Showing posts with label Tamil Nadu. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tamil Nadu. Show all posts

Friday, March 13, 2015

Tirunelveli Region Travelogue (Pandyan Yatra 2015) Part 3.2: Kalugumalai Jain Monastery

Picture courtesy: Bhusavalli Pandyan Yatra 2015 Kalugumalai Jain Monastery

Kazhugumalai Jain Monastery 

Kalugumalai is an ancient Jain heritage site that has the natural cavern with rock beds where Jain ascetics observed vigorous penance and an academic center for imparting knowledge in Jain theology for 300 years during early Pandya regime. A veritable open-air gallery of diminutive sculptures of Jina or Tirthankara in three long rows, bold relief panels of Jinas - Adinatha, Parsvanatha, Mahavira, Bahubali, Ambika Yakshi and Padmavati Yakshi. The open-air bas relief is an ensemble of over one hundred and fifty images sculpted with great skills on top of the granite rocky expanse.

The Jain ascetics,  sravakas (disciple), male scholars (bhttarars) and women scholars (kurattigal or nuns) from far off places in Tamilakam traveled to Kalugumalai and stayed in the natural caverns and resolved to spend their lives in splendid isolation, engaging themselves in contemplation and religious pursuits. They also taught or learned Jain theology and propagated Jainism from the 8th century A.D.  Kalugumalai is a "must go place" if you like Jain heritage and architecture. The name Kalugumalai (vultures' hill) originated quite recently i.e, about 200 years or less.

History of Jainism under Early Pandya Reign

It is important, for one who knows little about Jainism, to understand the history of Jainism under early Pandya reign to realize the intense rivalry of vedic or brahminical religion and the up-rise of the Bakthi movement and the hostile conditions under which Jains have survived and maintained and practiced their religion.

The 24 Tirthankaras or Arihants or Jinas were instrumental in spreading the doctrines of Jainism. Among the 24 Tirthankaras the first 22 were mythological personages and Parswantaha the 23rd Tirthankara (877–777 B.C.) and Mahavira the 24th Tirthankara (599 –527 B.C.) were the historical personages. The Sruktakevalin Badrabahu (433 - 357 BC ?) and Vaisaka Munivar, the last two pattadhars or disciples of Mahavira (totally 11 pattadhars or disciples),  were instrumental in founding Jainism in Tamil Nadu, especially in the early Pandya country. On foreseeing famine in large magnitude, Badrabahu left the Kingdom of Magada with the Maurya King Chandragupta (340 BC - 298 BC) and the Jain followers and reached Sravanabelagola in Mysore. Badrabahu acted as the Jain Acharya (religious head) of the Jains. From Sravanabelagola Badrabahu sent his disciple, Vaisaka Munivar, to the neighboring Chola and Pandya kingdoms to spread the gospel of Jainism to the laity.  It is believed that these mendicants reached the Pandya country first as early as the Sangam period - around 300 B.C. The Pandya rulers of the Sangam era were tolerant and broad minded in their religious prospect and hence all religions including Jainism prospered during their reign.

Mahavamsa, a Buddhist text affirms that Jainism was followed in Tamil Nadu even before the 3rd century B.C. Some other scholars believe that Jainism entered South India well before the visit of Bhadrabahu and Chandragupta around 6th century B.C. During 3rd century A.D. Digambara, a sect of Jainism with nudist adherents, recognized itself from the Svetambara, another sect with white-clad adherents. Digambara monks observed full monastic life  and the female wore white clothes and called as Aryikas. The Mula sangh (original assembly) was the ancient assembly and monastic order of Jain monks came from 430 A.D. and this Mula sangh was divided into four major groups: 1. Nandi Gana (நந்தி கணம்), 2. Sena Gana (சேன கணம்),  3. Deva Gana (தேவ கணம்) and 4. Simha Gana (சிம்ம கணம்). Every Gana had sub-sects such as Kachai (கச்சை) and Anvayam (அனுவயம்). The Pallankoil copper plate (பல்லன் கோயில் செப்பேடு) mentions about Vajra Nandi (வஜ்ர நந்தி), the Chief Jain monk Nandi Gana. Another Chola inscription refers about Gani Sekara Maruporsuryan, name of Jain monk from Nandi Gana. Tirugnana Sambandar (திருஞான சம்மந்தர்) in one of his Tevaram hymns (தேவாரம் பதிகம்) cites few monks such as  Kanaka Nandi, Putpa Nandi, Bhavana Nandi, Kumanama Sunaka Nandi, Kunaka Nandi and Dhivana Nandi from Nandi Gana. Bhava Nandi is the author who composed the Tamil Grammar work.

    ‘‘கனக நந்தியும் புட்ப நந்தியும் பவண நந்தியும் குமணமா
    சுனக நந்தியும் குணக நந்தியும் திவண நந்தியும் மொழிகொளா
    அனக நந்தியர்’’

Dramila Sanga (திரமிள சங்கம்) or Dravida Sanga (திராவிட சங்கம்) branched from Nandi Gana and Vajra Nandi was instrumental in instituting Dravida Sanga in Madurai in 470 A.D. (Vikrama year விக்கிரம ஆண்டு - 526).

However the splendid era of Jainism reached its down-slope due to intense rivalry between the vedic or brahminical religions and the up-rise of the Bhakti movement (பக்தி இயக்கம்) in Tamilakam (தமிழகம்) during 7th century  influenced the decline of Jainism in the 7th century A.D. Soon Jainism recovered from the adversities and it became a religion accommodating of the practices from brahmanical religion to withstand religious animosity and the sectarian rancor.

Jain Iconography

Jainism and Jain iconography attached much importance to ritualistic practices and idolatry worship of Jina, Arihant, or 24 Tirthankaras. Jain iconography depicts Tirthankara or Jina appear seated in a lotus posture on the lion throne or standing meditative posture (kayotsarga). The Tirthankaras generally have a triangular mole symbol (Sri-vatsa mark) on their chest, a triple umbrella and a circular halo (radiant light drawn around the head) above their heads and a distinctive lanchana or symbol indicated on the pedestal. The lanchanas are listed in such texts as Tiloyapannati, Kahavaali and Pravacanasaarodhara. Unless the conspicuous lanchana of Tirthankara shown or his name finds mention in dedicatory inscriptions, it is not possible to differentiate the specific Tirthankara image. Two exceptions are there: Parsvanatha identified with five hooded serpent and Adinatha (Rishabanatha) with lock falling on his shoulders.

The early ascetic-abodes in natural cavern (wherein iconic and ritualistic worship of Tirthankaras and their attendant deities received little attention  till about the 6th century A.D.) lost their prominence in the wake of Bhakti movement.  Yaksha and yakshini, or male and female Sasana-devatas or demigods or attendant / guarding spirits, who are also the devotees the Tirthankaras. According to Jain belief, Indra appoints one Yaksha and one Yakshini to serve as attendants for each Tirthankara. Soon the cult of Yakhas like Yaksharaja (Sarvahna or Sarvanubhuti) and Dharanendra Yaksha as well as Yakshis like Ambika, Chakreswari Devi, Jvalamalini, Padmavati Yakshini became popular. 

Several Jaina cavern in Pandyan region including Anamalai, Alagarmalai, Aivarmalai, Chitaral, Kilakuyilkudi,  Kalugumalai, Tirupparankunram, Uttamapalayam etc could be mentioned as the best examples for such new development.  Further to this Jain monks like Ajjanandi bhatarar, Gunasahara bhatara, Kanakanandi bhatara of Kurandai, Pavanandi bhatara, Arattanemi bhatarar, Vajranandi  and few others played the predominant role in spreading Jainism and Jain iconography and speeding up its growth. (SII, Vol. XIV, No. 102; Vol. 5, Nos. 310, 311, 359, 380, 397 etc.).

Pandya kings like Maran Sendan (-624 A.D.) and Arikesari Parankusa (624-674 A.D.) reposed strong faith in Jainism and the later Pandya rulers like Srimara Srivallabha (811-860 A.D) and Parantaka Viranaryana (866-911 A.D), lent adequate support to Jainism and Jain iconography. The inscriptions of Parantaka Viranarayana found at Kalugumalai as well as in Anaimalai, Arivarmalai and Arittapatti speak about the growth of monastic establishments here.

Kalugumalai Jain Bas Relief Images

Lisa Nadine Owen in her monograph, 'Demarcating sacred space: The Jina images at Kalugumalai' published in International Journal of Jaina Studies. 6 (4): 2010. pp 1 -28, explored the types arrangement of approximately one hundred and fifty independent bas relief sculptures of Jinas and Jain deities on the surface of its rock formations in Kalugumalai accompanied by individual donative inscriptions. The rectangular or square niches present the bas relief images. The author represented five separate  groups of images, based on the directional approach - the order in which one views the bas reliefs from north-west to south-east and not based on the chronology order i.e, from ninth or early tenth century A.D. (chronology as viewed by the author) for further analysis and discussion.

Group 1

From the Sastha temple you may find steps leading to the lone panel of Jina / Tirthankara. The rock face is enclosed within barbed wire fence. Lisa Owen categorizes this lone Jina / Tirthankara as Group 1. The deeply hewn niche measures about four feet in height. The Jina appear seated on lion pedestal with an elaborate throne back comprising a bolster and crossbar decorated with makara and vyla motifs at both the ends.  Behind the crossbar two fly-whisk bearers come out into view; also two more ardent male followers located at the sides of throne base. The Jina is crowned by the triple umbrella (chattra). The Tirthankara is seated under the broader canopy of foliage curls. The five foliage circle motifs are arranged in a semi-circle form and the middle circle bear the figurine of dancing girl and the four other circles bear four male musicians (two of the playing long string instrument and two others beat the drum with a pair of cymbals. The ethereal figures appear on top and to the sides of Jina with hands holding the lotus flowers and offering homage. Also figurines in a panel depicting a horse rider and an emerging elephant. Date assigned by the author - ninth or early tenth century.

Group 2 Jain Image Panels

Group 2

To the south - east of Group 1, five panels appear on a rock face just behind an Ayyanar temple. Lisa Owen assigns these panels as Group 2. The Ayyanar temple complex presents Ayyanar, Tamil village folk (prime) deity, gigantic and colorful statues of companion deities of Ayyanar seen mounted on horses or elephants. The Ayyanar temple, constructed about 100 years before the rock face, prevents from viewing the Group 2 and Group 3 panels.  Three distinctly bold panels, striking iconographic resemblance with Group 1 panels, are arranged horizontally across the rock face. The iconographic elements include lion throne, triple umbrella, halo, tree, fly-whisk attendants, standing devotees etc. The panel at the far left strikes precise similitude with the Jina appearing in Group I panel including five foliage circles bearing the dancer, musicians, horse riders and the elephant at the center. Above these two bolder bas reliefs, a long panel bears the series of seven diminutive images of  Jinas appear seated on double lotus seat (lion throne absent) and crowned by triple umbrella. The Group 2 images are accompanied with donative inscriptions.

Group 3

The panels of bas reliefs forming Group 3,  arranged on the broader rock face, are available somewhere contiguous to Group 2 panels.  The Group 3 major panels present both kinds i.e, individual Jinas appear seated on thrones as well as Jinas / Tirthankaras appear in series. Also there are minor panels which include lone Tirthankara figurines with triple umbrella and double lotus seat.

Group 3 Jain Image Panels
Parsvanatha Panel:

Parsvanatha, the twenty third Tirthankara and the historic personage who lived in the 8th century B.C. He was the the son of King Ashvasena and Queen Vamanadevi of Varanasi and was the prince of Ikshavaku dynasty. The prince abdicated at the age of thirty and became an ascetic. He attained kevalagnana (absolute knowledge) and became the twenty-third Tirthankara or Jina. He is recognized with the blue hue and a seven hooded serpent. He appears with his Yaksha  Dharaṇendra and Yakshi Padmavati.

An interesting legend about the previous life of Parsvanatha reveals his association with his Yaksha,  Yakshi and Kamdan. The Jina in his previous life attempted to protect a pair of serpents from being burnt in sacrificial fire of a brahmin. The Jina reborn as 23rd Tirthankara and the serpents were also reborn as Naga King Dharanendra and Naga Queen Padmavati.  The brahmin also reborn as a demon Kamdan. Kamdan was disturbing the Jina from attaining Kevalagnana and engaged in attacking with fire, torrential

Group 3 Parsvanatha Panel

Bahubali (Sankrit) aka Gommatesvara (Kannada) Panel

Bahubali is an outstanding name in the Jain legends. He was the second of the hundred sons of the first Tirthankara, Adinatha. The warrior prince fought with his on brother Bharata for the share of his father's kingdom. He conquered everything from his brother and could have become an emperor; instead he returned everything to the brother and chose the ascetic life and proceeded to the forest to perform asceticism. While he was in meditation for longer duration, the vines encircled all through his body. Though he attained kavalagnana, he never prophesy Samavasarana. Hence he is not considered as Tirthankara. The panel depicts Bahubali covered with vine creeper all over his legs and appear with two of his female attendants (Vidyadhari).

Group 3 Bahubali Panel

There is an iconographic convention of  pairing of Parsvanatha and Bahubali and the combination is prominent in the Jain caves at Aihole (7th century) and at Ellora (9th century) and other places including Kalugumalai.

After Group 3 panels the rock face shows a smooth bend and the huge tree with its projected branches provide shade. The panels of Groups 4 and 5 are noticed around the rock surface.

Group 4

Group 4 Jain Image Panels
The shallow depth panels bearing the bas reliefs, forming Group 4, are sculpted on the rock face in the lower right corner and the rock formation above the panels is shaped like a canopy.  The shelter appears like a natural cavern and the same could have been modified subsequently as panels of Jina bas relifs. The panels measuring about two feet depth and the central panel presents three Tirthankaras appear seated on double lotus seat and crowned by triple umbrella. The central panel is flanked by Bahubali and Parsvanatha appear standing in separate panels. Four more Jinas appear seated on the left corner panels and the right corner panels also present seated Jinas. The bas relifs are accompanied by donative inscriptions.

Group 5

The huge rock face presents highest number of bas reliefs forming Group 5 panels are nearer to this rock face. Panoramic array of sculpted panels are located on the far right side and are arranged in three rows and depict the seated Jinas on double lotus seat or lion throne and crowned by triple umbrella. Few panels also depict tanding Jinas with the respective iconographic style. Some othe bas reliefs of Jinas situated on the far left side of the rock face appear incomplete.

Group 5 Largest Jain Panels

Yakshi Padmavati Panel
Two Group 5 panels are also dedicated to Yakshi Ambika and Padmavati. Padmavati is adorned with karanda makuta and appear seated on single lotus pedestal in Lalitasana posture under five serpent hoods. The yakshi holds the fruit and rosary in her lower left and right hands and the upper hands hold a goad and a snake. Her panel is taller than the panels of her attendants. Two female attendants appear with flywhisks.

Yakshi Ambika, Husband, 2 Children & Lion

Yakshi Ambika aka Kusmandini attendant (Sasanadevi) to Tirthankara Neminatha occupies the pivotal position in Jain iconography. The cult of Ambika is popular during 7th - 12th century A.D. She appear in an exclusive panel with her husband and two children, a lion (simha) as her vehicle, and the holy tree 'kalpavriksha (areca nut tree).' 'Her husband is shown with a hand raised and his face has no detailing so as to depict his awe and the glare from her "golden appearance" falling on him.'

Legend of Ambika: Ambika and her two children were banished from the house by her husband Somasarman since she offered food (intended for sraddha ceremony) to the Jain monk. While her banishment they were feeling hungry and by divine intervention a mango tree and a water body came to their sight and they ate mangoes. Some miraculous events at Ambika's houehold turned her husband to justify Ambika's actions for a noble cause. Hence he decided to call his family back to his home. On seeing her husband Ambika got frightened and tried to hide herself. She died while hiding from her husband. Ambika was reborn as Sasanadevi to Neminatha Tirthankara. After the death her husband also reborn as her lion vehicle.

Kalugumalai Inscriptions (Vatteluttu)
The Jain Monastery at Kazhugumalai has 100 Vattezhuthu (வட்டெழுத்து) inscriptions (SII Vol V, No. 308 - SII Vol V, No. 406; Epi. Ind., Vol. XV, f.. n. 6.) and they are inscribed below the bas reliefs as label inscriptions.


From the available inscriptions it is inferred by scholars that they belong to different period. They have been generally ascribed to 8th century A.D. However K.V.Ramesh, eminent Epigraphist and former Joint Director-General of Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) assigns them to the 10th - 11th century A.D.

Records, Messages

The prime Jaina deity at Kalugumalai Jain monastery referred to in the inscriptions as Araimalai Alvar of Tirunechuram (SII Vol.V, No. 357, 361). There are about one hundred and fifty sacred images (bas reliefs) were caused to be made by the followers of Jain faith (Tamil Jains) from a number of adjacent villages. The sacred images were caused to be made for the merit of their parents, bhttarars, kurattigal, village elders, Pandya officials and others. The largest donor was Pandya King Maran Sadayan who donated 17 sacred images. Among the other donors include the artisans like carpenters, potters, smiths as well as cultivators and others. Tirunechuram (திருநேச்சுரம்) was also referred to as Ilanechuram (இளநேச்சுரம்) vide an epigraph (SII, Vol. V, No. 369) as well as Perunechuram (பெருநேச்சுரம்) vide epigraph (SII, Vol. V, No. 361). 

The Kalugumalai monastery marked the revival of Jainism in Pandya country. Gunasahara bhattarar (குணசாஹர பட்டாரர்) of Tirunechuram was probably the chief among the monks looking after Jain establishments as well as endowments at Kalugumalai (ARE 117/1894, SII, Vol. V, No. 406). His  disciples administered the academic functions and services. Inscriptions refer to the order of monks and nuns in the Digambara Jain monasticism in Kalugumalai. An Acharya (ஆச்சாரியா) is the highest leader of a Jain order. Upadhyaya (உபாத்யாயா) is the learned monk, who both teaches and studies himself.  Bhattara (பட்டாரா) or Bhattarar (பட்டாரர்) is the male disciple or monk and Bhattari (பட்டாரி) is the female disciple or nun (SII, Vol. V, No. 356). A Muni (முனி) is an ordinary ascetic and Aryikas (ஆரீக) is an ordinary woman ascetic. Women disciples referred as Manakkigal (மாணாக்கிகள்) and women teachers as Kurattigal (குத்திகள்). Jain scholars and teachers (monks and nuns) from far-off Jain abodes and monasteries such as  Tirumalai, (திருமலை), Tirupparuttikunram (Jina Kanchi) (திருப்பருத்திக்குன்றம்), Perumandur (பெருமாண்டூர்), and Tirunarungondai (திருநறுங்கொண்டை),   traveled to Kalugumalai to pursue and propagate Jain theology and stayed in the natural caverns.  (SIL, Vol. V, Nos. 333, 334, 341,345, 355, 356,369, 371, 372, 373.) -  Tiruchara-nattuk-kurattigal (திருச்சார நாட்டுக் குரத்திகள்) (SII, Vol. V. No. 324, 326); Nalkur Kurattigal (நால்கூர் குரத்திகள்) (SII, Vol. V. No. 355, 356);  Ilanechuram Kurattigal (இளநேச்சுரக் குரத்திகள்)  (SII, Vol. V. No. 369); Kurattigal of Tirumalai (திருமலைக் குரத்திகள்) (SII, Vol. V. No. 370); Kurattigal of Tiruparutti(kundru) (திருப்பருத்திக்குன்றக் குரத்திகள்) (SII, Vol. V. No. 372); Milalur kurattigal (மிழலூர்க் குரத்திகள்) (SII, Vol. V. No. 394); Kurattigal of Kudarkudi (குன்றக்குடிக் குரத்திகள்) (SII, Vol. V. No. 396). It is believed from the Jaina inscriptions in Kalugumalai and others that the Jain theology classes could be coeducational and that ocassionally nuns served as teachers. (SII Vol. III, No.92 and SII Vol. V, No. 308 - 407). Nuns were students of male monks:
  1. Kurattigal (lady teachers) of Ilanechuram, disciples of Tirtha bhttara (SII, Vol. V. No. 369)
  2. Kurattigal of Tiruparutti (kunru - Jina Kanchi), the lady disciples of Sri Pattini bhattara (SII, Vol. V. No. 372)
Male Students studied under Woman Teachers (nuns):
  1. Enadi Kuttanan Satti, disciple of the Kurattigal (lady teacher) of Tirumalai (SII, Vol. V. No. 370) 
Women Students under Women Teachers
  1. Nattigabhattarar, the (lady disciple) of Kurattigal (nun) of Nalkur (SII, Vol. V. No. 355)
  2. Nalkur kurattigal, the (lady disciple) of Amalanemi bhattara (lady teachers) of Nalkur (SII, Vol. V. No. 356)
  3. Arattan nemi kurattigal, the lady disciple of Mammiakurattigal (371)
  4. Milalur Kurattigal, the lady disciple of Perurkurattigal who was the d/o Mingaikumaran of Pidangai in Karaikana nadu image (394)
The monastery was also frequented by common public from places like  Alattur (அலத்தூர்), Erahur Pereyirkudi (எலகூர் பெரெயிர்க்குடி), Ilavenbai (இளவெண்பை), Kalakkudi (கலக்குடி), Karaikkudi (காரைக்குடி), Kottaru (கோட்டர்), Kurandi (குறண்டை), Nalkurkudi (நல்கூர்குடி), Pidankudi (பிடங்குடி), Tiruchcharanam etc. 

Jainism condemned caste divisions and respected all humans as equals and the monks encouraged and practiced four forms of charity or dhana - 1.donating food to the needy (அன்னதானம்), 2. imparting education to all (கல்விதானம்), 3. providing medical assistance to the poor (மருத்துவ தானம்) and 4. affording refuge to the helpless (அஞ்சினான் புகலிடம்) - as their important duty. Owing to these, Jainism flourished in ancient Tamil Nadu and the monks brought the religion closer to the Tamil common public. The Tamil Jains influenced and forged the religion, politics, culture and society of the ancient Tamilagam.

Donating food for the needy:   An inscription at Kalugumalai monastery records the construction of a well and the gift of some land for providing some food to the ten  bhattarar expounding Siddhanta, and the Vairagiyar (monks) in the Tirumalai temple at Tirunechuram, by Siddhan of the village at Kadantaikudi, located in Nallur-tumbur kurram. The gift was entrusted with Gunasahara bhattara of Tirunechuram. Mentions some more names connected with the endowment. The Pandya king Varaguna II (Maran Sadaiyan), whose date of accession in 862 A.D. Date: 3rd regnal year (865 A.D.), is identified with  this endowment  (SII Vol V, No. 405).

Another inscription in the same site records some endowment to the deity known as Tirumalaidevar at Tirunechuram by Mahadevan, a resident of the village Perunavalur, located in Nallur - Milalai-kurram for feeding five Vairagiyar (monks - Jaina ascetics) and Bhatarar who expounded Siddanta (Jaina philosophy) to the laity in the temple. The endowment was entrusted to Gunasahara bhattarar of Tirunechuram, who was probably chief among the monks looking after Jaina establishments at Kalugumalai (SII Vol V, No. 406)

The Jain monastery became extinct after 13th century due to loss of Patronage after Pandya kings.

Reference (For Further Studies):

  1. Champakalakshmi, R. Jainism in south India, Delhi, 1974
  2. Desai, P.B. Jainism in South India and Some Jaina Epigraphs, Jainasamskriti Samrakshakasamgha, Sholapur 1957.  
  3. Ekambaranathan, A. Jaina Iconography in Tamilnadu. ed. 1. Shri Bharatvarshiya Digamber Jain (Teert Sanrakshini) Mahasabha, Lucknow.  2002
  4. Ekambaranathan, A.  Jaina Temples of Southern Pandiyanadu.
  5. Ekambaranathan, A. and C.K. Sivaprakasam, Jaina Inscriptions in Tamil Nadu: : A topographical list. Research Foundation for Jainology, Madras 1987. 464p.
    Jainism under early Pandyas. In Encyclopedia of Jainsim
  6. Ekambaranathan, A. Studies in Jainism (Tamil Nadu). Shree Sarita Jain Foundation, Chennai, 2011 
  7. Ghosh, A. (Ed.): Jaina Arts and Architecture, New Delhi, 1974
  8. Kazhugumalai deserves universal recognition.  The Hindu. August 8, 2012.
  9. Lisa N Owen. Demarcating Sacred Space: The Jina Images at Kalugumalai
    Opulent sculptures - Epigraphist V.Vedachalam's forte is the tudy of Jaina sites. Frontline. Vol 25, issue 21. October 11-24, 2008. 
  10. Ravishankar Thiagarajan. Jina Images of Kazhugumalai as seen by Lisa. Site Seminar Talk on 11 Jan 2015 at "Shrinidhi", 12/1 Reserve Bank Colony MG Road, Thiruvanmiyur, Madras 41.  
  11. Sivaramamurti. C.  Kalugumalai and Early Pandyan Rock-cut Shrines
  12. Sripal, tamizakattil jainam, T. S.  Madras, 1975
  13. South Indian Inscriptions (SII), Vol.14. Archaeological Survey of India.
  14. Tamil Jain by Mahima Jain The Hindu December 28, 2013
  15. Tamil Jain Wikipedia
  16. Vijayakumar.S. Engineering Marvel. The Hindu. June 14, 2013.

Dr. Lisa Nadine Owen
Assistant Professor of Art History, School of Visual Arts. University of North Texas
Demarcating Sacred Space: The Jina Images atKalugumalai (10 minutes on video)

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Tamil Brahmi Unicode Font: Adinatha

Adinatha Font Picture Courtesy: Virtual Vinod
History of Tamil Script Wikipedia

Brahmi Unicode and digitization

'Unicode Character Standard provides (encoding) a unique number for every character, no matter what the platform, no matter what the program, no matter what the language.' This computer industry encoding standard encodes scripts rather than language. To be precise, 'more than one language shares a set of symbols that have historically related derivation, the union of the set of symbols of each such language is unified into a single collection identified in a single script.' The Unicode (the "Universal Alphabet") Consortium, a non-profit, charitable organization which develops, maintains and promotes the software internationalization standards and data, particularly the Unicode Standard.  The Consortium works closely with W3C and ISO. The latest electronic version of the Unicode Standard is Version 7.0. This standard specifies the representation of texts in modern software products and standards.

There are the collection of symbols (i.e., scripts serving as inventories of symbols) drawn to write Brahmi. Brahmi was added to the Unicode standard in October 2010 with the release of version 6.0. There is an Unicode Block U+11000–U+1107F specifically developed for Brahmi which lies within Supplementary Multilingual plane. Since from August 2014 two free licence (the Open Font Licence) fonts that support Brahmi are made available: 1. Noto Sans Brahmi from Google which covers all characters; 2. Adinatha which only covers Tamil Brahmi  (dialect of Brahmi)

Adinatha Tamil Brahmi Font

Three Tamil epigraphy enthusiasts namely S/shri Shriramana Sharma Vinod Rajan and Udhaya Sankar have undertaken and brought out the free license Tamil Brahmi font to encourage its utilization among academicians, researchers and professionals as well as to promote its use and (computer) application in epigraphy and digitization. The team of researchers have worked out Adinatha within the Unicode Block U+11000–U+1107F specifically developed for Brahmi. They have imbibed from Early Tamil Epigraphy, the classic work by Iravatham Mahadevan for the shapes of glyphs.

The font is named after Adinatha, the first of the twenty-four tirthankaras who founded the Jainism philosophies and teachings. Only Jain Munis are credited for ushering Brahmi in ancient Tamilakam and applied Brahmi script to document and communicate with the rest of the world. Hence the Jain Munis are bestowed with honor and respect. Since the Unicode font includes both OpenType & Graphite table, they will promote digitization of the inscriptions in Tamil Brahmi in a wide variety of systems . The font package also includes an AAT version for compatibility with OS X applications that do not support OpenType. NHM Writer 2.0 renders software support to Tamil Brahmi.

Tamil Brahmi epigraph
Digitized version of the epigraph using Adinatha Tamil Brahmi font

If interested the font package may be downloaded  here. Also download the font manual or can be read from here.

History of Brahmi and Tamil Brahmi Scripts

The earliest script used in India was Brahmi. The best known inscriptions in Brahmi script are the lithic inscriptions of Ashoka (269 - 232 B.C. ruled over 37 years) discovered in the north central India dated to 3rd - 4th century B.C. The script was used to inscribe edicts in Prakrit language by the Mauryan ruler. As viewed by Iravatham Mahadevan, the Brahmi script was used in Andhra and Karnataka regions as well as in Tamilakam during 3rd century B.C. when Jain and Buddhist monks migrated to the Southern parts of India. Tamil Brahmi is the script variant (dialect) of the Brahmi script (Southern Brahmic alphabet) used in South India to write in Tamil, the language of administration in Tamilakam. Tamils have adopted the Brahmi script to suit the phonetic system of Tamil language and proscribed the imposition of Prakrit language.  

Inscriptions in rock shelters and caves near Madurai were the earliest breakthrough. 'Dates for Tamil-Brahmi as early as the 6th century have been claimed, but all dates before the 3rd century are uncertain or controversial.' Scholars like Iravatham Mahadevan and Y. Subbarayalu hold the view that Tamil-Brahmi was introduced in Tamil Nadu after 3rd century B.C. Few others like K.V. Ramesh, retired Director of Epigraphy, Archaeological Survey of India (ASI)  deliberate the period as Pre-Asokan.

The term `Tamil-Brahmi' is used when the script is in Brahmi but the language is Tamil. The Brahmi script was predominantly used for Prakrit from the Mauryan (Asokan) period. The Brahmi script was brought to the Tamil country in the third century B.C. by the Jain and Buddhist monks during the post-Asokan period.

The three more recent excavations in different places of Tamil Nadu have reignited debate on the date of Brahmi : 1. Urn with human skeleton in it along with miniature pots and Tamil-Brahmi in a rudimentary form inside an urn were discovered  at the Iron Age burial site at Adichanallur in 2005; 2. A cist-burial excavated in 2009 at Porunthal village, 12 km from Palani in Tamil Nadu 3. Kodumanal excavation, near Erode more than 20 pot-sherds with Tamil-Brahmi inscriptions were found in 2012. There are contentious views regarding the origin of Tamil Brahmi. Dr. Satyamurthy claims the Tamil Brahmi script discovered inside the urn at Adichanallur to 5th century B.C. Dr.Rajan considers the Porunthal Tamil script to 490 B.C. based on the paddy grain dating. The 20 pot-sherds with Tamil-Brahmi inscriptions excavated at Kodumanal also the team of three scholars including Dr.Rajan arrive at similar views.

  1.  2200- year-old Tamil-Brahmi inscription found on Samanamalai T.S.Subramanian. The Hindu March 24, 2012 
  2. Adinatha Tamil Brahmi Font in Virtual Vinod.
  3. Brahmi (Unicode Consortium)
  4. Brahmi Script (Wikipedia)
  5. Is Tamil-Brahmi pre-Asokan?
  6. NHM Writer 2.0
  7. Palani excavation triggers fresh debate TS Subramanian August 29, 2011  
  8. Porunthal excavations prove existence of Indian scripts in 5th century BC: expert. Kavita Kishore. The Hindu. October 15, 2011.
  9. Rudimentary Tamil-Brahmi script' unearthed at Adichanallur T.S.Subramanian. The Hindu February 17, 2005.
  10. Tamil Brahmi in Virtual Vinod.
  11. Tamil Brahmi (Wikipedia)  
  12. Tamil-Brahmi script found in village. T..Subramanian. June 28, 2009. 
  13. Tissamaharama Tamil Brahmi inscription (Wikipedia) 
  14. Unicode (Wikipedia)

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Gatti Mudali Dynasty of Salem Region Part 2: Attur Fort

Attur Fort Long View Wikipedia
A Sone Wall of Fort of Attur. Wikipedia
A Construction of Fort of Attur: Wikipedia
A View of the Backside of the Fort Wikipedia

Attur Fort: Various Buildings
The two part series brings out the history of Gatti Mudali dynasty, who ruled parts of Salem, Karur and Erode districts in the 17th century as chieftains underneath the Madurai Nayak dynasty. They held two important strategic forts to guard against invasion from Mysore kingdom: one at Omalur (near Salem) and the other at Attur (near Salem). The part one of the two part series details the history of Gatti Mudalis. This post forms the part two which features of Attur Fort held by Gatti Mudalis.

Attur Fort lies on the banks of River Vasishta (வாசிஷ்டா நதி). Located at Attur (ஆத்தூர்) 32 miles east of Salem, it was built by a local Palayakarar, C.Lakshmana Nayakan (17th Century) and later held by Gatti Mudali, the local Chieftain of this region. Gatti Mudalis strengthened fort with the treasure discovered by him in a bush, while he was hunting.  The iron pot in which the treasure was found still preserved.  The river divides this town into two halves and the land in the south-eastern of the river is known as Pudupet and the north-western part addressed as Attur. During 16th-17th centuries this town was addressed as 'Anantagiri' and till 18th century.  

In 1699 Anantagiri was occupied by  Chikka Deva Raya of Mysore (1673 - 1704 A.D.) as per the treaty concluded by "Lingurajayah with Aurachee". Afterwards Hyder Ali (1721 - 1782 A.D.) the sultan and de facto ruler of the Kingdom of Mysore  seized this fort and held it till 1768 and lost it when Colonel Wood attacked the fort with his British troops. Eventually in the same year Hyder Ali took back the control of the fort after the encounter with colonel Wood. In 1792 there was restoration of peace and Anantagiri served as the garrison for 23rd Madras Battalion with Captain Campbell as the commander. Since Madras Battalion moved to Sankagiri fort, the fort continued to be employed as ordnance depot from 1799 as per the scheme implemented by Lord Robert Clive. The British detachment was housed till 1824 and afterwards the fort ceased to be British armed forces station. Later ASI, Chennai Circle took charge of the fort and maintain it till now. The fort is surrounded by  slums and the people misuse it.

Fort Architecture

The town houses the impressive square shaped fort, built on the north-western side of the river.  The fort occupied about 62 acres. Known as Anantagiri Fort aka Attur Anantagiri Fort, the fortification includes 30 feet tall and 15 feet wide sloped rampart or embankment built with well fitted cut stone with mortar and with glacis or artificial slope to protect the rampart, angled bastions (angular structure with two faces and two flanks projecting outward from the rampart) specifically designed to cover each other from fire protection  and gun batteries. The glacis to the east is overgrown by trees. The south side of the fort is guarded by the river and the other sides are protected by a ditch. The fort gate is in the center of the eastern face. Some of the fort’s important landmarks include a Vishnu temple (appears to be the later construction), a Shiva temple and a shrine of Muniyappan, the guardian of the fort; three fairly large and one modestly small bomb proof chambers in the middle of the fort. It is learned that Gatti Mudalis have used one of the chambers with hemispherical vault or dome as their Kacheri (administrative block). Some other large chamber with the provision of inner court seems to be the harem or residential domain of Gatti Mudalis. The pleasure manor of Gatti Mudali decorated with pillared roof with obtuse pointed arches is located on the south face of the rampart. Adjacent to this there is a concealed water gate leading to the river and this structure is comfortably hidden and  well defended. Similar water gate provision was also made on the northern part of the fort and leads to the ditch. Some of the parts of the fort are in dilapidated condition.  The ditch and ramparts are undergoing more and more damages. Two years back an amount of Rs.7 lakhs were allocated for the renovation of Kachery and the other hall. However the fencing work for the fort is completed in total. 

John Murray's Tomb
There are few Tamil, Grantha, Sanskrit and Telugu inscriptions found in damaged state in this fort. An inscription by Anne Murray wife of John Murray, Commander of the first batalion of the East India Company informs   about the death of John Murray in May 6, 1799.

long felt demand of residents of Attur, historians and scholars is to state government for announcing this monument as tourist place.  
  1. Attur Fort
  2. Attur Fort - A Well Preserved 300 years old Fort  Salem Tourism Blog
  3. Google Plus. Aragalur Pon.Venkatesan
  4. Historic Fort. The Hindu 
  5. ஆத்தூர் கோட்டை

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Gatti Mudali Dynasty of Salem Region Part I: History

Attur Fort held by Gatti Mudalis
Taramangalam Temple near Salem (Facade)
Taramangalam Temple Insignia Gatti Mudali
Taramangalam Thousand Pillared Hall - Pillar seen before temple. The Hindu
The Gatti (Getty) Mudali aka Katti (Ketti) Mudali dynasty ruled parts of Salem, Karur and Erode districts in the 17th century as chieftains underneath the Madurai Nayak dynasty. The word 'gatti (katti)' or 'getti (ketti)'   meant firm determination or resolution or solidness or unshakeable and the other word 'Mudali' meant 'primary.'    Edgar Thurstan construes the origin of the word 'Mudaliars' from the root word 'muthal' in a literal sense 'the first', the first in Society. The term may also denote money invested or working capital in business. Mudali appears to be the title. The Gatti rulers were known for their univocal statement, reliability and resoluteness.

The Nayak kingdom of Madurai (1530 A.D to 1736 A.D.) was divided into 72 palayams during the reign of Viswanatha Nayak by his minister Dalavoy Ariyanatha Mudaliar. The Palayakars were allowed to collect land tax and pay a portion of it as tribute. They were assigned to train the army and to offer military support to Madurai Nayak ruler to counter enemies. The domination of Gatti Mudali rulers extended as far as Thalaivasal (Salem district) to the east, Dharapuram (Erode district) to the west and Karur district to the south. Gatti Mudali reigned land was considered as the most dangerously exposed region of the Madurai Nayak kingdom. They held two important strategic forts to guard against invasion from Mysore kingdom: one at Omalur (near Salem) and the other at Attur (near Salem). The Gatti Mudali chieftains coined the unique insignia by combining the green mat, garland of flowers and tiger and this representation finds a definite place in all the temples originally built, extended and renovated by them.

Akananuru (அகநானுறு), a classical Tamil poetic work and the seventh book in the secular anthology of Sangam literature (600 BCE - 300 CE), namely Ettuthokai (eight anthologies) lists these people as one of the chieftains i.e,  Konganar, Kalingar, Karunadar, Gangar and Gatti.

அகநானுறு: 44. முல்லை
Akananuru 44, Kudavoyil Keerathanar, Mullai Thinai - What the hero told his charioteer (வினை முற்றி மீளும் தலைமகன் தேர்ப்பாகற்குச் சொல்லியது.- குடவாயிற் கீரத்தனார்)

... ... ... ... ஒரு வினை, கழிய
நன்னன், ஏற்றை, நறும் பூண் அத்தி,
துன் அருங் கடுந் திறற் கங்கன், கட்டி,
பொன் அணி வல்வில் புன்றுறை, என்று ஆங்கு
அன்று அவர் குழீஇய அளப்பு அருங் கட்டூர்,
பருந்து படப் பண்ணி, பழையன் பட்டென,
கண்டது நோனானாகித் திண் தேர்க்
கணையன் அகப்படக் கழுமலம் தந்த
பிணையல் அம் கண்ணிப் பெரும் பூண் சென்னி
அழும்பில் அன்ன அறாஅ யாணர்
பழம் பல் நெல்லின் பல் குடிப் பரவை
பொங்கடி படி கயம் மண்டிய பசு மிளை
தண் குட வாயில் அன்னோள்
பண்புடை ஆகத்து இன் துயில் பெறவே.
Meaning: Ride your chariot faster to get ahead of other chariots, my charioteer! Let me receive sweet sleep on the chest of the one with character, who is like Alumpil town with abundant prosperity, many lands with paddy fields, ponds where elephants bathe, surrounded by protective forests, belonging to Perumpootchenni wearing a victory garland, who attacked his enemies and won a battle in Kalumalam where Chōla commander Palaiyan died, and as kites soared above the battlefield, he defeated the Chēra supporters, Nannan, Ētrai, Athi wearing fine jewels, able and fierce Kankan who enemies fear, Katti, and Pundrurai wearing gold jewels, who had great talents and bowmanship. (Source: Learn Sangam Tamil)
Akananuru 226, Paranar, Marutham Thinai – What the heroine’s friend said to the unfaithful hero
தொடி அணி முன்கை நீ வெய்யோளொடு
முன் நாள் ஆடிய கவ்வை, இந் நாள்,
வலி மிகும் முன்பின் பாணனொடு, மலி தார்த்
தித்தன் வெளியன் உறந்தை நாள் அவைப்
பாடு இன் தெண் கிணைப் பாடு கேட்டு அஞ்சி,
போர் அடு தானைக் கட்டி
பொராஅது ஓடிய ஆர்ப்பினும் பெரிதே.
தலைமகற்குத் தோழி வாயில் மறுத்தது. - பரணர்

Meaning: The gossip risen is larger than the uproar in the day assembly of Thithan Veliyan wearing large garlands, in Uraiyur, when Katti with a large army came to fight along with the brave and strong Pānan, and on hearing the sweet roars of the panai drums, ran away. (Source: Learn Sangam Tamil)

The 7th century A.D. hero stone (நடுகல்) evidence speaks about 'Kunra Gatti (குன்ற கட்டி).'  

The Ilameekaramutaiya Nayanar temple inscription of Viraramanathan inscribed in the year 1274 A.D. observes about the Devadanam made to Ilameekaramutaiya Nayanar (temple) by six Mudalis of Taramangalam including 'Niruni Periya Ilaman'. Another inscription at the same temple by Sadaiyavarman Sundara Pandyan II inscribed in the year 1281 A.D. reports about 'Niruni Ilaiyan Nalla Udaiyappan', one of the Mudalis of Taramangalam, whose ancestors developed Latchumana Saturvedimangalam after winning the battle. Yet another inscription at the same temple by Sadaiyavarman Sundara Pandyan II mentions about Niruni Ilaiyan Nalla Udaiyappan, one of the eight Mudalis of Taramangalam, who made gift of tax free land (karaikalam) to priests of Latchumana Saturvedimangalam. One more inscription at the same temple points out about the same chieftain, one of the nine Mudalis of Taramangalam, who made gift of tax free villages from Amarakunthi to Vellaraipalli bound by and irrigated through Perumal Lake to priests of Latchumana Saturvedimangalam. The inscription retrieved from Taramangalam mentions about the 'Niruniar' clan of Kongu Vellala Goundar: 'Mudalikalil Niruni Periya Ilaman'; 'Mudalikalil suvatan seyyan kunra kamundan'; Mudalikalil sakatan Ilaman Perumal kamundan'.  One more inscription from the Taramangalam records that during the reign of Sadasiva (1542-1552 A.D) a village was given as a gift to the temple of 'Ramakudal' by one of the Mudalis of the same place. 'From this time onwards the names of these Mudaliars occur every frequently in inscriptions records of Amarakundi, Sankaridurg. Triuchengodu, Mecheri, Idangasalai and Pallampatti places in and around the Taramangalam region.'

Mackenzie collection of manuscripts refer about 13 Gatti Mudalis and provides the list comprising six in the order of succession: 1. Siyazhi Gatti; 2. Ragunatha Gatti; 3. Immudi Gatti; 4. Punkkan Gatti;  5. Vangamudi Gatti and 6. Kumara Gatti. Few scholars viewed the descendants of Gatti Mudali are the Kongu Vellala clan of Athiyan, Kanavalar, Marhavar, Narmudiyar, Vadakaraiyar.

Mackenzie manuscript also records the service rendered by the founder of Gatti Mudali dynasty as personal attendant to Tirumalai Nayak, the most notable of the thirteen Madurai Nayak rulers in the 17th century. Due to some petty misdeed, he left the Imperial service and settled in a village called Amarakunthi and learned indigenous medicine (as barber) and attended the ailment of Kunni Vettuvan, the local Vettuvan chieftain and also cured it. For this act of medical attendance, the Ketti Mudali was honored as chieftain. In the initial stages this region was under Vijayanagar empire. Later in 1623 this region became one of the Palayams (Madurai Nayak's Palayam divisions). Taramangalam, the temple town near Salem became the capital of the Palayam of Gatti Mudali and Amarakundhi (Omalur Taluk, Salem district, Tamil Nadu) also served as the alternate capital. Kaveripuram (Kolathur Taluk, Salem District, Tamil Nadu State) became another strategic centre at the border of Mysore.

  • Mummudi Gatti Mudali: Taramangalam Kailasanathar temple,  the most beautiful of its kind in Salem District, features exquisite stone carvings. During 13th Century reconstruction and elaboration of this temple commenced by Mummudi Gatti Mudali.
  • Siyazhi Gatti: Reconstruction and elaboration of Taramangalam Kailasanathar temple was continued during Siyazhi Gatti's reign.
  • Immudi Gatti: He ruled over parts of Erode and Namakkal. He made an endowment in 1564 A.D for the upkeep of the temples of Kailasanathar and Hamisvaram Udaiya Nayanar in Taramangalam. At Bhavani Sangameswarar Temple, one of his inscriptions was retrieved and placed along the wall of the temple. It speaks about his wife's contribution to the temple.
  • Vangamudi Gatti: Vanangamudi Gatti completed the reconstruction and elaboration of Taramangalam Kailasanathar temple in the 17th century. He also had plan to construct a Thousand Pillared Hall and for this purposes his sculptors chiseled several gigantic monolithic pillars of pink granite carved, polished, and ready for erection. Since he was killed in a war in Omalur in 1667 A.D., this hall could not be completed. About 20 pillars lie around the temple and some more are believed to have got buried. However in 1975, the Salem district collector initiated a project to retrieve the pillars and complete the Pillared hall with the available pillars and this project discontinued due to declaration of emergency. Vanagamudi Gatti  also built a Pillaiyar temple and a matam in Chidambaram. He has granted the village of Ilavampatti to the Kailasanathar temple in Taramangalam.

  1. Attur Fort in Aragalur blog
  2. Call to restore 374-year-old exquisitely carved pillars SP.Saravanan. The Hindu. July 01, 2014
  3. Gatti Mudali
  4. Gatti Mudhali Dynasty
  5. Historic inscription lies uncared for at temple.  Karthik Madhavan. The Hindu. January 28, 2007
  6. Mackenzie manuscripts; summaries of the historical manuscripts in the Mackenzie collection, Volume 1,Colin Mackenzie,University of Madras, 1972
  7. Talk: Gatti Mudalis
  8. Taramangalam Growth.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Krisnhnagiri Fort and Baramahal: 'The Gateway of Tamilnadu'

Krishnagiri, 'the Gateway of Tamil Nadu,' is the small town in western part of Tamil Nadu. It is located 90 km from Bangalore and 45 km from Hosur. This region was ruled by occupied by Kongu and Chera rulers. Later the region came under Cholas, Pallavas, Gangas, Nulambas, Hoysalas and Vijayanagar. Krishnagiri region served as the protective barrier for Thamilkam. Krishnangiri mountain aka Syed Basha Hill located to the North of Tiruvannamalai road in Krishnagiri. Krihnagiri fort, a small but strong fort built on top of the hill by the Vijayanagar emperor  Krishnadevaraya. Therefore the town and the fort are named after Krishnadevaraya. The fortress served as the most important defensive point and the majestic fort stands as testimony till now. A mint was instituted here in 1794 A.D. to mint gold, silver and copper coins. There is a flight steps leading from the foothills to the top of the mountain. There is also a dargah on top of hills and cave. The fort is visible from the highways and one has to walk through narrow lanes and slums to reach the entrance to the hills. It will be a great experience to glance the aerial view of this ancient place. The hill slope with rocky formations as well as with shrubs and hedges was a treat to the eyes. The strong breeze will be soothing the mind and body. There is a small museum inside the fort.

Krishnagiri fort has some interesting to tell. As told earlier the fort was built by emperor Krishnadevaraya of the Vijayanagar Empire. The name 'Baramahal' was given to the fort and its surrounding areas. King Krishnadevaraya left this fort under the custody of Jagadevarayan in an appreciation of his valor in the wars and this chieftain named the place as Jagadevi.

This fort and Baramahal was seized by Bijapur Sultan in the 17th century. Later this fort came under Shahaji (F/o Chatrapathi Shivaji) as jagir. After the demise of Shahaji, his son Vyankoji aka. Ekoji (B/o Chatrapathi Shivaji) became the jagidar. Finally in 1670 Chatrapathi Shivaji occupied the fort after conquering Vyankoji.

Hyder Ali, the warrior of Mysore serving under Chikka Devaraja Wodeyar, the king of Mysore, brought the fort under his control during 18th century. After the Mysore war the fort went to the control of the British Indian government in 1768. When Tipu Sultan (S/o Hyder Ali) occupied this fort. Though Lt.Col. Maxwell, the commander of the British troops attacked the fort in November 1791, it remained with Tipu Sultan till the Treaty of Srirangapatna was made in 1792. Finally the fort came under the British. At present this strong fort is maintained by ASI. The fort with its picturesque sight, its long history will definitely attract the passing tourists and visitors and make them to feel as a must visit monument when in this town.

Youtube Video: Structure in Tipu Sultan's at Krishnagiri by mrdave991. 

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