The Pandyan king who engraved the emblems on the Himalayas – V
by Jayasree Saranathan on 25 Jul 2021 1 Comment

An early Pandyan king had reached the Himalayas and engraved the fish emblem of his dynasty and also the tiger and bow emblems of Chola and Chera dynasties alongside. The Tamil portion of the Sinnamanur Copper plates states that he engraved them on top of the Northern Mountain (Vada-varai in Tamil). 


This stands out from what the Cheran king Imaya Varamban Nedum Cheraladhan and the Cholan king Karikaal Cholan had done. The Cheran and Cholan kings had engraved the emblem of their own kingdoms, but the Pandyan king had engraved the emblems of all three Tamil countries. This information recorded 1000 years ago in Sinnamanur copper plates can also be cross-referenced in Silappadhikaram written 1900 years ago.


In the famous chapter on “Aicchiyar Kuravai”, the opening verses say,

“The Pandyan king whose orders were obeyed by the ‘tiger’ and the ‘bow’ that were engraved on the side of the ‘fish’ on the forehead of the Himalayas and the kings of the cool groves of Navalam” (Silappadhikaram, Ch 17: lines 1-5).


This verse implies that there was a time in the past of a Pandyan king who brought Cheran and Cholan kingdoms under his authority. The kingdoms of Navalam also were obeying his orders or were subservient to that Pandyan king. Navalam is the Tamil word for Jambu dweepa. Bharat (India) was referred to as Navalam Theevu until Silappadhikaram times.


The name of this king, Kon Nedumaran, finds mention only in one text that is available to us. The text is “Pandi-k-kovai”, a compilation done sometime about thousand years ago. Kovai is a type of composition which is basically an arrangement of verses in an orderly manner. There is an erroneous opinion that Kovai is a later innovation, but a Kovai, “Achara-k-kovai” was published during a Sangam Assembly.


The uniqueness of Pandikkovai is that the verses were originally found as quotes in the commentary by Nakkeerar to Iraiyanar Kalaviyal that was published for the first time in the last Sangam Assembly presided by Pandyan king Ugra Peru Vazhuthi, 2000 years ago. The verses of Pandikkovai must therefore be older than 2000 years.


The extensive usage of these verses in the commentary shows that the text that contained those verses was popular at that time. The commentator, Nakkeerar, did not think it necessary to mention the name of the text when he quoted as many as 326 verses from that text. This again goes to prove that the Assemblage that was sitting there to judge the quality and accuracy of the commentary was familiar with the verses.


The original text must be having more than 326 verses. The name of the original composition and its author are not known. Long after Nakkeerar’s time, these 326 verses were arranged by an unknown person in a coherent way and given the name, Kovai of the Pandya, ‘Pandikkovai’. Some of the information contained in Pandikkovai can be cross checked from other sources that help us to decipher parts of history of the past.


Kon Nedumaran, the king who engraved the fish symbol on the Himalayas


There are six verses in Pandikkovai that mention that Kon Nedumaran engraved the fish emblem on the Himalayas. Of them, one verse says that he engraved the emblems of the other two kings. It is not possible to make out from the verses when and how he made this expedition, but there is a verse that gives a connection to the river Ganges by mentioning him as “Gangai Manalan” meaning ‘husband of Ganga’. This name comes in the context of a victory at a place called “Mana??i Mangai”. It is not known which place is indicated by this except that Mangai refers to ‘woman’. Perhaps the king overpowered some resistance in a place near the river Ganges having ‘woman’ as part of its name, while on his way to the Himalayas. His victory at that place near the Ganga might have given him the title “husband of Ganga” (Pandikkovai, Verse 180).


The six verses mentioning the fish emblem on the Himalayas give some other information too.

(1) Verse 154 says, Shatru Dhuradharan who had fish on the golden mountain.

(2) Verse 32 says, The golden mountain adorned with black fish at its head (peak).

(3) Verse 51 says, Panjavan who placed the “Kendai” fish on top of the snowy northern mountain, he who won Pazhi.

(4) Verse 200 says, Vanavan Maran who affixed ‘Kendai’ on top of the northern mountain.

(5) Verse 109 says, Nedumaran who fixed the spotted “Kendai” fish on the tall, golden mountain and ruled righteously with his sceptre won Nelveli.

(6) Verse 100 says, Varódhayan (a title of Kon Nedumaran) who carved the tiger and the fish above the bow on the tall, golden mountain.


Information from the 6 verses


(1) The king Kon Nedumaran had ceremonial titles in Sanskrit. In the first quote he is mentioned as “Shatru Dhuradharan”, meaning ‘unstoppable’, ‘invincible’ etc. He was unstoppable by his enemies and therefore the title Shatru Dhuradhara. Assuming that titles are given by learned men, this shows that Sanskrit scholars were present in his country and Sanskrit was in usage and understood by people.


The 6th quote mentions him as “Varódhayan” also a Sanskrit word. He was considered as a boon. There are other titles found in Pandikkovai, some of which are Sanskritised, such as “Parangushan”, “Ushithan”, Vijaya Charithan” etc. This shows that Sanskrit had a presence in Deep South from an undated antiquity.


(2) The fish in the symbol is specifically mentioned as “Kendai”. This is Mullet fish found in tropical waters. It looks long. This is in contrast to the twin fish emblem seen in later Pandyan period. The coins released by Sundara Pandyan of the 13th century CE bears images of twin fish (Mullets) along with bow and tiger, showing his victory over Cholan and Cheran lands.


Sundara Pandyan’s son, Veera Pandyan, engraved the twin fish symbol on Konamalai (Trincomalee) in Sri Lanka. There is no way to assume that early Pandyans used twin fish.


(3) The third quote erases any doubt about the mountain on which the king engraved the symbol. It specifically mentions that the mountain was snowy and its location was in the north. This is an obvious reference to the Himalayas. The second and sixth quotes refer to the golden colour of the mountain, Chem-pon, meaning red-gold, possibly a reference to the glistening colour under the sun rays.


(4) The third quote mentions another name of the king as “Panjavan” who won Pazhi. This information on the victory at Pazhi that gave the king the name Panjavan is found in the inscription of Sinnamanur copper plates.


The inscription links the title “Panjavan” with the victory at Pazhi without mentioning the name of the king who scored that victory. (The Tamil pronunciation is Panjavan, not Panchavan). Olden Pandyans carried two titles, Panjavan and Gowriyan. These titles appear in Sangam verses. Gowriyan is easily decipherable as it refers to Gowri (Parvati or Meenakshi) from whom the Pandyans traced their lineage.


The title Panjavan is perplexing as it seems to refer to number five. Present day commentators and writers have tried to understand the meaning of Panjavan on this basis. The most commonly heard explanation for this name is that it refers to the five types of land forms that were supposed to be present in the Pandyan land. There is a line in a Sangam text called “Madurai-k-kanji” that says that the Pandyan kingdom had five types of lands (Madurai-k-kanji, line 325).


But the above quoted part of the Pandyan inscriptions says that the name Panjavan was due to the victory at Pazhi. This gives a clue to look for probable words connected with battles and battle fields. There is a word in Tamil ‘Panjaritthal” which means “giving trouble”. The Pandyan king came to be called as Panjavan because he caused trouble to his enemies at Pazhi from whom he snatched Pazhi in the battle. So the name Panjavan is derived from ‘Panjaritthal’. Panjavan is one who did Panjaritthal.


The victory at Pazhi must have been a great one that changed the Pandyan or even Tamils’ history. Otherwise this name would not have found mention in the inscription and remained forever in the lineage as a titular name. The victory at Pazhi by Kon Nedumaran is mentioned in few other verses of Pandikkovai. In two verses there is a specific mention of Then Pazhi, meaning Southern Pazhi (Pandikkovai, verse 165 and verse 151). This reference to south is significant as Pazhi formed the southern boundary of the Tamil lands of Pandyan of the First Sangam period.


As per the commentary by Adiyarkku Nallar to Silappadhikaram, South Pazhi was a port. One of the meanings of Pazhi in Tamil is ‘port’ or ‘dock yard’. The South Pazhi was at a distance of 700 Kavadham / Kadam from a river called Pahruli. There were 49 scattered lands present in this span across the Indian Ocean during the First Sangam age. They were all lost to the seas along with South Pazhi in the second submergence. Only river Pahruli was left along with the river Kumari after that submergence. And they also were lost to the seas in the third submergence that made the Pandyan kingdom to shift to present-day Madurai. Therefore, the victory of Kon Nedumaran at South Pazhi puts him at First Sangam age, at greater antiquity.


The Sinnamanur inscriptions do not mention the names of kings of antiquity. By not mentioning the name of the one who won at Pazhi and who engraved the emblems at the Himalayas, it is made out that they belonged to antiquity. This also serves as a proof that Kon Nedumaran did belong to a remote past in history in a region where habitats existed scattered across the Indian Ocean.


Acquisition of South Pazhi must have meant complete eradication of any threat from the surrounding areas to Pandyan lands. South Pazhi as a major port city must have boosted the economic and political power of the Pandyans and facilitated the movement of people and goods in olden days. Therefore winning Pazhi by wresting it from those who occupied it earlier meant a feather in the cap for the Pandyans. For this acquisition, Kon Nedumaran came to be celebrated as Panjavan, which his descendants proudly remembered by adopting it as their titular name.


The word Pazhi having the special letter of Tamil ‘zhi’ is interchangeable with ‘li’. In his commentary to Silappadhikaram, writer Adiyarkku Nallar (10th/12th century CE) mentioned Pazhi as Pali! Pali was the oldest language of the common people of India. Is it just coincidental that this name was found in Pandyan lands? Does Pali language have any connection with Pazhi?


(To be continued)


User Comments Post a Comment

Back to Top