How a Pandya ruler tackled rebellion

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The vattezhuthu inscription on copper plates throw new light on the dynasty.
Photo: By Special Arrangement

INFORMATIVE:Ilayanputhur copper plates of the early Pandya king Maravarman Arikesari.
A bunch of three copper plates that throws new light on the early Pandyas has been found in Tamil Nadu. This is the oldest of the copper plates of the early Pandyas, and they belong to the seventh century A.D. The charter on the plates was issued by Maravarman Arikesari alias Nedumaran. Also called Koon Pandyan he was converted from Jaina faith to Saivite faith by the Tamil saint Tirugnana Sambandar. The king was later canonised as a Nayanmar. The text on the copper plates, in both Tamil and Sanskrit, is revelatory on several counts. The Tamil portion, in Vattezhuthu, is in chaste Tamil in the form of a poem. It describes how Maravarman Arikesari faced “marakkedu”, that is, rebellion from the martial Maravar community led by a man called Kambalai when the king donated their land to a Brahmin called Narayanabhatta Somayaji; how the king subjugated Kambalai by “wielding the bow” and donated the land, renaming it “Ilayanputhur” to Narayanabhatta Somayaji and how the king supported the growth of the Saivite faith by building temples dedicated to Lord Siva and made votive offerings such as “iranyagarbham” and “tulabharam.”

Glowing terms

The inscription talks in glowing terms about the Pandya dynasty and delineates the history of Maravarman Parakesari and his father Jayanthavarman alias Sezhiyan Senthan.

Importantly, the text ends with the signature of the inscriber named Arikesari. These copper plates were found in 2007 in Madurai by the young numismatist M. Vijayakumar. The contents of the text were first published by a poet called S. Raju and epigraphist R. Poongunran in the Tamil newspaper Dinamalar on March 11, 2007.

Later, Y. Subbarayalu, Head, Indology, French Institute of Pondicherry and V. Vedachalam, retired Senior Epigraphist, Tamil Nadu Archaeology Department, published a meticulously researched paper in Tamil on the significance of these “Ilayanputhur” copper plates in “Avanam” (‘Record') magazine (volume 18, 2007).

Dr. Subbarayalu and Dr. Vedachalam said: “Six copper plates issued by the early Pandyas are so far available. But the Ilayanputhur plates are older to Velvikudi copper plates of the eighth century A.D. So this is the earliest of the charter issued by the early Pandyas. It throws new light on them. The lithic inscriptions of Nedumaran (Maravarman Arikesari) were earlier discovered on the banks of the Vaigai in Madurai and at Yanadi in Sivaganga district.”

What was interesting was that on palaeographic grounds, the Tamil inscription in the plates can be dated to ninth century A.D. although Maravarman Arikesari ruled in the seventh century A.D. Dr. Subbarayalu and Dr. Vedachalam explain this by arguing that the Brahmins, who received the charter, could have lost the plates during the revolt of Kambalai against the donation of their land. To re-establish their right over Ilayanputhur, the Brahmins could have re-written the charter on the plates about a century later. For it contains the name of the inscriber who lived during the time of the king. A similar instance was the ‘Pallankovil copper plates” of the Pallava king Simhavarman, who ruled during the 6th century A.D. But the plates were re-issued in the 8th century A.D.

Seal missing

Copper plate inscriptions, issued by almost all major dynasties in Tamil Nadu, generally record a king's gift of land to a temple or Brahmins or scholars, a village assembly's resolution or transactions of merchants' guilds. There are three copper plates in the Ilayanputhur bunch, each 24 cm long and 11.5 cm broad, with holes in them. But the ring with the seal of the Pandyas that would have held the plates together is missing. While two plates have inscriptions on one side only, the third has texts on both its sides.

More on Maravarman Arikesari

The text of the Ilayanputhur copper plates give several examples of Maravarman Arikesari nurturing Saivism. It often refers to Siva, the guardian deity of the Pandyas, as ‘Chandrasekarar' (one who wears the moon on his crown) and talks about how Maravarman Arikesari built the temple called ‘Arikesari Eswaram' at Kalakkudi and other places for the Lord. Kalakkudi is near the present-day Ukkirankottai in Tirunelveli district.

The text mentions how the king put down the rebellion of Kambalai when the lands belonging to the Maravar community were donated by him (the king) to Narayanabhatta Somayaji. It deals with the officer appointed to execute the king's charter, and mentions the name of the inscriber called Arikesari, son of Pandi Perumpanaikkaran. “This Arikesari, who is named after the king himself, was a great inscriber of the Pandya kings. The text mention this Arikesari as the son of Pandy Perumpanaikkaaran. Perumpanaikkaaran means Perunthatchan, that is, a great inscriber,” explained Dr. Subbarayalu and Dr. Vedachalam.

The text is so precise that it gives the boundaries of Ilayanputhur on its four sides and mentions that it was situated in the “Asinadu” (division). Asinadu must have situated near the present-day Kovilpatti and Sankarankovil, and Ilayanputhur must have existed near Tirumangalakurichi.

courtesy: The Hindu


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