Sunday, April 8, 2018

Southern Madurai (தென் மதுரை) of 1st Tamil Sangam was submerged at the time of Rama’s exile. (Spoken language of ancient India – Part 6)

Disclaimer: I hereby declare that there is no chauvinistic intention of promoting Tamil, which happens to be my mother tongue, in this series. The intention is to bring to the notice of readers, the presence of Tamil alongside Sanskrit in the Indian Subcontinent for many thousands of years. A deeper analysis might give us leads on why a fused Tamil and Sanskrit presence can be seen from India to Ireland to Ice land and from Polynesia to the Incas. 

Agastya’s migration to the origin of Kaveri in the Saivala Mountain is the last information about him in Valmiki Ramayana. This occurs in Uttara kanda during the reign of Rama. His penance done in the receptacle of Kaveri for 12 years earned him the name “Kumbhayoni”. Ramayana mentions Agastya as born of Kumbha after this penance (1).  Rama keeps addressing Agastya as Kumbhayoni in his meeting with Agastya after Agastya has completed this penance. This makes it clear that the myth of Agastya having born in a Kumbha or a jar had appeared after he had shifted to the region of Kaveri. Until then his image was that of a Rig Vedic sage but after that, his image fits with ‘vadapaal muni’ (வடபால் முனி), a reference to him frequently found in Tamil, meaning ‘northern sage’ – signalling his further course action in southern lands.

Positioning the time of Agastya’s shift to Kaveri in Valmiki Ramayana.

Earlier Rama had met Agastya in the 11th year of his exile at his hermitage near Panchavati. On the 14th year we get to hear Sugreeva saying that Agastya is sitting on top of “Ayo mukha” Parvata from where one can go and see Kaveri in a receptacle. The parvata under reference is Western Ghats. Ayo Mukha refers to the iron ores found in the visages of the mountain. In the words of Sugreeva:

अयोमुखः गंतव्यः पर्वतो धातु मण्डितः |(2).
(The mountain having iron ore mines in the shape of mouths is reachable)

Sugreeva first refers to the iron-ore mouthed Malaya and then says that one can go to the receptacle of Kaveri from there. Agastya can be seen there, sitting on top of the mountain. (द्रक्ष्यथ आदित्य संकाशम् अगस्त्यम् ऋषि सत्तमम्). (3)

From this we gather that Agastya has shifted to Kodagu, the place of origin of Kaveri (where it appears just as a pot) sometime between the 11th and 14th year of Rama’s exile. The shift must have been a well-known event throughout the country, or else Sugreeva, a forest dweller until then could not have come to know about it.

The shift could not have happened in the 14th year of exile due to reasons that (1) Agastya was already located at Kaveri on the 14th year as per Sugreeva’s narration, (2) Agastya made himself available at the war-field in Lanka to give a piece advice to Rama, which is more viable if he is located near Lanka, and Malaya is closer to Lanka and (3) the legend of Ravana as having been bound by Agastya by means of music seems realistic, given the Asura’s tendency to harass the sage engaged in penance. The proximity of Malaya to Lanka is a factor that lends credence to this legend to be true.

Taking all these into account, we are able to zero in on just three years - between the 11th and the 13th year of Rama’s exile – when Agastya must have shifted his location to the pot-like Kaveri.

Why Agastya shifted to Malaya?

The penance of Agastya was of the nature of staying in a water-body for 12 years. He could have done that penance in the Dandaka forest itself, in a pond near his hermitage.  In Aranya Kanda we do come across a similar kind of penance by sage Mandakarni (माण्डकर्णि) in a lake somewhere near the hermitage of Agastya in the Dandaka forest (4).  But the sage could not complete the penance due to distraction from women. This is contrived into a myth that the celestials conspired to discourage his ascendancy to their abode through this penance and therefore they sent Apsaras to disturb his penance.

This kind of ‘conspiracy’ theory or locational issue can have no relevance for a sage like Agastya, who is known to have cleared the path for the celestial Sun! And Agastya has already proved his power to annihilate Asuras in the Vātāpi episode. So there must be some reason for his choice of a farther region in the South on top of Malaya range.

Two references, one from Valmiki Ramayana and another from Tirumandiram by Tirumular give almost similar ideas relevant to this issue.

According to Valmiki Ramayana, when the southern quarter of Dandaka forest was infested with man-eating demons like Vātāpi and Ilvala, Agastya moved over there to purge the region of these demons and to signal that no more demonic activity can be tolerated there. By stationing himself at that place he restored peace in the region, made it liveable and discouraged demonic elements to come anywhere near. This is the message given in Valmiki Ramayana through the words of Rama (5). For Agastya to shift further down the South was there any similar reason as stated above?

Looking at the 2nd reference, Tirumular, a famous siddha (mystic) of Tamil lands had given more or less the same idea about Agastya in two verses in the beginning of his 2nd Tantra, under the caption ‘Agattiyam’ (Agastyam, a Tamil grammar work by Agastya).


  1. நடுவுநில் லாதிவ் வுலகஞ் சரிந்து
    கெடுகின்ற தெம்பெரு மானென்ன ஈசன்
    நடுவுள அங்கி அகத்திய நீபோய்
    முடுகிய வையத்து முன்னிரென் றானே.
  2. அங்கி உதயம் வளர்க்கும் அகத்தியன்
    அங்கி உதயஞ்செய் மேல்பா லவனொடு
    மங்கி உதயஞ்செய் வடபால் தவமுனி
    எங்கும் வளங்கொள் இலங்கொளி தானே. (6)

{அங்கி உதயம் வளர்க்கும் = Grows Fire at dawn – reference to Agnihotra
அங்கி உதயஞ்செய்  = Angi is another name for star Krittika – reference to Krittika at sunrise
மங்கி உதயஞ்செய் = by subduing, caused the rise (of sun) – reference to Vindhya remaining subdued }

Meaning: The world is not balanced: it slips and causes harm. Therefore Lord Shiva commanded the equanimous Agastya to go to the forefront. Agastya, the northern sage who grows Fire at dawn and caused the sun to rise up by subduing (Vindhyas), brought light and prosperity everywhere by joining the Youth born in Krittika star (reference to Lord Muruga / Subrahmanya.

The verses reveal that some harm has happened to mankind due to imbalance of the earth. The earth has subsided causing harm to those who should not be harmed. Agastya had been directed by Lord Shiva to bring succour to the affected people.

There is no direct reference to the kind of succour intended by the Lord. That is being deduced by us from the two inputs found in the verses. (1) Lord Muruga associated with Krittika star is invoked as one whose guidance is to be sought by Agastya. (2)The other input is found in the title given to these verses. It is ‘Agattiyam’, the grammar book in Tamil authored by Agastya.

Taking up the 1st input, Muruga’s name is associated with the 1st Tamil Sangam as the founder of the Sangam concept and Assembly. Muruga is also known for initiating one into yogic meditation. Muruga himself has been recognized as a Siddha in the text ‘Bogar-7000’ authored by Bogar (a Siddhar). (7) The verse says that Muruga also known as Vadivela is ageless, meaning, he lives on forever and can be invoked through meditation; he is the same one known as Subrahmanya and praised in Veda-agamas; knowing his powers, people have framed “Subrahmanya Kāppu” (“Protection by Subrahmanya”).

Bogar further says that Muruga had taught Agastya positioned in the southern direction. In that context he refers to Vinayaka as the brother of Muruga, to avert any doubt about whom he is referring to (8). What possibly was taught by Muruga to Agastya is known from the 2nd input. Certainly it was not to do with any meditative or mystic power as Agastya had amply demonstrated such powers in his earlier residence in Dandaka forest. The upadesa must have been about Tamil grammar.

From the name of Agastya’s grammar work appearing as the title for the two verses, it is understood that Tirumular had referred to the work of Agastya and his role in streamlining the Sangam assemblage after a deluge caused by the imbalance of the earth.

The succor is not in the form of any material help but as a composition of Tamil grammar, done with the aid of Muruga, the first ever entity legendarily associated with composing grammar and convening assembly of the learned to promote grammatical Tamil. This is brought out by Tirumular by captioning these two verses as “Agattiyam”!

Barring these two verses, all the other verses of the chapter (2nd Tantra of Tirumandiram) are about life and death at macro and microcosmic level. They also deal with deluge, death and Jiva, but all these have no connection with these two verses positioned in the beginning of the Tantra.

The reference is to the loss of habitat and immense loss of life of a people to the rising tides of the ocean caused by the subsidence of land. This has been a main feature in the loss of two capital cities of the Pandyans that hosted two Sangam assemblies.

The first location was Southern Madurai (தென் மதுரை) that hosted the 1st Sangam for 4442 years (9). This ended around the year 5550 BCE (refer Part 1 for details).

The survivors of that deluge established their new capital at “Kapātapuram” also known as “Kavātam” and Ālavāi (ஆலவாய்) in Tamil (10)

The crucial piece of cross-reference to check the veracity of this claim comes from Valmiki Ramayana.

In his description of the lands in the southern direction, Sugreeva mentions this city (Kavātam) of the Pandyans and asks the Vanaras to search for Seetha!

युक्तम् कवाटम् पाण्ड्यानाम् गता द्रक्ष्यथ वानराः |” (11)

Agastya and Tolkāppiyar were the main figures who were associated with the 2nd Sangam at Kavātam. Nakkeeranār begins his narration on the 2nd Sangam with these two names only. Others who follow these names are just poets – barring Krishna, the king of Dvārakā who appears much later in chronology. (12)

The deluge had just happened sinking Southern Madurai and the other regions of the Pandyan king. The survivors had just moved into Kavātam. Agastya, who by then had earned a proverbial status as the protector of the South from Yama, had received a jolt. How can he remain mute when so much has been lost to the waters in the South? His new mission had started and by invoking Lord Shiva and Muruga he had zeroed in on a suitable place for penance that is nearest to the location of the survivors.

The deluge that prompted this shift must have happened after he met Rama for the first time at his hermitage near Panchavati. The three year period we deduced in the beginning of this article holds good for this event too. It is sometime between the 11th and 13th year of Rama’s exile, the deluge at Southern Madurai had happened. Agastya lost no time in making his decision to do his part in reclamation of the lost heritage, namely the Tamil Sangam and moved to Kaveri to prepare himself for the task by engaging in a penance.

 A sage however learned and powerful he may be, has to strengthen his power in the field where he is expected to contribute. To control the havoc caused by waters, he has to increase his power by standing in water. Agastya’s penance by staying in the water of Kaveri makes sense in this respect.
His emergence from the penance gave him a title “Kumbhayoni”. Bogar also refers to his penance on top of the mountain that earned him the name Kumbhayoni (13)

The transformation of a Rig Vedic sage into a Tamil sage had happened at the time of Rama! Can there be any more strong reason needed to convey that Tamil was in use at that time?

There are other questions that need clarification.

Foremost is whether there is any evidence for this deluge in Valmiki Ramayana.

The next one is why Agastya chose to take up the task and why no other Rig Vedic sage was interested in this task. Were they not conversant in Tamil – the language called Madhuram that Rama and Seetha seemed to be familiar with?

To be explained in the upcoming articles...


(1) Valmiki Ramayana 7-89

(2) Valmiki Ramayana 4-41-13

(3) Valmiki Ramayana 4-41-16

(4) Valmiki Ramayana 4-11-11to19

(5) Valmiki Ramayana 3-11- 81 to 84

(6) Tirumandiram  II-1&2

(7) Bogar 7000
Verse 5852:
சித்தான சித்தனிட மார்க்கஞ்சொன்னேன் சிறப்பான இன்னமொரு வயனங்கேளிர்
முத்தான வடிவேலர் முருகரப்பா மயற்சியுடன் வயததுவும் ஏதென்றாக்கால்
சத்தியமாய் வயததுவுங் கணக்கோயில்லை சார்பான நூல்தனிலுஞ் சொல்லவில்லை
சித்திபெற ஞானவழி கொண்டசித்து சிறப்பான சுப்ரமணியர் என்னலாமே

Verse 5853:
என்னவே சிவசுப்பிர மணியரான யெழிலான சித்துக்கு வயதோயில்லை
பன்னவே பலசாஸ்திர நூல்கள்தன்னில் பாகமுடன் வயததுவுங் கூறவில்லை
சொன்னபடி சுருதிமுறை வேதாகமங்கள் தோற்றமுடன் பலபேரும் பாடிவைத்தார்
நன்னயமாய் சுப்பிரமணியர் காப்பேயென்று நாட்டினார் நூல்களெல்லாம் நாட்டினாரே

(8) Bogar 7000
Verse 5942:
ஒன்றான கால்தனிலே பிறந்தநாளாம் வுத்தமனார் வடிவேலர் பிறந்தாரென்று
குன்றான மலைபோலே சாத்திரங்கள் கூறினார் குவலயத்தில் சொல்லொண்ணாது
தென்றிசையில் அகஸ்தியருக்கு உபதேசங்கள் செய்ததொரு வடிவேலர் சித்துதாமும்
பன்றிபெருச் சாளியின்மேல் சாரியேகும் பண்பான விநாயகருக்கு தம்பியாமே.

(9) Commentary by Nakkeeranār to “Irayanaar Agapporuḷ”
அவர் நாலாயிரத்து நானூற்று நாற்பற்றியாண்டு சங்கமிருந்தாரென்ப

(10) Commentary by Nakkeeranār to “Irayanaar Agapporuḷ”
அவர் சங்கமிருந்து தமிழ் ஆராய்ந்தது கபாடபுரத்தென்ப

(11) Valmiki Ramayana 4-41-19

(12) Commentary by Nakkeeranār to “Irayanaar Agapporuḷ”
இடைச் சங்கமிருந்தார் அகத்தியனாரும், தொல்காப்பியனாரும், இருந்தையூர் கருங்கோழியும், மோசியும், வெள்ளுர்க் காப்பியனும், சிறு பாண்டரங்கனும், திரையன் மாறனும், துவரைக் கோனும், கீரந்தையுமென இத்தொடக்கத்தார் .......

(13) Bogar 7000
Verse 5883:
ஆச்சப்பா அகத்தியரின் பிறப்புநேர்மை அவனிதனில் ஆராலும் முடியாதப்பா
மூச்சடங்கி மலையின் மேல்நின்றசித்து முனையான கமலமதில் பிறந்தசித்து
மாச்சலுடன் தேவரிஷி வரத்தினாலே மகாதேவர் வந்துதித்த குருவுமாகும்
ஏச்சலது வாராத கும்பயோனி எழிலான அகஸ்தியரென் றரையலாமே


athma said...

Excellent research butteressing the Tamils' claim that the language is very ancient existing even before stone and sand appeared on earth

Saminathan said...

மக்கள் இந்தியா முழுவதும் தமிழ் மொழி பேசுகிறார் என்றால் , பிற மொழி உருவாக்கம் நோக்கம் என்ன (தெலுங்கு, கன்னடம் போன்றவை ..)

Jayasree Saranathan said...

@ Saminathan,

As time goes by and as people get settled in groups separated from each other, changes in the language occurs. In 1000s of years the changes become distinct and they start looking like separate languages, though one can trace the influence of root languages in them. Tamil and Sanskrit form the root languages of most languages of present day India. Tamil and Sanskrit themselves have had a root language as seen from the heavy mix up between these two. I will be tracing that root language in the course of this series.

Saminathan said...

thanks for your reply madam.
உங்கள் கருத்தை எங்களுக்கு தெரிவிக்கவும்

Jayasree Saranathan said...

@ Mr Saminathan,

Read the article. I have different opinion on certain issues in that article. But rest are like what I wrote way back in 2011 in my Tamil blog.

They can be read here:
(articles numbered 43,44 and 45 on ஊழிகளும், சங்கமும் கண்ட குமரிக் கண்டம்) (articles numbered 57,58 and 59.. சாகத்தீவும், குமரிக்கண்டமும்)