Extent of the Pandya territories (c. 1250 CE)
|Official languages||Tamil, Sanskrit |
• 560–590 CE
• 1100–1400 CE
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The Pandya dynasty, also known as the Pandyas of Madurai, was a dynasty of south India, one of the three ethnically Tamil lineages, the other two being the Chola and the Chera. The rulers of the three dynasties were referred to as "the three crowned rulers (the muventar) of the Tamil country". The Pandyas ruled extensive territories, at times including the large portions of present-day south India and Sri Lanka (through collateral branches subject to Madurai).
The age and antiquity of the dynasty is difficult to establish. The early Pandyas ruled their country (the Pandya nadu) from time immemorial, which inculded the inland city of Madurai and the southern port of Korkai. The country of the Pandyas was described by a number of Graeco-Roman sources (as early as 4th century BCE). The Pandyas are celebrated in the earliest available Tamil poetry. According to tradition, the legendary Sangams ("the Academies") were held in Madurai under the patronage of the Pandyas, and some of the Pandya rulers claim to be poets themselves. The early historic Pandyas faded into obscurity upon the rise of the Kalabhra dynasty in south India.
The Pandyas revived under Kadungon in the early 6th century, helped to destablish the Kalabhras in south India. They again went into decline with the rise of the Cholas of Tanjore in the 9th century and were in constant conflict with them. The Pandyas allied themselves with the Sinhalese and the Cheras in harassing the Chola empire until they found an opportunity for reviving their fortunes during the late 13th century. The later Pandyas (1216–1345) entered their "golden age" under Maravarman Sundara Pandya and Jatavarman Sundara Pandya (c. 1251), who expanded the empire into the Telugu country (as far north as Nellore), and conquered Kalinga and Sri Lanka. They also had extensive trade links with the South East Asian maritime empires of Srivijaya and their successors. The Pandyas of Ucchangi (9th–13th century), in the Tungabhadra Valley are assumed to be related to the Pandyas of Madurai.
During their history, the Pandyas were repeatedly in conflict with the Pallavas, Cholas, Hoysalas, Cheras (Keralas). An internal crisis in the Pandya empire coincided with the Khalji invasion of south India in 1311. The ensuing political crisis saw more sultanate raids, the loss of south Kerala (1312), and north Sri Lanka (1323) and the establishment of the Madurai sultanate (mid 1330s). In the mid-16th century, the Vijayanagara governors of Madurai declared independence and established the Madurai Nayak dynasty.
The Pandya country was home to a number of renowned temples including Meenakshi Temple in Madurai. Ancient south Indian Hindu traditions flourished during the reign of the early Pandyas, but after the revival of the Pandya power by Kadungon, the Shaivite nayanars and the Vaishnavite alvars rose to prominence. It is known that the Pandya rulers followed Jainism for a short period of time in history.
Etymology and origin legends
|Outline of South Asian history|
The word pandya is thought to be derived from the ancient Tamil word "pandu" meaning "old". The theory suggests that in early historic Tamil lexicon the word pandya means old country in contrast with Chola meaning new country, Chera meaning hill country and Pallava meaning branch in Sanskrit. The etymology of pandya is still a matter of considerable speculation among scholars. Apart from the derivations mentioned, a number of other theories do appear in historical studies.
According to the ancient Tamil legends, the three brothers Cheran, Cholan and Pandyan ruled in common at the southern city of Korkai. While Pandya remained at home, his two brothers Cheran and Cholan after a separation founded their own kingdoms in north and west. Epic poem Silappatikaram mentions that the emblem of the Pandyas was that of a fish. The Pandyas assumed several titles, one of them being Meenavan meaning "He of the Fish".
Folklores attributes Alli Rani (literally "the queen Alli") as one of the early historic rulers of the Pandyas. She is attributed as a "amazonian queen" whose servants were men and administrative officials and army were women. She is thought of ruling the whole western and northern coast of Sri Lanka from her capital Kudiramalai, where remains of what is thought of as her fort are found. She is sometimes seen as an incarnation of the Pandya associated gods, Meenakshi and Kannagi.
Sources of Pandya history
Pandyas are also mentioned in the inscriptions of Maurya empror Asoka. In his inscriptions Asoka refers to the peoples of south India – the Cholas, Cheras, Pandyas and Satiyaputras. These polities, although not part of the Maurya empire, were on friendly terms with Asoka:
|“||The conquest by dharma has been won here, on the borders, and even six hundred yojanas (5,400–9,600 km) away, where the Greek king Antiochos rules, beyond there where the four kings named Ptolemy, Antigonos, Magas and Alexander rule, likewise in the south among the Cholas, the Pandyas, and as far as Tamraparni river.||”|
Kharavela, the Kalinga king who ruled during c. 1st century BCE, in his Hathigumpha inscription, claims to have destroyed a confederacy of Tamil states ("the tamira–desa–sanghata") which had lasted 132 years, and to have acquired a large quantity of pearls from the Pandyas.
The earliest Pandya to be found in epigraph is Nedunjeliyan, figuring in the Tamil-Brahmi Mangulam inscription assigned to early historic period. The record documents a gift of rock-cut beds, to a Jain ascetic. Silver punch-marked coins with the fish symbol of the Pandyas dating from around the same time have also been found.
Early Tamil literature
The early historic Pandyas are celebrated in the earliest available Tamil poetry. According to tradition, the legendary Sangams ("the Academies") were held in Madurai under the patronage of the Pandyas. Several Tamil literary works, such as Iraiyanar Agapporul, mention the legend of three separate Sangams and ascribe their patronage to the Pandyas.
Pandya rulers – such as Nedunjeliyan, "the Victor of Talaiyalanganam" and Mudukudimi Peruvaludi "of Several Sacrifices" – find mention in a number of poems. Beside several short poems found in the Akananuru and the Purananuru collections, there are two major works – Mathuraikkanci and Netunalvatai – which give a glimpse into the society and commercial activities in the Pandya country during the early historic period.
In the work Mathuraikkanci, the author Mankudi Maruthanar, refers to his patron, Nedunjeliyan, as the Lord of Korkai and the Warlord of the Southern Parathavar. Maduraikkanci contains a full-length description of Madurai and the Pandya country under the rule of Nedunjeliyan. The Netunalvatai (in the collection of Pattupattu) by Nakkirar contains a description of the Pandya ruler's palace.
- Pandyas are also mentioned by Greek author Megasthenes (4th century BCE) where he writes about south Indian kingdom being ruled by women. He described the Pandya country in Indika as "occupying the portion of India which lies southward and extends to the sea". According to his account, the kingdom had 365 villages, each of which was expected to meet the needs of the royal household for one day in the year. He described the Pandya queen at the time, Pandaia as a daughter of Heracles.
- The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea (c. 60 – c. 100 CE) describes the riches of a "Pandian kingdom"
|“||...Nelcynda is distant from Muziris by river and sea about five hundred stadia, and is of another kingdom, the Pandian. This place [Nelcynda] also is situated on a river, about one hundred and twenty stadia from the [Arabian] sea.... ||”|
- The country of the Pandyas was described as Pandya Mediterranea and Modura Regia Pandionis by Ptolemy.
- Strabo states that an Indian king called Pandion sent Augustus Caesar "presents and gifts of honour". The 1st-century Greek historian Nicolaus of Damascus met, at Antioch, the ambassador sent by a king from India "named Pandion or, according to others, Porus" to Caesar Augustus around 13 CE (Strabo XV.4 and 73).
- The Roman emperor Julian received an embassy from a Pandya about 361 CE.
- Chinese historian Yu Huan in his 3rd-century CE text, the Weilüe, mentions the Panyue kingdom:
|“||...the kingdom of Panyue is also called Hanyuewang. It is several thousand li to the southeast of Tianzhu (northern India)...The inhabitants are small; they are the same height as the Chinese...||”|
- The Chinese traveler Xuanzang mentions a kingdom further south from Kanchipuram, a kingdom named Malakutta, identified with Madurai described by his Buddhist friends at Kanchipuram.
- In the later part of the 13th century Venetian traveller Marco Polo visited the Pandya kingdom and left a vivid description of the land and its people.
|“||The darkest man is here the most highly esteemed and considered better than the others who are not so dark. Let me add that in very truth these people portray and depict their gods and their idols black and their devils white as snow. For they say that god and all the saints are black and the devils are all white. That is why they portray them as I have described.||”|
Early Pandyas (c. 3rd century BCE – c. 3rd century CE)
Pandya revival (7th – 10th centuries CE)
After the close of the early historic period in south India, the first Pandya kingdom was established by Kadungon in the early 7th century CE. After the defeat of the Kalabhra dynasty, the Pandya kingdom grew steadily in power and territory. With the Cholas in obscurity, the Tamil country was divided between the Pallavas and the Pandyas, the river Kaveri being the frontier between them.
The following chronological list of the Pandya king is based on an inscription found on the Vaigai riverbed. Succeeding kings assumed the titles of "Maravarman" and "Jatavarman " alternately, where Jatavarman denotes themselves as followers of lord Jata ("The One with Jata", referring to Siva).
- Kadungon (r. c. 590–620 CE)
- Maravarman Avani Sulamani (r. c. 620-645 CE)
- Jayantavarman alias Seliyan Sendan (r. c. 645–670 CE)
- Arikesari Maravarman (r. c. 670–700 CE)
- Kochadaiyan Ranadhiran (r. c. 700–730 CE)
- Maravarman Rajasimha I (r. c. 735–765 CE)
- Jatila Parantaka Nedunjadayan (r. c. 765–815 CE)
- Maravarman Rajasimha II (r. c. 815–817 CE)
- Varaguna I (r. c. 817–835 CE)
- Srimara Srivallabha (r. c. 815–862 CE)
- Varaguna II (r. c. 862–885 CE)
- Parantaka Viranarayanan (r. c. 880–905 CE)
- Maravarman Rajasimha III (r. c. 905–920 CE)
After the Chola king Vijayalaya conquered Thanjavur by defeating the Mutta Rayar chieftains (c. 850 CE), the Pandyas went into a period of decline. They were constantly harassing their Chola overlords by occupying their territories. Parantaka I (10th century) invaded the Pandya territories and defeated Rajasimha III. However, the Pandyas did not wholly submit to the Cholas despite loss of power, territory and prestige. They tried to forge various alliances with the Cheras of Kongu and the kings of Sri Lanka and tried to engage the Cholas in war to free themselves from Chola supremacy.
Under Chola influence (10th – 13th centuries)
The Chola domination of south India began in earnest during the reign of Parantaka II (10th century). Chola armies led by Aditya Karikala, son of Parantaka Chola II defeated Vira Pandya in battle. The Pandyas were assisted by the Sinhalese forces of Mahinda IV. Pandyas were driven out of their territories and had to seek refuge on the island of Sri Lanka. This was the start of the long exile of the Pandyas.
The Pandyas were replaced by a series of Chola viceroys with the title Chola Pandya who ruled from Madurai from c. 1020 CE. Rajadhiraja III aided Kulesekhara Pandya III by defeating the Sinhalese army and crowning him as king of Madurai. The Chola influence started from 10th century CE and lasted until the start of the 13th century CE.
The following list gives the names of the Pandya kings who were active during the 10th century and the first half of 11th century.
- Sundara Pandya I
- Vira Pandya I
- Vira Pandya II
- Amarabhujanga Tivrakopa
- Jatavarman Sundara Chola Pandya
- Maravarman Vikrama Chola Pandya
- Maravarman Parakrama Chola Pandya
- Jatavarman Chola Pandya
- Seervallabha Manakulachala (1101–1124 CE)
- Maaravarman Seervallaban (1132–1161 CE)
- Parakrama Pandyan I (1161–1162 CE)
- Kulasekara Pandyan III
- Vira Pandyan III
- Jatavarman Srivallaban (1175–1180 CE)
- Jatavarman Kulasekaran I (1190–1216 CE)
Pandya empire (13th – 14th centuries)
The Pandya empire included extensive territories, at times including large portions of south India and Sri Lanka. The Pandya family controlled these vast regions through the collateral branches subject to Madurai. The 13th century saw the rise of seven prime Pandya "Lord Emperors" (Ellarkku Nayanar – Lord of All), who ruled the kingdom alongside Pandya princes. Their power reached its zenith under Jatavarman Sundara Pandyan in the middle of the 13th century. The foundation for the Pandya supremacy was laid by Maravarman Sundara Pandyan early in the 13th century.
- Parakrama Pandyan II (king of Polonnaruwa) (1212–1215 CE)
- Maravarman Sundara Pandyan (1216–1238 CE)
- Sundaravarman Kulasekaran II (1238–1240 CE)
- Maravarman Sundara Pandyan II (1238–1251 CE)
- Jatavarman Sundara Pandyan (1251–1268 CE)
- Maravarman Kulasekara Pandyan I (1268–1310 CE)
- Sundara Pandyan IV (1309–1327 CE)
- Vira Pandyan IV (1309–1345 CE)
The Pandya royals were replaced by the Chola princes who assumed the title as "Chola Pandyas" in the 11th century. After being overshadowed by the Pallavas and Cholas for centuries, Pandya glory was briefly revived by the much celebrated Jatavarman Sundara Pandyan I in 1251 CE.
Pandya power extended from the Telugu countries on banks of the Godavari river to Sri Lanka, which was invaded by Jatavarman Sundara Pandya I in 1258 and on his behalf by his younger brother Jatavarman Vira Pandyan II from 1262 to 1264. They ruled the whole peninsula and reduced the power of the Cholas and the Hoysalas, also making the Chera country and Sri Lanka Pandya provinces. Later Jatavarman Sundara Pandya appointed his brother to rule Kongu, Chola and Hoysala countries.
The marital alliance of Chola royal Kulothunga III and one of his successors, Rajaraja III, with the Hoysalas did not yield any advantage in countering the Pandya resurgence, who got defeated by Maravarman Sundara Pandya I, who after the victory burnt down Uraiyur and Thanjavur. The Cholas renewed their control with the help of the Hoysalas under Hoysala king Vira Someshwara. The later successor of Maravarman Sundara Pandya I, Maravarman Sundara Pandyan II got defeated by Rajendra III around 1250.
Jatavarman Sundara Pandya I subdued Rajendra Chola III around 1258–1260 CE and is considered as an equal antagonist of the Hoysalas. He first vanquished the Kadava Pallavas under Kopperunchinga II, who had challenged the Hoysala army stationed in and around Kanchipuram and killed a few of their commanders.
Around 1260, Jatavarman I first dragged the Hoysalas into war by routing Vira Someshwara's son Ramanatha out of Tiruchirappalli. Vira Someshwara Hoysala, who had given the control of the empire to his sons tried to challenge Jatavarman. Between Samayapuram and Tiruchirappalli, the armies of Vira Someshwara were routed with Vira Someshwara losing his life in this battle to Jatavarman Sundara Pandya I in Kannanur.
Jatavarman I next concentrated on completely wiping out the Chola empire. Rajendra III had been counting on Hoysala assistance in case he was challenged by the Pandyas, keeping in mind the earlier marital alliance of the Cholas with the Hoysalas. Initially, Jatavarman consolidated the Pandya hold on Tiruchirappalli and Thiruvarangam and marched towards Thanjavur and Kumbakonam. The Hoysala king Narasimha III joined hands with the Pandyas, opposing alliance with the Cholas. When challenged by Jatavarman Sundara Pandya, Rajendra III marched against the Pandyas between Thanjavurand Tiruchirappalli, hoping for assistance and participation in war from the Hoysalas. However, the already vanquished Hoysalas were in a defensive position. They did not want to go to war and risk yet another defeat by the resurgent Pandyas. Jatavarman Sundara Pandya who defeated the Kadava Pallavas, Hoysalas and also the Telugu Choda, forced Rajendra III to become his tributary vassal.
Jatavarman Sundara Pandiyan invaded Sri Lanka in 1258 and took control over Jaffna Kingdom by defeating the Javaka king Chandrabhanu, making the Javaka king paying tribute to him. Chandrabhanu and two Sinhalese princes revolted against the Pandyas in 1270, and got his final defeat in 1270 by the brother of Jatavarman Sundara Pandyan I, Jatavarman Vira Pandya II.
Decline of Pandya empire
After the death of Maravarman Kulashekhara I (1310), his sons Vira Pandya IV and Sundara Pandya IV fought a war of succession for control of the empire. It seems that Maravarman Kulasekhara wanted Vira Pandya to succeed him (who inturn was defeated by Sundara Pandya after a short period of time). Unfortunatley, the Pandya civil war coincided with the Khalji raids in south India. Taking advantage of the political situation, the neighbouring Hoysala king Ballala III invaded the Pandya territory. However, Ballala had to retreat to his capital, when Khalji general Malik Kafur invaded his kingdom at the same time. After subjugating Ballala III, the Khalji forces marched to the Pandya territory in March 1311. The Pandya brothers fled their headquarters, and the Khaljis pursued them unsuccessfully. By late April 1311, the Khaljis gave up their plans to pursue the Pandya princes, and returned to Delhi with the plunder. By 1312 the Pandya control over south Kerala was also lost.
After departure of the Khaljis, Vira and Sundara Pandya resumed their conflict. Sundara Pandya was defeated, and sought help from the Khaljis. With their help, he regained control of the South Arcot region by 1314. Subsequently, there were two more expeditions from the sultanate in 1314 led by Khusro Khan and in 1323 by Ulugh Khan (Muhammad bin Tughluq) under sultan Ghiyath al-Din Tughluq.
The family quarrels and the sultanate invasions shattered the Pandya empire beyond revival and coinage discoveries made imply that the Pandyas were left with the old South Arcot region. In 1323, the Jaffna kingdom declared its independence from the crumbling Pandya influence.
While the previous sultanate raids were content with plunder, the Tughlaqs under Ulugh Khan annexed the former Pandya dominions to the sultanate as the province of Ma'bar. Most of south India came under the sultanate rule and was divided into five provinces – Devagiri, Tiling, Kampili, Dorasamudra and Ma'bar. Jalal ud-Din Ahsan Khan was appointed governor of the newly created southern-most Ma'bar province.  In 1333, Jalal ud-Din Ahsan Khan declared his independence and created Madurai sultanate. The Pandyas shifted their capital to Tenkasi and continued to rule the Tirunelveli, Tuticorin, Ramanad, Sivagangai regions.
Bukka Raya I of Vijayanagara empire conquered the city of Madurai in 1371, imprisoned the sultan, released and restored Arcot's Hindu prince Sambuva Raya to the throne. Bukka Raya I appointed his son Veera Kumara Kampana as the viceroy of the Tamil region. Meanwhile, Madurai sultanate was replaced by the Nayak governors of Vijayanagara in 1378. In 1529 the Nayak governors declared independence and established Madurai Nayak dynasty.
Groups of small temples are seen at Tiruchirappalli district of Tamil Nadu. The Shiva temples have a Nandi bull sculpture in front of the maha mandapa. In the later stages of Pandyas rule, finely sculptured idols, gopurams on the vimanas were developed. Gopurams are the rectangular entrance and portals of the temples.
The early coins of Tamilakam bore the symbols of the Three Crowned Kings, the tiger, the fish and the bow, representing the symbols of the Cholas, Pandyas and Cheras. Coins of Pandyas bear the legend of different Pandya ruler in different times. The Pandyas had
issued silver punch-marked and die struck copper coins in the early period. A few gold coins were attributed to the Pandya rulers of this period. These coins bore the image of fish, singly or in pairs, which where their emblem.
Some of the coins had the names Sundara, Sundara Pandya or merely the letter 'Su' were etched. Some of the coins bore a boar with the legend of 'Vira-Pandya. It had been said that those coins were issued by the Pandyas and the feudatories of the Cholas but could not be attributed to any particular king.
The coins of Pandyas were basically square. Those coins were etched with elephant on one side and the other side remained blank. The inscription on the silver and gold coins during the Pandyas, were in Tamil-Brahmi and the copper coins bore the Tamil legends.
The coins of the Pandyas, which bore the fish symbols, were termed as 'Kodandaraman' and 'Kanchi' Valangum Perumal'. Apart from these, 'Ellamthalaiyanam' was seen on coins which had the standing king on one side and the fish on the other. 'Samarakolahalam' and 'Bhuvanekaviram' were found on the coins having a Garuda, 'Konerirayan' on coins having a bull and 'Kaliyugaraman' on coins that depict a pair of feet.
Economy and society
Graeco-Roman merchants frequented the ancient Tamil country, present day south India and Sri Lanka, securing contacts with the Tamil chiefdoms of the Pandya, Chola and Chera families. The western sailors also establsihed a number of trading settlements on the harbours of the ancient Tamil region.
The trade with South Asia by the Greco-Roman world flourished since the time of the Ptolemaic dynasty a few decades before the start of the Common Era and remained long after the fall of the Western Roman Empire. The contacts between south India and the Middle East continued even after the Byzantium's loss of the ports of Egypt and the Red Sea in the 7th century CE.
The Pandya country, located at the extreme south-western tip of South Asia, served as an important meeting point throughout the history of the India. The location was economically and geopolitically significant as a key point connecting the shipping between Southeast Asia and the Middle East.
The early historic Pandya country was famous for its supply of pearls. The ancient port of Korkai, in present-day Thoothukudi, was the center of pearl trade. Written records from Graeco-Roman and Egyptian voyagers give details about the pearl fisheries off the Gulf of Mannar. Megasthenes reported about the pearl fisheries, indicating that the Pandyas derived great wealth from the pearl trade.
Convicts were according to the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea used as pearl divers in Korkai. The Periplus even mentions that "pearls inferior to the Indian sort are exported in great quantity from the marts of Apologas and Omana".
The pearls from the Pandya country were also in demand in the kingdoms of north India. Literary references of the pearl fishing mention how the fishermen, who dive into the sea, avoid attacks from sharks, bring up the right-whorled chank and blow on the sounding shell.
The Pandya country was home to a number of renowned temples including Meenakshi Temple in Madurai. Ancient south Indian Hindu traditions flourished during the reign of the early Pandyas, but after the revival of the Pandya power by Kadungon, the Shaivite nayanars and the Vaishnavite alvars of the Bhakti movement rose to prominence.
It is known that the Pandya rulers followed Jainism for a short period of time in history.
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