Sunday, 3 May 2015


THE FIRST PEASANT REVOLUTION of the World: South India c.240 CE -the rise of the commons: THE KALABHRAS REPUBLICS:
  • MYTH : Kalabhras were "vaduga-karunadaththavar" as noted in Periyapuraanam and Saivite literature and copperplates of 10th-12th cent. CE. 
  • TRUTH: These literary mentions were a solid 500-700 years past the end of Kalabhras period (250-550 CE). They were  just mentions of misquotes of dreaded legends. Kalabhras were fearsome to the Sanatana Hindus (Brahmins), but friendly to the native followers of the Ancient Tamil Sivanerri, the religion of the masses. They had forbidden the northern Sanatana rituals. 
  • Regarding the names "VADUGA" and "KARUNADU": Vaduga in Tamil denotes "those of the northern boundaries" which are the regions south of the river Krishna and north of the river Tunghabhadra, including  Guntur, Kurnool, Raichur, Koppal, Hospet, and Panjim (Goa). Except Panjim which was probably the Paazhi naadu which is an ancient Tamil kingdom in tussle with the Cheras in the Cankam ages even from around 250 BCE, all the above regions on the southern banks of Krishna, were occupied by Tamil tribals who were illiterates, less civilized, predominantly hunters, robbers, and never formed a kingdom anytime in their history. Kalabhras were called as barbarians by the brahmins and the brahmin-supporting Tamil kings, solely because of the Kalabhras' anti-Vedic preferences, hence the use of the term VADUGA to denote them as barbaric sects. 
  • KARUNADU is nothing but the alternate name for the ancient Tamil country of ERUMAIYUR lying south of Kudagu (Coorg), and to the north of Thoatti malai (Doddabetta, Ooty). Erumaiyur kings were well documented in the Cankam literature from before 300 BCE. Erumaiyur is the current Mysore, the colloquially used name for (Eru)Maiyur. Mai denotes black(or Karu), and Ur denotes place(or nadu), hence  Mysore or Erumaiyur and Karunadu or Karnataka both denote the same region. As seen below one of the seven prime instigators of the Kalabhras revolts was the chieftain of Erumaiyur Aai Viyankoe. Hence partly true in the later mentions is that atleast one of the seven prime Tamil Kalabhra chiefs was a "Karunadagan" from the Tamil country of Erumaiyur.
  • One other important perspective is that the British called the Tamil Nadu in the 1700's as "the Carnatic" region (as evidenced in their historical maps of Eaßt India Company) most probably owing to the dark complexion of the Tamil masses.
  • The ancient kingdoms in the present Karnataka state were the Tamil countries of Kadamba (Uttar Kannad and Hubli), Paazhi (Goa), Erumaiyur (Mysore), Kuttuva nadu (Kodagu), etc. The natives of Karnataka are historically and genotypically Tamils -offshoots of ancient Tamils, and spoke Tamil until the early medieval period, when offshoots of Pallavas and the frequent encroaches of the foreign Chalukyas (of Kolhapur, Badami, and Kalyani present Maharashtra) and Rashtrakutas,  brought isolation and metamorphosis of the Tamil population there into a different culture and language -Kannada.


  • MYTH: They were barbaarians who brought in the dark ages in ancient Tamil countries.
  • TRUTH: The Kalabhras age was no less in richness and literature than the Cankam or the later religious renaissance ages.
  • Religion of the masses during Kalabhra era: The popular and the state religion was predominantly the ancient Tamil Saivitism (தமிழ்ச் சிவநெறி) from Porunai and Indus ages, in the Pagan mode. The alien Sanskritic practice of Sanatana and the influence of the refugee/immigrant brahmins and their odd rituals were kept to a bare minimum. Secularism was in vogue, and Ajivika, Buddhist and Jain monks were free to practice their modes of worshipping God -Naasthika -"any mode of worship other than the six old north Indian Vedic Aasthikas." 
  • Literature in Tamil from this era include most of the Eighteen of the Next Row -Pathinennkeezhkanakku anthologies, the last three  of the Five Great Epics -Aimperungaapiyangal and the Five Small Epics -Ainjirrukaappiyangal.
  • The first few of Nayanmars and Azhwars were supposed to hail from this era, and some enjoyed the patronage of the heads of these Kalappara states. Most importantly few of the earliest Naayanmaars were some of the Kalabhra chiefs themselves, like Meipporulh Naayanaar and Sundarar.
  • Kalabhras or Kalapparar in Tamil, were literally common men -"peasants" and "labourers" from the Tamil ethnic community. It had been misunderstood that they were outsiders from grossly misinterpreted documentations in Post-Cankam Tamil literature, which just call them as "sects from outside the royal clans".
  • These sects formed a consortium of "kala-parar"  -beginning with widespread successful coups by the "field-toilers" (kalham-field, para/paadu-toil) --the peasants, and the footsoldiers of the infantry in the armies of the three kings the Cholas, Pandyas, and Cheras, dismantling the regimes of these kings.
  • Background: Towards the end of 2nd century CE, immigrant Brahmins on the pretext of being Saivites and practicing novel religious rituals such as the Yaagas, Mantras, etc.,  started claiming and enjoying special status with the kings. 
  • It had been documented clearly that whole villages en bloc were used to be donated  by the kings to these Sanskritite scholars, just for the maintenance of rituals in the temples were the brahmins were posted, all carried out on the advice of the latter. 
  • As a fallout of excessive land allocations and donations to the immigrant Brahmin people, large number of people lost their agricultural lands, farms, livelihood areas and even their residential sites to the incoming sects. 
  • Soon the common people rose up against the emperors, kings and overlords, threw the incumbent rulers who were unconcerned about the plight of the natives off their thrones, and established small city-states governed by elected representatives, with the support of local chieftains. Lost lands were secured back from the brahmins. (Though similar grants to the latter visitors were made again extensively in medieval Chola and Pandya periods).
  • Principally headed by Thiraiyan of Pavutirai, Milattumalaiyan, Ilankumanan and Aai Viyankoe, the partial rulers-list of Kalabhras include:
  1. Thiraiyan of Pavuthirai (Thondainadu)    c250 CE
  2. Pulli of Vengadam c250 CE
  3. Kaazhimalaiyan of Miladu c250  CE
  4. Velkezhu Nallikkoen of Thottivettuvam c250 CE
  5. Ilankumanan of Mudhiramalai c250 CE
  6. Idakali of Nadunadu c250 CE
  7. Aai Viyankoe of Erumaiyur c250  CE
  8. Idagazhinan II c325 CE
  9. ...
  10. Achu-thaavi Karanthan c450-506 CE
  11. Kootran a.k.a Kootruva Nayanar        c510 CE
  12. Meyyapporul Nayanar c530 CE
  13. Cedivallavan c540 CE 

  14. ... 
  • From around 76 CE, the Thondaimaans of Kanchi, who were primarily from Ilanthiraiyan Thondaimaan I born to Karikala Chola and a Naga princess from Eezham(Srilanka) continued to rule as kings even during and after the widespread Kalabhra revolts and coups in Tamilagam, since they had befriended the Kalabhras as they had supported the Kalabhra risings in the south. Pavuthiraiyan Thondaiman III around 240 CE had marital relationships with the Pullis of Venkata Nadu, the Vakatakas, and the erstwhile Satavahanas of the far north. The Satavahanas had patronized both Prakrit and Tamil, Tamil because it was probably the lingua franca of their masses.(Evidenced from Tamil script in the Satavahana coins of 1st and 2nd cent. CE).
  • Around 210 CE, the Thondaimaans had unified ten kingdoms - nine smaller neighbour kingdoms like Malli, Poozhi, Aruvaa, Maavilankai, Aamoor, Venkatam, Kanimalai, Kadalmallai and Vaiyavi along with their own Thondainaadu. Hence the unified region was called as "the country of ten states" or "Pallava naadu" and the rulers "Pallavas". (Pal and Paththu in Tamil mean "a set of ten").
  • The Cholas and the Milaattu Malaiyans were the guardians and army chiefs for the Central and Oriental Kalabhra Republican city states. The Chola princes patronized the republic states and gave up their regal claims for the welfare of their masses, and people lived in peace and wars were unheard of until the resurgence of brahminical influence among the Pandiyan kings, that necessitated yet another cleansing of the Madurai aristocrats. 
  • Seemingly the Kalabhras  in the Chola country were not that frequently bothered by the Pallavas due to the cordial relationship with them until Simmavishnu's reign (550 CE). (Mentions of Chola princes and princesses are seen in the documentation of reign and battles of Narasimma Varman and Kochadaiyan Ranadeeran).
  • Starting from around 250 CE until 560 CE, the Kalabhras ruled the city states all over Tamilagam except Kanchi in the northeast. They had replaced the Pandiyas, the Cheras, and the Cholas from the power. 
  • By 506 CE Cholas were handed over the reins by the Kalabhras when they had to concentrate on Madurai following the sudden demise of Achchu-Thaavi Karanthan the Kalabhra great. Pugazhkkoe Chola took over the Chola country (as per Mahavamsa); he was highly ambitious, he invaded the Cheras defeating Maakkoathai and also sent armies to and conquered Srilanka, and placed five Chola noblemen as governors in North and Central Srilanka who ruled there for the next 27 years. 
  • By 560 CE, Pandiyas under Kadunkoen II had completely seized the Madurai throne after the Kalabhra ruler of Uraiyur, Miladu and Madurai, Meipporul Naayanaar was murdered by a Pandya prince in the disguise of a Saiva saint.
  • Pandya kings' victories over the masses' Kalabhra republics were documented to have been hailed and celebrated by the brahmins in the copperplate inscriptions. 
  • From the earliest times until the 8th-9th century CE there were apparently no unequivocal caste based divisions in Tamilagam. The Brahmins had started moving close with the Pandiya kings by the early 8th century CE and this seemed to have irritated the Chola chiefs of the central Tamilagam, as the former started dominating the political arena and re-instigated northern Sanatana rituals and the brahmadeya grants - the bestowals of  commoners' lands to the Sanatanic Sanskritites.
  •  This bias had been the original cause for the uprising of the foot-soldiers and peasants - the "Kalabhras" about 5 centuries ago.
  • Notwithstanding these discriminations, the Oriental chiefs under the leadership of Chola chieftain Iranhmaya Chola of Pazhaiyaarrai, by 690 - 725 CE had started warring repeatedly with the Pandyas, losing many and winning some battles. Kochadaiyan Ranadeeran seems to have lost his life in one such battle. Around 695 CE when the Pallavas threatened with an invasion he had already defeated and killed Iraniya Varman, the Pallava crown-prince, in a battle on the banks of Vellarru, hence this title. 
  • The Pandyas captured Uraiyur and Southern frontiers of the Cholas by the start of 9th cent. CE, and placed one of their own dominant sects the Mutharaiyas as heads, and initiated the caste hierarchy in the Chola country as well. Due to continuous warfare with the Pandyas and the immigrant dominant Mutharaiyas, the enemy-plotted communal intrusions and the social instability, the Chola chieftains once again were granted overall kingship over erstwhile Kalabhra regions, to safeguard the ancient Tamil-social structuralism and to ward off the varnas-modelled newly synthesized hierarchy of castes. For the next 80 odd years Cholas fought alongside the Pallavas against the Pandyas, to protect their motherland.
  • Brahmins had started propagating their varnasrama theories into the royal minds and into the society via the discretions in the advocacy of various religious practices.
  • As a consequence, the caste and the community systems gradually got rooted down among the overlords who inturn began using these systems as an instrument to extend their domination over the then peasants and downtrodden, and specific sects that were the then dominant ones in each major province had started claiming themselves as of the upper strata community. This has been the unchanged social scene over the past 1300 years in the south and over the past 800 years in the north Tamilakam, till this date.
  • When in 870 CE, Seermaaran Vallabhan tried to eliminate brahmanical influence from the Pandiyan aristocracy, communal riots were instigated and a distant royal cousin and son of a landlord, seized the Madurai throne as an imposter and crowned himself with the regal title "Varagunan II", after the mysterious demise of the king and disappearance of the incumbent royal family along with the next-in scions. The Later Pandyas all belong to another usurper the next ruler, who initiated the Mara-Sundara dynasty, who was killed after just twenty years.
  • The Later Pandyas have the dubious record of abandoning the throne and their country in the early 14th cent. CE, fighting among themselves, letting Malikkafur and the Sultanate into Madurai region, and responsible for creating a power vacuum even long after they were gone, filled in later by the Vijayanagar kings and Nayaks. The current dominant communal sects (of the 20th cent. CE Tamilagam) principally in the south and the east, and also in the central, the west and the north, were the primary reasons for the decline of Tamil supremacy and empires, and handing over of the land to non-native non-Tamil rulers, over the past 700 years. It is to be noted that for many millenia until 700 years ago the integrity and solidarity of Tamilagam had been successfully hailed and maintained by men from those labelled currently the lowest classes in the social hierarchy. (Evidences are overwhelming. There were no records of names of currently dominant sects in Sangam literature. On the contrast there had been umpteen mentions of names of the branded-to-be-lowest social sects. Also the archaic word Pandya has the root word Pallha, denoting people of the plains).
  • The Vijayanagar-Nayak domination was minimized and delayed by some 225 years till 1530's by the Maavali Vaanhar (Banas) rulers of North Madurai, and Cholaraaya Vaanhar rulers of Tanjore.


  1. Inputs have been received since this post some native sects like Thiraiyar, Kammalar, Mutharaiyar, Viraliar, Mazhavar etc claiming as the erstwhile Kalabhras; though clear citations are found wanting currently, the fact that these sects are aware of their own Kalabhra history is highly suggestive of the Tamil nativity of the Kalabhras.

  2. Mysore,is derived from Sanskrit mahisha means Erumai.
    Erumai ur-mahisha ur.

    Masoor (dhal)Baghdad become Mysore Bagh.

  3. Maiyur to Mysore is the natural transformation linguistically esp. in Tamil. Mahisha to Mysore is a very difficult transformation. Also Sanskrit was not in the south Indiabeyond Krishna river in 250 CE ..

  4. But most of the inscriptions from Chola and Pallava period between 629 CE to 930 CE are in Sanskrit.

    Can you please explain on that as well.

  5. Inscriptions in Tamil were equal or just more than in Sanskrit. Yes Sanskrit was also significantly used in inscriptions as Brahmins enjoyed patronage of kings, and probably most scribes were Brahmins. Sanskrit was common in Pallavas than in Cholas inscriptions. Relevance to 'Nagareshu Kanchi'.

  6. I feel kalappirar refers to the region coming under one banner the kalappirar or the plough shedding armoury and taking to farming as they were jains and Buddhists.

    As tamil brahmi or dhamili representing all three dialects tamil malayalam and sinhala was replaced with separate vatteluttu scripts dividing them as three different languages. Instead of harping on language the non violent jains and the Buddhists wanted to unite under farming with the plough as their symbol.

  7. As far before I read this article, strongly believed kalabras were coalition of various tamil tribes from kudago hills to venkata hills lead by Pulli. I am very surprised to read various tamil kalabra kings in your article. Hatts off to your thought provoking article.