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Mahabharat and Sangam Literature



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K. V. Ramakrishna Rao B.sc., M.A., A.M.I.E., C.Eng (I)., B.L.,

Introduction

“Mahabharat” is the greatest epic of India and as well as that of the world. It has influenced not only India, but also the world in many aspects leaving traces that could be discerned even today1. As the western world has been subjected to total westernization, modernization and religious culturation in recent centuries, such traces have been slowly disappearing or have already been made to disappear2. However, their footprints could still be found in Asia, particularly, South East Asian Countries, where, they are culturally surviving3.

In Indian context, Sanskrit and Tamil literatures are placed apart on lines of linguistic, racial and sectarian interpretation and argued that both are different and separate in the respective aspects. However, it is interesting and thought provoking to find out the traces of epics and puranas in the ancient Tamil literature popularly known as “Sangam literature”. It reflects the social, religious, economic and political aspects in historical perspective. Like Mahabharat, the influence of the Tamils on the South East Asian countries has been so remarkable. Till 12th century, with the victories and exploits of Cholas over seas, the political domination too was registered4.

Being the literature of the ancient Indians, both have historical connection, which is definitely revealed through a comparative study that is undertaken in this paper.

The Dates of Mahabharat and Sangam Literature

The dating of Mahabharat has been controversial for a long time, however, the range has been narrowed down to 3102 BCE to 1700 BCE recently based on astronomical and archaeological evidences5. Only, the stray cases come down to 4th century CE and so on, which delve on the development of script and association of a language with script6. Thus, some western estimates starting with 950 BCE (F. E. Pargiter), place it between 400 BCE and 400 CE (Winternitz, Hopkins, Wilson, etc.,). The methodology of dating involved can be grouped as follows:

1. Archaeological evidences: Usage of horse, cavalry, sophisticated weaponry used, chariots with horses with axle made of tensile Iron etc., As usage of Iron could not be placed before 1000 BCE, the date of Mahabharat cannot go beyond 1000 BCE.

2. Script, Language Literature: Before Asoka (c.250 BCE) / Mauryan period (c.300 BCE), there was no script in India, as Indians did not know to write. Thus, all literature could have written down only after this period. Thus, the date of Vedas has to be around 1500-1000 BCE in language form, but put into written form later.

3. Astronomical evidences: Though, it is accepted that the Kali era started with 3102 BCE, the exact observation of conjunction of planets on 17th / 18th February 3102 is credited to an unknown Greek instead of an Indian. Therefore, if at all any Indian used it, it could have been borrowed one and the possibility was Aryabhata (c.496 CE), who used it first.

4. Buddhism, Jainism and Hindu Religion: As Ramayana and Mahabharata make reference to Buddha, Buddhists and Jains, they must have been conceived, composed and written only after 5th century BCE.

5. The Greek Factor / Alexander Invasion: After the invasion of Alexander (c.326 BCE) only, all arts and sciences were introduced into India and therefore, the poets could have seen the reality of wars, palaces, kings, their dresses etc., only after that and hence date could be only after 326 BCE. Thus, even the epics could have been copied from the Greek sources, as has been argued by Weber, D. C. Boyd, W. Taylor and others (K. T. Telang, Was the Ramayana Copied from Homer? A Reply to Professor Weber, (1873), Publishers Parlour (India), New Delhi, 1976).

Here, the important point is the dating of Mahabharat war is different from the dating of the composition of the work.

Another controversy is about its status of attaining 1,00,000 verses in three stages. Winternitze7asserts that the supposition that the Mahabharata received its present form only in the 15th or 16th century is absolutely false. For it is proved by its literary and inscriptional evidence, that already about 500 CE, the Mahabharata was no longer an actual epic, but a sacred text-book and religious discourse, and was on the whole, not essentially different, in extent and contents from the work as we have it at present.

The dating of Sangam literature8 has been 500 BCE to 500 CE or 300 BCE to 300 CE or 500 BCE to 100 CE. Here, the methodology of datings could be grouped as follows:

  1. Tolkappiyam is placed at two extremities – 1000 BCE and 7th to 9th centuries CE.
  2. The existence of “Tamil Sangams” based on the internal evidences of the literature and “Iraiyanar Agapporul” is accepted by one group of scholars and denied by the other.
  3. Megalithic culture related to Tamil culture - According to Asko Parpola the Dravidian languages came to India from the west through Iran about 700 BCE with the carriers of the Megalithic culture. He repeats that “one of the most widely supported hypotheses” was the one that was proposed in 1953 by Christoph von Furer-Haimendrof3
  4. Such Megalithic culture distributed all over South India including Tamilnadu and which persisted well into the first centuries of the Christian era.
  5. The last phase of the Megalithic culture (c.300-100 BCE) does overlap the period of Old Tamil Culture (c.100 BCE - 600 CE), which in its militaristic idealization of warfare (including such elements as the horse and iron weapons) closely resembles the martial character of the Megalithic culture (in which weapons were regular grave goods).
  6. Megalithic invasion of Tamizhagam - Asko Parpola4 also talks about a “Megalithic invasion” of Tamizhagam. To bring the “invading Dravidians” from Iran like “Aryans”, he proposes another hypothesis that the Dravidians could not have arrived in India as late as the Megalithic culture is clear from the fact that there is evidence in the Vedic texts for the presence of Dravidian languages in the Punjab already in the second millennium BCE.
  7. Thus, the Tamil language could have developed only after 500-300 BCE, and could have been written down after 300 BCE, so that the literature evolved had been upto 1st century to 7tth cent.CE.

Therefore, the dating of Sangam literature should be decisive one in connecting it with Mahabharat incidences. The extensive usage of Mahabharat incidences as simile, metaphor and comparison in the literature clearly proves that it has reached South India definitely before or during 500-300 BCE. Otherwise, the Sangam Poets could not have adopted to use in such a manner.

References about Mahabharat in Sangam Literature9

The references about and of Mahabharat in the Sangam literature have been of the following nature:

  1. Connecting the Tamil Kings of Tamizhagam with Mahabharata.
  2. Direct references to Mahabharata.
  3. Indirect references to Mahabharata.
  4. Other references of simile types.

The usage of Mahabharata, characters, episodes etc., prove that the Sangam Poets had been well aware of the work during the material period. Though, the Great War was fought in the North separated by thousands of kilometres, its percolation to South down and its recording in the Tamil literature has been unique. Unless, there had been some relation between the Tamils and Mahabharata, the Poets could not have registered its presence positively in their poems.

The Contemproneity of Cheraman Peruncheraladhan

Muranjiyur Naganar, while singing the praise of Cheraman Peruncheraladhan, records that he offered food without any limit to the fighting armies of The Five and The Hundred (this is the usual expression used) implying Pandavas and the Kauravas, till the latter fell down dying (Puram.2.13-16). The following questions arise in the context10:

  1. Whether the reference is historical or mere poetic exaggeration to eulogize the King to get Gifts.
  2. Whether, the food was offered at the Site or he made any arrangements, if so in what way?
  3. Why no cross-reference is found in the Mahabharata itself, had a Chera King did such a service?

In any case, the Poet knew the following facts:

  1. The Pandavas were refused their land, which was due to them.
  2. They got angry because of this and decided to fight.
  3. They fought with Kauravas.
  4. The Kauravas fell dying in the battlefield.
  5. As the Chera, Cholas and Pandyas have been mentioned in the text of Mahabharata giving their details of participation in Rajasuya, the Great war etc.
  6. Thus, in historical perspective, a Chera King might have participated in the War and he might have been given the charge of feeding the army, which the poet describes in his own way.

The Relation of Velir with “Tuvarai” and Krishna

Kapilar records certain details about Irngovel (Puram.201:8-12), which are to be scrutinized critically:

  1. Irungovel was born from a Yagna Pit (Tadavu) of a Rishi living in the North.
  2. He ruled a city named “Tuvarai”, which had walls made of Copper like material.
  3. He used to give alms without any discrimination.
  4. He descended from the “Velir dynasty”, which had in existence for 49 generations before him.

The following points are noted after critical observation:

  1. If we take 15/20/25 years as the reign of each generation, then the Velir must have been ruling since 500 +735 / 500+980 / 500+1225 or since 1235 / 1480 / 1725 BCE. Incidentally, which tallies with the “Tramiradesa Sanngatham” that threatened the territories of Kharavela as recorded in the Kharavela / Hathigumpa inscription.
  2. Surprisingly, the Kharavela’s inscription records that he defeated a confederacy of Dravidian Kings, which was threatening his territorial integrity. And that confederacy was 1300 years old during his reign.
  3. Interestingly, scholars have hitherto been mentioning that it was 103, 113, 130 or 300 years old, but, actually, the inscription reads that it was 1300 old.
  4. If we consider that “Tuvarai”11 was a famous town in Mysore as revealed through inscriptions existing in 12th century CE, then, the reign of first generation comes to 1st cent.BCE / 3rd cent.CE /4th cent.CE, which contradicts the Sangam chronology.
  5. If we place the first dynasty at par with Mahabharata period, then, each dynasty must have ruled for nearly 40 years (3102-1000=2102/49=42 years), which may not be accepted by the modern scholars.

Thus, the 1700-1400 BCE period appears to be reasonable. Then, the Chera King might not be offering food to the soldiers of the Great War as claimed by the Poet, if c.3100 BCE is taken as the date of Mahabharat War and he might have done so.

 

A Note on Kharavela Inscription

The inscription has been hitherto read differently and the date of the “Dravidian confederacy” arrived at as follows:

K. A. Nilakanta Sastri12: “The famous Hathigumpha inscription of Kharavela (first half of the second century B.C) mentions a league of Tamil states that was 113 years old at the date of the inscription and had beem for some time a source of danger to the Kalinga kingdom”.

The rendering of the inscription by different scholars are reads as follows:

N. K. Sagu13: Janapada bhavanam cha tersa vasa sata katam bhidati Tramira deha samghatam| (Pali version)

Janapadha bhavanam cha trayodhasha varsha sata krutam bhinatti dhramila desha sangatam| (Sanskrit version)

(In the eleventh year….) Also (His Majesty) shattered the territorial confederacy of the Tamil States having populous villages, that was existing since thirteen hundred years (English rendering).

K. P. Jayswal14: Jana-pada-bhavanam cha terasa-vasa-sata-ketu-Bhada-tit + amara-deha-samghatam (p.457).

“His Highness Ketu who (flourished) thirteen centuries before,………which has been established by the Former Kings in the city of Prith=udaka-darbha and is pleasing to the country” (p.464).

Though, he differs with the King(s), the number of years is read as “thirteen centuries before” Kharavela.

R. Mukherji15 has dealt with the expression “Tramira daha” and its relation with Kharavela.

Thus, the important point to be noted is that the territorial confederacy of the Tamil States ….. was existing since thirteen hundred years. If the date of Kharavela is taken according to different authorities, the existence of the territorial confederacy of the Tamil States goes back to 400 + 1300 = 1700 BCE to 100 + 1300 = 1400 BCE. Therefore, the antiquity of the Tamil Kings can be historically goes back to 1700 to 1400 BCE. Hence, the scholars should consider his important aspect and research further about the antiquity of the Sangam period and the Kings of the period in question.

Direct and Indirect References

As pointed out, the Tamil Poets used the incidences directly and indirectly as simile, metaphor or allegory in their poetic description. The Sangam literature mostly describes nature in “Five Tinais” with extravagant narratives and superlative comparisons. In such allegories, they use the Epic and Purana references freely to drive out the point. Thus, it is amply evident that common people know very well about the background about such narrative recorded by the poets purposely.

 

The references found in the Sangam literature are tabulated as follows for easy comparative study:

Mahabharat incidences

Sangam literature

As Mal (Tirumal) carried away their dress and climbed on a Kurutta tree, the cowherd women could not take bath.

Agam.59:5-6

An expression “Kavuriyar” is used to denote Pandyas and they were with shining lances and with possession of lands ending (with ocean). Pandyas are considered as descendents of Pandavas.

Agam.70:13
Agam.343:3-4
Puram.3:5

“Kunjaram” – the word is used for an elephant just as in Mahabharat.

Agam.92:3

Pandavas were denied their land. Therefore getting angry, they decided to fight with Kauravas

Puram.2:13-16

Balarama had his body the colour of white ad Krishna blue. They had flags with symbols of Palm and Kite respectively.

Puram.56:3-6;
58:14-16:
Nat.32:1-2;
Pari.2:20-22;
Tirumurugu.

“Kannan Ezhini” shows that “Kannan / Krishna” had been popular during the Sangam period.

Puram.197:7

The Highest One, who raised upto the skies had an axe with which he cut off (the heads of) many Kings. Parasurama is implied.

Puram.220:5

Akruran, with great muscle strength, particularly that of shoulders, fought in the battle, when the Five and the Hundred decided to do so.

Padit.14:5-6

Like Mayavan, Selvak Kadungo Vazhiyadhan excelled his Guru, implying Krishna’s study under Chandini.

Padit.7th Ten.8-10.

“Bakan” means a person without eyes / eyesight. Thritarastra was a blind man like him. His son built a Lac Palace and invited Pandavas to stay there. Then, he set on fire to kill them, but the Son of Winds (Bhima) came out tearing off of the walls of the Palace escaping with his brothers and mother.

Kali.24:1-8

Balaraman wearing peerless ear ornaments is compared with th Mara tree with bunches of white flowers.

Kali.25.1

Balaraman with Plough and “Pasunthuzhai” garland.

Kali.35.1

Eight elephants are compared to that of ones protecting eight cardinal points, implying “Astatik Gajas”.

Kali.47:2-3

There had been “Two Andanars”. Though, they taught knowledge from the scriptures to “Two Different Groups”, they did meticulously according to the respective scriptures, just like mother and rains, which shower without any discrimination. Here, Jupiter and Mercury are implied to Bhrigaspati and Sukracharya, who taught Devas and Asuras.

Kali.98:1-3.

She had her haie with elegance and wavy nature. One person touched her (to dishonour). Her husband took a vow that he would kill him by tearing off of his chest. Accordiungy, he fulfilled his vow on the battlefield. In comparing a scence, where a youth was pierced through his chest by a bull with his horn, it is mentioned.

Kali.100:18-20.

The enemies sent a horse. Mayan killed it by tearing oof of its mouth. Here the killing of Kesi by Krishna is implied.

Kali.102:53-55.

The sound of roaring bulls and bisons, musical instruments etc., is compared with the starting of the “War between the Hundred and the Five”, implying Mahabharat War.

Kali.103:57-59.

He lies on a bed of Snake floating in the ocean and has a disc that is always victorious.

Kali.104:71-72.

He measured the entire world with his feet. His elder brother has body colour pure white and he has blue. The combination appears as if the former is dressed with a beautiful white cloth. Krishna and Balarama are implied.

Kali.123:1-2

At the time of Floods, all living creatures tumble down each other to reach God. All involute into Him with their respective nature and merge with Him.

Kali.128:1-2

The Wrestlers brought huge elephants before, and they were defeated. The disc emanated cut off of the parts of the elephants and killed them. The killing of Canura and Mustiga by Krishna and Balarama are implied.

Kali.132:1-3

The Five were capable of defeating all the enemies. With great chariots, they fought with the Hundred and killed them falling in the battlefield.

Perum.415-16

He was with the body colour that of three oceans, implying Krishna.

Perum.29

The indirect references include many social, ethical, moral, political concepts and issues.

 

Paripadal and Mahabharata

Paripadal gives many details of Mahabharata directly with specific terminology. The complete deification of Krishna is noted in the work. Though, it is dated to 9th century with its higher limit, definitely, the content matter had been incorporated during the Sangam period consistent with the other references vouchsafed by the culture, tradition and heritage reflected by the ancient Tamils.

Mahabharat incidence

Reference

The thousand-hooded Adhiseshan cover his head.

He is the same as Balaraman, who has his body colour that of white like conch and with a flag of Palm.

Varaha avatara – He plunged into the Flood waters to rescue the earth out of waters.

It is interpreted as marrying “Manmagal” - Tirumagal/Lakshmi.

The saving of the world from the lood waters is compared to Meru.

2:16-17

2:32-33

4:22-24

Took the shape of a Swan and drunk the Flood waters to rescue the world.

3:25-26

Took Mohini avatatra to distribute nectar between Asuras and Devas.

He killed Kesi, a demon who came in the form of a horse

3:31-32

Taking a form of a Dwarf, but attaining an all-pervasive gigantic figure, he measured the whole Universe.

3:20

Asuras dive into Oceanic waters fearing his gigantic figure taken to measure the world

3:54-55

Taking Narasingha avatara to kill Hiranyakasipu and bless Prahaladha

4:10-21

He held the churn-staff, taking a form of a Tortoise, when Devas churned the milky ocean

Tirattu.1:64-66
Tirattu.1.69

He checked the arrogance of Garuda, his vehicle

6:23:95

Dasavatara – Mahabharata and Sangam Literature

The references about different avataras / reincarnations as found in the Sangam literature are tabulated as follows:

Sl.No

Avatara

Representing

Reference

1

Macca

Fish

2

Kurma

Tortoise

Pari.Tirattu.1:64-66

3

Varaha

Boar

Pari.2:16-17;
2:32-33
4:22-24

4

Narasimha

Lion-man

Pari.4:10-21

5

Vamana

Dwarf

Pari.3.20; 3.54-56;
Madurai.591

6

Parasurama

Man with Axe

Agam.220:5

7

Rama

Man with Bow and Arrows

Puram.378:18-21

8

Balarama

Man with Plough

Puram.58.14

9

Krishna

Man with Disc

Agam.59:5-6
Puram.58.15
Perum.29-31

10

Kalki

Man riding Horse

It is evident that such metaphor is used only to imply the omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent nature of Godhead scientifically in accordance with the evolution long ago. Later theologically, such representation might have been converted to “Dasavatara concept” for easy remembrance and broad classification.

 

In Mahabharata, only certain recensions mention about different reincarnations of Vishnu. They are mentioned as – the Fish, the Tortoise, the Boar, the Lion, the Dwarf, Hari (?), Sadhya (?), Narayana (?) son of Kasyapa (?), Rama (Bhargava), Rama (Dsarathi), Rama (Balarama), Vasudeva, the Yadava, and Kalki the future one (VII.1442*D6). In aranyakaparvan (Book.III), only, the Boar, the Man-Lion, the Dwarf and Krishna incarnations are mentioned [III27|BD(except D1) G3].

From the table, it may be noted that –

  1. Macca and Kalki avataras are not mentioned in the Sangam literature.
  2. Paripadal does not mention Parasurama and Rama avataras, though mention about Mohini, Swan and other avataras.
  3. Narasimha and Varaha avataras are mentioned only in Paripadal.

Thus, the following conclusions may be drawn:

  1. The concept of Dasavatara has not been well developed in the Sangam literature.
  2. As similar feature is found in Paripadal, all works of Sangam literature has to be placed before the development of Dasavatatra.
  3. As Mahabharat contains such development, the date of Sangam period before 3rd cent.CE is well established.

Mahabharata and Tamil Sangam Kings

The Southern recensions mention Arjuna marrying a Pandyan princess. Specifically, he marries Chitrangathai daughter of Chitrvahanan, King of Manalur and begets Papruvahanan through her. She is considered as a daughter of Pandyan King. During Aswametha Digvijaya, Sahadeva comes to South and meets Papruvahanan in Manalur (Sabaparvan). Here, the name of the Pandyan King is mentioned as Malaytdwajan. These details are also mentioned in Vishnu Purana (IV.20), Bhagavatam (10) and Sakandam (86).

A Pandya king was present in the Swayamvaram of Draupati at Viratapuram (I.189.7020). Yudhisthira describes how Krishna broke the gates of Pandyan King and defeated him (VII.11.398, VII.23.1016). Krishna defeated Cholas (VII.11.321). In Digvijaya, Sahadeva defeated Dravidas, Cholas, Keralas and Pandyas. The Cholas, Dravidas and Andhras were present at the Rajasuya (II.34.1988). Sarangadvaja, the Pandyaraja joined Pandavas in the Great War (V.19.576, VI.50.2084) and was slain by Aswattama (VI.23.1019, VIII.21.81). Some manuscripts mention his name as Sagaradhvaja. Keralas and Cholas also fought on the side of Pandyas (VII.455.1893).

P. T. Srinivasa Iyengar15a mentioning these details notes that there is evidence that there were political relations between north and southern India. M. Raghava Iyengar too gives strong arguments in favour this15b. Considering the connection, the influence of Mahabharat on the Sangam literature could be noted in historical perspective.

The Critical Edition of Mahabharat

There is a verse in Mahabharata itself, which says that there have been three ways of interpretation of the text for theological, philosophical and ethical purposes20. This is wrongly taken by the scholars that there have been three authors and texts and thus, the present work has been enlargement of the original work and so on. The hypothesis that Mahabharata as “Jaya” contained 8,000 verses composed by Vyasa, Vaisampayana enlarged it to 20,000 and then finally it attained 1,00,000 verses through Sauti has been perhaps propounded by C. V. Vaidya21 and then picked up by the western scholars. The scholars know very well that a sloka contains only two lines and in 16,000 lines, the entire history cannot be told. They also know that some versions claim that Vyasa prepared another composition of 60,00,000 verses, of which 30,00,000 verses were meant, for the gods, 15,00,000 for the manes, 14,00,000 for demons and 1,00,000 for human beings22.

 

The only point of their doubt is that a single human being could not have composed or written 1,00, 000 verses or 2,00,000 lines in his lifetime. This is definitely their own reflection of reality and not that of the Poet or Composer or Writer. There have been many examples, where Poets have composed lacs of verses. In Tanjavur Saraswati Mahal library, a “Mahabharata” written by Madhvswami, an ardent disciple of Ramdas Swami, in Ovi-meter, Marathi language to the extent of 1,20,000 verses is available23. Besides, there have been four hand-written copies of the volume. Recently, Sir Isaac Newton has been credited with writing of 50,00,000 words on different subjects24. Then, he should have written 5,00,000 lines, if each sentence contains 10 words. Then, he should have composed 2,50,000 verses, had his writings been of poem of two lines! Why then one should doubt writing one lakh verses / 2,00,000 lines? Therefore, this argument is not sustainable.

The Buddhists and Jains dominated the Indian society politically governing the educational curriculum of India during their respective periods. They imitated the epics just to attract the common people, but distorted the narratives to disparage Hindu religion theologically. This is exploited and interpreted differently by the western scholars, as if, the Original Works were written based on such meddled texts to suit their interpretation. The same confusion prevails in the context of Sangam literature also, as both Buddhists and Jains interfered with the texts. That is why, the Tamil scholars themselves question the veracity of the existence of the Sangams expounding that it is nothing but the imitation of Jaina Sangam of Naganandi of 450 CE in Madurai and so on.

The critical edition of Mahabharata was prepared only recently by the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Pune. But, such an attempt has already been undertaken by Madwacharya (1238-1317 CE), which he has recorded in his work “Mahabharata Tatparya Nirnayam” = The Determination of the Meaning of Mahabharata25. He visited many places to locate the texts and read them critically. He claims that he had read the text with the blessings of Vyasa in the same way as he would have composed. Though, he pointed out that attempts had been made to distort Mahabharata (implying Jains and Buddhists), he never denied that it did not have 1,00,000 slokas. He proceeded to give a philosophical interpretation to the work to expound the hidden meanings in the slokas.

 

Critical Edition of Sangam Literature

Bharatam Padiya Perundevanar – Perundevanar, a Poet who Sang Bharatam i.e, Mahabharata has been credited with compiling Sangam literature – Ettutogai (Natrinai, Kuruntogai, Ingurunuru, Padituppattu, Paripadal, Kalittogai, Agam and Puram), as he has reportedly added a God Invoking song to every poetic collection. However, it is not known as to why he has not added anything to Patttuppattu (Tirumurugatruppadai, Porunatruppadai, Sirupanatruppadai, Perumpanatruppadai, Mullaippattu, Maduraikanchi, Nedunalvadai, Kurinchippattu, Pattinappalai and Malaipadukadam). After that, U. V. Swaminatha Iyer had done a yeoman service by collecting manuscripts from many places, edited and printed the Sangam and other Tamil works. Generally, they are considered as critical edition and accepted by the world scholars.

Which is the Earliest – Ramayana or Mahabharat?

That Mahabharata precedes Ramayana had been a brainchild of some Western scholars, who had not properly studied the source materials26. Internal (literary), archaeological (epigraphical), and other evidences clearly show that Ramayana precedes Mahabharata. Two incidences of Ramayana as depicted in Sangam literature – Rama ordering the chirping and tweeting birds like the roaring ocean to be silent, as he wanted to have a meeting with his army for strategy (Agam.70) and the attempt of wearing the ornaments thrown from the Ravana’s chariot fell on the hills by monkeys topsy-turvy manner (Puram.378) - are not found in the Valmiki Ramayana, but the Mahabharata and other Puranic details are available. Tamil tradition places Ramayana earlier to Mahabharata27.

Archaeology, Mahabharat and Sangam Literature

Archaeological evidences for Tamil culture and civilization do not go beyond 1000 BCE. The Iron in South India is also placed around that date. Moreover, the script used in India, the Asokan Brahmi and Tamil Brahmi, is dated to 3rd cent.BCE. Archaeologists assert that before that there was no script. Therefore, the historical period of Tamils cannot go beyond 300 BCE. Therefore, they do not recognize the existence of Sangams, participation of Tamil Kings in the Great War etc.

As for as Mahabharata is concerned, the traditional sites excavated at Indraprastha, Kurukshetra, Dwaraka and other places yielded evidences dated to 1700-1400 BCE only. No evidences to the effect of a Great War fought – weapons, missiles, chariot wheels, axles, axle pins, turrets, horse-shoes, etc., or the Palaces built and Kings lived have been found. Therefore, they do not recognize the astronomical dating of the Great War around 3100 BCE.

However, the tradition coincides with the astronomical dating of the War around 3100 BCE. As for as the ancient period of India is concerned, the gap between Indus Valley Civilization – IVC (2500-1950 BCE) and Mauryan period (3rd cent.BCE) has not been explained historically in spite of the availability of archaeological evidences. Even the new controversy started to the effect as to whether the Vedas are pre-Harappan / IVC or post-Harappan / IVC has been undecided like the undeciphered Indus script.

Is it not strange that Sangam Poets sang such classical poems without the knowledge of writing? Equally, is it not strange that the language of Indus people was not known to other contemporary civilizations, as the latter used interpreter28 to speak and bargain with Indus people and traders as has been depicted in Sumerian sculpture and inscriptions – Sargon of Akkad (2334-2279 BCE)? A Meluha village / colony was there near Lagash that existed for 35 years (2105-2071 BCE) I the time of Third Dynasty of Ur29. For 35 years, they were speaking only unknown language without any interaction with the surrounding peoples? Asko Parpola suggests that the word “meluhha” can be read as Meluha / Meluhha / Melahha / Melakam and even (Ta)milakam. Gadd has already related it to mleccha (Sanskrit). In cognate Pali “milakkha” means barbarian. In Akkadian, Meluhha denotes to Indo-Iranian borderlands and Indus Civilization. The Meluhha high lands had also been associated with Copper. S. Kalyanaraman30 has recently given an interpretation that Vidura conversed with Yudhisthira in mleccha, a dialect language, as he did not want others to know. “Mlecchita vikalpa” has been characteristically mentioned as one of the 64 arts it is interpreted as cipher writing or writing in picture by Katyayana. In Mullaippattu, Sangam poets record that certain people employed as bodyguards are referred to as mlecchar (Mullai.65-66). Actually, the poet conveys that their bodies spoke but their tongues did not. It does not mean that they were dumb but others did not know their language. In any case, both the Sanskrit and Tamil literary evidences show that the respective people called themselves as mlecchar.

In a treaty31 between Mittanians and Hittites dated to 15th – 14th cent.BCE, the gods Mitrasil, Arunasil, Indar and Nasattyana side by side with Teshup and Hepa have been mentioned. They are nothing but Indian gods - Mithra, Varuna, Indra and the Nasatyas. Teshup and Hepa are local gods. Their kings too had names like Mattiwaza, Tushratta, Mariannu and so on and they are typically Indian. Not only kings have Sanskrit names, their records have many such words denoting day to day to things, goods etc. Few examples are –

1. A text by a Mitannian named Kikkuli uses words such as aika (eka, one), tera (tri, three), panza (pancha, five), satta (sapta, seven), na (nava, nine), vartana (vartana, round).

2. Another text has babru (babhru, brown), parita (palita, grey) and pinkara (pingala, red).

3. Their chief festival was the celebration of vishuva (solstice) very much like India.

 

The archaeological evidences outside India

The unanswered questions

Position in India

The fourth King of Assyria Salmanesar (727-722 BCE) was gifted with India elephants.

How the Indian elephants were sent to Assyria? By Sea or by land route? Who sent from India? What was the money received?

Before Alexander’s invasion in 326 BCE, India has no history.

An Indian settlement was also found to have been flourished there during 8th cent.BCE.

How the Indians went and settled there? Were they speaking a language without a script?

As no script was there before Asoka, they must be speaking unknown language without script

The palace of Nebuzethanesar (604-562 BCE) at Pirnummurath had pillars of Indian teak.

How the India teaks were exported? Were they sent as logs or wood?

The megalithic Indians might have produced the teak.

Knobbed pottery vases and cotton came to Sumer.

Assurbanipal (668-626 BCE) cultivated Indian plants including the “wool-bearing trees” of India.

The word “Sindhu” found in his library used to denote Indian cotton.

Terracotta mummy like figures found at Lothal and Mohenjodaro. The Egyptian mummies were wrapped by Indian muslins (c.3000 BCE). Dhania (coriander seeds) were also found.

The Boghzkoi inscriptions of 14th cent.BCE contain the names Mitra, Varuna, Indra etc.

It proves the close contact between India and western Asia before 14th cent.BCE.

A cylinder seal of about 2,000 BCE bearing cuneform inscriptions and images of Chaldean deities have been unearthed in Central India.

Proves the connection between India and Chaldea before 2,000 BCE.

A Babylonian sarcophagus has been unearthed from South India.

Proves the connection between South India and Babylon before 2,000 BCE.

During the period of the first and second Hebrew Kings, rice, sandal were imported from India in Babylon during 8th to 6th centuries BCE.

Who produced rice and sandal in India? As rice was sent, how it was grown, what were the agricultural methods used, whether it was packed and sent, how it was measured for trade, what was charged in turn?

The megalithic people came from the middle-east must have known the requirements and produced rice and sandal for export.

The prersence of large body of Indian troops ion the Persian army in Greece in 480 BCE shows how far west the Indian connections were carried and the discovery of modelled heads of Indians at Memphis, of about the 5th cent.BCE shows that Indians were living thee for trade [Flinders Petrie (1853-1942) Egypt and Isreal (1911)].

Lotus appearing in many Egyptian paintings – the earliest wall paintings of the VI Dynasty at the pyramids of Saqqara and in all funerary stelae; among the funerary treasures from the tomb of Ttakhamen; the god of Nile holds a pair of blue lotus stalks in his hands at the tenple of Rameses II;

 

The Mittani who worshipped Vedic gods, belonged to an Indic kingdom that was connected by marriage across several generations to the Egyptian 18th dynastry to which Akhneten (1352-1336 BCE) belonged. The first Mittani King was Sutarna I (good sun). The mames of the successors are Indian as listed below:

Name of the King

Meaning

Sutarna I

Good sun

Paratarna I

Great sun

Parashukshatra

Ruler with axe

Saukshatru

Son of Sukshatra, the good ruler

Paratarna II,

Artatama or Ritadhama

Abiding in cosmic law

Sutarna II

Dasharatha

Mtivaja or Matiwazza

Whose wealth is prayer

How an Indic kingdom could exist with Indian names far away from India in 14th cent. BCE?

These evidences clearly prove that India had been in active during those days with flourishing trade and commerce. Such conditions could not have prevailed without established society and conditioned polity in India. Therefore, just because, there are no archaeological evidences, such facts can be ignored? How is that archaeological evidences are available about Indians outside India, but not inside India for the same period? Is it anything wrong with the methodology of archaeology or dating of archaeological evidences? Only archaeologists have to answer or solve these archaeological riddles archaeologically and they cannot go on argue that Indians were not in India, but Indians were outside India, but still people of other civilizations were getting Indian goods used for their palaces, foods, dress and so in.

Mahabharat War, Indian Royal Genealogies and Historical Reckoning

The Mahabharat war, whether it is myth or reality, its impact on Indian history, historical dynasties and rulers has been well felt and recorded. Something must have happened after the War, that is why perhaps, it has earned the name of “Mahabharat”, so that the Kingdoms must have been disturbed, disintegrated and even disappeared.

 

Suggested Further Reading

Notes and References

1. Donald A. Mackanzie, Myths of Pre-Columbian America, Blackie & Sons Ltd, UK, p.222, 381, 382, 476, 500 etc.

………………………, Buddhism in Pre-Christrian Britain, Blackie & Sons Ltd, UK, 1922, p.46, 54, 92-93, 101, etc.

Chamanlal, Hindu America, Hosiapur V. V. Research Institute, 1956., pp.233-255.

Mahabharat Critical Edition.

India’s Contribution to World Culture and Thought, Vivekananda Kendra, Madars.

2. Suppression and destruction of archaeological evidences and misinterpretation of such evidences have been orchestrated work of the interested groups working at national and international levels.

Destruction of Bamiyan Buddha statues.

Looting of Kabul musuem and destruction of Kanishka stature etc.

Looting of sites of Mohanjadaro and sealing of them.

Looting of Bagdad musuem and disappearance of 5000 years old artifacts.

3. R. C. Majumdar, Hindu Colonies, Firmas K. L. Mukhopadhyay, Calcutta, 1974.

Reginald Le May, The Culture of South-East Asia, National Book Trust, New Delhi, 1962.

Sangam Literature.

4. Rajendra Chola with his naval fleet and army reached many countries in 12th century and conquered the lands – Jave, Sumatra, Borneo, Ilamuridesam etc., He left their representatives and returned. The Chinese too acknowledged their suzertainty and in fact, mentioned the Eastern Ocean as “Chola’s Ocean” in their records.

5. Colloquium on the Date of Khurukshetra War Based on Astronomical Data held in Bangalore on January 5th and 6th 2003. Based on planetary software, B. Narahari Achar and others prove that the traditional date about 3100 BCE tally with the stellar and planetary position as depicted in the Mahabharata when compared with the simulated figures.

6. That script was developed only after Asokan Brahmi (3rd cent.BCE) and therefore, Indian could have leaned to write only after 3rd cent.BCE. Moreover, as Mahabharat mentions about Buddhists and Yavanas, it could have incorporated such details only after 3rd cent.BCE.

7. M. Winternitze, A Histrory of Indian Literatrure, University of Calcutta, 1978, Vol.I, Part.II, p.408.

The inscriptional evidences proving that already about 500 CE, the Mahabharata was no longer an actual epic, but a sacred text-book and religious discourse is given by the following authors:

R. G. Bhandarker, JBRAS, 10, 1871-2, pp.81 ff.

K. T. Telang, SDE, Vol.8, pp.28 ff

G. Buhler and J. Kirste, Indian Studies, II, SWA, 1892.

8. The authorities differ in dating the Sangam literature, as they differ about the existence of Sangam, correlation of megalithic culture with Sangam period, Aryan-Dravidian controversies, Kumarikkandam hypotheses etc.

Particularly, the western scholars – Asko Parpola (2000) - recently try to place it upto 8th century CE and of course, this is nothing but revival and presentation of views of K. N. Sivaraja Pillai, L. D. Swamikannu Pillai etc., in different way under the guise of archaeological and linguistic evidences.

9. Only Ettuttogai and Pattuppattu have been taken for interpretation in this paper.

10. M. Raghava Iyengar, Araychi Toghuthi, Tamil University, Tanjavur, 1984, pp.177-184.

11. Turuvai.

12. K. A. Nilakanta Sastri, A History of South India, Oxford University Press, Madras, 1966, p.88.

13. N. K. Sahu, Kharavela, Orissa State Museuem,

14. K. P. Jayswal,

15. Mukerjee

15a. P. T. Srinivasa Iyengar, History of Tamils From the Earliest times to 650 A.D, C. Coomasawmy Naidu & Sons, Madras, 1929, pp.88-90.

15b. M. Ragava Iyengar, opt.cit, pp.70-77.

16. Mm

17. Mm

18. Mm

19. Mm

20. Mahabharata.

21. C. V. Vaidya, Mahabharata – A Criticism, Cosmos Publications, New Delhi, 1983 (1905 Reprint), pp.9-12, 22-36

22. C. R. Deshpande, Transmission of the Mahabharata Tradition, Institute of Advanced Study, Simla, 1978.

23. M. R. Joshi, Distorted Text of Mahabharata, Itihas Darpan, Vol.IX, No.2, July 2003, pp.50-53

24. K. V. Ramakrishna Rao, Sir Isaac Newton and India, Bharatiya Itihasa Sankalana Samiti, Chennai, 2003, p.21.

25. Madhwacharya, Mahabharata Tatparya Nirnayam,

26. Sukthankar, Critical Studies in Mahabharat, V. S. Sukthankar Memorial Edition Committee, Pune, 1944.

27. M. Raghava Iyengar, opt.cit, Valmiki and South India, pp.1-15;

Ibid, Ramayana and Tamil Tradition, pp.16-51.

28. The impression of an Akkadian cylinder seal that, according to its inscription, belonged to “Su-lisu, Meluhha interpreter’.

29. Asko Parpola, Deciphering the Indus Script, Cambridge University Press, UK, 2000, pp.11-15, 170 etc.

30. S. Kalyanaraman, a paper presented during the National Seminar held at Pondicherry on “Indus Valley Civilization: A Review of Recent Research” on September 28, 2003. Also available in the website.

31. Georges Roux, Ancient Iraq, Penguin Books, USA, 1980, P.218

Hopkins

The Great Epic

1915, p.1

300-100 BCE to be the probable date of the Mahabharata.

Hopkins

Cambridge History of India

Vol.I, p.258

He gives the limits 4th cent.BCE to 4th cent. CE

Sylvain Levy

JA,

s.11, t.V, 1915, p.122

Concludes from the agreement between the geography of the Buddhist Mahamayuri with that of Mahabharata, that the latter received its final redaction in the first three or four centuries CE.

32. Mm.

33.Mm.

34. Bupaya on the river bank in at Hlaung Gyaung in Pagan (between Irawati and Salwin rivers) is the oldest temple, which contains a stone sculpture with Dasavatara, where, the 9th one is Buddha assigned to 10th cent.CE. Therefore, it is evident that Dasavatara concept had already been established in India to come to Pagan in 10th century.

 

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