Maṇimekhalai Home PageIV. The Philosophical Systems
Maṇimēkhalai in its Historical Setting
III. The Historical Materials Orig.: The historical materials and the conclusions to which they lead.
Taking only the more prominent features, it was already pointed out that Maṇimēkhalai refers to the three royal capitals of the Tamil land and Kāñcī. The story begins with the Cōḻa capital of Puhār, the capital of the Cōḻas from the days of the legendary king Kavēra. It  is generally accepted as a fact that the Cōḻa Karikāla improved it and made it exclusively the capital of the Cōḻas in his days. Uraiyūr, called Urandai in Tamil, seems to have shared the honour with it. We can infer from the Śilappadhikāram that the great Cōḻa Karikāla was anterior to the period of the story contained in the Śilappadhikāram itself and of Maṇimēkhalai as well, perhaps not long anterior. It therefore is in complete accord with this tradition, and Puhār is shown in the Maṇimēkhalai as in a very high state of prosperity, as it is in the Śilappadhikāram as well. The description contained in these may be confirmed almost in every detail by the undoubtedly Śangam work of the famous poet Rudran Kaṇṇaṉ, whose poem Paṭṭinappālai forms one of the collection Pattupāṭṭu. This latter work is a description of the city in the days of the great ruler Karikāla. Therefore the two descriptions are not far apart of each other in point of time.
The brother of the Cēra Śenguṭṭuvaṉ, Iḷangō, describes himself as the son of a Cōḻa princess, and his grandfather’s name is described as the Cōḻa, ‘of the high car drawn by seven horses.’ Canto XXX. Introductory prose passage. It is possible, with good reason, to equate him with Karikāla, but the equation is nowhere stated explicitly. His Cōḻa contemporaries are referred to in the Śilappadhikāram at any rate, as his cousin on whose behalf he defeated a number of rival claimants to the Cōḻa throne at a place called Nērivāyil. XXVII. ll. 115 ff. and XXVIII. ll. 112 ff.
This contemporary ruler is described in one place as Neḍumuḍi Kiḷḷi, XXIV. 29. in various other places he is Kiḷḷi, which is synonymous with Cōḻa, with various attributes. The attributes alone vary; the varying  attributes are ‘Velvēl’, XXX. 3. ‘Māvaṇ’ XIX. 127. and so on, 5 ‘Vaḍi-vēl Kiḷḷi’ in XXV. 193. merely indicative of some feature or other of prosperity or prowess. At the latter end of the story of Maṇimēkhalai and, certainly in the later years of his own reign, the city of Puhār suffered destruction by the sea. The result of this was that many people abandoned the city and migrated elsewhere, some temporarily and many others permanently, and the prosperity of the city seems to have been, greatly diminished, if not completely destroyed, as a result of this calamity. XXV. ll. 176 ff. That is as far as we can go with the story of Maṇimēkhalai.
In an undoubted Śangam poem Śirupāṇāruppaḍai of a period perhaps in the generation following, the three crowned kings of Tamil India are described more or less fully, and the capital of the Cōḻas is there clearly stated to be Urandai without any mention of Puhār, which seems to confirm, though indirectly, what is inferred from the story of Maṇimēkhalai. Perhaps the Cōḻas themselves abandoned Puhār as a capital and went to Uraiyūr in view to the war of succession ending in the battle at Nērivāyil. The Ceylon tradition connected with Gajabāhu’s visit to India for the first time as an enemy of the Cōḻas treats of Uraiyūr as the Cōḻa capital and not Puhār. Upham’s Mahāvaṃsa, etc., in 57-58 and corresponding parts of Rājaratnākari and Rājāvaḷi.
In the details so far gathered from Maṇimēkhalai, the author has taken care not to let the supernatural interfere with the progress of human history except in regard to one particular, and, that is, that the destruction of Puhār was brought about by the disappointment of Indra at his annual festival having been forgotten to be celebrated, and, as a consequence, his directing the goddess Maṇimēkhalai to bring about the destruction of the city. 
The forgetfulness to celebrate the festival to Indra referred to in the paragraph above was brought about in connection with the story, as detailed in the work Maṇimēkhalai itself, of the birth of a son to the Cōḻa by a Nāga princess. The princess goes by the name Pīlivaḷai, and was the daughter of the valiant king of the Nāgas by name Vaḷai Vaṇan. She appeared unexpectedly and alone in one of the outer gardens of Puhār when the Cōḻa was taking air one summer evening. The appearance of a beautiful damsel overpowered the monarch and led to their union as a result of love at first sight. After a month’s stay with him, she left without intimation, and the distressed king was informed by a Bauddha Cāraṇa that she was the daughter of a Nāga king, that he would never see her again, but that he would get from her a son who would prove to be an ornament to his family. XXIV. ll. 25 ff.
This story appears in connection with Toṇḍamāṉ Iḷaṁ-Tiraiyaṉ of Kāñcī in another Śangam collection, Pattupāṭṭu. But the full story is not there and the commentator Nacchinārkiniyar actually supplies the details. According to this source, she left the Cōḻa with an understanding that she would find means to send his son to him who was to recognize that son by a twig of the toṇḍai (Caphalandra Indica, Indian caper) creeper round his right ankle, undertaking to despatch him by setting him afloat in a well-protected box.
Disregarding all artistic embellishments in the story it would appear permissible to take the two stories as referring to the same incident, namely, the birth of Toṇḍamāṉ Iḷaṁ-Tiraiyaṉ who became famous, as ruler of Kāñcī in the following generation. That he could not be very far off in point of time is clearly in evidence in the Śangam poem  Peruṁbāṇārruppaḍai of the poet Radran Kaṇṇaṉ, the author of Paṭṭinappālai. Even granting a whole century of life to Radran Kaṇṇaṉ, it would be barely enough that he could have been a contemporary with the great Cōḻa Karikāla from whom he received a sumptuous reward for his Paṭṭinappālai, and lived to celebrate at the same time prosperous Kāñcī under Iḷaṁ-Tiraiyaṉ.
The inference from this is clear, namely, that Kāñcī in the period to which Maṇimēkhalai refers was Kāñcī anterior to the days of Toṇḍamāṉ Iḷaṁ-Tiraiyaṉ, as the Cōḻa viceroy at Kāñcī at the time of Maṇimēkhalai’s visit was Iḷaṁ Kiḷḷi, the brother of Neḍumuḍi Kiḷḷi, the Cōḻa ruler. Among the number of Kiḷḷis figuring in the Puranānūru Poems 43 to 47. it is possible to identify the brothers Neḍumuḍi Kiḷḷi and his brother Iḷaṁ Kiḷḷi. Neḍumuḍi was probably the person who was besieged in Uraiyūr and Āmūr by Nalam Kiḷḷi, and the number of Kiḷḷis that figure in this connection would justify what is stated in regard to Śenguṭṭuvaṉ Cēra when he had overcome at Nērivāyil the nine Cōḻa princes that rose against the ruling Cōḻa, his own cousin. Śilappadhikāram XXVII, ll. 115 ff. and XXVIII, ll. 112 ff. It seems therefore justifiable to infer that, in regard to the Cōḻa ruler and his brother the viceroy of Kāñcī, they were historical rulers, and it may be noted that the Maṇimēkhalai ascribes to them nothing unhistorical.
Coming down to Madura and the Pāṇḍya country, we have but brief references, only two such, to Takkaṇa Madura XIII. 105, and xxii. 106. ‘Tamil Madura’ in XXV. 139. (Southern Madura) and one to Korkai. XIII. 84. The references to them in the Śilappadhikāram are far fuller, and there is a great deal more that that poem has to tell of  Madura than Maṇimēkhalai. Maṇimēkhalai refers to the ruler as a Seḻiyaṉ ‘of the Golden Car’. XIII. 84. Poṟṟēr may mean merely beautiful. This ruler is the successor of the one who gave up his life in consequence of his thoughtless perpetration of an act of injustice to Kaṇṇakī. Here again the historical is kept clear of the supernatural.
Coming to the third capital, Vañji, Maṇimēkhalai is brought over there sailing across the air from Puhār to the fortified capital of the Cēra monarch Śenguṭṭuvaṉ. He is referred to in the connection as one who had made the limits of the earth itself as the boundaries of his Malaināḍu, to have carried on a successful invasion to the north, and, crossing the Ganges by means of boats, to have defeated Kanaka and Vijaya and compelled them to carry a supply of stone for making an image of Kaṇṇakī from it. XXVI. That is all that is said of the Cēra Śenguṭṭuvaṉ in this poem. But Śenguṭṭuvaṉ and his achievements are described in far greater detail in the Śilappadhikāram and one section of the Śangam collection Padirruppattu. Bk. V.
The author of the Śilappadhikāram Bks. XXV-XXX. takes care to depict Śenguṭṭuvaṉ as a great ruler, the admiring friend of the poet Śāttaṉār, as having ruled more than fifty years, warring all the time. His achievements against the north are described in full detail. Numbers of other battles in which he was victorious are mentioned. There are references even to his achievement against the chieftain Paḷaiyan of the Madura country and the victory that he won at Nērivāyil against the Cōḻa rebels in favour of his cousin, the ruling Cōḻa. Some of these, the achievement against Paḷaiyan are described more elaborately in the Padirruppattu collection. But what is relevant to the question here is that all these confirm each other and make him  by far the most powerful ruler of his age. It is the Śilappadhikāram that is responsible for the statement in the body of the work, XXXI. 160 not merely in the prologue, that Gajabāhu of ‘the Lanka surrounded by the sea’ was present at the consecration of the temple to Pattiṉi Dēvi. Lanka is defined as surrounded by the seas for very good reasons. There were other Lankas on the continent of India, and the attribute therefore is called for in order that the ruler of Lanka may not be mistaken for those on the continent of India.
It is necessary to point out here that a predecessor of his, very probably an immediate predecessor, extended the territory of the Cēras on the west coast by annexing by conquest the region of Kongu to it Padiṟṟuppattu, poem 22, ll. 15-16 and carrying his conquest further eastward so as to bring under his influence, if not his rule, Ibid., Padigam to Third Ten. the territory extending up to the eastern sea. He is said, in the collection Padirruppattu, Bk. IV. to have celebrated his anointment from the waters of the two seas in one bath. Other stray references we have in the Śangam collection by which the Kollimalais Kallādanār, Aham 209; Kapilar, Naṟṟiṇai 370. and the Salem District had been brought under the control of the Cēras, as also the territory of the Adiyamāṉ Padiṟṟuppattu, Section VIII, poem 73 and padigam. with its capital at Tagaḍūr, the modern Dharmapuri. We see here at work, in the various stages, the aggressive policy of the Cēra rulers of the time. We shall revert to this point further down.
Maṇimēkhalai who had learnt all that the heretical teachers had to teach at Vañji, happened to see her grandfather there in the Buddhist vihāra outside the  fortress, and flying again through the air, she goes at his direction to meet Aṟavaṇa Aḍigaḷ and obtain from him the orthodox teachings of the Buddha. Kāñcī happened to be suffering from a very severe famine, and she was advised to go there chiefly to find use for the inexhaustible begging bowl, that she carried in her hand.
She acceded to her grandfather’s request and proceeded to Kāñcī. She was received by Iḷaṁ Kiḷḷi, the viceroy, and was allotted accommodation in the south-western corner of the city in a grove called Dharmadavana, where from she fed the suffering people from her inexhaustible bowl much to the relief of the ruler and the ruled alike. The grateful viceroy provided for her a big vihāra with all its appurtenances for her residence in the city and did all else she wanted. She got a Buddha seat erected and a special Caitya for holding the footprints of the Buddha, and received the teaching of Aṟavaṇa Aḍigaḷ, there, as she was not satisfied with all that she had learnt of other than Buddhist teachers. She obviously remained there for the rest of her life as the fact is referred to in a prophesy made in regard to her future in the course of the story.
It is this Iḷaṁ Kiḷḷi, the viceroy of Kāñcī apparently, that is said in an earlier part of the poem, in canto XIX, to have won a victory against the Cēras and the Pāṇḍyas at Kāriyāṟu. He carried from the field of battle, as spoils of war, the state umbrellas of the enemies which he duly presented to his brother, and these umbrellas are referred to in an address to the reigning Cōḻa ruler on the occasion when his officials carried him the information of the doings of Maṇimēkhalai in Puhār feeding prisoners from an inexhaustible bowl.
The question when the battle was  fought would arise from this specific statement that Iḷaṁ Kiḷḷi won a victory against the combined Cēra and the Pāṇḍya armies at Kāriyāṟu. There are poems in the Puranānūru in celebration of ‘a Cōḻa who fell in battle at Kāriyāṟu’. Therefore we may infer at once that Kāriyāṟu was a place very probably on the bank of a river in which the Cōḻas had to do much fighting against their enemies. The fighting was not a single incident or a mere battle; probably the frontier was exposed to protracted war where constant vigilance on the part of the Cōḻas was required.
The reference in the Maṇimēkhalai makes it clear that the enemy against whom operation had to be undertaken on that particular occasion was the Cēra and the Pāṇḍya combined. But that detail is not stated in the other connection. So far as this specific statement goes, it gives a material point for identification of the locality that this battle was a battle that the Cōḻa viceroy had to fight against the Cēra and the Pāṇḍya.
Where is Kāriyāṟu then and when was the battle actually fought? The battle was actually fought at a time anterior to the advent of Maṇimēkhalai in Kāñcī, maybe in the reign of Śenguṭṭuvaṉ or even anterior. But it seems likely that it was in Śenguṭṭuvaṉ’s reign that the incident took place. We have already stated that the immediate predecessor of Śenguṭṭuvaṉ claimed having brought the territory of Kongu directly under his rule and extended his influence across to the eastern sea. We have also a reference incidentally to the fact of the Malayamān Kāri of Tirukkovilūr killing Ōri of the Kollimalais and making over the territory to the Cēra. Therefore even before Śenguṭṭuvaṉ came to the throne, the Cēra aggression in the east was gradually extending, till it came into touch with the Cōḻa frontier all along the line towards their west and north-west.
The effective  intervention of the Cēra Śenguṭṭuvaṉ at Nērivāyil a place not far from Trichinopoly again shows that the territory under the control of the Cēra was not very far from where the battle was actually fought. We may, therefore, look for Kāriyāṟu anywhere along this frontier, and the battle might well have taken place in one of these campaigns in the reign of Śenguṭṭuvaṉ himself. In an aggressive war of the Cēras it is not a very rare occurrence that the Pāṇḍya was associated with him, as in fact it was a normal political relation between the three Tamil kings of the South that whenever any one of the three got the dominant position the other two were certainly opposed to him generally, and got into an active alliance against him as occasion offered.
In the passage of the poem where a reference is made to the victory at Kāriyāṟu the army of invasion is definitely said to have started from Vañji, the Cēra capital. Among the flags hoisted in front of the army on the field of battle, the flags of the fish and the bow are said to have been fluttering. The two points therefore are clear. The object of the invasion is also unmistakably stated to be ‘the desire for land,’ in other words, earth-hunger, the desire for addition of territory. That was the character of the invasion which was beaten back by the viceroy at Kāriyāṟu. The location of the river therefore must be in the vicinity of the Cōḻa frontier, which would answer to this actual description.
It is at once be clear from this description that the attack could not have been delivered anywhere on the frontier of the Cōḻa kingdom proper, as in that case the army of the headquarters would have repulsed the invasion, while it is possible that the younger brother, the viceroy of Kāñcī, might none the less have led the army. In those circumstances, it is not likely that the credit of the  victory would have been assigned solely to the prince, commander-in-chief though he might have been. The victory is described as having been won by the viceroy-prince. It should therefore have been within the limits of his vice-regal authority, and he must have won it without assistance from the ruling monarch for the time being. Otherwise the description would be from the point of view of language somewhat inappropriate. We would therefore be justified in looking for Kāriyāṟu somewhere on the frontiers of the viceroyalty of Kāñcī.
About the time to which this refers, the distribution of territory was such that between the Cōḻa kingdom proper and the territory dependent upon Kāñcī, there was at least one region which had its own chieftain though that chieftain might have acknowledged allegiance to the Cōḻa ruler for the time being. These chieftains who, at different periods of the Śangam age, counted, five, seven, eleven and fourteen, according to occasion, ruled their own territory and acknowledged allegiance to one or other of the three crowned kingdoms as occasion demanded, and asserted their independence as opportunity offered. It is petty wars among these and their deep-seated hostility to one another that were responsible at this time for the extension of the territory of the Cēra through the middle block of territory comprising within it the territory of Kongu, the chieftaincy of Adiyamāṉ of Tagaḍūr and the chieftaincy of Ōri round the Kollimalais.
There was another chieftain Pāri whose territory seems to have lain still farther west, or, as some take it, in the south. There was still another who does not figure in these transactions, and his territory lay well within the territory of modern Mysore. The territory, therefore of Malaiyamān Kāri, with his capital at Tirukkovilūr, came actually between the Cōḻa  kingdom proper and the province of Kāñcī. The chieftain Kāri was at this time in active alliance with the Cēras whose relative he was and for whom he actually conquered the territory round Kollimalais as was stated already. Hence if Kāñcī could have been the objective of attack, assistance from the Cōḻa kingdom could not always be at hand. It is one of such attacks that is clearly meant in the actual description of the battle that is given in this work.
Where could we possibly locate this Kāriyāṟu? Kāri at the time seems to have been a common name, the Tamil equivalent of Sanskrit Kṣṇa, and as common as the name Kṣṇa is nowadays was Kāri then in the Tamil country. Of course, it takes other forms more dialectical and popular. The Malayamān chieftain was called Kāri, as was stated already, and Kāriyāṟu is open to the interpretation that it was a river which was a feature of the territory of the chieftain Kāri. It does not happen to be so in this context however. The Editor of the work with his usual learning and circumspection, has quoted a verse from the Periyapurāṇam in connection with the life of Tirunāvukkaraśu or Appar. Describing his visit to the holy places of the Śaivas, he is said to have visited the shrine which is named Tiru-Kārikkarai. Omitting the complimentary expletive at the beginning, the name would stand Kārikkarai, the bank of the Kāri river, which may either be the river by name Kāri or by translation black river.
Appar is said to have visited Tiruvālangāḍu near Arkonam, passed from there to Tripāśur and then after a prolonged journey, crossing hills and rivers, he arrived at Tiru-Kārikkarai, worshipped Śiva there, and at the next stage of his march reached Kāḷahasti. This eleventh-twelfth century work, the Periyapurāṇam, clearly marks out for us the  itinerary of Appar in the seventh century. Whether Appar actually did the journey or no, the eleventh century conviction of the Śaivas was that Appar did visit these shrines, and in all probability visited them in that order. The passage is certainly very good authority for the eleventh century geography of this tract, and may not be altogether fictitious in regard to the seventh century when the Śaiva saint is said to have performed the journey. Whatever may be the actual truth of the historical fact, the geographical features cannot have changed so very thoroughly.
Kārikkarai may usefully be looked for in what must have been the high road of communication between Tirupāśūr which is near Tiruvaḷḷūr, and Kāḷahasti. We know of roadways in this region in the eleventh century certainly, and references can be quoted even for the seventh and eighth centuries, to the existence of trunk roads, two of them at any rate, Vaḍuhavaḷi East and Vaḍuhavaḷi West, one of them described in Sanskrit also as Āndhrapathā. Therefore there must have been a recognized way for these pilgrims from the holy shrines of importance like Tirupāśūr to perhaps the still more important shrine in Kāḷahasti itself. Somewhere midway between, rather nearer to Kāḷahasti than Tirupāśūr must have been the Śaiva holy place Kārikkarai. Fortunately for us we do find a Siva temple answering to that description. There is a place called Rāmagiri now, straight north of Tiruvaḷḷūr and on the way to Kāḷahasti, somewhere between Nāgalāpuram and Satyavēḍu.
As the place is located at present, it is regarded as in the basin of the river Araṇi which empties itself into the sea near the town of Pulicat. But Araṇi apparently is not the river Kāri, as the place is some distance from the river itself. The place is none the less called  Kārikkarai in inscriptions datable from about the ninth century up to the days of the great Dēvarāya II of Vijayanagar about the middle of the fifteenth century. It is described by the alternative names, Vālīśvaram or Kārikkarai, and the god enshrined in the temple is called Vālīśvaram Uḍaiyār or Kārikkarai Uḍaiya Nāyanār according as the name is Sanskrit or Tamil.
But if that is Kārikkarai it is not likely to help us very much so long as we do not find the river Kāri, which exactly is what we want. There is a river, however, formed of two small streams, one on each side of the Nagari Hills, the two uniting and forming what is called the Kāḷingi river, which passes through the railway station at Sūḷurpet, and empties itself into the Pulicat lake, not far from the salt manufacturing townlet of Taḍa. The western stream which is a respectable distance from Nāgalāpuram is called by the name Kāḷingi and the eastern is now named Kālēru. The source of the Kālēru is not any prohibitive distance from the place now called Rāmagiri, the Vālīśvaram or Kārikkarai of olden times.
The Collector, Mr. C. A. Henderson, I.C.S., with whom I discussed the matter, considers that the identification is perfect though Rāmagiri is not actually on the stream Kālēru, as the level of water has gone down considerably through the centuries. But this defect notwithstanding, it is near enough on the map to mark the source of the holy river and perhaps the river has its obscure beginnings in the Hill Rāmagiri itself. Hence the modern Rāmagiri, the Vālīśvaram or Kārikkarai of the inscriptions and the Periyapurāṇam, must mark the spot in which, or in the immediate vicinity of which, there was a stream Kāri.
The Kālēru which takes its rise not far from it is sufficiently near to it in geographical location and phonetic affinity to be equated with each other. The present day  name Kālēru consists of two parts, the latter part ‘ēru’ is the equivalent of river, the first part ‘Kāl’ must be the equivalent of black, Kāla is black in Tamil and Kannada, and Kāla itself certainly occurs in Telugu meaning black in Sanskrit compounds, at any rate. It would not be surprising if the simple word has passed in this as in the other languages into popular use, its Sanskrit origin notwithstanding. Kālēru therefore may be identified with the Kāriyār. The identification may be philologically satisfactory but it must be proved to be satisfactory geographically and historically. Kālēru may be taken to be Kāriyār in Tamil. But was that the region that was likely to be attacked by the combined army of the Cēra and the Pāṇḍya advancing against, it may be even, the territory dependent upon Kāñcī?
All that territory almost up to Nellore itself was included in the Tamil land in those early times. The Śangam poems have reference to a Tiraiyaṉ, distinct from the Toṇḍamāṉ chief, Iḷaṁ Tiraiyaṉ, whose hill is described as Vēngaḍam (Tirupati); his capital was, according to one Ahanāṉūṟu poem, Poems 85 and 340. In the latter the author Narkīrar seems to state that Pavattiri had already ceased to be a prosperous place. Pavattiri. Pavattiri can now be satisfactorily identified again from the Nellore inscriptions with Reḍḍipālem, in Gūḍūr taluk of the Nellore district. Inscriptions in it describe the place as Pavattiri in ‘Kaḍalkoṇḍa Kākandi Nāḍu’, Kākandi Nāḍu that is submerged in the sea. Till a comparatively late period inscriptions in the Gūḍūr taluq, up to the frontier of the Pulicat lake in its northern extremity, are in Tamil. The old territory of the Tiraiyaṉs must have extended as far north as that. In other words the northern frontier of the territory  dependent upon Kāñcī must have been in that region.
The name Kākandi Nāḍu has its own tale to tell. Kākandi is the name of Kāvēripaṭṭiṇam, and the derivation of that name is given in the Maṇimēkhalai XXII. Ll. 37-38. itself. When Paraśurāma came to attack the Cōḻa king Kāntama, he took the advice of Agastya and escaped, leaving the kingdom in charge of an illegitimate son of his by name Kākandan, as the latter’s illegitimacy gave him immunity from attack by Paraśurāma. Hence the name Kākandi for the Cōḻa capital. The description of this territory as Kaḍalkoṇḍa Kākandi Nāḍu would indicate that it at one time bore the name Kākandi Nāḍu which later got submerged in the sea. It is possible that the name Kākandi was given to it after conquest by the Cōḻas whenever that conquest actually took place, possibly under Karikāla.
But the point that requires to be cleared up is why should the Cēras and the Pāṇḍyas go so far out of their way, in an invasion even if it be against the territory of Kāñcī in the far north. No explanation is given to us in the works. But the Śangam age is the period when this had become a sort of debatable frontier between the Āndhras and the Tamils. The Āndhra Sātavāhanas had at one time extended their territory southwards and the fact that their ship coins of potin have been found almost as far south as Cuddalore would show that their aggression had not always been futile. It must have been therefore a peculiarly dangerous frontier for the Tamils and as such liable to easy attack. But beyond this, we have no definite facts to explain why these two southern kings attacked the Cōḻa kingdom on their extreme northern frontier in Maṇimēkhalai itself. 
The Malayamān chief Kāri, however, is said to have fought single-handed against the Āryas Naṟṟiṇai 170. and turned them back. This must, in point of time, have been anterior to the transaction under reference in the Maṇimēkhalai, as then the Malayamān chief was still in possession of his territory unmolested.
Having said so much about this identification, we may bring the historical references in the Maṇimēkhalai to a close by referring to the passage in which Kōvalaṉ’s father explains to Maṇimēkhalai how he happened to be in Vañji at the time. When Maṇimēkhalai visited Vañji for the purpose of learning the heretical systems, she met her grandfather there. He explained to her that on hearing of the tragic end of his son and daughter-in-law at Madura he made up his mind that life was not worth living and distributed all his wealth and became a lay disciple of the Buddha. He was living the life of a lay upāsaka for some time in Puhār and came to visit Vañji to worship at the Caitya erected for the Buddha by his own ancestor, Kōvalaṉ’s grandfather in the ninth generation. As the latter was a great friend of the contemporary Cēra monarch, he built that Caitya in the immediate vicinity of the city of Vañji.
Maṇimēkhalai’s grandfather himself arrived there luckily on that day when Śenguṭṭuvaṉ and his royal ladies, spending a pleasant time in the garden, saw a number of Buddhist holy ones descending from the air and taking rest upon a rock in the garden. Understanding their holy character, Śenguṭṭuvaṉ entertained them, and, as they were expounding the teaching of the Buddha to the king, he himself arrived there and had the benefit of it along with the royal party.
Hearing from them that Puhār was going  to be destroyed by the sea in a short time, he made up his mind to stay in Vañji alone. They also gave him the information that Kōvalaṉ and his wife after a certain number of births would ultimately reach Nirvāṇa in their last birth at Kapilavāstu. This passage has been somewhat misunderstood, and Śenguṭṭuvaṉ has been even made the contemporary of the ancestor of Kōvalaṉ in the ninth generation. It seems quite clear however that Kōvalaṉ father first takes up the tale of his arrival there at Vañji when Śenguṭṭuvaṉ actually entertained the holy ones, and congratulates himself upon having had the benefit of what those holy ones had to teach Śenguṭṭuvaṉ and his court. The purpose of his visit he proceeds to narrate was to offer worship at the Caitya which his own ancestor built in the outer gardens of the city of Vañji. The two incidents are thrown together one after the other, and may be mistaken at a somewhat casual reading. These passages in the Maṇimēkhalai state in the clearest terms the contemporaneity of Śenguṭṭuvaṉ Cēra to the events described in the Śilappadhikāram and the Maṇimēkhalai. It is hardly necessary for us to go out of the Maṇimēkhalai to establish this contemporaneity although we have much valuable evidence to confirm it otherwise in the Śilappadhikāram and the Śangam collection Padirruppattu.
Before concluding this part of the subject, it is necessary to consider two points of some importance relevant to the subject. The first of these is such astronomical details as we get in the Maṇimēkhalai which may enable the fixing of a date by calculation, if need be. The first chronological feature that appears is where the birthday asterism of the Buddha is given in canto XI. The point of the reference is that the  miraculous Buddha-seat is said to appear on the day when the Buddha himself was born, namely in the season of the early sun, in the second sign of the zodiac (Riṣabha), in the fourteenth asterism, ‘the begging bowl would appear at the same point of time as the Buddha himself.’ This is followed by a reference that that day and that hour was that at which Tīvatilakai, the guardian deity was actually giving this information.
The accepted date of the Buddha’s birth is the Nakṣatra Vaiśāka, and the full moon day of Vaiśāka (month). The asterism referred to therefore is Vaiśāka. This is said here in the poem to be the one following the thirteenth, that is, the fourteenth asterism. This would be the fourteenth only if we count it from Kttikā and not from Aśvini. The point immediately arises whether this statement has reference to the period anterior to the days of Varāhamihira who is said to have introduced ‘Aśvinyādi calculation’, that is, counting from Aśvini, instead of from Kttikā. Probably it was so; at the same time it is possible to argue that this is a statement taken from current northern tradition, and may have reference to any period since the time of the Buddha. If the author is merely quoting a current tradition like that, it could offer us no test of time.
The next reference is in canto XII where a prediction is made that ‘1616 years after the time the Buddha will appear.’ There are other references besides in the body of the work to the appearance of the Buddha. In fact, it is a stock story. Kōvalaṉ and Kaṇṇakī were to be born when the Buddha appears on earth in northern Magadha and, becoming his direct disciples, were to attain to nirvāṇa.
Maṇimēkhalai was also informed that she would come to the end of her present existence in Kāñcī, and, after a number of births, she would be born  a man in northern Magadha when the Buddha should be preaching there, and, becoming his first Sāvaka (Śrāvaka) disciple, would attain nirvāṇa. All these references are of the nature of predictions and have reference to the coming Buddha, not to the Buddha that had actually come and gone. These cannot be drawn into evidence for purposes of chronology.
The next point for consideration is a reference to kuccharakuḍikai, the guṭikā or a small temple described as kucchara. Kucchara is the Tamil equivalent of the word Gūrjara in Sanskrit, referring either to the country or to the people of Gujarat when that had come into being. The learned commentator has suggested this equation in the course of his comments. This had been taken to fix the age of the poem by the fact that the Gūrjaras were not in India before the beginning of the sixth century A.D. at the earliest.
The reference is to the temple of Champāpati, the patron deity of the city of Puhār. The Mahāmahopādhyaya’s interpretation is based on the tradition that the Gūrjaras were well known artisans in building. There undoubtedly is a later tradition to that effect. The Gūrjaras were good builders but there are references in the Maṇimēkhalai to artisans from various countries engaged in the building of the hall in the royal garden in Puhār, among whom the Gūrjaras as such do not figure. There are references to the people of Magadha, Avanti, Yavana and Mahrāṭṭa, but no reference to the Gūjara at all. This omission is a clear indication that the reputation of the Gūrjaras as experts in building had not been known then. In a corresponding passage from the Peruṁkadai, which the Mahāmahopādhyaya quotes, there is a reference to jewellers from Magadha, carpenters from Yavana, smiths from Avanti, painters from Kōśala, workmen in stones from Vatsa, and  there is a name given of expert goldsmiths. In none of these do we find any reference to the Gūrjaras as such. If the omitted name should be that of the Gūrjaras in the Peruṁkadai, it would still be workmen in gold, and it is not the goldsmith that is likely to be under reference in the guṭikā or small temple to the goddess Champāpati in the Cakravāḷakoṭṭam at Puhār.
Hence the interpretation that kucchara refers actually to the Gūrjaras is at the very best doubtful. Very probably the name Gūrjara itself is derived from a Tamil or Dravidian word kucchara, and this possibility must be investigated carefully. In any case, it cannot be held as decisive evidence to prove either that the work is later than the sixth century because of the occurrence of this expression or that the expression itself is an interpolation. In any case, with our present knowledge of this particular question, no decisive inference is possible. The question, therefore, of the age of Maṇimēkhalai will have to be decided on other grounds than this.
Maṇimekhalai Home PageIV. The Philosophical Systems
last updated: June 2017