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

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

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

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

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

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

Political Extension

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

Lopburi inscription of Suryavarman I

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

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

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

Where is Lopburi?

 

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

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

Economic Expansion

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Khlon Jnval Vanik

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

Khlon Jnval – residing vendor/local merchant

Khlon Jnval Vanik – Travelling merchant

Travan Vanik – Merchant Quarter

Vap Champa – Cham merchant

Vap China – China Trader

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

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

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

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

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

According to George Coedes –

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

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

George Coedes, Pg. Inscriptions du Cambodge, Vol III

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

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

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

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

There are two points to be discussed here –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Poetic references of ‘Vanigar’ in Early Tamil Literature

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

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

‘கோவலன் என்பான் ஓர் வாணிகன்’

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

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

வாணிகம் செய்வார்க்கு வாணிகம் பேணிப்
பிறவும் தமபோல் செயின்.

Thirukkural- 120

Naduvu Nilaimai

Vaanigam seivarkku vaanigam peni
Piravum thamapol seyin

Translation:

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

http://www.thirukkural.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

sangamtamil/paripadal

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

Vaisiyar perume vaniga vaazhkkai (tholkappiyam, poruladhikaram, 622)

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

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

Names of poets prefixed with Vanigar in Early Tamil Literature

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

Purananuru-

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

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

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

Agananuru-

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

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

‘Vanigan’ in Early Tamil-Brahmi Inscriptions in Tamilnadu

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

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

refer – பழந்தமிழ்க் கல்வெட்டுகள் – மா. இலாவண்யா

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

Upu vanigan viyagan – salt merchant

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

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

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

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

Karuvur Pon vanigan nathi adhittanam – Gold merchant from Karuvur

Ennai Vanigan veni aadhan adhittanam – Oil merchant

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

He adds,

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

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

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

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

References

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

 

Web links

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

 

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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