Later Chola Temples

by S. R. Balasubrahmanyam | 1979 | 143,852 words

This volume of Chola Temples covers Kulottunga I to Rajendra III in the timeframe A.D. 1070-1280. The Cholas of Southern India left a remarkable stamp in the history of Indian architecture and sculpture. Besides that, the Chola dynasty was a successful ruling dynasty even conquering overseas regions....

The Nanadesis were a trading organisation. They claimed descent from Vasudeva, Mulabhadra or Virabhadra. They were devotees of Bhagavati, Paramesvari or Nachchi-yar. They have described themselves as Nanadesi Tisai Ayirattu-ainnurruvar, ‘the Lords (adhipatis) of eighteen bhumis (padinen bhumi or vishaya), thirtytwo valarpuram (muppat-tirendu valarpurangal) and sixtyfour ghatikai-tavalam’. They travelled over land and by sea and traded in six ‘continents’ (kkanda). Among the lands they covered could be mentioned: Chera nadu, Chola nadu, Pandya nadu, Malaya nadu (Malay peninsula), Magadha desa, Kosala desa, Saurashtra, Dhanushtiram, Kurumbam, Kambojam (Cambodia), Gauda desa, Lata desa, Paviru, Parasam (Persia), Nepalam, Ekaparam, Lambakarnam, Sri Rajyam (Sri vijayam), Kolamulam and others. Among the goods/articles they traded in were elephants, horses, indramlam, ckandrakantam, pearls, diamonds, vaiduryam, gomedakam, maragatam, pushparagam and other gems, cardamom, sandal-wood, camphor, kasturi, ahil, clover (lavanga) etc.

The earliest reference to them is contained in an inscription discovered by me in the village of Munisandai in the present district (and the former princely state) of Puduk-kottai. It is dated in a.d. 870 in the reign of Vijayalaya. It was found near the lake in the village (See plate 33-a in my Early Chola Art, Pt. 1). It mentions that the lake (eri) known as Ainnurruvar pereri was maintained by this guild or trading organisation, and towards the provision of funds, a sub-group known as the Valamsiyar Ainnurruvarar, on behalf and in the name of the main body (viz, the Tisaiayirattu ainnurruvar), deposited 2 kasus from whose interest the repair and maintenance of the lake was to be looked after. A similar epigraphical reference in Tamil was found at a place known as Loebe Tiva in the island of Sumatra in Indonesia dated in Saka 1000 (= a.d. 1078), referring to a grant by the Tisai ayirattu ainnurruvar. This relates to the period of Kulottunga I. An inscription from Pranmalai in Pudukkottai district gives a detailed account of their activities. They set up their own establishments in India and abroad and each had its own distinctive status and designation. They had extensive godowns and necessary security personnel. An interesting grant was made by this corporation to the temple of Alagiya Tiruch-chirrambalam Udaiya Nayanar located at the foot of the Tirumalai at Tiruk-kodun-gunram (modern Pranmalai) in Tirumalai nadu. Certain taxes, levies and duties on a number of commodities were to be collected and gifted to the temple for tirup-podi-marru, tirup-pani, tirup-parisattam, tiru-merppusu etc., besides meeting the needs of the attached madam (matha), tirumadaivilagam and the sacred tank. The items taxed were: salt, paddy, rice, dhals like green-gram, horse-gram etc., castor-seed, areca-nut, pepper, turmeric, ginger, onions, mustard, jeera, amla (nelli), tanri, iron, steel, cotton, yarn, pudavai (sari), ulandu pili, wax, honey, sesame, konigaip-pattu, sandal, ahil, silk, pannir kudam, Savari (hair fly-whisk), karpurattailam, sandu-pulugu (a paste for the forehead, scented), javvadu, semodu, horses and elephants, on all of which octroi (sungam) had been levied.

We have another detailed reference to them from Avur dated in a.d. 1272 (i.e., corresponding to the 30th regnal year of Kopperunjinga, the Later Pall&va Chief), which mentions a gift of an image of Astra-devar to the temple of Udaiyar Tiru-Agatti-svaram Udaiya Nayanar of Avur, in Sedi-(Chedi-) mandalam, which was on the north bank of the Pennai. They are described as padinen-bhumt tisai vilangu Ural ayirattu Ugal vanigar. The local Chief who made this grant was Surandar alias Seya Sevaganach-chedirayar.

This organisation comprised perhaps followers of many religions, Saivism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Vaishnavism.

They were thus a powerful lot, of extensive international links, with privileges and powers, and duties and responsibilities; and the wars and feuds between the kingdoms where they traded left them unhindered, as they discharged a function so essential for the smooth running of societies. Their ideals were noble and are summarised in the following succinct words:

Aram valara; kali maliga
pugal peruga; pagai taniga

(May Dharma increase; May Darkness disappear; May fame (grace) spread; May enmity decline!)

How long after the Cholas and Pandyas disappeared this international trading organisation survived is not known. But one would presume that they had a long record of trading service to the known world of those centuries and played a quiet but important role in the life of the peoples and the nations they served.

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