Page:Pre-Aryan Tamil Culture.djvu/19

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This tradition says that the first Śaṅgam lived for 4,440 years, the second, for 3,700 years, and the third for 1,850 years. Much importance cannot be assigned to these precise figures, because early South Indian history does not reveal the existence of any particular era for the calculation of the passage of time in years from the year one of that era. Even eras established outside the Tamil country, like the Śālivāhana era, were adopted in South India not more than six hundred years ago. Dated lists of early Tamil kings do not, and cannot, on account of the want of an era, exist. The kings of these three dynasties are said to have been respectively 89, 59 and 49; this would give these Pāṇḍyas lengths of reign which no student of history can accept. The average length of the reigns of kings of dynasties which have lasted long, can range between twenty and thirty, but cannot mount up to fifty or sixty. Hence the alleged durations of the Śaṅgams are impossibly long and are also incapable of being checked by means of other sources of information, and useless as evidence of age. Moreover the commentator on Iṛaiyanāragapporuḷ who is our first informant about the three Śaṅgams is said to be Nakkīrar.[1] But the commentaries themselves name a series of ten scholars, beginning from Nakkīrar, each the pupil of his predecessor. The last of them, Muśiriyāśiriyar Nīlagaṇḍanār,[2] must therefore be the author of the commentaries as we now have them, though they may be claimed to possess a few sentences coming down from Nakkīrar's time. Moreover these commentaries embody a poem of 329 stanzas, whose hero is a Pāṇḍya king, Parāṅguśan Śaḍayan Māran Arikēśari,[3] who flourished about a.d. 750. Thus the earliest record about the chronology of the Śaṅgams is found in a book composed in the latter half of the eighth century and cannot have much evidential value, specially as there was a total absence of contemporary chronological records before that age. Let us turn now to the internal evidence of early Tamil poems. One of these decidedly claims to belong to pre-Christian times. This is an ode of twenty-four irregular lines[4] sung by Murañjiyūr Muḍināgarāyar,[5] a poet of the first Śaṅgam of tradition, in honour of Sēramān Peruñjōṛṛu Udiyan Śēral Adan,[6] a Śēra king, and attributing to him the honour of feeding the armies of both sides in the Bhārata battle. Almost all modern enquirers agree that the middle of the first millennium b.c. was the epoch of the great war between the Kauravas and the Pāṇḍavas. There is no reason, except prejudice, to discredit the chronological claim of this ode. Hence we may conclude that from the beginning of the second millennium b.c., if not earlier, the kings of the three early Tamil royal houses, the Śēra, the Śōḻa and the Pāṇḍya, as well as several petty chiefs of South India, patronized minstrels called Pāṇar,[7] who, with the Yāḻ[8] on their shoulders, wandered from court to court and sang beautiful odes on the adventures of kings and nobles in love and war, or, as they called it, on Agam[9] and Puṛam.[10] Many of these odes are now lost, because they were preserved only in the archives of human memory; but a great

  1. நக்கீரர்.
  2. முசிறியாசிரியர் நீலகண்டனார்.
  3. பராங்குசன் சடையன் மாறன் அரிகேசரி.
  4. Puṛanānūṛu, 2.
  5. முரஞ்சியூர் முடிநாகராயர்
  6. சேரமான் பெருஞ்சோற்று உதியன் சேரல் ஆதன்.
  7. பாணர்.
  8. யாழ்.
  9. அகம்.
  10. புறம்.