Thursday, 31 March 2011
HISTORY OF KARUR
History of Karur.
The Pasupatheesvarar Temple sung by Thirugnana Sambhandar. Karur was built by the Chola kings in the 7th centuryKarur is one of the oldest towns in Tamil Nadu and has played a very significant role in the history and culture of the Tamils. Its history dates back over 2000 years, and has been a flourishing trading centre even in the early Sangam days. It was ruled by the Cheras, Gangas, Cholas, the Vijayanagara Nayaks, Mysore and the British successively. Epigraphical, numismatic, archaeological and literary evidence have proved beyond doubt that Karur was the capital of early Chera kings of Sangam age. And Kongunadu is only the Chera Kingdom that extended up to the western coast till Muziri in Kerala, South India when the empire was at its peak and which the Cheras made it as their main port city. The Chera Kings and Kongudesa Rajakkal were one and the same. In olden days it was called Karuvoor or Vanchi or Vanji during Sangam days. There has been a plethora of rare findings during the archaeological excavations undertaken in Karur. These include mat-designed pottery, bricks, mud-toys, Roman coins, Chera Coins, Pallava Coins, Roman Amphorae, Rasset coated ware, rare rings, etc.
Karur may have been the center for old jewellery-making and gem setting (with the gold imported mainly from Rome), as seen from various excavations. According to the Hindu mythology, Brahma began the work of creation here, which is referred to as the "place of the sacred cow."
Karur was built on the banks of River Amaravathi which was called Aanporunai during the Sangam days. The names of the early Chera kings who ruled from Karur, have been found in the rock inscriptions in Aru Nattar Malai close to Karur. The Tamil epic Silapathikaram mentions that the famous Chera King Senguttuvan ruled from Karur. In 150 AD Greek scholar Ptolemy mentioned Korevora (Karur) as a very famous inland trading center in Tamil Nadu. After the Sangam Cheras, Kongus (Gangas), a Chera related native clan ruled Karur. After them, their arch rivals Cholas conquered Karur and ruled it for next forty years. The Kongus (Gangas) again conquered Karur as vassals of Hoysalas. The Muslim looter Malik Kafur ended the Hoysalas and Vijayanagara empire absorbed Karur. Thereafter, Karur was a part of the Mysore state. The hanging of Tipu and defeat of Dheeran Chinnamalai broke up Kongu Nadu and Karur was absorbed into the Tiruchirapalli district by the British.
Karuvoor Thevar born in Karur, is one among the nine devotees who sung the divine Music Thiruvichaippa, which is the ninth Thirumurai. He is the single largest composer among the nine authors of Thiruvichaippa. He lived during the reign of the great Rajaraja Chola-I. In addition to the famous Siva Temple., there is a Vishnu Temple at Thiruvithuvakkodu suburb of Karur, sung by famous Kulasekara Alwar, 7th century AD, who was the ruler of Kongu nadu. The same Temple is presumably mentioned in epic Silappadikaram as Adaha maadam Ranganathar whose blessings Cheran Senguttuvan sought before his north Indian expedition.1
Later the Nayakars followed by Tipu Sultan also ruled Karur. The British added Karur to their possessions after destroying the Karur Fort during their war against Tipu Sultan in 1783. There is a memorial at Rayanur near Karur for the warriors who lost their lives in the fight against the British in the Anglo-Mysore Wars. Thereafter Karur became part of British India and was first part of Coimbatore District and later Tiruchirappalli District.
Karur is also a part of Kongu Nadu. The history of Kongu nadu dates back to the 8th century. The name Kongunadu originated from the term "Kongu", meaning nectar or honey. Kongu came to be called as Kongu nadu with the growth of civilization. The ancient Kongunadu country was made up of various districts and taluks which are currently known as Palani, Dharapuram, Karur, Nammakkal, Thiruchengodu, Erode, Salem, Dharmapuri, Satyamangalam, Nilgiris, Avinashi, Coimbatore, Pollachi and Udumalpet.
Chera Karur / Chera Karuvur.
1. Sangam Age:
Karuvur, in Trichy district of Tamil Nadu, is repeatedly mentioned in inscriptions and literature by two names, Karur and Vanci. It had other names too: Adipuram, Karuvaippati, Vancularanyam, Garbhapuram, Bhaskapuram, Viracholapuram, and Shanmangala Kshetram. Among them, the name Adipuram i.e. the first city seems to indicate that it was held as the foremost city by the mediaeval writers. It was also called Vanci mutur, the ancient city of Vanci. In the foreign notices of Ptolem, it was called Karura - an inland capital of the Cheras.
The city is described as a fertile region(1), abounding in paddy fields and cultivating sugarcanes, plantains, coconuts, betelnut trees, jack fruits, turmeric, ginger, and vanhi and Konrai flowers. A visitor to the city would see even now these green covering of the fields, though the city has grown to enormous size in the recent fifty years as a great commercial centre, Karur is situated on the banks of Amaravati river, known in ancient times as Anporunai. The river originates from Varahagiri, and joins the great river Kaveri, situated not for away from Karur. The city is connected by rail and bus routes, and is very closely connected with Trichy.
It is difficult to say when it arose to eminence as the capital of the Cheras. A few megalithic urs have been found near this city but their date is more a matter of conjecture(2). We can be sure, that by the time of Asoka Maurya who mentions in his inscription Keralaputras, Karur has become an established city. The archaeological excavation conducted by me at Karur, takes the occupational layers to pre christian era.
2. Early Epigraphs:
Inscriptions and early Sangam literature point to the flourishing state of Karur in the beginning of the Christian era. Inscriptions in the Arnattar hill,(3) (Pukalur) about ten kilometres from Karur, mention a gold merchant from Karur, gifting an abode to a Jaina ascetic on the hill:- Karuvur Ponvanikan Atti attittanam indicating that the city was a flourishing commercial centre with gold merchants. It was called Karuvur, a name by which it is known to literature (the modern name Karur is a shortened form). It has been noted earlier that the record also mentions three generations of Chera rulers, (1) Ko Adan Cheral Irumporai, (2) his son Perum Kadungo and (3) his son Ilam kadungo, the last gifting a Palli to the Jaina ascetic Cenkayapan of Yarrur. This is a clear pointer to the fact that Karur was the capital of the Cheras. There are also other donative inscriptions in the same place, giving a number of names of the donors and their relatives. Nakan Kiran, Korran, Pittan and Ori. There are other words - Attitanam and Pali. The terms Kayipan (Sanskrit Kasyapan), Attittanam, Vanikan and Pali indicate, that a considerable Prakrit speaking population was residing at karur and by the beginning of first cent. a.d., they got Tamilzed, to use, the Prakrit words freely in Tamil records, almost like a manipravala. Two sections of people among them sdeserve special mention the Amanas (Sramanas) Jains monks, and the Vanikas (merchants). Both had northern Indian contacts as indicated by their names. That they were close to the ruling Chera families, is also indicated by the Cheras donating abodes to them. The city of Karuvur, at the turn of the Christian era, already had, a mixed population of Tamil and other language speaking men. That the personal names of donors found in the record, also occur in the Sangam literature need to be noted.
Besides the people from northern India, Karur also had some foreign settlers especially from the western world is proved by the archaeological excavation. Roman amphora, arretine ware and rouletted ware, and the large number of Roman coins-gold and silver, indicate that there was a settlement of Yavanas at Karur at that time.
It has been shown that these findings indicate the presence of Yavanas in Karur in the first two centuries of the Christian era and perhaps even later. It is against this background, we study the references in Sangam literature to Karur and its Chera rulers. The Purananuru(4) Ahananuru(5) Kuruntokai(6) Narrinai(7) and Pattiru Pattu(8) are the early Sangam works that refer to Karur and the Cheras.
Peymakal Ilaveyini, a poetess, has a poem on Karur and the Chera. She says that Vanci on the banks of the cool Porunai river, was a victorious city whose fame was as great as that of the sky. Young and lovely girls with soft hairs in their fore arms, adorned with jewels played on the sands of the river bank. They created figures and sand houses on the banks, plucked flowers to decorate them and sport in the cool waters of the Porunai river. The king Cheraman Palai Padiya Perumkadungo, (who sang the Palai land) was victorious in the battlefield, by destroying the impregnable forts of the enemies. The Patini woman minstrel, who praised his conquests, received from him, enchanting jewels made of gold Kalanjus. The Bana, who sang along with the Patini, in a perfect synchronising voice, received golden lotuses, fastened to silvr strings'(10). This Puram praises the Chera Perum Kadungo and his capital Vanci, on the banks of Porunai. The old commentator on this poem, mentions that the city was Karuvur of great fame. 'Vanai muttiya Pukalaiyum, Venriyaiym udaiya Karuvur'. The verse also indicates that bards frequented the Chera court at Karur and received golden jewels and flowers.
The Chera Celvak Kadungo Vali Adan, who died at Sikkarpalli, was ruling with Vanci as his capital. The waters of the river An Porunai, skirting his fort were splashing against the walls. There were many fertile villages surrounding Vanci, growing paddy. The Chera Celva Kaungo is praised for his sumptous gift by the poet kundukat Paliyadan(11). Among the Chera rulers of Sangam age, Chera Senkuttuvan is the most celebrated for his all round contribution. Paranar, the outstanding poet of the Sangam age has sung about this ruler in ten verses in the Pattirru Pattu collection. The king is praised as the ruler of the confluence of the rivers Kaveri Kudavan aru, and Anporunai Cen Kunakku Olukum Kalush Malirnirai Yanriyum puviri punal oru munrudan kudiya kudal anaiyai(12).
The Chera Antuvan Cheral Irumporai was on the balcony of his palace, in the company of the poet Mutamosiyar of Eniccheri, when he saw the chola Muttitalaik Ko Perunar Killi, entering his capital on the back of an elephant. The poet immediately saw that the Chera mistake the Chola and put him to death. So he pointed out that the Chola's elephant, has inadvertently strayed into Karur and not with any malafide intention and that he deserved to be pardoned. A poem to this effect is found in Puram collection(13). It only shows that Karuvur was very near to the capital of the Chola - which was then at Uraiyur in Trichy.
Ham Cheral Irumporai, another Chera ruler brought the booty he obtained by defeating Palaiyan Maran, to his capital Vanci(14). That the Cheras had their capital at Vanci - Karur is thus often mentioned.
At the same item, it was also frequently captured by the Cholas of Uraiyur. The Chera Yanaikkat cey Mantaran Cheral Irumporai had his capital at Karur. The Pandya ruler Nedun Celian, the victor of Talaiyalankanam, captured and imprisoned his opponents. The Chera Mantaran Cheral was one of those who was thus imprisoned at Madurai. Soon the Chera escaped from the prison, returned to his capital and ascended his throne(15). Even while he was in prison, his enemies were afraid of him. The commentator says that the Pandya could gift even Uraiyur (of the Cholas) and Karur (of the Cheras) thus conforming that Karuvur was the capital of Mantaran.
Another Chola - Nalam Killi also captured Vanci. Vanci is mentioned as Puva Vanci - (Vanci that is not a flower, meaning a city)(16). A third Chola who captured Karur was Killivalavan The Chera was besieged and never stirred out. The Chola army destroyed the protective forest around Karuvur fort. The trees so cut fell on the sands of An Porunai river. The Poet Alattur Kilar who was an eyewitness to the seige(17) of Karuvur by the Chola gives a description of the war. This seige of Karuvur was seen by another Sangam poet Nappasalaiyar of Marokkam(18). He mentions that 'Karuvur is surrounded by a deep moat with full of water and crocodiles. The Chera is indeed a great ruler, who embossed his royal bow emblem on the lofty Himalayas. He is known for his great chariot. The Chola is now destroying his capital Karuvur, which never witnessed destruction'. The Chera suffered worst defeat in this war.
Imayam cuttiya ema virpori
Manvinai Nedum ter Vanavan tolaiya
Vada Vanci Vattu nin pitu.
Another Chola Killivalavan, who died at Kurappalli, also captured Karuvur(19).
Vanci murram Vayak Kalanaka
Anca marvar atpor Palittuk Kantanai Peruma.
In these poems the Chera capital is called Vanci, which the ancient commentator, invariably mentions at Karuvur.
Thus, Karur continued to be respected as the capital of the Cheras, though it changed hands now and then, the Cholas more often and the Pandya, once invading it. But soon the Chera recaptured it and established his rule.
3. Poets of Karuvur:
Among the Sangam poets, two groups of poets deserve attention (a) those who hailed from Karur and (b) those who sang Karuvur and the ruling Chera. A large number of poets have hailed from Karuvur and their poems are seen in Kuruntokai, Ahananuru, Narrinai, and Purananuru. The following are the poets.
· Karuvur Kilar - Kuruntokai 170.
· Karuvur Kannampalanar - Ahananuru 180, 263, Narrinai 148.
· Karuvur Katappillai Cattanar - Ahananuru 309, Narrinai 343, Puram 168.
· Karuvur Kalingattar - Ahananuru 183.
· Karuvur Kosanar - Narrinai 214.
· Karuvur Cheraman Cattan - Kuruntokai 268.
· Karuvur Nanmarbanar - Aham 217.
· Karuvur Bhutam Cattanar - Aham 50.
· Karuvur Pauttiranar - Kuruntokai 162.
· Karuvur Perum Catukkattu Bhuta nathanar - Puram 219.
Most of these poets bear decidedly northern names such as Kannan, Cattan, Kalingattar, Kosan, Bhutan and Pauttiran but are seen eminent Tamil poets, which shows, that northern tradition had become inseparably one with the Tamil life. Even the name of the city Karuvur, is derived according to ancient writers from the Sanskrit term Garbhapuri(20). The Tamil Kings of the Sangam age seemed to have had a fascination for Sanskrit names (as in modern times), and named their capitals as Madhurapuri (modern Madurai), Uragapuri (Uraiyur) and Kanchipuri, Garbhapuri (Karuvur). However these names occur in their Prakrit of Tamilized forms. Another point of great interest is that all of them took the title Karuvur and none claimed Vanci, though they themselves sang Vanci. Among the poems that extol the Cheras, the Patirru Pattu(21) collection of verses occupies an important position as each group of ten verses is dedicated to one Chera ruler. Besides the exploits of the individul Chera ruler, they furnish a deep insight into the society under the Cheras, which may also be taken to reflect the life all Karur then. While it needs a separate volume to deal with all the information dealt with by these poems, which is beyond the scope of this book, a few essential factors are discussed in the following paragraphs.
4.Wealth Trading Centres:
The capital of the Chera was full of pearls, corals etc. which came from the coastal regions; gems etc. were obtained from the hill regions, and other objects found their way from the plains and forests. The shoppers street dealing with gold, was distinguished by the fluttering flags.
The main shopping street, where gold freely circulated as a medium of exchanged in the Chera capital, was called 'Ponnudai Niyaman'(22) and was obviously very famous. It was called by that named in the reign of two Cheras, by two different poets(23). Palai Gautaman the poet, praising Celkelu Kuttuvan says that the hunters, bartered precious elephant tusks for liquor and also exchanged flesh of deer in the wealthy shopping centres, abounding in gold.
Beautiful Jewels were brought from overseas through the wavy ocean, and were treasured in the store houses (Pandaka salai)(24). The sea yards were full of milk-bushes grown in the coastal region. The Chera country had cool sea coast, sings Kakkai Pattiniyar Naccellaiyar while praising Adukopattu Cheral Adan(25). A point of utmost interest is that lovely jewels were brought in ships and stored in the Chera country(26). The Roman jewellery found in places around Karur, seems to confirm this statement. The warriors of the Cheras, who went on war expedition under the command of the Chera, brought their war booties to the shopping centres and sold them for very high prices. The shopping centre is called niyamam(27).
Imaiyavaramban Nedum Cheeral Adan captured the Yavanas of barbaric words, tied their hands at the back, poured melted butter over their head and seized from them costly jewels including diamonds and brought them to his capital. A part of them were distributed to others who stood by him(28). He is one of the early Cheras and it is to be noted that he captured jewels and diamonds from the Yavanas - Romans.
Kodumanam a village of the Chera is praised for making jewellery. It is identified with Kodumanal not far away from Karur, where archaeological excavation conducted by me have yielded valuable data. Pandar is another town but situated in the coast under the Cheras, yielded precious pearls. Probably it was a pearl fishery. The pearls of Pandar and the jewels of Kodumanal are frequently referred to. Padiyur(29) is the place from where the Chera obtained his precious jewels which he gifted(30). It looks that these two places exclusively served the royal need.
5. Vedic Cheras:
The Cheras themselves learnt Vedas and performed Vedic sacrifices. They learned the Vedas - the Srauta system - and without failing in their religious observances, performed Vedic sacrifices, to the satisfaction of the Gods(49). They worshipped Gods following the mantra path - (Vaidika mantra path) mantira marabil deivam peni.
One of the important concept of Aryan way of life is the three important Yagnas, Deva, Rishi and Pitri yagnas i.e. the adoration of Devas, Rishis and ancestors. The Cheras are said to perform these three yagnas regularly. It is said that by the performance of Vedic yagas, the Devas were adored; by studying the Vedas the Rishis were praised, and by the offerings to the manes, the ancestors were propitiated.
Tolaiyak Kolkai curram curra
Velviyil Kadavul arttinai kelvi
uyarnilai yulakattu Aiyer inpuruttial
Vanangiya Cayal Vananga anmai
Ilantunai Putalvarin muiyar peni
Tolkatan irutta velpor anal(50).
The Chera's queen is frequently compared to Arundati(51) and was the ideal consort, as prescribed in the Sastras. She was the chaste wife, mentioned in the Aryan tradition - Anak karupu. The word Kalpu itself is derived from the Sanskrit tradition - Kalpitam, i.e. that which is enjoined.
The King's war drum, was a personified deity and received ritual bathing and offerings to the recitation of Vedic mantras(52). The manner in which, the drum is first sounded with a stick is exactly the same we find in Agamas, as bheri tadana(53). The presence of Brahmins, Vanikas and professedly Brahminical customs and Vedic sacrifices, indicate the Indianisation, in the court of the Chera at Karur. The presence of northern punch marked coins, the Roman coins, and also other coins, at Karur could now be attributed to the mixed society. The simultaneous circulation of these different coins, is meant for the different sections of the society. The religious symbols - Sula and Chakra shown on a stand, in coins are due to the influence of Saivism and Vaishnavism.
Karur stands on the South Indian Railway 48 miles from Trichirapalli and on the bank of the Amaravati river not far from its junction with the Cauvery. Karur district had been bifurcated from Thiruchirappalli district on September 1995.
On the establishment of the Vijayanagar empire the region came under their rule. With the Nayaks taking over Madurai as the governors of the region it came to be ruled by them. However Karur was frequently attacked by the Mysore armies. It soon became the most important frontier post as well as a thriving place of business. Under the security of a strong fort and its rule over a rich and extensive region it turned out to be a place of great mercantile resort and opulence.
It is seen that Karur for along with the forts of Aravakkuruchi, Darapuram and Chakragiri played a defensive role. 300 soldiers were regularly guarding the fort in the latter half of the 18th century. Palayapattu vamsalvi says that in the time of Haider Ali of Mysone one Vijayavenkatapati Nayak of Arani was the Palayapattu chieftain of Dindigal in whch Karur was included. The Dindigal Nayak had to flee for life for siding with the British when Hyder captured it. During his occupancy of Karur the Nayak was paying 1,00,000 arcot rupees as tribute to the British for holding Karur. In turn the British gave him the royal honours equal to that of Nawab.
Thereafter the place constantly changed hands. In 1736 Chanda Sahib, when in possession of Tiruchirapalli, besieged it unsuccessfully for several months. In 1760 it was captured by the English in revenge for the assistance which Haider had given to their enemies, the French. Orme described the siege in detail. The expedition was commanded by Capt. Richard Smith and consisted of 50 Europeans, 700 Sepoys, 600 horses, 3000 Kallans. The town was garrisoned by 800 horses, 1000 sepoys and great multitude of Kallans. The English crossed the river in the face of a sharp fire from the Pettah walls on the 19th August, and occupied the Pettah the same day. Seige guns arrived from Trichinopoly on the 23rd and two batteries were completed and opened fire on the morning of the 24th. The approaches were carried nearer and nearer the walls by sapping, till the commandant, apprehensive of this (to him) novel mode of attack, and discussed by the ruin which the British irregulars were spreading in the neighbourhood, came to terms.
He disvowed any connection with Haider's movements, stylling him a rebel against the king of Mysore and he was permitted to evacuate the fort and proceed to Namakkal.
The place was held by the English till 1768, when the Brittish were thoroughly routed by Haider, who recaptured it, during his forward movement at the end of the year. His possession was confirmed by the treaty of 1769. Col. Lang. Attacked Karur again in 1788 in order to distract the attention of Tipu. There is a monument on the south bank of the river to the British who fell in this siege. The town was retained by Tipu of Mysore by the treaty of March 1784. It was captured a 3rd time in 1790 by General Meaadows and restored at the peace of 1792. It was taken by Col. Brown on April 5th 1799, just before the general advance of the British on Seringapatnam and since that time was in their possession, first of the Nawab and then of the British. It was garrisoned by the company as a military station until 1801 and portions of the old fort remained till the beginning of this century.
Being on the railway and at the junction of a number of roads, Karur is a centre of considerable trade. Its chief drawback is its crowded site, which is entirely surrounded by Paddy fields and the river, and so cannot easily be extended. The place contains a few industries. About a dozen Seniyans make good women's cloths, the private weaving factory, fitted with modern appliances, a few Balijas stamp and dye chintzes, and a very little copper and brass work, painting, wood carving, stone polishing and bangle making, as well as a good deal of mat weaving and basket making are done.
Karur was originally under the district Coimbatre, the ancient Kongunadu, but in the year 1910 was added to Tiruchirapalli district. A separate Karur district was formed on 30th September 1995 by trifurcating Tiruchirappalli district. Initially, Karur District was carved out of the composite Tiruchirapalli district, consisting of three taluks namely, Karur, Kulithalai and Manaparai. Subsequently Manaparai Taluk was decoupled and Musiri Taluk was included in Karur District. Later Musiri Taluk was decoupled from Karur District.
Karur District, with headquarters at Karur, is the most centrally located district of Tamil Nadu. It’s about 371 km south west of Chennai (Madras), the capital of Tamil Nadu.
Karur district is bounded by Namakkal District in the north, Dindigul District in the south, Tiruchirapalli District on the east and Erode District on the west.
Karur district was formed through Government Order 913 dated 30.10.1995.
Courtesy: Roman sites in Tamil Nadu (Recent discoveries) Author: R.Nagaswamy. and www.tamilartsacademy.com