Pandya Dynasty - Origin, Historical Sources, Administration and Religious Beliefs

South India during Sangam Age

The Pandya Dynasty, one of the three major lineages of ancient Tamil Nadu, held sway in South India during the Sangam Age. Let's delve deeper into their origins, sources, and other key aspects:

Origin and Sources

  • The Pandyas established their dynastic rule in southern Tamil Nadu by the end of the 6th century CE after the decline of the Kalabhras.
  • The term "Muvendar" refers to the three ruling families of the Cholas, Cheras, and Pandyas.
  • The history of the Pandyas during the Sangam period (3rd century BCE to 3rd century CE) is reconstructed from various sources such as megalithic burials, inscriptions in Tamil Brahmi, and Tamil poems from Sangam literature.
  • Accounts of travelers like Marco Polo, Wassaff, and Ibn Battuta also provide valuable insights into the political and socio-cultural developments of this period.
  • Copper plates containing royal orders and genealogical lists of kings, as well as texts like "Madurai Tala Varalaru," "Pandik Kovai," and "Madurai Tiruppanimalai," offer additional information about the later Pandyas of Madurai.

Re-Rise of the Pandyas

  • In the late 12th century, following the decline of the Chola dynasty, the Pandya chieftains seized the opportunity to assert their independence and ruled their regions autonomously.
  • Subsequently, the Pandya kingdom emerged as the leading Tamil dynasty in the 13th century.
  • Notable rulers during this period include Sadaiyavarman Sundarapandyan, who not only unified Tamil Nadu under his rule but also extended his authority up to Nellore in Andhra Pradesh.
  • Maravarman Kulasekharan, who reigned for 40 years, brought peace and prosperity to the kingdom.

Other Important Pandya Rulers

  • Among the early Pandyan kings were Nediyon and Palshalai Mudukudumi.
  • Kadungon played a crucial role in reclaiming Pandya territory from the Kalabhras, as recorded in copper plates.
  • Noteworthy rulers also include Arikesari Maravarman (624-674), Kochadayan Ranadhira (700-730), Maravarman Rajasimha I (730-765), Srimara Srivallabha (815-862), Nedunjeliyan I, and Nedunjeliyan II.

Pandya Empire Administration

  • The territory of the Pandyas, known as Pandymandalam, Thenmandalam, or Pandynadu, consisted of rocky, hilly regions and mountain ranges, excluding areas irrigated by the rivers Vaigai and Tamiraparni.
  • Madurai served as the capital of the Pandyas.
  • The political division comprised valanadus, further subdivided into nadus (districts) and kurrams (groups of villages).
  • The Pandyas established Brahmin settlements called Mangalam or Chaturvedimangalam, named after deities and royal names, providing irrigation facilities.
  • Various titles were used for royal officials, such as Uttaramantri (prime minister), Eluttu Mandapam (royal secretariat), and Palli Velan, Parantakan Pallivelan, Maran Adittan, and Tennavan Tamizhavel for military commanders.

Social and Political Aspects

  • The royal palaces of the Pandyas were known as Tirumaligai and Manaparanan Tirumaligai, and the royal couches were named after local chiefs, reaffirming the kings' authority.
  • Land divisions included Salabogam for Brahmins, Tattarkani for Ironsmiths, Taccu-maniyam for Carpenters, and Bhattavriutti for educational purposes.
  • The Pandyas actively engaged in trade, dealing in horses, spices, pearls, precious stones, elephants, and birds. Kayalpattinam served as their bustling port town.
  • The promotion of literacy was a priority, with methods such as appointing singers to recite Bhakti hymns and staging theater plays on educational themes.

Religious Beliefs

  • Initially, the Pandyas followed Jainism but later embraced Saivism as their primary religious belief.
  • They played a significant role in the repair and endowment of temples, generously providing them with gold and land.
  • Vedic practices received patronage from the Pandyas.
  • The rulers displayed impartiality toward both Saivism and Vaishnavism, evident in the invocatory portions of Pandya inscriptions.
  • While the early Pandyas constructed numerous temples, the medieval and later Pandyas focused on maintaining existing ones.

Overall, the Pandya Dynasty's rule left an indelible mark on the history, culture, and governance of South India, witnessing periods of ascent, decline, and subsequent revival.

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