mentions ‘Sri Avani Naranam’ – the title of the Pallava King Nandivarman III, who ruled from Kanchipuram in Thamizhagam from 826 ACE to 850 ACE.

……….(ya) varmakku

……man tan nangur udaiya

……..n totta kulam per sri Avani

naranam manikkiramattar (k)

kum Senamukattarkkum

…..patarkkum adarkkalam

The inscription refers to the tank dug by Nangur Udaiyan and called Avani Naranam and is placed under the protection of the Manikkramam, the residents of the military camp…

pg. 28,29 – Takuapa and its Tamil Inscription, KA. Nilakanta Sastri (link: Journal of the Malayan Branch Royal Asiatic Society)

What lies beneath and above the evidences on Tamil Merchant activities, is the religious string always clinging on to Trader Guilds. Takuapa, on the west coast of Malay Peninsula has left behind Hindu sculptures in Pallava style. The main deity that was believed to be Vishnu has been suggested by Prof. Sastri in his revised article in the Journal of Oriental Research as Shiva in Gangadhara form with Bhagiratha on his right and Parvathi to his left. He also mentions that Dr. Wales had assessed the date of the images to be between 7th and 8th century ACE.

The most important fact to be noted here too is the religious link alongside the trade link. The traders settled in several parts of various kingdoms across Southeast Asia, created their own religious entities to stay connected to their roots. With or without pre-planned motive on spreading the influence of their language, culture and religion in the country of their settlement, there has been undoubted influence of the Tamil Religious Cult that traveled with the trade wave.

 

In historian K.A. Sastri’s words-

We thus see clearly that our inscription attests the presence at Takuapa of a good number of Tamils including soldiers and merchants and having a permanent stake in the country round about and rearing religious and secular institutions conducive to their spiritual and material welfare, Quite possibly the political power of Nandivarman III extended to parts of the west coast of the Malay peninsula at least for some years. pg. 30, Takuapa and its Tamil Inscription, KA. Nilakanta Sastri (see link: Journal of the Malayan Branch Royal Asiatic Society)

 

Preaching Shaivism through stories of Nayanmars

Trying to place Karaikkal Ammai in the religious interest of Trader Guilds, the foremost reason to have brought her into Southeast Asia could be because of the community she originally belonged to. Hailing from Karaikkal, the port town of yesteryear Pallava country which later came under the Cholas, Ammai belonged to the Trader Community.

As mentioned in previous posts, the sculpting of Ammai in Tamil Temples was pioneered by Chembian Madevi in the 10th century ACE. Yet, the devotional verses of Tamil Nayanmars on Shiva have been popular among Tamils throughout previous centuries. The vigour to place Shavisim beyond other rival beliefs as Buddhism, Jainism and even Vaishnavism (different sect within Hinduism) has always yielded success through the spread of the divine verses of the prominent three Nayanmars as well as the stories of 60 other Nayanmars and their love for Lord Shiva, before Chekkizhar could create their stories in verses in Periya Puranam, in the 12th century ACE.

There is no clear evidence to prove the spread of the verses of Karaikkal Ammai, which sees Shiva as the Mystic Dancer. Her verses are not for the ordinary Devotee. Strong verses immersed in the ashes of the Cemetery, seeing herself as the skeletal ghost and calling herself the Demon of Karaikkal are exclusive features of Ammai’s Devotion. Reading her poetry, one might feel that the story of Ammai is better comprehensible than her verses, because of the Mystical Spritualism that she portrays.

An explicit story, aloof from the rest of world and even beyond, seeking removal of worldly beauty and earthy desires, and even more – a Desire to watch the Dance of the Eternal Dancer should’ve been the story of households trying to preach Shaivism to the next generation as well as to protect from other religious beliefs.

The verses of Thirunavukkarasar, Sambandhar and Sundarar – the foremost saints of Tamil Bhakti Movement were and still are rendered in Temples to praise the glory of the Lord. But, the story of Ammai is a life portrayal of Devotion to be narrated by word of mouth.

The Takuapa Tamil Inscription that mentions Avaninaranam is another link to Thevaram verses sung in Temples. It was seen before that Avaninaranam was one of the titles of the Pallava King Nandivarman III. The Thiruvallam Inscription of 852 ACE, as classified by S.R. Balasubramanyam, refers to grants offered to singers of Thiruppathiyam in the temple of Thiruvallam devoted to Lord Shiva.

The inscriptions says – ‘Tirupatiyam paduva ullitta palapani’

pg. 88,89; The Embodiment of Bhakti by Karen Pechilis Prentiss

Thiruppathiyam refers to Thevaram hymns.  Thiruppathigam mentioned here, could be those of the Supreme Trio of Tamil Shaivic Movement. If the hymns of the Shaivite Trio had been popular among temple goers and society as a whole, with singers employed in the temples as early as Pallava rule, the spread of the stories of Nayanmars couldn’t be behind.  The fact to be noted here is the importance given to the Pioneers of Shaiva Bhakti Movement, in keeping Shaivism  intact among the members of the society.

Preaching Shaivism through Nayanmars as Religious Trendsetters  has been a continuous trend among the Rulers and their Spiritual Advisors. This again showcases the importance given to Nayanmars in temples, to emphasize Shaivism among the population. Hence, the stories of the simple saints of Shiva formed an integral part of Religion and Religious Belief since the Pallavas.

This remains proof to yet another fact that the portrayal of these poets in stone comes far later as after centuries of their deeds, but the spread of Shaivism through their lives has been a continuous affair through Temple recitals and word of mouth. Kingdoms were no different to this scenario. Most of the Nayanmars who lived before the Victory of Cholas in the 9th century ACE, in different kingdoms of southern India,  seem to have glided into the religious lives of the Tamils irrespective of the kingdoms they belonged to. Tamil – the language and Shiva – the Lord were the only main connecting factors.

 

Traders as Religous Diplomats

The already well known stories and hymns of the Nayanmars made the Chola Queen Chembiyan Madevi portray the Pioneer Saints in Sculpture. It is to be understood that the Tamils living in Tamil Land or the Tamils migrated to foreign lands for Trade purposes carried their religious identity as part of the roots left behind. Hence, we see Shaivism prominent in the Trader Settlements through their inscriptions and the Religious Sculptures discovered all along Southeast Asian countries.

If Thirunavukkarasar, Thirignanasambandhar and Sundaramoorthy Nayanar form the three Primary Saints of Tamil Bhakti Movement, why was Karaikkal Ammai the first Tamil Saint to travel abroad seaways?

The Traders Settlement in Southeast Asian Kingdoms, lived their lives for centuries with the stern Shaivite identity through belief in Shiva and his Devotees – the Nayanmars. We see the same culture till today. The immigrant communities trying to stick to roots through Religion is the norm of all ages. Even in Takuapa we find idols of Hindu Gods as evidences of Temple and Worship among the Dwellers.The spread of Shaivism received a strong pathway through the spread of devotional stories among the immigrant Tamil Trade Settlers to stay rooted.

With the unexpected uprising of the friendly Cholas as a  Strong Military among the Kingdoms along the Indian Ocean and Malay Peninsula, the Merchant Guilds could’ve found sudden and increasingly positive ties in the places of their overseas settlement.

As quoted by Hermann Kulke,  Meera Abraham’s view on Rajendra’s Raids on Srivijaya from her book ‘Two Medieval Merchant Guilds of South India’ is to be seen in light of the above mentioned reflection.

 

“Our belief is that the raid was undertaken partly at least to establish trading rights for Tamil-speaking merchants in those areas, a trade from which the ruler, the merchant and the Chola bureaucracy could expect sizable profits”

pg. 15, M. Abraham’s view by Hermann Kulke, The Naval Expeditions of the Cholas in the context of Asian History; Nagapattinam to Suvarnadwipa.

Here, Ms. Abraham emphasizes a direct influence of the famous Manigramam and Ayyavole merchant guilds on the politics of the Cholas. This is yet again proof to the intertwined connect of the Merchant Guilds and the Political Masters.

With Rajendra’s raids, and Khmer King Suryavarman I (who comes to power in 1010 and sends a chariot to Rajendra in 1020) extending friendly hand, with expectations of amicable reciprocity from the Tamil country,  the Tamil Trader Community could’ve found a right time to represent their identity in Khmer country through the sculpture of  Ammai, who belonged to their own community back in Tamizhagam. The reason behind why the Shaivite Trio – Appar, Sambandhar and Sundarar couldn’t find their first place in Southeast Asian Temples and Karaikkal Ammai takes the first entry could also be the same.

Traders have always proved to be Religious Diplomats. Their potential in elevating a kingdoms/country’s Economy has been seen to have placed them among the Elites. These Diplomats along with the Spiritual Advisors of the Khmer Kings could have successfully elevated the devotion of Ammai to a new personification in Khmer Temple Architecture.

Hence, Suryavarman I adopting the sculptural portrayal of Karaikkal Ammai in the temples built and renovated by him, could have been the retrospective effect of the raids of Rajendra I and the new energy pumped into the Tamil Merchant Guilds of the Khmer Empire.

Adalvallan in Rajendra’s Gangaikonda Cholapuram

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(photo courtesy: Dr. Ma.Ra. Kalaikkovan, Founder, Dr. Rajamanickanar Historical Research Centre, Thiruchirapalli)

One can also notice the fact that Rajaraja’s Karaikkal Ammai is placed almost the same as Chembian Madevi’s style of sculptural portrayal. Rajendra makes a change in his Gangaikonda Cholapuram Ammai. She is not sculpted to the side of the Dancing Lord, but seen sitting among a separate panel of instrumentalists below Him.

Dancing Shiva with Karaikkal Ammai in Prasat Hin Phimai, Thailand

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In portraying Karaikkal Ammai in their Temples, the Khmers seem to have adapted the similar pattern of Rajendra I.  Then, is this yet another clue to the introduction of Ammai by Suryavarman I ?

Ammai in Phimai (Khmer)img_2551-copy

 Ammai in Gangaikonda Cholapuram (Chola)4-gangaikonda-cholapuram-nataraja-panel1

Karaikkal Ammai sculpted in Khmer Temples in north-east Thailand would be seen in the next post.

Bibliography

  1. Tansen Sen, The Military Campaigns of Rajendra Chola and the Chola-Srivijaya-China Triangle; Nagapattinam to Suvarnadwipa : Reflections on the Chola Naval Expeditions to Southeast Asia.
  2. Noboru Karashima and Y. Subbarayalu, Ancient and Medieval Tamil and Sanskrit Inscriptions Relating to Southeast Asia and China; Nagapattinam to Suvarnadwipa : Reflections on the Chola Naval Expeditions to Southeast Asia.
  3. Hermann Kulke, The Naval Expeditions of the Cholas in the context of Asian History; Nagapattinam to Suvarnadwipa : Reflections on the Chola Naval Expeditions to Southeast Asia.
  4. KA. Nilakanta Sastri, Takuapa and its Tamil Inscription.
  5. Karen Pechilis Prentiss, The Embodiment of Bhakti.

Links

  1. https://glorioustamils.com/2016/09/22/ammai-in-banteay-srei-and-the-tamil-maritime-links-in-south-east-asia/
  2. Ancient and Medieval Tamil and Sanskrit Inscriptions Relating to Southeast Asia and China by Noboru Karashima and Y. Subbarayalu
  3. http://cw.routledge.com/textbooks/9780415485432/15.asp
  4. Takuapa and its Tamil Inscription – KA. Nilakanta Sastri; Journal of the Malayan Branch Royal Asiatic Society