[INDOLOGY] On the Date of Classical Tamil Poems

Sudalaimuthu Palaniappan palaniappa at aol.com
Sun Jan 24 01:00:32 UTC 2021

I recently came across Auvai Turaicāmip Piḷḷai’s interpretation of some key details of Akam 113, and Akam 226. He makes these comments in his introduction to the decad called Pāṇaṉ Pattu of his commentary on Aiṅkuṟunūṟu (1958: 1028-29). (See attachment.) I do not know if he has provided detailed commentaries for the two poems.


With respect to Akam 113, Pillai says that the ruler Pāṇaṉ belonged to a section of the bardic community of the Pāṇar that did not engage in music and dance but excelled in wrestling and ruling the land. He refers to Perumpāṇappāṭi, etc., which we had discussed earlier in the thread. Pillai adds that the descendants of that Pāṇāṉ were later called  Vāṇar, Vāṇātirāyar, Vāṇataraiyar, and Vāṇakōvaraiyar. Pillai’s interpretation has been accepted by many later scholars such as Ve. Varatarācan (1973: 15) and Irā. Iḷaṅkumaraṉ (1987: 141). This confirms my interpretation of eḻāa in Akam 113.17 as 'not making music’. (For the affirmative use of eḻīi in the sense of music making, see Patiṟṟuppattu 29.7-8.) 


In this context, it should be noted that the critical edition of Akanāṉūṟu by Eva Wilden (2018) interprets the text ‘eḻā[a]p pāṇaṉ’ as ‘the bard who does not rise’. In my view, Wilden got only half of it right. She is right to translate pāṇaṉ as ‘the bard’. But, Wilden has interpreted eḻā as deriving from DEDR 851 eḻu- 'to rise'. It should be related to DEDR 5156 yāḻ, ñāḻ, stringed musical instrument; eḻu- 'to emit sound’… The correct interpretation is ‘the bard who does not play the lute/make music’. This usage is the converse of 'porāap porunar' in Puṟam 386.19, where 'non-fighting warriors’ is used to refer to bards, where both the bards and warriors can be denoted by the word ‘porunar’.


One may argue that the fact Akam 113 uses ‘eḻā[a]’ to describe ‘Pāṇaṉ’ may simply indicate the homophonous nature of the name of the ruler ‘Pāṇaṉ’ and the word for the bard, ‘pāṇaṉ,’ and not necessarily the fact that the ruler was of bardic origin.  But, we know that the bards had received villages as gifts from Puṟam 302. But, with respect to bards receiving a bigger territory, we have that possibility supported by Ciṟupāṇāṟṟuppaṭai 109 according to which the chief Ōri  gave ‘the good country with small hills to Kōṭiyar’. Pillai (1958: 1030) states that depending on what they did, Pāṇar were known by several names such as Pāṇar, Akavunar, Kūttar, Kōṭiyar, Iyavar, and Porunar. In a similar manner, the Pāṇar could have received some territory in the northern border area of the Tamil region, which could have become the base of the Pāṇar, who later became the Bāṇas. 


As for the bards becoming warriors, it is not impossible for one to have both skills. In the famous Tanjavur temple inscription South Indian Inscriptions, vol 2, no.66, there are several members of the crack troops of Ṛājarāja I (Terinta Valaṅkai Vēḷaikkārar, Terinta Parikkārar) who have been given grants as musicians (pp.299-300). 


The dynastic drift of the Bāṇas from the northern Tamil border area into Telugu or Kannada regions is nothing unusual. As I already noted in an earlier post, a branch of Cōḻas settled in the Cudappah district of the Telugu region in the 7th century can be seen to drift all the way to Sonepur in South Kosala (Orissa) in the 12th century Mahadā plates of Somesvaradevavarman.


In Akam 226, Pillai does not interpret Pāṇaṉ as an ally of Kaṭṭi who fled without fighting in the court of the Cōḻa king Tittaṉ Veḷiyaṉ. Rather, it was Pāṇaṉ, who was in the court of the Chōḻa king, the intended adversary of Kaṭṭi. Modern scholars like Vēṅkaṭacāmi Nāṭṭār and R. Vēṅkaṭācalam Pīllai (1946: 454) unnecessarily add a word ‘kūti’ meaning ‘having joined’ to “Pāṇaṉoṭu’ to come up with the misinterpreted meaning. The verb ‘poru’ ‘to fight’ is preceded by the adversary being fought/intended to be fought by the subject of the verb with the case marker ‘oṭu'. Perhaps Nāṭṭār was influenced by Rā. Irākavaiyaṅkār (1923: 1670), who interpreted Pāṇaṉ as an ally of Kaṭṭi in his earlier edition. Hart (2015: 232) has followed Nāttār’s interpretation.


George L. Hart, 2015. The Four Hundred Songs of Love. Institut Français De Pondichéry, Pondicherry.

Irā. Iḷaṅkumaraṉ, 1987. Pāṇar. Maṇivācakar Patippakam, Citamparam.  

Rā. Irākavaiyaṅkār, 1923. Eṭṭuttokaiyuḷ Neṭuntokai Ākum Akanāṉūṟu Mulamum Uraiyum. Vē. Irājakōpālaiyaṅkār Patippu, Mayilāppūr. 

Na. Mu. Vēṅkaṭacāmi Nāṭṭār and R. Vēṅkaṭācalam Pīllai, 1946. Eṭṭuttokaiyil Oṉṟāṉa Akanāṉūṟu Maṇimiṭai Pāvaḷam. Tirunelvēli, Tennintiya Caiva Cittāṇta Nuṟpatippuk Kaḻakam, Ceṉṉai.

Auvai Turaicāmip Pillai, 1958. Eṭṭuttokaiyil Oṉṟākiya Aiṅkuṟunūṟu Mulamum Viḷakkavuraiyum. Part III. Mullai. Aṇṇāmalaip palkalaik kaḻakattārāl veḷiyiṭappeṟṟatu.

Ve. Varatarācaṉ, 1973. Tamiḻppāṇar Vāḻvum Varalāṟum. Pāṇṇaṉ Patippakam, Ceṉṉai.

Eva Wilden, 2018.  A Critical Edition and an Annotated Translation of the Akanāṉūṟu, 3 volumes. École Française D’Extrême-Orient and Institut Français De Pondichéry, Pondicherry.




On Oct 22, 2012, at 11:13 PM, palaniappa at aol.com wrote:


Dear George, 


I appreciate your comments. 


As for the fonts, I like to use the diacritic fonts too whenever possible. In my first post, I did use the diacritic fonts. But, when Dr. Tieken replied to my post the diacritic fonts in my earlier post showed up as question marks in my Mac. Since there were not too many participants in the thread, to be safe, I resorted to the transliteration I used.








-----Original Message-----
From: George Hart <glhart at BERKELEY.EDU>
To: INDOLOGY <INDOLOGY at liverpool.ac.uk>
Sent: Mon, Oct 22, 2012 3:53 pm
Subject: Re: [INDOLOGY] On the Date of Classical Tamil Poems

Dear Palaniappan, 


I think you have made a good case for Pāṇaṉ and Bāṇa, and especially like the perumpāṇaṉ / bṛhadbāṇa, as even the alliteration works.  I hope you publish this, as it is significant, I think.  I am still not convinced by what you say about pāṇar in the Kuṟuntokai poem -- after reading many Sangam poems and working through much of the Akananuru, your interpretation just doesn't sound right to me.  Of course, that doesn't mean you aren't correct, but there's really no way to tell.  If the Pāṇar were standing to one side (or, more likely, in the middle of one side playing their drums), and a battle started, they'd still be looking in front and behind them to avoid being killed.  Thanks for an intriguing and informative analysis.


One remark: Why not use roman unicode, as it's very hard to read the transliteration that eschews diacritic marks.  I believe every OS and email program is capable of handling 8-bit unicode.  




On Oct 21, 2012, at 9:21 PM, Sudalaimuthu Palaniappan <Palaniappa at AOL.COM> wrote:

Dear George, 


Please see the attached inscription. What can one say about the perumpANan here? Is he a pANan2 or bANan2? Which comes first - perumpANan2 or bRhad-bANa? The modifier 'peru' is found in other names such as perumuttaraiyar (mentioned in nAlaTiyAr), ko-p-peruñ-cOzan2, peruñ-cEral, etc. The title peru- is very common in Tamil. It was also used in connection with different professions as in perumpANan2 and perunAvican2. Then how about the title bRhad in bRhadbANa?


First of all, the title bRhad-bANa for a dynasty is very unusual. The only other so-called dynastic title I know of, bRhatphAlAyana, is not a dynastic title at all. In fact, in the case of bRhatphAlAyanas and sAlankAyanas, according to K. A. Nilakanta Sastri, the scholars have simply used the gotra names in the absence of dynastic names.  (Early History of the Andhra Country, p.151, n.1). Moreover, it is only in the tALagunda inscription we find the occurrence of 'bRhad-bANa'. Everywhere else in non-Tamil inscriptions, the members of the dynasty are called bANarAja, bANAdhirAja-. In other words we only find bANa- but not bRhad-bANa. But in Tamil we find many instances of perumpANaraicar, permpANan, etc. 


This leads one to infer that the author of the tALagunda inscription was simply translating the name perumpANan2 into Sanskrit. Since in Tamil -p- following nasal -m- is pronounced as -b-, the author of tALagunda has rendered the first component as bRhad and kept the second part as bANa. This suggests that the original form of the dynastic name should have been Ta. pANan2. It is also possible that in the Kannada and Telugu areas 'pANa-' was being pronounced as 'bANa' either independently or influenced by the pronunciation of '- pANan2' in perumpANan2 as '-bANan2' .  Once the stand-alone form 'bANa' becomes widespread, a re-branding using a Sanskrit mythological pedigree tracing the lineage to mahAbali, father of bANAsura is carried out with the dynastic title as 'bANa'. Later when this form 'bANa' is imported back into Tamil, Skt. bANa > Ta. vANa-. 


In the book "ceGkam naTukaRkaL" inscription no. 1971/54 of the 2nd year of Narasimhavarman II mentions a vANakO atiraicar. In the same collection, no. 1971/73 of the 10th year of the same king mentions a perumpANatiyaraicar. 


The phrase "ezAap pANan2" further points to the homophon indicating bard as well as the chieftain suggesting in this case that the chieftain was called 'pANan2' too with word-initial p-. 


As for the domicile and area controlled by the pANan2/bANa chiefs, it has varied historically. They might have started near Gingee where the paRaiyan2paTTu inscription is found mentioning 'pANAtu'. (At least one variant of akam.155 mentions pANATu. See Early Tamil Epigraphy, p. 629 for a discussion of this.) Then they could have moved north so that by the 4th century they are found near zrIparvata hill. After serving the Chalukya, Pallava, and Chola dynasties, in the 13th century, we see bANa chieftains with titles such as mAvali vANAdirAyan, mAbali vANarAyar, etc., controlling parts of the pANTiya country under the pANTiyas. As a parallel case, it should be noted that a branch of the Cholas, Telugu Cholas,  were controlling areas around Sonepur in Orissa in the 12th century issuing inscriptions in Sanskrit tracing their descent to Chola karikAla and uRaiyUr (EI 28, p. 286) progressively moving northeast from the area to the north of the Tamil country over several centuries.


In my opinion, the pANan2 mentioned in Akam 113 and 226 referred to one or more members of the same lineage later called the bANas. 


kaTTi mentioned in akam 226 is also mentioned in akam 44 as well as kuRuntokai 11. See below.

tun2 arum kaTum tiRal kaGkan2 kaTTi (akam. 44.8)

pal vEl kaTTi nal nATTu umpar

mozipeyar tEettar Ayin2um (kuRu. 11.7-8)


We should take the dynatic names mentioned here as individuals belonging the dynasty being mentioned. Like the bAnas, these dynasties were also in the northern border of the Tamil country. 'kaGkan' referred to the Western Ganga dynasty. Vicciyar were also in the northern area. So it is not surprising that pANar allied themselves with vicci or kaTTi.
The use of the plural form pANar in kuRu. 328 is of the same nature as in akam. 336 below. 
mAri ampin2 mazai tOl cOzar
vil INTu kuRumpin2 vallattup puRa miLai
Ariyar paTaiyin2 uTaika en2
nEr iRai mun2kai vIgkiya vaLaiyE (akam. 336.20-23)
Here 'cOzar' (in plural) could refer to the cOza fighters.
Similarly, you can see 'cOzar' used below referring to the cOza fighters
koRRac cOzar kogkarp paNIiyar
veNkOTTu yAn2aip pOor kizavOn2
pazaiyan2 vEl vAyttan2n2a nin2 (naR. 10.6-8)
So in kuRu. 328, pANar (bANa) forces would have joined the battle on the side of the vicciyar who might be led by their chief, 'perumakan2'. It is possible the pANan2 chief might have sent his forces without joining them.
As for non-fighters standing between the two armies, I consider it highly unlikely they were standing in between the fighting armies. They have to be really standing on the side while the battle is raging and in that case they will only move their gaze from side to side and not front and back. So I do not think simhAvalokanyAya will be valid here. At least if the description applies to the fighters, then their behavior will parallel the warriors whether it is their fierce look or looking forward and backward, So, the looking persons should be fighters and not bards.




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