Chapter 22
Early History of Vengadam And Sangam Age

India was land of Nagas and its language Tamil

To understand the history of Vengadam, it is necessary of know the history of South India in general. Though we need not go into details of pre-Asokan period, a few salient points would be necessary.

It is propagated by Brahmanic scholars that main stream Indian culture is Vedic, which is erroneous. Shri H. L. Kosare quotes the opinions of Datta Ray Chaudhari and Majumdar that:

"The main basis of Indian social cultural system is presumed to be Vedic Culture. This presumption is baseless, and this opinion can not be accepted. There is no doubt that, the Indus valley culture played a great role in the development and preservation of Indian culture." [Kosare: 1989: 263]

He further says that:

"About the existence of the Nagas in this country, V. K. Rajwade mentions that Rajtarangini describes in detail about the Naga kingdoms in Kashmir in olden days. Astik parva of Mahabharata is related to Nagas from beginning to end. It mentions the inhabitation of Nagas in the Khandavaprastha and Khandav vana situated to the south of Yamuna river. Harivamsha mentions the residence of Nagas to be in Nagpur. Therefore, there is no doubt that in olden days, during the Pandava times and thereafter, there were Nagas residing on a vast territory of India. It can definitely be stated on the basis of description of 'sarpa satra', that there was a fierce war between the Nagas and Manavas for some time. Arjuna married a Naga princess Ulupi. From this it can be inferred that many Nagas were friendly towards the Manavas." [Kosare: 270]

Who were the people who inhabited South India? The scholars think that they were the descendants of people from Indus Valley Civilization. Dasaku Ikeda observes:

"... Study of the Vedic Indus script reinforces the assertion that the creators of the Indus civilization were the forefathers of the Dravidians, who today mainly inhabit southern India. ..." [Karan Sing: 1988: 2]

That they were the Nagas is clear from the account by Dr. Ambedkar, who observes:

"When students of ancient Indian History delve into the ancient past they do often come across four names, the Aryans, Dravidians, Dasas and Nagas.." [Untouchables:58]

"Starting with Aryans, it is beyond dispute that they were not a single homogeneous people. That they were divided into two sections is beyond doubt..." [Ibid:59]

"A greater mistake lies in differentiating the Dasas from the Nagas. Dasas are the same as Nagas. Dasas is another name for Nagas... Dasa is the sanskritised form of the Indo Iranian word Dahaka. Dahaka was the name of the king of the Nagas... Who were the Nagas? Undoubtedly they were non- Aryans. A careful study of Vedic literature reveals a spirit of conflict, of a dualism, and a race superiority between two distinct types of culture and thought...The mention of the Nagas in the Rig Veda shows that the Nagas were a very ancient people. It must also be remembered that the Nagas were in no way aboriginal or uncivilized people. History shows a very close association by intermarriage between the Naga people with the Royal families of India... Not only did the Naga people occupy a high cultural level but history shows that they ruled a good part of India... That Andhradesa and its neighborhood were under the Nagas during early centuries of Christian era is suggested by evidence from more sources that one. The Satvahanas, and their successors, the Chutu Kula Satkarnis drew their blood more or less from the Naga stock..." [Ibid:63]

"Who are the Dravidians? Are they different from the Nagas? Or are they two different names for the people of the same race? The popular view is that Dravidians and Nagas are the names of two different races. This statement is bound to shock many people. Nonetheless, it is a fact that the term Dravidians and the Nagas are merely two different names for the same people." [Ibid: 66]

"...the word "Dravida" is not an original word. It is the Sanskritised form of the word `Tamil' when imported into Sanskrit became Damila and later on Damila became Dravida. The word Dravida is the name of the language of the people and does not denote the race of the people. The third thin o remember is that Tamil of Dravida was no merely the language of South India but before the Aryans came it was the language of the whole of India, and was spoken from Kashmir to Cape Camorin. In fact it was the language of the Nagas throughout India..." [Ibid: 75]

Nagas were Buddhists

That the Nagas were sympathizers and followers and followers of Buddha is well knows. Dr. Ambedkar in 1956, while converting half a million of his followers to Buddhism at Nagpur, had remarked that his selection of Nagpur was due to the historical association of the area with the Nagas, who were friendly towards Buddhism. We might also quote a Buddhist tradition from Mahavatthu:

"Nagas are generally devoted to the Buddha. The enthusiastic devotion that our compilers believed Nagas to possess towards the Teacher and the Teaching finds expression in the popular episode of Mucalinda's extraordinary way of protecting the Exalted One during the seven days of untimely rain. The were also among the beings who formed a body of guards protecting the Bodhisattva and his mother. At the Bodhisattva"s birth some Nagas came to bathe him, a scene that had long been a favourite among sculptors. On the Buddha's visit to Vaisali they displayed their respect for Him in a magnificent demonstration of bearing parasols. From other sources we learn how they happened to obtain relics of the Buddha, which they jealousy guarded for a long time." [Bhikku Telwate:1978:172]

T. A. Gopinath Rao discussing Hindu iconography has agreed that majority of Buddhists were Nagas. This is what he said, quite a long time back:

"In historical times, portions of India were inhabitated by race of men who went by the name of Nagas and they are said to have formed the majority of persons who joined the newly started Buddhistic religion. Some scholars of Malabar are inclined to believe that the modern Nayars (Shudras) of Malabar might be descendants of early Nagas as name within modern times might have been corrupted into Nayars. The hypothesis is more fictitious and fanciful than real and tenable." [Rao: II,554 emphasis ours]

Prof. Rao, who categorically mentions Nayars were Shudras, finds the theory untenable. It is difficult to understand what faults Prof. Rao found with the theory. At least, I do not find any particular reason to disbelieve this theory. One thing is certain that the Nayars were the original inhabitants of the region, they did not come from outside. Before the Brahmins came from the North and establish 'sambamdhams' with the female folks of Kerala, and thus dominate the Nayar community, the original inhabitants were the Nagas only. From 'Naga' they could have become 'Nayar'. What is so peculiar in this, that Prof. Rao finds, is hard to understand. Let it be as it may, the fact remains that the Nagas became Buddhist in great numbers, is a fact that is certain. Todays Indian society is made up of and is developed from the erstwhile aboriginal tribal people, is a fact recognized by all the scholars. Then what is the difficulty in accepting that the word 'Nayar' might have come from 'Naga'?

There was a casteless society among the Naga culture

The non-aryan Naga people were believers in Buddhistic social culture. During their rule, there was a society based on social equality in India, because their cultural values were influenced by the Buddhist traditions. This social system of Nagas, even in those early days, is noteworthy in contrast to Brahmanical social system of inequality. It is unfortunate that the modern high caste scholars, while narrating the greatness of ancient Indian culture, ignore this fact. Shri H. L. Kosare opines:

"As all the elements in the Nagas society were treated with equal status, casteless social order was the main basis of social system of Nagas. As the Naga culture was based on Buddha's principles of equality, it received the status of Buddha's religion. Thus, Naga culture played the greatest role in the process of establishing a casteless egalitarian and integrated society in Indian cultural life." [Kosare: 256]

"A. L. Basham has shown that there is no mention of caste anywhere in ancient Tamil literature. But after Aryan influence increased, and political and social system became more complex, caste system which was somewhat more severe than in north, evolved even here. ('The wonder that was India', Rupa & Co., 1975, p.151) The period of Sangam literature is third century A.D., This shows that during the Satavahana rule there was no caste system." [Kosare: 251]

Nagas had their Republics

Not only their social system was public oriented, but unlike the Brahmanical system, their political system also was designed to give social justice to all sections of people. Kosare observes:

"From first to the beginning of fourth century A.D., the central countries in India comprised of strong Republics of Nagas. Samudragupta destroyed these republics. About the system of administration of Bharshiva Nagas, Dr. K. P. Jaiswal has observed that their social system was based on the principles of equality. There was no place for any caste system in them. They all belonged to one and the same caste." [Ibid.]

He further avers that:

"There were independent kingdoms of Nagas in South India. These kingdoms came together and formed a federal republic. This federal republic of Nagas was termed as Fanimandal or Nagamandal. This Cheromandal republic of Nagas of South India was very powerful and indivisible at the time of Periplus, i.e. in 80 A.D. Later during Ptolemy's times, i.e. 150 A.D., north eastern part of Tondemandalam became separate. (Dr. J. P. Jain, bharatiya itihas, p. 239). This Cheromandal or Fanimandal was a federation of separate kingdoms of Nagas coming together to form a united national federation. In reality, it was a united Naga Nation of South India." [Kosare: 179]

Region of Tirupati was within Asoka's Empire

Coming to the Asokan times, it is a well known fact that the empire of Asoka extended to the whole of modern India excepting the extreme regions of south India. The region of Tondamandalam was included in the empire of Asoka. K.A.N. Sastri observes:

" seems not unlikely that a part of the Tondamandalam was included in it; at any rate, a Pallava inscription of the ninth century A.D. (the Velurpalaiyam plates) mentions an Ashokavarman among the earliest rulers of Kanchipuram. ..." [Sastri: 1966: 89]

There is ample evidence to show that in post-Asokan period, Buddhism flourished in South India, and there was a great Buddhist atmosphere all over South India. Sastri says:

"The kingdoms of South India, together with Ceylon, are mentioned in the second and thirteenth rock-edicts of Asoka. The list in the second edict is the more complete and includes the name of Chola, Pandya, Satiyaputa, Keralaputa and Tambapanni (Ceylon). All these lands are distinctly stated to have lain outside the empire of Asoka;but the great emperor was on such friendly terms with them that the undertook to arrange for the proper medical care of men and animals in all of them and for the importation and planting of useful medicinal herbs and roots wherever they were needed. He also sent missionaries to preach the dhamma, the essentials of Buddhism, among the people of these countries, thus evincing a keen interest in their spiritual and moral well-being no less than in their physical fitness..." [Sastri: 1966: 85]

"... The political unification of India under the Mauryas was then very real, and the court of Pataliputra was interested in occurrences in the extreme south of the peninsula. `Vadugar' literally means `northerners', and was the name applied in Sangam literature to the ancestors of the Telugu Kannada people living in the Deccan, immediately to the north of the Tamil country whose northern limit was Vengadam, the Tirupati Hill..." [Sastri: 1966: 89]

Earliest Inscriptions were definitely Buddhist

In addition to these Asokan Edicts many more inscriptions The short Bare found in South India. K.A.N. Sastri observes: [Sastri: 1966: 89]

"The short Brahmi inscriptions found in natural rock caverns in the hill of the South have many features in common with the similar, but more numerous, records of Ceylon, and are among the earliest monuments of the Tamil country to which we may assign a date with some confidence. The script employed resembles that of the inscriptions from Bhattiprolu and may well be assigned to the second century B.C. The later inscriptions may be taken to be of the third century A.D. like the one at the auricular Cave in Coimbatore district. The Brahmi graffiti found on the pottery from Arikamedu excavations may be taken also to belong to his class of inscriptions. They are definitely datable to about A.D. 50 and fall chronologically about the middle of the period covered by these records. These inscriptions have not yet been fully elucidated; but clearly they re mostly either brie donative records or he names of the monks who once lived there. One of the places where the caverns are found bears the name Kalugumalai, `vulture's hill', Tamil for Gridhrkuta, name hallowed in the annals o early Buddhism. From this fact it ha been deduced that these monuments were all of them of Buddhist origin; but it is premature to formulate final conclusions of this matter. New caves and inscriptions are still being discovered, such as the inscribed natural cave at Malakonda in Nellore district [*** 5 ***] and the one at Ariccalur just mentioned. And tradition is strong, as we have seen, that Jainism came into South India about the same time as Buddhism, if not earlier. It is not possible to assert that these monuments owe their origin exclusively to Buddhists or Jains; it is probable that some may be attributed to the one and some to the other...."

"The exact contents of these inscriptions still remain obscure, but a few facts emerge from tentative studies of them. We can say, for instance, that among the cities named are `Maturai' (Madura) and ` Karu-ru' (Karur), that among the donors of monuments were a husbandman (Kutumbika) of Ceylon (Ila), besides a woman, merchants (vanikar), and members of the Karani caste. The professions of pon-vanikam (gold merchant), and kaikkolan (weaver?) are mentioned. The term nikamttar (members of a guild) occurs twice, once as donor, and again as donees. The word kon (chief of king) also occur. Some words of religious import are: atittanam (abode), dhamam (dharma), arattar (followers of dharma), tana (gift), upasaa (lay worshiper), paliy (palli, a Jaina or Buddhist place of worship), and yakaru (Yakshas) and Kuvira (Kubera). These brief inscriptions are thus seen to bear testimony to the support commanded from all classes of the laity by the ascetics who pursued their spiritual life in the solitudes of mountains and forests. Yet it seems easy to exaggerate their social and religious significance; there is no evidence that the Tamil people in general had accepted Jainism or Buddhism in this early period; and the evidence form the literature of the succeeding age, that of the Sangam shows the Vedic religion of sacrifice and some forms of popular Hinduism entrenched in the affection of the people and their rulers." [Sastri: 1966: 89]

It is rather strange that Sastri places more importance on the literary evidences of Sangam poets of later date than on the inscriptions and underestimates the inscriptions and expresses uncertainty on the clear cut proofs. However, we feel this is no justified and all these inscriptions do give an unmistakable evidence that South India was in fact very much under the influence of Buddhism, and that the Brahmanic influence was minimal.

South India was free from Brahmin influence

About the early history of South India, Barnet rightly observes:

"Even in the first entry of Christian era the south seems to have felt little influence from the Aryan culture of Northern India. Some Brahmin colonies had made their way into the south, and in a few cases Brahmins had gained there a certain position in literature and religion; but on the whole they counted for little in the life of the people, especially as their teachings were counter balanced by the influence of the powerful Buddhist and Jain churches, and Dravidian society was still free from the yoke of the Brahman caste system..." [Barnet L. D.: I, p.540]

About Agastya he observes:

" The tradition that the Brahman sage Agastya led the first Aryan colony to the Podiya Hill and created Tamil literature probably arose in a later age, after Brahmin influence had gained the ascendant in the south, on the basis of the legends in the Sanskrit epics." [fn.]

Satvahanas and Later

K.A.N. Sastri, who expressed doubts about early inscriptions as mentioned above, observes about the Satvahana period.:

"Buddhism was well established by the third century B.C. and continued to flourish throughout the Satvahana period; indeed, the first two centuries of the Christian era constitute the most glorious epoch of Buddhism in the Deccan. The stupa of Amaravati was enlarged and embellished, and at Alluru, Gummandiduru, Ghantsala, Gudivada and Goli new stupas were built or old ones enlarged. New caves were cut and additional benefactions made at Nasik, Karle, and Kanheri. In the inscriptions of the time appear the names of a number of sects as well as of monks of various grades of learning and eminence engaged in enlightening the faithful in the Law of the Master. Stupas, the sacred tree, the footprints of the Master, the trisula emblem, the dharmachakra, relics and statues of the Buddha and other great teachers and of the Nagarajas were all objects of worship. The sculptures of this time show men and women in states of ecstatic devotions rather than merely kneeling or perhaps prostrating themselves with joined hands before the objects of their devotion." [Sastri: 1966: 89]

Even after the Satvahanas, the Buddhist tradition still continued to flourish. Further he observes:

"...The Satvahanas were described as `lord of the three oceans' and promoted overseas colonization and trade. Under them Buddhist art attained the superb forms of beauty and elegance preserved to this day in the cave-temples of western India and the survivals from the stupas of Amaravati, Goli, Nagarjunikonda and other places in the Krishna valley; and the tradition was continued long after the Satvahanas by their successors both in the eastern and western Deccan." [Sastri:3]

Satvahanas were Buddhists and not of Brahmanic faith

Because Goutamiputra Satkarni performed the sacrifices, some scholars tend to think that he belonged to Brahmanic faith. This is a wrong interpretation. They were in fact Buddhists. The nature of yajnyas performed by him was political. Shri Kosare avers:

"Satvahanas were not Brahmanic, they were Kshatriyas of Naga race. Nanaghat inscription of Naaganika (Journal of Bombay Royal Asiatic Society, vol. 13, 1870, p.311) mentions yajnyas being performed by Gotamiputra Satkarni. The nature of these Vedic yajnyas must be considered as a political act of a Kshatriya to raise ones own political prestige, status and glory as an Emperor. These yajnyas had absolutely no Brahmanic effect on the republican style of their social culture in Satvahana times. Similarly, there are no records to show that any other king of Satvahana dynasty performed any Vedic sacrifices. On the contrary, it appears that Buddhism flourished and developed to a great extent during the Satvahana period only." [Kosare, p.167]

Ikshvakus reign

After Satvahanas, started rise of Ikshvakus of Sriparvata, which is definitely identified with Nagarjunkonda, an ancient Buddhist site destroyed under the supervision of Adi Shankara, as already seen. K.A.N. Sastri, observes:

"The Ikshvakus ruled over the Krishna-Guntur region. The Puranas call them Sriparvatiyas - Rulers of Sriparvata and Andhrabhrityas (`Servants of the Andhras'). Though seven kings are said to have ruled for 57 years in all, only a few are known by name from Inscriptions. Originally they were feudatories of the Satvahanas and bore the title mahatalavara. Vasithiputa Siri Chantamula, the founder of the line, performed the asvamedha and vajapeya sacrifices. The reign of his son Virapurisadata (A.D.275) formed a glorious epoch in the history of Buddhism and in diplomatic relations. He took a queen from the Saka family of Ujjain and gave his daughter in marriage to a Chutu princes. Almost all the royal ladies were Buddhists: an aunt of Virapurisadata built a big stupa at Nagarjunikonda for the relics of the great teacher, beside apsidal temples, viharas and mandpas. Her example was followed by other women of the royal family and by women generally as we know from a reference to one Budhisiri, a woman citizen. The next member of the line, son of Virapurisadata, is Ehuvula Chantamula, who came after a short Abhira interregnum (A.D.275-80) and whose reign witnessed the completion of a devivihara, a stupa and two apsidal temples. We hear also of a Sihala vihara, a convent founded either by a Sinhalese, or more probably, for the accommodation of Sinhalese monks; and a Chaitya-ghara (Chaitya hall) was dedicated to the fraternities (theriyas) of Tambapanni (Ceylon). Ceylonese Buddhism was thus in close touch with that of the Andhra country. ... The sculptures of Nagarjunikonda, which include large figures of Buddha, show decided traces of Greek influence and Mahayana tendencies,..." [Sastri: 100 ff.]

Tondamanadalam was the land of Nagas

About this area, Dr S.Krishnaswami Aiyangar observes:

" the age of the inscriptions, Vengadam is generally described as belonging to Tiruvengadakottam of the Tondamandalam...In classical Tamil literature, however, the division called Tondamandalam is described generally as Aruvanadu indicating Tondamandalam proper; and the country beyond and still dependent upon Tondamandalam and having intimate connection with it, is described as Aruvavadatalai, that is northern Aruva. Taking the two together the whole territory would be territory occupied by the people to whom belongs the Aruvanadu..." [Aiyangar:103]

That these people were none but what we understand as Nagas. It is well known that the Nagas were the followers and supporters of Buddhism. L. D. Barnet observes:

"...Another group is that termed by the poets Nagas, a word which in Hindu literature commonly denotes a class of semidivine beings, half men and half snakes, but is often applied by Tamil writers to a war like race armed with bows and nooses and famous as free booters. Several tribes mentioned in early literature are known with more or less certainty to have belonged to the Nagas, among them being the Aruvalar (in the Aruva-nadu and Aruva-vadatalai around Conjeeveram), Ennar, Maravar, Oliyar, and Paradavar (a fisher tribe)..." [Barnet, L.D., Camb.Hist. I, 539]

Old name of Vengadam was Pullikunran, land of Pullis

Dr. S. Krishnaswami Aiyangar described this area on the basis of Sangam poets: [Aiyangar: 5]

The name of the hill was Vengadam. Mamulanur the most important and perhaps the oldest poet, has seven poems referring to Vengadam. He refers to Vengadam as belonging to Pulli, the Chieftain of Kalvar, and notes that Vengadam was famous for its festivals. In another poem he refers undoubtedly to Tirupati as Pullikunran, the Hill of Chieftain Pulli. Another poem says these Pullis were liberal in gifts. There is no mention of the great shrine in any of the authors, though festivals are mentioned.

"It will be noticed that although a number of authors of eminence in this collection actually refer to Vengadam, ... there is no reference to the great shrine...Mamulanur refers to it as Vengadam of great prosperity, prosperous because of its having festivals. ..." [Ibid p. 7]

"...region was under government of chieftain by name Pulli ruling over a people who are described as Kalvar, possibly with a variant from Kalvar. Subsequently to him it seems to have come under the authority of a chieftain called Tiraiyan with a capital at Pavattiri, a little further north..."

This territory was considered part of Tondamandalam. Mamulanar's poem 61 of Ahananuru has a passage that,

"the chieftain of Kalvar who are in the habit of handing over elephant tusks, barter in them for liquor prepared from paddy, and who wore anklets characteristic of warriors, was Pulli famed for conquest of the land of the Malavar, and for great gifts to those who went to him. (Your lover) it is rarely possible will reconcile himself to stay away even if he got thereby Vengadam, the capital of Pulli which is prosperous because of the festivals celebrated in it. This is how a heart broken damsel is consoled for delay of her lover's arrival from distant parts." [Aiyangar: 5, emphasis original]

Rulers of Vengadam were Kalabhras who were Buddhists

These Kalavars are the same as Kalabhras. When Satvahanas put pressure on them, these anti-Brahmanic Buddhist people who were ruling around Tirupati migrated to whole of South India and ruled most of it for centuries, and these centuries are now termed by Brahmin historians as `dark age', not only because scanty information is available from Brahmanic sources but also because it was anti-Brahmanic age. They were abused by the Brahmins and their history was wiped out. But the Buddhist books still preserve their history.

Dr. Aiyangar observes:

"The Andhra rulers...had an alternative capital in the basin of lower Krishna at Amaravati wherefrom they stretched south wards, and, perhaps at one time, made an effort to extend their authority successfully even down to the southern Pennar..." [Ibid. p. 108]

"...The gradual pressure from the Andhra Empire seems to have set up a popular movement resulting in the migration of the somewhat less civilized people who seem to have completely upset the Governments of South India and introduced what may well be regarded as a period of anarchy to which later inscriptions refer to in unmistakable terms. This is the movement of the people called Kalvar or Kalavar, and they must have moved down from the region round and about Vengadam, if not from the whole of Tondamandalam. ..." [Ibid. p.108]

Kalabhras fought against Brahmin supremacy and were abused by Brahmin epigraphists after their rule ended

Now we will discuss the history of these people now known as Kalabhras, who were the rulers of this area. Shri K.A.N. Sastri has the following to say about them: [K.A.N. Sastri: 144 ff.]

"A long historical night ensure after the close of the Sangam age. We know little of the period of more than three centuries that followed. When the curtain rises again towards the close of the sixth century A.D., we find a mysterious and ubiquitous enemy of civilization, the evil rulers called Kalabhras (Kalappalar), have come and upset the established political order which was restored only by their defeat at the hands of the Pandyas and Pallavas as well as the Chalukyas of Badami. Of the Kalabhras we have yet no definite knowledge; from some Buddhist books we hear of a certain Acchutavikkanta of the Kalabharakula during whose reign Buddhist monasteries and authors enjoyed must patronage in the Chola country. [emphasis ours] Late literary tradition in Tamil avers that he kept in confinement the three Tamil kings - the Chera, Chola and Pandya. Some songs about him are quoted by Amitasagara, a Jain grammarian of Tamil of the tenth century A.D. Possibly Acchuta was himself a Buddhist, a political revolution which the Kalabhras effected was provoked by religious antagonism [emphasis ours] At any rate the Kalabhras are roundly denounced as evil king (kali-arasar) who uprooted many adhirajas and abrogated brahmdeya rights; there was no love lost between these interlopers and the people of the lands they overran, The Cholas disappeared from the Tamil land almost completely in this debacle, though a branch of them can be tranced towards the close of the period in Rayalaseema, the Telugu Cholas, whose kingdom is mentioned by Yuan Chwang in the seventh century A.D."

" The upset of the existing order due to the Kalabhras must have affected the Chera country as well, though there is little evidence on this country in this period apart from the late legend of the Keralotpatti and Keralamahatyam. According to these, the rulers of the land had to be imported from neighbouring countries, and they assumed the title of Perumal. [emphasis ours] Possibly the Vaishnava saint Kulasekhara Alvar was one of these Perumals; in his poems he claims sovereignty over Chera , Chola and Pandya, besides the Kongu country and Kolli mountain. His age cannot be determined with any certainty, though a date as early as the sixth century has been suggested for him, on the ground that at no later period could this claim to rule over Pandya and Chola be plausible. It seems more likely, however, that this claim was merely rhetorical, and that he belonged to a much later time, say ninth century A.D."

"This dark period marked by the ascendancy of Buddhism, and probably also Jainism, was characterized also by great literary activity in Tamil. Most of the works grouped under the head, 'The Eighteen Minor works' were written during this period as also the Silappadhikaran, Manimekhalai and other works. Many of the authors were the votaries of the `heretical' (meaning Buddhists and Jains) sects." [K.A.N. Sastri: 144. ff.]

Strangely enough, even the modern scholars such as Sastri like to call this period as `dark' only because it was an anti- Brahmanic age, not withstanding the creation of the excellent literature. This is the psyche of Indian scholars. Nothing appears great to them unless it is done for bettering the cause of chaturvarnya.

Kalabhras were Buddhists

About these so called `wicked' Kalabhras, R. Sathinathaier observes.

"We have already made a few references to the Kalabhras, and to their king Achchutavikranta. The Velvikudi plates of the third regnal year of Ndunjadaiyan Pandya (c.765 - c.815) say that Palyagamudukudumi - Peruvaludi Pandyadhiraja gave the village of Velvikudi as brahmadeya (gift to a brahmana). It was enjoyed for long. Then a Kali king named Kalabhran took possession of the extensive earth, driving away numberless great kings (adiraja), and resumed the (village mentioned) above. After that...the Pandyadhiraja Kodungon recovered the territory under the Kalabhra occupation. It would appear from the brief account that the Pandya country was seized by the Kalabhras long after Mudukudumi. They overthrew many adhirajas and resumed even brahmdeya lands. Thus they were terrible and ruthless conquerors. Their sway was put an end to by Kodungon, who may be assigned conjecturally to c.590 - 620. There are other references to the Kalabhras in Pallava and Chalukya inscriptions; they are said to have been conquered by Simhavishnu and Narasimha Varman I and by Vikramaditya I and II." [Sathianathier: 1970: 265]

"The identification of the Kalabhras is very difficult problem of South Indian History. They have been identified with the line of Muttaraiyar of Kondubalur (eighth to eleventh century). Others regard them as Karnatas on the strength of a reference in Tamil literature to the rule of a Karnata king over Madura. A third view is that the Kalabhras were Kalappalar, belonging to Vellala community and referred to in Tamil literature and inscriptions. But the most satisfactory theory identifies the Kalabhras with the Kalavar, and the chieftains of this tribe mentioned in Sangam literature are Tiraiyan of Pavattiri and Pulli of Vengadam or Tirupati. The latter is described as the cattle lifting robber chief of the frontier. The Kalavar must have been dislodged from their habitat near Tirupati by political events of the third century A.D., viz. the fall of the Satvahanas and the rise of Pallavas, as well as by the invasion of Dakshinapatha by Samudragupta in the following century, resulting in political confusion in Tondamandalam. The Kalabhra invasion must have overwhelmed the Pallavas, the Cholas and the Pandyas." [Ibid. p.266 Emphasis ours]

"Despite the various explanations given above, the Kalabhras cannot but be regarded as mysterious people who convulsed the affairs of the Tamil country for a few centuries. Achchutavikranta caused the dispersal of the Cholas. In the Pandya country even brahmdeya gifts were not treated as sacrosanct by the predatory Kalabhras. Ultimately their power was broken by Kodungon Pandya and Simhavishnu Pallava, and Chalukya campaigns against them in the seventh and eighth centuries." [Ibid. p.266]

" The Muttaraiyar and Kodunabnalar chiefs of Kalabhra origin, according to one view, were feudatory to the Pallavas and the Pandyas respectively, and in the contest between two powers, they fought on opposite sides. The Muttaraiyar ruled over Tanjore and Pudukkotai as the feudatories of the Pallavas from the eighth century to eleventh. There is a reference to Perumbidugu - Muttaraiyan II who attended the coronation of Nandivarman Pallavamlla. One of the titles of the Muttaraiyar was Lord of Tanjore. Vijayalaya Chola, who conquered Tanjore from a Muttaraiyan in the ninth century, was a Pallava feudatory. A vindication of the law of nemesis is discernible in the victory of a Chola chief over a descendant of the Kalabhras who had overthrown the earlier Chola kingdom." [Ibid. p.266]

" The history of Cholas of Uraiyur (near Trichinoply) is exceedingly obscure from fourth to the ninth century, chiefly owing to the occupation of their country by the Kalabhras. Buddhadatta, the great writer in Pali, belonged to Uraiyur. He mentions his contemporary, King Achchutavikranta of the Kalabharakula, as ruling over the Chola country from Kaveripatnam. He was a Buddhist, Tamil literary tradition refers to an Achchuta who kept the Chera, Chola and Pandya king in captivity. On the basis of the contemporaneity of Buddhdatta with Buddhaghosha, Achchuta may be assigned to the fifth century. Thus after the Sangam age, the descendants of karikala Chola were forced into obscurity by the Kalabhras, who disturbed the placid political conditions of the Tamil country." [R. Sathianathier: 1970: 263 ff.]

According to 'Chulavamsa', Buddhadatta and Budhaghosa are certainly represented as contamporaries. The formar belongs to Uragapura [Uraiyur] near modern Trichinopoly in South India. He himself speaks patriotically of the kingdom of Cola and associates his literary activity with the reign of Accutavikkanata or Accutavikkama of the Kalabbha or Kalamba [kadamba] dynasty. The vinaya - vinicchaya at its end describes that Buddhadatta of Uragapura wrote it. The Abhidhammavatara at its end also refers to it.

He is said to have flourished when king Accutavikkanta of the Kalamba (Kadamba) dynasty was one the throne. It is difficult to identify King Accuta or Accutavikkanta (Acyta Vikrama) of Kalabhra or the Kadamba dynasty. But the Kalabhras once made a great influence over the Chola territory and Simhavishnu, the Pallava king, defeated them in late sixth century. Colian king Acytavikranta or Acytavikrama who is described as 'Kalambakulnandana' or 'Kalabbhakulanandana' (also Vaddhana). [Hazra K.L.: 1991: 90, 128]

Alvara's views

Raghavacharya, who assigns date prior to that of Sankaracharya, to all Alvars, mentions that according to Poygai Alvar, the Vengadam hill was the habitat of elephants, which the "Kuravars" or "Kurbas" who inhabited or frequented the hill used to capture and tame and also scare away huge pythons. He observes that, the Tamil term Kuravar used by the early Alvars is corruption of "Kuraba", who were residents of this area and also of Kurnool, Mysore, Salem, Koimbtore and the Nilgiris. He mentions the names of Kurubalakota, Kurubalpatti, Kuruba Nagalapuram, Kurumba Palayam, Kurumbapatti, Kurumbharhalli etc. in various areas. He says Kurabas or Kuravar were a verile people, who were in possession of Tirumalai Hills and surrounding area before Pallavas conquerred it. [Raghavacharya: II,1006]

In a nutshell

Thus it is clear that the people around Tondamandalam were Nagas, though the name Naga is now a days restricted to a few groups of people and not applicable to the whole race unlike in pre-Aryan times, but the fact remains that those Naga tribes who are mentioned above were Buddhists, as that was the original area of Kalabhras. Thus we find that this area was under the influence of Buddhists before the coming up of the Brahmin culture and was free from the caste rivalries. It was forming the part of Asokan empire, and consequently had the advantages of all the religious reforms brought in by Asoka. In later times it came under the Satvahanas who were also having friendly relations towards Buddhism. Nagarjuna's relations with Satvahana king are well known.

The local people were the Pullis and Tiraiyan of Pavattiri and these so called less civilized Kalavar people later migrated from the land of Tondamandalam to southward areas and caused so called anarchy and got designated as wicked by the Brahmin epigraphists. And these Kalabars were the same as Kalabhras, and were Buddhists. The whole situation boils down to one thing that during the period from Satvahanas to the ascendancy of Imperial Pallavas and even in later times the area of Tondamandalam was inhabited by the Buddhist people and ruled by the Buddhist kings, initially under the Satvahanas and later independently, and not only that but they ruled whole of South India for about three centuries. And these Kalabhras were termed as 'uncivilized', 'wicked' and by all sorts of abuses, and their history suppressed, only evidences remaining extant in Buddhist books, i.e. whatever was left of these books. The real bone of contention seems to be that they cancelled the rights of the Brahmins from the brahmdeya villages, i.e. the villages gifted to Brahmins.

Presence of Festivals but absence of Murthi is against it being a Brahmanic shrine

That there was no deity in Vengadam in Sangam age, is agreed by all scholars. Veera Raghavacharya has the following to observe:

"Vengadam or (Tiruvengadam) is the name of the hill according to the Tamil grammar Tolkappiyam. The Sangam poet Mamulanur gives the same name to the Hill. But the name of the deity Tiruvengadamudiyam (or any variant thereof) is not mentioned by either of the above; nor is the existence of any temple for any other deity mentioned. ..." [Raghavacharya: I,106]

It is quite clear that Murthi was absent but festivals existed on the hill during the Mamulanar's time which is considered to be in 2nd century A.D. The festivals always are held at the places where some religious activity is taking place. The people meet and transact secular business activities and enjoy merry making, but always the nucleus is the religious object, around which all other activities are centered. It is impossible to believe that the people would undertake the hazardous journey to Tirumalai only for secular purposes of barter etc. and if the festivals were taking place, the have to be for something sacred. If there was no murthi on the Vengadam hill, what was that object which was venerated and in whose honour the festivals were celebrated? Certainly, the worship of Vishnu cannot be performed when there is no murthi of Vishnu. It is, therefore, certain that the festivals on the hill were not connected with worship of Vishnu in any form.

These festivals are referred to by Tirumalsai as Ona Vilavu meaning "Sravana Festivals" [Aiyangar: 11]. It is worth mentioning that Sravana Festivals are a well known Buddhist entity. Lord Buddha delivered His first sermon at Sarnath on Ashadha full moon day and went into varshawasa from next day, which was Monday, being 1st day of Sravana. In North India, months end on full-moon day. There used to be festivals in Sravana all over the Buddhist places. People considered it meritorious to visit these festivals on these days, listen to the sermons of Bhikkus, observe uposatha, offer food to bhikkus before having meals themselves, [Dharma Rakshita:1956:21] and also to become shramner or shramneri on these occasions. Such practices are common in Buddhist countries even now and the month of Sravana is considered as auspicious. Therefore, the presence of "Sravana Festivals", without the presence of any image, on the hazardous hill, in the midst of the Buddhist Tribal inhabitants can have only the Buddhist meanings. This period of Varshavas had tremendous effect on Indian population, and we find, even now, the lay people refrain themselves from eating meat and other forbidden objects of food during this period, and observe fasts on Mondays.

Murthi came into existence during Buddhist rule

It is already shown that the Murthi is that of Avalokitesvara. In about 2nd century A.D., fairs and festivals existed but no deity. This gives us the approximate time of installation of the Murthi between 3rd to 5th century. This would also agree with the times of Kalabhras, proving thereby that the murthi came into existence during the period when Kalabhras were ruling the area around Tondamandalam, during so called 'dark age' - dark age for Brahmanism.

Puranic Tondaman is a myth

Traditional story of Tondaman is already mentioned. The contention of Aiyangar, seen in Chapter 8, is that the Tondaman Chakravarthy of Puranas was a historical person and that he installed the Murthi and built a small temple for the Lord, and this was in the times around beginning of Christian era. He identifies this Puranic Tondaman with Tondaman Tiraiyan of Pavattiri and has averred that he is different from Tondaman Ilam Tiraiyan of Kanchi. Tiraiyan means men of sea. He observes:

"...We found that the region dependent upon Vengadam or Tirupati changing hands from the Kalvar chieftain Pulli and passing into the possession of the Tondaman chieftains before the time of the great Pandyan victor at Talaiyalanganam, from reference to Sangam literature. This very literature gives us a Tondaman, ruling from his northern capital at Pavattiri, Reddipalem in the Gudur Taluk, and held rule over the northern Tondamandalam. We have referred rather more elaborately to another Tondaman that the literature knows of, namely, the Tondaman Ilam Tiraiyan. So we seem to have now three Tondamans before us, the Tondaman or the Tondaman Chakravarthi referred to in the Puranas, the Tiraiyan of Pavattiri or northern Tondamandalam and Tondaman Ilam Tiraiyan of Kanchi..." [Aiyangar:I,22]

Tondaman Ilam Tiraiyan of Kanchi, he observes, was "a great celebrity in Tamil literature...The Tolkappiyam,...classes him as of royal descent, but not of monarchical standing. He is regarded as the son of a Chola ruler (from a Naga Princess)..." [Ibid.p.11] The story says that the king fell in love with a Naga princess and when a child was about to be born, advised her to put the baby in a box and send it afloat on the sea with a twig of creeper of the Tondai tied round his ankle. This was done and the baby reached somehow the shore and was brought to the king who brought him up as his own child and appointed him as Viceroy of Kanchi in due course, from where he was ruling over whole of Tondamandalam. [Ibid. p.13]

Tiraiyan of Pavattiri and Ilam Tiraiyan were different from each other, [Ibid. p.23] and the Tondaman Raja of Puranas is distinct from Tondaman Ilam Tiraiyan can be seen from "...The Perumban-arruppadi which gives specific details regarding the Tondaman Ilam Tiraiyan and mentions the Vishnu temple at Vekha at Kanchi, makes no mention whatsoever of Tirupati, nor of Ilam Tiriyan's association with Tirupati. This omission on the part of Ilam Tiraiyan is significant, and stands against an identification between the two..." [Ibid. p.23]

The attempts to connect the Tondaman Raja of Puranas with the celebrities from Sangam era are unjustifiable because firstly there was no murthi at that time as agreed by all scholars and secondly the prayer of Tondaman to wear the weapons invisibly, as mentioned in later Puranas, indicates that this Puranic story mentioning the absence of weapons is definitely a later introduction to justify the absence of weapons. Around the beginning of Christian Era, the Buddhists cults were the only cults in vogue in South India and the area concerned was a predominantly Buddhist area, therefore it is more logical that this cult started in Vengadam was a Buddhist cult.

It is clear that the Kalvar chieftains Pullis and Tiraiyans of Pavattiri are people of one and the same stock, i.e. of Kalabharakula, as already seen. They were all Buddhists and they migrated south wards and uprooted various kings. There was religious animosity with Brahmins, villages gifted to whom were cancelled by them and consequently they were abused by Brahmin epigraphists. In spite of all this it seems Brahmins could not get rid of the name of Tondaman who finds a place in the Puranas as founder of Tirupati. We have to remember that Pullis, Tiraiyans, Tondamans represent people rather than individuals, and that all these people being the same, one could see how Tondaman is designated as 'Chakravarthi' when in story itself he was described as no more than a small chieftain. At the same time, the Kalabhras who were the same people, when they uprooted various kings and convulsed the great Emperors for centuries, are designated as 'wicked', 'kali-asar' etc. simply because they had to depict these people in the first place as devotees of Brahmanism and in the second place as enemies of Brahmanism. Such is the mentality and scholarship of our elites.

Chapter 21          Chapter 23