In this article, let me bring to the notice of the scholars an animal which was regarded as Mesha, the goat. The information of this animal is derived from Tamil Sangam sources.
Mesha, the goat that signifies the Mesha rashi of the zodiac is known as Aadu, Varudai, Thagar or Thagadu in Tamil. Of these Varudai, as an animal of the goat variety appears in many places in sangam literature. That Varudai also refers to the Mesha Rashi is known from the paripadal verse 11 that I quoted in the context of 3 Veethis (part -5 ) and the olden Tamil Thesaurus, 'Choodamani NigaNdu'
(1) From ParipAdal – 11 -5)
"வருடையைப் படிமகன் வாய்ப்ப"
"varudaiyai padimagan vaayppa"
Varudaiyai = to Mesha (goat)
Padimagan = son of earth = Bhauman = Mars.
Vaayppa = got into
varudaiyai padimagan vaayppa"= Mars got into Mesha rashi.
(2) From ChoodamaNi nigaNdu – verse 1-64
"மை வருடை ஆடு கொறி மறி மேடம் என்ப"
"mai varudai aadu koRi maRi mEdam enpa"
'mai, Varudai, aadu, koRi, maRi' etc are synonyms for goat or ram
mEdam = Mesha
enpa = it is said
"mai varudai aadu koRi maRi mEdam enpa" = It is said that mai, varudai, aadu, koRi and maRi are (synonyms of) Mesha.
In the NAdi manuscripts in Tamil, the solar months and rashis are mentioned in the name of the above synonyms of Mesha, the animal. The only other name found in Nadi manuscripts was "Mudhal Maatham" (First month) for Mesha maasa.
In the temple inscriptions that appeared around 1000 years ago, the names of solar months are mentioned by the rashi names.
To quote a few,
"Makara naayiRu" (literal meaning = Makara sun) for the solar month of Capricorn (Azhaga-p Permual temple, SEvUr, Avinashi, Coimbatore)
"Meena naayiRu" (literal meaning = Meena sun) for the solar month of Pisces (Patteeshwara temple, PErUr, Coimbatore)
These show the practice of mentioning solar month by rashi names or by the name of the animal, Mesha. If we notice, further back in time, say 2000 years BP, the practice was to mention the name of the animal whenever Mesha rashi or solar month of Aries had to be mentioned. For other months they had used (in sangam literature) the Tamil solar month names such as Maasi and Panguni – which is what we continue to use even today. The exception is Mesha which was mentioned as Varudai or Aadu - which goes to show the special importance given to Mesha – as it signified the year-beginning. Such traditions could not have come from a far-off Mleccha land of Greece, but could have been an extension of the culture of rest of India.
As we go further back in time, we find mention of 'Aadu' and 'Varudai' for Mesha. For example the year is known as "Varudam" in Tamil. This is derived from Varudai, in which the Tamil New Year begins. Similarly the Rajaraja Cholan inscriptions mention "AattaaNdu" meaning "the year that begins with Aadu /goat"
Varudam as the generic name of Year in Tamil has a story behind it which has been repeatedly quoted by Karunanidhi, the self-proclaimed protector of Dravidians (!). The 12th century Tamil Thesaurus of Abhidhana ChinthamaNI, written by a Jain monk, Hemachandra Suri says that the Year (Varudam) was formed by the pair of male Varudan and a male Varudi! (This Thesaurus only states the pre-existing idea or tradition in the Tamil society). This became a pet topic for Karunanidhi who loses no occasion to abuse Vedic system by saying that this system projects the New Year as the child born to a gay couple – male Varuda and a male Varudi, and therefore is fit to be rejected by the Tamils!
The inner meaning of this is that the Varuda (year) that comes with Varudai (the mesha) is also coming along with a pair. Who makes that pair? The Aswin brothers make the pair! The actual import is that the Tamil New Year begins with Mesha (Varudai) and a pair (of Aswins). Please recall the Messha –Aswin verse of Varahamihira (BJ 1-4). The same idea has been there in Tamil culture. These are being told here to justify that whatever is there in Tamil sources is therefore acceptable as Pan Indian or Vedic idea. The loss of literature and temples in North India due to invasions must be compensated by the evidences found in Tamil sources.
Now coming to the core theme of this article, the word Varudai for an animal is found in as many as 8 places in Tamil Sangam literature and in Silappadhikaram of the 2nd century AD. (Silappadhikaram was written in post- Sangam period). There is a sutra in the Sangam Grammar book of Tholkappiyam that mentions the name of the young one of Varudai. This goes to show the familiarity with this animal in the pre-common Era. These texts also say that Varudai is Varai –aadu meaning "Cliff- goat" – the goat that is found in mountain cliffs. The Sangam texts also say that these goats can effortlessly scale the steep slopes of the mountains.
These goats were not native to Tamil lands. A Cheran King brought them from DandakaraNya cliff! This act got him a title "Aadu kOtpaattu ChEralAdhan" – meaning "the king who brought the goat"!! Doesn't this name sound weird? A king may be glorified with a title if he overpowers a lion or tiger or an elephant or some such feat that is normally not possible. But here is a Cheran King who was glorified for having brought the goat! Unless the goat is a special one and difficult to be obtained and groomed, this title could not have been conferred on him.
The important information is that this king brought "varudai", the Mesha that I have written above. In the compilation of poems on Cheran kings called as "PathiRRu-p-patthu" (meaning, 10 compilations of 10 poems on 10 kings), the 6th group of poems is on the Cheran King whose original name is not known. But his titular names have been given in the introductory verse as "Aadu- kotpaattu Cheraladhan" and "VAna varamban" VAna varamban means "the one for whom sky is the limit". The verse says,
தண்டாரணியத்துக் கோள்பட்ட வருடையைத்
தொண்டியுள் தந்து கொடுப்பித்துப் பார்ப்பார்க்குக்
கபிலையொடு குடநாட்(டு) ஓரூர் ஈத்து
வான வரம்பன்எனப் பேர்இனிது விளக்கி …………
*ஆடுகோட் பாட்டுச் சேரலாதனை*
யாத்த செய்யுள் அடங்கிய"
"DandakAraNyatthuk kOLpatta Varudaiyaith
thONdiyuL thanthu koduppiththup paarppaarkkuk
kapilaiyOdu kuda nAttu OrUr eenthu
vAna varamban enap pEr inithu viLangki...
Aadu kOt pAttuch chEralAdhnai
yAttha seyyuL adangkiya"
DandakAraNyatthu = danda kAraNya
kOLpatta = brought from
Varudaiyai = varudai / goat
thONdiyuL thanthu = brought to ThoNdi, the capital city of ChEra kings
koduppiththu = gave
paarppaarkku = to Brahmins
kapilaiyOdu = along with cows
kuda nAttu OrUr = a place (Ur) in Kuda nAdu
eenthu = gifted
vAna varamban = 'one with sky as the limit'
enap pEr = such a name
inithu viLangki...= becoming suitable (for him)
Aadu kOt pAttuch chEralAdhnai = The Cheran king who brought the goat
yAttha seyyuL adangkiya = upon him these verses are made.
"The Cheran king went to DandakaraNya and brought Varudai goats to ThoNdi, his capital city and donated them to Brahmins, along with cows and gifted them a place in Kuda Nadu. This gave him an apt name as 'one for whom sky is the limit". Such a king 'who brought goat' – upon him these verses are made."
By the title of VAna varmban (sky as the limit), it is known that he has scaled the peaks of Vindhyas in Dandakaranya. By the title of Aadu kOtpattu ChEralaadhan, it is known that he had brought a rare variety of goats from DandakaraNya region. By the mention of Varudai, as the goat that he had brought, it is known that the Mesha goats were procured by him from the cliffs of Vindhyas – a feat which was considered as rare in his times. It is rare because these goats do not survive in plains. They are adapted to cliffs and cold and dense forested areas of the mountains. That is why he had settled them in Kuda Nadu – a mountainous region of the western ghats. These goats are still surviving today, though they are an endangered species.
The popular name of them is Nigiri Tahr though they continue to be called as Varudai and Varai aadu (cliff goats) as found mentioned in sangam texts. Browse this link for more information on this species.
The place where they are found in good numbers is Eravi KuLam – which has been turned into a reserve for their protection. Eravi KuLam means Ravi – kuLam (Ravi's / Sun's pond or tank). Ravi is written as Eravi as, it is customary to add 'e' before the names that start with 'ra'. Eg Rama is written in Tamil as Erama.
The name Eravi Kulam goes well with these goats. Sun exalts in Mesha and the year also starts with the Sun entering Mesha. In other words the solar months start from Mesha. Mesha signifies mountainous and forestry area where the mountainous goats live. We can see all these fitting with Varudai / Nilgiri Tahr of Eravikulam of the Munnar hills.
Similar naming is found in Suryanar Kovil too– the abode for Planetary God Sun in Kumbakonam area. This temple of Sun is situated in a place called Aadu-thuRai – which means the region or resting place of Aadu / goat. Sun – Mesha connection is thus seen here also. In addition, there is Aswini connection to Sun and Goat/ Mesha. This place, Aadu thuRai is also called as "Marutthuvak kudi" – meaning 'the place of the physician'. This shows the connection to Aswini brothers who are celestial physicians.
Coming back to Nilgiri Tahr, Eravi Kulam is situated on a mountain called Raja-malai –meaning the mountain of the king! Why this name, unless the King had special connection to this mountain? There is a Deva malai too near this region.
The reason why the king entrusted the goats (varudai) to the Brahmins and settled them in a separate town must be because of the Vedic rituals that come along with Mesha sankramana and Vishu! The place where these Brahmins were settled must have flourished as a Veda Patashala in course of time.
Eravikulam is close to a region called "Anju Nadu" – "Five lands" – which were KAnthaloor, Keezhanthur, Karayur, Marayur and Kottakudi. Of these KAnthaloor appears in Cholan inscriptions. Almost all the inscriptions of the 10th century king Rajaraja Chola (who built the Big temple at Tanjore) begins with the mention of king gaining control over "kAnthaloor Shala". Tamil researchers are confused what this Shala was about. Having been brain washed for nearly a century that Tamils were Dravidians who were over powered and driven out of the Indus region by the Aryans, they are not able to accept the most common meaning of Shala, as a Pata shala or Veda Pata shala.
Now another edict is available from Parthiva sekra puram of Kanyakumari district written in the 9th century AD of a Shala where Vedic learning was done and from where Vedic scholars were trained and sent to temples for doing rituals. This shows that KAnthaloor shala was also a Veda pata shala from where the Cholan king got his priests to temples to do the homas and rituals. During this king's time as many 34 temples rituals were conducted of which 12 were sankramana pujas for 12 sankaranthis and 2 were for the 2 Vishus. This perhaps explains the reason for Aadu kOt Paattu chEralAdhan to have gone to Vindhyas to procure these goats. In his desire to conduct the Vedic ceremonies on Mehsa sankramana and Vishu (please note Vishu was always celebrated on the day of Mesha sankramana in Tamil lands.) with all the features associated with them, he had brought the Mesha / varudai to his country.
More than 1000 years later, the Cholan and Pandyan kings also managed to wrest control over these Patashalas where varudai were grown. Thus we find not only the Cholan king, Raja raja Chola taking control over KAnthaloor shala but also the Pandyan king, Paranthaka Pandyan taking control of kAnthaloor shala. That explains the spread of Nilgiri Tahr to as far as Palani hills. The Marayur in the 5 regions also go well with this system as Marai in Tamil means Vedas. But the wiki article makes some funny meanings for Marayur. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marayoor Marayur has an archeological history of 10,000 years.
Let us now anlayse the main issues concerning this Varudai. This animal had been present in the Vindhya ranges about 2000 years ago. Going by the importance given to Varudai as Mesha animal, it becomes clear that this goat had enjoyed the same status in the regions and cities around Vindhyas. Notable city in this vicinity is Ujjain, known for its Vedic and astrological eminence. Today the species has become extinct in this region.
Further north, the Himalayan Tahr has been an indigenous animal of the same species. Since Nilgiri Tahr is related to Himalayan Tahr, there is scope to believe that the Vindhya species must have been brought over there from the Himalayas. From Vindhyas, the Cheran king had brought it to the Western Ghats.
Researchers have identified only 3 types – Nilgiri Tahr, Himalayan Tahr and Arabian Tahr as being close to each other. The peculiarity shared by Nilgiri Tahr and Arabian Tahr is that they are tropical animals – a feature that no goat variety of Greece can claim.
In fact iinitially when the British people came to know of Nilgiri Tahr in Munnar region, they expectedly revived their Greek memories. Ogilby (1838) who analysed this species even wrote that it was similar to 'Krios' of Greeks. But with more analysis coming up, it was found out that this species is unique to tropical rain forests and was also identified along with Himalayan Tahr! This is the only species related to Himalayan Tahr that is found south of the Himalayas. None of them (Himalayan or Nilgiri Tahr) had gone out of India or have been brought to India from outside. The Himalayan Tahr has limited presence only within the Himalayas as shown in the picture below.
The Nilgiri Tahr has presence only in the Western Ghats of Tamilnadu and Kerala.
Compare this with Krios. Krios was originally a Titan God, one among the 4 directional entities – and not an animal or goat. He represented the southern direction. (http://www.theoi.com/Titan/TitanKrios.html http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crius )
As people noticed spring time coming up with rising Aries in the South (as seen from their region), they started calling it Krios. The Ram connection to this constellation is not found in classical texts of Greece but seems to be a later addition. Why should they call Krios, the mythical God as a Ram when no ram existed by that name? That idea was not there in Greece before. But the idea of Ram was in India as an animal indigenous to India whose popularity was spread as far as South India. The identification of an animal as Mesha existed in India and not in Greece. It is nothing but ignorance to talk as their own invention about an animal that was not there in their lands, while its presence and symbolism were very much there in India with specific reference to the features of Mesha rashi (mountainous and forestry region in the sunny tropical region). This proves that the idea of Aries as an animal, ram had gone from India to Greece and not vice versa. If the opponents have given some link to Arabian Tahr, I would have given them a benefit of doubt, but certainly not with a non-existing animal called Krios.
The next issue is the time period when this Varudai was brought by the Cheran King. There is no clue from Sangam literature except a reference in Silappadhikaram. The 2nd century AD text of Silappadhikaram tells about the picnic that the Cheran king made to a hill resort. There he was greeted by the hill tribes who gifted him Varudai. This shows that by the 2nd century AD, the Varudai population had grown well in the hilly tracts of Chera lands (Munnar).
The sangam texts which preceded the Common Era make liberal mention of Varudai at 8 places as far as I have identified, which also make a mention of these goats as precious and lovable ones which even people groomed as pets. This puts the period of Varudai before the beginning of the Common Era. But then Varudai was already recognized as the animal of Mesha rashi in the region of DandakAraNya and Vindhyas. This puts its period to centuries before the Common Era.
Though we don't have direct clues to the period of its recognition as an animal of Mesha rashi, there is an indirect clue to it in a Brahmi inscription found at a place called MAnguLam, in the north of Madurai. The inscriptions found in a cave here are the earliest so far found in Tamilnadu and dated at 3rd century BC by K.V. Subrahmanyam Ayyar. These inscriptions have been deciphered by H. Krishna Sastri, KV. Subrahmanyam Ayyar, Narayana Rao, TV. Mahalingam, R. Nagasamy, Iravatham Mahadevan and Mayilai Seeni. Venkatasamy. I am reproducing these details from the publication of Archeological department of Tamil nadu, titled "Thamizh – Brahmi kalvettugaL" edited by Sreedhar, Special Commissioner of the Archeological Dept, Tamilnadu.
The inscription of interest to us tells about the gift of bed to a Jain monk named Nandasiriyan (split and written as Nanda asiriy in Brahmi) who was a GaNi (astrologer). The gift was made during the reign of Pandyan king Nedum chezhiyan. The gift was made by the father of 'sAlagan' of this Pandyan king. The father's name (who gave out the gift) was given as "satikan" and his son "ILam satikan"(satikan, the Junior). These words – sAlagan and satikan are not Tamil words, nor are they found as names of Tamil people. None of the epigraphers could decipher what "satikan" means. But sAlagan was deciphered as SyAlaka of Sanskrit, meaning 'wife's brother'. Most epigraphers mentioned above think that it must be syAlaka – wife's brother. The inscription says that Pandyan king's wife's brother's father (father in law) had made the gift. If that is what they had meant, they could have straight away written 'father-in-law' of the Pandyan king. But they didn't. This shows that SAlakan was used here to mean the co-brother – husband of wife's sister and not brother in law / wife's brother. This is one deviation from the usage we know today. I find a similar deviation in Satikan.
This Pandyan King had been very prosperous (PaNavan) and a well known sea-farer (kadalan) as per the description found in other inscriptions of the same cave. His chief queen must have been from a popular royal family. Her sister must have married a king of Tamil lands who was also a popular one. This is where I find the use of the word 'Satikan' apply. There is no 'sa' – 'ja' variation in Brahmi letters. But it is there in Tamil letters. There are Tholkappiyam sutras on how to write Sanskrit letters (vada sol / northern words). If the word is Jatilan (Jatila = written with a suffix 'n' in Tamil), it could be written as 'satilan' in Brahmi.
But this inscription shows Satikan – such kind of mistakes is common in Brahmi inscriptions found in Tamilnadu. There are inscriptions which are mirror images (eg:- Kunnakkudi inscriptions ascribed to 3rd century AD).The inscription found at Thirupparanm kundram is upside down. It is dated at 1st century AD. The inscription at Keezha vaLavu has jumbled letters with some letters written upside down. This is dated at 2nd century BC. The main reasons for such mistakes could be that the stone cutters were not literates and that the Tamils were unfamiliar with Brahmi letters, because Brahmi letters were promoted by the Jain monks who insisted on using Brahmi letters to write down the Tamil words of gift deeds.
Going by the level of dependability of Brahmi words, it looks probable that Jatilan was written as Jatikan / satikan. Jatila was the name of high breed goat! We know of the Cheran king who had a titular name as one who brought the goat. This gives rise to the notion that he was called as Jatila! His son was Jatila- the Junior, which is what ILam satikan of the inscription means. The wife of this Jatila, the Junior was the sister of Pandyan king's wife! That is how the SyAlaka relationship goes. Jatila, the father of Jatila the Junior had made the donation to a Jain astrologer in the Pandyan land, near the Pandyan capital Madurai!
This Jatika – Jatila name is new to Tamil unless otherwise we bring in the titular name of the Cheran king who brought Varudai. (varudai is a perfect Tamil name). He was glorified for that act and the shala (KAnthaloor) where varudai were housed became an obsession with later kings of other Tamil lands. This goes to show the kind of importance and glory he would have enjoyed during his times. As one who brought the varudai having significance to astrology, it fits well with Jatila in having made a donation to a GaNi – astrologer. We may come across evidences in future from the Cheran land itself – in Munnar or Kanthaloor or Marayur (no archeological work has taken place so far in these places). For the time being, Jatilan, the father of SyAlaka of Pandyan Nedum Chezhiyan looks closer to Aadu kOt pattuch cheralAdhan. This puts his date at 3rd century BC!
Even if we discount this theory of Jatila, the previous location of Vindhyas having housed Varudai, puts its time a few centuries before the Common Era. This is clearly before the alleged borrowing from the Greeks in post- Alexander period.
In the next article we will see the Tamil sources on Mesha.
(to be continued)