Parama Samhita (English translation)

by Krishnaswami Aiyangar | 1940 | 69,979 words

This page describes the mahabharata in the tamil country in the sangam age of the English translation of the Parama Samhita, representing a manual of the Pancaratra school of Vaishnavism philosophy. These pages summarize ritualistic worship, initiation and other topics, as contained in the various Agamas belonging to the Pancaratra school

The Mahābhārata in the Tamil country in the Sangam age

Whence did this general knowledge come into the Tamil country to be so generally and elaborately incorporated in the literature of the school of Bhakti? One source, and that is literary, is the Mahābhārata. The Śānti parva of the Mahābhārata has remained suspect as a later addition to the great epic. It is now generally admitted that the whole of the Mahābhārata in its present form consisting of a lakh of ślokas (Śata Sāhasrikā) was known by the 6th century A. D. This does not depend merely upon literary evidence, but is found in an inscription of the Guptas (the Khoh copper plates inscription).[1] On this counting, it would be impossible to exclude the Sāntiparva as a whole from the scope of the Śata Sāhasrikā, Mahābhārata.

In the Tamil land itself, one of the earliest achievements of the Tamil Pāṇḍyas who established the Sangam in Madura, was the doing of the Mahābhārata into Tamil. A tenth century charter[2] referring to the early Pāṇḍyas, the Pāṇḍyas who lived and passed away with distinction, in the centuries anterior to the advent of a new dynasty of Pāṇḍyas, in the 6th century, make references to a distinguished Pāṇḍyan, victor over his enemies at a place called Talaiyālaṅkānam. The story is that he destroyed the armies of his enemies, the Cholas and the Cheras at a place called Talaiyālaṅkānam, and that was the prime achievement that made him famous. Along with this happens to be mentioned two other achievements of his of a civil, and not war-like character; and they are said to be the establishment of the Sangam in Madura and the doing of the Mahābhārata into Tamil.[3] This last statement means that he got the Mahābhārata translated into Tamil, as the verb is in the causative without a doubt.

We have the name of a well known author of the Sangam age who goes by the name Peruṃdevan, and he is distinguished in this class of literature by being referred to as the Peruṃdevan, who sang the Mahābhārata, that is, who made a versified translation of the Mahābhārata, Pāratam Pāḍiya Peruṃdevan. We may therefore take it safely that the Bhāratā was done into Tamil as a whole, and what is really material to our discussion is that this Tamil version included in all probability the Śānti parva of the Mahābhārata containing in it the Mokṣadhannaparticularly and the Nārāyaṇīya. If we could therefore take it that the doing of the Mahābhārata into Tamil in fact included the Nārāyaṇīya portion, we could easily understand the Tamils of the age of the Āḷvārs having a fairly full knowledge of the teaching of the Bhāgavatas.

Footnotes and references:


Fleet, C.1.1. Gupta Inscriptions.


The large Sinnamanūr Plates; S. I. I. Vol, III Pt. IV.


Indian Historical Quarterly, Vol. IX, p. 63ff.