Tuesday 23 January 2018

A History of Pallava Grantha

Pallava Grantha is a script used to write Sanskrit in South India, especially in Tamilnadu, while Nagari script was mostly used in North India. Copper plates with Pallava Grantha are seen beginning around the fifth century. The modern Tamil script seems to have arisen from Pallava Grantha, slowly replacing vaTTezhuttu, which continued to prevail in Pandya territory until the tenth century.

Language versus Script

A language is sounds, words and grammar. All human languages are oral. Homo sapiens have been speaking in languages ever since the larynx evolved, which anthropologists estimate occurred between 200,000 and 40,000 years ago.

Scripts are far rarer and more recent. They were designed to capture sounds in writing. Writing may have first evolved in Sumeria around 6000 BC. China and Meso-America are perhaps the only other cultures to independently invent scripts. Of the ancient scripts, Harappan script of the Indus Valley civilization, remains the only yet to be deciphered.

While language is natural to all people from stone age tribals to the most advanced cultures, and is naturally acquired by children, writing requires special training and materials. Until the nineteenth century, few nations surpassed a ten percent literacy rate.

Scripts are of four major types : pictogram, ideogram, alphabetic or syllabic. Languages are grouped in several families.  A discussion of these is beyond the scope of this essay.

While each language is associated with a specific script among the general public, most cultures have borrowed their scripts from some other language. Most European languages are written in Roman or Cyrillic script, which borrowed from Greek. Greek, Hebrew, Arabic and other Mediterranean languages borrowed their scripts from Phoenician, which may have borrowed its ideas but not the letters from Egyptian hieroglyphics.

Most scripts have evolved over the centuries. Egyptian was written in old hieroglyphic, middle hieroglyphic and then Demotic. All Indian scripts in use today for Indian languages are descendants of Brahmi, except for Urdu which uses Arabic script and English, which uses the Roman script.

Indian Languages

Between four hundred and one thousand languages are spoken in India, based on different classifications of languages versus dialects. Only about twenty are written. Five families of languages are native to India :

  •       Indo Aryan, which includes, Sanskrit, various Prakrits and their descendants
  •       Dravidian, which includes Tamil and other south Indian languages
  •       Munda or Austro-Asiatic, which includes several tribal languages of central India
  •       Sino-Tibetan, spoken mostly in the regions bordering the Himalayas
  •       Malayo-Polynesian, spoken by people of the Andaman and Nicobar islands


The oldest Brahmi script is found in the rock and pillar edicts of Maurya Samrat Asoka, in the third century BC. It was succeeded in the second and first centuries BC by the inscriptions of Kharavela in Bhubaneshvar, Orissa; Satavahanas in several caves of Maharashtra, the Amaravati stupa and some coins;  etc. These are all in the Prakrit language. The Girnar rock in Junagadh, Gujarat, has the earliest known Sanskrit inscription of Rudradaman, a king of the Kshatrapa dynasty. Several Sanksrit inscriptions in Brahmi follow. A number of coins of Indo-Bactrian kingdoms were discovered in the nineteenth century, from European archaeologists and philologists unraveled some of their history.

Tamil inscriptions in Brahmi were discovered in caves and stone beds in the twentieth century. First mistaken as Prakrit, the presence of special letters for La, zha, Ra, na not found in Prakrit confirmed that they were Tamil.
Brahmi inscription,
Karle, Maharashtra

Nagari, Vattezhuttu and Pallava Grantha

Around the fourth century, northern Brahmi slowly morphed into the Nagari script and its descendants, while Tamil Brahmi morphed into vattezhuttu. At some point, Pallava grantha emerged as the prefered script for writing Sanskrit in south India, especially Tamil country, though archaic Telugu-Kannada was also used in the medieval era.
vattezhuthu inscription,
Aritaappatti, Tamilnadu

Athiranachanda mandapam in Saluvankuppam near Mamallapuram, and Kanchi Kailasanatha temple are the only monuments in Tamil country with Nagari inscriptions, before the twentieth century. A number of coins of Chola period bear Nagari inscriptions too.

Brahmi is the parent script of all extant Indian scripts, about twenty. Pallava Grantha can boast a far greater family. Ninety six scripts, mostly Southeast Asia are offspring its offspring, including those for Thai, Burmese, Laotian, Cambodian, Javan, Sumatran, Tagalog, besides those of the South Indian languages.  Some of these south east Asian countries also have  Sanksrit inscription in Grantham. Some have phased out Grantham and adopted the Roman script, after the advent of European colonialism in the recent few centuries.

Inscriptions on rock, copper plates and coins are the only survivors of the history of these scripts. Documents in palm leaves and bhuj patra do not have a long shelf life, especially in tropical climate like India. Over the centuries, documents in these languages have been copied from one script to its successor. For Tamil, the medium itself has had a significant influence on the evolution of the script. For example, use of a nail on palm leaf may have led to a tilting of letters which led to the rounded shapes of the letters of vattezhuthu (which literally mean round letters). Also the dot, called pulli in Tamil

There is one major difference between the scripts of Tamil and Sanskrit/Prakrit. The letters in Tamil are always written in one row, one after the other, in Brahmi, vattezhuthu or Tamil, whereas Sanskrit or Prakrit conjunct consonants are stacked vertically, with the mey ezhuthu on top and uyirmey below it.

Monuments with Grantha

Most of the cave temples of the Pallavas and Pandyas in Tamilnadu bear Pallava Grantham inscriptions, if they are in Sanskrit. The famous ones include, Mandagapattu, Mamandur, Dalavanur, Siyamangalam, Mahendravadi and Mamallapuram. In the latter, the monoliths and structural temples also have Grantham inscriptions. Pallava structural temples in Kanchi, Panamalai, and Vayalur also bear them

The Anamalai cave temple in Madurai, besides Kudumiyanmalai and Tirumeyyam are contemporary Pandyan monuments with inscriptions in Grantham. From Nandivarman Pallavamalla’s era, Tamil inscriptions begin to replace Sanskrit inscriptions. Lalitangura Pallava Grham, the cave temple of Mahendra at Rockfort, Tiruchirappalli has inscriptions – his birudas or titles - in Sanskrit, Telugu and Tamil, the first in Pallava grantham. These are on the pillars. Mahendra’s birudas in Tamil and Telugu there are written in a script that seems like a modified for letters in those languages. Quite like Tamil Brahmi of the earlier era.
Pallava Grantha, Lalitangura cave
Rockfort Trichy

Several hero-stones have been discovered in the Pallava territory with inscriptions in vattezhuthu, even in the era of Mahendra Pallava.

Grantha in Chola era

In monuments of the Chola era and later, Tamil itself is written in a combination of Tamil letters and some Grantham letters. Specifically, Sanskrit words are written in Grantham, and sometimes even the mey-uriymei combination of Tamil letters is written with the conjunct consonant notation.

Tanjavur Inscription of Rajaraja Chola
mixture of Tamil and Grantham scripts

Language and Literature in Tamilnadu

This table attempts to capture the rough outline of language and literature in Tamilnadu in the early historical period. Tamil is that rare Indian language which can boast of an antiquity and classicism, rivaling Prakrit and Sanskrit. The researches of British scholars like FW Ellis and Bishop Caldwell, and Ellis’ Indian collaborator Sankaraya, in the nineteenth century, revealed that Tamil belongs to a different language family, the Dravidian. While Tamil vocabulary, metaphor, grammar and prosody have borrowed from Sanskrit, the language retains an idiom and aesthetic distinctly different.

Chieftans / Velir
upto  300 BC
No surviving literature (?)
Muvendar (Chera Chola Pandya); Velir
300 BC - 300 AD
Tamil Sangam literature
300 - 550 AD
Bhakti Literature?
Pallavas, Pandyas;
minor kings
550 - 900 AD
Sanskrit & Tamil literature
Early & Imperial Cholas
850 -1200 AD
Tamil, Sanskrit & Manipravaalam
Pandya Revival
1200 -1320 AD
As above

This chart tries attempts a rough outline of Sanskrit literature in India, in roughly the same era. There was an efflorescence of Sanskrit literature in the Pallava period in Tamilnadu. Famously the poet Bharavi visited Kanchi and wrote a famous poem about its glory as a city. Mahendra Varma, the Pallava king, is famous as the author of two plays, MattaVilasa Prahasana and Bhagavad Ajjukam. 

The poet Dandin also lived in Kanchi, during the reign of Parameshvara I and his son Rajasimha. Dandin composed Kavya Darshana, Dasha Kumara Charita and Avanti Sundari Katha. The Chola and Vijayanagara periods saw Kanchi host such stalwarts as Ramanuja, Appayya Deekshita and Vedanta Desika, composers of many magnificent works in Sanskrit. The Ekamreshvara temple has an inscription mentioning Upamanya Bhakta Vilasa, a translation into Sanskrit of Sekkizhar’s famous Tamil work, the Periya Puranam.

Sanskrit served as the court language of the Pallavas, so it is no surprise that their inscriptions are in the Sanskrit language.

Kailasanatha Temple

Rajasimha has caused four variations of script to be inscribed on the walls of the Kailasanatha temple in Kanchipuram. Two of these are Nagari, one simple, the other calligraphic, with marvelous decorative floral, creeper and bird patterns, not seen anywhere else. Two others are Pallava Grantham, one simple, the other more stylistic. All four of these can be seen on four different levels on the garland of minishrines that ring the main sanctum. The establishment inscription on the outer wall of the two sanctums, RajaSimhaPallaveshvaram and MahendraVarmeshvaram, as also the inscriptions ascribed to Queen Rangapataka on the outer minishrines, are all in the stylistic Grantham.

In the earlier monuments of Mamallapuram, two styles of grantham are seen. One style, is prevalent in the inscriptions of Ganesha Ratha, Dharamraja mandapam, Athiranachanda Mandapam, Ramanuja Mandapam, AdiVaraha Mandapam and the Shore temple. The other a more linear style, is considered to be older and is found only in the Dharamaraja Ratha.

Influence of Grantha

The scripts of the languages of several south east Asian nations, including Thai, Javan, Sumatran. Burmese, Tagalog, Khmer, Vietnamese and Laotian are descendants of the Grantham script. In more recent times, especially after the advent of European colonialism in the last few centuries, this has changed. Languages like Bahasa Malaysia and Bahasa Indonesia now use the Roman script.

Additional Note

January 24, 2018 I add this note, a day after posting this blog, to clarify a point, based on Vanpakkam Vijayaraghavan's comment. Grantha has changed considerably since the Pallava era - see pictures below. Every hundred years or so, some of the letters were modified ever so slightly, according to the whims of the scribes, until we reached the modern form. I have not attempted to show any of the intermediate forms (these are superbly listed in C Sivaramamurthi's book, for not just Grantha, but other Indian scripts also.)

For a text based comparison, rather a letter by letter comparison, read this essay on Babington surprise.

Pallava Grantha, eighth century

Modern Grantha, twentieth century

If you liked this essay, you might find these also:
3. Atyantakaama Pallava's Musical poem
5. A Timeline of sanskrit literature
6. Athiranachanda surprise- Babington's gift
7. Calligraphic Nagari in Kailasanatha
8. An Introduction to Ancient scripts - Prof Swaminathan's Powershow slides

Thursday 11 January 2018

2222 Years of Kanchipuram

Kanchipuram, the temple capital of India, and one of the seven most sacred cities considered to be mukthisthalas – cities that can help one reach heaven – was the capital of the Pallava kingdom for several centuries.

The city is most likely named after the Kacci or Kaanchi tree, Trewia nudiflora.

Poets have merrily punned on the word Kanchi, (Sanskrit: girdle), to imply that Kanchi is the beautiful girdle on the waist of Bhudevi.

Sources of history

The political history of Kanchipuram can be gleaned from inscriptions on temples, copperplates, and coins, which mention several dynasties, wars, land grants, donations, judgments, and descriptions of administration, law, rituals, finance, the arts, medicine and education. A number of literary sources in several languages also help us discover Kanchi’s history. The religious literature, especially the poems of the Vaishnavite Alwars and Saivite Nayanmars, commentaries by Acharyas and other scholars,also are quite informative. Literary sources in foreign languages, add to the trove. But as typical of Indian history, most of it has been deduced and reconstructed; few contemporary accounts remain.


The earliest literary reference is in Mahabhashya, a commentary on Panini’s Sanskrit grammar, wherein the city KanchipuraH is mentioned. Scholars estimate that Patanjali composed MahabhashyaH in the 2nd century BC.

PerumpaaN aaRRuppadai and Purananooru, an epic poem and an anthology of the Sangam era, respectively, are Tamil sources that mention Kanchipuram. The former, composed by Kadiyalur Uruthiran Kannanaar, has a poet – a paanan - advising another to visit the city of Kanchipuram, famous for the generosity of its ruler Tondaimaan, and detailed descriptions of the sights and villages on the way, and paints a vivid picture of society two millenia ago. The latter includes a poem by the lady Avvaiyar, advising Tondaimaan, with his armoury of shiny weapons, to avoid war with the army of Athiyamaan, whose armoury reeks with old rusted and blood stained weapons, gently but shrewdly describing the latter’s expertise and experience.

The city was contained in a fort, in the shape of a lotus or peacock, perhaps at different times. No remnant of any fort or palace survives today.

A later work, Manimekalai, describes the eponymous heroine entering the city in direr times.
Literary giants adorned the royal courts, temples, streets, schools and arenas of Kanchipuram. One of first three Tamil Vaishnavite poets, muthal aazhvaars, was born here and bears the name Poygai. Local legend claims that he was born in the temple tank (poygai) of the Tiruvekkhaa temple, but perhaps he was born in a village of that name, now merged into the city.

The poet Bharavi, author of the Sanksrit Brhatkaavya, Kirataarjuniyam, visited Kanchipuram, perhaps in the time of SimhaVishnu around the late sixth century AD, and was so awestruck by its beauty and splendor that he immortalized the city in a poem with the phrase Nagareshu Kanchi.

SimhaVishnu’s son, the most creative and unusual king Mahendra Varma Pallava, composed at least two Sanskrit plays, Matta Vilasa and Bhagavad Ajjukam, which have survived till date. They were perhaps lost but rediscovered in a collection in Trivandrum in Kerala, around the beginning of the twentieth century. The Matta Vilasa is performed at an annual temple ritual in Kerala.
Simha Vishnu Pallava,
Adi Varaha cave, Mamallapuram

Huen Tsang, the Chinese pilgrim, visited Kanchipuram, most likely during the rule of Mahendra’s son Narasimha Pallava. He records several thousand buddhist monks, many monasteries, and a stupa built by Asoka Maurya, none of which are extant.

Dandin, the great Sanskrit poet and author of two Sanskrit plays Dasa Kumara Charitam and Avanti Sundari Katha, and a study of poetics, Kaavya Darsha, lived during the reign of Parameshvara and his son Rajasimha. This last work inspired a Tamil composition Dandi Alangaaram.

Nandi Kalambagam, a magnificent Tamil anthology, has as its hero Nandivarma III, called Tellarru Erindaan or victor of Tellaru. He is also refered to as MallaiyarKon and Myali Kaavalan, Ruler of Mallai and Protector of Mylai.

The Kalingathu Barani, an epic poem describing the Chola conquest of Kalinga, has as its hero Karunakara Tondaiman, the Pallava general of Kulothunga Chola’s army.

Kachiyappa Sivachariyar, composed the Tamil Kanda Puranam, and inaugurated it in the Kumara Kottam temple. Vedanta Desika (1268–1369) and Appaya Deekshita (1520 – 1593), were multilingual scholars who spent several years of their lives in Kanchi. Lists of their composition are too extensive to be mentioned here.

Parimelazhagar, a priest of the Ulagalanda Perumal temple, wrote a monumental commentary on the Tirukkural.

Numerous scholars have been left out of this section, for the sake of brevity.


About seventy km from the eastern shores of the Coromandel Coast of the Bay of Bengal, and today’s capital of Tamilnadu, Madras, lies ancient Kanchi. The river Vegavathi flows through it, though sadly dry and dilapidated. The river Paalaaru and Cheyaaru, run south of the city.

Dr Nagaswamy opines and Dr Sankaranarayan concurs, that Ulagalanda Perumal, mentioned as Ooragam in literature and inscription, must have been the heart of the historic cities. Though of diminished importance now, it sits at the heart of four streets still referred to as Raja Veethis or Royal roads, and most of the oldest temples not only surround it, but also face it, in some manner. From the position of some of these temples, relative to Ooragam, it can be inferred that it was indeed the centre of the city.

In the era of Kulothunga Chola, the city expanded southward, and the Varadaraja temple gained both prominence and patronage, and became the locus of Vaishnavism.

Inscriptions in Varadaraja temple mention four divisions, Siva Kanchi, Vishnu Kanchi, Buddha Kanchi and Jaina Kanchi. The first two regions are extant. While no conclusive evidence for Buddha Kanchi survives, Tiruparithikunram west of the city is most likely Jaina Kanchi.

Political History

The architecture of the temples in Kanchi amazingly reflect the various co-eval dynasties that ruled Kanchi. This chart summarizes this commonality.

Kanchi was capital of the Pallavas, and had its most glorious era during the period between the regins of Simha Vishnu to Aparajita Pallava, roughly from mid fifth to late ninth centuries AD. After the fall of this last Pallava, to Aditya Chola, it remained an important political and military center well into the era of the Chola’s successors, the Pandyas and their  successors the Vijayanagar empire.
Few remnants of its grandeur under the Pallavas survive today. 

A site called Pallavamedu, now occupied, may have archaeological remains. Samudragupta’s Allahabad pillar describes his conquest of Kanchi and triumph over VishnuGopa in the fourth century. 

In the mid sixth century, Simha Vishnu established this city as his capital by defeating the Cholas and Kalabhras. Chalukya Pulikeshi conquered parts of the northern Pallava empire, and enthroned his brother Vishnuvardhana as the first eastern Chalukya king in Vengi, during the reign of Mahendra. But Pulikeshi’s seige of Kanchi failed. Mahendra’s son Narasimha, invaded Vatapi, and ruled the Chalukya kingdom for some years, but then returned to Kanchi. The Chalukyas invaded Kanchi multiple times after his death, but serious devastation was avoided as Parameshvara Pallava tempted the Chalukya army to chase him all the way to the Kaveri, then turned around and conquered Vatapi. 

The reign of Rajasimha (690-728), son of Parameshvara saw not even an attempt at invasion, but the death of his issueless son Parameshvara II caused turmoil. A descendant of a brother of SimhaVishnu, a young prince called NandiVarma Pallavamalla was coronated. His long reign saw frequent battles, but Kanchi stayed in Pallava hands under his 65 year monarchy, and those of his son Dantivarma and grandson NandiVamra III, also called Tellarrerinda Nandi.

An enormous remapping of the city happened under Kulotunga Chola as can be seen from various inscriptions in various temples. His detailed inscription in Ooragam states that his Pallava queen objected to a community of merchants taking over the temple and its surroundings. Kulotunga conducted an inquiry. The merchants stated that they had merely occupied abandoned buildings and restored them, and were willing to hand over the temple and its lands to rightful owners as determined by the king. The merchants then were settled around the Varadaraja temple, which acquired a primacy in SriVaishnavism thence, which was cemented with services of Ramanuja and his legacy.

Kulotunga also allocated lands belonging to the Kailasanatha temple to the Anekatangavadam temple, which were restored by Kumara Kampanna centuries later.

The city was spared the ravages of Malik Kafur and Ulugh Khan, because it had was no longer as big a political center under the Pandyas, but revived under the Vijayanagara kingdom. Krishnadevaraya built the towering gopuram of the Ekamra and Varadaraja temples, and the inscriptions of Achyutha Raya are also all over the latter temple especially. Krishnadevaraya resolved an internecine feuds between the Saivas and Vaishnavas. References to Siva and Vishnu Kanchi as Big and Little Kanchi start appearing around this period.

Inscriptions of various dynasties including Sambuvarayars, Telugu Cholas especially of Vijaya GandaGopala, the Warangal Kakatiyas are found in Kanchi. It was an important town for the Nawabs of Arcot role, who buit some mosques and established the nearby towns of Walajahpet and Walajahbad. The French and British armies skirmished, using temples as their fortresses.



Ayodhya Mathura and Dwarka are Vaishnava mukti sthalas. Kashi Haradwar and Ujjain are Saiva mukti sthalas. Kanchi alone makes both lists, in an ancient convention.

The Alwars and Nayanmars, Tamil poets par excellence, are considered by historians to have lived during the sixth to eighth centuries, and composed their famous poems, which refer to fourteen Vishnu and five Siva temples in Kanchi. Ooragam, Paadagam and Tiruvekhaa linked in a very beautiful poem by Tirumashizai Alwar, may be the oldest temples in Kanchi, since the images of the primary deities in their sanctums are made of stucco, rather than the granite or sandstone that was common in the Pallava and later eras. They are today popularly known as Ulagalanda Perumal, Pandava Thootha Perumal and Sonna Vannam Seytha Perumal. Unfortunately, we have only such literary religious references to the period preceding Rajasimha Pallava in Kanchi. Even these temples were rebuilt during the Chola era, and bear only Chola or later inscriptions.

Fourteen DivyaDesam temples, that is, shrines important to SriVaishnavites, because they have been sung at length by the Alwars exist in Kanchi. Two of these, oddly, may be found inside a Siva and Shaakta temple. Respectively, they are the NilaTingaL Tundattu Perumal and Kalvar Perumal. The walls of Ooragam enclose three other DivyaDesams, Neeragam, Kaaragam and Karvaanam, all perceptibly recent structures with far later primary sculptures than Ulagalanda Perumal himself.

The others are Ashtabhujakara, Dipaprakasa at Thooppul, Pachia Vannar, Pavala Vannar, Azhagiya Singar at Tiruvellukkai, Vaikunda Perumal and what is today the largest temple, Varadaraja, referred to as Athiyur in the paasurams of the Alwars. Several Vaishnava acharyas including Ramanuja, Tiru Kacci Nambi, and Vedanta Desika have extensive connections with Kanchi, and especially the Varadaraja Perumal temple.


Five temples, Ekamra, Merrali, Anekatankaavadam, Onam Kaanthan, and Kachi Nerikaraikkaadu (now called Satyanatheshvara) are the பாடல் பெற்ற கோயில் paadal perra sthalas of Saivism, sanctified by the songs of the Nayanmars.

Six historical Siva temples of the Pallava era, Piravasthanam, Iravasthanam (also called Mrtyunjeshvara), Airavathesvara, Matangeshvara, Mukteshvara and Amareshvara retain some traces of their original structure. The first five are still substantially sandstone, with few Chola or Vijayanagar modifications, but bear some feature of modern attempts at restoration. Amareshvara, originally called Tripurantakeshvara, is a brick structure, but its originally stucco koshtam sculptures have been eradicated and replaced.

The Jvarahareshvara and Chokkeeshvara (also called Kaushikeshvara) temples are fascinating for their architecture and preserve their granite Chola features.

The Kaayarohanam temple, attributed to the Lakulisa sect of ancient Saivism, one of three surviving in Tamilnadu, has unfortunately been renovated with no trace of its age.

The Kailasanatha temple built by Rajasimha, is the pinnacle of art and architecture in Kanchi, aptly described by its author the Ocean of Arts, Kalaasamudra as the Gem of Kanchi - Kanchi Mahamani


The Kamakshi or Kamakoti shrine, is at the heart of the city, and is referred to in the poems of the Nayanmars and has historical inscriptions of various eras. It serves as the only Ambal shrine for the major Siva temples.


Tiruparithikundram to the west of the city, nestling as a separate village, is considered the remnant of Jaina Kanchi. It has an ancient Pallava temple dedicated to the tirthankara Chandraprabha, mentioned also in the Pallankoil inscription of SimhaVarman. It is now not in worship. It is a two storey structure,with the sanctum in the upper floor.

The larger but later Trailokyanatha temple is a temple complex, with sanctums for several tirthankaras, of the Chola period, with later additions in the Vijayanagar era. A significant feature is the Gajaprashta vimana for one shrine and a tree with its own inscription. The sangeetha mandapa in front, with every pillar and the entire celeing painted, was the contribution of a Vijayanagar general Irugappa, who features in a small sculpture at the base of a pillar. Beside the painted images of Mahavira, Vasupuja and Pushpadanta, there are smaller shrines to Parshvanatha, and Dharmadevi or Padmavati Yakshi. This temple also has an extensive collection of bronzes of several tirthankaras and yakshis. It is taken care of a by a small family nearby, and the serves the small community of  Tamil Jains of Digambara sect. This community is better known as the Nainars today.
Ceiling painting,
Jain temple Tiruparithikunram
Adi Sankara, the founder of Advaita doctrine, is said to have estabished a mutt here, which continues today as the famous Kanchi Sankara Mutt.

Several other mutts of various sects are also to located in Kanchipuram. The mutt of Upanishad Brahmendra, now preserved as a memorial, is near the Anekatangavadam temple.

One of the leading lights of the Dravidian movement, which spearheaded Atheism and Rationalism, CN Annadurai, who was Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, was born in Kanchipuram. His house is now a museum of his artifacts.

There is also a Jumma Masjid near the Ekamresvara temple and mosque near the Vaikunta Perumal temple. Several churches are also active in Kanchi.


Water management, intricately linked with managament of agricultural land, called kaani aatchi, in Tamil, was accorded great importance in Kanchi, a somewhat dry area. The agricultural communities of the present 2018, boast that they surpass the fertile Kaveri delta in farm productivity, due to superior and more efficient practices. Ekambaresvara Padigam, a poem of the twin poets Irattai Pulavar, one lame, the other blind, illustrates this brilliantly with the following poem.

பாணியிற் கங்கை நதி மலையினிற் கயிலைமலை பாரழகினிற் தண்டகம்
பழமொழியில் ஔவை சொல் அரசரிற் சேரமான் பத்தியிற் சிறிய தொண்டன்
காணியிற் தொண்டை புகழில் வேளாளர் புகழ் கான்முனையினிற் பகீரதன்

Among rivers Ganga, mountains Kailasa, beauty Dhandaka
Among proverbs Avvai, kings Cheraman, devotion SiRuTondan
In Land Management Tondai, fame Vellalas, children Bhagirathan

The Mamandur lake, mentioned in Mahendra’s inscription in a nearby cave temple as Chitra Megha Tadaakam, still serves as a major reservoir for agriculture. A similar huge lake near Uthiramerur is called Vaira Megha Tadaakam, also dating from the Pallava era. Hundreds of ponds lakes and catchments dot the former Pallava territory, though the city of Madras and industrial growth have drained a significant portion. Glorious temple tanks still dot the city, but some are often dry nowadays.

Modern piped water and sewerage systems were laid in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries following their advent in Madras city. A slab proclaiming Conjeevaram Water Works in a building on the north street of the Mangala Theertham water tank.
Kachapeshvara temple water tank


கல்வியைக் கரையிலாத காஞ்சிமாநகர் Kanchi, unbounded in its learning, lauds Appar in his Tevaram, and indeed it was a center of great learning for millenia. A ghatika for Vedic learning is mentioned in Kadamba copper plate inscriptions from the fifth century, and in Vikramaditya the Second’s inscription in Kailasanatha temple. 

Art and sculpture, music and dance flourished, as did medicine, commerce, and the textile industry. A number of dancers’ names are listed in the inscriptions of the Mukteshvara temple. Mahendra Varma and Rajasimha take pride in their knowledge of music and mention it in their inscriptions. Inscriptions at the Tirumukkoodal temple describe provisions for medicines and treatment.

The textile heritage of silks, and silk looms continue to this day, though the industry went through several transformations with the introduction of mechanized looms and imported textiles. Cultural performances by communities, in villages and towns in the geographical terrain of the Pallava domain, continue an unbroken tradition, whose origins are lost in time.

Note This document was created for the Tamil Heritage Trust 2018 Kanchipuram Site Seminar and for the preparatory lecture to serve as an Introduction to the history of Kanchi

Note March 9,2018 I had written wrongly, that Vedanta Desikar and Appayya Deekshitar were contemporaries. I have corrected this.

Saturday 6 January 2018

மங்காது தமிழ் காத்த மரபினர்க்கு அடியேன்

காற்றில் கரையும் பேச்சு மொழியில் தொடங்கிய மொழிகள், கவிதை வடிவில் வந்தபின் இலக்கியமாய் தோன்றின. கர்ணப்பரம்பரை என்னும் செவிவழி மரபில் பற்பல மொழிகளில் இவை தொடர்ந்தன. சில செய்யுள்களும் கதைகளும் மட்டுமே காலத்தில் நிற்பவை. ஆராயிரம் மொழிகள் இன்று பேச்சு வழக்கிலிருப்பதாக மொழியியலார் கணிப்பு. அதில் சில நூறு மொழிகளுக்கே எழுத்துள்ளன. தொன்மையான இலக்கியம் உள்ள வெகு சில மொழிகளில் தமிழும் ஒன்று.

ஓலைச்சுவடியிலும் துணியலும் பின்னர் செப்பேட்டிலும் பாறையிலும் எழுத்துள்ள தமிழ் மொழியின் இலக்கியங்கள், இருநூறு ஆண்டுகளுக்கு முன் காகித அச்சிலும் (கி.பி.1812 எல்லிஸ் மொழிபெயர்த்த திருக்குறள் காகித அச்சில் வந்த முதல் தொல்லிலக்கியம் என நினைக்கிறேன்). முப்பது ஆண்டுகளுக்கு முன் கணினி என்னும் கம்ப்யூட்டரிலும் தமிழ் எழுத மென்பொருள் உருவாகின. பிறகு இணையத்தில் தமிழ் இலக்கியங்கள் ஏற்றப்பட்டன. ப்ராஜக்ட் மதுரை, விக்கிப்பீடியா, தமிழ் இணைய கல்விக்கழகம்  திராவிட வேதா, தேவாரம் போன்ற இணைய தளங்கள் பண்டாரங்கள், நூலகங்கள், செய்த பணியை தொடர்ந்து வருகின்றன. வரும் பொங்கல் திருநாள் ப்ராஜக்ட் மதுரையின் இருபதாம் ஆண்டு கொண்டாடவுள்ளது என முகநூலில் நேற்று கு.கல்யாணசுந்தரம் தெரிவித்தார். 

அவர்களுக்கும், அதைப்போன்ற மற்றவர்களின் தொண்டையும் பணிந்து பாராட்டி நான் எழுதிய செய்யுள்.

சங்க தமிழ் செய்த புலவர்க்கும் அடியேன் 
மங்காது அவை காத்த மரபினர்க்கும் அடியேன் 
எச்சமயத் தமிழ் குரவர் அடியார்க்கும் அடியேன் 
இச்சமயம் கற்றுகளும் மாணவர்க்கும் அடியேன்
செப்போலை கற்பொறித்த செந்தமிழர்க் கடியேன் 
ஒப்பில்லா மேகன்சீ சாமிநாதற் கடியேன் 
அணையா சுடர்காக்கும் அன்பர்க்கும் அடியேன் 
இணையவலை தமிழேற்றும் பணியார்க்கும் அடியேன்