On the Date of Classical Tamil Poems

George Hart glhart at BERKELEY.EDU
Sun Oct 21 14:35:08 UTC 2012

Dear Palaniappan,

I think you idea is a fascinating one, but I'd like to see clearer evidence linking the name Pāṇaṉ to the Bāṇa dynasty.  Here are two more poems:

Akanāṉūṟu 113:

He has gone even beyond the good land of Pāṇaṉ
who never shows his back in battle,
whose food is as plentiful as the food at a festival,
whose long spear has a black, dense ferrule and an oiled shaft,
and who, even though it was far away, looked for the right time,	15
went, took and drove the cattle and the hump-backed bulls
from the well-stocked fort where his enemies guarded them.

...இடம்பார்த்துப் பகைவர்
ஓம்பினர் உறையும் கூழ்கெழு குறும்பிற்
குவைஇமில் விடைய வேற்றுஆ ஒய்யும்
கனைஇருஞ் சுருணைக் கனிகாழ் நெடுவேல்	15
விழவுஅயர்ந் தன்ன கொழும்பல் திற்றி
எழாஅப் பாணன் நன்னாட்டு உம்பர்...

This would seem to indicate that Pāṇaṉ was a small king in a forest area, probably in the north of TN.  It seems unlikely that someone in the Bāna dynasty would be referred to in these terms.  The Pālai poems often describe the hero's journey to the north (to or beyond the Veṅkaṭam hills, to where even the language has changed), and these areas (modern Rayalaseema) are said to have been inhabited by fierce, marginal chiefs who would have no compunction killing the poor hero who wants to travel there.

Here is another one (Akam 226):

The gossip you created has grown, and today
it is louder than the clamor when Kaṭṭi whose army kills in battle
joined with strong and brave Pāṇaṉ to attack Tittaṉ Veḷiyaṉ
whose garland is full, and they heard the sweet sound	15
of the clear kiṇai drum as he held court in Uṟaiyūr
and, instead of fighting, they fled in terror.

வலிமிகும் முன்பின் பாணனொடு மலிதார்த் 
தித்தன் வெளியன் உறந்தை நாளவைப் 
பாடுஇன் தெண்கிணைப் பாடுகேட்டு அஞ்சி,	15
போரடு தானைக் கட்டி 
பொராஅது ஓடிய ஆர்ப்பினும் பெரிதே.

The kiṇai drum would be beaten at executions as well at other occasions (Puṟam 78).  While this could be describing a great king in the Bāṇa dynasty, it seems to me it is of a piece with Akam 113 above and that Pāṉaṉ is a minor king.  I'd love to see a bit of more conclusive evidence, as Pāṇaṉ would here seem to be a native Tamil minor king.

The Kuṟuntokai poem is something of a puzzle.  Pāṇar here cannot refer to the king, as it is plural while kings are referred to the singular (as vicciyar perumakaṉ).  I cannot think of any place where the name of a king in the plural is used to refer to his subjects -- Cērar would refer to the Chera monarchs, not the people.  To add to your note, UVS says puli nōkku is a lion's gaze (siṃhāvalokanam -- puli can sometimes mean lion as well as tiger) and that the lion gazes in two directions at once, like the bards, who are non-fighters standing between the armies and looking at them both. The siṃhāvalokanyāya, according to Apte, is "The maxim of the lion's backward glance.  It is used when one casts a retrospective glance at what he has left behind while at the same time he is proceeding, just as the lion, while going onward in search of prey, now and then bends his neck backwards to see if anything is within his reach."  If this is the case, then the point of comparison is not the fierceness of the Pāṇars but the way they look forward to one army and back at the other.  The Kalittokai verse could also refer to how the warriors look before them and behind, though I can't find any commentary that says that.

I would add that I think the date of the older Sangam anthologies is quite firmly established as the first two  centuries AD.  The evidence, in my view, is overwhelming.  George Hart

On Oct 20, 2012, at 10:11 AM, Sudalaimuthu Palaniappan <palaniappa at AOL.COM> wrote:

> Dear Scholars,
> I had earlier 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 poem seemed to refer to a single individual, I had suggested that it referred to the dynasty of the ‘Bana’ kings whose names had originally been Pāṇaṉ (in singular) before the variation p->b- in the name took place.  
> Now I have found one more Classical Tamil poem that confirms my thesis.
> ………………………………………………………………………alarē
> vil keḻu tāṉai vicciyar perumakaṉ
> vēntaroṭu poruta ñāṉṟaip pāṇar
> puli nōkku uṟaḻ nilai kaṇṭa
> kali keḻu kuṟumpūr ārppiṉum peritē (Kuṟuntokai 328.5-8)
> This can be translated as given below:
> “The gossip was louder than the roar of the noisy village in the arid tract, that saw the stance of the Pāṇar that resembled the look of the tiger, when the chief of Vicciyar of army abounding in archers fought against the kings.”
> In the past, commentators like U. V. Caminathaiyar had interpreted the word “Pāṇar” here as the homophon, ‘pāṇar’, meaning ‘bards’. They interpreted the bards as standing between the two armies and looking at both armies as a ‘lion’ does!. The real meaning of ‘look of a tiger’ can be seen in the following Kalittokai poem
> vali muṉpiṉ valleṉṟa yākkai puli nōkkiṉ
> cuṟṟu amai villar curi vaḷar pittaiyar
> aṟṟam pārttu alkum kaṭuṅkaṇ maṟavar …(Kalittokai 4.1-3)
> This can be translated as “the warriors of the arid tract with hard bodies of extraordinary strength, looks of tiger, bows with string/leather(?) coiled around, locks of hair with curls, and fierce eyes, who are on the watch intent on killing…”
> So the ‘look of 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, if they are supposed to be bystanders.  The context of the poem indicates that the Pāṇar had fought on one side. Since the Vicciyar were only minor chieftains engaged in a battle against major kings, we can guess that the Pāṇar fought fiercely on the side of the underdogs, the Vicciyar. This was probably why their bravery was appreciated by the villagers.
> Interestingly, Akam.226.13 describes the Pāṇan as “vali mikum muṉpiṉ pāṇaṉ” reminding us of Kalittokai 4.1.
> This identification of Pāṇar with the Bāṇa kings mentioned in later inscriptions and the epic Maṇimēkalai is very important for the dating of Classical Tamil texts.
> It should be noted that the 5th century Tāḷaguṇḍa inscription refers to the dynasty under consideration as Bṛhad-Bāṇa. Later non-Tamil inscriptions continue to refer to 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 an instance in the Maturaikkāñci 203 where the name Vāṇaṉ seems to refer to Bāṇāsura in the context of referring to his fabulous wealth. We should note that the Cilappatikāram refers more explicitly to Bāṇāsura, son of Mahābali, as Vāṇaṉ and not as Pāṇaṉ. The same is true of the Maṇimēkalai also.  Clearly if the Classical Tamil texts had been composed in the 5th century CE or later, they would be referring to the Pāṇar chieftain as Vāṅaṉ and not Pāṇaṉ. So the Classical Tamil texts would have been composed earlier than the time when Pāṇa- has changed to Bāṇa. Interestingly, Māmūlaṉār, the author of Akam 31, has also authored Akam 325, which mentions Paṇaṉ, the chieftain. As I had discussed earlier, Akam 31 was composed earlier than the Kalabhra rule in Tamiḻakam.  
>  (http://listserv.liv.ac.uk/cgi-bin/wa?A2=ind0908&L=INDOLOGY&P=R4899&I=-3, http://listserv.liv.ac.uk/cgi-bin/wa?A2=ind0908&L=INDOLOGY&P=R6548&I=-3 )
> From a historian’s viewpoint, Akam 325 is probably the earliest mention of the Bānas.
> Thanks in advance for your comments
> Regards,
> Palaniappan

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