Rama destroyed the Hanging walls of Lanka
by Jayasree Saranathan on 31 Dec 2023 8 Comments

There is literary evidence that the Cholas were the descendants of Rama. There are hymns in the Tamil Sangam texts that refer to Rama as the ancestor of the Chola clan. However, in tune with the practice of not mentioning the name of the king but indicating the name by the special deed done by them, the poets have often written about just two ancient kings as ancestors of the Cholas by mentioning the feats done by them. One saved a pigeon by offering his own flesh, whose identity can be easily found out as Sibi. Another was a valiant king who destroyed the hanging walls of the enemy. Until now no one had been able to identify either the city of hanging walls or the ancestral king who destroyed it. Analysis shows that it was Rama!


Let us begin with the hanging walls. Which city had the hanging walls? How could the walls be hanging? In the stories that have been handed down to us so far, there are two cities that are said to have had walls hanging from the sky.


Hanging cities


One was the city of Amaravati, the capital of Indra. It was said to be in the sky. The Chola genealogy says that Muchukunda who came in the Chola lineage was a friend of Indra, thereby giving the impression that Indra was not a mythical figure. Muchukunda’s name appears after Mandhata of the Ikshvaku lineage. Up to Mandhata, the Ikshvaku lineage and the Chola lineage have the same names. After Mandhata a diversion is seen with the name Muchukunda appearing as the son of Mandhata but not ascending the Ikshvaku throne. His name gets related to the Chola lineage in the Chola inscriptions.


Muchukunda once helped Indra to protect the city of Amaravati when he went to fight with the Asuras. This information given in Silappadhikaram further states that pleased with Muchukunda’s help in protecting Amaravati in his absence, Indra gifted him a deity by name “Naalangaadi Bhootha”. This deity was installed at the centre of the marketplace in Poompukar by Muchukunda. The worship of this deity continued till Silappadhikaram times (2000 years ago). Muchukunda’s name is also associated with the seven temples of Shiva known as Sapta Vidanga Sthalas in Thanjavur, giving further evidence of the existence of Muchukunda and his presence in south Tamilnadu long ago. What is of importance is that Amaravati was said to be in the sky.


Similarly, another city said to be in the sky was Lanka ruled by Ravana. Ravana told Sita that Lanka was situated on a mountain (Va- Ra: 3-47-29). On the hilltop, the city looked like a ‘hanging city’ through the clouds. Lanka was a walled city. As the clouds surround the mountain, those looking at it from below can only see the clouds on top of the mountain. The walls of the city partially concealed by the clouds gave an appearance as though the walls were hanging from the sky. Thus, the city of Lanka was praised as a city in the sky.


Ravana also said that his city was like Indra’s city of Amaravati (Va-Ra: 3-48-10) by which it is known that Amaravati must also have been a city situated on a hill. People called Devas might have lived there. It should be pointed out here that the region encompassing Thailand, Burma and Vietnam was named as Indra Dweepa. This region, in close proximity to Bharat, gives ample scope for movement and interaction between these two places.

Indra’s charioteer Matali gave his chariot to Rama and charioteered him in the war with Ravana, proving that Indra lived during Rama’s times. Matali sought an alliance for his daughter from human beings, indicating that Indra and the so-called Devas were also human beings, but could have been of a different human species. Ravana’s son was named Indrajit because he defeated Indra. All these show that there was nothing mythical about Devas and that Indra could have been a titular name of kings of Indra Dweepa. During the period of Rama, Amaravati and Lanka were hilltop cities, surpassing each other in beauty and structure.


The king who destroyed hanging walls


The account of the destruction of hanging walls is found in the 39th verse of the Purananuru. The poetess Marokatthu Nappasalaiyar congratulates Chola King Kulamurrathu Thunjiya Killi Valavan as one who was compassionate towards living beings like his ancestor who gave his body to save the dove. He is praised again as one who conquers the enemy like his ancestor who destroyed the hanging walls of the enemy’s city.  


Another poet, Nallur Naththathanar, in the Sangam text called Sirupaanaarru padai, recalled the king who gave his flesh to save the dove and the king who destroyed the hanging walls.  


In Tamil there is a compilation of proverbs written as poems by Munururai Araiyanar by citing an example to explain each proverb. In this compilation having 400 such poems, one of them refers to the one who destroyed hanging walls. In the context of expressing a proverb on the importance of hard work to be taken by one, the poet recalls the efforts put forth by the one for breaking the hanging walls.


In Manimegalai, in the story about the Chola king who celebrated Indra Festival, the author refers to “the king who destroyed the hanging walls”. This was written 2000 years ago.


In the Kalingatthu Bharani written in the eleventh century, the author Jayamkondar also refers to “the one who demolished the hanging walls” while recounting the greatness of the Chola lineage.


Solving the puzzle of hanging walls


The repeated reference to the hanging walls and the king who managed to break them was not given serious thought by scholars. While we are clueless about the city of hanging walls and the king who destroyed it, the first hint at solving this puzzle appears in Silappadhikaram. The context was the camp of the Chera king Senkuttuvan on the banks of the Ganga. After procuring the stone from the Himalayas to make the image of Kannagi, he was camping at the Ganga to conduct the abhisheka for the stone with the water of Ganga.


It had been thirty-two months since the king left his country (Vanji) on his northern expedition. While he was staying on the banks of the river Ganga, an ascetic by name of Maadalan from the Chera country came to the Ganga on a pilgrimage. He met the King and explained the happenings back home after the king left the country. While describing the events in the Chola country to which the queen belonged, Maadalan praised the Chola lineage by mentioning the king who destroyed the hanging walls. Herein he made a notable mention that the walls were three in number!


His specific mention of three-sided walls destroyed by an ancestral Chola king gives the first qualifying hint on the appearance of the fort wall. (Silappadhikaram: Ch- 27: lines 164-168)


This clue makes our search easier because such a city surrounded by three walls is mentioned by an Alwar in his composition. Tirumangai Alwar in his work called ‘Thiruvezhu koorrirukkai” refers to “Mummadhil ilangai” – Lanka of three walls! He goes on to say that Lanka’s three walls were destroyed by Vishnu (Rama)


So, Ravana’s Lanka which was situated on a hilltop was surrounded on three sides by walls. It looked as though it was hanging from the sky. It was destroyed by Rama. The ultimate hint comes from the religious literature of Alwars, but all along the Sangam Age poets were thrilled to mention the deed and not the name of the king. Perhaps the common man was aware of the name of the king, i.e., Rama in olden days. The information about the destruction of the hanging walls appearing until the 11th-century literary works, we can assume that it was common knowledge until then, but forgotten later. Without the verse of Alwar, we could not have established that it was Ravana’s Lanka.


The Cholas of the 10th and 11th century explicitly mentioned Rama as their ancestor. In the text called “Vikramacholan Ula” sung by Odda Koothar in praise of Vikrama Chola, the son of Kulottunga I, the poet refers to this king (Rama) who destroyed the hanging walls (line 17).


The same poet in another work called “Rajarajacholan Ula” refers to King Dasharatha as an ancestor of the Cholas. He also describes how Dasharatha got that name by having destroyed ten chariots with a single chariot he was riding. He further says that Rama was born in that lineage. Rama constructed a bridge across the sea with huge bounders to reach Lanka, and destroyed the hanging walls of Lanka (lines 19-25).


The riddle about the hanging walls is thus solved by the olden Tamil poets themselves who have made it known that Rama had done that feat. They also linked Rama with Chola-s ancestry which should put at rest the mischievous propaganda that Rama was alien to Tamil people. These details also open a new revelation in identifying the location of Lanka situated on top of a hill. Wouldn’t it be appropriate to say that Rama, who gave the Chola heritage, was the son of the Tamil land?

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