Monday, March 12, 2018

8. Kon Nedumāran in Periyāɻwār’s compositions.

Periyāɻwār (father of Āndāḷ) had sung two decads (1) on Lord Vishnu residing in Tirumālirum Cholai, popularly known as “Aɻagar Malai” – ‘the hill of Aɻagar’. Tirumālirum Cholai means ‘the grove where Vishnu resides’.

A surprising element in these 2 decads is that one decad makes specific mention of Then Tirumālirum Cholai -தென் திருமாலிரும் சோலை  (Tirumālirum Cholai of the South) in 8 out of 10 verses. The other decad does not make any such reference anywhere in the 10 verses.

In the group on Then Tirumālirum Cholai, Periyāɻwār mentions the name “Kon Nedumāran”!
Periyāɻwār does not say anything here on the emblem engraved by Kon Nedumāran on the Himalayas, but the information he gives in that context seems to refer to an incident found in Pāndikkovai.

The verse is

மன்னர் மருக வைத்துனன் 
     மார்க்கொரு தேரின் மேல்,
முன்னங்கு நின்று மோழை 
     எழுவித்தவன் மலை,
கொன்னவில் கூர்வேல் கோன் நெடு 
      மாறன் தென் கூடற் கோன் ,
தென்னன் கொண்டாடும் தென் திரு 
        மாலிருஞ் சோலையே.  (2)

Word by word meaning:-

மன்னர் மருக வைத்து – caused the kings to suffer, நன்மார்க்கு – for the good people, ஒரு தேரின் மேல் – mounted on a chariot, முன்னங்கு நின்று – stood there in the front, மோழை – bubbles,  எழுவித்தவன் – caused to rise,  மலை – hill / mountain, கொன்னவில்- the bow that causes fear, கூர்வேல் – sharp spear, கோன் நெடுமாறன்Kon Nedumāran, தென் கூடற் கோன் – king of South Koodal, தென்னன் – Thennan, a titular name for Pandyans meaning Southerner, கொண்டாடும் – glorify / celebrated by,  தென் திருமாலிருஞ் சோலையே – South Tirumālirum Cholai.

Meaning:- This is the hill of the one who stood in the forefront, in the chariot for the sake of the good one and caused the bubbles to rise, making the kings suffer. This is the South Tirumālirum Cholai, celebrated by Kon Nedumāran, the Southerner and the lord of South-Koodal who carries fearful bow and a sharp spear.

This verse identifies Kon Nedumāran as

(1) Thennan – Southerner.
(2) Then Koodal kon – the ruler of Southern Koodal (not Madurai or Kapāta puram / Alavāi)
(3) one who always carried Bow and spear.

The kind of victory mentioned here is something that Nedumāran scored by the grace of Lord at Tirumālirum Cholai. But commentators writing on the historical information do not think so. They attribute the victory to Kon Nedumāran thereby making the verse appear to be glorifying  Kon Nedumāran. That can never be the intention of Periyāɻwār.

In this verse, he intended to say that such a victory was possible only because the Lord Himself was leading the king in the war and enabled him to win, which made the king glorify the Lord at Tirumālirum Cholai.

A verse with similar theme is found in Pāndikkovai.

That verse unravels 2 mysteries – 
(1) about the incident mentioned by Periyāɻwār in his composition and 
(2) about an ancient festival that is now differently understood and even lost in present day Tamilnadu.

We will take up the first one in this article.

This verse says that Nedumāran scored a great victory at a place called “Āṟṟukkudi” (ஆற்றுக்குடி). By the name of it, Āṟṟukkudi means “the habitat at the river”. (There is no such name found in present day Tamilnadu or Kerala which was once ruled by Cherans)

The fascinating element in the verse is that the resistance by enemies at Āṟṟukkudi was broken by the discus bearing Vishnu!

The verse also tells about the chariot used in the war. In the absence of any knowledge of a battle at Āṟṟukkudi, it is difficult to interpret that part of the verse on who drove the chariot. But based on Periyāɻwār’s composition, it can be interpreted that the discus bearing Vishnu led the war on a chariot and brought victory to Nedumāran.

The verse in Pāndikkovai attributes the victory to none other than Thirumāl (Vishnu).

 The verse is as follows:

 ஆழித் திருமால் அதிசயற்கு ஆற்றுக்குடி உடைந்தார்
சூழிக் களிற்றின் துனைக திண் தேர் துயர் தோன்றின்று காண்
கோழிக் குடுமியம் சேவல் தன் பேடையைக் கால் குடையாப்
பூழித்தலை இரை ஆர்வித்துத் தான் நிற்கும் பூம் புறவே. (3)

This verse says that Vishnu having the Discus (chakrayudha) rode fast the sturdy chariot with elephants and broke / ruined Āṟṟukkudi for the sake of “Adhisayar” - a reference to Kon Nedumāran.

Meaning:- ஆழித் திருமால் – Thirumal bearing a discus, அதிசயற்கு – to the Wonder King, ஆற்றுக்குடி உடைந்தார் –broke / ruined Āṟṟukkudi, சூழிக் களிற்றின் – bull elephants with ornaments of the forehead, துனைக திண் தேர் – rode fast the sturdy chariot, துயர் தோன்றின்று – sorrow appeared, காண் – look, கோழி – fowl, குடுமி அம் சேவல் – handsome rooster with a comb, தன் பேடையை – for its female, கால் குடையாப் பூழித்தலை இரை ஆர்வித்துத் தான் நிற்கும் – scratches with his feet on the dust to get food and stands (waits), பூம் புறவே – in the flowery groves.

Kon Nedumāran is mentioned in this verse by a name “Adhisayar”. It means one who causes ‘surprise’ or something that causes ‘wonder and awe’.

There is one more verse in Pāndikkovai which refers this king by this name “Adhisayar”.  There also that name is used in the context of victory at Āṟṟukkudi. This is found in verse 43.

அளி மன்னு செங்கோல் அதிசயன் ஆற்றுக்குடியுள் வென்ற
ஒளி மன்னு முத்தக் குடைமன்னன்

The selective use of the name “Adhisayar” only in the context of victory at Āṟṟukkudi implies that this king received the name Adhisayar after his victory at Āṟṟukkudi. Only if such a victory was difficult or scored through unusual or unexpected means can such a name be attained as a ceremonial name due to the nature of the victory.

Another surprising element in Pāndikkovai is that King Nedumāran himself was mentioned as Thirumaal (Vishnu) in 2 verses.

Verse 111 says,

மன்னன் வரோதயன் வல்லத்து ஒன்னார்கட்கு வான் கொடுத்த
தென்னன் திருமால் குமரி அம் கானல் திரை தொகுத்த
மின்னும் சுடர் பவளத்து அருகே விரை நாறு புன்னை
பொன்னம் துகள்கள் சிந்தி வானவில் போன்றது இப் பூந்துறையே.

This verse talks about the battle at Vallam which was won by Thennan Thirumaal – Southerner Vishnu. This may be construed as a reference to the King, as kings were held as Gods. But this king is mentioned in this verse with another title called “Varodhaya” meaning “Himself a gift (of God)” Perhaps the victory at Vallam also was like the one at Āṟṟukkudi, led by Vishnu or won by the grace of Vishnu and therefore the title “Varodhaya”.

Verse 146 also mentions the king as Vishnu.

அன்னம் புரையும் நடையாள் புலம்பு எய்த அத்தம் என்னும்
பொன்னஞ் சிலம்பு கதிரோன் மறைதலும் போயினவால்
தென்னன் திருமால் கழல் நெடுமாறன் திருந்து செங்கோல்
மன்னன் குமரிக் கருங் கழி மேய்ந்த வண்டானங்களே.

The same title as ‘Thennan Thirumaal” appears in this verse too.

The line “Thennan Thirumaal kaɻal Nedumāran” (தென்னன் திருமால் கழல் நெடுமாறன்) in the above verse implies that Nedumāran was a worshiper of Vishnu.

The verse on Āṟṟukkudi shows that Vishnu Himself helped him to win the battle at Āṟṟukkudi. Vishnu helped him win the battle at Vallam and it got him the title, Varodhaya. He was very successful in his conquests that he came to be seen as a personification of Vishnu Himself in course of time. 
Periyāɻwār’s reference to Kon Nedumāran in the context of Tirumālirum Cholai implies that this king had worshiped Lord Vishnu housed at Tirumālirum Cholai.

The specific reference to the direction of South for this abode of Vishnu, gives an impression that there did exist a Tirumālirum Cholai in the region of Kon Nedumāran that is no longer there now – meaning to say that it was in the submerged lands of Pandyan king in the southern ocean. Kon Nedumāran is associated with that Tirumālirum Cholai of the South .

Present Tirumālirum Cholai temple

The victory at Āṟṟukkudi seems to be indicated by Periyāɻwār in his verse. That was the battle, Pāndikkovai recognises as one led by Vishnu Himself. The enemies were traumatised in that battle. The rising of bubble mentioned by Periyāɻwār (by the word Moɻai) serves as the hint to the battle at Āṟṟukkudi. By its name, Āṟṟukkudi appears to be a habitat in and around a river. Vishnu, causing the bubble to rise might refer to pulling up or taking up possession of Āṟṟukkudi 
(மோழை எழுவித்தவன்).

Moɻai (மோழை) also means a river at the lower level. 
By the phrase மோழை எழுவித்தவன் it means ‘caused the river to rise’ to come to be possessed by Nedumāran.

Inference from these verses (Periyāɻwār’s and those from Pāndikkovai):-

 It is surprising to note that the Pandyan king, who came in the lineage that considered Lord Shiva as the Guardian deity of the race, had invoked the blessings of Lord Vishnu to win a battle.

Not only that, the King was regarded as Lord Vishnu-personified.

This kind of recognition is based on the premise of Hinduism that Vishnu, one among the Tri-Murthy is a Protector. As such, kings were seen in the image of Vishnu. It is note-worthy that this concept of Hinduism was well entrenched in the sunken Tamil lands of yore.

This is in contrast to the ideological warfare between Shiva and Vishnu devotees witnessed in the first millennium of the Common Era in Tamil lands. This king, Kon Nedumāran therefore can be inferred to have belonged to a previous era when there was a clear understanding of the concepts of Vishnu and Shiva.

The kind of consistency found between the historical inputs from different compositions from different eras – in this case between Pāndikkovai and Periyāɻwār’s verses- testifies the reliability of olden Tamil literature as a window to past history of Bharata varsha.

There is yet another historicity hidden behind the verse of Pāndikkovai on Vishnu defeating the enemy on behalf of the Pandyan King Kon Nedumāran. That is about the origin of Oṇam festival – which also finds mention in Periyāɻwār’s compositions. We will see the details in the next article.


(1) Periyāɻwār Tirumoɻi -4-2 &3
(2) Periyāɻwār Tirumoɻi -4-2-7
(3) Pāndikkovai – 257

(To be continued)


srinivasan said...

Super A fine composition

sampath said...

Learn new things everyday. Thank you for a clear projection.

Vainateya said...

According to you who was supreme god narayana or shiva.nedumaran pandiyan knows vishnu is supreme?

Jayasree Saranathan said...

@ Vainateya,

//According to you who was supreme god narayana or shiva.//

It all depends on in what state of spiritual elevation that one is. I am in the 3rd state among the 4 given by Geetacharyan.

//nedumaran pandiyan knows vishnu is supreme?//

I am yet to come across a verse that gives this idea, but the people of those days were well aware of Trimurti concept and how they are are not at loggerheads with each other. Or else the descendants of Shiva - Gowri, the Pandyas would not have prayed to Vishnu for protection and victory and tied 'Im padai-th-thaali' having Panchayudha of Vishnu for their children.

Vainateya said...

What is 3rd state among 4?.Why pandiya prayed vishu for guidance in war at arrukudi if they are descendants of gowri.That pandiya devotee of vishnu?

Jayasree Saranathan said...


Your Q1: If you are curious to know find out from Bhagavadgita the 4 types Bhagawan says. Sorry to say that in certain matters I don’t want to spoon feed.

Your Q2: Answer is obvious. Also indicated in previous reply that the Pandyas were well aware of Trimurti concept. Today not many are aware of it.

Vainateya said...

That means pandyas consider vishnu brahma and shiva are same or they prayed vishnu because he is god for protection .

Jayasree Saranathan said...


Not same. Trimurti concept is portfolio arrangement of works between three deities which are part of the one and only Brahman. Since Vishnu is protector god, the king is recognised as an incarnation of Vishnu. That’s what Pandikkovai reveals and written in the article by me.
Read my article “Does Sanathana dharma prohibit me from commenting on politics?”
wherein I have quoted Bheeshma telling that a king is a combination of 5 deities.