uraga and AlavAy

Sudalaimuthu Palaniappan Palaniappa at AOL.COM
Sat Apr 17 01:42:44 UTC 1999

In a message dated 4/3/99 10:24:13 AM Central Standard Time, mrabe at ARTIC.EDU

> This may very well be a correct inference,  but it is at odds with the
>  views of E. Hultzsch [_Gadval Plates of Vikramaditya, c. A.D. 674_, EI X
>  (1909-10): 102], who cites Venkayya's equation of Kalidasa's Uragapura with
>  Uraiyur, an ancient capital of the Cholas near Tiruchi and his own
>  preference for matching it with the coastal Buddhist enclave, Nagapattanam
>  [i.e., Ptolmey's Nikama].  In other words, I think it's an unwarranted
>  stretch to say that because Kalidas identifies his Uraga with the Pandyas
>  that he must necessarily have had Madurai in mind.  Perhaps his knowledge
>  of Southern geography wasn't so precise after all!

What is needed is not the precise location  of the capital of the Pandyas,
but rather knowledge of Pandyan traditions. For this, there is ample evidence
that Kalidasa was intimately familiar with the traditions regarding the
Pandyas. At least in this he seems to have been better informed than the
modern scholar Venkayya. G. S. Ghurye, in his book, "Indian Acculturation"
says that in Raghuvamsa, Kalidasa says the following:
1.  Agastya was the officiating priest for a Pandya king
2. The Pandya king was so powerful that Ravana thought it prudent to effect a
peace-treaty with him.
3. Pandya kings wore a special necklace.

Item 1 is mentioned in the Sanskrit portion of the vELvikkuTi copper plates
of 770 AD.
Item 2 is mentioned in the Sanskrit portion of the taLavAypuram copper plates
908 AD.
Item 3 is mentioned in cilappatikAram, not later than 5th century AD, and
later copper plates.

Consider the tradition of Ravana's peace treaty with the Pandyas. Not many
Tamil scholars would know that story. It is first attested in Tamilnadu in
the copper plates cited above. When Kalidasa was aware of that story, and
when Madurai was known to Megasthenes and Kautalya, I do not think it is
reasonable to doubt that Kalidasa knew Madurai was the capital of the
Pandyas. (On the other hand, Venkayya's identification of Pandyan capital
with uRaiyUr is like identification of Palani in Tamilnadu with Pilani in
north India based on superficial similarity.)

>  Precluding the identification with Madurai is this passage from the cited
>  plates:
>  _This VikramAditya....having entered the Cholika province was encamped in
>  Uragapura which is situated on the southern bank of the Kaveri..._ [ibid.,
>  p. 105, ll. 22, 23]

This uragapura has been discussed by T. N. Subrahmanyan in the Proceedings of
the Seventh All India Oriental Conference and identified as
Tirunageswaram/pAmpUr east of Kumbakonam. (SeeThirty Pallava Copper Plates,
1966, p.44). If anything, it only shows that this identification of uragapura
with uRaiyUr is wrong too.

S. Palaniappan

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