Thursday, April 17, 2014

Mundas – a fused culture of Tamil and Sanskrit speaking Vedic society (Mundas -10)

All the articles in this series:-

The current article can also be read here:-

One of the common views held by many scholars is that ‘Aryans’ or Hindus influenced the Mundari people such that these people had started worshiping “Aryan” Gods. The same explanation is given to justify the presence of Sanskrit words in their language. However a closer examination of their festivals and practices give rise to a view that such ‘Aryan’ practices are running basically in their culture. Another important observation is that they all have had some connection with peninsular India and ancient Tamil or proto-Tamil. 

The basic problem is in thinking that Mundas are different from Hindus. All the features and ideas of their culture are seen in rural India even today. They are found in Tamil Sangam texts too that describe the culture that existed 2000 years ago. Texts like “Malai padu kadaam” and “Maduraik kaanchi” describe the life style of different types people living in forests and hills and we do find them similar to the life style and beliefs of Mundas. The Mundari speaking people show a close semblance to the life style in Peninsular India. We will discuss them in this article.

The Vedic or “Aryan” festivals of Mundas.

The Mundas celebrate Bissho karma puja which is the same as Vishwa Karma Puja – Vishwa Karma being the Creator-architect. It is easy to attribute this to some influence from ‘Hindus’. But their celebration of “Asharhe Puja” in Ashada month is something that Vedic society was celebrating but had given up long ago. This is similar to “Ashada Puja” in the Vedic society in which Goddess Saraswati was invoked as Vaak Devi to help in determining the level of prosperity of the upcoming rainy season. The available record of this Puja is found only in Brihad samhita authored by Varahamihira. {1) This puja was in vogue before the times of Varahamihira. No wonder Mundas worship Goddess Saraswati too which people think is an influence from Hinduism.

Monsa Puja

Another festival is the Monsa Puja which they celebrate in Shravan month. For Mundas, Monsa signifies serpents. Their belief in Monsa as a serpent God is so indigenous and so deep rooted that whenever they see a snake in the dream, they connect it to Monsa Devi. In Vedic culture there is Goddess Manasa Devi with a hood of a snake upon her head. Manasa Devi appears with a child in her hand.  

Pic courtesy:-  

There is a story behind this appearance of Manasa Devi,  narrated in Mahabharata. This story recognises the child in Manasa’s hand as Astika who was born to release the ancestors. Hindus believe that the snake signifies an impediment to getting progeny and worship of snake removes this impediment. The iconography of Manasa Devi seems to be the precursor to this belief. By worshiping Manasa Devi who is a personification of snake, one is blessed with a child. The child is desired primarily to pay off ancestral debts through ancestral worship. This concept is very much original and oldest concept of the Vedic society. The accessory elements may be missing in Mundari Monsa Devi. But the snake identity is retained by them. Monsa Devi could not have been an adopted concept as they have dream interpretations for Monsa. It must have been a former concept that was retained by them even after they had gone into isolation.

The same idea of Manasa Devi with a child is there in Tamil nadu by the name Isakki amman. 

This Goddess is found in many regions of Tamilnadu where some valorous women in the deed of protecting a child had been deified as Isakki. There is mention of Isakki as Iyakki in the 1st century AD text of Silappadhikaram, thereby establishing this deity as an olden concept. By the name Iyakki, it means that she is one who ‘drives’ the world / souls. She is Iccha shakthi of Creator God. That is identified as Manasa Devi. Thus a similar meaning with a similar iconography had existed throughout India. The original idea must have been Monsa Devi worshiped by Mundas. The idea of Monsa with serpent related to progeny could have been converted into forms of Manasa and Isakki, perhaps after Parashurama ushered in Devi worship through his Kalpasutra.

Plough – festival, Akshay Tritiya and Rohini

The paddy sowing festival of Santals is called “Ero”. It is done on Akshaya Tritiya  in the month of Chithrai– on the day when Sun and Moon exalts simultaneously. Even Toda people have a celebration on Akshaya Triteeya! This day is an important day in Vedic society. How did the Mundari people come to possess the knowledge to compute the date of Akshaya Triteeya if they had not had that knowledge by themselves – from the time of their previous habitat?   

A surprising connection to this day is that it is the day of Parashurama’s birthday! This day must have been an important day in the coastal region of Konkan and Malabar. Toda people hailing from there can be expected to have remembered this day but lost out the significance in course of time. The Santali tradition of remembering this day for ploughing might have come from an early Tamil practice. The Tamils had a tradition of starting the first ploughing called “ponnEru” (golden plough) in the month of Chithrai. It continues even today. The plough is called “Er” or “Eru” in Tamil. The festival Ero sounds like Tamil “Eru” (yEru) which means plough.

On the day of Akshaya Tritiya, Moon will be in the asterism of Rohini (Aldebaran). On this day the agricultural tribes of Jharkhand including the Mundari people start sowing the seeds. The star Rohini is identified with Creator God Brahma. Anything to do with growth and development is done on this day. This is a concept of Vedic society. The Mundas and other tribes of Jharkhand sow the seeds on this day, but without any pomp and festivities. This is something unusual for a society that is known for songs and dances for every activity. Perhaps this day coinciding with Parashurama Jayanathi could have nipped out the festivities! However the day was not discarded due to its significance for growth related activity. The absence of festivity does indicate a conscious decision to do away with it due to Parashurama’s connection to this date. But this reason could have been forgotten over time. 

Today this date had been commercially exploited by gold merchants calling people to buy gold. Originally this date was used as an ideal time for starting the agricultural practices to get a ‘golden’ harvest. 

From axe-culture to Plough culture.

In this context it is apt to make a comparison between ‘axe’ culture and ‘plough’ culture. Axe culture is identified with Parashurama and Plough culture is identified with Balarama, another avatar of Vishnu. In Parashurama’s times, new settlements were made by clearing the forests. Axe was the main implement to cut the trees. The Bhargava people of Parashurama’s clan fell out with Haihaya rulers and were forced to move out of Vindhya ranges. They were said to have made new settlements by clearing the forests.

In his times Parashurama was known to be carrying the axe always. Even the Mundari speaking people carry the axe all the time. Particularly the Savaras are known to be carrying it always. There was even an attempt to decipher the name Savara from the Scythian word Sagaris having the meaning axe. In the words of Cunningham, “It seems therefore not unreasonable to infer that the tribe who were so called took their name from their habit of carrying axes. Now it is one of the striking peculiarities of the Savars that they are rarely seen without an axe in their hands. The peculiarity has been frequently noticed by all who have seen them.” {2}

The Asur- Marundas also must have carried the axe to procure wood for furnaces. The Sanskrit name of axe as Parashu exists in Asur clan names as Parsa. However the common word for axe in Mundari language sounds closer to its Tamil equivalent. In Tamil the axe is called as “Kodari”. In Mundari language a small axe is called as “Konde”. Likewise the plough is called as “Hada” in Mundari – similar to its Sanskrit equivalent ‘Hala’. But the first ploughing is called as “Ero” – similar to the Tamil word “Er” for plough.

Makar festival.

The Makar parba or Makar parva is celebrated by Santals of the Mundari speaking people. The words Makar and Parva are Sanskrit but the festival is similar to Tamil festival of Pongal celebrated on Makar Sankaranthi. It is a three day celebration in Santali as well as Tamil tradition. On the first day that comes before Makar sankaranthi,  Santali children and youth burn logs of wood in the morning in a celebration called “Kumbha”. On the same day Tamils burn discarded things in the morning in a celebration called “Bhogi”.

Maghe festival.

The Maghe festival coming on Full Moon of Margashira is related to Dattatreya Jayanthi. However this was also the day when “Paavai nonbu” was started in Tamil lands. But the features of Tamil Paavai festival is not found  in Maghe Parba. Maghe parba resembles only Dattatreya Jayanthi that was discussed in Part 2. This festival bears the imprints of an earlier memory of the Vedic society.

Phagu festival.

Phagu festival is related to Holi festival. It is celebrated on the full moon of the Phalguni month. The name Phagu is corrupted from Phalguni. It was a very old festival in the Vedic society as it is about Holika, the aunt of Prahalad. This has reference to the Narasimha Avatar,that preceded Parashurama’s times.

Tamil culture in Mundas.

The flower festival of Sarhul celebrated by the Munda people resembles such festivals noted in ancient Tamil lands. Sarhul sounds like “Sarakonnai” flower of Tamil lands 

Sarakonnai flower

The first flower in spring and first rains in summer were celebrated in Tamil culture. Even today “raining the flower” festival (Poo-chorithal) is celebrated in almost all the Amman temples in Tamil lands in the month of Chithrai. Sarhul of Mundas seems to resemble that.

The Karam festival is related to Kadamba festival of the Konkan region which was discussed in Part 1.

Remnants of Skanda culture in Savaras.

One example of a very olden connect with Peninsular India is seen in the traditional names that Savaras have for their religious functionaries. They have a village priest, a Shaman, a helper to the Shaman and one who does funeral rites. Shamanism in India can be traced back to Skanda cult. Even today one can witness Shaman practices among Skanda devotees on popular festival days for Skanda. In the Tamil Sangam age it was too widespread and there were people called “Velan” who used to do fierce dances to the accompaniment of drum-beats to drive out the evil spirits or to spell oracles. This tradition is said to come in Kura-magal community of Valli, the local tribal girl whom Skanda married. Kura- magal means the girl from Kurava community. (There is a Korwa clan among Mundari speakers!).

The Shaman priest of Savaras bears a similar name – “Kuranmavan”. {3}  This is a Tamil word meaning “the guy of the Kurava clan”. Kura-magal is a female and Kura-mavan is a male.

The helper to this Shaman priest is “Idaimayan”. This also sounds like a Tamil word “Idai-magan” the one who comes in between or in the middle – meaning one whose services are taken in between, or one who comes in the middle in the hierarchy.

The one who does funeral rites is known as “Siggamavan”. ‘Mavan’ in this word is a Tamil word used in colloquial form for ‘magan’ – meaning person.  Sigga perhaps comes from “Sigi” in Tamil which means fire! As one engaged in keeping up the funeral fire, it is perfectly logical that he was called as “Sigi-mavan” that corrupted as “Sigga mavan” meaning “the guy working on fire”

Pic courtesy:- 
Project Gutenberg's Castes and Tribes of Southern India, by Edgar Thurston

The Santals call the head of the village as “Manjhi”.”Manjan” is the Tamil word that refers to a man. Similarly the word “Pergana” is common among Santals and widely prevalent in North east India. It refers to some groups or septs among them. This context of the word “Pergana” seems to convey that it is “Perum-gana” in Tamil meaning “the big group”.

Munda’s original name is a Tamil word.

The Mundas call themselves as “Horoko” in which ‘horo’ refers to man, according to them. In their speech the letters ‘h’ and ‘r’ are interchangeable with ‘k’ and ‘l’ respectively. As such ‘horo’ is also mentioned as “kolo” or “kol”. Mundas say that ‘hor’ or ‘kol’ means ‘man. This can be seen in the way they refer to people as “Santali Hor”,  “Mundari hor” or “Mundari kol” etc.

But there exists a word “Kolam” in Tamil that refers to ‘appearance’ or ‘form’. In Tamil it is common to use the word ‘Kolam’ along with a name to refer to someone ‘in the form of so and so’. For example ‘Andi-k-kolam’ means ‘in the form of an ascetic’. This can be understood as ‘ascetic man’ in which kolam comes to refer to man. But that is not the actual meaning of kolam. The word ‘kolam’ here only means ‘in the form of’.  Lord Skanda is famously referred to by the term “Andi-k-kolam – meaning “Skanda in the form of ascetic”.

The same idea seems to exist in the word ‘kol’ of Mundas. They refer to a Santali as ‘Santali hor(kol)’.   By the logic of the usage in Tamil,  Santali Hor means ‘one in the form of Santal’.  They say “Larka kol” to mean “one in the form of war-like person”. The say “sAdAn Horo” to refer to a non-Munda or a foreigner. The word “sAdAn” is a corrupt form of  ‘sAdArana” in Tamil and SAdharan in Sanskrit - which means ‘ordinary’. If we substitute ‘form or appearance’ for horo or kol, the word sAdAn Horo refers to “ordinary man and not a Munda!  The subtlety in the use of ‘hor’ or ‘kol’ is understood from this word.  

The word “Kolam” is used in Tamil when a person is in disguise in that form. The Mundari speaking people were actually living incognito and hiding their true identity. In such a context it makes perfect sense to refer to a person to be ‘in the form of a Santal” or in the form of a Kurukh or Korwa and so on by the use of the word “kol”. So when the Munda identifies himself as “Hork-ko” (ko in the word makes it plural. Similar use of ‘ka’ or “ga” for plural is there in corrupt form of Tamil. Eg – avan’ga’ to refer to they or these people), he is making a reference to his disguised form as so and so. A society that is living by hiding its identity can be expected to use such terms.

Tamil and Sanskrit in Munda septs and totems

The presence of Tamil is seen in the word they use to refer to the septs. Mundas are divided into septs called “Killi”. ‘Killi’  is a Tamil word. There were Chola kings by names “Killi Valavan”, Nalam “killi”, Pernar killi” etc. “Killi” in their name exists as family name or clan name. But no analysis or information exists on why these kings came to have ‘killi’ in their names. But the application of the word “killi” as it exists in Mundari language shows that the word “Killi” is derived from “Kilai.  Kilai means ‘branch’ and also ‘relatives’. Therefore a group of people who are related to each other or those who belong to the same gotra could be called as “Kilai”. From Kilai, the word ‘killi’ had come. Among Mundas, people of the same Killi do not marry within the Killi. This establishes the gotra identity among the same killi. The Tamil meaning as ‘relatives’ concurs with this practice.

I wonder whether any connection exists between Cholan Killis and Mundari Killis! Mundas were Maruttas originally. The Cholans trace their origin in Sibi’s dynasty. This is known from many Sangam texts and also from copper plate inscriptions found at Thiruvalangadu.  A commonality exists between them as both Sibi and Marutta people had gone underground to escape from Parashurama. Sibi’s descendants lived near the river Sindhu in North west India and Maruttas lived incognito in Shindhu kalaka of the same region. It is possible the some of them had gone further west and to central Asia. But Cholavarman, a descendant of Sibi dynasty came to Pumpukar and founded the Chola dynasty. {4} This was before Parashurama’s times as there is a narration in a Tamil text called Manimegalai of how the Cholan king of Pumpukar went into hiding when Parashurama was around on the lookout for kshatriyas.

{Note on Cholas:- Cholavarman’s ancestry coming from Sibi in North west India must not be considered as proof of Tamil speaking people having come from North west of India. The original Tamil speakers were Pandyans who came from the now submerged regions in the Indian Ocean. Tamil as a language refined with grammar was developed by Pandyans. However Tamil in corrupt form called as “Kodum Tamil” (meaning ‘stunted Tamil’ which is what Apabrahmsa also means) existed in other regions of India. It is a different history of how this happened. It will be discussed in another series). 

There is no etymology for Chola in Tamil. But Choda or Chauda or Chaula as variations of this name, refer to tuft. There is a proverb in Tamil related to Cholas and their tuft. (“Cholian Kudumi chumma aadaathu” – meaning the “the tuft of the Cholia does not shake for no reason”) The tuft of a Chola was tied in the front of the head. The existence of this proverb and people with Cholia titles and having tuft connected to Cholia make it known that Cholas were originally known for this kind of tuft. Perhaps the Cholas got their name from the tuft they sported. 

The following illustration shows the front-tuft. The picture is that of Periyaazhwar, a Vaishnavite saint who was the father of AndAL. He is always depicted with the Cholia tuft that is tied in the front of the head. 

Cholistan in present-day Pakistan might perhaps be the place of Chola origin. The presence of Brahui language  with similarities with Tamil could be related to the emergence of Cholavarma from this part of the country. It must be noted that the similar front-side tuft is found in people of the olden days in the stretch starting from Pakistan to Russia. A genetic study on the traditional front-tuft people of Eurasia and Cholia titled castes of Tamilnadu such as Cholia Brahmins and Cholia Vellalas needs to be done to look for connections.

The Cholan presence in the region near Indus makes them and Maruttas share language and traditions. The title Killi for Cholan kings to be same as Killi of Mundas must be viewed in this perspective too. }
Sanskrit and Tamil in totems of Killi.

Each Killi of Mundas has a totem as an identity. The names of these totems are found to be Sanskrit or Tamil. For example Kachap killi has Kachap as totem – kachap means tortoise in Sanskrit. Likewise there are totems like Tuti that refers to Tulsi plant. Mundas use tulsi leaves in pujas to sprinkle water. Soe totem refers to ‘sura’ in Tamil which refers to a fish. Nag totem refers to serpent. Purthi totem means insect. In Tamil ‘Puchi’ means insect. The term Purthi seems to be a corrupt form of Tamil word ‘Puchi’. Hansda totem refers to swan. Obviously Hansda is a corruption of Hamsa!

The fusion of Sanskrit and Tamil is seen in the totem ‘Kamal’. It means lotus in Mundari language too. The link with Tamil word exists in the Sept name that has Kamal as the totem. The sept name is “Tamar Pergana” – Tamarai is a Tamil word for lotus! Tamar Pergana is similar to “Tamarai Perum gana”. The septs and totems are something indigenous to the Mundari people. They have come from their basic culture. Many totems were formed in course of time, but their names certainly show Tamil or Sanskrit words mingled in their language. The co-existence of Tamil and Sanskrit in these names show how these two languages had co-existed as part and parcel of the society in their previous origins.

In this context it must be mentioned, that the famous Tamil Sangam age Grammar book called “Tholkappiyam” (meaning ‘ancient Kavya’) was authored by a descendant of Jamadagni’s lineage or Jamadagni Gotra! Popularly known as “Tholkappiyar”, his original name was ‘Trunadhoomagni  In the very first verse of this grammar book he expresses his qualification as having mastered the Sanskrit Vyakarana text called Aindram. It is with the knowledge of this Vyakarana text, he had written the grammar for Tamil. A JAmadagya possessing fine knowledge of Tamil and even qualified to write a grammar book in Tamil that became the official grammar book of the Sangam Assembly is a crucial piece of evidence that Tamil was a widely spoken language and that it co-existed along with Sanskrit in India, particularly from Vindhyas downward south and among Vedic sages. The probable time period of this grammar book was 1500 BCE – the time when the last and the 3rd Sangam was inaugurated.

The Mundari tribes.

The Mundas had existed as Maruttas and then as Marundas. Those who were engaged in iron smelting were identified as Asurs. The Santals seem to have come from Coromandal coasts. The Savaras came from the Vindhya regions. The Kurukhs aka Oraons came from Kishkindha as they were descendants of vanaras. “The ‘Bhuiyas’, a Munda tribe, call themselves as Pāwan-ka-put or Children of the Wind, that is of the race of Hanumān, who was the Son of the Wind”. {5}

The former regions of these tribes were near Vindhyas and the west coast of South India. The warrior ancestors of these tribes living in these regions left these regions due to fear of Parashurama and later settled in the hills and forests of Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Bengal and Orissa. Of them the mention of Savaras by Mahabharata comes as a strong evidence of why they still continue to be as they are now. The Mahabharata  says that they became Kshatriya vrratyas due to the rage of Parashurama. The Savaras and others who fled had to live on whatever they could lay their hands on. They had to subsist on anything that they can catch hold of, say a frog or rat. Mahabharata 18-135 says,

“By accepting food from a eunuch, or from an ungrateful person, or from one who has misappropriated wealth entrusted to his charge, one is born in the country of the Savaras situated beyond the precincts of the middle country.”

This is to say that one would get degraded food in Savara areas which was beyond the Madhya desa – of Saraswathi basin. Though Savaras existed in seclusion, their existence was known to people in Mahabharata times.

The fear of Parashurama resonated upto Pumpukaar of the Chola kingdom. The reigning Cholan king Kanthan handed over the kingdom to his son born to a concubine thinking that Parashurama would not consider him to be pure kshatritya race. That Parashurama went after only valiant kshatriyas is known by a similar reference to one “Balika” of Amshuman dynasty who was always surrounded by women. This earned him a name “NAru kavacha” – the one who is protected by women. It is for this reason he was spared by Parashurama, says Srimad Bhagavatham {6}

 Inscriptional evidence:-

That the Parashurama episode was a fact of history is known from an inscription of the Cholas. Parashurama crowned the one born to a Haihaya princess whose father was killed by him while his wife was pregnant with this child. Parashurama crowned him somewhere in Konkan region near a hill called Mooshika (in Tamil “Ezhil malai”). This king was called as Rama kuta Mooshika – one crowned by Rama of Bhargava kula.  King Rajendra Chola I captured this crown given by Parashurama from the “sAntima dweepa” {7}

Today no place exists by this name. But the Tulu Gramapadhata mentions an island called “sAnti” as one among 77 islands that belonged to Gorashtra on the west coast of India. {8}  None of these islands exist today. But a look at the sea level maps of Graham Hancock shows that some islands had existed in this part of the sea which were once an extension of west coast at the time of Ice age.

The following series of maps would reveal the changes that happened in course of time. 

The figure below shows the complete inundation of the island under sea water. The arrow-mark in yellow points to the sunken island which is seen in light blue.

This image shows the region of south west in the Kurma Chakra of division of India as it existed about 2000 years ago. According to Varaha mihira, places called Hemagiri, Sindhukalaka, Raivataka, Surashtra, Baadara, Dravida and Maharnva were located within the curve as shown in the figure above. {9}
This region housed some important places of pilgrimage in Mahabharata times. 

There is reference in Mahabharata of a pilgrimage by Pandavas that speak about the islands off Konkan coast near Surparaka where sacrificial platforms for Jamadagni were present. {10}. As per Mahabharata accounts, the Pandavas went to Surparaka. From there they crossed certain tract on the coast of the sea and reached the islands dotted with forests. Those places were beheld by rulers and ascetics in the past. The Pandavas offered their worship, fasted and made donations. Then from there they came back to Surparaka. From Surparaka they went to Prabhas (Somnath) where the pilgrimage was formally concluded. {11}

 The islands off Konkan coast that Pandavas visited are no longer there. A marine exploration of this region would reveal many clues to Parashurama’s historicity. 

West-coast connection to Dravida and Manu

The importance of those islands is something that goes far beyond Parashurama’s times. What it could be?
An important feature of the Parashurama episode is that he relocated Brahmins in the stretch of west coast that was reclaimed from the sea. In the process, people like Kurukhs /Oraons had to quit this place or were forced to leave this place to make room for the new settlers. The so-called Dravida Brahmins were made to settle in this stretch who later spanned out to Kanchipuram and Andhra. Of all the places in India, why Parashurama chose this stretch and even made his final abode in Surparaka in this stretch is a big question. Added to this is the mystery of the sunken islands off Surparaka that Pandavas visited.

There are many leads to unravel this mystery in British records, Mahabharata and some inscriptions on Dravida lands in this stretch as far as south Kerala near “Aryan-kaavu” – the place where the famous Iyappa temple is located. An analysis of these leads give us a revelation that Vaivaswatha manu also known as Dravidewara Manu  was living in this stretch before Holocene when the sea levels were low due to Ice age in the Northern hemisphere. When the sudden sea floods happened at the end of Ice age, Manu and his men (who were prepared for the flood) were pushed by the sea currents in the Arabian seas that gushed from Indian Ocean. The currents carried them northward and pushed them into river Saraswati and reached them as far as the Himalayan mountains. The birth of Rig Vedas started after that. But the previous habitat in the west coast of India was lost to the seas.

The following illustration shows the probable movement of inhabitants - Vaivaswata Manu and his subjects and sages who lived in the coastal extensions at the beginning of Holocene.

River saraswati was flowing mightily at that time. The estuary of that river formed the entry point of Manu pushed by the currents (or pulled by the Mathsya, the mythical Fish) which came to be called as Dwaraka. Every time this entry was swallowed by the sea, another Dwaraka was built in remembrance of that early entry that facilitated the growth of new civilisation of Vaivaswatha Manu.

In course of time, when the domination of Kshatriyas grew to the extent of arrogance, Parashurama was present in the picture affected by an act of arrogance and atrocity by the Kshatriyas (Haihaya Kartha veeryarjuna) . He decided to call it a day and destroyed every kshatriya around him. Wanting to start from the beginning, he reclaimed the lost coast of Dravida Manu and settled the Brahmins who had come from the time of Manu. The explanation and justification of this require another series of articles which I will take up in a future date.



{1} Brihad samhita – chapter 26.
{2} “The Tribes and Castes of the Central Provinces of India” - Volume IV of IV, by R.V. Russell
{3} “Tribal culture of India” L.P Vidyarthi & Binay Kumar p260
{5} “The Tribes and Castes of the Central Provinces of India”, Vol 3 by R. V. Russell
{6} Srimad Bhagavatham - 9.9.40
{7} One dated at 1024 AD found on a rock on top of Thirumalaik kunRu near POLur and another dated 1031 AD found in the southern side of the sanctum sanctum of Rajarajeswara temple in Tanjore.
{8} “Ancient Karnataka” Vol I ‘History of Tuluva’.
{9} Brihad samhita 14- 19
{10} Mahabharata 3-88
{11} Mahabharata 3-118


LRR said...

Respected Madam,

I have read (will try to get the correct reference) that Cholas have been mentioned in one of the 18 Puranas and the etymology for Cholas is derived from the Maize (Corn) plant - Cholam. They were cultivators of Maize and hence got the honorific term after the plant. When they first settled in the banks of Kaveri river - they cultivated lots of Maize and called the place as Cholapuri (or Nicholapuri) - in Tamil that place was know as Uraiyur - this still exists and is now an area in Trichy city. Interestingly, the Tamil word for cover or sheath is called a 'Urai'. Maize (Cholam) has multiple layers of cover/sheath i.e. 'urai' in Tamil. So Cholapuri in Sankrit is Uraiyur in Tamil.
Regarding the front tuft (kudumi) relationship with Cholas that you mentioned - there is a Parasurama connection as per the below story by Sri Paramacharya Swamikal (68th Sankaracharya of Kanchi). The Brahmanas who were settled from Chola desam to the reclaimed Malayala land by Sri Parasurama, found the new land inhospitable (when compared to their native Kaveri land). They did not like the incessant rains and the snakes that were patronized by Sri Parasurama (to convert the saline soil to fertile one). Their dissatisfaction was sensed by Parasurama and to prevent them from migrating back to their native land - he changed some customs/forms/costumes/practices. This would make the Brahmanas as 'foreigners' if choose to go back. One of the change was the new Urdhva Shikha (front tuft). Many of the Brahmanas thus stayed put in Malayala desa - but some of them did return back - but as expected - they were not allowed to mingle genetically with the Chola desa Brahmanas - and were considered as a separate social group within Brahmins - Chozhiya Brahmanas. TiruGnanasambandhar comes from this 'caste'. In course of time, some of these Chozhiya Brahmanas migrated to Tirunelveli region.

Thanks & Regards.

Jayasree Saranathan said...

Thanks Mr LRR for the inputs.

However I have reservations on the first paragraph. Firstly, Kavery was a rice basin and not a place to grow rain deficient crops like maize. Secondly, the river Kavery did not exist when Cholavarman founded the Chola dynastry. The name as Cholas started at that time itself from his name - Chola varman. Kaveri was brought from Kodagu much later to Chola varman. To know this, check the genealogy in Thiruvalangadu copper plates here:-

check Verse 35

"(V. 35.) Having come to know that king Bhagiratha engrossed in penance brought down (from heaven) the river of gods (i.e., Ganga) (to earth), this king (also) desirous to fame brought her (i.e., Ganga) to his dominions under the name Kaverakanyaka (i.e., Kaveri).[1][25]"

My article on this:-

Uraiyur was originally called as Kozhi only. Uraiyur was a much later name. The reasons for calling it Kozhi are given in sangam texts as follows:

(From my article

The name-cause for Kozhi is found in Silappadhikaaram.

"முறஞ்செவி வாரணம் முன் சமம் முறுக்கிய

புறஞ்சிறை வாரணம் புக்கனர் "

(chapter 10 –verse 247-8)

Writing the commentary for this, Arumpatha uraiyaasiriyar (அரும்பத உரையாசிரியர் ) says:-

" யானையைக் கோழி முருக்கலால் கோழி என்று பெயராயிற்று . யானையைச் சயித்த கோழி தோன்றினவிடம் வலியுடைத்தென்று கருதி , அவ்விடத்து அதன் பெயராலே சோழன் ஊர் காண்கின்ற பொழுது , சிறையும் கழுத்துமாக ஆக்கியவதனால் புறம்பே சிறையையுடைய கோழி என்றாயிற்று "

(sirai – wings)

Writing on the same verse, commentator says Adiyaarkku nallaar (அடியார்க்கு நல்லார் ) says:-

"வாரணம் – கோழி , ஆவது உறையூர் . முற்காலத்து ஒரு கோழி யானையைப் போர் தொலைத்தலான் அந்நிலத்தில் செய்த நகர்க்குக் கோழி என்பது பெயராயிற்று "

Both have given the same version of a cock winning an elephant in an unknown past in that place. Since a unique feat of a cock winning en elephant happened in that place, the Cholan king, when he decided to have it as his capital - named if after the cock that has wings on its sides, says Arumpatha uraiyaasiriyar.

Jayasree Saranathan said...

Perhaps the name Uraiyur came up late with maize cultivation. But before that itself the name Chola had come to stay.

The Cholas called themselves as "Sembian" - coming from Sibi. Sibi was located in NW India in today's Pakistan. Sibi appears in Buddhist lore too and located in that region. Mahabharata also locates the descendants of Sibi (Saibyas) in that region. Therefore the Cholas claiming their descent from Sibi must have had their origins there.

To add credence to this, there is a place called Cholistan near Sibi which is an IVC site. The frontal tuft- people were there in further NW of Sibi. Tamil-resembling Brahui is spoken near that area. All these put together make me think the way that was written in the article.

On the 2nd idea by Paramacharya, I see it as a concurrence to my theory. Nambhoothiris sport mun-kudumi (front tuft). In contrast Deekshithars of Chidambaram sport side- tuft. The image of Nataraja in Chidambaram is carved with a side tuft only. This style depicts another or different set of people - those who are different from front tuft ones. I think based on the tuft, we can deduce origins of some of these people.

On front tuft, the Nambhoothiris sporting it shows that they must have been had their origins in Saraswad or Dravida Brahmins. This shows that Dravida Brahmins and Manu et al could have had front tuft. Their first landing region is NW India. Cholan origin there fits with their roots in sibi who came in Ikshwaku dynasty - though not in the line of first sons of the dynasty.

sathyasryan said...

Respected Madam,

Slightly digressing on the topic, i came across another blog, wherein the author dates the Ramayana to 12200 BC using astrological clues in the epic itself.

He writes a lot about astrology and i thought that many of his predictions validate your theory of a much ancient india and its great culture.

My humble Namaskarams.

Jayasree Saranathan said...

Dear Mr Sathyasrayan,

Thanks for the link. I will go through it. However I wish to state that Rama's time could not go before 7000 years BP, as Parashurama's time coinciding with rise in western coast happened 7000 years ago. You may take a look at these articles in my blog on Rama's time and Krishna's time.

On Rama's time:-

On Krishna's time:-