Thursday, June 29, 2017

7. Tracing the ancestry of Cheras and Keralas.

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We are in the middle of a discussion on the 6 verses of Pandikkovai that say that the Pandyan king Kon Nedumaran engraved the emblems of all the three Tamil dynasties on a peak in the Himalayas. After a discussion on “Panjavan” and “Pāzhi” in the previous article in this series, we are now taking up the next verse which gives a clue on Cheran kings.

This verse (numbered 200) says

கெண்டை வட வரை மேல் வைத்த வானவன் மாறன்

It means “Vānavan Māran who affixed ‘Keṇdai’ (fish) on top of the northern mountain”.

Vānavan Māran is a title for the Pandyan king for having conquered Vānavan. (Pandyans are known as Mārans). Vānavan refers to Cheran kings, but this name is very rare and found at two poems in Purananuru (39 & 126) and at one place in Silappadhikaram. (27-247). But there is no clue in these verses to derive the origin of this name for the Cheran king. This name is not found in the all- Cheran text of the Sangam literature namely, Padiṛṛuppattu.  An old Tamil Grammar book called “Puṛapporuḷ Veṇbāmālai” mentions this name for Cheran. (1)

The name Vānavan is unique because it means ‘celestial’ or ‘Deva’ or ‘Indra’! Vānavan implies that Cheran was equated with Indra or there was something unique about the Cherans.

Thinking about this uniqueness, one finds that the Cherans were always mentioned first among the three dynasties– as ‘Chera, Chola and Pandya”. No reason for this is given in any text or commentary.
That this order was followed by poets is known from the commentary to Silapapdhikaram by the olden commentator Adiyārkkunallār. In Silappadhikaram a chapter is dedicated to the song and dance sequences done by the Ayar women (Tamil equivalent of Yadavas) called “Aycchiyar Kuravai”. A part of it is in praise of all the three kings of the Tamil lands. In that, the Pandyans were praised first, followed by the praises on Cholan and Cheran kings. Writing on it, Adiyārkkunallār says that the poet Ilangovadigal chose to mention Pandyans first and not Cherans, because the land where the Ayars were singing this song belonged to the Pandyans.  (2)

One might think that this order (of names of the three dynasties) is alphabetical. But the sequence found in Tholkāppiyam while mentioning the official flowers of the three dynasties has Cheran in the lead followed by Pandyan and Cholan.

The verse “Bōndai vēmbē ārena varūm(3) mentions the flowers of Cherans, Pandyans and then Cholans. It is not known whether any rationale was there in having kept this order and having Cherans in the beginning.

The same order (Cherans, Pandyans and Cholans) is repeated in the first 15 verses of Purananuru. The very first verse in Purananuru (after the Prayer-verse) is on the Cheran king only.

It is a matter of research whether this prime position is related to their name as Vānavan (Indra) as this name seems to be olden and is indicative of some unique connection with Indra or Deva. This name was not in vogue even in Sangam texts.

Kon Nedumaram seems to have had some pride in having conquered the Cheran king of his times or else he would not have got the title as ‘Vānavan Māran’ which implies the Pandyan superiority over the Cheran king. In the same way, Kon Nedumaran had another title called “Sembian Māran”. The Cholas were known by the title Sembian after Sibi’s name. This was Sibi who offered his flesh to the hawk to save the pigeon. Kon Nedumaram came to be called as Sembian Māran, after he subjugated Cholans of his times.

The name Sembian is often found in Sangam literature. A few Sangam verses mention Pandyans as “Panjavan” the olden name we explained in the previous article. In contrast the Cheran name “Vānavan” is conspicuously absent in the Sangam literature. Only Pandikkovai mentions it 9 times. Kon Nedumaran is mentioned as “Vānavan Māran” at 10 places in Pandikkovai. This shows the widespread use of the name Vānavan at an olden time.

 While looking for justification of the name Vānavan having the meaning “celestial”, there is a surprising hint coming from the flower connected with the Cherans. The official flower of the Cherans is also known as ‘celestial’ flower by Tamils.

Celestial flower of the Cherans.

His official flower was Bōndai – the flower of the Palmyra tree, known in Tamil as Panai maram (பனை மரம்). This tree is regarded as “Karpaga-th-tharu” the celestial tree as every part of it is useful. It is the official tree of Tamilnadu now.

Palmyra trees are native to Asia and  tropics and had a greater presence in the submerged Tamil lands of yore. The submerged Tamil lands were identified as 7 in number, each having 7 habitats within themselves. One among them was known by the name of Palmyra!

This group having 7 habitats was known as “Kurum Panai Nadu”, meaning the land of a Palm variety known as Kurum Panai. The Palm tree before it reaches the flowering stage is known as Kurum panai. The name Kurum was perhaps drawn from the word “kurutthu” meaning tender or young. In a surprising correlation, there is a place called “Kurum panai” near Colachal on the west coast of Kanyakumari district.

The same name appearing in sunken lands shows that this place could have been one of the 7 habitats of Kurum Panai Nadu. This hypothesis cannot be easily overruled as the land was extended beyond the current shore line in the past. The following picture shows the sunken regions in the extended shoreline throughout the west coast.

The outer edge of a previously available landed area is marked with stars in yellow.

The presence of this name, Kurumpanai of the early Sangam age in a location close to the submerged coast reiterates that Sangam age habitats were not myth but real. This region were under Cheran domination for a long time.

Quite a few places in southern most part of Kanya kumari have names with Panai (Palmyra) such as “Panai viḷai” (Viḷai means grow – Overall meaning is ‘where palmyras grow’),  “Vadali viḷai” (meaning Kurum Panai – the Palmyra tree when it is young), “Panaccha moodu”, “Karukku panai viḷai” etc justifying the presence of Palmyra trees in those places at some time in the past.

Of these, one place is crucial for our analysis. The place Vadali viḷai, meaning Kurum Panai, is found near the famous place “Kottar” . A place called “Kottaru” finds mention very often in Pandikkovai. Pandyan king Kon Nedumaran defeated the Cheran king in Kottaru and took control of the same. Kottaru was one among the 7 places of the Cheran king that were won by Kon Nedumaran in different battles. The other 6 places were Sevur, Kadayal, Poolanthai, Naraiyaru, Vizhinjam and Āṟṟukkudi.

The names of Palmyra (eg: Vadali viḷai) appearing in the location close to Kottar makes us think that the Cherans, associated with Palmyra have held control over these regions.

There is a hitch in accepting Kottar as Kottaru of Pandikkovai as there exists a verse in Pandikkovai that says that Kon Nedumaran destroyed the naval forces of the Cheran king at Kottaru (4) The verse says “Cheralar tham koman kadal padai Kottaarru azhiya” (ruined the naval force of the Cherans at Kottaru)

This implies that Kottaru was a coastal town and not an inland. Kottar that we see in the above picture does not fit with the description of Pandikkovai!

By its name Kottaru, a river is indicated and it is probable that Kottaru was established in an estuary of a river by that name. Kottaru must have existed in one of the Kurum Panai Nadu (Palmyra habitats). When all of them were lost to the seas, the survivors must have established places with same names in the new locations. That is how the Palmyra lands and Kottar have come up in today’s topography. In the absence of any memory of this shift, it goes without saying that the submergence had happened in a very remote past – at a time  when Cheran was better identified as Vānavan!

The association of Cherans with Kottaru once again reiterates his connection with Palmyra lands in the past. It is possible to assume that the importance attached to Palmyra as celestial tree lent the name Vānavan to the Cherans in those days.  

Udhiyan Cherans

Coming out from such remote past, we come across other names of Cheran dynasty. They were Udhiyan and Irumpoṛai. Of them Udhiyan lineage seems to be olden as the very first verse of Puṛanānūru on the Cheran king refers to a Udhiyan king who supplied food to the armies of Pandavas and Kauravas during the Mahabharata war!

It is difficult to deduce the etymology of Udhiyan while Irumporai sounds easy to understand. Irumporai is a title for a particular lineage of Cherans of the later period that lasted till the start of the Common Era. Irumporai was perhaps the derivation from Irumbu + porai, meaning “strong as iron”.  But there is no such derivation possible for Udhiyan in Tamil.

But that name makes sense when related to Sanskrit word “Udeechi” meaning ‘north’. North signifies Devas which is what Vānavan also means!

If the Cherans had originated in the North, this name fits with Udhiyan and related with Vānavan.
Their northern origin can be traced to the times of a war between Vasishta and Viswamitra when Vasishta created Mleccha tribes to fight with the army of Viswamitra. According to Mahabharata, Keralas were formed at that time along with Yavanas, Kiratas, Pahallavas, Dravidas, Sakas, Savaras, Paundras, Sinhalas, Khasas, Chivukas, Pulindas, Chinas, Hunas and numerous other Mlecchas. (5) 

Almost all of them were located in the Northwest part of the Indian sub continent where Pakistan – Afghanistan are located now.

A cross reference to this location comes from another chapter in Mahabharata wherein Karna tells about the behaviour of a Mleccha group living in the region of the 5 rivers of Sindhu (Indus river). (6) Due to the curse of a woman, this group started making the sister’s son as the heir and not their own son. This trait was found in later kings who ruled Chrean lands and not in the olden kings of the Sangam age. But this gives rise to an opinion that there existed a former group of Keralas in the North West of Himalayas which migrated to Tamil lands at different times.

Keralas in Vishnu Purana and Valmiki Ramayana.

Vishnu Purana locates Keralas in the north of Magadhas and near Malla rashtra where Mahavira and Gautam Buddha exited their mortal coils. (7) This is in present day Bihar. This region also qualifies as “North” for Tamil lands.  But Keralas were more ancient to the times of these regions.

This can be stated on the basis of the mention of all the three Tamil kingdoms in Ramayana of Valmiki!

In his description of the countries of the South, Sugreeva tells Vanaras that they must search in the regions of Cholas, Pandyas and keralas (चोलान् पाण्ड्यान् केरलान्) (8) Soon after mentioning this Sugreeva asks the Vanaras to search “Pandyan’s Kavatam” (कवाटम् पाण्ड्यानाम् ) (9)

This shows that Keralas lived in the south during the 2nd Sangam Age when Kavatam was the capital city of the Pandyans.

{Kera-Chera are interchangeable and the word Chera refers to the name of a mountain by that name, as per Tamil Thesaurus. Any mention of Keralas can be taken to refer to Cherans}.

In any of these references, there is no way to know the exact lineage from the North that established Cheran dynasty. However the names Vānavan and Udhiyan that look inter changeable or closely related do point to a Northern origin.

Genetic source.

There is however a genetic study that puts the Keralas unique among others in India, perhaps relating them to a location beyond the Himalayas in Northern regions that was connected with Uttar Kuru.
Haplogroup U is an mtDNA traced to a woman who lived 55,000 years ago. All human beings (men and women) inherit mtDNA from their mother. It is found that 23% of the Indian population and 11% of native Europeans have mtDNA U. U1 is the subclade of U and is found in Europe in Georgia. 

Further subclade of U1 is U1a. It is found in Tuscany in Italy and only in Kerala in India. Earlier I had written several articles on connection with Etruscans of pre-Greek society with Tirayan Pandyans. (10). The Etruscans lived in the region that presently corresponds to Tuscany.

The presence of U1a in Kerala and Tuscany justify my write ups on migration of people of Tamil origin (Kerala including in those days) to Etruscan and founding the basis for pre-Greek culture. But this happened in recent history, say in 1500 BCE when the Kavatam of Pandyans was submerged. 

Even before that submergence, Cherans and Pandyans have held sway over the habitats in the Indian Ocean, particularly the extension of west coast and the submerged parts of Western Ghats that extended up to Madagascar.

Cheras and Kon Nedumaran lived prior to that time. So that brings our search to the parent Haplogroup U.

The study of the genome of a boy buried in a place called Malta neat Lake Baikal in Siberia some 24,000 years ago was found to belong to Haplogroup U, the parent mtDNA of Haplogroup U1a found in Kerala. (11)

This location near Lake Baikal falls within the area of Uttar Kuru that was frequented by Arjuna who had his paternal connection with that place. The presence of U1a in Kerala with a definitive presence of U Haplogroup in Baikal, justifies a clear northern origin of the Vānavan – Udhiyan Cheran. A place called Indra loka was located there. The name Indra was used in three ways in ancient texts, (1) as a divine and therefore out-of human reach realm, (2) as a force in Nature namely thunder bolt and the electricity created out of it and (3) as human beings like us who had emotions and vulnerabilities like us but were clever in keeping themselves hidden from others and unreachable for others.

I would be detailing them in the course of this article though for the present let me say that the first one is reachable by spiritual route, the second can be understood by logical & scientific explanation and the third one was within reach of the people of the past who even had contact, though secretly with them.

A group from that gene pool was also present in India since 55,000 years ago and also in Baikal region. No one knows who came from which region, but the name Vānavan does show that parent group emerged in Baikal region that was regarded as Uttar Kuru in Mahabharata times and as Indra Loka in times prior to that. The Haplogroup U underwent 2 mutations and the 2nd one was settled as Vānavans of Chera dynasty.

The more recent connection of the Cherans with that location in North can be seen in Silappadhikaram wherein it is mentioned that the Cheran king Senguttuvan procured “Chadukka Bhootham” from Amaravathy (capital city of Devas) and held Soma yaga. (12)

Similar kind of Chadukka Bhootham was given by Indra to Muchukuntha in much earlier times which was established at Pumpukar. It would be written in a separate article at an appropriate context.

Now coming to the issue of order of names in the list of 3 dynasties:

It is always auspicious to address to the North as signifying Devas and that is how Tholkappiyam begins its first line. If a dynasty is related to the region of North and even Deva land, tradition was to begin the list with the name of that dynasty. That is how Cherans came to occupy prime place in the order of the three dynasties. The middle one was reserved for Cholas as they came from Sibi who occupied North, but south of Northern Cheras. The Pandyas came last as they had their abode in South always.

The title Vānavan Maran stirring up so much thought contains clue for another part of hidden history, this time of the South. The famous Vaishnavite temple at Thirumalirum Cholai, locally known as Azhagar Malai in Madurai, has had a previous existence in sunken lands of Pandyans. Another facet of Vānavan Maran who defeated Vānavan at Arrukkudi finds resonance in the verse of Periyazhwar. That would be discussed next in this series.

(To be continued)


1. வானவன் போரெதிரிற் போந்தையாம் பூ (புறப். பொது. 1)

2. Silappadhikaram, Chapter 17, Commentary to “munneerinul....”

3. Thol kappiyam, Porul Adhikaram – 63.

4. Pandikkovai – verse 247.

வாமான் நெடுந் தேர் வய மன்னர் வாள் முனை ஆர்க்கும் வண்டார்
தேமா நறும் கண்ணியாய் சென்று தோன்றும் கொல் சேரலர் தம்
கோமான் கடல் படை கோட்டாற்று அழியக் கணை உகைத்த
மாண் சிலையவன் கன்னி நல் நீர் கொண்ட ஈர் முகிலே.

5. Mahabharata 1-177.

6. Mahabharata 8-45

7. Vishnu Puarana 2-3

8. Valmiki Ramayana 4-41-12.

9. Valmiki Ramayana 4-41-19

12. Silappadhikaram Chapter 28 – lines 147 & 148. 

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Tamil connection to Estonia and Sami people.

While looking for some information on a place called Sakala, I chanced upon some Tamil names and olden Tamil practices in Ancient Estonia and in Sami people. Whatever I am going to write here from what I noticed, may only be peripheral and it needs deeper study to establish them as true.

“Sakala” is an old country that finds mention in Mahabharata. It was in the region of Aratta and could be reached from the Indian side after crossing rivers Sutlej and Ravi. But there was another “Sakala country” further north. Ancient Estonia was known as Sakala.

 At the outset one may think that Sakala is a Sanskrit word meaning ‘whole’, ‘all’, ‘complete’ etc. But when looked at the names connected with this country, most of them sounded Tamil!

In the above map of Ancient Estonia of the 13th century, the name Vaiga is similar to river Vaigai in Tamilnadu. It is an ancient name in Tamil. Likewise Virumaa, Pudiviru, Mohu (Mohur is a place in Tamilnadu), Ugandi (ugappu or Ugandu is a Tamil word for happiness) and Sakala are familiar in Tamil.

This region had Kunda culture in very ancient times dating to 8500 – 5000 BC. Kunda is a word for pot both in Tamil and Sanskrit.

There was a Pulli settlement dated to around 11000 years ago. Pulli in Tamil means petal or the outer whorl of the flower. There is reference to Pullinam in Sangam texts. Pullinam refers to sheep variety in Tamil. A Tamil Sangam age verse makes a distinction between Pullinam and Nallinam referring to sheep and cattle respectively.

Pullis were settled on the banks of Parnu river – sounding like Parna meaning leaf in Tamil and Sanskrit. Pulli and Parna are parts of a plant in Tamil. Taking Pullinam as sheep, they too are connected with parna as they subsist on leaves.

Most Pulli regions end with ‘Maa’ in their name. There is a ‘Sindi’ also in this map!

‘Maa’ has many meanings in Tamil such as animal, elephant, bee, mango tree, Goddess of prosperity (Lakshmi), wealth, unit of measurement applicable to measuring land, pride, strength, beauty, black, colour, mother and powdered cereal (flour).  

Looking at so many “Maa’s in this map, I wonder whether ‘Maa’ was used to denote some unit of measurement.

Maa also means flour in Tamil. The traditional food of Estonians is a Maa – flour of barley, rye, oat and pea. It was called as Kama

A bowl of Kama.

Kaama is a word in Sanskrit too which means love, desire etc. But in the context of a food, and flour in particular, the Tamil word Maa fits in well.

The names of places where archaeological excavations were done also sound as Tamil.
To name a few taken from this website 

Names in Estonia - Similar ones in Tamil with meaning in bracket.

Akali - akal  (to move away)

Kroodi - Koodi ?  (together)

Kullamäe- Kullam (short)

Kääpa - kaappu (protection)

Narva Joaoru - naravu (toddy, milk)

Riigiküla - kulam (lineage)

Siimusaare - siimam (boundary)

Tamula - Tamil?? (Tamila)

Pulli - Pulli (petal, dot)

Valma -  valimai (strength)

Villa - vil (arrow)

The archealogical finds from Estonia also has surprising connections with Tamil.
The following artefacts were recovered from Kumna near Kella.  

Kumna sounds like Tamil Kumana and Kella like kalla or kola. Kolla in Tamil is one who is engaged in smithy works.

The figure titled as 1 is a popular design called ‘Kolam’ and drawn with flour on the floor or ground in Tamilnadu. A complicated design of it is called Srivatsa, which is found in Indus symbols. But ask any rural Tamil woman, she would recognise it as ‘Kolam’ design that is drawn as a mark of sacredness on all days in front of the house, inside the house and in temples.

The above is Srivatsa.

The pictures below show Tamil woman making huge designs of Kolam on the streets.

The image in the picture of artefacts numbered 2 is the basic design of ‘Kolam’ made on festival days.

It is developed further as seen in the picture below.

The Mari religion of this region has a symbol that looks very much like a ‘Kolam’

The people of Sami religion or Sami people lived in a place called “Kola” peninsula!

Kola Peninsula also has its bag of surprises for us in their names. It has a lake called “Imandra” (Indra?), has a river called ‘Niva’ and a Gulf called ‘Kandalaksha’. Kanda in Kandalaksha is Tamil word for Skanda.

Mavalla Koda is a religious organisation of Estonian natives. This name also sounds like corrupt form of Tamil. Even the very name Estonia is how Tamil words adopt ‘e’ before words starting with ‘s’.
Of all these, Sami people have many common features with Tamil.

First of all ‘Sami’ is Tamil word for God.
Sami people worship stone which resembles ‘linga’.

The above is Siedi, worshiped by Sami people.

These stones are picked up from nature (not carved) and consecrated on a higher level. Twigs and leaves are strewn on them as how Hindus do ‘archana’ with flowers on idols.

The names of female deities of Sami religion end with ‘akka’. Akka is a Tamil word for elder sister.
Maderakka was the first Akka and it refers to Mother of the tribe. Maata is mother in Tamil and in Sanskrit as well and Maderakka sounds like Tamil word for Mother figure called as Akka.

The three goddesses Sarakka, Juksakka and Uksakka sound similar to three female goddesses namely Saraswathi, Lakshmi and Uma.

Shamanism is another feature that is common between early Tamils and Sami people. The use of drums and connect with ‘spirits’ is something extensively found in Tamil Sangam literature and which even continue today in rural Tamilnadu.

The belief in after life and ancestor worship is yet another common feature with Sami people. I came across a name ‘Maravah’ in one of the articles on these topics. Marava is the name of a people engaged in war and protection.

As if to crown all these is the name Sakala. Sakala was the olden name for Estonia, in Northern Europe. One may think that this is a Sanskrit word. But the location of Estonia makes me think that it refers to ‘Sakala’ or ‘Sakalai’, a Tamil word that refers to the husband of wife’s sister. And this location comes within the area from where Skanda’s wife came.

Skanda, also known as Muruga was a popular God of not only Tamils but many across India from very olden times. Even Rama was known to have worshiped him as known from the verse in Valmiki Ramayana (2-25-11 ) which says that his mother Kausalya told him that Lord Skanda would guard him on his way in exile. She mentioned Skanda’s name as the first one among the other names. 

Skanda was not a myth but a real person who lived in very ancient Tamil lands which can be located near west or north Australia which are now under water. His name is synonymous with warrior-ship. Anyone engaged in deep contemplation of his prowess is bound to become capable of trouncing his enemies. (This contemplation is the basis of prayers for Gods in Hinduism).

Skanda’s wife was from some northern lands of the globe, known as Indra’s land or Deva’s land. In general terms, the northern hemisphere was known to belong to Devas and the southern hemisphere to Asuras. The sages, the narrators of information such as this, have always added some mythical and extraordinary elements so that they would last in memory and are passed on from generation to generation for a very long time. It is up to us to remove the mythical elements and derive the information contained within. As such we cannot deny the geographic connection to a land called Deva land or Indra loka on earth.

The fathers of each of the 5 Pandavas of Mahabharata were someone from outside Bharata varsha. Of them Arjuna was fathered by Indra himself. There are many references to a land of Indra with their capital at Amaravathy – a place situated on a hill from the description. Skanda from Deep South married a girl from Far North who happened to be the daughter of Indra. Her name was Devyaani or Devaanai as per Tamil texts.

Due to this marriage connection, an exchange of people or movement of people had happened from Deep South to Far Northern regions. The topography of these regions need to be studied to look for clues. But as of now the surprising similarity with Tamil in the names of this region and with Sami people is something that cannot be brushed aside. There is likelihood of the people of Skanda’s land having gone over to the land of his wife and settled there. In such an event, this place Sakala is a fitting one to refer to the region where the sister of Skanda’s wife had lived.
The sisters of Devyaani were Akka godessess. Kanda in Kandalaksha is another surprising link. Even the very name Sakala also recognised as Sagala reflects the use of 'ka'-'ga' for the same letter which happens only in Tamil. Sakalai is also pronounced as Sagalai in Tamil to refer to the husband of wife's sister. If this region was the maternal home of Skanda's wife, it also means that her sisters ( akka) lived there. Perhaps their husbands also came from the same region. This makes it the land of Sagalai of Skanda.

Related articles:-

Genetic study shows out of India migration to Europe 26,000 years ago -

Update added on 25th June 2017:-

I happened to read about the practice of naming children as "Pulli" in Telugu speaking community that once lived in north of Madras. The source of this is "Indian Antiquary", volume 10, published in the year 1881.

The practice until the 19th century was to name the child born after the death of its older sibling, as Pulli. For boys, the name is "Pulya" and for girls the name is "Pullama"

Pulli-akalu is a leaf that was used as a plate for eating food in those days. These are thrown out on a heap and when the child is born (after the death of the elder child), two or three of them are brought and placed on the child.

Naming the child as "Pulli" had another explanation among the people of those times. Pulli means hole. (In Tamil it means dot. The Kolam are made around the dots / pulli). The previous child is dead leaving a hole, and the new child has come to fill up the hole. Based on this rationale, the new child was named Pulli.

It would be interesting to know the kind of customs that Pulli people of Estonia followed.