Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Major flaw in Vedveer Arya’s chronological history of ancient Tamilagam.

Next article: The fallacies about Kharavela in "The Chronological History of Ancient Tamilagam" by Vedveer Arya

I happened to read a forward from a face book entry made by Sri Vedveer Arya on “Dravida Shishu and the date of Adi Shankara” in which he derived the date of Tirujnana Sambhandar from his association with Ninraseer Nedumaran alias Koon Pandyan (original pronunciation is Goon Pandyan, where ‘goon’ means bent or curved back). According to him Koon Pandyan belonged to 1300-1200 BCE and he was the successor of Ukkira Peru Valudi (Ugra Peruvaɻuti) to whom he assigns the date 1276 BCE.

Ugra Peruvaɻuti was the last patron of the last and the 3rd Sangam assembly and the date assigned to him has great ramification for dating the Indian past as he was the last king of a very long Tamil Sangam era that spanned for nearly 10,000 years! Date of Ugra Peruvaɻuti deserves to be called as a cut-off date which must fit well with cross-referential dates before, after and during his period. Miffed by this date given by Vedveer Arya, I started to look for the exact context where he has written this and came across his paper “The Chronological History of Ancient Tamilagam (From 11226 BCE to 5th Century CE)” where I found not just one but many incorrect statements on information found in Sangam texts and challengeable dates of kings. Fearing that a refutation of all of them would make this article too lengthy, I decided to concentrate on the date of Ugra Peruvaɻuti alone here, while reserving the rest in different articles later.

The major source of information about Ugra Peruvaɻuti comes from the commentary by Nakkīrar for a text called “Iṟaiyanār Agapporuḷ”, supposed to have been authored by Lord Shiva himself. The first flaw is that Vedveer Arya pre-supposes the existence of two Nakkīrar-s and attributes this commentary to Nakkīrar II while attributing some Sangam poems in the name of Nakkīrar to Nakkīrar I and some others to Nakkīrar II. This flaw is an obvious outcome of his non- acquaintance with the original commentary in Tamil and his dependence on secondary works on this commentary with the result that he is echoing the opinion of the writers of the secondary books and not the commentary by Nakkīrar himself.

For, in the original text by Nakkīrar, it is well made out that there was only one Nakkīrar and all the Sangam poems in the name of Nakkīrar was by the same person who wrote this commentary as well. In the very beginning of the commentary Nakkīrar reveals this while describing the circumstances that made him write this commentary.

Only one Nakkīrar

Nakkīrar begins his commentary fulfilling the established norms of Sangam publications, such as stating the name of the text, the nature of the text – whether primary or secondary, the topic of the text and to whom it was given (read out) – the patron king, the land and the listeners. In describing to whom it is given, he narrates the background of this text.

Once there was a drought for 12 years in the Pandyan land with the result that people had moved out of the country to find greener pastures. At the end of 12 years, it rained well and the conditions for living returned to normalcy. The King Ugra Peruvaɻuti called upon all the people who had left the country to come back. He also desired to constitute the assembly of Sangam, and revive the system of study and development of Tamil literature. Heeding his call, many Tamil scholars returned with whatever texts they had in hand.

In those days scholars had specialized in certain topics and were not in the know of everything of Tamil grammar and literature. This is known from the information in the commentary that of all the three parts of grammar (eɻutthu / letters, sol / word and poruḷ / meaning), only eɻutthu and sol were available. (This grammar work must have been Tolkāppiyam, though there is no explicit reference to it in the commentary). None who returned to the country was an expert in Poruḷ Adhikaram. This caused anguish to the king and the scholars. Lord Shiva, the patron deity of the Pandyans decided to put an end to their anguish.

One day the priest at the Shiva temple (could have been Madurai Meenakshi temple – mentioned as ‘Devar kōttam’ in the commentary) who normally would not clean the under-part of the seat of the Lord, thought of cleaning it and to his surprise found some copper plates lying there. This was brought to the notice of the king and it was found to contain Tamil verses on the topic, Poruḷ’. This made the people think that the Lord Himself had written the work to complete the missing part of grammar. The topic was found to be ‘Agam’ (pertains to personal and love life ) and therefore this work came to be called as “Agapporuḷ”. As Shiva was known as “Iṟaiyanār” (meaning God) in Tamil, this work acquired the name “Iṟaiyanār Agapporuḷ”.

(It must be mentioned here that Vedveer postulates two Iṟaiyanār-s, implying that there were two Shiva-s! One who gave a verse to Dharumi which is found in Kurunthogai and the other, the composer of this Agapporuḷ. If we accept his logic, there were three Shiva-s, the 3rd one being the earliest of all and was the founder of 1st Sangam era. But Vedaveer finds a way to partially rein back this run-away absurdity by claiming that this Agapporuḷ was originally written in the 1st Sangam age by Iṟaiyanār. So another absurdity encased among many such absurdities – and this one claiming that a text found in the last Sangam assembly of the last Sangam era was written in the first Sangam assembly of the first Sangam era, perhaps as the first composition! Nothing can pale out this absurdity – not even his claim that Tolkāppiyam was ‘influenced by Bharata’s Nātyashāstra and Mānava Dharmashāstra’ – despite the fact that texts like Tolkāppiyam state in categorical terms what they talk about.)

Continuing from the paragraph preceding the above, the task of finding the meaning of the sutras of this work commenced. With no one giving a convincing commentary, Nakkīrar along with other poets went to the king and requested him to find a suitable judge or teacher (kāraṇika – this is the word written in the commentary) to assess the commentaries presented. But the king was annoyed at this request and what he told them reveals the identity of Nakkīrar. The King said that all the 49 were unparalleled poets of the Sangam assembly; how could he find someone superior to them in judging their work. (1)

Prior to this Nakkīrar writes in the commentary that 49 poets contributed to the 3rd Sangam among whom he mentioned his own name. The king was obviously referring to all the poets who contributed until then to the 3rd Sangam era. Nakkīrar’s name does not appear in any other Sangam era.  

As the anguished king and others were praying at the temple to find a way out, it so happened around midnight on one of those days they heard a divine voice (āakāsh vāṇi) telling them to invite one “Urutthira Sanman” (Tamilised form of Rudra Janman), the Uppurik kiɻān, (the resident of Uppur) a re-incarnation of Kumaraswamy (Lord Muruga, born due to a curse) to assess the work as Kāraṇika. The commentary which makes him shed tears and raises goose bumps, must be accepted as the best commentary.

The assembly was constituted and many people presented their commentaries. Only two poets made an impact on the Kāraṇika. One was the famous Marudaniḷa Nāganār and the other was Nakkīrar. The Kāraṇika felt the impact for every word of Nakkīrar, which was not so with the other poet and this made him choose Nakkīrar’s commentary as the best one.

This information given in this work makes it known that there was only one Nakkīrar in the entire Sangam period and he was a contemporary of the king of the last Sangam assembly. He was the same person who shot into fame for having dared Lord Shiva (Iṟaiyanār)  Himself when he appeared to defend his poem given to Dharumi (Dharmi). That poem is found in a Sangam compilation called Kurunthogai.

The confusion about the identity of Nakkīrar had come up among some researchers due to the reason that a list of teachers is given in the commentary itself through whom this text had gone from one hand to another. Nakkīrar taught this commentary to his son who in turn taught it to another. Thus goes the list. This made some researchers to suggest that the commentary was written by another person by name Nakkīrar who appeared at a much later date than original Nakkīrar.

But the fact is that the list does not contain the same name Nakkīrar again. The list shows the persons to whom the commentary has gone. At every successive generation or after the commentary had been mastered by a teacher to be able to impart it to others, his name had been added in the list while the original commentary had been retained as it was, while making copies of it.

The problem with two Nakkīrar-s.

The issue with two Nakkīrar-s is that Vedveer Arya attributed two different time periods for two Nakkīrar-s. The earlier one (Nakkīrar I), according to him was a contemporary of Pandyan king Nedunjeɻiyan  in whose honour Nakkīrar I composed a Sangam text called Nedunalvādai. Claiming that he was many generations earlier than Nakkīrar II, Vedveer continues to say that Nakkīrar II who wrote commentary to Iṟaiyanār Agapporuḷ was also the composer of another Sangam work called “Tirumurugatruppadai”.  He based this claim on the list of kings given by a secondary and refutable text written in 1920 and not on any internal evidence of the Sangam texts themselves.

In quoting this text he had made erroneous entry that Pandyan king Nedunjeɻiyan was the 83rd king and Ugra Peruvaɻuti was the 104th king.

His exact words are,

“Nankudi Velir Varalāru” (NVV), a Tamil text consisting of 1035 poems written by Arumuga Nayinar Pillai speaks about the genealogy of the Irungovel branch of Pāndya dynasty. It gives the names of 201 generations of Pāndyan kings. According to this text, Nedunchelian II was the 83rdking and Ukkirapperu Valudi (1330-1250 BCE) was the 104th king.

This is not true as per that text. The text mentions them as 83rd and 84th kings – as successors – a father and son duo which is true as per the Sangam texts. The 104th king was Ukkira Pandyan and not Ugra Peruvaɻuti.

The dates given by Vedveer Arya are also not what that texts says. The text gives the date 62-42 BC to Nedunjeɻiyan and 42 BC- 1 AD to Ugra Peruvaɻuti , but Vedveer pushes back the date by 1000 years, saying,

“Considering the average reign of 33 years, Nedunchelian II might have flourished around 1850-1800 BCE.”

His date for Ugra Peruvaɻuti was 1330-1250 BCE!

He has based his chronology on his own earlier work on the date of Theravada Buddhism and Gajabahu, who was present in the consecration of Kannagi temple by the Cheran king Senguttuvan. The date of Seguttuvan can be cross checked with an important historical figure, namely Sarakarni with whom the Cheran went on to conquer a Yavana king (internal reference found in Silappadhikaram). This Satakarni was Gautamiputra Satakarni whose date has been well established (1st century of the Common Era).

Without going into the merits and demerits of Vedveer’s date of Gajabahu, let me put forth the connection between the two Pandyan kings with whom he is associating two Nakkīrar-s. 
Nedunjeɻiyan was a popularly known as one who defeated his opponents in Talaiyalanganam. In his youth he confronted a confederation of 7 kings – 2 Tamil kings (chera and Chola) and 5 Veḷir kings and defeated them all. The Chola king defeated in this war at Talaiyalanganam was Perunarkilli, the one who conducted Rajasuya yajana (he had that as his title).

The interesting part is that this Cholan king was seen in the same dais with the Pandyan king we have been talking all along, i.e., Ugra Peruvaɻuti! The famous poetess Auvaiyar has written in her composition that all the three kings of the three Tamil dynasties are found together (Purananuru 367) and wished that this unity must be there at all times. The three kings were Pandyan Ugra Peruvaɻuti, Cholan Perunarkill who did Rajasuya yajna and the Cheran king Māri Veṇko.  

This means the Cholan king defeated by Nedunjeɻiyan had bought peace with the Pandyans and had become friendly with the successor Pandyan king Ugra Peruvaɻuti. Apart from Sangam literature, another input comes from epigraphy. The Sanskrit part of the bigger Sinnamanur plates lists out the achievements of earlier Pandyans. There it mentions the victory of a Pandyan king at Talaiyalanganam – The only king associated with this victory was Nedunjeɻiyan that Vedveer associates with Nakkīrar I. The inscription says that the Pandyan king cut off the heads of two kings in this war – which was fought by 7 kings as per Sangam texts. So five kings were spared of their life.

Nedunjeɻiyan who won the battle at Talaiyalanganam as a small boy.

The inscriptions continue to say (in the next verse) that Mahabharata was translated in Tamil and in subsequent verse says that Tamil Sangam was established in Madurai. This had happened in the times of Ugra Peruvaɻuti.

So the events between Nedunjeɻiyan and Ugra Peruvaɻuti were just three – winning Talaiyalanganam, translation of Mahabharata and constituting the Sangam Assembly. The survivor of the war (Cholan king) with the former had continued to live and was spotted along with the latter (Ugra Peruvaɻuti) by Auvaiyar. This is revealing of the fact that the Cholan king survived the war by seeking friendly relationship with the Pandyan king Nedunjeɻiyan. This was firmed up in Ugra Peruvaɻuti’s times perhaps by sharing the bonhomie of constituting the Sangam assembly.

From the Cholan genealogy given in Tiruvalangadu copper plates, it is known that the Cholan king Pernarkill had preceded Karikal Cholan. Karikal Cholan’s daughter was married to the Cheran family and Seguttuvan was born to her. It was Seguttuvan who consecrated Kannagi as a deity.

The line of kings constructed from these events goes like this:

·       Pandyan Nedunjeɻiyan who won at Talaiyalanganam = (contemporary of) = Perunarkill who did Rajasuya.

·       Perunarkill who did Rajasuya = (contemporary of) = Ugra Peruvaɻuti who constituted the last Sangam assembly. 

·       Perunarkill who did Rajasuya was succeeded by Karikala Chola.

·       Karikal Chola’s grandson = Cheran Seguttuvan = (contemporary of) = Gautamiputra Satakarni.
This puts in perspective the probable time period of the last Sangam Assembly conducted by Ugra Peruvaɻuti.

The Cheran King Seguttuvan ruled for 55 years and his expedition to Himalayas during which he teamed up with Satakarni to defeat the Yavanas was at the fag end of his rule. Going with the date of Gautamiputra Satakarni at the 1st century of the Common Era, it can be said that Senguttuvan’s birth goes before or around the start of the Common Era.

This puts the date of Senguttuvan’s maternal grandfather Karikal Chola to the last century before the Common Era.

Pernarkilli who did Rajasuya yajna, and preceded Karikal Chola must have lived in 1st or 2nd century before the Common Era.

From this it is deduced that the last Sangam Assembly was convened by Ugra Peruvaɻuti sometime between 1st and 2nd century before the Common Era.

If Nedunjeɻiyan who won the war at Talaiyalanganam about whom Nakkīrar composed a text  was the same one mentioned in Mangulam inscriptions, then the time of Last Sangam goes well into the 2nd century BCE as Mangulam inscriptions are dated at 3rd century BCE. That will be discussed in another article.

The bottom-line is Nakkīrar was the jewel of the last Sangam Assembly and presented his commentary to Iṟaiyanār Agapporuḷ. He is being termed as Nakkīrar II by Vedveer Arya. The same Nakkīrar wrote a poem on the previous king Nedunjeɻiyan and Vedveer identifies him as Nakkīrar I. Such arbitrary presentation of Sangam poets and the Sangam Era is bound to vitiate the already mis-used and mis-interpreted poetry of Sangam Era.


(1) From Iṟaiyanār Agapporuḷ

நாம் அரசனுழைச் சென்று, நமக்கோர் காரணிகனைத் தரல்வேண்டும் என்று
கொண்டுபோந்து, அவனாற் பொருளெனப்பட்டது பொருளாய்,
அன்றெனப்பட்டது அன்றாய் ஒழியக்காண்டும்என்று, எல்லாரும் ஒருப்பட்டு, அரசனுழைச் சென்றார். அரசனும்
எதிர்சென்று, ‘என்னை, நூற்குப் பொருள் கண்டீரோ?’ என, ‘அது காணுமாறு
எமக்கோர் காரணிகனைத் தரல்வேண்டும்என, ‘போமின், நுமக்கோர்
காரணிகனை யான் எங்ஙனம் நாடுவேன்! நீயிர் நாற்பத்தொன்பதின்மர்
ஆயிற்று. நுமக்கு நிகராவார் ஒருவர் இன்மையின் அன்றேஎன்று அரசன்
சொல்லப், போந்து, கல்மாப் பலகை ஏறியிருந்து அரசனும் இது சொல்லினான்,
யாம் காரணிகனைப் பெறுமாறு என்னைகொல்என்று சிந்திப்புழி

No comments: