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Regarding the working class regiments of pre-medieval times and the puranic history cauvery delta

Jaimineeya sama veda,talavakara sama veda, velaikkara regiment, chola, sundara chola, yaagam

There is an interesting legend in connection with the velaikkarar or workingclass mercenary soldiers of cholas. They occur in many inscriptions as infantry men who are also to do the camp building,roadlaying and other menial works. They are divided into three corps namely left hand, right hand, and centre. Regarding the left hand division of the mercenary troop, the following is quoted in Madras epigraphical report of 1913.C.E. It says:

That during a certain epochal age, sage kashyapa along with 400 young sage disciples started a sacrifice to increase the power of gods who were involved in a terrible war with demons. The demons who came to know of this started disturbing the proceedings. Inorder to tackle the demons, the sages made appear from the sacrificial altar a corp of workingclass mercenaries.Since they were called upon to do menial tasks the sages named them “velaikkaras” or workers. The mercenaries successfully defended the sacrifice from the demonic assault. Following this the sage kashyapa left to his heavenly abode and the remaining young sages who part took in the sacrifice requested emperor arindama to allow them to settle for a few years in places in and around the venue of sacrifice in order to complete some religious rituals. The emperor agreed to do so and settled them in places of tiruvellarai,anbil,manakkal, papakurichi etc(all in and around trichy). In the Premapuri - Sthalamahatmya (on the greatness of Anbil), it is mentioned that eighteen villages with four hundred families, on either banks of the Cauvery, once flourished. Alongside these brahmana sages settled the mercenary troop called left hand troop. They were called left hand because :” after the completion of sacrifices they were seated along side the sages in their chariots and as they disembarked, the sages were helped out of the chariots by the left hand of the workers who had been caused to come out of sacrificial fire by the virtuous sages.” Not with standing this, they were to observe certain rules to be considered as continuing belonging to the group of left hand mercenaries. This was whenever a conference meeting is called only those workers who carried along with them the left hand mercenary insignia of bugle, horn, heron and swan feather would continue to remain in the group and carry the tag of left hand mercenaries further. Those who did not fetch the same shall be dismembered and shall no longer carry the name left hand troop or follow customs of the same. These mercenaries were used by cholas and pallavas as well. As we find some of them being referred to as “ pallavasya dhwajaniyah”(those who come under the flag of pallavas.)”.

It was noted above that old Tamil inscriptions that the four hundred villages practiced ancient vedic rituals and among the 3000 recensions of samaveda the Talavakara-Saman or jaimineeya supposed to be most ancient recension of the same was current in pre-medieval Tamilnad. Talavakara is only the older or alternative name for the Jaiminiya. On Jaiminiya manuscripts the name Talavakara is found. Sankara refers to the Kenopanisad under that name. What is most important is that the Talavakara Sakha of the Sama Veda is still current in some parts of Tamilnad. They have it thus at Kidamangalam, llayattangudi, Sesamulail, Sendalai, Nangur, etc. in Tanjore district. The families associated with the Tirumala-yaagam(probably the same sacrifice that took place in the puranic age and that is mentioned above) which students of Saivite history and the lives of Sundaramurti and Somayaji Mara Nayanars know, are Talavakaras; some of the Talavakaras of this place had embraced Vaisnavism. In Trichi district, Talavakaras are found in Papakurichi, Uttamasili and Anbil; in Tirunelveli Dt., at Alvar Tirunagari, Tentirupperai (Tenkalai Vaisnavas) and Watrap; and at Karamanai and Tiruvettar near Trivandrum, and at Ahaliyapandiyapuram, Nagarkoyil and Sucindram also.

The following inscription of sundarachola(950.C.E-957.C.E) is interesting from that perspective:

It states that “an endowment of 20 Karunkasu made to the temple by Baradayan( Bharadwaja, belonging to the lineage of sage Bharadwaja, the father of Drona , the preceptor of pandavas) Senada-Nakkapiranbatta-Sarvakratuyajiyar of Kurramangalam , with the provison that the annual interest of 3 kasu accruing there form was to be given as prize among the competitors, excluding those who were successful in previous years, to the best reciter of prescribed portions of Jaiminiya-Samaveda before the god(Siva) on the night of Tiruvadirai in Margali month(month of December).”.

The inscription is from On the south wall of the central shrine,of Matsyapurisvara temple. Koyil-Tevarayanpettai (near Pandaravadai), Papanasam taluk, Tanjore District. On the south wall of the central shrine.

Further the anbil grant of the same ruler refer to certain aniruddha brahmarayan “a devotee at the feet of Lord Ranganathan(Lord Vishnu) at srirangam” and a minister to sundara chola , who belonged to the place anbil as a patron and donee to some temples in the a forementioned 18 villages.

The soldiers of that particular regiment called velaikkaras or working class mercenaries appear in many inscriptions of cholas and pallavas found all over their provinces including srilanka and south east asia. Though from the inscriptions it is not possible to deduce their nature and regular functions, they provide many other details like that there were 98 divisions among them. That they are divided into right hand, left hand and center. The left hand division is supposed to have originated from the sacrificial pit and had amongst them 98 divisions.
Published: 2008-11-28
Author: K Sethu Madhavan

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A management professional with eight years experience in telecommunications industry, I have written a lot of articles in subjects related to management and strategic information analysis.

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