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Some notes on ancient history

History,cholas,pallavas,thillai

Some Observations on final phases of ancient period in South India

The period between 1200 C.E-1300 C.E, is very important for various reasons. This period witnessed the coming to end of rule of two of most important and perhaps the greatest of clans of ancient india, namely the cholas and the pallavas. Together, the above mentioned clans dominated the subcontinent for more than seven continuous centuries, in the common era. The late medieval period is also important because of the obvious fact that the following period witnessed a marked change in culture, lifestyle, relationships, society, et,all right across south India, even though there was no drastic growth and spread and complete dominance of any new religion as claimed by many writers.

Among the more important figures of this period are the two great pallava chiefs kopperunjinga deva I and II and the last prince of ancient clan of cholas namely Rajendra III. The two above mentioned clans, are known to be the crowned vedic royalties of ancient tamil south. The ancient literature like the puranas(classical history), the brahmanas(classical literature that come at end of vedas and deal with mainly procedures for performing different kinds of sacrifices) etc..note that such clans were actually crowned as kings and entrusted with royal duties by gods, and which further go on to state that kinship was not to be regarded as a mercantile activity. Both the above mentioned clans find references in great epics like Ramayana and Mahabharatha, as well as in the previously mentioned puranical literature. Their recorded history dates back to 6TH century B.C.E.

During the 13th century both cholas and pallavas who were for long allies had become so short of resources that they had to make strenuous efforts for survival against numerous hostile foes who eventhough no match individually to both of them, now had the numbers and resources that made them formidable. There were numerous wars and most of them were very catastrophic, and the victories achieved were more of pyhrric nature. There is epigraphic evidence to prove that the entire state was involved in the war efforts. Both the cholan and pallava epigraphs of the period point to troubled times. For example, during the last years of chola emperor kulothungan III, there was an incursion by uncivilized tribes “ who came into the territory in large numbers and tried to take over the farms ”. Another inscription refers to a deed executed by three chieftains who “make it clear that enemy to one of them shall be an enemy to all and that under no circumstances shall they turn traitors to the king”.Several pallava epigraphs belonging to the exceptionally brilliant last pallava chiefs kopperunjinga deva I and II who ruled between 1213.C.E and 1279.C.E, refer to serious internal squabbles, intrigue, subversive activities and frequent wars,that were very destructive in nature.

In 1218.C.E, the pandyan kings who were natural foes to both cholas and pallavas and who had entered into alliance with some canarese and deccan dynasties like yadavas, kakatiyas etc, re-occupied madurai, which was for centuries during pre-medieval ages, second capital to cholas.

Some of the adigaiman chiefs who were incharge of gangavadi which is the region between mysore and kolar districts in south Karnataka, had adopted the caste denying and monotheistic srivaishnavism spread by scholar ramanuja and turned hostile to cholas. Their treason led to the loss of gangavadi to the canarese hoysala dynasty. The cholan resource scarcity gave an opportunity to their imperial predecessors, the pallavas now led by a chief called kopperunjingadeva I. In 1232.C.E, he defeated and imprisoned the weak chola ruler raja raja III and his ministers and annexed his territories and also acted as a mentor and supporter to the chola prince rajendran III who was “a devotee at the feet of the lord of thillai( lord sivan)”. The pallava chief was also successful against the pandyans whom he forced to accept his overlordship and also the hoysala and kakatiya rulers, who met with humiliating defeats at his hands. This however was neither without consequences nor without losses. The establishment in north and deccan of Islamic kingdoms created a great deal of confusion, that was well exploited by the chola/pallava foes, who had long been employing muslims in various capacities.
This further put enormous pressure on chola/pallavas who eventhough never lacking the military genius and warlike attitude that characterized their clans were becoming poorer and poorer in terms of resources and even heirs to their great ancient thrones. Nevertheless, they continued their wars against the “excessively wicked rulers who represented the evil of age of kali”,till 1279.C.E when they finally cease to exist, but not without weakening their enemies sufficiently.

Such was the impact of the frequent wars waged by them that those who survived the period were only the ones who may be regarded as the working class of that day, who did not pose any threat to the enemies however barbaric and brutal and who during that age did not have access to any important resources.

The ancient temples that were mostly independent priesthoods and whose greatness and importance find repeated mention in puranic(classical history) were greatly affected. For a period of sixty or eighty continuous years during 14th century no worship services were conducted in the great temples at chidambaram and srirangam and repeatedely the images were carried off to distant places to prevent them from being looted. That the number of serving personnel in these temples have declined drastically is evident from the fact that the only surviving ancient independent priesthood now is chidambaram whose miniscule 254 number is a negligible fraction of the 3000 families called moovayiravar that served during chola/pallava period. The rest of the independent priest hoods mentioned in the hymns of great nayanmar and alwar saints of first the first millennium of common era, like the ones at alanturai near ariyalur in tanjavur district whose priests were held to have been appointed by ancient warrior sage parasuraman during treta yugam(second of epochal ages), tiruvanaikkovil in trichy which was officiated by a clan of priests called ayiravar( the thousand ones), avudayar koil near trichy which was served by a body of priests called nambimaar or munnutrioruvar( the 301 priests) and the archakas of the great shrine at srirangam have either ceased to exist or are now represented by very small and constantly declining single digit number of servitors. The condition of ancient north indian shrines like benaras and mathura is even worse.All the above mentioned priesthoods also find mention in puranic literature and whose origin according to puranas took place in previous epochal ages several thousands of years ago and the initiation according to the same was done by none other than almighty.

This apart, the dynasties or hordes that came in during and after 14th century, neither shared, succeeded or inherited the great resources and skills that had been at the disposal of chola/pallava artisans, warriors, navigators, traders, artists alike for they had become extinct forever. For one thing it may be noted and stated here that those very many set ups that came up after the period of cholas/pallavas neither were their successors nor were legally acceptable in their place, except for the morally neutral analyst.
Published: 2008-09-01
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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