Friday, October 12, 2018

Ramanuja is a history – 10 (Idangai, Kāpālika, Kālāmukha influence on persecution)

A direct reference to the destruction of a Vishnu temple and its properties appears perhaps for the first time in the records in the year CE 1080, which happened to be the 10th year of Kulottunga I. This inscription[i] found in Srirangam temple traces the destruction to a conflict between Right Hand (Valangai) and Left Hand (Idangai) classes. This could also be the first time a record appears blaming the Valangai-Idangai conflict for the destruction of a temple. The temple was Mummudi Chola Vinnagar Alwar at Rajamahendra Chaturvedi Mangalam, a Brahmadeya situated at a distance of 40 to 50 miles from Srirangam and created by or in the name of Rajamahendra Chola. The identity of this deity as Vishnu is ascertained from the fact that the inscription granting funds for rehabilitation is found in the northern wall of the 4th prakara of Srirangam temple. The odd feature about this inscription is that the record of the grant was made in the 10th year of Kulottunga while the destruction had happened in his 2nd regnal year.

The reference to Idangai – Valangai conflicts near Srirangam cannot be dismissed lightly because similar conflicts were rampant in Kanchi from 10th to 12th centuries. And not less than 6 Divya Desam temples of Vishnu [ii] are without their own temples today raising a question whether they were deliberately destroyed and not allowed to be re-built even in later years of monarchy. All these are found in Kanchi only. Of them Nilathingal Thundam is found today in the inner most Prākāra of the Ekambareswarar temple. Adi Varaha Perumal of Kalvanoor temple is without a temple but is found housed in a small shrine near the sanctum of Kamakshi Amman of Kanchipuram. Kamakshi Amman appears often in the references to Idangai- Valangai conflicts!

It must be noted here that Pillai Lokam Jeer in his commentary on ‘Ramanuja Nootrandhadhi’ makes a significant statement that the birth of Tirumangai Alwar happened at a time heretics (Pashandi) were destroying Vishnu Divya Desams in the Chola country to build Shiva temples. He also says that Alavandhar who was born some time after him won the debates with heretics in the royal court of Cholas.[iii]  This shows that the heretics were recognised by Chola kings or even patronised by them.

With Ramanuja coming in the same period, we can identify the period of royal support of heretics to 10th and 11th centuries. Royal support had extended to such an extent that freedom to follow one’s sect was curbed in the times of Ramanuja, as known from the persecution episode that cost Periya Nambi’s life, Kurattalwan’s eye sight and made Ramanuja leave the country. All these necessitate a study of the causes present in the Chola society at that time.

Two sets people emerge in our analysis at two levels of influence in the society and on the royal house. They were Idangai (Left hand) and Valangai (Right Hand) classes *(A note at the end of this article) with differences in socio-economic and political status. Another set comes from Idangai alone having distinct religious practices. They can be identified as Kapalikas, Kalamukhas, Pasupatas and Maheswaras. This distinction seemed to have come to stay in Ramanuja’s times.

By the time of Kulottunga III the Idangai identified themselves as having 98 sects, though they had conceded that they had forgotten their origins.[iv]  The Valangai too claimed to have 98 sects within themselves in later day inscriptions.[v]

Origins of Idangai and Valangai.

Though most historians have expressed inability to ascertain the origins of these two classes, we are able to get some hints from inscriptions and from Silappadhikaram, a Tamil text written 2000 years ago.

Many inscriptions make a reference to ‘Vaishnavas of 18 regions (naadu)’ in the case of Vishnu temples. Even Dr Nagaswamy refers to the ‘representatives of the Srivaishnavas of 18 regions’ as among the functionaries in charge of the administration of Srirangam temple.[vi] There are many inscriptions found in Karnataka too making a mention of these 18 castes, implying that they were not region specific, that is., not belonging to only Tamil lands.

Of importance is an inscription dated at CE 1362 during the reign of Kampana Odeyar, son of Bukka I which refers to ‘sons of forty eight generations’ in the context of 18 Srivaishnavas. [vii]

The author, Saletore interprets the sons of 48 generations to mean Jains and clubbed together  Srivaishnavas and Jains into one class of Valangai. It seems he is not aware that Srivaishnavites never aligned with Jains as they considered them heretics.

Here the reference to sons of 48 generations has a parallel to a similar reference found in the Tamil Sangam text of Purananuru. In the 201st verse of Puranauru composed by poet Kapilar we come across the reference to the king of Mysore (Erumaiyur), Irungovel as the 49th king coming in the lineage of kings who ruled Dwaraka! 48 generations were over when Kapilar composed the verse on him.

நீயேவடபால் முனிவன் தடவினுள் தோன்றிச்,
செம்பு புனைந்து இயற்றிய சேண்நெடும் புரிசை,
உவரா ஈகைத்துவரை ஆண்டு,நாற்பத்து ஒன்பது வழிமுறை வந்த
வேளிருள் வேளே!

This is identical with Velir migration mentioned by Naccinārkkiniyar in his commentary to Tolkāppiyam that eighteen kings of Krishna’s family, eighteen families of Velir and Aruvalars were brought (to Tamil lands). [viii]  Irungovel was a king coming in the lineage of one of the 18 kings of Krishna’s clan. The 48 generations before him work out to minimum of 1500 years, assuming 3 generations per century. With the date of this poem to be close to 2000 years before present, the time of Velir migration works out to be around 1500 BCE which is nothing but the date of the decline of the Indus- Sarasvatī civilization.

The presence of 18 clans can be cross referenced from Mahabharata in the narration of Krishna himself,  mentioned twice that 18 clans of Yadavas wanted to move out of Mathura for fear of Jarāsandha.[ix] They settled down in Dwaraka along with Krishna. They must have migrated to south along with 18 descendants of Krishna’s family. The 18 descendants of Krishna’s family settled down as Velir kings in Kerala, Mysore and the fringe regions of Chola and Pandya territories then. By the beginning of the Common Era all of them were liquidated.

The 18 Velir clans and Aruvalars remained in various regions and must be still continuing now without knowing their origins. Their association with Krishna in the past must have certainly made them Vishnu worshipers and they must have come to be identified as 18 Vaishnavite castes in due course. The reference to 48 generations must have come to be frozen at that number as almost all the Velir kings were gone by that time (start of the Common Era). There must have been a confusion or mix-up with the 48 generations that ended then and the 18 clans of Velirs who were fraternally connected with them.

The above inscription by Kampana Odeyar breaks the ice on the identity of Valangai people. Their association with Krishna in the distant past must have made others look at them for the upkeep of Vishnu temples.

Velir clans were also known as Velālar, the agriculturists. Naccinārkkiniyar refers to two categories among them as self cultivators and landlords who engaged others to cultivate (உழுதுண்போர், உழுவித்துண்போர்).[x] This was their status in the beginning of the Common Era.

Socio- Political importance to Valangai agriculturists.

The Valangai were predominantly Velālar class (agriculturists) while the Idangai were artisan class. For the first time in Chola history, the Valangai got predominance over the Idangai in the period of Rajaraja I. He formed “Valangai Velaikkara Padaikal” – the Velaikkara troops of the Right Hand, who were dedicated soldiers, sworn to give their life for the king. Thirteen of the regiments of Rajaraja I mentioned in Tanjore inscriptions belonged to these Right Hand sections.[xi] They were admitted to High positions that ensured many privileges. This was in contrast to Idangai section, the Left Hand people who were artisans and traders and whose major location was at Kanchi! These traders were subject to taxes and did not enjoy the socio-political status that Right Hand people started enjoying from the time of Rajaraja’s reign.

This had continued in Adhirajendra’s period too in the installation of Velaikkara troops in Ceylon after winning Vijayabahu I alias Kitti, which finds mention in the 7th year inscription of Vīrarajendra[xii] and donations in the 2nd year of Adhirajendra to a Shiva temple[xiii] raised in the name of Rajendra I’s mother in Rajendra’s period. It is also likely that the Veliakkara troops were employed in Ceylon in Rajaraja I’s times. But the status quo had continued in Adhirajendra’s times. However a ounter opinion is found in Mahavamsa that the Velaikkarar troops contained Idangai classes too. [xiv]

The overall scenario was such that while the Valangai were flourishing in all spheres in the Chola country, the Idangai mostly concentrated in Kanchi were reeling under heavy taxation and less privileges.

Valangai Aruvalars

Among the migrants accompanying Velirs, the Aruvalars settled down in Kanchi which was a no-man’s land 3000 years ago. Discovery of Kurma like (tortoise) stone structure near a lake in a place called Vadamangalam, in Sriperumbudur, in Kanchipuram district is dated to 3000 years before present.[xv]

The term Aruvalar has the root ‘Aruval’, which means 'sickle'. Perhaps these people were engaged in cutting works using iron weapons. The literary history of Karikāla known from the commentary to Silappadhikaram and Kalingatthu Bharani says that Karikāla chola went to Kanchi, worshiped at the Saathan (Shāsta) temple there and received ‘Chendu’ - the stone cutting instrument from the deity with which he chiselled his emblem on the Himalayas.[xvi] 

This was perhaps the first ever interaction with a king by the Aruvalars or to put it differently, the working class who originally arrived with the descendants of Krishna’s family had the chance to help or interact with a powerful Chola king. This is repeated here to insist that they could have been Vishnu worshipers. They must have played a big role in building Vishnu temples in Kanchi and Thondai Mandalam under Pallava patronage. Installation of Krishna as Parthasarathy along with his family members at Triplicane could also be attributed to the immigrant Velir and Aruvalar population from Dwaraka.

Now enters another section called Idangai, into Kanchi.

Idangai were basically weavers and smiths of different descriptions. They have identified themselves as 98 sects among themselves. This number once again rings familiarity with a description found in Silappadhikaram. The text says that King Satakarni sent many gifts and men to the Cheran king Senguttuvan before he started his expedition to the Himalayas. Among them were 100 jesters well versed in 96 Pashanda sects (heretic sects).[xvii]  They had come from Indus regions, anywhere from Afghanistan to Gujarat. The presence of 1000 or more heretic sects in Kāpishā (Nuristan) in eastern Afghanistan is reported by the Chinese pilgrim Huan Tsnag in his travelogue of the 7th century CE. 

They were described as naked, or covered with ashes with some of them making chaplets of bones and wearing them on their heads.[xviii] These descriptions fit with Kāpālikas, an Saivite sect. The fact remains that people well versed in 96 such heretic sects had come to settle down in Tamil lands. (Jainism is one among the sects identified as Pashanda sect). It is not known where they settled down later. This is one side of the information we have.

On the other side we find people of similar religious leanings settled in Kanchi and identified as Idangai. The Idangai inscriptions end up as ‘Maheswara rakshai’. The Maheswara sects were treated as heretics. According to Adi Sankara[xix], Maheswaras “maintain that the five categories, viz. effect, cause, union, ritual, the end of pain, were taught by the Lord Pasupati (Siva)” who is treated as the operative cause of Creation. This is against Vedic teaching. This feature puts them on the same ground with the people having knowledge of 96 heretic sects who arrived in the beginning of the Common Era. The Idangai 98 could have evolved from those 96 sects. Moreover the presence of these Idangai sects spread over South India supports the idea of a movement from Indus-Sarasvatī to all over Deccan. Kanchi was the major location of the Idangai where Aruvalars (Valangai) were already settled.

Thus Kanchi happened to be the place of co-existence of the Valangai, generally known to be Vishnu worshipers and the Idangai, the worshipers of Shiva in unconventional ways. When they both co-exist in the same place clashes are bound to appear.  

Karikāla Chola appears in the legends[xx] of the conflicts between Idangai and Valangai in Kanchi taking the conflict to 2000 years before present. According to that version Karikāla Chola granted privileges to the Idangai sects, each with a flag, banner etc. A later version at the time of Buchanan says that the Idangai claimed that they got the privileges from Kali of Kanchi which is nothing but a reference to Kamakshi Amman of Kanchi.[xxi]

In both the versions it is said that some privileges were given to the sections of people standing on the two sides of Karikāla Chola or Kali of Kanchi. That gave rise to the names as Right handed (those standing in the right side of the king / deity) and left handed.

But a deeper analysis shows that it was not as simple as that. They seemed to have got the name by the belief system they professed as Vamachara for Idangai (Left handed) and Dakshinachara for Valangai (Right Handed). Heretic sects were known as Vamachara or heterodox. They followed Tantric activities known as Vāmamārga. The Idangai inscriptions also end with an identity “Tantiratthar” – meaning the followers of Tantras.

There is even an account that Valangai Vaishnavite Brahmins and Idangai Saiva Brahmins of Kanchi had a dispute over the use of Garuda banner. Garuda being the mount of Vishnu the Valangai claimed that it belonged to them. But the Idangai too claimed that it belonged to them. It was to settle this issue Vikrama Chola Deva Perumal ordered his authorities to look into old copper records. This happened in the year Paridhabi which was identified as 1072-73 during the reign of Kulottunga I in Part 9 of this series. This clearly makes out that a conflict had occurred between two religious sects raising scope to believe that it was brewing for some time and led to the murder of Rajamahendra who was undoubtedly a Vishnu worshiper.

Ramanuja’s diatribe against un-orthodox (Idangai) religions.

In this backdrop we come across a strong fight put up by Ramanuja, who also happened to be a resident of Kanchi, against the heretic sects that had a dominant presence in Kanchi. This is revealed in his Sri Bhashya to Brahma Sutras. Commenting on verse 2-2-36, Ramanuja picks out four sects, Kapalikas, Kalamukhas, Pasupatas and Saivas saying that they followed practices and interpretations that did not concur with Vedas. The same verse is commented by Adi Sankara by naming the un-orthodox sects as “Maheswaras” for Saivas and rejects them.[xxii]

Ramanuja’s commentary is reproduced below:

Brahma Sutra 36.
(The system) of the Lord (must be disregarded), on account of inappropriateness.

“So far it has been shown that the doctrines of Kapila, Kanâda, Sugata, and the Arhat must be disregarded by men desirous of final beatitude; for those doctrines are all alike untenable and foreign to the Veda. The Sûtras now declare that, for the same reasons, the doctrine of Pasupati also has to be disregarded. The adherents of this view belong to four different classes--Kâpâlas, Kâlâmukhas, Pâsupatas, and Saivas. All of them hold fanciful theories of Reality which are in conflict with the Veda, and invent various means for attaining happiness in this life and the next. They maintain the general material cause and the operative cause to be distinct, and the latter cause to be constituted by Pasupati. They further hold the wearing of the six so-called 'mudrâ' badges and the like to be means to accomplish the highest end of man.

Thus the Kâpâlas say, 'He who knows the true nature of the six mudrâs, who understands the highest mudrâ, meditating on himself as in the position called bhagâsana, reaches Nirvâna. The necklace, the golden ornament, the earring, the head-jewel, ashes, and the sacred thread are called the six mudrâs. He whose body is marked with these is not born here again.'--Similarly the Kâlâmukhas teach that the means for obtaining all desired results in this world as well as the next are constituted by certain practices--such as using a skull as a drinking vessel, smearing oneself with the ashes of a dead body, eating the flesh of such a body, carrying a heavy stick, setting up a liquor-jar and using it as a platform for making offerings to the gods, and the like. 'A bracelet made of Rudrâksha-seeds on the arm, matted hair on the head, a skull, smearing oneself with ashes, &c.'--all this is well known from the sacred writings of the Saivas. They also hold that by some special ceremonial performance men of different castes may become Brâhmanas and reach the highest âsrama: 'by merely entering on the initiatory ceremony (dîkshâ) a man becomes a Brâhmana at once; by undertaking the kâpâla rite a man becomes at once an ascetic.'

With regard to these views the Sûtra says 'of pati, on account of inappropriateness.' A 'not' has here to be supplied from Sûtra 32. The system of Pasupati has to be disregarded because it is inappropriate, i.e. because the different views and practices referred to are opposed to one another and in conflict with the Veda. The different practices enumerated above, the wearing of the six mudrâs and so on, are opposed to each other; and moreover the theoretical assumptions of those people, their forms of devotion and their practices, are in conflict with the Veda. For the Veda declares that Nârâyana who is the highest Brahman is alone the operative and the substantial cause of the world

Kāpāla rite and caste factor.

A notable feature in the above commentary is that lower castes were elevated to the level of Brahmins and the 4th Asrama, namely ascetic-hood, by taking up the Kāpāla rites. The practices of the Kāpālika are not very tough due to the fact that eating meat, drinking liquor and offering the same to the deity and sexual pleasure were considered to be the pathway to salvation. This seemed to be an easy way to get lower castes into Kāpālika sect.

Caste issue seemed to have been a hotly debated one in that period if we take into consideration a specific reference found in the Kanyakumari inscriptions of Vīrarajendra issued in his 7th year (1069-70). This inscription gives a detailed genealogy of the Cholas and for the first time we come across a direct reference to Rama of Ikshvaku race finding a place in the lineage of the Cholas. Surprisingly a justification for Rama killing Shambuka is found in a verse in that context. It is as follows:[xxiii]

Why should this appear in the genealogy part when no other Chola king directly mentioned Rama in their family tree? Was there a debate raging at that time finding fault with Rama for the death of a shudra who aspired to be an ascetic? Did Vīrarajendra, under the influence of his elder brother Rajamahendra lean on Vaishnavite side and included Rama’s name and also this issue to send a message to whosoever were raising an issue over it?

Even as these questions suggest certain caste based debates running in the country implicating Rama, of all the persons, we could also see quick social churning initiated around the same time by Ramanuja by bringing all into Vaishnavite sect just by the worship of Narayana.

Ramanuja’s pill for caste upliftment.

As one having grown in Kanchi, Ramanuja seemed to be well aware of the issues troubling Idangai people and lower castes in general. They needed social recognition and religious elevation. It must be mentioned here that two among the 10 Kottus of Saattaada Srivaishnavas (non-Brahmins) pressed in to service of Srirangam temple by Ramanuja contained the Valangai ‘Tiruvelaikkarar Kottu and the Idangai ‘Kammala Kottu’. The former took care of the protection of the temple while the later were engaged in activities like sculpturing, pottery and the like.[xxiv] He was able to achieve equality among castes both in social and religious pursuits by means of Srivaishnavism.

This must have attracted many people, particularly the Idangai and lower castes – causing heart burns to the Mahewara sects. Dr Nagaswamy might wonder what Ramanuja did for social cause. But the enviable position Ramanuja put himself in contrast to Kāpālikas and other Saiva sects cost him to leave the country.  

Even while Rajamahendra and Virarajendra were around, Ramanuja successfully thwarted the attempts of Kalahasti Saivas from taking over Venkateswara temple at Tirumala. The Shiva temple of Kalahasti has a legend of Kannappa Nayanar worshiping the deity in un-orthodox ways. That was similar to Maheswara or Kāpālika ways of worship. That legend could have attracted the Kāpālikas to take over the temple. It was they who had tried to take over Tirupati temple also. Virarajendra’s inscription on Rama seemed to convey the king’s mind on what side he was leaning.

With skirmishes on the rise in Kanchi, Vīrarajendra might have thought Rajamahendra was a right choice to head Kanchi which until then was put under some commanders. Rajamahendra’s assignment at Kanchi could have meant to be a shot in the arm for Vishnu worshiping Valangai at a time when Kāpālikas and Kālāmukhas were on the rise in Kanchi.** (refer foot note)  But it didn’t work the way they wanted. Rajamahendra lost his life in the enmity against him. Everything related to Rajamahendra seemed to have borne the brunt of the hatred against him. That explains the destruction of Rajamahendra Chaturvedi Mangalam near Srirangam.

It must also be noted here that the regions of Idangai- Valangai conflict in that period was dotted with monasteries of Kālāmukhas. There existed in Ramanuja’s period Kālāmukha monasteries at Tiruvanaikkovil in Chinglepet, Vedal in North Arcot district, Koyil Tevarayanpettai in Tanjore district and Kodumbalur in Trichy district – all close to Kanchi and Srirangam![xxv]

Kapāliswarar temple at Mylapore and the Shiva temple at Tiruvottriyur were under Kāpālika and Kālāmukha control only. Tiruvottroyur Tyagaraja temple which was praised in Devaram was known as Kāranai Vitanka Deva temple in the 10th century. Evil practices such as offering arrack and flesh of animals and human beings were common at that time. Even though Adi Sankara had fought against them and abolished such practices at Tiruvottroyur, they had resumed in the 10th and 11th century from the times of Parantaka I.[xxvi] This temple was patronised by Rajendra I and Rahadhiraja II of the 12th century had even attended a discourse of the Kālāmukhas in this temple.[xxvii]  This is proof of the Chola royal family’s admiration for these heretic sects.

At the time of Ramanuja, the influence of these sects on the Chola kings seemed to have peaked or else there is no justification for Ramanuja to have strongly and elaborately admonished them in his Sri Bhashya. A word on the time of writing of Sri Bhashya: Ramanuja had finished it much before leaving for Karnataka. Yatiraja Vaibhavam, the primary text of his life events says that he finished Sri Bhashya to Vedanta Sutras even before his first trip to Tirupati.

Ramanuja had used double-edged strategy – denouncing the heretic sects and that resulted in common man turning away from those sects and attracting them to Srivaishnavism by giving them a socio-religious status. The presence of 12,000 of such persons (Satthada Vaishnavas) accompanying the procession of Ramanuja’s mortal remains and chanting Divya Prabhandam could not have been a fanciful number given by 6000 padi GPP. 

With the rise in popularity of Ramanuja in attracting lower strata in what may be called socio-religious engineering, the four Maheswara sects must have become a troubled lot. The death of Rajamahendra might have given second thoughts to Adhirajendra on extending equal support to both Idangai and Valangai. The 3rd year inscription of Adhirajendra giving equal benefits to the women of Idangai and Valangai in the devadana land of Eyittriyar habitation in Kanchi shows that he was initially neutral.[xxviii]

With the death of Rajamahendra, Adhirajendra might have undergone a gradual change of mind, caused by the association of Kālāmukhas and Kāpālikas. For example Nalooran who was supposed to have incited Adhirajendra to summon Ramanuja to sign up a declaration accepting the supremacy of Shiva was a resident of Thondai Mandalam (Kanchi) region.[xxix] Idangai influence on him is very much a possibility.

Here we must have clarity about Shiva worshipers and Maheswara sects. Shiva worshipers had worshiped Shiva in the Vedic way. But Maheswaras consisting of Kāpālikas, Kālāmukhas, Pasupatas and Saivas (Saiva siddhnathins) did not adhere to the Vedic way. Only they had caused damage to Vishnu temples.

Three verses of Ramanuja Nootrandhadhi refer to these Pashanda sects.

The reference to ‘Pulai samayam’,  Neecha samayam’ and ‘Theeya samayam’ in the light of dominance of Maheswara sects during his time shows how much Ramanuja had worked hard to unsettle them.

Heretics influenced Adhirajendra

Ramanuja’s parting verse before leaving Srirangam conveys the view that these sects had influenced the king. Earlier in Part 7 it was written that Ramanuja recited verse 8 of Tirumalai before taking leave of Lord Ranganatha. That verse is reproduced below.

வெறுப்பொடு சமணர் முண்டர் விதியில்சாக் கியர்கள் நின்பால்
பொறுப்பரி யனகள் பேசில் போவதே நோய தாகி
குறிப்பெனக் கடையு மாகில் கூடுமேல் தலையை ஆங்கே
அறுப்பதே கருமங் கண்டாய் அரங்கமா நகரு ளானே.

Meaning:- O Lord in - Arangama-nagar! The hate-filled heresies, Mundas, and the godless Sakhyas speak irresponsibly about you, that itself will be their doom. If the opportunity arises, chopping off their heads right there is the roha Karma for me.

Though the verse refers to Jains and Buddhists – the two heretical sects prevailing at the time of the author of this verse, Thondaradi Podi Alwar, newer sects had come up in Ramanuja’s times. They had caused damage to temples near Srirangam and at Kanchi. The king had chosen a path in support of them either due to his natural leaning towards these sects or as a reaction to the unfortunate death Rajamahendra. In that situation, it is better to leave without hearing the words of the kings and his heretic friends.

It is worth noting here in this context that a professor of History of the Annamalai University wondered whether Ramanuja ran away. He came to the conclusion that the management and the functionaries of the Srirangm temple were dissatisfied with him, causing him to leave the country on his own.[xxx] It is obvious the author had not studied the primary text ‘6000 Padi’. It says how an anguished Ramanuja recited the above quoted verse from Tirumalai before leaving Srirangam. The verse is reflective of what was in his mind. The non-vedic heretics were in his mind, as those speaking ill of Narayana.

If he happened to face them directly let God give him the strength to decapitate them. Now he was not facing them, so he had to leave and wait for the opportune moment as ordained by God.
Ramanuja did not run away. If things were different, say, if Ramanuja was not in the bath when the emissaries arrived, he would have gone with them to meet the king. He could have made wonders, like he did in curing the daughter of Hoysala Vishnuvardhana. Or Lord Narasimha could have come in someone’s form and destroyed the king or the trouble giver, like how He did to save Adi Sankara when a Kāpālika by name Ugra Bhairava wanted to cut off Sankara’s head.[xxxi]

Circumstances did not happen for a direct face-to-face conflict with the king and his heretic friends. God had a different design. Ramanuja was needed in the Hoysala country to drive away the Jains. He was needed to restore Tirunarayanapuram temple. Until then the Chola country had to undergo the effects of escalated caste conflicts and get the heretics reduced in size.

Kulottunga, with Idangai background fitted the bill at Kanchi. The worship of Sapta Mata (sever mother Goddesses) in the beginning of Kalingatthu Bharani shows his Idangai leanings. Mother Goddess- worship is part of Vamachara which was resisted initially in Tamil lands.[xxxii]  The issues faced at Kanchi were of mixed nature – regarding the development of Idangai in economic, social and religious spheres. It took 28 years for Kulottunga to abolish the ‘sungam’ (toll tax) that had oppressed the Idangai until then.

(Nilakanta Sastri quotes an inscription of CE 1194 that referred to Chola country as one where no ‘Sungam’ was collected. [xxxiii] That could have applied to the movement of goods within the country. But a reference to the collection of toll (sungam – சுங்கம்) is found in the Sangam text called Perum paaN aatrup padai as “Ulgudaip peru vazhi” (உல்குடைப் பெரு வழி) where Ulgu refers to toll-tax (sungam) and Peru vazhi to Highway. [xxxiv] This was on the Highway connecting Kanchi with coastal towns upto Vishakhapatnam in the north and Pandyan coasts in the south.[xxxv] 

The name of this stretch known as Cholamandala became corrupted into Coramandal coast much later.)

Sixteen coins discovered at Kavaliyadavalli at Nellore district bearing the legend ‘Sung’ in Tamil and one of them bearing indistinct marks referring to ‘Kanchi’ and others to Nellore [xxxvi] establishes the trade movements between these two places and the relief accrued to traders by the abolition of the toll tax. The traders were Idangai classes.

Kulottunga managed to maintain neutral stance in religious spheres. He was not known to have sided with heretic sects as did Adhirajendra. So it was a matter of time for the decline of the hold of the heretic sects on the Chola king. It did happen – albeit temporarily – with the death of Adhirajendra, facilitating the re-entry of Ramanuja to the Chola country. There is no direct evidence for that date to be CE 1111. But indirect evidences are there which will be discussed next.


* Idangai – Valangai

Two classes of people named Idangai and Valangai having numerous castes within their fold are known to have existed for more than 1000 years. They were found in mainly in Tamil lands, Mysore and Canarese regions with their epicentre at Kanchi. They were always in conflict with each other which had continued for many centuries. The last time such conflicts were reported was in the 19th century but the reason for the disappearance thereafter,  of their denomination as Idangai and Valangai can be attributed to the changing times of modern India where individual castes, and not conglomeration of castes have gained importance. This can be understood from the cluster of castes attached to Idangai and Valangai.   

Buchanan in his visit to Mysore in the 18th century enumerated the following list of castes for Idangai (Left Hand) and Valangai (Right Hand). [xxxvii]

Buchanan observes that Brahmans, Kshatriyas and some Vaisya communities were not part of these two classes.

The list of castes of these two classes as it existed in Tamilnadu is given below from the enumeration done by Mr M.Srinivasa Iyengar in 1914.[xxxviii]

All these castes were predominantly working class engaged in weaving, smithy and all menial works. Among leather workers the women of Chkkiliya caste belonged to Valangai while the men were classified as Idangai. One can imagine the stress this could cause. The noteworthy point is that these two classes had their own temples and their own habitation which was prohibited for the other class. Anyone violating this prohibition faced dire consequences resulting in a flare up of clashes between the two. The clashes continue even today between individual castes though the origins of this conflicting mentality traced to Idangai – Valangai distinction is now forgotten.

** Kāpālikas and Kālāmukhas

The earliest reference to Kāpālika in Kanchi appears in the Sanskrit play Mattavilasa Prahasana by the Pallava king Mahendra Varman I of the 6-7th century. The Kāpālikas were disparagingly described and hated very much. But somehow they gained foot hold by their violent methods, as known from an inscription[xxxix] found in Southern Mysore state in the 10th century. It tells about Kapalikas arranging a string of newly cut-off heads of Pallavas. It appears the Pallavas faced an enemy in them in as much they faced enmity with neighbouring kingdoms.

Vikramaditya VI was known to be a supporter of Kālāmukhas.[xl] His forays into Kanchi after the death of Vīrarajendra could have been aimed at getting support of the Kālāmukhas and other Maheswara Idangai people. But he was out-witted by Kulottunga who carefully put him away from Kanchi. Perhaps this could also be a reason why Kulottunga was not seen as a supporter of the heretic sects.

[i] S.I.I., Volume 24, No.53 (A.R.No. 31 of 1936 -37)

[ii] The six Divya Desam temples now without a temple of their own are all in Kanchi. They are 1.Ooragam
2. Kaaragam  3. Neeragam  4. Kaarvaanam  5. Nilatthingalthundam 6. Kalvanoor.

[iii] Pillia Lokam Jeer’s commentary to verse 54 of Ramanuja Noottrandhadhi

[iv] R K Mookerji (1919) “Local Government In Ancient India”. Page 183.

[v] No 34 of 1913, App C, in Madras Epigraphy, 1912-13.

[vi] Dr R.Nagaswamy (2008) “Ramanuja Myth and Reality – a critical study of Ramanuja’s Life and Works”, Tamil Arts Academy, Chennai. Page 46.

[vii] B.A. Saletore (1934). “Social And Political Life In The Vijayanagara Empire”,  Volume .ii, page 70

[viii] Naccinārkkiniyar in his commentary to Payiram of Tolkāppiyam

(“Agasthya went to Dwarkapathi and brought back with him
18 kings of the lineage of Krishna who measured the land (as Thrivikrama),
18 families of Velirs and AruvaaLars and
had them settled in the lands by clearing the forest tracts)

[ix] Mahabharata 2.13.34 & 54

[x] U.Ve. Swaminatha Iyer, (1950) “Purananuru Moolamum Uraiyum” 4th edition page 78.

[xi]Origin of the right and left hand caste divisions” by C.S.Srinivasachari. Paper from “Journal Of The Andhra Historical Research Society,vol.4,pt-1 And 2 (1929), Page 81.

[xii] The Historical Inscriptions of South India (Madras University Historical series No V), Page 79.

[xiii] S.I.I., Volume IV, No 1388 (A.R.No 594 of 1912) and No 1392 (A.R.No 596 of 1912)

[xiv] Mysore Gazetteer,vol.2,pt.2, page 965.

[xv] D. Madhavan TNN., “Vedic era rock memorials found near city”, Times of India dated 12-3-2012.

[xvi] Kalingatthu Bharani – verse 178
‘Silappadhikaram Moolamum Uraiyum’ by Venkatasami Naattar, 5th edition, page 118.

[xvii] Silappadhikaram – Ch 26 – lines 130-131.

[xviii] David N. Lorenzen, (1972). “The Kāpālikas and KālāmukhasTwo Lost Śaivite Sects” Page 15.

[xix] Sankara Bhashya for Brahma Sutras 2-2-37

[xx] Origin of the right and left hand caste divisions” by C.S.Srinivasachari. Paper from “Journal Of The Andhra Historical Research Society,vol.4,pt-1 And 2 (1929) Page 80.

[xxi] Ibid., Page 78.

[xxiii] Travancore Archaeological series Vol III Part 1, page 152..

[xxiv] A, Srivathsan, “The Persecution of Ramanuja: A view from the Srirangam Temple Complex” (Paper presented at the Nilakanta Sastri Centenary Celebration Seminar at Madras, 1992.

[xxv] David N. Lorenzen, (1972). “The Kāpālikas and KālāmukhasTwo Lost Śaivite Sects” Page 4

[xxvi] K.V.Raman, (1957). “Early History of The Madras Region” Pages 195- 196.

[xxvii] Ibid., Page 198.

[xxviii] S.I.I., Volume 8, No.4.

[xxix] Periya Tirumudi Adaivu commentary for verse 70.

[xxx] M.S. Govindasamy, (2005), “A Brief Historical Study of Sri Ramanujar” International Institute of Tamil Studies, Page 105.

[xxxi] David N. Lorenzen, (1972). “The Kāpālikas and KālāmukhasTwo Lost Śaivite Sects” Pages 32-34.

[xxxii] T.S. Sreedhar (2010) “Coimbatore Maavatta Tholliyal Kaiyedu” Page 90.

[xxxiii] KA Nilakanta Sastri, 1955, “The Colas”, University of Madras, 2nd edition, page 331.

[xxxiv] Perum PaaN Attrup padai, Line 81.

[xxxv] R.Champakalakshmi, “The Urban configurations of Tondaimandalam: The Kancipuram Region, c. A.D. 600 -1300” (Symposium paper), Page 194.

[xxxvii] TV Mahalingam, (1940). “Administration And Social Life Under Vijayanagar”, Page 250.

[xxxviii] C.S.Srinivasachari in an article titled “Origin of the right and left hand caste divisions” published in the “Journal Of The Andhra Historical Research Society,vol.4,pt-1 And 2 (1929), page 82.

[xxxix] David N. Lorenzen, (1972). “The Kāpālikas and KālāmukhasTwo Lost Śaivite Sects” Pages 24.

[xl] Ibid., Page 114.

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