The date of burning of Madurai by Kannagi – II
by Jayasree Saranathan on 30 Oct 2023 0 Comment

Identity of the Satakar?i who helped Senkuttuvan


As soon as he decided to go to the Himalayas, Senkuttuvan got a letter signed by the Chola and Pandya kings to make his trip appear as a united Tamil effort. His previous trip to the North was a pilgrimage to the river Ganga in which his mother joined him to take a sacred bath in the river. At that time, Senkuttuvan was confronted by the kings of that region (mentioned as Arya kings) and had a fight too. He had a grudge against two kings, Kanaka and Vijaya, sons of a king named Balakumara. On coming to know that they teased him, Senkuttuvan decided to capture them in this trip and make them carry the stones procured from the Himalayas for making the image of Kannagi.


The king made a public announcement of his proposed expedition to the North which was received by the spies of different countries of the North. On hearing about his plan, the king Satakar?i, sent an emissary by name Sanjaya, with numerous gifts and people of sorts to Vanji with a request to stay back as his expedition with a huge army could vitiate the conditions in the North. The Satakar?i also conveyed that he would do the needful to get the stone from the Himalayas for the sake of Senkuttuvan.


The Chera king was in no mood to budge but gently indicated his desire to avenge the two kings, Kanaka and Vijaya, and requested Satakar?i to set up a camp for him on the banks of river Ganga. And thus, his journey to the North kicked off in all grandeur.


Senkuttuvan was confronted by the Arya kings Kanaka and Vijaya who opposed him with their friends, namely, Utthara, Vichithra, Rudra, Bhairava, Chithra, Simha, Dhanudra and Sweta. The Chera king defeated all of them. He then sent his army chief, Villavan Kodhai to get the stone from the Himalayas. He made Kanaka and Vijaya the carry the stones on their heads.


By then, a Brahmin named Madalan, who appeared in the story earlier and met Kovalan and Kannagi on their way to Madurai, reached the camp of the Chera king on the banks of Ganga. He narrated the events after the king left Vanji. Thirty-two months (2 years and 8 months) had passed since the king left Vanji. In that period, the brother of the dead king of the Pandya dynasty, namely, Vettri Vel Chezhiyan, who was looking after Korkai until then, moved to Madurai as the chief king of the Pandya land.


In the Chola country, a king by name Va?avan Ki??i, brother-in-law of Senkuttuvan, was confronted by nine of his cousins. He fought and won to retain the throne. Hearing these developments, Senkuttuvan decided to march back home.


Until now, there is no hint in the text to find out the year – Gregorian or Saka year – of his visit to the North which would help us to deduce the date of the burning of Madurai. But the clue comes later in the form of praise of Senkuttuvan after he consecrated the temple of Kannagi. It is said twice in the text, ‘Vansol Yavanar Va?anaadu Andu’ (Si: 28-line 141 and 29-line 25). This means that the Chera King ruled (won over) the rough tongued Yavana-s!


Throughout the expedition, there is no reference to a fight with the Yavana-s. The focus was on his victory over the Arya kings. The only possible time the Chera army could confront the Yavana-s was in the Himalayas Proper. The Himalayas stretch through a long distance from east to west and the exact place where the Chera army went to procure the stone is not mentioned in the text.


However, we get a clue from the expedition of Pandya-s in an earlier time from the poem of Periyazhwar, who said that the Pandya king engraved his emblem on ‘Paruppadam’ in the Himalayas. Paruppadam, Kailayam (Kailash), Meru and Mandra are the four peaks of the Himalayas dear to Lord Shiva, says the Tamil text, Tiruvilaiyadal Puranam (v. 216).


Paruppadam, the choice of the Pandyan king, could have been the same peak preferred by Karikal Chola who also went to the Himalayan region to engrave his emblem. Senkuttuvan also could have preferred the same peak. Paruppadam sounds like Barbara, a people who lived along with Yavana-s, Pahlava-s, Kamboja-s, Sindhu-s and others in the southwest part of larger India (Akhand Bharat) as per the version of Brihat Samhita (14-v17 to 21). Valmiki Ramayana (1-54-23) also informs us that Barbara-s and Yavana-s lived together. Their presence near the peak of Amarnath seems to have lent their name to the peak as Barbara, which is Paruppadam in Tamil.


Of all the four peaks mentioned by Tiruvilaiyadal Puranam, Amarnath stands out special for being the place of Uma / Parvati and the union of Uma with Shiva. This location was the first to deglaciate soon after the end of Ice Age 12,000 years ago. Gangotri associated with Ganga, the sister of Uma continued to grow at that time as per Valmiki Ramayana (1-36). Therefore, this region of the Himalayas was the most revered that the Tamil kings thought it fit to raise their flag on this peak and engrave their emblem on its slopes. King Senkuttuvan also must have felt that the stone from this peak was the ideal one to chisel the image of Kannagi. Once consecrated, Kannagi was praised as the daughter of Himavan.


In that visit, Senkuttuvan’s army must have run over the Yavana-s, Barbara-s and other Mleccha-s and won. Since Satakar?i had guided him throughout, there is every likelihood that the Satakar?i accompanied the Chera army to Amarnath. He too must have claimed victory over the Yavana-s.


A search for the Satakar?i who won over the Yavana-s leads us to only one Satakar?i - Gautami Putra Satakar?i. No other Satakar?i claimed victory over the Yavana-s. This victory of Gautami Putra Satakar?i is recorded in Nashik inscription by his mother Gautami Balashri. The inscription says that he defeated Saka-s, Pahlava-s and Yavana-s. All these people being Mleccha-s, the victory over them meant something. It made Gautami Putra Satakar?i the initiator of the new era of Kali Yuga, namely, Salivahana Saka.


Saka date started in Senkuttuvan’s period


The Nashik inscription provides an important information that this king (Gautami Putra Satakar?i) devised Time and place for the pursuit of three goals, perhaps referring to Dharma, Artha and Kama. Written specifically as “suvibhatativaga desa kalasa”, this seems to indicate the initiation of Salivahana Saka. By having defeated the Saka-s, this Satakar?i became eligible to start the third Saka of Kali Yuga. These Saka eras were prophesied right at the beginning of Kali Yuga when the sages devised Time in 3101 BCE. In their foresight, they named every new Saka (means branch) and the date when each Saka will be initiated. The marker for each Saka comes from a victory over the Saka-s who were Mleccha-s. (By defeating Mleccha-s who were known by the name Saka-s, a new Saka which means a sub-part of Kali Yuga was started).


Though Senkuttuvan was part of the military expedition against the Yavana-s, the credit has gone to Gautami Putra. This may be because, Senkuttuvan sent only his army headed by Villavan Kodhai to pick out a suitable stone, whereas the Satakar?i could have headed the expedition to Paruppadam and played a major role in the fight against Yavana-s and others.


From the description of Silappadhikaram, it appears that Senkuttuvan stayed back in the camp on the banks of Ganga. Perhaps his advanced age at that time caused him not to climb the peak. He ruled for more than 50 years as per the version of Madalan (Si: 28-line 130). In Paditru-patthu (Padhigam – 5), it is mentioned that he ruled for 55 years. He had driven out sea pirates on the Arabian sea section which perhaps earned the goodwill and friendship of the Satakar?i-s whose empire stretched to the Arabian sea. Senkuttuvan must have been past 70 years when he made the Himalayan expedition. Considering his age, he had not gone to the Himalaya peak but the credit for getting the stone and defeating the Yavana-s came to him – he being the King.


As a result of his victory over Mleccha-s, Gautami Putra Satakar?i got entitled to the name as Saka-karta and started a new sub-era of Kali Yuga called Salivahana Saka. Salivahana was not his name but the name already given by the sages at the beginning of Kali Yuga. The names of future Saka-s such as Vijayabhinanda, Nagarjuna, Bali etc, already given by them, it is futile to search for a king named Salivahana. The winner of Saka-s automatically becomes the new Saka-karta and takes over the titular name given by the sages of yore.


On the eastern walls of the veranda of Cave 3 where the inscription on devising Time and the victory over the Saka-s are found, there is another inscription dictated by Gautami Putra Satakar?i from his military camp at the battlefield soon after winning the Saka king ‘Usabadata’ (Rishabhadatta), son-in-law of Nahapana, transferring the villages previously under the control of the Western K?atrapa-s to the ascetics.


The deed declares that it was issued on the 18th year of the rule of the king, on the 1st day of the second fortnight of the rainy season. In Caitra, the next year, this king must have got established as the Sakakaraka. This was at the expiry of 3179 Kali year, corresponding to 78 CE. Starting from this Saka, many Kara?a texts were written to prepare the tables for Pancanga-s for usage in religious, cultural, civil, and administrative works.


This year, 78 CE, marking the beginning of the current Saka also indicates the probable date of Senkuttuvan’s northern trip. He must have started from Vanji two years before that because two years and eight months were over after he procured the stone and was resting on the banks of Ganga.


So, our search for Kannagi’s date of burning Madurai starts before 76 CE.


Probable dates of burning Madurai


I checked right from the beginning of the century (1 CE) till 76 CE for the combination of Adi month, Krishna Ashtami, Krittika star, Friday afternoon. I checked both with Surya Siddhanta ayanamsa and Drik ayanamsa. Surya Siddhanta Ayanamsa looked more agreeable because it was only in 499 CE, the tropical zero degree of Aries coincided with Sidereal zero-degree Aries. So close to that mid-point, the 1st century must have been Surya Siddhanta ayanamsa compliant.


The following are the dates for the date combinations for 4 p.m. (Madurai was burnt in the afternoon)

1)     July 5th, CE 5 (SS ayanamsa)

2)    July 16th, CE 32 (Drik ayanamsa) – In SS, the Sun has shifted to the next month.

3)    July 13th, CE 46 (Drik ayanamsa) – In SS, the tithi changed to Krishna Navami

4)    July 14th, CE 73 (SS ayanamsa)

5)    July 10th, CE 76 (SS ayanamsa)


Of all these, CE 76 is closer to CE 78, the Salivahana Saka that started with the defeat of the Yavana-s. The planetary combination also shows a dreadful event on that evening. The horoscopy chart is produced [see URL].


For the lagna at 4 p.m., the 8th house is maligned by the conjunction of two fiery planets, namely, Mars and Sun within 1 degree. They both happen to occupy the Mrityu Bhaga which gives deadly results. Saturn, a maraka, is retrograde and is moving towards Mrityu Bhaga besides getting locked in a mutual aspect with Sun and Mars, its worst enemies. Jupiter, the Dharmadhikari is also retrograde in Mrityu Bhaga and in the 8th from the Sun, the significator for King. The affliction to Sun indicates a bad time for the king. The Moon, signifying people, is in Marana avasta and is in Kemadruma yoga suffering from downfall. There are null bindus in the 8th house in Moon’s ashtaka varga. In the Martian Ashtaka varga there are no bindus in the 4th house that signifies home or country. Null bindus indicate affliction to the significances of those houses, namely life and people of the country.


This kind of deadly combination does not exist for any other dates given above. Moreover, Senkuttuvan having started his military expedition soon after Kannagi’s death following the burning of Madurai, CE 76 is the most probable date of burning Madurai.


Manimekalai must have been born just around that time and was a baby when Kannagi left. As per Manimekalai, she had gone to the temple of Kannagi built by Senkuttuvan in Vanji as a young girl. If we take CE 73, the planetary combinations are not that deadly to cause a havoc to the king and the people and by fire. So, CE 76 was the year of the burning of Madurai.


It was year Dhaata, Aadi month, Krishna Ashtami, Krittika and Friday.


CE 76 is the cut-off date in so many ways. The last flood that changed the boundary of Pumpukar occurred after that date, as per Manimekalai. The Tamil lands changed after that with Buddhism taking root. The new Era of Salivahana was ushered in which was followed in the Tamil lands. Kanchi, which was mostly Advaitic due to the influence of Adi Shankara, started embracing Buddhism.


Expanding these versions, let me start from what Masatthuvan, father of slain Kovalan, told Manimekalai. He was staying in Vanji when Manimekalai, the daughter born to Kovalan from Madhavi, visited Vanji. He narrated the old story of an ancestor of Kovalan born nine generations before Kovalan, who constructed a Chaitya for Buddha on a hilltop in Vanji. It was established at a time when the then Chera King had a low and was advised by the Buddhist sages who returned from Lanka after going around a hill called “Samano?i” where a Buddhist shrine is located. This was originally the abode of Lanka of Ravana, which had gone to the hands of the Buddhists for long such that its original history is never uttered, though a Buddhist text does refer to it as Ravana’s abode.


He also talked about a curse on Pumpukar of a flood. Expecting the flood to destroy Pumpukar anytime, he shifted to Vanji. This flood did take place, but researchers are not sure about its exact date. From the utterance of Masatthuvan, it is deduced that it occurred sometime after 78 CE or in other words, in the latter part of the 1st century CE.


When the young Manimekalai visited Kanchi, it was reeling under drought and famine. The ruling king of Kanchi was a Chola king by name, I?am Ki??i, who agreed to abide by the advice of Manimekalai to set up a Buddha Vihara in a waterhole made long ago on the advice of a Buddhist. It was uncared for until then, but the king on the advice of Manimekalai agreed to renew it, hoping to wipe out the famine. Kanchi, the land of Advaita until then under the influence of Adi Shankara who spent his last days there, was gradually lost to Buddhism by the later part of the first century CE.


Kannagi in Kodungallur


There are several temples dedicated to Kannagi in Kerala, but the temple of Bhagavati in Kodungallur deserves analysis because the original temple of Kannagi was consecrated in Kodungallur (Vanji) only. 


Today that temple houses an Ugra form of Bhagavati, a manifestation of Kali with a legend that she destroyed Daruka, the asura. As per Silappadhikaram, king Senguttuvan in consultation with experts in temple architecture and Sthapati-s decided the form of Kannagi and built a magnificent temple with all the Dikphala-s. There is no word on what form was given to her, but she was glorified as Parvati, the daughter of Himavan. So, there is every likelihood of her having the form of Kali with a fierce and angry look.


Kodungallur Bhagavati – Kannagi


There are many folk songs in Kerala partially or completely depicting the story of Kannagi. They are all in oral form and not known to have a written form. Generationally devotees have been singing them. Most important are Kannagi Thottam, Manimanka Thottam which describe Kannagi’s story. Manimanka refers to Kannagi which sounds like Mangala Madanthai described for her in Silappadhikaram.


Nallamma Thottam, Mudippurai Thottam or Mudippurai Paattu also describe Kannagi’s story. The Thottam Paattu is also known as Bhadrakali Paattu which refers to Kannagi legend and is influenced by the Kali cult.


In Kali Paattu, the destruction is by fire with a reference to Kannagi of destroying Madurai. In North Kerala, Kali is the theme of the songs but in South Kerala Kannagi dominates the narrative. In Kodungallur, the Bharani Paattu is most famous and celebrated from the Bharani of Kumbha month to the Bharani of Meena month. Bharani Paattu focuses on Kannagi though it ends up in praise of Kali.


This is almost same as how Silappadhikaram describes the last two chapters after the consecration was done. Kannagi who suffered a lot as a mortal is praised with godly qualities of vanquishing enemies.


The choice of Bharani and the specific month of Kumbha and Meena also could be the date of consecration. She burnt Madurai in Krittika star. Bharani, coming before that star saw Kannagi full of hopes of happy days ahead. But Krittika changed her life. Perhaps to tap her happy mood for the benefit of mankind Bharani festival was conducted. And it also turned out to be the time of Kavu Theendal when oracles are heard. Silappadhikaram says that frequent oracles were heard after Kannagi was consecrated. 


It is also possible to assume that the consecration as done on a Bharani day in Kumbha month. The text says that the celebration went on for some time. Perhaps it went on till the next Bharani which is being followed till date.  





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