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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

4-gangaikonda-cholapuram-nataraja-panel

(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

Chembiyan Madevi – Pioneer who introduced Ammai in Chola Temples

The Sculptures of Karaikkal Ammai with picture perfect iconography in Cambodia and Thailand should inspire researchers to explore more on the Tamil Links with South East Asia. Hence, the places in Medieval Thamizhagam, where the patronisation of the saint started in stone could form the CORE CHARACTER of any analytical study and certainly is fundamental for any such research.

  

As per available iconographic evidences, Karaikkal Ammai, the pioneer saint of the Bhakti Movement in India who lived in the 5th/6th century ACE during the reign of Pallavas seems to have been sculpted for the very first time in Shiva Temples built by the Chola Kings. The first Chola Royalty to have brought Karaikkal Ammai in temple sculptures is Chembiyan Madevi, the consort of Gandaraditha Cholan, who ruled the Chola country for a very short period from 950 ACE to 957 ACE.

  

karunthittaikudi Adalvallan with ammai and 5 kinds of instruments – all in one panel

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The Grand Old Lady of the Chola Empire

  

adalvallan in Aanangur

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After defeating the Pallavas,  Cholas claimed power over the lands of Thamizhagam with Vijayalaya Chola in mid 9th Century AD, followed by Aditya and Paranthaka who built temples at their creative best. After Paranthaka, there was a slight deviation towards Devotion over aspirations of conquest and thirst of power. Gandarathitha. son of Paranthaka I who came to power next was a staunch devotee of Shiva more than an ambitious King. His wife Chembiyan Madevi was a true consort to his likes of Devotion. Gandarathitha an ardent Shiva Devotee himself, has sung hymns on the Lord and his hymn is included in the 9th Thirumurai.

  
While Gandarathitha died at an early age with his son still very young, Arinjaya his brother ascended the throne. After the death of her husband Gandarathitha, Chembiyan Madevi devoted her life for the cause of Devotion to Lord Shiva and stood up as a Majestic Lady hailed for building numerous Shiva Temples during the second half of 10th century ACE. Her valid contributions to the welfare of villagers and upbringing of culturally-religiously oriented Chola Off-springs still remain distinctly unrecognized, yet documented well in inscriptions.

  
To simply mention that Chembian Madevi built many temples during her life-time would be a thorough under statement of her Pioneering Abilities. Madeviyar has a long list of innovations and initiatives to her credit, in making the Chola temples more diverse – through design changes in temple architecture like increasing the number of Niches, which seem to be minimalistic until her father-in-law Paranthaka’s period.

  
Losing her husband at a very early age, with a young son still not ready to attain the throne of Chola Empire, this strong hearted Lady of Tamil Civilization diverted and focused her concentration on religious activities. Madevi has always been a major donor to temples even during Paranthaka’s reign, as a crown princess and also during her husband’s reign.

  
The Pinnacle Achievement through Temples

 

adalvallan in kailasanathaswamy temple, chembiyan madevi village

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Not succumbing to her personal losses, she rose up as a truly brave soul and a remarkably respectful character in the Tamil Bhakti Sphere, through her amazing Will to rewrite Culture, Religion and Diversify Temple Architecture through Temples built during her long octogenarian life time. This certainly can be termed as the Pinnacle Achievement of the Grand Old Lady, who lived to see six successful Emperors of her Land, the Chola Territory. Indeed, very true – married at a very early age and becoming part of Chola Empire, the daughter-in-law of King Paranthaka Chola, Chembiyan Madevi has had the unique life of experiencing and cherishing the Chola Supremacy during the rule of six Emperors.

  

  1. Paranthaka Chola (907ACE – 950ACE) – father-in-law
  2. Gandarathitha Chola (950ACE – 957ACE) –  husband
  3. Arinjaya Chola  (957ACE – 958ACE) – Brother-in-law (Gandarathitha’s brother)
  4. Sundara Chola (Paranthaka II)  (958ACE – 969ACE) – nephew (Arinjaya’s Son)
  5. Uttama Chola (Madhuranthaka) (970ACE – 985ACE)- son of Gandarathithya and Chembiyan Madevi
  6. Rajaraja the Great (985ACE – 1014ACE) – grand nephew (Paranthaka II’s Son)

  

She lived a highly deferential life as a guiding force for 5 Kings of Chola Empire starting from her husband Gandarathitha’s rule.

  
Chembian Madevi and Karaikkal Ammai
  

the most gracious ammai – in koogur

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Chembian Madevi – the Grand Old Lady of the Chola Empire- is of utmost importance for any research on Karaikkal Ammai. This is precisely because she seems to be the Pioneer Queen to have ordered sculptural representation of Karaikkal Ammai in most of the Shiva Temples she built and those brick temples she renovated in stone. The life of the Skeletal Mother of the Tamil Bhakti Movement, must have left such a deep impact on the Queen, that Chembiyan Madevi makes Ammai’s presence as per Ammai’s wish – sitting below the dancing feet of Adalvallan – Nataraja,  mesmerized in his cosmic dance.

  
The undeciphered connect of these two Pioneers in their own respects – Madevi and Ammai, between 6th century ACE and 10th century ACE can be strongly felt in the temples. The eternal wish of a mother emotionally accepted and appreciated by another mother, and interpreted in stone- but after an interval of about 400 years in history. Truly Amazing isn’t it?

  
The temples built by Chembian Madevi around present day Thiruchirapalli, Thanjavur, and Nagapattinam districts in Tamilnadu stand testimony to the involvement of Chembiyan Madevi in glorifying eternally the Aura of Karaikkal Ammai.

  

Dr. Kalaikkovan, Founder, Dr. Rajamanickanar Historical Research Centre, Thiruchirapalli

  
(Refer side bar of this blog for more details on Dr. Ma. Ra. Historical Research Centre’s Profile, Publications of Dr. Kalaikkovan and his Centre’s Journal ‘Varalaru’)

  
I had the great honour of getting unparalleled guidance from Dr. R. Kalaikkovan, Founder, Dr. Rajamanickanar Historical Research Centre regarding Karaikkal Ammai sculptures in Tamilnadu, Chembiyan Madevi Temples, glimpses of Chola Temple Architecture, Inscriptions, Social Aspects that are preserved and revealed through temples and many more.

  
Achieving the Tamilnadu Government Prize for his first research book ‘KALAI VALARTHA THIRUKKOVILGAL’ published in 1985, Dr. Kalaikkovan has won several laurels for his contributions towards Historical Research. His relentless interest in exploring History through Temples has lead to the finding of several unique sculptures, paintings and inscriptions in the temples of Tamilnadu. His Centre has been publishing its annual research magazine ‘VARALARU’ since 1983.

  
A brief note on Dr. Kalaikkovan’s contributions –
  

  • elaborate research work on Cholan Kochengannan and his Mada (raised platform) temples
  • field research articles on Karanas in Natya Shastra
  • a complete research book on Pazhuvettaraiyar named ‘Pazhuvur Pudhaiyalgal’
  • documenting the history of Thiruchirappalli from 600 ACE to 1300 ACE
  • recording approximately 600 new inscriptions found in temples of Tamilnadu between 1982 and 2002
  • extensive researches on Temple Architecture and Sculptures of Pallavas and Cholas
  • changing the already existing negative view on Kalabhra time as the Dark Era of Tamil History through inscriptions, literature and historic evidences.

  

‘Dr. Kalaikkovan is an ophthalmologist (by profession) who balances his medical practice with his ardent love for researching the state’s past, particularly through its temples’ http://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/bringing-the-past-to-the-present/article7310014.ece

  

Dr. Kalaikkovan mentioned during his travel (in November 2013) to Banteay Srei Temple, Cambodia that the skeletal figure found below Dancing Shiva was Karaikkal Ammai. He explained about the Iconography of Ammai and how Angkorian temples possessed the perfect iconography. This introduction of Ammai in Cambodia by Dr. Kalaikkovan is the root cause of my interest in Ammai and the Tamil Connections in South-east Asia. Furthermore, through Ammai, the epitome of Devotion, he has also introduced me to another Ammai, Chembian Madevi, the epitome of Early Chola Culture and Religion.

  
Thereafter, he also enlightened me on the temples of Chembiyan Madevi and her Devotion towards Shiva; Adding that the temples with the first sculptures of Karaikkal Ammai in Tamizhagam were constructed by Chembiyan Madevi. A visit to Tiruchirapalli and field work with the great scholar has filled me with basic knowledge about those beautifully sculpted, magnificently erected temples which are store houses of the glorious history and wonderful documental evidences of social life of Tamils in the past. A long list of the Pioneering Activities of Madevi has been my coveted collection from Dr. Kalaikkovan.

  
Pioneer Activities of Chembian Madevi
  
As mentioned above, she bears the exclusive specialty of introducing Karaikkal Ammai in Stone Sculptures in her temples. Apart from this ‘Launch’, which is of great importance to our research on Ammai, Chembian Madevi has carved her own Niche in breaking new grounds in Dravidian Temple Architecture. Madevi has many ‘first-times’ to her Innovations List.

 

    • The first Royal Administrator (Administrator of Temples) to bring in Karaikkal Ammai in her stone sculptures.

 

ammai in thiruikkodikaval

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    • The first to introduce Adalvallan/Nataraja or the Dancing Shiva in a separate Niche in her Temples. Shiva as Nataraja is seen sculpted in Pallava and Early Chola Temples  in various parts of a temple. Chembian Madevi provides a special place for Dancing Shiva, giving prominence, sculpting him in a separate niche, thereby emphasizing the concept of Adalvallan. While the Sanctum with Shiva in Linga form is the basis of a temple’s religious enthrallment, the Dancing Shiva in a dominant niche showcases the rich, cultural/aesthetic charm the Creator of the Temple wishes to portray. In the temples built and rebuilt in stone by Madevi, Adalvallan captivates the visitor with his entourage of performing artists.

 

adalvallan in konerirajapuram

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    • The first to depict Adalvallan/Nataraja and Karaikkal Ammai as the focal point of her sculptures, in the Muga Mandapam -front corridor of her temples. After Gandaraditha (954 ACE) until Uttama Chola, the period  Madevi has been very energetically responsible for the construction and rebuilding of Shiva temples; for almost 30 years, she brought Adalvallan and Karaikkal Ammai in lime light, truly carving a niche for herself. As mentioned above, Adalvallan captivates the visitor with his entourage of performing artists with the addition of a spellbound spectator in Karaikkal Ammai (also performing with cymbals and sirattai kinnari).

  

    • The first Queen to introduce Sage Agasthya in the Muga Mandapam. She has provided an important position to the sculpture of Agasthya, especially in Anangur Temple, where Sage Agasthya is given prominence with Makara Thoranam (Ceremonial Arch) in the Niche.

  

♦♦There are innumerable sculptures of Agasthya found in Indonesia and sculptures of Karaikkal Ammai in Cambodia and Thailand. A tight knit research between Agasthya-Ammai and Chembian Madevi  might bring about a break-through in the research of link of the Tamils with South-East Asia.

  

agasthya, adalvallan, ganesha in Koogur

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        • She became the spearhead of her own stylistic temple architecture, with increased niches. The beautiful temples of Aditya and Parantaka I are known for their simplicity and elegance, yet dynamic artistic presentation with intricate miniatures carved around. Chembian Madevi creates her temples with a multi-faceted tone – Religious Reverence combined with Sculptural Excellence. In her temples, religion takes the front seat with introduction of several sculptures in prominent niches. She seems to have believed in bringing out the complete talent of the artisans of her era that her Temples are loaded with unparalleled sculptures and more niches – certainly a treat to the eyes of both religious and architecturally inclined scholars alike.

  

      • Chembiyan Madevi is the first Queen to have sculpted her husband in Temples, making him part of the Temple Worship Tradition. This can be characterized as her extreme Respect and Devotion towards her husband Gandaraditha. This unwavering adorer of Shiva and his Devotees, chose to showcase her royal husband’s staunch religious belief to future generations, thus bringing everlasting glory to the Chola King. A millennia and more, one cannot stop being captivated by the sculptures of the King, worshipping Shiva, in Linga Form

  

sculpture of gandaraditha in thirunaraiyur

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      • Inscriptions during Madevi’s period showcase the level of authenticity and perfection she wished to provide to future readers and interpreters. While a temple might have numerous inscriptions belonging to different kings over a period of several centuries, classifying inscriptions in order of different rulers might be time consuming. Chembiyan Madevi records/re-inscribes the old inscriptions, that didn’t belong to her with the phrase – ‘idhuvum oru pazhangarpadi’ – translated as  ‘this is yet another previous/old inscription.’ Her clear method of differentiating previous inscriptions reduces much ambiguity. This way, her temples are certainly an Epigraphist’s delight.

  

    • Chembiyan Madevi makes Karaikkal Ammai play the string instrument ‘Sirattai Kinnari’ for Nataraja, for the first time in Thiruppugalur Temple.

  

ammai in thiruppugalur

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Dancing Shiva is always associated with a number of instrumental accompaniments, played by his attendants/ganas.

  
In Chapter 6 of the book ‘Pen Theiva Vazhipadu’ by Dr. M. Nalini and Dr. R. Kalaikkovan, the authors define the importance of Thalaipparai, Mathalam and Sirattai Kinnari – three instruments sculpted in pallava and early chola temples. While Parai and Mathalam fall in the category of Percussion Instruments, Sirattai Kinnari is a Bowed String Instrument. (To ellaborate, it has a stringed fiddle with coconut shell body.)

  
According to the book, I translate –

  

Sangam Tamil Literature mentions several varieties of Percussion Instruments (skin Instruments) and Silappadikaram introduces various musical facts. Different varieties of Percussion, Wind, String and Metal Instruments are depicted in pallava temples, including cave temples. Sirattai Kinnari – is introduced as Tamilnadu’s first bowed string instrument in pallava-pandya sculptures. This instrument which is minimally seen in temples built by Pallavas and Pandyas is seen more in Early Chola temples.

  

Chembiyan Madevi, who introduces Ammai in sculptures also makes the usually ‘cymbal’ handed Karaikkal Ammai play the ‘Sirattai Kinnari’ for her Adalvallan/Dancing Shiva. The beautiful sculpture in Thiruppugalur is one of its own. This clearly shows the spirit of innovation in the Grand Old Lady, who let her sculptor create history.

  

  • There is a very special and unique accomplishment of Chembiyan Madevi, not only as a Queen Mother but as a Royal Mother-in-law.  Her daughter-in-laws – the consorts of Madevi’s son Madhuranthaka present a Bronze Sculpture of their Mother-in-law to Kailasanathaswamy temple in Chembian Madevi village, glorifying her service to Shaivism in Chola Temples. Such was the respect she commanded, within her royal family and the Tamil society, that her own bronze sculpture was sponsored in her honour, most importantly, while she was still alive.

  

  • Among the major roles of a woman, Madevi has been a winner in her roles of Mother and Mother-in-law.  Inscriptions that denote Madevi are exclusive and show the respect she commanded. While the above paragraph notes on her success story of being mother-in-law; a Mother’s distinctive esteem is manifested in the inscriptions of Konerirajapuram/Thirunallam temple. The inscription reads-

  

ஶ்ரீ ஶ்ரீ மதுராந்தகத் தேவரான உத்தம சோழ
ரைத் திருவயிறு வாய்த்த….
……………………………கற்
றளி எடுப்பித்த………………….
சந்திர சேகரரான சாந்தன் குணபட்டன்

  
It says – ‘Sri Sri Madhuranthaka Thevarana Uthama Chozharai Thiruvayiru Vaitha…’

  
According to the inscription, Chembian Madevi is not just ‘mother of Madhuranthaka’ but she is glorified as ‘the sacred womb that had/carried Madhuranthaka’
  
This inscription is certainly a manifestation of the greatly honorable position that this Pioneer Lady held.

  

the inscription with the sculptor Sathan Gunabhattan’s sculpture

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While we hail the western world for their documentation and easily ridicule ourselves on lack of documenting knowledge, we have comfortably forgotten our well built evidences of more than thousands of years of history – TEMPLES. It is high time we start looking at temples as social schools alongside Devotional Institutions.

  
The Tamil Emperors of the past have used temples as Archive Sources of their socio-economic-political lives for future generations through Inscriptions and Sculptures, but we fail to look in that angle as concentration is stuck only on the Devotional Aspect of Temples. That is the reason why websites on Temples, mostly talk about the epics and stories behind the Devotional Build Up rather than the much needed historic evidences that the Temples and the Inscriptions try to tell us.
It is high time that society realizes the importance of Temples and Inscriptions in the portrayal of our Identity. As Dr. Kalaikkovan mentions,

  

‘True history would provide our perfect Identity to the world and would also enrich the ethics of life’

pg.82, Pen Theiva Vazhipaadu – Thotramum Valarchiyum

 

Ammai in Phnom Chissor

 

Karaikkal Ammaiyar in Phnom Chissor

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As mentioned in the earlier post, most of today’s standing structures and lintels of Preah Vihear were constructed during the reign of Suryavarman I (1010-1050). He has often evoked researches regarding expansion of Khmer Rule in present day north-east Thailand; constructing new temples; renovating/adding new structures to existing temples; as well as strengthening Iconography of Dancing Shiva in temples, which was already documented by Pre-Angkor rulers as early as 7th century ACE.

Here is another temple devoted to Lord Shiva, towards the southern end of today’s Cambodia.  Phnom Chissor, built during the rule of Suryavarman I,  displays the sculpture of Adalvallan/Dancing Shiva. The temple offers no disappointment-  one can find Shiva’s humble devotee, Karaikkal Ammai sitting below Him watching his eternal dance.

 

the lintel

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ammai to the right of adalvallan

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To the left of shiva is the person with ‘muzhavu’ – the percussion instrument.

 

karaikkal ammaiyar with cymbals in hand


Like Prasat Preah Vihear built on top of Dangrek Mountains, Temple Phnom Chissor is  also built on top of Mount Chissor; and was originally known as ‘Suryaparvata’ or the mountain of the Sun God, named after the King who constructed it. The Shiva Lingam or the main deity of the temple was called ‘Suryavarmeswara’.

Located in Takeo Province of Cambodia, about 70 kms south of present day capital Phnom Penh, reaching Phnom Chissor requires a climb of more than 400 steps from the southern entry to the temple. The impressive sandstone lintels and intricately designed doorframes are testimonies to a majestic Empire’s architectural inclination.

Map below shows north-west Cambodia with province Battambang (Vat Baset), northern Cambodia with Preah Vihear and southern Cambodia with Phnom Chissor, where Dancing Shiva  with Karaikkal Ammai was sculpted during the 11th century ACE.
Country_map

map courtesy: http://www.excursionasia.com/pages/map.html

These temples belong to the 11th century ACE. But, the worship of Shiva Nataraja in Cambodia dates back to early 7th century ACE. The Isanapura inscriptions of Isanavarman I in Sambor Prei Kuk mentions it.

 

The people of Ancient Cambodia worshiped the Shiva Nataraja since the 5th C.A.D. The K.440 inscription of King Ishanavarman I who ruled around 616-628 A.D. recorded the installation of the silver image of Nrittesvara. http://documents.mx/documents/karaikal-in-cambodia.html

 

Additionally, Dancing Shiva with ten arms is specified in the Takeo inscriptions of Suryavarman I, which refers to an image of ‘Natakesvara (king of dancers) with ten arms (dasabhuja). mireille benisti
The dancing Shiva in Phnom Chissor doesn’t have 10 arms, but the common string instrument in the hands of the eternal dancer is something to be noted. The sculptors of Adalvallan in Battambang, Preah Vihear and Phnom Chissor have given an instrumental possession to the Dancer and they are similar too.

 

battambang

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preah vihear

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phnom chissor

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Mireille Benisti, French scholar and researcher of early Khmer Art and comparative Indian Art and Iconography, first published an article in 1967, in ‘Bulletin de l’École française d’Extrême-Orient’ under the topic – ‘Notes d’iconographie khmère’ –  the title of the article being – ‘AU SUJET D’UN LINTEAU DE VAT BASET’ (On the Lintel of Vat Baset).

In the previous post, it was mentioned that Mireille Benisti published an article on Karaikkal Ammaiyar in Vat Baset in the year 1976, based on the book ‘Karaikkalammaiyar: An iconographical and textual study by Peter J. J. de Bruijn. However, subsequent online searches revealed that she could be the first scholar to have noticed Karaikkal Ammai in Khmer Temple Art. She first documents the iconographic presence of Ammai in Vat Baset and then in Banteay Srei and Prasat Hin Phimai (Thailand) in her articles in the same Bulletin in 1967 and 1969 respectively.

According to Ms. Benisti, ‘the Baphuon style’ of the temple architecture and the inscriptions in the sanctuary (Vat Baset) may date back to mid-eleventh century, during the reign of Suryavarman I, but the lintel of dancing shiva and karaikkal ammai might belong to the second half of the eleventh century, an assertion, she attributes to the style of Kala Head, Branches and other ornamental representations sculpted in the temple.

This lintel mentioned by Ms. Benisti couldn’t be located in Vat Baset during my visit in December 2014.  I feel the picture published by Ms. Benisti is similar to the lintel found outside Battambang Museum. Hence, the lintel that Ms. Benisti saw at Vat Baset in 1967, could  possibly be the one currently (December 2014) placed outside the Museum. She also explains about the ten armed Adalvallan dancing between two female characters.
IMG_1397

 

Further to come-

The earliest sculpture of Karaikkal Ammai in Khmer Land – Banteay Srei Temple, built in the year 968 AD.

 

References

  1. mireille benisti –‘Notes d’iconographie khmère’ – Bulletin de l’Ecole française d’Extrême-Orient – 1967
  2. mireille benisti – ‘Notes d’iconographie khmère’ – Bulletin de l’Ecole française d’Extrême-Orient – 1969- pages 159-161
  3. U-tain Wongsathit, Department of Oriental Languages, Silpakorn University, Thailand – ‘Karaikal in Cambodia’ –  http://documents.mx/documents/karaikal-in-cambodia.html
  4. The Indianized States of South-East Asia  by George Cœdès

Karaikkal Ammai in Prasat Preah Vihear

 

Dancing Shiva in Preah Vihear

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The next temple where Karaikkal Ammai is seen to closely enjoy the cosmic dance of Lord Shiva is Prasat Preah Vihear.

 

Gopuram I – the trademark lintel

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Preah Vihear in Khmer Riel (currency)

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Prasat Preah Vihear (called by the Khmers) or Prasat Phra Wihan (called by the Thais) is a magnificent temple situated on top of a 525 meter high cliff on the Dongrek mountains. The temple and the mountains lie between Cambodia’s Preah Vihear Province (north-western Cambodia) and Thailand’s Si Sa Ket Province (north-eastern Thailand).
preah vihear maphttp://www.skyscrapercity.com/showthread.php?t=1131887

 

The Temple of Preah Vihear, a unique architectural complex of a series of sanctuaries linked by a system of pavements and staircases on an 800 metre long axis, is an outstanding masterpiece of Khmer architecture, in terms of plan, decoration and relationship to the spectacular landscape environment. http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1224

 

The construction of the temple had begun under the rule of Jasovarman (889-910 ACE) and completed during the rule of King Suryavarman II (1113-1145 ACE). Suryavarman II was the King who gave the Angkor Empire its most revered jewel – Angkor Wat. Yet, most of today’s standing structures and lintels of Preah Vihear were built by King Suryavarman I, the King who built the temples of our point of interest -Dancing Shiva with Karaikkal Ammai – Vat Ek, Vat Baset and Phnom Chissor.

 

massive naga

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The Khmer Cliff Temple, occupied by Siam off and on, later affected by the Khmer Rouge Regime and then again by conflicts with Thailand used to be less accessible to tourists till recently. But that is not the case now. The magnificent temple can be reached by a few hours of travel easiest from Siem Reap.  Or as we did combined with the ancient temples of Battambang, which is a longer route. Siem Reap seems to be a better option, with multiple ancient locations at easy reach.

 

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The former Washington Post foreign correspondent John Burgess has authored a book on Preah Vihear named ‘Temple in the Clouds’. Prasat Preah Vihear is truly too close to the clouds.
Panoramic view of preah vihear
The temple absorbs anyone into its charming architecture. It grabs the visitor into its intricate carvings, aesthetic designs and artistic enclosures. It is an architect’s Delight, archeologist’s Paradise, vivid traveler’s Adventure and a faithful worshiper’s Heaven.

Preah Vihear is one of the greatest Khmer master pieces of all times with its massive structure which is truly captivating.

 

glorioustamils - preah vihearhttp://sophanse.blogspot.in/2008/06/hopeful-careful-wait-for-temple.html

 

Important Facts about the temple-

  1. The construction of the temple started in early 9th century
  2. Earliest surviving parts of the temple belong to Koh Ker period in the early 10th century
  3. Elements of Banteay Srei temple of the late 10th century can also be seen
  4. Most of the temple was constructed during the reign of King Suryavarman I (1002-1050  ACE)
  5. King Suryavarman II contributed to major restorations of the temple
  6. Lord Shiva is worshipped as Sikharesvara and Bhadresvara
  7. Preah Vihear is unusual among Khmer temples in being constructed along a long north-south axis, rather than having the conventional rectangular plan with orientation towards the east.
  8. An inscription provides detailed account of Suryavarman II studying sacred rituals, celebrating religious festivals and making gifts, including white parasols, golden bowls and elephants, to his spiritual advisor, the aged Brahmin Divakarapandita.
  9. According to the inscription, Divakarapandita took interest in the temple and donated to it a golden statue of dancing Shiva known as Nataraja.

IMG_1966

 

On Shiva Temples in the Angkor Era-

Shiva temples often open to the east; they feature three towers, the north tower is dedicated to Vishnu, the central tower to Shiva, and the south tower to Brahma.

Shiva’s different names in Khmer Temples-

  • Sambor Prei Kuk: Gambhiresvara (Inscrutable Lord), Sri Ratnesvara (Lord of Precious Stones), Prahasitesvara (The Smiling Lord)
  • Banteay Srei: Tribhuvanamahesvara (Great Lord of the Threefold World)
  • Preah Vihear: Sikhareshvara (Lord of the Summit).

http://www.angkorguide.net/mythology/shiva/shiva.html

 

It is inevitable to show some of the sculptures beautifully carved in the lintels of the temple.

The structure of Preah Vihear is classified into five Gopurams. The entrance of the Temple is marked by Gopuram V with its massive pillared walls and the trademark lintel, now in restoration mode.

Walking towards the inner Gopurams numbered IV, III, II and I, one crosses a series of stairways with long walking paths. Each Gopuram stands stunning with its exclusive carvings depicting epic scenes and exclusive sculptural master pieces of Khmer temple architecture like the churning of ocean and reclining Vishnu.

 

Here are a few of those-

 

an inscription

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reclining vishnu

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churning of ocean

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Karaikkal Ammai in Preah Vihear?

Entry to the temple is through Gopuram V, then proceeds towards Gopuram IV and Gopuram III. As we enter Gopuram II, there lies the Main Sanctuary which is again a huge structure with beautifully carved lintels. The most striking feature of the Main Sanctuary is the ‘Dancing Shiva’. He is seen dancing on a head of an elephant over Kala.

 

While Shiva dances after killing the elephant demon in the glow of the setting sun, the whole world dances with him. For a millennium the sun has been setting with that primordial glow under which Shiva danced for the first time in a hoary mystic past. His devotees watched his dance of emancipation day after day in the crepuscule of the setting sun.”

(Sahai 2009, p. 91, 94-96.)

http://www.angkorguide.net/temples/trips-and-remote-temples/preah-vihear/prasat-preah-vihear.html

 

 Adalvallan and Ammai – Dancing Shiva and Karaikkal Ammaiyarr

IMG_1333

 

Shiva is seen dancing, and to the sides of the dancer to whose tunes the whole world seems to dance, are two characters playing instruments for the eternal dancer. To the left of Shiva is the person with ‘oru muga muzhavu’ -a percussion instrument as in Banteay Srei. To his right, the lintel is in very bad shape, the sculpture of a person is very difficult to trace. Yet, seems like a squatted figure with a skinny body. Does the figure also hold ‘cymbals’ to provide additional music to the dancer? With the sculptures of Dancing Shiva so far seen, with the main characters on both sides, this squatted figure could certainly be that of Karaikkal Ammai. Whether it matches the iconography of Ammai, is for researchers to decide.

 

squatted figure to the right of dancing shivaIMG_1333 - Copy

 

oru muga muzhavu to his leftIMG_1333 - Copy (2)

 

In temples of Cambodia namely –

  • Banteay Srei,
  • Vat Baset,
  • Broken pediment inside Battambang Museum
  • Phnom Chissor

and temples in Thailand namely –

  • Prasat Hin Phimai,
  • Prasat Narai Yeang Weang
  • Prasat Kampeang Yai

-Karaikkal Ammai is sculpted to the right of Adalvallan/Dancing Shiva. The same is seen in Prasat Preah Vihear too. It is also necessary to mention that apart from these temples, the lintel placed outside Battambang museum shows Ammai to the left of Shiva. One of the two broken pediments inside the same museum shows a squatted figure to Shiva’s right and one is seen sitting to his left.
Ammai and Mount Kailash

According to Ambassador Julio A. Jeldres, the Official Biographer of HM the King Father, Samdech Preah Upayuvareach Norodom Sihanouk of Cambodia-

 

The temple of Preah Vihear is not a “Hindu monument” but a Khmer sanctuary, built by Khmer kings and dedicated to Shiva the Hindu god.

 

It should be understood that for past Khmer kings, a sanctuary was first and foremost a cosmological recreation. Thus, the construction of Khmer sanctuaries in the form of multi-tiered Pyramids meant that the place was considered a sacred cosmic mountain. This was particularly noticeable in the temples dedicated to Shiva, because of the association with the god’s mountain home –Mount Kailasa-. A mountain or a cliff top location, as in the case of Preah Vihear, was always the first choice for the Khmer architects building these major temples.

http://preahvihearcambodia.com/2008/08/ambassador-julio-jeldres-letter-to.html

 

 

shiva and parvathi on nandi

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Below are the verses from Sekkizhar’s Periya Puranam (12th Century) about Ammai’s Trek to Mount Kailash. Sekkizhar explains Karaikkal Ammai’s ascent to Mount Kailash to see her Lord’s Dance.
வட திசை தேசம் எல்லாம் மனத்தினும் கடிது சென்று
தொடை அவிழ் இதழி மாலைச் சூல பாணியனார் மேவும்
படர் ஒளிக் கைலை வெற்பின் பாங்கு அணைந்து ஆங்குக் காலின்
நடையினைத் தவிர்த்து பார் மேல் தலையினால் நடந்து சென்றார்
http://www.shaivam.org/tamil/thirumurai/thiru12_05_04.htm
With a speed exceeding that of the mind She traveled fast the realms in the north; She came near the Mount Kailas of pervasive radiance Where abides the Wielder of the Trident, decked with A garland of Konrai blooms burgeoning in serried order; She durst not tread with her feet the holy ascent But measured it with her head.
http://www.shaivam.org/english/sen_th12_peyar.htm

 

It certainly cannot be a simple temple architectural display to portray Dancing Shiva on a hill, especially in a cliff temple recreated as Mount Kailash, alongside his Demon Devotee watching his dance in Religious Ecstasy.

 

While Lord Shiva, the Cosmic Dancer is an embodiment of Mysticism,  Karaikkal Ammai’s poetry is manifestation of Devotional Mysticism.

 

 Preah Vihear – clashes and conflicts

 

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19th century Cambodia came under the control of Vietnamese and French. The French continued their rule into 20th century and Japanese took over. After a while, the Japanese gave up to the French again. Only in the 1950s Cambodia became an independent state, later to be completely devastated by the brutal Khmer Rouge.

In the heritage site affected by both natural and man-made catastrophes, historically seems mostly man-made time and again,many of the lintels and most of the carvings on the lintels have taken a strong blow. Beyond various clashes of former Empires, disputes among later Countries, 20th Century Cambodia also suffered at the hands of the brutal Khmer Rouge. From 1975 until 1978 the Khmer Rouge held Prasat Preah Vihear and maintained it as their strategic resistance spot. Hence, making the pathway to the cliff landmine infested and restricted to tourists. Additionally, with intermittent armed conflict and legal battle fought at the Hague based International Court of Justice, with neighboring Thailand over the temple, the once sacred worship place is a soldier-occupied military arena with de-mining activities still on the go.

Many researches done on Khmer temples have taken a back seat due to these various conflicts the heritage country has suffered. In 1976, Mireille Bénisti had published an article which stated that Karaikkal Ammai was depicted in Khmer Art. She found a lintel in Vat Baset where she found a figure that she claimed could be Ammai. The researches do not seem to have continued further, mainly due to the above mentioned clashes and conflicts.

Mareille Benisti was a French Indologist and author of various books on Khmer Monuments and Buddhist and Hindu Art of India and Cambodia. Her book ‘Stylistics of Early Khmer Art’  studies the relations between early Khmer and Indian art during the 7th and 8th centuries.

Earlier, in the Second International Tamil Conference Seminar held in the year 1968, in Madras – today’s Chennai- the capital of Tamilnadu, Mareille Benisti had given a presentation on the title – ‘Karaikkalammaiyar in Cambodia’. Her presentation was under the theme – Archeology and the Arts (Archaeology and Epigraphy).

 

2014-2015 are successful years for the temple. The International Coordinating Committee (ICC)  for Preah Vihear Temple Complex was established in December 2014. In 2015, India and China have agreed to co-chair the Renovation and Protection of the Temple, thereby play important roles in preserving the Khmer Heritage Sanctuary.

Due to the undeviating efforts of Cambodian Government, today, Preah Vihear is a sort after historic monument, with the terrain making it an additional attraction for adventure tourism. De-mining in full force and Tourism in total swing, Preah Vihear is getting renovated, hopefully with ancient history intact.

The above notings on conflicts and clashes were not meant to deviate the topic of Karaikkal Ammai, but to reinforce the need for all-inclusive researches with several hindrances removed in the present millennium.

With renovations and reformations taking place in the UNESCO site, the sculpture should be viewed in new light, not only in terms of Iconography and History, but also relate to the Religious Connections of the Khmer Empire and the Tamil Empires of Pallavas and later, the Cholas.

There are very few reference/research books available to the interested reader. This state needs to improve.

Additionally, emphasis should be thrown upon the Traders Guilds of yesteryear Tamil Land which were prominent beyond borders throughout South East Asia including China. Along with the Religious Connect, Economic Connect should also form an important theme of New Age Studies. Especially, in the case of Karaikkal Ammai who belonged to the Trader Community in the Pallava Land of Tamizhagam.

Karaikkal Ammai in Cambodia – Battambang Province

In continuation of the last article, our place of interest in this post is Battambang Province of Cambodia. Battambang Province lies in the north-west of Cambodia. The city of Battambang is the second largest in Cambodia, next to the capital Phnom Penh. It is the country’s leading rice producing province and hence called ‘the rice bowl of Cambodia’.

 

A tedious shift of governance –

 

In 1795 Siam (modern-day Thailand) annexed much of north western Cambodia including the current provinces of Banteay Meanchey, Battambang, Oddar Meanchey, Pailin, Siem Reap and Preah Vihear into the province of Inner Cambodia. The Siamese ruled Battambang as a provincial capital through the Thai-speaking Khmer Aphaiwong family,a branch of the Khmer royal family, which governed for six generations until 1907 when the province was ceded to the French to be reunited with Cambodia as part of the French Indochina colony. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battambang

 

 

The area Battambang occupies a special place in our search. The two temples Vat Ek and Vat Baset where Karaikkal Ammai is reportedly sculpted, are located in the province of Battambang. Additionally, it is also in close proximity to various other temples which belonged to the Khmer Empire, where our beloved demon devotee is seen alongside Dancing Shiva. Few other temples are situated in present day Thailand. In this context, the North-West of Cambodia and North-East of Thailand host some of the most beautiful creations and interpretations of Devotion of Karaikkal Ammai in stone.

The other temples in Cambodia are in Preah Vihear Province (preah vihear temple, Siem Reap Province (banteay srei temple) and Takeo Province (phnom chissor temple)
Two maps have been given below –

a. This one shows Battambang Province of Cambodia which borders Thailand. Today, the western part of Battambang shares the international border with Thailand.

map (1)map courtesy – http://davidangkorguide.blogspot.com/2010_08_01_archive.html

 

b. This map shows the Khmer temples in Thailand and Laos.

The north-east of Thailand has many Hindu Temples dedicated to Lord Shiva like Prasat Muang Tam, Prasat Phimai, Prasat Sikhoraphum and Prasat Phanom Rung.

map3map courtesy – http://www.devata.org/two-khmer-devata-goddesses-in-sikhoraphum-thailand/#.VNj0LCyInrE

The temples identified from the map, namely –

11- Prasat Phimai

14 – Prasat Phanom Rung

21- Prasat Kamphaeng Yai

23 – Prasat Narai Yeang Weang

host the sculptures of Karaikkal Ammai with Dancing Shiva. We shall see the pictures in later posts.

As mentioned before, the Comparison or the Relationship of Khmer Temples currently existing in modern day Cambodia and Thailand shown above through the map, is to specify the common thread ‘Shiva’, especially ‘Dancing Shiva’ and the presence of ‘Karaikkal Ammai’.

According to available historical sources, these temples were built by Khmer rulers with basically similar temple architectural styles and even today extensively preserve iconographic structures related to our current topic of interest – ADALVALLAN-KARAIKKAL AMMAI (dancing shiva-karaikkal ammai).

Ammai has been an intertwined matter of importance when it came to sculpting a panel of Adalvallan/Dancing Shiva or Nataraja. This is indeed a very vital proof of the connection of the Tamil Kingdoms with the Khmer Empire.

The earliest sculpture of Karaikkal Ammai in Cambodia seems to be in Banteay Srei, which is a 10th century ACE temple. Just because the Cholas were ruling Tamilagam at that point of time, and the most popular of the sculptures of Ammai belong to the Chola Temples, can this be called a Chola-Khmer Connection? Certainly yes, yet cannot be concluded without adequate historical research.

We also need to see the earliest of Ammai Sculptures in Tamilnadu. Even before her sculptures were created, she was a great influence on other Nayanmar Saints and commoners alike before the Cholas came to power.
Her hymns in praise of Lord Shiva, helped the Tamil Society connect with their Lord in the language they understood rather than in a language that was made to believe that the Lord understood. 
It should be noted that there are epigraphical evidences on Thevaram hymns (sung by 63 nayanmars) being recited in temples during Pallava King Nandivarman III in mid 9th century ACE. Therefore, before the Kings could bring her in stone and bronze in their temples, her Tamil hymns had entered the souls of the Tamil people and were sung in many Shiva Temples.

Karaikkal Ammai who was born in the Pallava Terrain in Tamilnadu,  glorified by other Nayanmars during the rule of Pallavas and her hymns recited in many Shiva Temples during the Pallava reign, gently glides into Chola Terrain, where she is immortalised in the most extra-ordinarily built temples like Thanjavur Periya Kovil and Gangai Konda Cholapuram.

But before Thanjavur and Gangai Konda Cholapuram temples, Ammai has been sculpted in a few other temples in the Tamil Country. While we see her gentle glide from one Empire to the other in Tamilnadu, her transit eastward towards Cambodia and Thailand is certainly a ‘Need To Know and Explore’ Travel Package.

But we need to further look into previous centuries too, as the connection could not have started abruptly from 10th century…

Coming back to Battambang province of Cambodia –

Vat Ek Phnom

 

IMG_1101

This is a 11th century temple built during the reign of King Suriyavarman I  (1002-1050). It is located on a foot hill and presently only ruins of an ancient hindu temple can be found. There is a Buddhist Temple in front of the ruins.

 

IMG_1107

When we went in December 2014, we couldn’t find Karaikkal Ammai in any of the lintels in the temple. Could the lintel with ammai be damaged due to natural or man-made ruins or kept in the lot of piles of broken lintels and stones in and around the temple, or luckily kept or taken to any other museum… only further searches and researches would tell. But no known description could be seen.

 

Vat Baset

Vat Baset has been written about in the last post (karaikkal-ammaiyar-revered-mother-of-karaikkal/).

A gentle reminder on the lintel of Ammai found in Vat Baset –

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ammai

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Battambang Provincial Museum

Two pediments in truly ruined form were found in Battambang Provincial Museum which seem to look like Ammai. I leave it to future researchers to arrive at a conclusion aided by further scientific investigations.

adalvallan/dancing shivaIMG_1453
and to his left someone can be seen in squatted position –

IMG_1453 description of pediment

IMG_1454The next broken pediment –

IMG_1456and thin structured Ammai to his right?

IMG_1457description of pediment

IMG_1459At the entrance of the museum, is placed a lintel with Dancing Shiva with a string instrument in his hand and accompanied by two women by his sides. One is his consort ‘Devi’ as the Museum booklet mentions and the other is Karaikkal Ammaiyar. This lintel is a clean/clear one.

 

IMG_1394a closer view – ammai to his left

IMG_1397

The Museum’s Booklet says –

Devi, one of Shiva’s consorts, sits on a lotus near his right foot. Her outstretched arm reaches toward Shiva’s leg. An emaciated Karaikkalammaiyar with pendulous breasts sits on another lotus flower at Shiva’s left foot.

It also mentions –

In Khmer Iconography, an emaciated Karaikkalammaiyar is often seen crouched at the feet of dancing Shiva, marking the rhythm of his dance with a pair of cymbals.

 

Here, the sculpture mentioned as Devi seems to be playing the ‘Muzhavu’ an ancient percussion instrument of the Tamils. This looks like ‘oru mugha muzhavu’ or a single drum instrument that can be seen in banteay srei sculpture too – dancing shiva with ammai on one side and a person with a single drum on the other.

oru mugha muzhavu to the left of dancing shiva

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closer view

IMG_0560This is again a separate topic of research whether the sculpture of Vat Baset at Battambang Museum also plays the ‘oru mugha muzhavu’ – the percussion instrument.

Four of the six temples of Karaikkal Ammaiyar in Cambodia (banteay srei, vat ek, vat baset, preah vihear, phnom chissor and angkor wat) mentioned by Peter J. J. de Bruijn, four were built by Suriyavarman I, during the first half of 11th Century ACE. Suryavarman I built Vat Ek, Vat Baset and Phnom Chissor. In Preah Vihear temple, the construction of which started in  early 9th century ACE – preserved and redeveloped by various rulers until 12th Century ACE, most of the surviving lintels are by Suryavarman I and later was restored by Suryavarman II.

The Monumental Preah Vihear Temple – which the Khmer prefer to call the Khmer Sancturary than a Hindu Monument is located in the Preah Vihear Province of Cambodia. We shall see Karaikkal Ammai with Dancing Shiva in Preah Vihear in the upcoming post.

 

Karaikkal Ammaiyar – Revered Mother of Karaikkal

 

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

This is what Karaikkal Ammaiyar asks Lord Shiva and is represented beautifully in the words of Sekkizhar’s Periya Puranam – the story of 63 Nayanmars

 

banteay srei temple – adalvallan and karaikkal ammaiyar to his right

IMG_0578

 

As a normal oratorical speech would start, we cannot start by saying ‘Karaikkal Ammaiyar’ needs no introduction. Indeed, Karaikkal Ammaiyar needs introduction in today’s Tamil World. The world knowing her is secondary; the Tamil World of today’s Youngsters and English Educated Middle Aged Parents – most or half of the population not knowing her is certainly a pathetic scenario. But for Indians – Being Well Rooted in one’s own traditions as well as Being a Global Citizen doesn’t seem to materialize. While the choice of being a global citizen has become the PRIDE of present generations, one doesn’t realize the resultant loss of identity due to loss of roots. The primary task of each generation which used to be passing on the roots to the next generation has become secondary. But, making their progeny succeed in any part of the world by having no single identity is a NORM of the millennium. A pity though.

 

battambang museum – adalvallan and karaikkal ammaiyar to his left

IMG_1394

 

Nayanmars – Devotion through one’s own mother tongue

To introduce Karaikkal Ammaiyar, introduction of Nayanmars is quintessential. Nayanmars were Ardent Devotees who sang in praise of Lord Shiva in humble Tamil and connected with the masses. In an attempt to cut off the influences of Buddhism and Jainism, these Primary Devotees of Tamil Bhakti Movement took up Shaivism. Their pure love and selfless affection towards Lord Shiva was a powerful tool against other religions. Their priceless possession was not only Devotion and Selfless Love, but incomparable literary skill that made them reach out to the common man in his own language.

There were 63 Nayanmars, who lived and sang from 6th century until 12th century ACE, without doubt creating a wealth of Bhakti Literature that stands even today to hold the importance of worship of God in Tamil.

Beyond being a tool against other religions, their belief in love and devotion alone to reach Shiva is the keypoint in all the songs that the Nayanmars sang. Belief in one’s God and being able to relate and communicate with that One Almighty in one’s own mother tongue and non-dependence of Sanskrit to communicate with that God could be a few fundamentals of the Tamil Bhakti Movement.

 
Rajaraja Cholan (985-1013)

Great credit goes to the Cholas for bringing to light the compiled version of the songs sung by 63 Nayanmars. King Rajaraja Cholan appointed Nambi Andar Nambi, a priest in Thillai – the original Tamil name of Chidambaram Shiva Temple, to compile the devotional literary works of Nayanmars, sprawling over 5 centuries then.

Nambi compiled the works of the 63 Nayanmars into 11 volumes and added his own work in the 11th volume. The works of Sambanthar, Appar, and Sundarar form(ed) the first seven volumes and they are called Thevaram – or the Garland of the Gods; Manickavasagar’s Thirukkovaiyar and Thiruvasagam form(ed) the 8th volume. These four nayanmars are classified as the Most Reverred Beacons of Tamil Shaivite Bhakti Movement (Samaya Kuravargal), among the 63.

 
Kulothunga Cholan II (1133-1150)

During the reign of King Kulothuga Cholan II, his chief minister Sekkizhar/Chekkizhar travelled across the places of birth and travel of the 63 nayanmars and compiled their life histories. He named his biography of nayanmars in poetic verses – ‘Thiruthondar Puranam’ – the story of the servants of God, which is popularly called ‘Periya Puranam’ – the Big Puranam. Sekkizhar’s  Periya Puranam added as the 12th volume to the previous collection of 11 volumes is called ‘Panniru Thirumurai’ – The Tamil Saiva Literary Canon.

Rajarajan, who gave the Nayanmars their deserving Elite Place in Tamil Saiva Literature and Tamil Saiva Movement is hailed as ‘Thirumurai Kanda Cholan’ –  that can be broadly described in English as ‘the Protector of Saiva Religion and Literature’.

The sacred collection ‘Panniru Thirumurai’ is a unique Literary Excellence which showcases 600 years of devotional movement of surrendering to the Lord, the extra ordinary emphasis being the worship in one’s own mother tongue.

 

The devotional movements contained elements of social as well as religious reform, protesting brahmanical orthodoxy along with the heterodox faiths of Buddhism and Jainism. http://www.southwestern.edu/academics/bwp/pdf/2005bwp-craddock.pdf

Thevaram and other hymns still adorn the Temples of Tamilnadu and homes of Tamil Worshippers around the world.

 

All the saints mentioned in this epic poem are historical persons and not mythical.Therefore, this is a recorded history of the 63 Saiva saints called as Nayanmars (devotees of Lord Siva), who attain salvation by their unflinching devotion to Siva. The Nayanmars that he talks about belonged to different castes, different occupations and lived in different times.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Periya_Puranam#cite_note-MedievalIndianLiterature-3

 
Karaikkal Ammaiyar

 

phnom penh museum – karaikkal ammaiyar

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Her Literary Contribution to the Tamil World –

She is considered the author of 143 poems organized into four works of poetry that are included in the eleventh book of the Tirumuṟai, the Śaiva canon: Aṟputat Tiruvantāti (Sacred Linked Verses of Wonder), with 101 veṇpā verses; Tiruviraṭṭai Maṇimālai (The Sacred Garland of Double Gems), with 20 stanzas alternating in veṇpā and kaṭṭalaik kalittuṟai; and the two patikams called Tiruvālaṅkāṭṭu Mūtta Tiruppatikaṅkaḷ (First Sacred Verses on Tiruvālaṅkāṭu), which are ten-verse poems with an eleventh “signature” verse each and which are set to music (some texts call the first patikam Tiruvālaṅkāṭṭu Mūtta Tiruppatikaṅkaḷ and the second patikam simply Tiruvālaṅkāṭṭu Tiruppatikaṅkaḷ, or Sacred Verses on Tiruvālaṅkāṭu). http://www.oxfordbibliographies.com/view/document/obo-9780195399318/obo-9780195399318-0059.xml

Among the 63 Nayanmars, Karaikkal Ammaiyar was a Pioneer Tamil Saint in many ways. She was one and first among the three women Nayanmars.

A few striking features of Ammaiyar include –

  • She was the first Nayanmar among the 63 Nayanmars in the chronological order. She lived in 5th- 6th Century ACE. Hence, she was the first nayanmar to initiate the Tamil Bhakti Movement
  • Her story of devotion epitomises the fact that love of God is beyond gender
  • She had the conviction to forgo her family life, leaving behind her husband to blissfully sing at the feet of Shiva
  • She had the fearless attitude to give away her beautiful looks and to take up ‘Peyuru’ or ‘Demonic Image’, that is why she is portrayed in a skeletal demonic form in all sculptures
  • She was introduced by Shiva to his wife Parvati as ‘Ammai’ or mother – such was the passion of God that made her convert from ‘Punithavathi’ her original name to Karaikkal Ammaiyar or the Mother of Karaikkal, a town in the then Pallava Empire, in today’s Union Territory of Pudhucherry in South India
  • She introduced the pattern of poetry writing called ‘Andhadhi’ –

 

Andhadhi(Tamil: அந்தாதி) is a unique kind of Tamil poetry constructed such that the last or ending word of each verse became the first word of the next verse. In some instances, the last word of a series of verses becomes the beginning of the very first verse, thus making the poem a true garland of verses. Andha(m means “end” and ‘‘Adhi’’ means “beginning”. In Tamil Andhadhi was first sung by Karaikkal Ammeiyar http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andhadhi

She is addressed by scholars and researchers in many ways. Apart from Karaikkal Ammaiyar, she is also called  ‘Siva’s Demon Devotee’, ‘Karaikkal Pei’ – meaning ‘Ghost of Karaikkal’ in tamil due to her looks and  ‘Peyar’ – the revered ghost. Giving least importance to beauty and worldly pleasures, she wished and prayed for the demonic form and her wish was granted by Shiva. She can be recognized as an emaciated/skeletal figure at the feet of Shiva in sculptures.

She composed Thiuvirattai Manimalai, Arputha Thiruvanthathi and Thiruvalankaatu Mootha Thiruppathigangal.

To know more on Ammaiyar, google ‘Karaikkal Ammaiyar’ and the web world welcomes you to introductions and many research papers.

 
Ammaiyar in Cambodia

 

name legend recognizing karaikkal ammaiyar in phnom penh museum

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When I came across the book in the internet, Karaikkalammaiyar: An iconographical and textual study By Peter J. J. de Bruijn, it threw a new light on Ammaiyar in Cambodia.

The book specifies the places where Ammaiyar was found  in demon form sitting below the beautifully carved ‘Adalvallan – Nataraja or the Dancing Shiva’.

Let’s bring back the verses that kick-started this post –

 

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

This is what Ammaiyar sought from Shiva – to sit at his feet while he dances.

This is exactly the form of portrayal in sculptures in Tamilnadu and other South East Asian countries.

The book specifies the places in Tamilnadu and places in other countries where Ammaiyar can be seen.

Three temples in Tamilnadu – 

  1. Sembiyan Mahadevi Village –  Kailasanathasvamin Temple
  2. Thanjavur – Rajarajeswara Temple
  3. Gangai Konda Chozhapuram – Brihadeeswara Temple

Three bronze sculptures in Srilanka –

  1. Polannaruva – Siva Devele
  2. Colombo Museum
  3. Polannaruva – Siva Devele

Three places in Thailand –

  1. Kamphaeng Yai
  2. Narai Yaeng Waeng
  3. Phimai

and Six places in Cambodia –

  1. Isvarapura Temple – Banteay Srei
  2. Vat Ek
  3. Vat Baset
  4. Phnom Chisor
  5. Angkor Wat and
  6. Sculpture at Phnom Penh Museum

This seemed very interesting. While Ammaiyar sculptures in Banteay Srei and Phnom Penh Museum had already been seen, Vat Ek and Vat Baset became the next search spots.

Vat Ek and Vat Baset are located in Battambang Province of Cambodia. Both temples are in natural ruins, added with a new Buddhist Temple in front of Vat Ek. Unfortunately couldn’t find Ammaiyar in Vat Ek.

But surprisingly Battambang Provincial Museum had three sculptures of Ammaiyar. One Lintel and two broken pediments. They have also recognised Karaikkal Ammaiyar and given a description in their museum booklet.

Let us try to bring in more historical facts of the temples where Ammaiyar’s sculptures are available in temples in Cambodia.

 
Vat Baset

broken lintel of adalvallan/dancing shiva – vat baset

IMG_1136closer look shows karaikkal ammaiyar

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In search of details of Vat Baset…

 

Vat Baset was built during the reign of King, Surya Varman I (1002-1050) and located on a hill at Ba Set village, Ba Set temple adapts the architecture of 11th century and was built between 1036 and 1042. http://www.tourismindochina.com/battambang-attractionsite1.htm

 

The book – ‘The Indianized States of South-East Asia’ by George Coedes provides a clearer picture about the King who built Vat Baset and his relations with the Chola Empire of Tamilagam.

The accession of throne by Surya Varman seems to have been a complicated affair. Two inscriptions mention of one Udayadityavarman, cousin of Jayavarman V who comes to throne in 1001.  In 1001 and 1002, there are four inscriptions referring to Suryavarman, who belongs to royal ancestry in the female line. From 1003 to 1006, King Jayaviravarman is mentioned in inscriptions and according to his inscriptions he establishes the throne of Angkor from 1011.

In the following pages of the book, the author also gives more details on the capturing of throne by Suriyavarman after nine years of war, approximately in 1010. Later in his inscriptions, he dates his accession as year 1002, the year of death or disappearance of King Udayadityavarman I.

There is another thought provoking fact that the author mentions –

In 1012, Suryavarman feeling threatened by the Srivijaya King Maravijayottungavarman, seeks aid of Rajendracholan I by presenting him a chariot. Later, Rajendra Cholan I launches a war against the same Srivijaya King.

 

The first half of the eleventh century, during the  long reign of Suryavarman I, saw indeed the empire become more vast, populous and prosperous.

 The king established four lingas to delimit his empire:

The first Linga was consecrated at Vat Baset, 70 km to the south-west of Angkor.

The three other Lingas were established during 1018 CE at:

Preah Vihear, on a promontory of the Dangrek Range, 140 km to the north-east of Angkor

Phnom Chissor, a sacred hill located 270 km to the south-east.

– Isanatirthi, somewhere in the east.

http://ancientcartography.net/hinterlandsaturn15.html

 
Among the five temples where Karaikkal Ammaiyar is sculpted in Cambodia, Phnom Chissor, Vat Ek and Vat Baset are all built by King Suryavarman I.  The same Rajendra Cholan – I, with whom Suryavarman sought friendly relations, built Adalvallan – Nataraja or the Dancing Shiva with Karaikkal Ammaiyar in his Gangai Konda Cholapuram Kovil (temple). Before Rajendra Cholan, his father Rajaraja Cholan immortalized Ammaiyar in sculpture in his Thanjavur Brihadeswara Kovil.

Could this throw any light on the historic tamil connection of Karaikkal Ammaiyar in Cambodia? But, Vat Baset is certainly not the earliest temple with Ammaiyar sculpture. Banteay Srei temple in 10th century is earlier. This would be discussed in forthcoming posts.

Adalvallan/Nataraja or Dancing Shiva and Karaikkal Ammaiyar – the duo sculpted in South-East Asian temples, kindles more interest in the Yesteryear relations among these Kingdoms and Tamil Kings. Let’s try to explore further to decipher more…..

Books, Research Papers and Links on Karaikkal Ammaiyar

1. Interpreting Devotion: The Poetry and Legacy of a Female Bhakti Saint of India by Karen Pechilis- link – https://nirc.nanzan-u.ac.jp/nfile/4275

2. http://www.southwestern.edu/academics/bwp/pdf/2005bwp-craddock.pdf

3. Medieval Indian Literature – by K. Ayyappa Panicker

4. http://www.academia.edu/310962/
 
5.Siva’s Demon Devotee, Karaikkal Ammaiyar by Elaine Craddock

6.Karaikkalammaiyar: An iconographical and textual study by Peter J. J. de Bruijn

7.Classical Civilizations of South-East Asia edited by Vladimir Braginsky

link – https://books.google.com.kh/books

8.The Indianized States of South-East Asia  by George Cœdès

9. http://www.shaivam.org/nakaarai.html

Exploring Tamil Connections

This first post could be a glimpse of images from the mysterious/yet to be fully discovered – ancient past that motivates me to share my viewpoints through ‘glorioustamils’.

Sitting in the city of Siem Reap, visiting ancient temples of Cambodia, one feels a strange connection between the Cambodian Ruins of yesteryear temples and the temples that are still in worship in Tamilnadu, India. And Cambodia is not the only country. Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia are other countries I have visited that makes me feel the similar connection.

The Temples and the Classic Temple Architecture of these countries have striking resemblances to those in South India, specifically Tamilnadu.

Some of the Inscriptions on the walls of these temples mostly in ruins have also been identified to be Pallava Grantha – the script established by the Pallava Kings who successfully ruled most parts of then Thamizhagam/Tamilagam during the 4th  to 9th Centuries ACE.

 
In Cambodia…

The Shiva Lingams, the Lingams accompanied and sometimes not accompanied by Nandi (ruined by nature/man-made or stolen), the Eight Handed Vishnu in Angkor Wat and the Reclining Vishnu in Kulen Mountains are only a few to mention, which exhibit strong resemblance to the living/worshipped ancient temples of Tamilnadu and few other parts of Southern India. Ashtabhujakaram is a temple situated in Kanchipuram, Tamilnadu where, Eight Handed Vishnu armed with different weapons is the presiding deity.  Similarly, Prasat Kravan is a 10th Century Temple in Cambodia, where Vishnu is sculpted as the Supreme God with Eight Arms.

 Vishnu with Eight Arms at Angkor Wat, CambodiaIMG_0447

The Reclining Vishnu in Kulen Mountains sculpted under the flowing waters of Phnom Kulen, is sheltered by the Seven Headed Snake – Ananta. He is seen relaxing in reclining position, with his consort Lakshmi holding his feet;  and Brahma is shown branching out of his navel. The sculpture under water is certainly a sight no camera can capture better than one’s eyes.

The countless Lingams and Yonis alongside the reclining Vishnu and the thousand Lingams at Kbal Spean may also denote the co-existence of Saivism and Vaishnavism. Along with Brahma, the Trinity of Hindu Gods is seen represented at one place.

There are many other ancient sculptures of Reclining Vishnu throughout India. Which connection/influence does the Reclining Vishnu of Cambodia talk of?

 
Reciprocal Influence

Any Connection which leads to Influence need not be one way, and could be reciprocal. What were the Reciprocal Influences churned out of specific Indian Connections? It is true that South East Asian Countries have plenty of Indian Influence, where Religion holds an enormous space. The efficient seafarers and merchants of coastal kingdoms couldn’t have transported and transferred their merchandises as a one-sided affair,  but also must have brought back various known and unknown representations from the far off countries they visited. In this aspect, special emphasis on particular ancient kingdoms is needed for clarity in written history.

One such historical fact, might be the travel of a Prince Pallavamalla from Kambhujadesa (present day Cambodia) to Kanchipuram, the capital city of the Pallava Empire in Tamilnadu.

The history of south-east asian kingdoms would not be convincingly clear without adequate mention of influences of the Tamil Kingdoms. The same way, the history of the Tamil Kings and the Tamil People would certainly be incomplete without adequately exploring the Thailand-Laos-Vietnam-Cambodia and Indonesian connection.

The master piece of Rajasimha Pallava – Mamallapuram Shore Temple

IMG_4983
Nandivarman II ( 8th Century ACE) – The Cambodian Connection in Tamilnadu

Much has been talked about the Indian connection in South East Asia, but here is a Cambodian connection in Tamilnadu.  Pallavamalla, a Prince from the kingdom of Kambhujadesa travelled to Kanchipuram in Tamilnadu, to continue the legacy of the Pallavas.

Following the death of Pallava King Parameswaravarman II (730 ACE) without a progeny, representatives from different arenas traveled to Kambhujadesa. Kambhujadesa was then ruled by King Kadavesa Harivarma, who rooted from Pallava lineage. He was the descendent of Bhimavarman, brother of Simhavishnu, the great king hailed to have brought back the Pallava stronghold in Thamizhagam – around 550 ACE.

Pallavamalla, the fourth son of Harivarma agreed to go to Kanchipuram to become their new Ruler. From a Prince in Cambodia, he reached Tamizhagam, to be the King of the Tamils in the Pallava terrain as Nandivarman II. He excelled to be one of the greatest Pallava Kings, who not only took forward the skillful, aesthetic art of  the extra ordinary ‘Pallava Style Temple Architecture,’ but also helped the Pallavas as rulers gain control of most parts of Tamizhagam and other parts of Southern India. Imbibed into the lineage of the architecturally inclined Pallavas, Nandivarman took to building beautiful temples as his predecessors, who were famous and revered for their fascinating temples.

Among the other temples built by Nandivarman Pallavamallan, the beautiful ‘Thiru Parameshwara Vinnagaram’ or the Vaikunda Perumal Kovil in Kanchipuram, the Pallava Capital is important as the temple walls depict the story of his coronation and especially the Pallava Geneology.

‘Samudramanthan’ or churning of the eternal ocean, which is given primary importance in Cambodia and other parts of south-east asia is also sculpted on the walls of Vaikunda Perumal Temple.

 
Karaikkal Ammaiyar -6th century AD

Karaikkal Ammaiyar holds a very special place in Tamil Bhakti Movement. She was the earliest of the 63 Nayanmars (Saivite Saints) and also one of the pioneer saints of the Indian Bhakti Movement  – which was formed to curb the influences of Jainism and Buddhism. The sculpture of this Saint in Ghost/Demonic Form – ‘Peyuru’ in Tamil, can be found in a few temples in Cambodia. This certainly is one Glaring Evidence of the Tamil Connection.

Adalvallan (Nataraja) – dancing Shiva and his devotee to his right

IMG_0578karaikkal ammaiyar
IMG_6703

How did Ammaiyar from Karaikkal in present day Puducherry, under the then Pallava Empire visit Cambodia through her sculptures? Who transported her.. How could this be just a transport of temple architecture alone? Many Researchers indeed feel more than a simple transport, inclusive of cultural, linguistic and economic ties.

 

Inscriptions

Some of the Inscriptions on the walls of temples in Cambodia, which Archeologists and Linguistics claim to be Pallava Grantha, and mentioned sometimes by local guides as Ancient Khmer has not had much research. Pallava Grantha was a writing method introduced by the Pallavas of Tamilnadu. The language might be Tamil, Ancient Khmer or Sanskrit but the script would require an all-inclusive research on ‘SPECIFIC INDIAN CONNECTION’. The ornamental beauty of the Pallava Grantha, exclusively developed to write Sanskrit in the Tamil speaking areas, which is also found in Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand and Indonesia, needs a deep analytical view.

 

Specific Indian Connection

Why I call this ‘Specific Indian Connection’?

As an Indian, any historical research to me would be incomplete if the word ‘India’ alone is mentioned. I want to know more… more precise facts – ‘which part of today’s India?’ – South, North,  East, West or North East? Which state in today’s India?

So, when I see the beautiful temples in Cambodia, Vietnam and Indonesia, (the ones that I have visited till date), I am awestruck by their similarities to the Indian temples… But to be more precise, South Indian Temples which belong to that particular part of Southern India – Tamilnadu!

Well read Scholars and Researchers find different other connections with other parts of India too. In today’s world, Advanced Research Standards have been developed. Such Advanced Research Techniques with Technology,  could aid in a ‘Microscopic View’ of the area of study – historically, geographically and scientifically! Hence, It is a humble feeling of a history enthusiast to emphasize the need for a comprehensive, all-inclusive study on the TRUE Indian Connection.

These and many more thoughts and questions that arise along with the simple single word ‘CONNECTION’ is the lifeline of this Blog.

The very few topics put forward in this preface itself is sufficient enough to explain the ‘need to connect’ this Jigsaw Puzzle called South East Asia and Tamilnadu.

Of Course, there have been different influences which history and legends of concerned countries talk about the vast country called India.  It is high time we give minute attention focusing on ‘Specific Connections and Influences’ from different parts of India.

Here, in this blog, I have chosen to explore the Tamil Connection.

I register my true Awe and Admiration towards all other Indian Kingdoms, Indian Merchants and Skillful Seafarers, who without any technologically advanced assistances of today, tried making this Vast Globe into a Small World of Connected Kingdoms.

With due respect to all Researchers who have put in their knowledge, time, effort and life to the cause of true historic research, this blog is a layman’s approach to history and a commoner’s wish to portray research in its true form – one which could inspire the discovery of new things with a specific, scientific, systematic approach.

This is a Genuine Wish for more ‘In-depth Researches’ which would help unearth Precious Information – many more New Commodities from Ancient-Old stock. It is also a hopeful desire to spread an inquisitive interest in many more energetic minds and scholastic brains beyond age and borders as much as possible in discovering new truths.