Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Tsunami and Tamil Nadu

"Tsunami" as the recent holocaust that severely shook the southern part of the country, especially Tamil Nadu is called, is not something new as far as Tamil Nadu is concerned. The Tamil country, especially ancient Pandya Nadu, was literally swept off its feet, not once, but twice in the pre-Christian era, as revealed by Tamil literature, which fact has been confirmed by historians. The first one was believed to have struck the Tamil Nadu coast around 500 B.C., and the second one 200 years later. As a result the Pandyas lost their capital cities--"Then Madurai" in the first sea-swell and Kapadapuram in the second and vast areas, 49 Naadus to be specific and two rivers.
Scholars, of late call this catastrophe as "Kadal Koll" which term is not found in the Tamil Lexicon published by a band of scholars under the leadership of late S. Vaiyapuri Pillai in the 1920's under the auspices of the Madras University. It mentions this phenomenon as "Kadarperukku", which seems to be more apt. "Koll", according to the Lexicon, means a planet. Perhaps the scholars might have called it "Kadal Koll" as they felt that the sea had taken away vast areas and the term “Koll” was derived from the word "Kolluthal" which denotes anything that is taken or accepted. The Sangam literary work, "Kalithogai" (Mullaikkali, verse number 4) mentions it as "Kadal vowal". The poem says that when tidal waves swept away his land, the Pandyan monarch of undying glory did not despair, but forged ahead into the territories of Cheras and Chozhas and brought the invaded country under his sway, thus making good the loss of territory due to sea-swell.
"Silappadikaram", one of the five Tamil epics, also describes this land-grabbing tidal wave as the vengeful retort of the vanquished sea, smarting under an earlier victory over it, traditionally attributed to an earlier Pandyan potentate. The Pandyan king, known as Kadal Vadimpalampa Nindra Pandyan, was said to have thrown his spear towards the sea. Perhaps he might have reclaimed some land under the sea. The sea as a retort not only swallowed a large area including Pahruli river and Panmalai Adukkam. This only shows that the sea will not tolerate any attempt made to disturb the Nature's balance.
The first sea-swell took place during the reign of King Kadunkon and it not only swallowed his capital, Then Madurai, but also vast areas. Undeterred by this fury of Nature, the king moved northwards and set up his new capital, Kapadapuram, which literally means the doors of the gateway. It was at Then Madurai that the Pandyan kings ranging from Kaisinavazhudhi to Kadunkon set up the first Tamil academy known as Mudhal Tamil Sangam and many works like "Mudhu Naarai", "Mudhu Kurugu", "Kalariyavirai" and others were ushered in. All of them were lost during the sea-swell. It was in the second Tamil academy that Tholkappiyam, the earliest extant Tamil grammar work, was ushered in by its author, Tholkappiyar. Scholars like Dr. Thamizhannal have concluded that the three Tamil academies flourished between 1000 B.C. and 200 A.D. Hence they feel that the sea-swells might have rocked the Tamil country sometime during these 1200 years.
The second capital of the Pandya kings is also mentioned in the Valmiki Ramayana as "Pandya Kapadakam".When Sugriva gives instructions to his Vanara army led by Angadha, going in search of Sita, he asks them to avoid going to Kapadapuram as otherwise, they, enticed by its riches like golden and pearl gates, will forget their mission and stay there. Some scholars are of the opinion that this only refers to the gates of the Pandya capital and not Kapadapuram. Whatever it may be, the sea also swallowed this great city during the reign of Mudathirumaran. The king, who somehow escaped the Nature's fury went further and was searching for a suitable site for the new capital by setting up a temporary headquarters at Manavur, near Madurai, which is identified with the present Manalur near Madurai on the road to Rameswaram. The king felt that they had lost the two capitals as they were situated in coastal areas and hence the new capital should be set up somewhere in interior land. It was thus the present Madurai was chosen as the capital as an ancient Siva temple existed there and it formed the nucleus for the new capital city. The king decided to name the new capital as Madurai as the capital with the same name was lost in the first sea-swell.
The commentator of the Silapadikaram, Adiyarku Nallar, mentions two rivers, which were lost during the deluges, Pahruli and Kumari. The great scholar, Dr. U. Ve. Saminatha Iyer, in his glossary to the Silappadikaram, says that these were two rivers, which were lost during the sea-swell along with many areas. Adiyarku Nallar says that in the submerged Then Madurai, 89 Pandyan kings ruled patronising the Tamil academies and of them seven kings were poets themselves. The land that was lost consisted of Aezh (seven) Thenga Nadu, Aezh Madurai Nadu, Aezh Munpaalai Nadu, Aezh Pinpaalai Nadu, Aezh Gunakarai Nadu, Aezh Kurumpanai Nadu, Aezh Kundra Nadu, Kumari, Panmalai Adukkam and forest areas. Of these Thenga Nadu means land of coconut trees, and Kurumpanai Nadu means the land of small palmyrah trees. While palmyrah trees generally are tall it is interesting to note that the lost Tamil country possessed dwarf varieties. Munpaalai and Pinpalai Nadus were areas, which had parts of deserted lands as there was no separate desert area in the Tamil country. The grammar work, Tholkappiyam, says that due to over-exploitation Mullai and Kurinji, the cultivable lands and forest areas turned into deserts. The total extent of the lost area had been given as 700 "Kaavathams" (Kaavatham is a land measurement of ancient Tamils).
All these only prove the point that the ancient Tamil country protruded into the Indian Ocean far beyond the present Kanyakumari, below the southern limit of the present Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka also lost vast territory in the south during these sea-swells, according to its chronicles like "Mahavamsam" and "Rajavali". While these were the two major deluges that reduced Tamil Nadu to its present size, there were also other minor sea-swells like the one witnessed recently, which swallowed cities like Poompuhar, Korkai and Kadalmallai (Mahabalipuram) that existed on the eastern coast. All these had passed into pages of history.
The so-called modern "tsunamis" had been attacking the Tamil country from time to time in the past two centuries. On December 31, 1881, there was a tidal wave attack on the then Madras and Pamban island due to the earthquake in Car Nicobar islands and another on June 26, 1941, again on Madras and Pamban due to tremors in the Andamans. The tidal wave attack on December 23, 1964, which washed away the Pamban rail bridge and reduced the holy place of Dhanushkodi to a ghost town, will be fresh in every one's memory. The Dhanushkodi disaster was caused by the cyclone but the present one without any warning symptom is unparalleled in history.