Kon Nedumaran in Periyaalwar’s compositions - VIII
by Jayasree Saranathan on 28 Jul 2021 0 Comment

Periyaalwar (father of Anda?) had sung two decads (Periyaalwar Tirumozhi: 4-2 &3) on Lord Vishnu residing in Tirumalirum Cholai, popularly known as “Azhagar Malai”, ‘the hill of Azhagar’. Tirumalirum Cholai means ‘the grove where Vishnu resides’. A surprising element in these two decads is that one decad makes specific mention of Then Tirumalirum Cholai (Tirumalirum Cholai of the South) in eight out of ten verses. The other decad does not make any such reference anywhere in the ten verses.


In the group on Then Tirumalirum Cholai, Periyaalwar mentions the name “Kon Nedumaran”! Periyaalwar does not say anything here on the emblem engraved by Kon Nedumaran on the Himalayas, but the information he gives in that context seems to refer to an incident found in Pandikkovai.


The verse says: This is the hill of the one who stood in the forefront, in the chariot for the sake of the good one and caused the bubbles to rise, making the kings suffer. This is the South Tirumalirum Cholai, celebrated by Kon Nedumaran, the Southerner and the lord of South-Koodal who carries fearful bow and a sharp spear (Periyaalwar Tirumozhi: 4-2-7).


This verse identifies Kon Nedumaran as

(1) Thennan – Southerner.

(2) Then Koodal kon – the ruler of Southern Koodal (not Madurai or Kapata puram / Alavai)

(3) One who always carried Bow and spear.


The kind of victory mentioned here is something that Nedumaran scored by the grace of Lord at Tirumalirum Cholai. But commentators writing on the historical information do not think so; they attribute the victory to Kon Nedumaran thereby making the verse appear to be glorifying  Kon Nedumaran. That can never be the intention of Periyaalwar.


In this verse, he intended to say that such a victory was possible only because the Lord Himself was leading the king in the war and enabled him to win, which made the king glorify the Lord at Tirumalirum Cholai. A verse with similar theme is found in Pandikkovai; it unravels two mysteries –

(1) about the incident mentioned by Periyaalwar in his composition and

(2) about an ancient festival that is now differently understood and even lost in present day Tamilnadu.


We will take up the first one in this article. This verse says that Nedumaran scored a great victory at a place called “A??ukkudi”, meaning “the habitat at the river”. (There is no such name found in present day Tamil Nadu or Kerala which was once ruled by Cherans). The fascinating element in the verse is that the resistance by enemies at A??ukkudi was broken by the discus bearing Vishnu!


The verse also tells about the chariot used in the war. In the absence of any knowledge of a battle at A??ukkudi, it is difficult to interpret that part of the verse on who drove the chariot. But based on Periyaalwar’s composition, it can be interpreted that the discus bearing Vishnu led the war on a chariot and brought victory to Nedumaran.


The verse in Pandikkovai attributes the victory to none other than Thirumal (Vishnu). It says that Vishnu having the Discus (chakrayudha) rode fast the sturdy chariot with elephants and broke / ruined A??ukkudi for the sake of “Adhisayar” - a reference to Kon Nedumaran (Pandikkovai: 257). Kon Nedumaran is mentioned in this verse as “Adhisayar” or one who causes ‘surprise’ or something that causes ‘wonder and awe’.


There is one more verse in Pandikkovai which refers this king by this name “Adhisayar”, used in the context of victory at A??ukkudi (verse 43).


The selective use of the name “Adhisayar” only in the context of victory at A??ukkudi implies that this king received the name Adhisayar after his victory at A??ukkudi. Only if such a victory was difficult or scored through unusual or unexpected means can such a name be attained as a ceremonial name due to the nature of the victory.


Another surprising element in Pandikkovai is that King Nedumaran himself was mentioned as Thirumal (Vishnu) in 2 verses. Verse 111 talks about the battle at Vallam which was won by Thennan Thirumaal (Southerner Vishnu). This may be construed as a reference to the King, as kings were held as Gods. But this king is mentioned in this verse with another title, “Varodhaya”, meaning “Himself a gift (of God)”. Perhaps the victory at Vallam also was like the one at A??ukkudi, led by Vishnu or won by the grace of Vishnu and therefore the title “Varodhaya”.


Verse 146 also mentions the king as Vishnu and the same title, ‘Thennan Thirumal”, appears in this verse too. The line “Thennan Thirumaal kaalal Nedumaran” implies that Nedumaran was a worshiper of Vishnu.


The verse on A??ukkudi shows that Vishnu Himself helped him to win the battle at A??ukkudi. Vishnu helped him win the battle at Vallam and it got him the title, Varodhaya. He was very successful in his conquests and came to be seen as a personification of Vishnu Himself in course of time. Periyaalwar’s reference to Kon Nedumaran in the context of Tirumalirum Cholai implies that this king had worshiped Lord Vishnu housed at Tirumalirum Cholai.


The specific reference to the direction of South for this abode of Vishnu gives an impression that there did exist a Tirumalirum Cholai in the region of Kon Nedumaran that is no longer there now, meaning that it was in the submerged lands of Pandyan king in the southern ocean. Kon Nedumaran is associated with that Tirumalirum Cholai of the South.


The victory at A??ukkudi seems to be indicated by Periyaalwar in his verse. That was the battle Pandikkovai recognises as one led by Vishnu Himself. The enemies were traumatised in that battle. The rising of bubble mentioned by Periyaalwar (by the word Mozhai) serves as the hint to the battle at A??ukkudi. By its name, A??ukkudi appears to be a habitat in and around a river. Vishnu, causing the bubble to rise might refer to pulling up or taking up possession of A??ukkudi


Mozhai also means a river at the lower level. It suggests that Vishnu ‘caused the river to rise’ to come to be possessed by Nedumaran.


Inference from these verses (Periyaalwar’s and those from Pandikkovai):

It is surprising to note that the Pandyan king, who came in the lineage that considered Lord Shiva as the Guardian deity of the race, had invoked the blessings of Lord Vishnu to win a battle. Not only that, the King was regarded as Lord Vishnu-personified. This kind of recognition is based on the premise of Hinduism that Vishnu, one among the Tri-Murthy, is a Protector. As such, kings were seen in the image of Vishnu. It is noteworthy that this concept of Hinduism was well entrenched in the sunken Tamil lands of yore.


This is in contrast to the ideological warfare between Shiva and Vishnu devotees witnessed in the first millennium of the Common Era in Tamil lands. This king, Kon Nedumaran, therefore, can be inferred to have belonged to a previous era when there was a clear understanding of the concepts of Vishnu and Shiva. The kind of consistency found between the historical inputs from different compositions from different eras, in this case between Pandikkovai and Periyaalwar’s verses, testifies the reliability of olden Tamil literature as a window to past history of Bharata varsha.





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