EARLY HISTORY OF SOUTH INDIA | PART 1 |Ancient History of India For UPSC


Megalithic Culture and the Pre-Sangam Era

• The Neolithic-Chalcolithic amalgam which seems to have been round about 2000 B.C. continued upto about the middle of the fi rst millennium B.C.
• It was then overlapped by the Megalithic culture inhabited by the megaliths builder. They are known not from their actual settlement which is rare but from their graves, these are called megaliths because they were encircled by big pieces of stones.
• About the beginning of the Christian era the Megalith culture in South India was overlapped by what has been called ‘Andhra culture’ on account of the occurrence of Andhra coins.
• This is the time when south India had a large volume of trade with Roman world.
• Again the culture and economic contacts between the north and the south paved the way for the introduction of material culture brought from the north to the Deep South by traders, conquerors, Jainas, Buddhist and some Brahaman missionaries.
• The Vindhya Range was recognized as the southern limit of the Aryan land. Manu states distinctly that the country between the Himalayas and the Vindhyas and between the eastern and western oceans comprised Aryavarta, the abode of the Aryans.
• The Suttanipatta of the Buddhist canon records that teacher Bavari left Kosala and settled in a village on the Godavari in the Assaka country in Dakshinapatha.
• His pupils are said to have gone north to meet Buddha and their route lay through Patitthana (Paithan) in the Mulaka country, Mahishmati (Mandhata) on the Narmada, and Ujjain. Bavari is said to have been learned in the Vedas and performed Vedic sacrifi ces.
• Kautilya speaks of the pearls and muslins of the Pandyan country. The name of the Pandyan capital Madura recalls Mathura of the North, and Greek accounts, as we have seen, narrate the story of Herakles (in the context, Krishna) setting his daughter Pandaia to rule over the kingdom bordering on the southern sea.
• In the Mahabharata, the story of Rishi Agastya’s connection with South India comes into prominence.
• In later Tamil tradition, Agastya’s southerly march is accounted for by the interesting legend that on the occasion of Shiva’s marriage with Paravati, Agastya had to be sent to the South to redress the balance of the earth which had been rudely disturbed by the assemblage of all the gods and sages in the North.
• In the Ramayana, as they are on their way to Agastya’s ashrama, Rama tells his brother Lakshmana how Agastya intent upon the good of the world, overpowered deadly demon, thereby rendered the earth habitable.
• A beam of Indian cedar found in the place of Nebuchadnezzar (604-562 B.C.), the teak logs found in the temple of the Moon God at Ur at levels belonging to about the same age or a little later, and the Baveru Jataka which relates the adventures of certain Indian merchants who took the fi rst peacock by sea to Babylon, all confi rm the existence of active maritime intercourse between South India and its western neighbours.
• The Assyrian and Babylonian empires traded with India by sea from their ports on the Persian Gulf and continued to receive gold, spices and fragrant woods from India.
• In Chinese history, there are many references to maritime traders bringing typical Indian products to China as far back as the seventh century B.C.
• The Arthashastra of Kautilya gives some information of value about the trade between the North and the South in the age of the early Mauryan Empire.
• The kingdoms of South India, together with Ceylon, are mentioned in the second and thirteenth rock edicts of Ashoka. The list in the second edict is the more complete and includes the names of Chola, Pandya, Satiyaputa, Keralputa and Tambapanni (Ceylon).
• The short Damili inscriptions found in the natural rock caverns of the South have many features in common with the similar but more numerous records of Sri Lanka and are among the earliest monuments of the Tamil country to which we may assign a date with some confi dence.
• The stories of the Mahabharata and the Ramayana were well-known to the Tamil poets, and episodes from them are frequently mentioned.
• The Tolkappiyam states that marriage as a sacrament attended with ritual was established in the Tamil country by the Aryans.

Sangam States

1. Chera Kingdom

The monarchies of the Cheras, the Cholas and the Pandyas were believed, at least in subsequent ages, to be of immemorial antiquity, and the poems of the Sangam attest the anxiety of all of them to connect themselves with the events of the Great War between the Kauravas and the Pandavas. The first Chera monarch we hear of is Udiyanjeral (AD 130) who is said to have fed sumptuously both the armies of Kurukshetra, and thereby earned for himself the title ‘Udiyanjeral of the great feeding’. The son of Udiyanjeral was Nedunjeral Adan who won a naval victory against some local enemy on the Malabar cost, and took captive several Yavana traders whom for some time he subjected to harsh treatment, for reasons that are not clear, but subsequently released after obtaining a heavy ransom. He is said to have fought many wars and spent many years in camp with his armies. He won victories against seven crowned kings, and thus reached the superior rank of an Adhiraja. He was called Imayavramban –‘He who had the Himalaya for his boundary’- a title explained by the claim that he conquered all India and carved the Chera emblem of the bow on the face of the great mountain- an instance of poetic exaggeration not uncommon in these poems. His capital is called Marandai. He fought a war with the contemporary Chola king in which both the monarchs lost their lives and their queens performed Sati.
Adan’s younger brother was ‘Kuttuvan of many elephants’ who conquered Kongu and apparently extended the Chera power from the Western to the Eastern sea for a time. Adan had two sons by different queens. One of them was known as ‘the Chera with the Kalangay festoon and the fi bre crown’, the crown he wore at his coronation is said to have been made of Palmyra fi bre and the festoon on it contained Kalangay, a small black berry. It was not altogether to be despised for the crown had a golden frame and festoons of precious pearls, but why the king had to wear such an extraordinary tiara is not explained anywhere. He is said to have won successes against the contemporary Adigaiman chieftain Anji of Tagaddur and to have led an expedition against Nannan whose territory lay to the North of Malabar, in the Tulu country. He too was an Adhiraja wearing a garland of seven crowns.
The other son of Adan was Senguttuvan, ‘the Righteous Kuttuva’ (c.180), celebrated in song by Paranar, one of the most famous and longest lived poets of the Sangam Age. Senguttuvan’s life and achievements have been embellished by legends of a later time of which there are no traces in the two strictly contemporary poems, both by Paranar – the decade on the king in the ‘Ten Tens’, and a song in the Purananuru. The only material achievement they celebrate is a victorious war against the chieftain of Mohur. Paranar also says that Senguttuvan exerted himself greatly on the sea, but gives no details. He was given a title for driving back the sea, and this is taken to mean that he destroyed the effi ciency of the sea as a protection to his enemies who relied on it. If this is correct, he must have maintained a fleet. For the rest, we only learn that he was a skilled rider on horse and elephant, wore a garland of seven crowns as Adhiraja, and was adept in besieging fortresses, besides being a great warrior and a liberal patron of the arts. The epilogue to the decade adds a number of new articulars, the most important bearing on the establishment of the Pattini Cult, i.e., the worship of Kannagi as the ideal wife.

The stone for making the image of Pattini, the Divine chaste wife, was obtained after a fi ght with an Aryan chieftain and bathed in the Ganges before being brought to the Chera country. All these events are narrated with numerous embellishments and in epic detail in the Silappadikaram, though whether this poem derives from the epilogue to decade, or the epilogue from the epic, is more than we can say. The antiquity and popularity of the story of Kannagi and Kovalan and the probable existence of other and earlier versions of the Kannagisaga which preceded the Silappadikaram are fairly well-attested, and it is not unlikely that Senguttuvan took the lead in organizing the cult of Pattini, and was supported in his effort by the contemporary rulers of the Pandya and Chola countries and of Ceylon as the Silappadikaram says.
Altogether fi ve monarchs of the line of Udiyanjeral belonging to three generations are mentioned in the Padirruppattu, the number of years they are said to have ruled totals 201, while another three monarchs of the collateral line are said to have reigned for a further 58 years in all. Their reigns surely cannot have been successive, and we must therefore postulate a very considerable degree of overlapping. The Chera Kingdom must have been a sort of family estate in which all the grown-up males had a share and interest what Kautilya calls kula-sangha, a family group, and considers a very effi cient form of state organization.
A similar clan-rule might also have prevailed in Chola and Pandya kingdoms in this period. Such an assumption for the Cholas would be the best means of explaining Senguttuvan’s interference in a war of succession in which nine Chola princes lost their lives, it would also furnish a natural explanation for the occurrence in the Sangam poems of so many royal names, all to be accommodated within four or five generations.