Page:The Tamils Eighteen Hundred Years Ago.djvu/57

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Tamil Races and Tribes.

The oldest of the tribes who dwelt in Tamilakam were the Villavar and Minavar. The Villavar or bowmen (from the Dravidian word vil meaning a bow) inhabited hilly tracts and jungles and lived by the chase: and the Minavar or fishermen (from the Dravidian meen, a fish) subsisted by fishing and resided in the valleys and plains, or on the sea-coast. The two tribes were evidently a primitive race which was spread over the whole of India as they are still found in large nümber in Rajputana and Guzarat, where they are known as Bhils and Meenas, and in the Canarese country, where they are called Billavar.

These semi-barbarous tribes were conquered by the Nagas who were a very numerous and civilised race, and who at one time or other ruled a great portion of India, Ceylon and Burma. They were mentioned in the Ramayana, and the Naga capital, which probably lay in the heart of the Dekkan is described in that epic as follows :—

Near Bhogavati stands the place
Where dwell the hosts of the serpent race,
A broad-wayed city walled and barred
Which watchful legions keep and guard.
The fiercest of the serpent youth
Each awful for his venomed tooth;
And throned in his imperial hall
Is Vasuki who rules, them all.
Explore the serpent city well.
Search town and tower and citadel,
Scan each field and wood that lies
Around it with your watching eyes[1]

From the Mahabharata we learn that there were Naga kingdoms between the Jumna and the Ganges about the 13th century B. C. When the kings of the Lunar race of Aryas wanted to found a second capital near the spot where Delhi stands at present, they had to dislodge the Nagas who occupied it. Arjuna, the

  1. Griffith’s Ramayana IV. 205.
    Indian Antiquary Vol. VIII. p. 5.