Sunday, June 11, 2023

"Ancient Tamils knew Valmiki Ramayana" - my article in Vijayvaani

 My article published in

Rama and Ramayana were common knowledge in Tamil speaking lands in olden days. Numerous Rama temples all over Tamil Nadu bear testimony to this. But there is a propaganda blitzkrieg that Ramayana is a myth and there is no connection between Rama and Tamils. Let us examine the evidence from Tamil literature.

Although Rama lived in Ayodhya, the major portion of the Ramayana occurred in the Tamil region. It was from the coast of Tamil Nadu that Rama went to Lanka. He reached the south east coast of Tamil Nadu and stayed there for a few days. He did penance on the shores and then started building a dam across the ocean. There is an old temple at the location where he is believed to have done penance, while the remnants of Ram Setu are there to see. Were there local people present at that time to pass on the news about Rama’s arrival there? It seems there were!

Dhanushkodi, where the Setu Dam begins, was part of Tamil lands known as “Neydhal” – coastal land. There must have been small settlements here and there even in olden days when Rama lived. Rama’s arrival there must have been an unforgettable event for them. People seem to have talked about places where Rama sat and where he slept and carried those memories generation after generation. One such memory has been recorded in the Sangam literature called ‘Agananuru’

The context described in the poem of Agananuru shows how deeply the memory of Rama’s visit to the region was etched in the minds of the common people. The situation is about a man and a woman in love with each other. When the people of the town came to know about it, the gossip-mill started grinding and stopped only after they got married.

The girl’s friend tells how the gossip was ended. When Rama sat down under a banyan tree on the seashore and consulted his friends about how to cross the sea, all the birds that lived in that tree, which were making noise until then, became silent. Similarly, when this man and the woman got married, the village people who were speaking ill about them until then, just stopped speaking anything about them.

Could the woman have given such a parable if there had not been such a notion among the people of that coastal region that this was the place where Rama had come and sat under a banyan tree?

It can be said that this is poet’s imagination. As far as the Sangam literature is concerned, the poets have told what was prevalent. What the people of the area often talk about, was incorporated in their poems. The memory of Rama’s arrival, the place he wandered, and the place he sat under the banyan tree were all noted by the locals...CONTINUE TO READ HERE

"Massacre of Mandayam Iyengars by Tipu Sultan" - my article in The Commune Magazine

Exactly 240 years ago, a pall of gloom fell upon Srirangapatna on the Day of Light celebrated as Deepavali when innocent members of 700 families of Mandayam Iyengars were put to death under the order of Tipu Sultan. The offence they committed was to have been born in the families related to those who wanted to restore the kingdom of Mysore to its legitimate royal family from the clutches of Tipu. What remained since then was a faded memory of a dreadful Deepavali marked by the non-celebration of Deepavali by certain families. This triggered a vigorous search by the members of these families who managed to collect letters and documents of the period of massacre and presented them in a short essay titled, “The Mysore Pradhans”.

Compiled and written by M.A. Sreenivasachar, this essay traces the lineage of the affected families from Thirumalai Ananthalwan, a disciple of Ramanujacharya who was a native of Kirangur near Srirangapatna. The Hoysala king Vishnuvardhana gifted him with eight villages (ashtagram). Later, after the Hoysala dynasty weakened, these villages fell into the hands of the Palayakars. However, Ananthalwan clans were serving the country as gurus to the king and in ministerial posts. They also became the Pradhans  (prime ministers) in the Mysore royal court. Problems started after Hyder Ali rose into power and conquered his master's kingdom in 1762.

The exiled Mysore king,  Krishnaraja Wadayar II passed away a few years later. The Pradhan Govindarajiah (of Ananthalwan’s lineage) was killed by Hyder. The two sons of the Pradhan, Tirumal Row and Narayana Row became the confidante of the queen in exile, Maharani Lakshmammanny. Dedicated to restoring the kingdom to the royal family, the two brothers started reaching out to the British authorities to dislodge Tipu from the throne. 

It was a long story of struggle for 24 years in that endeavour that ultimately caused them lose their dear ones and their properties. The loss of the 700 families to Tipu’s fury was one of the bloody chapters in their long struggle. It happened in 1783 when the English army succeeded in capturing Karur and proceeded further towards Srirangapatna. At the same time, the Pradhans were hatching a conspiracy with their friends to overthrow Tipu's government. Subraj Urs and Narasinga Row guided the project in Srirangapatna. Aided by three thousand Jettis, Mahrathas and others loyal to the king, a plan was made to enter the fort, seize the treasury, and arrest every Mahamadan. The  attack was planned on the night of 28th July 1783. But Killedar Syed Mahamad, the head of the fort, discovered the plot at the last minute and killed the conspirators including Subraj.

Tipu was immediately informed of the conspiracy hatched by Tirumal Row. On coming to know of the activities of the Pradhans in dislodging him with the help of the English army, Tipu swung into action.

He “ordered the arrest and imprisonment of all the relations of the Pradhans and Subraj Urs &co.,including men, women and children to the extent of 700 families. They were chained with heavy irons and thrust into the dungeons of Seringapatam. Pradhan Narayan Row was also captured and imprisoned, but he soon managed to escape and join his brother. Tippu on his return to the capital ordered a wholesale massacre of these 700 families, and had them mercilessly put to death by one means or another. He also confiscated the Jaghirs and other property enjoyed by the Pradhans and their relations,” writes the author of the essay.

The massacre had taken place on the day of Deepavali in Shobhakrit year corresponding to 25th October, 1783. Among the documents produced in the essay, the letter written by the queen Lakshmammanny.... CONTINUE TO READ HERE 

Saturday, June 3, 2023

Sengol’s a tradition that goes back to Mahabharata and Harappan... (My article in Firstpost)

Sengol’s a tradition that goes back to Mahabharata and before: How Modi connects new India with ancient past

Prime Minister Narendra Modi carries the 'Sengol' in a procession before installing it in the Lok Sabha chamber at the inauguration of the new Parliament building, in New Delhi, on 28 May, 2023. PTI

From terming the events leading to the handing over of the Sengol to Jawaharlal Nehru as ‘baseless fiction’ to the denial of its importance in the transfer of power, the Sengol continues to dominate the narrative to whitewash the adverse publicity it got as the ‘walking stick’ of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. Additionally, there is the worry about it being capable of invoking Tamil pride with the elections just a year away. The anxiety of the Congress is evident from the assertion of the TNCC president, KS Alagiri: “Nehru did not prostrate before the Sengol like Modi did. Sengol was crafted by jewellers and given by Adheenakarthars, and so it is not an appropriate symbol for showing reverence to Tamil Nadu or Tamil culture, as the BJP claims to be doing.”

Since a fact-check of the events on 14 August, 1947 is being done by all and sundry, let us focus on the lesser-known facts on certain issues doing rounds. First of all, Sengol was not the prerogative of the Cholas alone. It was also held by the other two Tamil dynasties, namely Chera and Pandya. To be more precise, it was held by all kings across India. This is not to mean that it signified monarchy, rather it was a representation of the Rule of Law or Righteousness. It was known as ‘Dharma Danda’ and expressed so at several places in the Mahabharata.

The earliest talk about it comes from the Ikshvaku king Mandhatri who wanted to know the origin of chastisement. The rules of chastisement known as ‘Danda-Niti’ were associated with the display of a weapon – an upright weapon to ensure justice for all. Those rules were described by Bhishma from an episode on Pururavas, stating that Kshatriyas were created for ruling the earth and for wielding ‘Danda’ – the Rod of chastisement.

The same was repeated by Vyasa to Yudhishthira when he was about to take up the rule of the country. Vyasa listed out twelve things for kshatriyas, of which wielding ‘the rod of punishment’ (Danda-dharanam) was the foremost. “Strength must always reside in a Kshatriya, and upon strength depends chastisement,” said Vyasa. In the same context, Arjuna said, “The man armed with the rod of chastisement governs all subjects and protects them. The rod of chastisement is awake when all else is sleep. For this, the wise have characterised the rod of chastisement to be Righteousness (Dharma) itself.”

Arjuna further elaborated on the contexts where the rod of chastisement was to be used – such as for the protection of wealth, to desist people from sinful behaviour and to discourage actions that bring censure from society.

Thus, basically, the Danda is a staff or a rod or a mace or some stick that is held upright to signify the delivery of what is just and right to everyone without any discrimination. The Kshatriya was chosen due to the strength he possesses to rule and enforce the rule of law. One may ask why not others, but only a Kshatriya. This was asked by Yudhishthira to Bhishma who gave the answer in the affirmative. It was perfectly agreeable if someone from the other orders take up the role and restore the rule of law for the protection of the oppressed, said Bhishma (Mbh: 12-79). It is here we find the importance of wielding the Danda for upholding the law of the land. This makes the very idea of Sengol relevant for our times also and not as a relic of a monarchy.

It is a symbol of authority in a democracy as it was in a monarchy. It is part of the national identity much like the national flag. How many of you know that there is a look-alike of the Sengol (Danda) in the Harappan seals? One can see it in the front of the unicorn in the numerous Harappan seals. Iravatham Mahadevan has done a detailed study of this image in his paper, ‘The cult object on Unicorn seals: A sacred Filter,’ presented in a seminar in Tokyo in 1983. In this paper, he published some rare images of the Indus seals, of which one particular image resembled a paraphrenia of a king or a leader with what appeared to be a Sengol.

In the figure, Plate 1 shows the most commonly seen unicorn seal with an object in front of the animal which is the focus of his discussion. Plates 2,4 and 5 show the same object from different seals. Mahadevan tends to believe that this object is the ‘Soma cup’ or a filter to collect the soma juice. However, he reports the view of another researcher by the name of UP Thaplyal that it represented a standard or Dhvaja or flag post because there was a stem with something on top of it.

Plate 3 is unique in the display of what appears to be a procession of three men carrying a Paaliketana (row of flags), a totem of an animal and a sceptre. This rare image does indicate the presence of a power centre in the Harappan much like any monarchy.

The sceptre seen in this Plate is no different from what is seen in Plate 4 where a man is seen holding it. The shape is similar to the so-called.... continue reading here

Sengol: A pan-India symbol of righteousness (My article in

My article published in

The Tamil word Sengol has gained national attention following the decision of the Centre to establish it ceremoniously in the newly built Parliament. Lots of information is going around on its symbolism in the transfer of power to Independent India, the meaning of the word, and its origin from a mutt in Tamilnadu. Without touching upon information already circulated on the social media, this article attempts to look into the issues not known to the general public.

First of all, it is not right to attribute the concept of Sengol to the Chola empire alone. Sengol was the symbol of the other two Tamil dynasties too, namely Chera and Pandya. To be more accurate, it had pan-Indian presence as a symbol associated with kings. This does not mean that it signified monarchy; rather it was a representation of the Rule of Law or Righteousness. The text of the Mahabharata is replete with references to the ‘Rod of chastisement’ – known as ‘Danda’ – that was held high by the rulers.

The earliest talk about it was between Vasuhoma and the Ikshvaku king, Mandhatri, who wanted to know the origin of chastisement. A murkier scene of chaos in which there was robbery and the strong ones tormenting the weak was described to show that it resulted in Vishnu creating His own self as chastisement with a Shula (a weapon) in his hand. From that form, having Dharma for its legs, Saraswati, the goddess of speech, created Danda-niti (Science of Chastisement) to restore order and for protection. This is symbolic of saying that rules of do-s and don’t-s for good conduct were laid down and also the punishment for non-adherence of those rules. A weapon (shula) was assigned to signify the same.

Chastisement is again described by the Mahabharata in the words of Bhishma, originally told by Matariswan to Pururavas. In his dialogue with Puraravas, Matariswan clearly stated that Kshatriyas were created for ruling the earth and for wielding ‘Danda’ - the Rod of chastisement.

This purpose was emphasised in too many ways by Vyasa to Yudhishthira when he was hesitant to take up rulership after the war was over.  Vyasa listed out 12 things for kshatriyas namely, yajna, learning, exertion, ambition, wielding ‘the rod of punishment,’ fierceness, protection of subjects, knowledge of the Vedas, practise of all kinds of penances, goodness of conduct, acquisition of wealth, and gifts to deserving persons. “Amongst these, O son of Kunti, wielding the rod of chastisement (Danda-dharanam) has been said to be the foremost,” said he. “Strength must always reside in a Kshatriya, and upon strength depends chastisement.”

In the same scenario, we find Draupadi speaking about the need for Danda – the Rod of chastisement and Arjuna elaborating on that with three objectives for Danda, namely...continue reading here

Presented my books to Sri Annamalai, the President of TNBJP

 Glad to share the information that I presented four of my books to Sri. Annamalai, the President of Tamilnadu BJP. The occasion was the Interaction session of the TNBJP with Social Media Influencers. On an invitation to attend the meeting, I was happy to be there on the evening of May 29, 2023.

At the end of the meeting I got the opportunity to meet him on the stage to present my books, Mahabharata 3136 BCE, Ramanuja Itihasam (Tamil), When was the First Vedic Homa done? and ஆண்டாள் தமிழும் அறியாத வைரமுத்துவும். 

I gave a brief explanation of the books as I presented. He seemed surprised when I said that I was the only one to have established the traditional date of the Mahabharata war. He said he would read the books and asked for my number for contact. Though short, it was a fruitful and memorable meeting. I am confident that a voracious reader like him would be able to appreciate the importance of the books I have given and do the needful to convey the importance of them in suitable forums.

My video talk on ராமானுஜ இதிஹாசம்

I was invited by the Alumni Association of Vaishnavism Department of the University of Madras to talk about my book Ramanuja Itihasa through a zoom conference. 

The presentation done on 27th May, 2023 was in Tamil though the slides were in English. The non-Tamil people will be able to follow the talk by watching the slides. The main focus was on the construction of the bund at Tonnur Kere by Ramanuja which is the first ever arch dam in India. The talk also focused on how the bund was destroyed by Tipu Sultan who also destroyed the Narasimha temple at Thondanur to house the coffin of the ghazi who died during the raid of Thondanur - Melukote in the 11th century. I also spoke about the earliest Islamic incursion to South India by that Ghazi and his accomplice who were the associates of Salar Syed Masud. 

I also gave a brief account of the Muslim girl (Bibi Nachiyar) who wanted to possess the Vigraha of the deity of Melukote and the legends associated with her. 

After touching upon the history of the Chola kings of the Ramanuja period including the one who persecuted Ramanuja and earned the name Krimikantha Chola, I gave details of the episode of how Lord Govindaraja of Thiru Chithrakutam (Chidambaram) was thrown into the sea by Kulotthunga II. At the end of the talk, there was a question- answer session in which I have given additional details about the Chola period.

The video recording of the talk can be viewed here