On the Date of Classical Tamil Poems

Sudalaimuthu Palaniappan palaniappa at AOL.COM
Sat Oct 20 17:11:10 UTC 2012

I hadearlier written about the chieftain mentioned in Classical Tamil poems as Pāṇaṉ who ruled in a northern border area of Tamiḻakam. (See http://listserv.liv.ac.uk/cgi-bin/wa?A2=ind1009&L=INDOLOGY&P=R912&D=0&I=-3) Although the poemseemed to refer to a single individual, I had suggested that it referred to thedynasty of the ‘Bana’ kings whose names had originally been Pāṇaṉ (in singular) before the variation p->b- in thename took place.   
Now I havefound one more Classical Tamil poem that confirms my thesis. 
vil keḻu tāṉai vicciyar perumakaṉ
vēntaroṭu poruta ñāṉṟaip pāṇar
puli nōkkuuṟaḻ nilai kaṇṭa
kali keḻu kuṟumpūr ārppiṉumperitē (Kuṟuntokai 328.5-8)
Thiscan be translated as given below:
“The gossip was louder thanthe roar of the noisy village in the arid tract, that saw the stance of the Pāṇarthat resembled the look of the tiger, when the chief of Vicciyar of armyabounding in archers fought against the kings.”
Inthe past, commentators like U. V. Caminathaiyarhad interpreted the word “Pāṇar” here as the homophon,‘pāṇar’,meaning ‘bards’. They interpreted thebards as standing between the two armies and looking at both armies as a ‘lion’does!. The real meaning of ‘lookof a tiger’ can be seen in the following Kalittokai poem
valimuṉpiṉ valleṉṟa yākkai puli nōkkiṉ
cuṟṟuamai villar curi vaḷar pittaiyar
aṟṟam pārttu alkum kaṭuṅkaṇ maṟavar …(Kalittokai 4.1-3)
This canbe translated as “the warriors of the arid tract with hard bodies ofextraordinary strength, looks of tiger, bows with string/leather(?) coiledaround, locks of hair with curls, and fierce eyes, who are on the watch intenton killing…”
So the ‘lookof tiger’ in Kuṟuntokai 328.7 should refer to the fierce look of ‘Pānar’warriors who were engaged in fighting. It cannot refer to ‘pānar’ bards, ifthey are supposed to be bystanders.  The context of the poem indicatesthat the Pāṇar had fought on one side. Since the Vicciyar wereonly minor chieftains engaged in a battle against major kings, we can guessthat the Pāṇar fought fiercely on the side of the underdogs,the Vicciyar. This was probably why their bravery was appreciated by thevillagers.
Interestingly,Akam.226.13 describes the Pāṇan as “vali mikum muṉpiṉ pāṇaṉ” reminding us of Kalittokai 4.1.
Thisidentification of Pāṇar with the Bāṇakings mentioned in later inscriptions and the epic Maṇimēkalai is very important for the dating of Classical Tamil texts.
It shouldbe noted that the 5th century Tāḷaguṇḍa inscription refers to the dynasty under consideration as Bṛhad-Bāṇa. Later non-Tamil inscriptions continue to referto them as Bāṇas while Tamil inscriptions refer to them as Vāṇa- where b- > v-. The name Vāṇaṉ occurs as the lord of Ciṛukuṭi,probably a coastal village on the east coast of the Pāṇṭiyan kingdom. There is aninstance in the Maturaikkāñci 203 where the name Vāṇaṉ seems to refer to Bāṇāsurain the context of referring to his fabulous wealth. We should note that theCilappatikāram refers more explicitly to Bāṇāsura,son of Mahābali, as Vāṇaṉ and not as Pāṇaṉ. The same is true of the Maṇimēkalaialso.  Clearly if the ClassicalTamil texts had been composed in the 5th century CE or later, they would bereferring to the Pāṇar chieftain as Vāṅaṉ and not Pāṇaṉ. So the Classical Tamiltexts would have been composed earlier than the time when Pāṇa- has changed toBāṇa. Interestingly, Māmūlaṉār, the author of Akam 31, has also authored Akam325, which mentions Paṇaṉ, thechieftain. As I had discussed earlier, Akam 31 was composed earlier than theKalabhra rule in Tamiḻakam.  
Froma historian’s viewpoint, Akam 325 is probably the earliest mention of theBānas.

Thanks inadvance for your comments


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