Malabar Manual Vol 1 CHAPTER III. HISTORY
Section B.—Early History from other Sources.
Some of the more remarkable of the vegetable and animal productions of the Malabar Coast have been known to Western nations from times antecedent to the Christian era, and have been the objects of maritime enterprise and commerce through all the succeeding centuries.
Perhaps as early as the time of Moses, the great Jewish law-giver, this commerce existed, for cinnamon and cassia played a part in the temple services of the Jews (Exodus xxx. 23, 24), and at any rate the commerce existed in the time of King Solomon (c. B.C. 1000), for the Bible narrative records that silver “was nothing accounted of in the days of Solomon”—everything was of gold.
“For the king had at sea a navy of Tharsish with the navy of Hiram ; once in three years came the navy of Tharsish, bringing gold and silver, ivory,1 and apes and peacocks ” (I Kings x. 22).2 With the exception perhaps of silver, these are all production of the Malabar Coast, and the biblical name for the peacock — tuki—is evidently the Tam. Mai. tokei, the bird of the tail.
NOTEs: 1. Elephants’ teeth.
2. Conf. Genesis x. 29 ; I Kings ix. 28, x, 11, and xxii. 49 ; I Chronicles xxix. 4 ; II Chronicles viii. 18, and ix. 10, 21 ; Job xxii. 24, and xxxix, 13 ; Isaiah xiii. 12. END OF NOTEs
Again, Solomon obtained his gold from Ophir. It is hazardous after all that has been written about this place to contribute anything more to the controversy, for as Master Purchas quaintly wrote about it ; “This Golden Country is like Gold, hard to find, and much quarrelled, and needs a wise Myner to bring it out of the labyrinths of darknessse, and to try and purifie the Mynors themselves and their reports.” (Purchas His Pilgrimes I, 25.)
But it may as well be pointed out that Beypore lies at the mouth of the river of the same name, which still brings down gold from the auriferous quartz region of South-East Wainad, the mines of which were well worked in pre-historic times; that Tundis, the “village of great note situate near the sea”, mentioned in the early centuries A.D. by the author of the Periplus Mar. Eryth. (ante. pp. 70-80), lies close to Beypore on the southern bank of the same river ; and that the country lying inland from these places is still called Ernad — the bullock, that is grazing, country.
If Ophir, as is generally now supposed, meant, the country of the Abhira or cowherds (? Kurumbar) then the name of Ophir fits the locality indicated as well as, or bettor perhaps than, any of the very numerous other places with which it has been identified.
There has also been much learned disquisition on the word Tharsish, and the name perhaps survived1 on the coast till the ninth century A.D. in the word Tarisa-palli or church of the Tarisa (Tharshish?) people, which occurs in the third of the ancient deeds published in Appendix XII.
NOTEs: 1. .J.L.S. XIII, part I END OF NOTEs
The fact remains to the present day that Jewish colonies are settled on the coast, and if their progenitors, often of course replenished by further immigrations, did not come with King Solomon’s fleets, they have at least traditions which carry back their arrival on the coast to the time of their escape from servitude under Cyrus in the sixth century B.C. And if the Jews were settled on the coast at the early period mentioned in their traditions, they would have had no difficulty in maintaining intercourse with their native land, for in Herodotus’ time (B.C. 484-413) the trade with the East was maintained.
About 600 B.C. Scylax, a Greek sent by Darius, had voyaged home by sea from the mouth of the Indus. Herodotus mentions that the Red Sea trade in frankincense and myrrh, and cinnamon and cassia (the two latter being Malabar products), was in the hands of the Egyptians and Phoenicians, but these traders do not appear to have proceeded beyond the port in Arabia Felix (Aden probably) where these goods were procurable.
Of India proper Herodotus’ information is scanty, and, though capable of corroboration in some respects, inclines to the marvellous. In the end of the fourth century B.C. the Greek writer Ktesias probably alluded to cinnamon, a common product of Malabar, as karpion, a name which seems to have been derived from the Tam. Mai. karuppu or karppu. In this same fourth century B.C. occurred Alexander the Great’s expedition into Northern India, and Megasthenes, the Greek ambassador sent by Seleucus Nicator to the Indian King Chandragupta’s (Greek Sandrocottus) court gathered some scanty information about Southern India. It is certain from his account that the Pandyan kingdom then existed, and the people whom he styles “Charmœ” and places correctly next to the “Panda” can be no other than the aborigines of Chera, whe to the present day probably exist in the Cherumar or agrestic slaves of Malabar (conf. p. 147).
It is also noteworthy in this connection that Megasthenes alludes to the fact that the southern peoples were ruled by queens, He accounts for it by a mythical story of the Greek hero Heracles having left the kingdom to his daughter. As all the Malayali chieftains’ houses are still, theoretically at least, subject to the eldest lady in each, it is probable that in the earliest ages the kingdoms were in fact governed by females. One of the successors of King Chandragupta in Northern India was the “King beloved of the gods”—King Priyadasi—whe reigned in the middle of the third century B.C. This king, better known as Asoka, left behind him certain edicts engraven on rocks in different parts of the country, and in one which occurs at Girnar the legend runs as follows : —
"In the whole dominion of King Devanampriya Priyadarsin, as also in the adjacent countries, as Chola, Pandya, Satyaputra, Keralaputra, as far as Tamraparni, the kingdom of Antiochus the Grecian king, and of his neighbour kings, the system of caring for the sick, both of men and of cattle, followed by King Devanampriya Priyadarsin, has been everywhere brought into practice, etc., etc.
It is matter of controversy whether King Asoka, was Jain by religion or a follower of Buddha ; but the evidence seems to favour the former conclusion. Jain missionaries doubtless at this time spread over the Malabar Coast, and there are still relics of them left in the Jain settlements in Canara, and in the peculiar Jaina style of architecture of religious edifices still prevalent all over the Malayali tracts and Canara.
About this style of architecture Mr. Ferguson’s very pertinent remarks have already (ante, pp. 185-6) been quoted. It is a significant fact that nothing like it exists at any point on the continent of India nearer than Nepal, and the coincidences which Mr. Fergusson points out in the circumstances of two countries geographically so distant from each other, makes it more than probable that Aryan civilisation was first imported into Malabar by Jain missionaries, and this event probably occurred about the time of King Asoka in the third century B.C. If this style of architecture had been peculiar to the later Brahman colonists, and if these latter had, as usually asserted, such commanding influence in the country from the very first, it is almost certain that the Muhammadans would not have been permitted to adopt it in their mosques, for these too are almost universally constructed in the same style.
In this edict of King Asoka’s the country is styled Ketala or Kerala, the name which occurs, as already described, in the Keralolpatti. It is a dialectic (Canarese) form of the ancient name Keram, or Cheram, or Chera, a name which still survives in the Cheranad or country lying round Tundis, the “village of great note situate by the sea” already more than once referred to, and in Cherumar1 (Megasthenes’ Charmœ?), the aboriginal inhabitants, now the agrestic slaves of the community.
NOTEs: 1. Conf, pp. 147-53. END OF NOTEs
On the breaking up of Alexander the Great’s Empire, the cities of Phoenicia and their Red Sea trade passed with Egypt into the hands of the Ptolemies, Egypt then became not only the centre of literary cultivation and learning for the Hellenic world, but an emporium of trade and the centre of great commercial enterprises. The Red Sea trade, which had previously crossed the Isthmus of Suez to the Phoenician city of Tyre, was diverted to Alexandria. Ptolemy Philadelphus (B.G. 285-247) founded a city (called Arsinœ after his wife) in the Gulf of Suez, and proceeded to open a canal from that place to the Nile. But owing to the dangers of navigation in the gulf, this project was abandoned and a port (called Berenice after his mother) was opened nearly 500 miles down the Red Sea, and this gradually became an emporium of trade.
The merchandise was thence transported overland to Coptos on the Nile, whence it descended the river to Alexandria. But Myos Hormos, lying further north than Berenice, was next found to be in some respects even more conveniently situated than the latter for the land transhipment, of goods to Coptos, and so the trade with India for a time centred itself at this place.
Like their predecessors the Phoenicians, however, the Egyptian Greeks contented themselves with buying Eastern merchandise from the Sabæans (Arabs), and Aden was probably the port in which the Arabian and Indian merchants met the Greeks and exchanged their goods.
It was not till about 120 B.C. that an attempt was made to go direct from Egypt to India. A Hindu said to have been, wrecked in the Red Sea volunteered to take a ship to India. The ship was fitted out and in it sailed Eudoxus of Cyzicus. The voyage was successful ; the ship brought back a valuable cargo, but it was appropriated by the king (Ptolemy Euergetes II). The same fate befell a second expedition sent out by Cleopatra. Strabo wrote of Eudoxus’ attempt to reach India as something altogether new and exceptional.
These facts explain the barrenness of the Greek writers on the subject of India. Their accounts at this period are derived from Megasthenes and contemporaries of Alexander the Great, not from direct information obtained from merchants and travellers. Eratosthenes (B.C. 270) thought India lay east and west ; he was familiar with Ceylon (Taprobane), but made it far too large—8,000 stadia—and extending east and west.
Very little advance on this state of knowledge had been made even so late as the time of Strabo (about B.C. 54 to A.D. 25), but an important change came with the conquest of Egypt by the Romans, for the trade passed directly into their hands and they were not long in tracing it out to its sources. The first important advance was made by a Greek named Hippalos, who, acting on information received probably from Arab or Hindu informants, boldly stood out to sea from Cape Fartak in Arabia, and sailing with the south-west monsoon trade winds, found a direct route to the pepper-bearing country of Malabar.
This event, as already described (ante, p. 32), occurred in the early part of the first century A.D. And about this same time (A.D. 24) the first Hindu embassy from King Porus, or, as others say, from the King of Pandya, proceeded to Europe and followed the Roman Emperor Augustus to Spain, It was on this occasion that an ascetic (probably a Jain) who accompanied the expedition voluntarily sacrificed himself at Athens on a funeral pyre.
With increased trade came increasing knowledge of the countries whence the spices came. The fullest account of the trade about this time is contained in the Periplus Maris Erythræi, from which a passage has already been quoted (ante, pp. 78-80). It is matter of controversy whether this account was written in the first century A.D. or at a later date (third century A.D.), but, however this may be, Roman authors of the first century A.D, amply attest the fact that a large trade existed.
Petronius in the early part of the first century A.D, reproached the Roman matrons for exposing their charms in Indian muslins, which he called “woven wind” or “a texture of cloud.”
Pliny (A.D. 23-79) raked together without much discrimination a vast amount of information regarding the subjects he wrote about. He countenanced a story of Hindus having sailed round the north of Asia and Europe and having been wrecked on the coasts of Germany, but he seems to have acquired a very exact idea of the navigation as practised in his day after the discovery by Hippalos of the direct route to the Indian shores.
“Afterwards” he wrote, “it was found the safest course to proceed direct from the promontory of Syagrus in Arabi” (Capo Fartak) “to Patale” (probably Pantalayini1 or Pantalayini Kollam see pp. 72-73) “with the west wind (Favonius), which they call there the Hippalos, a distance reckoned at 1, 435 miles. In the next generation it was judged to be both a safer and nearer course to proceed from the same promontory direct to Sigerus,2 a port of India.
NOTEs: 1. Down to the present day this port is generally the first one touched at by ships from the Arabian coast, and it was to its immediate neighbourhood that the "pilots brought Vasco da Gama’s ships. Moreover it was in former times and even till quite recently—till steam ships superseded sailing ships—a very favourite port of departure for the Arabian coast and Persian Gulf. Pilgrims to Mecca used to set sail from it in large numbers formerly.
2.The Melezigara of the Periplus Maria Erythrœi and the Melezigyris of Ptolemy — probably Viziagur, 120 miles south of Bombay. END OF NOTEs
And this mode of navigation was preserved for a long time until merchants discovered a shorter route, and the profits of India were thus brought nearer to land. The voyage is now made every year with cohorts of archers on board the ships ; on account of the pirates which infest those seas”.
He estimated that India took 65,000,0003 sesterces annually, and the goods purchased brought a hundred times that amount when sold in Europe. He described the journey by the trade route through Egypt and then proceeded as follows: —
“They begin the navigation in the middle of summer before the rising of the Dogstar, or immediately after its appearance, and arrive in about thirty days at Ocelis in Arabia, or Cane in the frankincense-bearing region. There is also a third port called Muza which is not frequented by those sailing to India, but by the merchants whe trade in frankincense and other Arabian perfumes. In the interior is a city, the capital of the kingdom called Sapphar,1 and another called Sane. But for those whose course is directed to India it is most advantageous to start from Ocelis. From thence they sail with the wind called Hippalos in forty days to the first commercial station of India named Muziris (ante, p. 78), which is not much to be recommended on account of the neighbouring pirates,2 who occupy a place called Nitrias3 nor does it furnish any abundance of merchandise.
NOTEs: 1. This is evidently Zaphar, where Cheraman Perumal lies buried (ante, p. 196).
2. Conj. pp. 69 and 72.
3. Query: Can this be Nittur in Kottayam taluk, adjoining Tellicherry? END OF NOTEs
“Moreover the station of shipping is far from the land, and cargoes have to be loaded and unloaded in barges. The ruler of the country at the time of which I speak was Cottonara4. There is another more advantageous port, which is named Barace5 in the territory of a nation called the Ncacyndi. The king of that country was named Pandion6 whe resided far from the port in a city of the interior which is called Madura. But the region from which pepper is brought to Barace in barges hewn out of single trees is called Cottonara7.
"None of these names of nations or ports or cities are found in any former writer, from which it is evident what changes take place in the state of things in those countries. They commence the return voyage from India at the beginning of the Egyptian month of Tybis, which answers to our December, or at all events within the sixth day of the Egyptian month Mech’r, that is, within our Ides of January. Thus it comes to pass they return home within the year. They make the return voyage from India with the south-west wind (Vulturnus), and, when they have entered the Red Sea, with the south-west or south wind.”
NOTEs: 4. In one manuscript it is written Celobotras. It is clearly intended for Keraputran or Cheraputran ~ king of Chera.
5. This place was probably situated close to Southern Kollam at the mouth of the Quilon river. It is called Bakare in the Periplus Maris Erythrœi (ante, p. 79).
6. The Pandya kingdom, with Madura for capital, is here very clearly indicated.
7. Called Kottonara in the Periplus Maris Erythrœi (ante, p. 80). Some writers have identified this place with Kadattunad in North Malabar, and with Kolattu Nad (North Malabar), but it is unnecessary to go so far afield, and the fact stated that the pepper came in barges hewn out of single logs of timber makes it in the highest degree improbable that these identifications can be correct. The country lying about 10 miles east of Quilon is still called Kottaram (royal residence) or Kottarakkara (place of royal residence) : and it is tapped in various directions by the river, and connected backwaters ; and it is here probably that the pepper grew. END OF NOTEs
Pliny also obtained information from the Ceylon ambassadors to the Emperor Claudius about A.D. 50 regarding Ceylon, and some mention seems to have been made of the Chinese (Seres) having at this time traded to Ceylon.
It is clear from this account that the kingdom of Chera did not extend in the first century A.D. to the south of South Kollam (Quilon). South Travancore at this time lay in the Pandyan dominions. Moreover this is precisely the account given by the author of the Periplus Maris Erythrœi (ante, p. 79), but the latter’s account differs from Pliny’s in regard to the condition of Mouziris at or about this time, for it is described as “a city at the height of prosperity,” frequented by ships from the coasts of Guzerat and by Greek ships from Egypt.
There is no doubt of the fact that Roman gold poured largely into the country at this time. Many such coins have been found, and in the collection of His Highness the Maharaja of Travancore there are 9 aurei of the reign of the Emperor Augustus, 28 of Tiberius, 2 of Caligula, 16 of Claudius, and 16 of Nero. These and many other similar coins are understood to have been found in a remote part of North Malabar.
“Great quantities of specie” is one of the import items mentioned in the Periplus Maris Erythrœi (ante, p. 79), and from the facts vouched for by Pliny the commerce must have been on a very large scale.
Whether St. Thomas the Apostle visited the Malabar Coast about this time and founded the Christian Church, which certainly from a very early period down to the present day has existed there, is likely ever to remain a subject of controversy. But it will be seen that, had he been so minded, he would have found in those annual pepper fleets every facility for effecting his journey to Malabar.
The Jews, too, have a tradition that a largo number of their nation came and settled in Malabar at this time, after the destruction (A.D. 68) of the temple at Jerusalem.
Ptolemy (A.D. 126—61) is the next writer from whose pages some information is to be gleaned. He wrote the title of the Chera king as Kerobothros and stated the fact that the capital of the kingdom was at Karoura, which name has been very generally accepted as identical with that of the modern town of Karur in the Coimbatore district. But this is after all very little more than conjecture, as there are no data such as are to be found in the Periplus Maris Erythrœi in regard to Tundis, Mouziris and Nelkunda for accurately fixing the position of the place. Tradition, however, places the trijunction of the three ancient kingdoms of Chera, Chola and Pandya at a small stream (the Karaipottanar) flowing into the Kaveri river eleven miles east of the modern Karur.
Accepting, then, till some better conclusion is forthcoming, that Ptolemy’s Karoura is identical with the modern Karur, the boundaries of ancient Chera in the first to the third1 centuries A.D. may be roughly gathered from the sources already cited. The boundaries seem to have been : —
North—as for at least as Honore or Honavar (the Naoura of the Periplus, ante, p. 79).
South—as for as the Quilon (Southern Kollam) river.
East—as far as Karur, or perhaps the Kaveri river at that point. . .
NOTEs: 1 The Periplus Maris Erythrœi is by some writers thought to have been written in the first and by others in the third century A.D. END OF NOTEs
But it is impossible at present to say if the boundary projected any further in a north-east direction. Some writers have taken the Cheras to be identical with the Gangas or Kongus of Coimbatore and Mysore, and much confusion has in consequence arisen. Malayalis themselves call the country east of the Palghat gap the Kongunad or country of the Kongus.
The Kongu language seems to have been Canarese, and not Tamil or Malayalam, and in fact, as will be seen further on, the Kongus were a distinct dynasty, who seem to have allied themselves with the Western Chalukyas and Rashtrakutas against the Cheras. The confusion on this point apparently arose from one or two clerical errors in the well-known chronicle of the kings of Kongu (Kongudesa Rajakkal). There is no evidence as yet on record to show that the Cheras did at any time extend their rule further to the east than Karur or the banks of the Kaveri river east of the Palghat gap, or that they ever held any territory on the Mysore plateau. And in this negative position the question must for the present rest.
In the Mackenzie Mss. the traditionary boundaries of Chera are recorded in three separate passages:
"1. To the North, the place (or fane) Palanna1—hail ! To the East, Chengodu2
"2. To the West point. Koli-kudu3 will be. The seashore of
“3. The margin, that will be the South : an 80 katams (leagues)
“4. The Cheranad boundary; speaking, say thou.
“1. To the North, the place Palani1—hail ! To the East, the South Kasi2
“2. The West point Koli-kudu3 will become. The seashore of
“3. The margin that will make the South. An 80 katams (leagues)
“4. The Cheranad boundary ; speaking, say thou.”
“On the North Palani1 , to the East the great town (Perur), on the South the sea, on the West the great mountain, from East to West 40 katams (leagues), from South to North 40 katams (leagues), making together 80 katams.”
NOTEs: 1. The modern Pulney.
2. Probably Shencotta, near Tenkasi in Tirunelveli.
3. Apparently intended for Calicut. END OF NOTEs
It is not easy to reconcile these traditions, but it is clear in the light of the writings of Pliny and Ptolemy and of the Periplus that the Tenkasi eastern boundary, which describes pretty accurately the Malayali limits now, is of later date than the first to third centuries A.D.
The Malayalis have since those dates encroached considerably to the south on the ancient Pandya dominions. Then, again, Perur may very well be the limits of Chera when it shrunk within the Malayali present limits at the Palghat gap, for there is a well-known town of that name to the west of Coimbatore and almost in the gap. It is much resorted to by Malayalis for sraddha ceremonies (ante, p. 183).
As regards the northern boundary, these traditions say that it ended at Palani, a well-known temple and place of pilgrimage in the Mathurai district, just beyond the Palghat gap. The western boundary is variously stated to be either Calicut or “the great mountain,” both of which lie in one sense to the north of Palani.
If the limit on the coast line is taken to be mount Deli (ante, p. 6)—the “great mountain” of the pilots who conducted Vasco da Gama’s expedition—then it would be very nearly correct, but it is clear that on this side too the Malayali limits had in the interval shrunk considerably within the boundary assigned by the author of the Periplus.
Intercourse between East and West from this time forward continued to be briskly maintained. After the Ceylon embassy to Claudius in A.D. 44, further embassies from India continued at long intervals to reach the Roman world. Trajan received one in A.D. 107, Antoninus Pius (A.D. 138-61) another, Julian received a third in A.D. 361 , and even so late as the reign of Justinian (A.D. 540) one was despatched to Constantinople. The trade during this period seems to have been steadily carried on.
The Pentingerian Tables (supposed to have been compiled about A.D. 226) mention that there was a considerable Roman settlement at Mouziris (Cranganore), that there was there a temple to Augustus, and that two cohorts of soldiers were employed in protecting the trade. But notwithstanding this there is a singular deficiency in the contemporary Latin and Greek authors of any fresh information regarding the countries of the East, and after the fall of Palmyra in A.D. 274 this deficiency becomes still more marked.
Indeed the first really fresh and authentic piece of information about the Malabar Coast is that contained in the writings of a Byzantine monk by name Cosmas Indicopleustes, who lived in the early part of the sixth century A.D. He wrote : “In the Island Taprobane (i.e., Ceylon) there is a church of Christians, and clerks, and faithful. Likewise at Mala where the pepper-grows ; and in the town Kalliena1, there is also a Bishop consecrated in Persia.”
NOTEs: 1. Near Udipi in South Canara. END OF NOTEs
And in further confirmation of the fact that Christianity had meanwhile taken root in Malabar, a letter in Assemani's Bibliotheca, from the Patriarch Jesajabus (died A.D. 660) to Simon, Metropolitan of Persia, blames his neglect of duty, saying that in consequence not only is India, “which extends from the coast of the kingdom of Persia to Colon,3 a distance of 1,200 parasangs, deprived of a regular ministry, but Persia itself is left in darkness.” (Colonel Yule in foot-note. Caldwell's Dravidian Grammar, p. 27.)
NOTEs: 2. One of the Kollams, probably the southern (Quilon proper). END OF NOTEs
It would be out of place here to attempt to trace in detail the influences brought to bear during these centuries of commerce on India and Europe respectively. It is certain that Indian ideas and practices contributed largely to the form which orthodox Christianity in the West finally adopted. Monasteries and nunneries, tonsures, rosaries, confession, and celibacy all seem to have found their way to Europe from Indian sources.
And in return, the West seems to have given to the East arts and sciences, architecture, the art of coining money, and in particular the high ideal of religion contained in Christianity, as St. Chrysostom (who died A.D. 407) wrote: “The Syrians too, and Egyptians, and Indians, and Persians, and Ethiopians, and innumerable other nations, translating into their own tongues the doctrines derived from this man, barbarians though they were, learnt to philosophise.”
The Malabar Coast with its Christian settlers must have been one of the chief centres whence European influences spread throughout the land, so it is not to be wondered at that Vedantism at the hands of its expounder, the “gracious teacher" — Samkaracharyar— spread from Malabar over the whole of India ; nor that the founder — Madhavacharyar—of the sect which approaches nearest of all to Christianity was born at Udipi, near the place (Kalliena) where, according to Cosmas Indicopleustes, a Persian Bishop was settled in the sixth century A.D.
It was probably not from any neglect or unwillingness that the Patriarch of Persia had failed to maintain regular Christian ministration on the Western Coast, for a new influence had by this time (seventh century) began to be felt. Islam was spreading rapidly over the face of the globe, and, with the conquest of Egypt (A.D. 638-40), the trade between India and Europe passed into fresh hands. These hands were, however, for many generations engaged with conquest rather than with trade, so that probably for two centuries at least after this time but little was done to extend commercial enterprise.
The Christian settlements, however, were still on the coast, though sadly embarrassed at times for regular ministrations.
As regards Muhammadan progress in Malabar, writing in the middle of the ninth century A.D., a Muhammadan has left on record “I know not that there is any one of either nation” (Chinese and Indian) “that has embraced Muhammadanism or speaks Arabic.” (Renaudot’s “Ancient Accounts of India, etc” London, 1733).
It will be necessary to revert here to indigenous sources of information, scanty as these sources are. The true ancient history of Southern India, almost unrecorded by its own people in anything worthy of the name of history, appears as yet only as a faint outline on canvas. Thanks to the untiring labours of European scholars and of one or two native scholars these faint outlines are gradually assuming more distinct lines, but it is impossible as yet to offer anything even approaching to a picture in full detail of any period or of any state, for the sources of information contained in inscriptions and deeds are extremely scanty, and even in genuinely ancient deeds it is frequently found that the facts to be gathered from them are unreliable owing to the deeds themselves having been forged at periods long subsequent to the facts which they pretend to state.
The Malayali country is, further, most peculiarly unfortunate in not having preserved its traditions in inscriptions and deeds after the manner in vogue elsewhere. The eulogies of court poets, as embodied in the inscriptions found in other parts of South India, though generally full of inflated language, relate the names and relationships and reigns of kings and princes from remote antiquity down to the time when the grant or privilege contained in the deed was finally conferred by the then reigning sovereign or chief.
When these statements, taken from different inscriptions, agree among themselves, fairly reliable evidence of the facts is obtained. But in Malabar, besides the fact that such inscriptions are, so far as present knowledge goes, extremely rare, it further seems to have been the habit not to record the grant of privileges in this fashion, so that even this meagre source of information is not available. Then, again, the inscriptions recording alleged grants by the neighbouring dynasty of the Gangas or Kongus are precisely those with which the greatest liberties seem to have been taken by forgers, and the consequent difficulty of eliciting what is true and of rejecting what is false has resulted in throwing doubt on information which might have been utilised to some extent in the history of the Malayalis.
It is then only when inscriptions of neighbouring dynasties throw some side-light on the course of events in Malabar, and thus supplement facts and inferences to be drawn from indigenous sources of information, that it is possible to make use of the studies of modern scholars in this direction. How small the results are so far shall now be set forth.
One dynasty, besides those — Chera, Chola and Pandya—already mentioned, stands prominently forward in the ancient history of the south.
This dynasty is that of the Pallavas, as they are usually called, or Pallavas of Kanchi (Conjeeveram) as they are also sometimes styled. It is proved by inscriptions that the dynasty was in existence in the fourth or fifth century A.D. and at a still earlier period in the second or third century. When and how far they invaded Malabar, and whether, having taken the country, it was the Cherumars or the Kurumbars, or partly the one and partly the other that they displaced, is at present matter of speculation. It is quite possible that the dynasty is still represented in Malabar by the Vallodi or Valluvanadi caste of Nayars.
There is also a servile caste of Valluvar who are labourers, fishers, ferrymen and sorcerers. Of these two classes, the former inhabit Valluvanad (i.e the country of the Valluvar), which to the present day gives its name to one of the taluks of the district ; while the latter are usually regarded as of superior rank to the huntsmen who abound on the slopes of the Western Ghats and in Wainad. The latter are called Kurumbar, or Kurchiar, or Kuravar, and they too have a local habitation in the low country in the name of one of the present taluks called Kurumbranad or the country of the Kurumbar.
The Kurumbar were originally, and are to the present day in districts east of the ghats, shepherds and herdsmen, and from their having given their name to such an unpastoral portion of the district as Kurumbranad, it is perhaps safe to conclude that it was only occupied by them under compulsion, and that there they made a stand for some considerable time.
The Valluvar country, on the other hand, is a fine pastoral country lying close to the south-west slopes of the Nilgiris, just such a country as shepherds and herdsmen would select.
It is not improbable, therefore, if the Cherumar (agrestic slaves) are, as suggested, the real aborigines of the ancient Chera kingdom, that they were displaced to some extent at least by a more independent race of shepherds, who in turn gave way to the Valluvar (?Pallavar). The fact that the Kurumbars preferred a roving life in the jungles to a sedentary one in subjection on the plains, proves them to have been a superior race, and indeed to the present day they very markedly retain this characteristic.
As to when the Tiyar or Islanders (Cingaloso) and the Nayars (militia) came into Malabar it is at present hardly possible even to suggest.
These castes constitute by far the largest portion of the Hindu population at the present day. They were certainly both settled in the country at the time when the Jews’ and Christians’ deeds of privileges were granted (A.D. 700 to 825), but there is very little evidence to show one way or other how long they had at that time been settled in the land.
The Cingalese tradition is that the Cholas invaded Ceylon so early as in the third century B.C., and again in the second century B.C., and for a third time in the second century A.D. ; that the Cingalese retaliated and invaded the mainland, and that after the second century A.D. there were constant wars between the two races. These dates are quite uncertain, but it is perhaps to be inferred that the islanders obtained possession of some portion of the mainland, and were in turn brought under subjection by an irruption of the Tamil race (Nayars) under Kshatriya leaders from the East Coast.
If, as tradition says, the islanders brought with them the coconut tree-—the “southern tree” as it is still called — then, judging from the facts stated in the foot-note to page 79, this must have happened some time after the beginning of the Christian era ; and, judging from the fact that the tree was well known to, and fully described by Cosmas Indicopleustes, the islanders [Tiyar) must have been settled in the country before the middle of the sixth century A.D.
The Nayars again were certainly settled in the country before A.D. 700, and they are consequently not the descendants of the Cholas, who are historically known to have subjected the greater portion of Southern India in the end of the ninth and in the tenth and eleventh centuries A.D. It must have been an earlier invasion of Tamils that brought the Nayars into Malabar. Judging from the fact to be alluded to presently that the whole of South India, including Kerala, was in the seventh century A.D. under the sway (suzerainty) of the Pallavas of Kanchi (Conjeevaram), and from the fact that the Tamil and Malayalam languages were in those days practically identical, it may be inferred that the ruling caste of Nayar3 were already settled in Malabar in the early centuries A.D., and may possibly have been on the coast at a very much earlier period, Mr. Ellis considered1 that Malabar was divided into chieftainships (Ulayavar) about 389 A.D., and there is a strong tradition in favour of so early a date.
NOTEs: 1. See Dr. Gundert’s note to cl. g of Deed No. 1, Appendix XIX. END OF NOTEs
The Pallavas of Kanchi continued in power for many centuries after they first come to notice in the fourth or fifth century A.D. Indeed they did not disappear as a power till the fourteenth century, although for a long period before that time they had subsided into the position of mere feudatories. According to the earlier grants, in the fourth or fifth century A.D. they had pushed their dominions as far north as Badami, for they are styled “crushers of Vatapi,” the ancient name of that place. But their conquests in that region seem to have excited opposition, for an early dynasty of Kadambas comes to notice, and one of that line — Mrigesa—in the fifth century is mentioned as having been “a very fire of destruction to the Pallavas,” and of another of them (Ravi Varma) it is recorded that he “uprooted Chandadanda, the Lord of Kanchi”.
The Pallava kingdom probably about this time reached its greatest dimensions, and there is hardly any room for doubt that it was to it that Fah Hian, the Chinese pilgrim (about 400 A.D,), referred when he wrote regarding the great kingdom of the Tha-Thsen (Dakshina or south). “Those who desire to proceed thither” he wrote, “ should first pay a certain sum of money to the king of the country, who will then appoint people to accompany them and show them the way.”
This custom clearly refers to the well-known ancient Malayali system of Changatam (convoy, guard) from which the Nayar chieftains used to derive some revenue. These are small matters enough to serve as links of connection between the ancient Pallavas and the Nayars, but a deed is still in existence of date about the fifth century A.D. , in which the genealogy of some of the ancient Pallava kings is given, and in which one of the Pallava headquarters is said to be a place called “Palakkada,” which may, as a writer in the Indian Antiquary (V, 154) has suggested, be taken to be Palghat, lying within a few miles of Valluvanad [i.e., the Valluvar (? Pallava) country].
It will be seen presently that in the ancient deeds a dear distinction is drawn between the Keralas and the Pallavas. These names, and likewise those already so often mentioned—Chola and Pandya— were, however, dynastic names rather than names of distinct nations. The Tamil race seems to have spread over the whole of the peninsula and to have split up into three kingdoms — Chera, Chola and Pandya—corresponding to those very ancient and well-known divisions of the Peninsula. The Pallava kingdom of Kanchi was probably a fourth dynasty founded when the Tamils thus spread as a conquering race over the South.
In 500-504 A.D. it is recorded by Chinese writers that a king of India sent an ambassador as far as China, taking with him presents consisting of pepper, ginger, sugar, sandalwood, tortoise-shell, etc., and it was said that this Indian nation traded to the West with the Romans and Parthians, and to the east as far as Siam and Tonquin. Their sovereign was said to wear a small lock of hair dressed spirally on the crown of his head, and to wear the rest of his hair very short.
The people, it is also said, wrote on palm leaves and were excellent astronomers. The produce sent as presents, the trade to East and West, and the manner of wearing the hair, are all so essentially Malayali, that it is difficult to resist the conclusion that the ambassador must have been sent from some place on the Malabar Coast.
With the founding about the end of the sixth century A.D. of the dynasty of the Chalukyas, a most important political influence began to bear on the nations, if they may so be called, of the South. The founder of the dynasty (Pulakesi I) is styled the “Lord of Vatapi” (Badami), “the best of cities.”
The dynasty was founded by dispossessing the Pallavas of that city, and, in the reign of Pulakesi I’s successor Kirtti Varma, by the breaking up of the “confederacy of the Kadambas" with whom the Pallavas had already been at war. Kirtti Varma, whose reign terminated in 567-68 A.D., is recorded to have “broken the Kadamba tree” and to have subdued the Kadambas of Vanavasi. Kirtti Varma's younger brother (Mangalisa ) next reigned for some years during the minority of Kirtti Varma's son (Pulakesi 11 or Satyasraya), but, being ambitious of securing the kingdom for his own son, he seems to have lost his life in the attempt, and the family perhaps in consequence of these dissensions split up about the beginning of the seventh century A.D. into two branohes, which are respectively known as the Western and Eastern Chalukyas.
It is with the former alone that it is necessary to deal in considering the history of Malabar.
Of the first king of the Western Chalukyas branch, Pulakesi II, it is recorded; “When he prepared himself speedily for the conquest of the Cholas, the river” (Kaveri) “which abounds in the rolling eyes of the carp, abandoned its contact with the ocean, having (the onward flow of) its waters obstructed by the bridge formed by his elephants, from whom rut was flowing. There he caused the great prosperity of the Cholas and the Keralas and the Pandyas, but became a very sun to (melt) the hoar frost which was the army of the Pallavas."
He is also said to have “caused the Lord of the Pallavas, who had arrived at the eminence of his own power, to hide his prowess within the ramparts of the city of Kanchi.” This, the first of the Western Chalukya irruptions, seems to have taken place in the early part of the seventh century A.D.
It is to be inferred from this that Pallava influence had, some time prior to these events, become to some extent paramount in the south, overshadowing the other dynasties, to whom it was a relief that an invader from the north should have been able to drive the Pallava king to take shelter within the ramparts of his own capital.
Contemporary grants do not record that Kerala became at this time tributary to the Western Chalukya king, but in a forged grant of about the tenth century it is recorded, not of Pulakesi II, the founder of the Western Chalukya line, but of Pulakesi I, the founder of the whole family, that he “made the kings of Chola, and Chera, and Kerala, and Simhala. (Ceylon), and Kalinga, to pay tribute,” and punished the Pandya and other chieftains.
There is no reason to suppose, however, that such was the fact. The forger of the grant evidently confused the two Pulakesis, amplified the exploits of the later of the two kings and tacked them on to the earlier of the two, whose authority he wished to have in favour of his grant. But the fact of a deed (albeit forged) of the tenth century recording that Chera was distinct from Kerala opens up ground for remark. It has already been noticed (page 224) that the traditionary limits of the original Kerala extended from Putupattanam on the Kotta river to Kannetti in Travancore. If this was Kerala, where then was Chera?
The answer to this is not easy to suggest. The forger may have referred to the Ganga or Kongu dynasty under the name of Chera, and the confusion as to Gangas and Cheras may have had an origin as ancient as his time. The fact that he would have been historically incorrect in such an allusion would not matter to one who could be so far wrong as to mistake Pulakesi I for Pulakesi II.
In a genuine deed nearer the time of the occurrences it is specifically said that Pulakesi II in his southern raid, was “closely attended by the Gangas. And it may be noted in passing that this confederation seems to have been brought about first by the conquest of the Gangas by Mrigesa, the Kadamba already mentioned as having fought the Pallavas, and secondly by the subsequent conquest of the Kadambas by the Chalukyas under Kirtti Varma. The Gangas, under these circumstances, must have in turn accepted the Chalukyas as their suzerains, and it was quite natural that they should under such circumstances join in Pulakesi II’s raid against the Pallavas.
If the forger did not refer to the Gangas, then it is to be inferred that the reference was to a Chera dynasty as distinct from the Kerala dynasty. Perhaps the Pallavas still held that part of Malabar where their name still seems to linger—the Valluvunad. The chieftain of this nad, the Valluva Konattiri, or as he is sometimes called, the Vallabhan or Vellattiri Raja, is in the Jews’ deed (c. A.D. 700) styled the Arangott Utayavar, meaning the chieftain who held the country on the other side (Angotta) of the river (ar), and as this is a title by which the Valluva Konattiri is still known on account of his dominions lying to the north of the Ponnani river, it may perhaps be correct that in the seventh century this part of Chera was held by the Pallavas ( Valluvar) as distinct from the Keralas.
It is certain that the Valluva Konattiri after the last Perumal’s departure in A.D. 825 became the protector of the Maha Makkam feast at Tirunavayi, and this looks as if he had held a distinguished place among the Malayali chiefs before that time—a place so distinguished that he appears to have superseded the last Perumal’s lawful heir (Cochin) as protector at this festival.
In the seventh century it is certain that Gokarnam, the traditionary most northerly point of Kerala, was already famous as a place of worship, for Siva is alluded to about this time as the “Lord (svami) of Gokarna.”
It is almost certain that the Vedic Brahmans proper had not at this time migrated to the south. “The bones of the dead,” so wrote in 605 A.D. one of the numerous Chinese pilgrims who flocked at this time to India “are burned and their ashes placed in a so-tu (stupa),” a practice which Malayalis certainly observed originally if the evidence of the rude stone monuments of the district signifies anything (conf. pp. 179-83).
“So long as the bones remain undisturbed and undefiled,
“So long does the soul enjoy heaven”..
seems, as already said, to have been the original faith.
But with the advent of the Vedic Brahmans came a change in this respect. These posed before the rude chieftains with whom they came in contact as “God-compellers.” Their sonorous mantrams and spells could compel the gods to take the wandering ghosts of even the worst of men direct to heaven. There was no necessity for costly death houses, and for furnishing such with all the deceased’s weapons and implements in use by him during life. A few sonorous phrases, a ringing of bells and burning of incense, and the thing was accomplished, and it only remained to scatter the ashes of the deceased over the surface of some holy river to ensure to him a welcome into the heaven of Indra.
In a grant of perhaps the fifth century A.D. and coming from the far north (Ilichpur), it is recorded by a king that “in order to increase our spiritual merit, life, strength, conquests, and rule, and for the sake of our welfare in this and the next world” he gave some land to certain Brahmans, on the condition, however—a unique fact perhaps, but perhaps necessary before the sacred status of the Brahmans had been established beyond doubt that they should continue to be loyal and peaceful citizens.
From this time forward grant after grant by different dynasties — Western Chalukya, Kalinga, Gurjora, Mahavali, Rashtrakuta, Ganga — record that lands were given to Brahmans, with libations of water (the well-known incident of the Nirattiper tenure in Malabar), in order to increase the religious merit of the grantors and of their deceased relatives.
And so the faith in the necessity for sraddha ceremonies, and in the necessity for the removal of the ashes of the dead to sacred rivers, seems gradually to have worked its way southwards towards Malabar in the wake of the "God-compelling” Vedic Brahmans. There is no reason however, for thinking that such a change in the faith of the Malayalis had taken root before the beginning of the seventh century A.D. ; indeed it will be seen presently that the great Brahman migration into Malabar did not probably take place till a century later.
Between the years 629-45 A.D. the Chinese traveller Hwen Thsang visited South India, and from the work of his two pupils, translated by M. Stan. Julien, many facts can be gathered regarding the condition of the south at this time. He visited the Pallava kingdom called Ta-lo-pi-tch'a (Dravida), and he described the capital —Kanchi—as being 30 li in circumference. He described the people as brave and eager (ardent), profoundly attached to good faith and justice, and holding science in esteem. He found 100 monasteries with 10,000 Buddhist or perhaps Jain votaries, and 80 temples of the gods frequented by naked heretics, whom Dr. Burnell, for substantial reasons (Ind. Ant. I, 309) has identified as Digambara Jains, followers of the 24th Tirthamkar.
From Dravida he proceeded to Malakuta, which lay in the Kaveri delta of Tanjore. The people there were black, rough (dur) and passionate, having among them partisans both of the truth and of error. They did not care for the cultivation of the arts “el mettent loute leur habilete a poursuivre le lucre." The naked heretics (Digambara Jains) were in great force.
Unfortunately he did not visit the Malabar Coast. He, however, noticed the fact that sandalwood and a camphor-bearing tree (cinnamon) grew on the mountains of Mo-la-ye (Malaya), "dont les sommets escarpes dominent des vallees profondes".
And he further noticed that a certain island which he described as lying to the south-west of Persia was peopled only by women. Reference is probably here made to the Island of Minicoy, and this subject will again occur in considering Marco Polo’s account of the male and female islands.
Hwen Thsang’s description is here transcribed : "Au sud-ouest du royaume Po-la-see (Persia) dans une ile, se lrouve le royaume des femmes d'occident; on n'y voit que des femmes et pas un seul homme. Ce pays abonde en productions rares et precicuses; it est sous la dependance du royaume de Fo-lin, dont le roi leur enovie chaque annee des maris qui s'unissent avec elles: mais lorsqu'elles mettent au monde des gracons les lois du pays defendent de les elever."
About the time of Hwen Thsang’s visit the Pallavas seem to have made an effort and to have recovered temporarily from the Western Chalukyas the town of Vatapi (Badami), and in this they were apparently assisted as feudatories by the three rulers of Chola, Pandya and Kerala.
The Chalukya king Pulakesi II at his death seems to have left three infant sons. During their minority Vijaya battarika assumed the reins of government. The oldest son died and made way for Vikramaditya I. The southern powers apparently saw, while this interregnum lasted, a chance of suppressing the rising dynasty and accordingly combined against it.
That the combination was successful at the time is borne out by more than one Chalukya grant. The Pallava king is referred to in one of those as the leader “who had been the cause of the discomfiture and the destruction of that family which was as pure as the rays of the moon.”1
NOTEs: 1. The Chalukyas claimed to belong to the Somavaea or Lunar Race. END OF NOTEs
But retribution speedily came, for it is recorded of Vinayaditya that during the lifetime of his father Vikramaditya I (about 670-80 A.D.), and by his command, he “arrested the extremely exalted power of the Pallavas, whose kingdom consisted of three component dominions.” This last phrase, though it occurs more than once and in different deeds, is not explained therein.
In regard to it Mr. Fleet thus expresses his views : “The expression points distinctly to there being three well-defined and recognised divisions of the Pallava dominions. They may have been each ruled by a separate king of a separate branch of the dynasty ; or they may have been under one monarch with a viceroy in each of the three provinces.”
There is little room for doubt that the expression refers to the “Chola, Pandya and Kerala ” rulers, who, in another grant of Vinayaditya's, are specifically referred to as “the proud summits” of three mountains which he “rent open (like Indra) with the thunderbolt which was his prowess.”
How much Vinayaditya and his father Vikramaditya I accomplished in this raid into the South it is not easy to suggest. Vikramaditya I is said to have “had the water-lilies which were his foot kissed by the diadem of the Lord of Kanchi, who had bowed down before no other,” and of Vinayaditya, it is recorded that he “caused the riders of Kamera and Parasika and Simhala and other islands to pay tribute to him.”
The name Kamera occurs in two grants ; in another it occurs as Kavera (perhaps Kaveri), and in a fourth the word used is Kerala. Parasika is the modern Halsi in Belgaum, the capital of the early Kadamba dynasty, and Simhala is Ceylon.
It is not improbable that the Chalukyas entered into separate tributary relations with the Kerala ruler at this time. Their policy would certainly be to break up the southern confederacy which had nearly proved fatal to them. And the isolated position of the Keralas behind their mountains would render it easier to detach them than any of the other combined powers.
It is not improbable also that it was at this time that the Kerala territory lying to the east of the Palghat gap (vide page 252) which to this day Malayalis call the Kongunad, was lopped off from their possessions. For in more than one grant of Vinayaditya's allusion is made to him as the king “by whom the Pallavas, the Kalambras, the Keralas, the Haihayas, the Vilas, the Malavas, the Cholas, the Pandyas and others were brought into a similar state of servitude, with the Aluvas and Gangas and others who were hereditarily (subject to him).”
The Gangas or Kongus (as Malayalis call them) must have followed their suzerain in his southern raid, and not improbably drove the Keralas inside their mountain limits at this time (c . A.D. 680-96).
Of Vinayaditya's successor in the early part of the eighth century A.D. nothing further is related regarding measures affecting the southern powers than that he is said to have “uprooted the clumps of thorns among the kings of the south.”
But the next of the Western Chalukya kings — Vikramaditya II (A.D. 732-47)— seems to have directed all his energies to the subjugation of the Pallavas of Kanchi. It is said he slew the Pallava king, whose name Nandi Polavarma is given, and took a big drum belonging to him called “Roar of the Sea.” He directed three expeditions apparently against Kanchi, and his successor Kirtti Varma II, whilst heir - apparent, seems to have commanded in one of them.
As regards the other powers of the south, nothing more is recorded than that Vikramaditya II “withered up Pandya, Chola, Kerala, Kalabra, and other kings.”
These expeditions, however, which were probably in great measure unsuccessful as permanent conquests, seem to have exhausted the Western Chalukya resources, and the natural reaction set in. In the reign of Kirtti Varma II (A.D. 747-57) the Rashtrakuta dynasty rose to power and effaced for a time the glories of the Chalukyas. The Rashtrakuta king Dantidurga coming from the north, subdued the victorious army of Karnata (Chalukya), and of Kirtti Varma II it is recorded that “through him the regal fortune of the Chalukyas became impeded on the earth.”
Dantidurga the Rashtrakuta king’s date has been fixed by means of grants as A.D. 725-55, and with his conquest of the Western Chalukyas a fresh political influence began to bear on the kingdoms of the south. That he came into collision with the southern powers is not stated. It is merely recorded of him that he conquered the army of Karnata (Western Chalukya), “which had been expert in defeating the Lords of Kanchi and Kerala, the Chola, the Pandya, Sriharsha and Vajrata”. But after this the dynasty rapidly acquired great and extensive influence. It extended its rule not only over the Dekhan proper, but over the Konkana, a portion of Gujarat and Central India, up to the Vindhya mountains, and its influence made itself felt much further to the north.
It was Krishna I, the successor of Dantidurga, who built the temple of Ellura, and the second king after Krishna I, by name Dhruva (about 770-79 A.D.), seems to have set himself in earnest to conquer the south. The Pallavas of Kanchi had probably, in the Western Chalukya wars, lost much of their influence in the south. Dhruwa, it is recorded, managed to hem in the army of the Pallavas between his army on the one side and the ocean on the other, and despoiled the conquered of their fighting elephants, which were much prized in the armaments of Indian kings. The Pallava king seems to have had but little choice left to him than “to bow down before him” as another grant records.
With the conquest of the Western Chaluhyas the tributary lien on Kerala and the suzerainty over the Gangas must also have passed to the Rashtrakutas. The Ganga king seems to have rebelled against the yoke, for Dhruva, it is recorded, conquered and imprisoned him, and from this time forward down at least to the beginning of the tenth century the Gangas continued to follow their Rashtrakuta suzerains in their battles.
In the reign of Govinda III, his successor (A.D. 803-814-15), they were in particular used in the wars against the Eastern Chalukya dynasty, one of whose kings (Vijayaditya or Narendra Mriga Raja) fought, it is recorded, a hundred and eight battles against the combined Rashtrakutas and Gangas in the short space of twelve and a half years. It was perhaps on account of this good service that Govinda III released the captive Ganga king (imprisoned by Dhruva), but his lenient policy failed, for he had again shortly to retake and reimprison him.
Whether it was at this time, or shortly before or after it, is uncertain, but the Keralas also began to give trouble. Of Govinda III one grant records that “(Having conquered) the Keralas, the Malavas (and) the Santas, together with the Gurjaras (and) .... who dwelt at the hill fort of Chitrakuta, then he (became) a very Narayana on the earth in inspect of fame.”
And again in another grant belonging to the allied dynasty (Rathor) of Gujarat it is recorded, “...and the array of the Mahasamantas1 of the region of the south, terrified, and not holding together, and having their possessions in the course of being taken away from them by Srivallabha” (i.e., Govinda III), ‘‘through (showing) inspect, obtained protection from him” (i.e., Indra III , the Rathor king of Gujrat).
NOTEs: The Malayan chieftains all claim to be of the Samantha caste, with the exception of one or two who claim Kshatriya rank. END OF NOTEs
It may be doubted whether, as alleged, the victory over the Keralas was very complete. But the fact that expeditions into Malabar did about this time occur is in consonance with local tradition2. Local tradition, however, says that they were repulsed, and that the Eradi chiefs of the Zamorin's house were, with the aid of the Ten Thousand Nayars of Polanad, the chief instruments of the discomfiture of the invasion via the Palghat gap, while the Northern Kolattiri seems to have arrested that which came by way of the coast.
NOTEs: Pages 236-37. END OF NOTEs
It is doubtful whether after this time (early part of the ninth century A.D.) the Rashtrakuta dynasty had any dealings directly with Kerala. The invaders were probably driven back, as Malayali tradition indeed asserts. At any rate there is apparently nothing yet on record to prove that the Rashtrakutas conquered Malabar ; whereas, on the contrary, the fighting with the Pallavas and with the Eastern Chalukyas continued from this time down to about the beginning of the tenth century A.D., and this probably occupied most of their attention.
It was about this latter time that the great irruption from the south into the Dekhan took place. The Cholas had probably during all these years been husbanding their strength, and when the other dynasties had exhausted themselves in barren conflicts, the greater part of their dominions fell an easy prey to the southern dynasty. The final blow to the Rashtrakuta supremacy was dealt by Tailapa or Taila, who revived the dynasty of the Western Chalukyas in the latter half of this same tenth century A.D.
But it will be necessary to revert here to matters more immediately concerning Malabar, and the epoch is a convenient one for the purpose, because, on the 25th August 825 A.D., there dawned, as already explained (pp. 157-60), the Kollam Era of the Malayalis. There are three ancient Malayali deeds which have excited much interest, not only because of their antiquity, but because of the interesting fact that by them the ancient kings of Kerala conferred on the Jewish and Christian colonies certain privileges which those colonies, to a certain extent, do still possess. Those deeds have been more than once translated, and in Appendix XII will be found translations of them by the most erudite of Malayalam scholars, Dr. H. Gundert.
The dates to be assigned to these deeds have been much discussed, but there is a general agreement among those best capable of judging that the Jews’ deed (No. 1) is of date about the end of the seventh or beginning of the eighth century A.D. Dr. Burnell says of No. 2, the settlement deed of the main colony of Christians, that “the only possible date is A.D. 774.”
And as regards No. 3, the settlement deed of the southern Christian colony, it is on general grounds placed about 50 years later than No. 2. or about A.D. 824, and in corroboration of the correctness of this conclusion it may be pointed out that two Nestorian priests, by name Mar Sapor, and Mar Peroz, or Peroses, or Pargos,1 are known to have proceeded about 822 A.D. from Babylon to Quilon, and to have founded a Christian colony there, and the name of the grantee of the privileges conveyed by No. 3, namely, Maruvan Sapir Iso is evidently identical with the name of the first-mentioned of these priests.
NOTEs: Forster’s “Fra Bartelomœo,” London, 1,800 foot note to p. 91. END OF NOTEs
These three deeds, when read together1 and along with No. 4, the date of which has not yet been authoritatively fixed, afford evidence of the following facts : —
Chera, or to use its better known Canarese equivalent Kerala, was at this time (end of seventh to first quarter of ninth century) a petty empire extending in a southerly direction at least as far as Quilon, and in a northerly direction at least as far as Calicut.
The petty suzerains who ruled this tract of country were —
At the time of No. 1 (c A. I). 700)- — Bhaskara Ravi Varma .
At the time of No. 2 (A.D. 774) — Vira Raghava Chacravarti,
At the time of No. 3 (c. A.D. 824) Sthanu Ravi Gupta.
NOTEs: See the foot-notes in the Appendix. END OF NOTEs
These three names are, so far as investigations have yet proceeded, the only really authentic names known of the kings or Perumals of ancient Chera or Kerala. And the last named of them is probably identical with the Cheraman Perumal (a title meaning literally the bigman of the Cheras), whose name is in the mouth of every child on the coast. His title of Gupta seems to point to the family having been of Mauryan descent and it very possibly came from the Konkana.
Below the suzerain were a number of chieftains or princes (Utayavar—literally owners) of nads (counties), including among them the well-known families of Venad (Travancore), Eralanad (Zamorin), Valluvanad, and Nedumpuraiyurnad (Palghat).
The nad (country) was the territorial organisation of the ruling caste (Nayars), and, in two instances at least (Venad and Cheranad), it was the territory of the “Six hundred.” These “Six hundred” were the supervisors (Kanakkar) and protectors of the nad. The importance to the country of this Nayar organisation has already2 been dwelt upon. It was, as the Keralolpatti expressly says, their duty "to prevent the rights from being curtailed or suffered to fall into disuse.” They were, in short, the custodians of ancient rights and customs; they chastised the chieftains’ ministers when they committed “unwarrantable acts,” and were the “Parliament” of the land.
NOTEs: Conf. pp. 88, 89, 132, 133. END OF NOTEs
Under such circumstances it becomes easy to understand how institutions existed unchanged for centuries, and how some of the influential families (continued when necessary by adoptions from allied families) who ruled the nads in the eighth and ninth centimes A.D. still continued to rule them when the British acquired the country in 1792.
Custom was the law of the land, and it did not escape the attention of some of the early British administrators that this was so. Lord William Bentinck wrote in 1804 that there was one point in regard to the character of the inhabitants of Malabar, on which all authorities, however diametrically opposed to each other on other points, agreed, and that was with regard to the “independence of mind ”of the inhabitants.
This “independence of mind” was “generally diffused through the minds of the people. They are described as being extremely sensible of good treatment, and impatient of oppression; to entertain a high respect for courts of judicature, and to be extremely attached to their customs. Agriculture is considered as an honourable occupation, and the rights of landed property and the division of the produce of the soil between the landlord and tenant are perfectly defined and confirmed by immemorial usage”.
The “independence of mind” which is here referred to by Lord William Bentinck, and which has been noticed by every district officer then and since, could only have been the slow growth of a steady political system, and there can be no doubt that this territorial organisation of the Nayars into supervising and protecting agencies was the system which produced such (for India) unexpected results.
To the Jews and Christians organisations were given similar to that, of the Nayars. Their headmen (Joseph Rabban and Iravi Corttan respectively) were raised with hereditary rank to (at least a nominal) equality of rank with the chieftains (Utayavar — Woddear of Mysore and Coorg) of the nads. The privileges conferred on them along with their rank as Utayavar are very curious, viz. :
(a) The seventy-two Viduper, attached to lordship over the land. —What these were cannot now be fully stated, as the only information regarding them is contained in clause (b ) of No. 1 and in clause (k) of deed No. 3 (Appendix XII).
From the instances there given they appear to have been generally of a sumptuary character, such as the use of elephants carrying earth and water in marriage or other processions ; tribute from subordinate, landholders—the revenues of the land granted ; the light by day, a well-known privilege still highly prized by the ruling houses of Travancore and Cochin and other chieftains; the spreading cloth to walk upon; the litter or palanquin still in common use ; the umbrella , another privilege still highly prized by Malayali chieftains ; the Vaduca drum; the trumpet, that is, the conch shell, which still figures in the emblazonments of the Travancore and Cochin rulers ; the gateway with seats, that is, probably the power of administering justice ; ornamental arches and similar awnings and garlands, still thrown across the paths taken by members of the ruling houses—“and the rest”
(b ) Remission of tribute to the Supreme Government.
(c) Remission of taxes to the king’s house due from townspeople.
(d) The privilege of receiving presents when townspeople receive them.
(e) Feast cloth.
(f) House pillars or pictured rooms.
(g) The curved sword or dagger, that is, probably, the right to make war armed with the distinctive Nayar1 weapon, the ayudha katti (war-knife), or as it is sometimes called, the kodunga katti (curved knife).
NOTEs: 1.The use of this knife was proscribed by Act XXXV of 1854 in consequence of the deadly use made of it by fanatical Mappillas. END OF NOTEs
h) Sovereign, merchantship over the four classes (cheri), who were probably all foreigners ; Jews and Christians were certainly two of the classes ; another of them may have been the Islanders or Cingalese (Dvipar, Divar, Tiyar, and Simhalar, Sihalar, Ilavar) ; the fourth were Chettis (East Coast merchants) or Arabs, or perhaps Chinese.
(i) Right of proclamation.
(j) Forerunners in processions.
(k) The five musical instruments.
(l) Lordship over the oil-makers and. the five kinds of artificers, that i.e., the carpenter, blacksmith, goldsmith, brazier, and tanner.
(m) Brokerage and customs of all general classes of goods. — The phrases used (Deed No. 2, Appendix XII) in describing the articles to which this privilege extended are noteworthy : “all that may be measured by the para (bushel), weighed by the balance, stretched by the line, of all that may be counted or carried.” This is almost an exact reproduction of the phrase so familiar to Roman jurists : Quote pondere, numero, mensurave, constant, and it has been suggested in a foot note to the deed that perhaps the currency of the phrase at Kodungallur (Cranganore, alias Mouziris) is traceable back to the time of the Roman trade with that city.
But the interest in. the deeds does not end here ; and deed No. 32 in particular is replete with allusions to the state of society then prevailing. Put into few words the transaction therein recorded seems to have been this : Maruvan Sapir Iso had obtained a “water” grant of some land over which one or more headmen of the Christian community (Palliyar) already had some (inferior) claims. He bought up their existing privileges, and transferred to certain persons, with the sanction of the authorities, the superior title he himself had acquired. It is in regard to the notice of the various rights and privileges thus bought up and convoyed that the interest in the deed seems to culminate.
NOTEs: Appendix XII END OF NOTEs
A good deal has already been said (pp. 110 to 113) about the light which this deed (No. 3) seems to throw on the origin of the Hindu caste system, and it is unnecessary to repeat it here. The deed itself was executed with the "concurrence” of
(a) The local chieftain (Travancore).
(b) His next heir.
(c) His officers.
(d) His ministers.
(e) The “Six hundred.”
(f) The neighbouring lords ; and with the “sanction” of
(g) The Perumal or suzerain.
Moreover the “Six hundred,” that is, the Nayar congregation of the nad, were associated with the Jewish and Christian communities (Anjuvannam and Manigramam) in the protection of the subordinate community of Christians founded by this deed. The reason of this seems to have been that the “Six hundred” were always on the spot, while Anjuvannam and Manigramam were a long way off. The church in question is understood to have been situated at Southern Kollam (Quilon), or somewhere in South Travancore territory, while Anjuvannam and Manigramam lay at Cranganore some miles north of Cochin.
It will be noted further that in addition to the “sanction" of the Perumal, the “concurrence” of the various persons detailed above was considered necessary to complete the formality of the grant. Why was this? The answer seems to be plain enough. The local chieftain (Travancore) was evidently the headman of the local “Six hundred.”
Until Maruvan Sapir Iso obtained from the Perumal this “water” grant the local chief and the local “Six hundred” were the protectors of this as well as of the other territory of their nad, and, most probably, entitled as such to the Pati's share of the produce. If this was so, it will be seen that the Perumal was bound in justice to make this grant only after he had ascertained that such proposals—transfer to the Jewish and Christian corporate bodies of the protection trust, and along with it the Pati's share of the produce—would be agreeable to the authorities of the nad. The neighbouring lords were probably individuals who had already received similar “water” grants of other bits of the nad.
The following is a list of the rights and privileges noticed in this deed. Some of those are obscure in meaning, and possibly further research may show that some of the terms have been misunderstood.
NOTEs: 1. It would seem that a share of the earnings of all classes formed part of the Perumal’s revenue, and this is in accordance with the usage in some Hindu States down to the present day.
2. Conf. pp. 110-13 and Chapter IV, Section (a)
3. Conf. p. 221. END OF NOTEs
The light thrown by these deeds on the state of society as it existed in the eighth and ninth centuries A.D. exhibits a community in a very advanced state of organisation. At the head of all was the Kon or King or Perumal—drawing from the land a share of the produce of the soil called the Ko-pad's share (varam). Another share of the produce went to the Pati (over-lord) intermediary between the Kon and the actual landholder. The Pati, it seems, was not any particular person, but a body corporate of the Jews in their municipal township of Anjuvannam and of the Christians in their’s of Manigramam, and (inferentially) of the Nayars in their corporation called the ‘‘ Six hundred”. But each body corporate had a hereditary headman or chieftain.
These bodies corporate seem to have constituted the political back-bone of the country, and their particular functions in the State were those of protecting and of supervising to which several allusions have already1 been made.
NOTEs: 1 Pages 87 to 90, 111-12, 131 to 133, 168. END OF NOTEs
But whom did they “protect,” and whom did they "supervise”? The Keralolpatti expressly says their duty was “to prevent the rights from being curtailed or suffered to fall into disuse,” and what has already been said about the organisation of the caste system seems to make it certain that their function in the body politic was to keep every one in the place allotted to him by hereditary descent, i.e., by caste, and to see that he fulfilled his hereditary functions.
And, more than this, their duty as supervisors (Kanak -kar)—the men of the “eye”, the “hand” and the “order” as the Keralolpatti calls them-entitled them to a share2 in the produce of the land while collecting the Kon's (king’s) share, the public land revenue in fact.
NOTEs: 2. The Kana-pattam (Kanampat-varam = the share of the man who had Kanam authority, i.e., the share of the supervising caste of Nayars). The bearing of this on the question of land tenures is most important, and will be stated in its proper place. END OF NOTEs
It is easy to understand, then, how this “protecting” and “supervising” caste of Nayars spread themselves over the face of the land in the positions in which they are still to be found. And it is further easy to understand how society, organised on such lines as these, was capable of enduring almost unchanged through the long centuries which elapsed before their country finally fell under the sway of foreign rulers.
There is one other point which requires more than a passing notice here.
In deed No. 2 the witnesses are thus cited:—“With the knowledge of the two Brahman divisions of Panniyur and Chowaram village have we given it, etc.” There is no such attesting clause to deed No. 1, nor is there any such to deeds Nos. 3 and 4.
Now these two Brahman divisions or villages, as they are called, are the two well-known Nambutiri Brahman factions of the Panniyur (literally, pig village) and Chovur (literally, Siva village) already alluded to (p. 120). These facts seem to throw some light on the much-disputed point as to when the Vedic Brahman irruption into Malabar occurred, and such facts as are available on this point may conveniently be here brought together.
It is certain that when Hwen Thsang, the Chinese pilgrim, visited Southern India east of the ghats in A.D. 629-45, he either found no Vedic Brahmans at all, or they were in such numbers and influence as not to deserve mention. The “sectaires nus” whom he met in large numbers were, as Dr. Burnell was the first to point out, Digambara Jains, i.e., adherents of the 24th Tirthamkar.
In deed No. 1—the Jew's deed—the Brahman factions were not cited as witnesses. This happened about the beginning of the eighth century A.D.
In A.D. 774 they attested the deed No. 2.
They were not cited as witnesses to deed No. 3 of date about 822-24 A.D.
Now the communities founded by deeds Nos. 1 and 2 were located at the Perumal’s head -quarters at Kodungallur (Cranganore), while by No. 3 was founded a Christian community located somewhere in South Travancore. Down to the present day no Nambutiri family of pure birth has settled to the south of the Quilon river in South Travancore. The Travancore Rajas have “in vain tried by every means in their power to induce them to reside there.” (Day’s Land of the Perumauls, p. 23; Mateer’s “Land of Charity,” p. 29.)
The table given at pages 117-18 shows that they congregate most largely in the Calicut, Ernad, Walluvanad and Ponnani taluks of Malabar, and in the Cochin territory and in North Travancore they are also to be found in large numbers. These tracts constituted very nearly the whole of the portion of the Malabar coast first named1 as Keralam in the Keralolpatti, and the chief seat of the Kerala Perumal was at Kodungallur (Cranganore), where were located the headquarters of the Jewish and Christian communities.
NOTEs: 1 Page 221. END OF NOTEs
But reasons have already been assigned (pp. 223-24) for thinking that the territory over which the Kerala Perumal finally ruled was this very tract styled Keralam (Putupattanam to Kannetti), in which the Brahmans settled most thickly. It is not an unnatural inference consequently that the Brahmans arrived in the declining day's of the Perumals, and as they were powerful enough to be cited with Travancore and other chieftains as witnesses to deed No. 2, and do not appear along with the same chieftains as witnesses to deed No. 1, it may also be inferred that they became a power in the land somewhere between the early years of the eighth century and the year A.D. 774.
Moreover in North Malabar, where they have settled very sparsely, one of their villages (Peiyannnr) has adopted the law2 of inheritance customary among Hindus on the coast. And it is noteworthy that the Muhammadans settled there (Mappillas) have done the same thing. The Peiyannnr village is near the extreme north of the Northern Kolattiri’s ancient domain. This looks as if the Brahman immigrants coming from the north along the coast had only been permitted to settle down in those parts after adopting the laws peculiar to it.
NOTEs: 2. Marumakkatayam or descent in the female line to the exclusion of the male. END OF NOTEs
Very probably this demand to conform to the customs of the country did not suit them. Their non-settlement in the country of the Southern Kolattiri (Travancore) is also noteworthy in this connection.
One of the last acts of Cheraman Perumal was (according to the Keralolpatti) to confer separate dominions on the Northern and Southern Kolattiris. The Northern Kolattiri was employed apparently in driving back invaders coming by the way of the coast, and the Southern Kolattiri had evidently guarded the southern passes for some generations. If the Northern Kolattiri, after driving back the invaders, allowed Brahman immigrants to settle down in his dominions only on condition that they changed their habits of life and conformed to the custom of the country, it is not difficult to understand how the Brahmans refrained altogether from settling down in the Southern Kolattiri (Travancore) domains.
This, too, points in the same direction, namely, to the settlement of the Nambutiri Brahmans on the coast somewhere about the time of the last of the Perumals.
Turning next to native traditions other than Malayali, there are in the Mackenzie MSS, two separate accounts current in the early years of the present century among the Canarese and among the Mahrattas.
The Canarese account, taken from the St’hala Mahatmyam of Banavasi, relates how one Mayura Varmma, a Kadamba king of Banavasi, impressed with reverence for a Brahman who refused to eat in a country where no Brahmans were settled, established this man in his capital. Mayura Varmma’s son, called Chandrangatan, it is said, called in a large colony of Brahmans and located them in Kerala, in Tuluva, Haigiri, Concana and Corada.
The Kerala Brahmans are said to use Malayalam. It was after this so it is further said, that Parasu Raman came1 to the country, bringing with him sixty-four families, among whom he established his own Vaidika (ascetical) system.
NOTEs: 1 Conf. p. 221. END OF NOTEs
The Mahratta account states that Parasu Raman turned the Boyijati (fisherman2 caste) into Brahmans in order to people Keralam. They were to summon him from Gokarnam, whither he had retired, if they had any cause of sorrow or regret.
NOTEs: 2. Probably intended as a slur on the origin of the Nambutiris. In Malabar also there are indications of some such tradition having been at one time current. END OF NOTEs
They summoned him unnecessarily and he cursed them and “condemned them to lose the power of assembling together in council, and to become servile. They accordingly mingle with Sudra females and became a degraded race.”
“About this time one Mayura Varmma, considering these Brahmans to be contemptible, sent for others from Hai-Kshetram and located them at different places in his dominions.” Mayura Varmma was a Kadamba king, and was “selected,” so the tradition runs, to rule over “Kerala and Caurashtaka Desam.”
Both traditions,3 it will be seen, credit the Kadamba king Mayura Varmma with having been mainly instrumental in introducing Vedic Brahmans into Keralam, and it is known from other reliable sources that Mayura1 Varmma was the first of a resuscitated dynasty of Kadamba kings, one of whom (Tailapa) reigned from A.D 1077 to 1108.
NOTEs: 3. For further notices of the tradition as current among the Canarese, both Jains and Brahmans, see Buchanan's Mysore, Canara and Malabar, Volume II, pp. 225, 259, 269, 270, 270, Madras edition, 1870.
1. There was a second of the name, but his date is much later, long after the time when, from deed No. 2, it is known for certain that the Vedic Brahmans were firmly settled in Malabar. END OF NOTEs
Calculating back from these dates through the sixteen generations which had elapsed between Mayura Varmma’s time and Tailapa’s, and allowing twenty-four years as an average,2 Mayura Varmma’s accession may be placed in the last years of the seventh or beginning of the eighth century A.D. This again points to the Vedic Brahman immigration having been in the early years of the eighth century A.D., and to their having come into Malabar by way of the coast from the Tula country (South Canara).
NOTEs: 2. This is a fair average for Indian kings of this class. END OF NOTEs
Until better evidence is forthcoming, therefore, it may be concluded from the above facts and traditions that the “God-compelling” Vedic Brahmans, with their mantrams, and spells, and doctrine of salvation for deceased persons through the efficacy of their sacrifices, came in the wake of the conquering Western Chalukyas and Rashtrakutas and their allies. The former were Vaishnavites and their emblem was a boar, and the Panniyur (pig village) faction of the Nambutiris no doubt was at first in a position of equality with the Saivite faction, but the Rashtrakutas were chiefly Saivites, and the Chovur faction of the Nambutiris managed in the end to get the ascendency.
To this day the latter party assert that the Panniyur faction is, as already stated (p. 120), excluded from the Vedas altogether. At the time of deed No. 2 (A.D. 774) both factions seem to have been in power in Malabar.
There is only one other matter to be pointed out in connection with these deeds. The privileges granted thereby were princely privileges, and that such favours were conferred on foreigners engaged in trade like the Jews and Christians is matter for remark.
Such privileges are not usually to be had for the asking, and the facts set forth in this section seem to point to their having been granted - in the case of the Jews’ deed (No. I), at or very near the time3 when the Western Chalukya raids into Southern India resulted in the dismemberment of the Pallava kingdom, and its three confederate and apparently subordinate dynasties of which Kerala was one ; and in the case of the Christians deed (No. 2), at or very near the time4 when the Rashtrakuta invasions of Southern India had resulted in the final subjugation of the Pallava dynasty of Kanchi (Conjeeveram).
NOTEs: 3. Conf. pp. 262-3.
4. Conf. pp. 263-5.END OF NOTEs
Indeed in the latter case the date of the deed (A.D. 774) falls in the reign of Dhruva, the Rashtrakuta who hemmed in the Pallava host between his own army and the sea, and who, after despoiling them of their fighting elephants, seems to have let the opposing host go free in shame and contumely after making their sovereign “bow down before him'.”
At such times money would be required in large sums to buy off opposing hosts, and it is not therefore an improper inference to draw from the facts that, in offering assistance in this shape, the trading foreigners met the Perumal’s wishes, and naturally enough secured at the same time for themselves a higher standing in the land in which they traded.
A few years1 later it may be further noted—about the time of deed No. 3—fresh invasions of Kerala took place. It was, as the Keralolpatti tradition indicates, threatened from two sides at once. The Northern Kolattiri chief was appointed by the Perumal to stop the invaders—probably Kadambas or some other feudatory of the Rashtrakutas - coming along the coast from the north, while the raid from the east via the Palghat gap, probably by the Gangas or other feudatories of the Rashtrakutas, seems to have been defeated by the Eradi chiefs of the Zamorin’s house.
NOTEs: 1. Conj. p. 265. END OF NOTEs
How this last exploit led to the exaltation of the latter family, to the last Perumal’s flight to Arabia, and to the sinking into humble rank of his family—the present Cochin2 Raja’s dynasty—has already been set forth in the preceding section.
NOTEs: 2. The Jews, it will be noted—Dr. Gundert's note to deed No. 1—have preserved the tradition that the Cochin Raja was the last Perumal’s lawful heir. END OF NOTEs
There can be little doubt that it was at this time (first half of the ninth century A.D.) that the Malayalam-speaking races became consolidated within the limits which they occupy down to the present day. At the time mentioned, as these deeds show, Malayalam and Tamil were practically one language, at least in their written form. From that time forward Malayalam and the Malayalam races began to draw apart from Tamil and the races east of the ghats.
Shut in by their mountain walls except at the Palghat gap, the Malayalis became in time a distinct race, and, owing to their excellent political constitution, which on the one hand kept them free from the aggressions of their neighbours, and on the other hand maintained steadfastly among themselves the ancient order of things, there is little wonder that they presented through many succeeding centuries the example of a Hindu community of the purest and most characteristic type.