KONGUNADU HISTORY


விநாயகர் காப்பு
ஐந்து கரத்தனை யானை முகத்தனை
இந்தின் இளம்பிறை போலும் எயிற்றனை
நந்தி மகன்தனை ஞானக் கொழுந்தினைப்
புந்தியில் வைத்தடி போற்றுகின் றேனே.


Ancient name: Gangavadi
Ancient capital: Gangeyam (Kangeyam)
Ancient language: Gangeya Bhasai(Kangee or Gangee)
Ancient dynasty: Gangas(Kongas)

What is Kongu?

வடக்கு நந்திகிரி வராககிரி தெற்கு
குடக்கு பொறுப்பு வெள்ளிக்குன்று
களித்தன்டலை மேவு காவிரிசூழ்
நாடு-குளித்தன்டலை அளவு கொங்கு.
Thus the borders of Kongu of the seventeenth century are:
Northern: Nandigiri (Nandi hills in Kolar and Tumkur dists. of Karnataka located seventy kilometeres to the north of today's Bengaluru).
Southern: Varahagiri (Panrimalai mountain in the Palani-Kodaikkanal ranges, Panrimalai is referred in it's Sanskrit name).
Eastern: Kudagu and Vellikundru (Kodagu in the Madikeri dist. of Karnataka and Vellingiri hills near Coimbatore which form the border with Kerala).
Western: Kulithalai (Karur dist. located on the Karur- Tiruchirappalli highway).
Further he adds that the region is like a basin (Kavirisoozh) and surprises us with his geographical knowledge through expressing Kongu as the entire Kaveri catchment basin, the Kaveri valley. I have drawn an approximate map, from google earth of the desccribed region. This region comprises of the following modern districts of the following states.
Tamilnadu: Coimbatore, Erode, Udagamandalam, Krishnagiri, Dharmapuri, Salem, Namakkal, Karur, Dindigul (excluding the Nattam, Nilakkottai and southward slopes of Kodaikkanal taluk), Vellore (Tiruppattur taluk only), Villuppuram (Kalrayan hills only), Perambalur (Pachamalai hills only) and Tiruchirappalli (Pachamalai hills, Turaiyur taluk's western parts and Musiri panchayat union).
Karnataka: Madikeri, Chickmagalur, Hassan, Tumkur, Kolar, Bangalaore Urban, Bangalore Rural, Mandya, Mysore and Chamrajnagar.
Kerala: Wayanad, Palakkad (villages with a majority Tamil speaking population now only), Malappuram (Bhavani river valley only) and Idukki (Amaravati river valley only) .
One thing which got clear beyond doubt after my research which is also commonplace knowledge is that the Kongu region, from the dawn of history is always connected to the southern part of the Karnataka state which is given, which is also called in Karnataka as Mysore Karnataka or Hoysala Karnataka. The Kongu region has always been along with this region from the dawn of history to the collapse of the Mysore Kingdom and the arrivel of the British.
Thus I also broadened my postmodernist research and found many revelations. The first was that the original name of Kongunadu as mentioned in the Komaralingam copperplates (2)inscriptions give the name of the region as Kanku (கங்கு). When we go in detailed research, the name of the Gangas appear. These local cheiftains are mentioned in the Sangam Akananooru (verse 44 ) as Gangan (கங்கன்). These must have probably the feudatories of the Cheras at the beginning. Suddenly as a gust of luck or predestined intervention, I noticed the name of my mother's cousin Suriyakangeya Sukumar (a famous ophamologist in Erode). He is named after his Grandfather Suriyakangeya Gounder. Then I got information that there is another branch of my mother's clan Kalamangalam Kannan koottam who got the pattam of Morur Kangeyar. I could also find that these branches had been fanned out from the village of Kannivadi (Kangivadi?) due to their friction with Vanniar (Kalabhras) who came as an influx into Kongunadu. (to be cond.)
Kongu Nadu,the nomenclature: There has been a lot of controversy regarding the name of Kongu.It is a fact thet Kangars(the Tamil version of Gangas)according to Kongu Desa Rajakkal from the lapse of Mahabharata and the starting of Kaliyugam(3106B.C) ruled Kongu Nadu for some period.Some people had concluded that the region ruled by Gangars was initially called `Ganga Nadu` and with the passage of time,it began to be called `Kongu Nadu`,as mentioned by Thirumathi T.K. Sathi Devi, in her book `Kongu Vellalar Varalaaru`. There has been mass hype over the name Kongu where Dravidian Tamil bygots say it to be Kongu honey,Kongu flower and even Kongu meaning mentally deranged! According to inscriptions,it is mentioned as கங்க,which is read by Tamil bygots,as the people who reside in the edge கங்கு.This means that the region is on the edge but if you see any map Kongu always has been strategically located.The importance of Kongu has given Tamilsayings:

கொங்கு செழித்தால் எங்கும் செழிக்கும்.
கொங்கில் வாழான் எங்கும் வாழான்.:

It has always been the centre of wealth because ancient Kongu had the only gold mines of all south asia,Gold fields which in the Kongu Mandala Shatakam which are said to have given all the gold to the roof of the Chidambaram Natarajar temple.Kongu Nadu still contributes 2/3 revenue of the state of Tamilnadu.
The borders of Kongu Nadu: The borders of Kongu Nadu(Ganganadu) according to the Jain period poet of Vijayamangalam Valasundarakavirayar are:
They reduce drastically during the next couple of centuries in another suceeding Shatakam as:
வடக்கு பெரும்பாலை வைகாவூர் தெற்கு
குடக்கு பொறுப்பு வெள்ளிக்குன்று
களித்தன்டலை மேவு காவிரிசூழ்
நாடு-குளித்தன்டலை அளவு கொங்கு.
In another shatakam of the same time,they are said to be,

வடக்கு தலைமலை வைகாவூர் தெற்கு
குடக்கு பொறுப்பு வெள்ளிக்குன்று
களித்தன்டலை மேவு காவிரிசூழ்
நாடு-குளித்தன்டலை அளவு கொங்கு.:

Thus they drastically reduce from their earlier extent of Nandigiri near Bangalore and Kudagu now in Karnataka to Perumpalai(Dharmapuri dist.) and Talaimalai(Erode dist).The other borders of east Kulithalai and west Vellingiri are retained.This is due to the confusions which ensued in the reorganisation of states.The linguistic,rather than cultural and geographical factors was taken into account.The Kongu people always were culturally related with the southern Kannada people(Hoysala Karnataka)

Gounder: Title origins:

The title Gounder is used with various regional variations by distinct castes.The title originally meant the feudal lords of villages.The root word is either Kavunda கவுண்ட or Gowda கவுட,the ண் N aspirant sometimes avoided.This system of administration was started mainly by the great king of the Ganga dynasty,Durvinita.This post of a village headman was usually given to the warrior clans of this region and mostly fell to the erstwhile Gangakula to which Durvinita himself belonged to.Later various other regional kings and castes adopted this title for various reasons.The main castes which are called typical Gounder and Gowda are the Kongu Vellalar and Vokkaligar communities respectively.Both claim descendant from the Ganga clan.The Vokkaligas settled in Tamilnadu call use the title of Gounder as likewise do the Gounders in Karnataka where they are called Tamil Gowdas;thus distinguished to be kin communities.The Kongu Vellala Mangala Valthu(மங்கள வாழ்த்து) which was sung by the Tamil saint-poet Kambar also strengthens the claim as he blest the marriying couples;one of the line runs கங்கா குலம் விளங்க கம்பர் சொன்ன வாக்கியத்தை.Some other different castes like also later adopted the title like the Vanniyars and the Kurumbars but not usually recognised by the Kongu Vellalar and Gowda communities who call them Padayatchis and Tigalas in the respective states.


The traditional Gounder belt is the area now called Kongunadu,derived from Kangeya nadu காங்கேய நாடு which was otherwise called Ganganadu கங்க நாடு (Senbakalakshmi) as Kangeya means in Sanskrit, the one from Ganga. Now this area is the western part of Tamilnadu,the districts of Erode, Coimbatore, Ooty, Karur, northern Dindigul, western Tiruchirapalli, Salem, Namakkal, Dharmapuri, Krishnagiri and western Vellore. These have a majority Gounder population (50-80%) and a secondary population (5-50%) can be found in the districts of Theni,Madurai, Villupuram,Perambalur,Thanjavur,Palakkad(in Kerala), Kollegal, Mysore, Chamrajnagar, Kolar, Mandya, Bangalore(all five in Karnataka).They are the largest single Geographical and marital caste in Tamilnadu. They must be around 1-2 crores in population.


History:

The Gounders claim to be descendant from the ancient Kshatriya Suryavamsam(Solar dynasty)through the Gangakulam. This research paper traces the movement by Dr.Harihar Kanungo: Gangavamsa has spread all over India and the historians are completely silent about it.The kings of the Ganga dynasty had got their pedigree inscribed by their brahmin eulogists as well as the courtiers. In this regard, Dr. S.N. Rajaguru has given the following opinion:“Different royal dynasties, while narrating their geneology, were eager to identity themselveswith the famous solar or lunar dynasties of the Puranas”. Dr. H. K. Mahatab and other historians have given similar opinions and have said that for this reason the geneology available from these inscriptions do not tally with the historical facts. For all these reasons,we have to trace out the common men of the Ganga dynasty or Ganga community spread all over India and try to know their ancestry in order to unravel the mystery surrounding the origin of the Ganga dynasty. It can be asserted that the historical Ganga dynasty has evolved from among the common men of the Ganga dynasty or Ganga community. Hence this writer has made an humble attempt to discuss the family history of Ganga dynasty or Ganga community, while trying to establish the origin of the Ganga dynasty.A brief account of the Ganga dynasty available from the inscriptions engraved by the royal dynasties of Ganga community may be discussed. It is known from the inscription of Jainaguru Simhanandi, compiled by B. Lewis Rice that the forefathers of Ganga dynasty coming from Ayodhyapur under the leadership of Vishnugupta had initially settled at Ahichhatra located in the basin of the rivers Ganga and Yamuna. Later on they proceeded to Southern India in quest of new territory.Being advised by Jainaguru Simhanandi,Vishnugupta along with others came to Karnataka and established a new kingdom.According to this inscription the Ganga dynasties of Karnataka and Kalinga had come from Northern India. In the opinion of Dr. N. K. Sahu, both the western and eastern Ganga dynasty belong to one and the same dynasty and they came from North India in 5th century A.D. and established new kingdoms in Kalinga and Karnataka respectively. We cite here the views of B.Lewis.Rice on the above mentioned inscription of Jainaguru Simhanandi: “The origin of the Gangas is derived from Iksvaku and trace back to Ayodhyapura. Under Visnugupta the seat of government was moved to Ahichhatra, which, it is hinted, as Vijayapura.With the arrival of Dadiga and Madhava in the South, at Ganga-perur and the establishment of the Gangavadi kingdom in Mysore aided by Simhanandi, we seem to come to historical events.
It is known from the Vizagpattanam & Korni copperplate inscriptions16 of Chodaganga Dev that by 5th century A.D., eighty kings of the Ganga dynasty had ruled over Gangabadi of Kolahalpur. If one king had ruled at least for a period of twenty years, then these eighty kings would have ruled for about 1600 years. If we consider from this angle the Ganga dynasty had appeared 1600 years before 5th century A.D., which means their origin dates back to 11th century B.C. In this context we may mention that historians have agreed that the Mahabharata war was fought in 9th century B.C. This means the Ganga dynasty had appeared and achieved renown much before the events described in the epic Mahabharata. It has been noted above that Sevananda Bharati has established ancient Tamralipta or Modern Tamluk as the primary abode of the Ganga dynasty.
The Gola caste is an important branch of Go-oda or Gauda caste. The Golas have been divided into branches such as; kadu Gola, Puja Gola, Komi, Jami and Musti etc. They are the important inhabitants ofAndhra Pradesh, Orissa, Karnatak and Tamilnadu. The branches like Uduta, Idiga and Kuduga etc., reside in Southern India and they call themselves Gauda-Gounder.
It is clear from the facts stated in the Madalapanji and Korni copperplate inscription of Chodaganga Dev that the Gangas are the descendants of a king or an individual named Gangeya who belonged to the solar dynasty. While claiming his descent from some Gangeya in his Korni copperplate inscription, he has bidentified both the ancestors and descendants of Gangeya. But all these have been rejected by historians. However, Dr. Rajaguru, basing on the facts stated by Chodaganga Dev, has accepted Gangeya and the Gangas as belonging to solar dynasty.

The Ganga dynasty came into existence in 2nd century AD after the name of its founder Gangeya or Gangadutt. Jain Acharya Simhanandi inspired his two disciples Daddigh and Madhav to establish their rule, which they did by constituting the territory of Gangawadi with Kolar as their capital. But actually Madhav Kongunivarma I was the first crowned king of this dynasty, who ruled for a long period during 189-250 AD Jainism was the national religion during his rule. King Durvinit Konguni of this dynasty was the disciple of famous grammarian Acharya Devanandi Pujyapad. Marasingh got victory over several powerful rulers and ruled gloriously. During his last days he became an ascetic. He died with Sallekhana in 974 AD at Bankapur in the feet of his Jain preceptor Ajitsen. The Ganga rulers built several Jain temples and established Jain institutions.
The Ganga dynasty came into existence in 2nd century AD after the name of its founder Gangeya or Gangadutta. Jain Acharya Simhanandi inspired his two disciples Daddighaa and Madhava to establish their rule, which they did by constituting the territory of Gangawadi with Kolar as their capital. But actually Madhava Kongunivarma I was the first crowned king of this dynasty, who ruled for a long period during 189-250 AD Jainism was the national religion during his rule. King Durvinita Konguni of this dynasty was the disciple of famous grammarian Acharya Devanandi Pujyapad. Marasingh got victory over several powerful rulers and ruled gloriously. During his last days he became an ascetic. He died with Sallekhana in 974 AD at Bankapur in the feet of his Jain preceptor Ajitsena. The Ganga rulers built several Jain temples and established Jain institutions.

The Gangas, like the Kadambas, rose to political eminence in the middle of the fourth century A.D., and ruled over the southern parts of Karnataka. Their political hegemony over what was called Gangavadi lasted for a long period of seven centuries. They played an interesting role in the dynastic politics of South India, in which figured many political heavyweights like the Pallavas, the Chalukyas of Badami, the Rashtrakutas and the Cholas.


THE ORIGIN:

The origin of the Gangas presents many problems. Some of the later inscriptions provide an account of a tradition which connects the Gangas with Ayodhyapura. Its ruler was Harischandra of the Ikshvaku family, whose daughter-in-law, Vijayamahadevi bathed in the river Ganga and gave birth to a son named Gangadatta, who became the progenitor of the Ganga family. Another version of this legend speaks of Puruvasu, the son of Yayati; the former is said to have propitiated the river Ganga and had a son by name Gangeya, whose descendents were called the Gangas. They are referred to as having ruled from Ahichchatrapura. The legend also has it that one of the descendents of the family by name Bhagadatta established his authority over Kalinga and became the founder of the Eastern Ganga Dynasty.
Another legend describes how the two Ikshvaku princes, Dadiga and Madhava, migrated to Gangaperur in the South, where they met a Jaina teacher Simhanandi who obtained for them a boon from the Goddess Padmavati, confirmed by the gift of a sword and the promise of a Kingdom. Madhava is supposed to have seized a sword and struck at a stone pillar to break it into two pieces. With the blessings and moral admonition of the preceptor Simhanandi, Madhava is said to have founded the Kingdom of Gangavadi with Nandagiri (Nandi Hills near Bangalore) as his stronghold and Kuvalala (Kolar) as the Capital. Robert Sewell, M. Arokiyaswamy and S. V. Vishwanatha are of the opinion that the Gangas belonged to the Kongudesa, and they contend that Perur was in the Coimbatore region.


POITICAL HISTORY:

The Ganga genealogy and chronology have presented many problems to the historian. The first ruler of the dynasty was Konganivarma Madhava (C.350-370 A. D) who worked to establish his power at the expense of the Banas and by penetrating into the Kongudesa or the Salem region. He thought it wise to be friendly with the Pallavas, a policy which was followed by the early Ganga rulers. He was succeeded by his nephew Madhava II or Kiriya Madhava ( C.370-390 A. D.) who was the son of Dadiga. His successor Harivarma (C.390-410 A. D.) is said to have been installed on the throne by the Pallava Simhavarma. During this period, two branches of the Ganga dynasty were established at Paruvi and Kaivara.
Harivarma's son Vishnugopa (C.410-430 A. D.) had a quiet, uneventful reign, and was succeeded by Tadangala Madhava (C.430-466 A. D.). He is said to have been anointed by the Pallava king Skandavarma. His friendly relations with the Pallavas did not prevent him from normalising his relations with the Kadambas. In fact, he married the daughter of Kakusthavarma. He strengthened the Pallava rule by incorporating the Paruvi and the Kaivara branches into the main line. His son and successor was Avinita (C.466-495 A. D.) who consolidated the Ganga position by marrying the daughter of the Raja of Punnata. He remained friendly with the Pallavas, but was reputed to be very stern in his dealings with the enemies.


DURVINITA (C.495-535 A. D.):

Avinita's son and successor, Durvinita, was one of the most remarkable rulers of the Ganga family. His succession was a disputed one, as he had to overcome the challenge of his younger step-brother who seemed to have secured the assistance of the Pallavas and the Kadambas. The Nallala grant refers to this war of succession; so does the Kadagattur grant which gives a hint that his younger brother was supported by the Pallava King and that the " Goddess of sovereignty came to the rescue of Durvinita because of his excellent display of valour and determination".
The Pallava interference in the Ganga affairs resulted in a shift in the dynastic relations which hitherto had been cordial. Durvinita could not remain friendly with the Pallavas who had created problems for him by supporting his step-brother. The Ganga monarch swore vengeance on the Pallavas who were routed in the battle of Anderi in his fifth regal year. The Pallavas, however, continued their hostilities and it is likely that they secured the assistance of the Kadambas in their attempt to tame Durvinita. In the protracted war that ensued, several pitched encounters were fought, and the Gummareddipura record informs us that Durvinita overcame his enemies at Alattur, Porulare and Pernagra. It is possible that these victories enabled him to extend his power over Kongudesa and Tondaimandalam.
Durvinita was able to cement his friendship with the newly emerging Chalukya power. He gave his daughter to Chalukya Vijayaditya; and when his son-in-law became a victim of the Pallava aggression, Durvinita championed the Chalukyas and installed his grandson Jayasimha on the Badami throne. The timely help of the Ganga monarch did much to save the Chalukyas, and on this sure foundation was built a tradition of a durable friendship between the two ruling families.
The Gummareddipura and the Uttanur plates describe Durvinita as the Lord of Punnata. In fact, his mother was Jyeshtadevi, the daughter of Skandavarma of Punnata. It is possible that there were no male heirs to the Punnata throne and naturally the sovereignty of that Kingdom devolved upon Durvinita.
The religious outlook of Durvinita was marked by tolerance. Though he was a worshipper of Vishnu and a performer of Vedic sacrifices like Hiranyagarbha, he was a pupil of the Jaina preceptor Pujyapada. His court was adorned by many Jaina scholars. His religious catholicity is reflected in the generous patronage he extended to all religious sects.
Himself an eminent scholar, Durvinita evinced keen interest in promoting literary cultivation. The renowned Sanskrit poet Bharavi is said to have visited the Ganga court during this period. Durvinita is supposed to have written a commentary on the fifteenth canto of Bharavi's Kiratarjuniya. He also translated into Sanskrit the Vaddakatha or Brihatkatha of Gunadya, which was originally written in the Paisachi language(translated by his vassal Konguvelir to Tamil). He is also credited with the authorship of 'Sabdavatara', a work on grammar. His Nallala grant hails him as an expert in the composition of various forms of poetry, stories and dramas. In fact, Nripatunga's Kavirajamarga hails him as one of the early writers in Kannada.
The many-sided accomplishments of Durvinita are recorded on the Nallala grant. He is compared to Kautilya in expounding the science of polity; to Narada, Tumburu or Bharatadeva in his knowledge of music and dance; to Charaka and Dhanvantri in the knowledge of medicine or to Parasurama in the use of arms. He is referred to as endowed with three constituents of royal power, namely, Prabhusakti (imperial power), Mantrasakti (the power of discretion) and Utsahasakti (the power of active will). His political achievements, military victories, diplomatic skill and many sterling qualities of head and heart prove that his claims were justified. Durvinita was indeed a great ruler of the Ganga family.

Jain Vestiges in Coimbatore District M. AROKIASWAMI, M.A., Ph.D.
COIMBATORE, the headquarter of the district which goes by its name in the State of Madras, is well-known to-day as the "Manchester of South India." There is perhaps not another place in the whole of this region to equal it not only in the numerous spinning and weaving mills it possesses but also in the general standard of wealth, health civilisation and culture. But few are interested in studying the history of this district and particularly the development of culture in this area. Of the era preceding the period of British occupation of the district, which began in 1799, particularly little or nothing is known.
In this paper I propose to make an enquiry into a subject which forms part of a larger whole, viz., the cultural development of the Coimbatore region in early times and the particular subject for enquiry here is an estimate of the Jain contribution to this quota. So many vestiges of Jainism are to be found in this district that there is no doubt about the great influence this religion must have exerted over the people of this region in early times. That it must have been much more than any one would suspect is certain. Names of places like seenapuram clearly remaind one of the early jain influent over the region; while old jain shrines found in places like. Vijayamangalam, Tirumurthimalai and Karur bear an equally strong evidence to the same. A figure of the Jain Thrithankara is found in Tirumurthimalai; and a number of Jain beds are found to this day in Arunattarmalai in Karur Taluk while in Arasannamalai near Vijayamangalam the Neminatha temple has been now converted into a Vinayaka temple. Not only this. The district of Coimbatore in early times seems to have been the home of several Jain scholars, not the least of whom was the great Bavanandi, the author of the celebrated Tamil grammar, Nannul, who seems to have lived in the region of Vijayamangalam in Erode Taluk.
It is impossible for us to explain these vestiges unless we postulate a period of Jain glory in the district at some time during its sojourn in South India. The Kongadesarajakkal, a XVII century Tamil Mss., which has been recently edited by Mr. C. M. Ramachandran Chettiar, Advocate, Coimbatore, (Madras Govt, Oriental Series, VI, 1950) brings to light a set of seven rulers called Rattas (Rashtrakutas?) in this region during the period between 250 A.D. and 400 A.D. Many if not all of them are represented in this work as professors and strong supporters of Jainism.(Ibid., pp. 1-2). In the reign of the fourth ruler, Govindaraya, a grant to the jain Arishtanna is mentioned and in that of the sixth ruler, Kannaradeva, the names of three great Jain theologians, of whom one Naganandi is mentioned by name, are referred to. (Ibid)
The history of the origin of the Ganga dynasty of Mysore indicates even more clearly how deep-rooted was janism in the district of Coimbatore in early times. It would appear that in the closing years of the IV century A.D., King Padmanabha of the Gangas had to send his two sons, Dadiga and Madhava to the south by way of preparing himself to meet his enemy, King Mahipala of Ujjain.(Rice; Mysore and Coorg; p. 31). The rest of the narration as found in Rice's words is as follows:
"When they arrived at Perur, which is still distinguished from other Perurs as Ganga-Perur (in Cuddapah district), they met there the Jain Achariya Simhanandi. He was interested in the story of these Ganga princes and taking them by the hand, gave them instruction and training and eventually procured for them a kingdom."(Rice: Op., cit., loc., cit).
Many Ganga records like the Udayendiram plates of Prithvipati II, the Kudlur grant of Marasimha and the Santara inscription on the Huncha stone* bear clear evidence to the fact that Simhanandi gave them a kingdom and that he was a reputed Jain teacher. The last mentioned record indeed refers to him as "the archariya who made the Ganga kingdom.":
"Ganga-rajyaman madida Simhanandy acharyya."(EC., VIII, Nr. 35)
Indrabhuti in his Samayabhushana names him as a great poet to be kept on par with Elacharya and Pujyapada.(IA., XII, 20). Still, no better description can be given of Simhanandi than what is found in the Jaina record near the Siddhesvara temple at Kallurgudda in Shimoga Taluk:
"The Vijaya or victory to the farthest shore of learning, the full moon to the ocean of the Jaina congregation, possessed of patience and all the ten excellent qualities, his good life, a secure wealth, rejoicing in the modest, his fame extending to the four oceans, keeping at a distance from the evil, a sun in the sky of the Kranurgana, devoted to the performance of the twelve kinds of penance, promoter of the Ganga kingdom-Sri Simhanandiacharyya."(EC., VII, Sh. 4)
On the other hand we owe to the evidence of inscriptional records like those of the Parsvanathi Basti at Sravana Belgola and others to be seen at Kallurgudda and Purale in Shimoga Taluk that Madhava definitely came under the influence of Simhanandi, who intiated him into jain doctrines and conferred on him a kingdom on condition that he always took care to uphold that Faith throughout its confines.(Ibid, also 64). The latter tow give a detailed account of this origin of the Ganga Kingdom, which deserves to be quoted at least in part, as it gives one an idea of the depth of Jain influence that ruled over the region where the Ganga kingdom was founded:
"On Madhava impressing him with his extraordinary energy... Simhanandi made a coronet of the petals of the Karnikara flowers bound it on Madhava's head, gave them (the two brothers) the dominion of all the earth, presented them with a flag made from his peacock fan and furnished them with attendants, elephants and horses. Along with these he gave them also the following advice: 'If you fail in what you have promised, if you do not approve the Jina sasana; if you seize the wives of others; if you indulge in wine and flesh; if you form relationship with the low; if you give not your wealth to the needy; if you flee from the field or battle-your race will go to ruin.
The question that has to be decided here is the identification of Perur mentioned in ganga records. Taken in conjusction with the history of the Rattas, the Kongadesarajakkal furnishes proof that it was on their fall that the Gangas rose to power and began ruling from Skandapura in Kongudesa (which is the ancient name for the territory comprising the modern disteicts of Coimbatore and Salem). The Chronicle would even inform us that the last Ratta ruler changed his religion from Jainism to Saivism and that was the cause of his downfall. Further, all the early activities of Konganivarman-as the first historical ruler of the Ganga house becomes known in all the records of this dynasty-are confined to this Kongudesa. (Kongadesarajakkal (Or Mss. Edn.) pp. 2-3). It is true that we lack definite epigraphic evidence in support of this, which we have mainly only from the Tamil chronicle above referred to. But it must be remembered that in the first place we have only a few records for the Ganga period here referred to; and even the few references that we have to the early grants of the Gangas seem to refer only to places in Coimbatore district. Such are places like "Kudluru" to the west of the Tatla and east of "Marukarevisaya", in which the names of Kudluru and Marukarevisaya are easily identifiable with the present Gudalur and Madukari in this area. (Kudaluru grant of Madhavavarman; MAR., 1930).
The conclusion naturally follows that Per here referred to as the spot on which Madhava was initiated into Jainism and conferred a kingdom on condition that he upheld it through all its confines must be the Perur within 3 miles from Coimbatore. We have numerous evidences to show that at the time referred to and for long afterwards this Perur was indeed an important place. The place referred to by this name cannot be the Perur in Cuddapah district, as Rice surmises, where no Jain remains are to be found. The tratdition is that Dadiga and Madhava were sent to the south of Mysore, as already indicated. Further, the very title assumed by the first ruler as Madhava Konganivarman seems to give an unmistakable proof of this conclusion, since as the Kongadesarajakkal aptly remarks:
As wealth, the Kongu country and great munificence were possessed by him he was styled srimalt Konganivarman Dharmamahadiraja.(Kongadesarajakkal (Taylor's trans.); MJLS., XIV)
While the mention of Simhanandi as a "person of the southern country' in the inscription at Parsvanatha Basti at Sravana Belgola already referred to, seems to set the seal upon this conclusion.
It is an agreed fact that the canarese country of which modern Mysore forms the crown and centre furnished a home for the religion of Mahavira in the days when it was not very much liked by his own countrymen of the north. The Brihatkatha of Harisena clearly refers to the migration of the Bhadrabahu mission from Mysore to Punnata in the years following the dealth of Chandragupta Maurya.(Rice; Mysore Inscriptions, p. 146; IA., XVII 366). Historians are not yet agreed as to what country is meant by the name, 'Punnata.' All available evidences seem to point to the region of S. Coorg and N. Coimbatore district as the region designated as 'Punnata' by Harisena, so that it would appear that a portion at least of the modern district of Coimbatore was the central hearth of Jainism even before the beginning of the Christian era.
A copper plate of the Ganga King Durvaniti seems to give a direct clue to this identification, when it refers to the King's conquest of Punnata in his 20th. regnal year. (MAR., 1916). On the other hand, the Komaralingam copper plates of the Punnata King Ravidatta indicate the occupation of the Kingdom by Durvaniti by positing a break in the regular line of Punnata rulers. (IA., XVIII, 362). The latter plates record the grant of the village of pungisoge by Ravidatta while on his victorious march an in his camp at Kirtipura-a place generally identified in the southern portion of modern Mysore. Whatever be the strength of this identification, if cannot be definitely said what region was comprised in this kingdom of Punnata.
In the first place, it must be remembered that Kirtipura was not its capital, as has often been maintained by writers, but only a camp in the victorious march of King Ravidatta. It is quite possible that he had undertaken a campaign in the attempt to strengthen his possessions, which had suffered during the occupation of Durvaniti. The mention of varuous grants made on the occasion from Kirtipura of places like Kolur, Kodamuku etc., "to persons to whom they belonged," as the grant clearly mentions, only confirm this conclusion. Further, the copper plate grant which gives evidence here is obtained from the village of Komaralingam in the Udumalpet Taluk in the modern district of Coimbatore; and Ptolemy designates a country called 'Ponnuta' as a "land of beryls," so much found in the Kangayam area of the same district. Besides, the donor of the grant, Ravidatta, expressly states that he is making it with the permission of the Cheramman:
"While his, Ravidatta's, victorious camp is at the town of Kirtipura, which is the best of towns, with the permission of Cheramma(n) ........the village known as Pungisoge in the east central desa in the Kudugur nadu which is in the
Punnadu vishaya has been granted." (Komaralingam Copper plates, 11, 11 ff)
As has been already said, several villages like Kolur, Kodamuku, Tanagundur and Elagovanur are mentioned as coming under other grants made on the same occasion. Though these names must still remain unidentified, it is clear that all these places abutted on the Kongu frontier. The location of Pungisoge as mentioned in the above quoted passage, "in the eastcentral desa in the Kudugurnadu (Modern Coorg) only supports this conclusion. The name Elagovanur itself suggests the possiblity of a location near to if no Coimbatore itself. That Ravidatta was a feudatory of the Cera sovereign of the time is put beyond doubt by the permission he is said to have obtained from the Cheramman for issuing the grants referred to.
From all these considerations it seems but natural to conclude that the Kingdom of Punnata must have been a small state carved out from parts of S. Mysore and N. Coimbatore during the period of the weak rule of the Gangas over Kongu, possibly immediately after the death of Vishnugopa. This period seems to have offered a golden opportunity for Chera revival. Through silence is no argument the omission of the Chera name in all the victories detailed in the inscriptions of the various Ganga rulers from Kongani I down to Durvaniti is very significant. A few inscriptions from Vellalur in Coimbatore district give the names of two Cera rulers, Kokkandan Viranarayana and Kokkandan Ravikodan who style themselves "sovereign jewels of the luni-solar race (ARE, 1910 pp. 147-'48). Unfortunately there is no indication about their date, except the fact that the letters of the records are of old archaic characters. On the other hand, the style assumed by the kings, "Jewels of the luni-solar race" clearly indicates the Cera-Pandya connection, since the moon (luna) is mentioned. The effective appearance of the Pandya in Kongu occurs only in the VII century AD, so that it may be safely surmised that these inscriptions of the Cera must belong roughly only to this period.
These points of information help us to posit
(a) that the Ceras had come on a decline after the era of the sangam age and it helped the rise of ganga power in Kongu and Karnataka;
(b) that the Ceras made attempts to revive in the VII century AD;
(c) that the Vellalur inscriptions record the establishment of Cera power once again in Kongu;
(d) that the line of rulers of the Komaralingam copper plates were Cera feudatories.
From these deductions the indentification of the Punnata country seems plausible. It must have been a kingdom subordinate to the Ceras comprising parts of Coorg and Coimbatore district. Ptolemy's description of Punnata as "a land of beryl" seems definitely to point to the region of Kangayam in modern Coimbatore Dist, as lying within the kingdom of Punnata (McCrindle: Anc. India). The Mercara copper plates refer to Punnata as a "ten-thousand country;" and, as Mr. Rice contents, it must be the same as the later-day "Padi-Nadu" (Ten country), mentioned in the Yelandur inscription of AD. 1654 (Mys. Inss., P. 283, 334). In locating this region the above mentioned record clearly mentions the place. 'Tarapura,' evidently modern Dharapuram in the district of Coimbatore, which is said to lie SE of the kingdom (Ibid, p.334). 'The fact that equidistant to both Kangayam and Dharapuram (lying within a distance of six miles) is Padiyur, which is still famous for the far-famed beryls of Ptolemy, must be taken as giving a very strong cnfirmation to the view here advanced. That Coorg and this region of Coimbatore district must have once formed a unit in early times is seen from what the celebrated historian of Mysore, Col. Wilks, records in his "History of Mysore":
"In the southern part of Mysore the Tamil language
is at this day named the Gangee from being best known
to them as the language of the people of Kankayam.(Wilks, Mysore, p. 4, F, N.2) On the other hand, the same Wilks bears testimony to the fact that for some time the Cera king had complete mastery over this region, when he says:
"Cheran united Kangiam and Salem to the dominions of Kerela of Malabar."(Op., cit., p.5).
Even the name 'Punnata' and be explainted. It seems to be just a corruption of the name, 'Pounnadu' the land of gold. That there was much gold to be had from the region of Coorg and Kongu is unexceptionalble. While the Mysore gold minies bear evidence to this in some indirect way, the XVII century Tamil work, Maduraikalambakam speaks of the "gold that is found in Kondu" (Konguraippon), thus bearing a direct testimony to the Kongu wealth of gold. (The term Ponnadu seems to have been analogous to the name of the Cola country watered by the cauvery, Viz., the 'Punalnadu'.
Thus we are able to posit that the region of modern Coimbatore was a central hearth of Jainism in the south at least three conturies before the Christian era and that it continued to be so for a long time afterwards certainly through-our the period of the Ganga rule. An inscription of the XII century which referring to the Hoysala conquest of Kongu under Vishnuvardhana (1120 AD), Speaks of his general in that region, Gangarajah of great fame as" :a devout Jain. "(See Sastri; Colas, II, i). We need not try to trace the later history of Jainism in Kongu. Probably it came on a period of steady decline from that date onwards. But what has been so far said is enough to explain the numerous Jain vestiges in this region, to be seen to this day.


Religion and communal structure of the Gounders:

The Gounders are followers of traditional Hinduism.During earlier times a sizeble population followed Jainism(Vijayamangalam,Jinapuram).The Gounders follow the system ofGotra,popularly called kootam where persons from the same Gotram do not marry and are considered to be from the same ancestor.Each Kootam has its own Kulaguru who is traditionally respected(This fact is generally hidden by Dravidian historians).Every kootam also has a Kuladeivam or clan deity.Some of the Kootams are:
Adhitreya Kumban
Aadai
Aadhi
Adhirai
Aavan
Andai``
Agni
Aavan
Anangan
Andhuvan
Ariyan(arya)
Alagan
Bharatan(descendants of Bharata)
Bramman(brahman)
Devendran
Dananjayan(descendants of Arjuna)
Danavantan
Eenjan
Ennai
Indran
Kaadan
Kadai(Kaadava kings-descendants of Mahabharata's Keechaka)
Kaari
Kaavalar
Kadunthuvi
Kalinji
Kambakulathaan
Kanakkan
Kanavaalan
Kannan(descendants of Krishna-original Ganga dynasty)
Kannandhai
Karunkannan
Kauri
Kavalan
Kiliyan
Keeran
Kodarangi
Koorai
Kuruppan
Kotrandhai
Kottaarar
Kovar
Koventhar
Kumarandhai
Kundali
Kungili
Kuniyan
Kunnukkan
Kuyilan
Kuzhlaayan
Maadai
Maadhaman
Maathuli
Maavalar
Maniyan
Mayilan
Mazhluazhlagar
Medhi
Meenavan
Moimban
Moolan
Mooriyan
Mukkannan
Munaiveeran
Muthan
Muzhlukkadhan(same as porulthantha)
Naarai
Nandhan
Neelan
Neerunni
Neidhali
Neriyan
Odhaalar
Ozhukkar
Paaliyan
Paamban
Paanan
Paandian(Pandya dynasty)
Paadhari
Padhuman
Padukkunni
Paidhali
Panaiyan
Panangadan(Elumathur Kadais and Maruthurai Kadais-distinct from Kadais)
Panjaman
Pannai
Pannan
Paamaran
Pavalan
Payiran(Mandradiyar's kootam)
Periyan
Perunkudi
PIllan
Podiyan
Ponnan
Poochadhai(Bhoothan+thanthai-descendants of Jain God Arhadeva)
Poodhiyan
Poosan
Porulthantha(same as mulukadhan)
Punnai
Puthan
Saakadai(same as Kaadai)
Sathandhai(Saathan+thanthai-descendants of Jain tirthankara Rishaba deva)
Sathuvaraayan(meaning:good rulers)
Sanagan(Janakar's descendants)
Sedan
Sellan
Sempoothan
Semvan
Sengannan
Sengunni
Seralan(probably same as seran)
Seran(Chera dynasty)
Sevadi
Sevvayan
Silamban
Soman(Chandra vamsam)
Soolan
Sooriyan(Surya vamsham)
Sothi
Sowriyan(Surya vamsham)
Surapi
Thanakkavan
Thavalayan
Thazhinji
Themaan
Thodai
Thooran
Thorakkan
Thunduman
Uvanan
Uzhavan
Vaanan(Vaani)(Baana dynasty)
Vannakkan
Veliyan
Vellamban
Vendhai
Viliyan
villi
Vilosanan(Vilochana)
Viradhan(descandants of Viratas of Mahabharata's)
Viraivulan


Royal houses and gotras:

Various royal dynasties settled in Kongu nadu mainly to flee Kalabhara(forefathers of Kallar,Maravar,Agamudayar and Vanniyar) influx.They also amalgamated into the Gounder caste.
Kaalingarayar-Kings of Kalinga dynasty
Vaanavarayar-Bana dynasty
Pallavarayar-Pallava dynasty
Mandradiyar-cheiftain
Chera kootam-Chera dynasty
Pandya kootam-Pandya dynasty
The indegenous dynasties were:
Kannan(Kanvayana)-original Ganga rulers
Kadai-Kaadava dynasty(Keechaka vamsam)
Viradan-matsya dynasty(Mahabharatam)
Bharata-sons of Bharata


Language of Gounders:

The language of the Gounders is the popular Coimbatore Bhashai or Kongu Tamil.It must have been a distinct language as it shows relations with Prakrit,Aprabramsha and Kannada.It was earlier called Kangee or Gangee. Mysore, Col. Wilks, records in his "History of Mysore":
In the southern part of Mysore the Tamil language is at this day named the Gangee from being best known to them as the language of the people of Kankayam.(Wilks, Mysore, p. 4, F, N.2) Later mainstream Tamil assimilated the language yet preserving idiolectical differences and markers.


The Modern caste:

The Gounder caste is a progressive caste which has excellent personae in various fields.The Coimbatore region flourishes mainly due to their innovation and hardwork in Agriculture, textiles (Salem, Coimbatore, Erode, Tirupur,) I.T Hosur, Bangalore, Coimbatore), Education (Namakkal, Coimbatore, Salem), Poultry Namakkal), Automobiles (Namakkal, Salem), Milk (Erode Aavin),Edible Oils(Erode),Turmeric (Erode has the largest market in South India). Kongunadu has the highest urban proportion and contributes 2/3rd of Tamilnadu's income.They always form part in all ministeries with important portfolios:
Late Theeran Chinnamalai(Theerthagiri)-king and freedom fighter
Rajkumar Mandradiyar-traditional chief and uncle of Vivek Oberoi *S.K.Maeilanandan-S.K.M.Cattle feeds
N.Mahalingam(Sakti sugars,A.B.T parcel service)-industrialist.
Krishnaraja Vanavarayar-cheiftain and spokesman
Late Mohan Kumaramangalam-M.P and erstwhile hero of the theme behind the 'Great Escape',when he escaped from a Nazi concentration camp.
Late Rangarajan Kumaramangalam-M.P and reknown minister,various I.T professionals and industrialists.
Suriya-Tamil cinema actor
Sivakumar-Tamil cinema actor
Sathyaraj-Tamil cinema actor
Muttiah Muralitharan-Highest ranked cricket bowler


Politics:

Gounders have been historical rulers and are known for their benovalence. All Sangam benovalent kings belonged to Kongunadu and were Gounders. In modern Tamilnadu, they are traditional vote bank of K.M.K(Kongunadu Munnetra Kazhagam) the party was launched in the name of "Kongunadu Munnetra Peravai" but later its leaders adopted the already registered name of "Kongunadu Munnetra Kazhagam". It was launched in 2009 at Coimbatore by the Kongu Vellala Goundergal Peravai, a Gounder caste organisation. Although the party was launched by a Gounder Organisation, it has repositioned itself as the representative of all people in the entire Kongu nadu region . The party charged that Kongu region continued to be one of the most neglected region in Tamil Nadu, although the region contributed for 40% of revenue to the state government. The party also claims that it was formed for the welfare and development of the Kongu region. The demand for a seperate Kongunadu state is spearheaded by the Kongunadu welfare party Kongunadu Munnetra Kazhagam.

In 2009 Lok Sabha Election The party contested in 12 constituencies independently (without alliance) in 2009 lokshaba elections and polled around 6 lakhs (600,000) votes in kongu region. Although the party was not able to win any seat still it was considered as a good show by political observers as the party was started only 4 months before the elections. The party mainly contributed for the defeat of all Congress - DMK alliance candidates in the Kongu region of Tamilnadu. The party came third in many constituencies ahead of DMDK (Vijayakanth's party).

In the 2011, State Legislative Assembly elections KMK was part of the DMK front. It contested in 7 assembly constituencies situated in the Kongu belt and had lost in all. E.R.Eswaran, the general secretary of the party lost his seat from Sulur constituency with a margin of about 30,000 votes. Below are the constituency wise votes got by KMK.

Candidates Constituency No.of.votes
E.R.Eswaran Sulur 59,148
R.Devarajan Namakkal 59,724
Balasubramaniam Palladam 48,364
N.S.Sivaraj Gobi 52,960
Nithyanandham Pollachi 51,138
Elamparuthi Udumalai 50,917
KKC.Balu Perundurai 47,793

Marriage customs:

Gounders marry outside their Kootam(Gotram) and are reknown for their elaborate threeday-marriage extravagenzas.They give and take very high dowries(upto 5 crores).Their marriage rituals follow the Kshatriya pattern and necessarily involve service castes participation.
Kongu Vellalar Marriage
Kongu Vellala Gounders-Ceremonial Rites in Marriages
Who perform rites?
Arumaikaarar
Arumaikaari
Brahmin
Naavidhan (Barber)
Vannaan (Washer man)
Potter (Vetkovar)
Paraiyars (Men from paraiya caste)
Kammaalar
Pandaaram
Maadhaari (shoemaker)
Porutham paarthal (Examination of the agreement of horoscopes)
Sagunam paarthal (Being guided by omens)
Mutual visit to the houses of bride and bridegroom
Betrothal (Nichayadhaartham or nichaya thaamboolam)
Invitation for marriage
Kongu Vellalar Marriage
Kongu Vellalar Marriage
Rituals and customs
Kongu Nadu is an ancient one. From the very beginning, Kongu Nadu was part of Tamil Nadu. Kongu means honey; Kongu means fragrance of a flower. Since the country (Nadu) was full of flowers and abundant honey in mountain areas, the country was called by the name ‘Kongu Nadu'. The Kongu Vellalar are sons of the soil. They live in one third land area of Kongu Nadu. Even though all the people who take to agriculture are called Vellalar, the word ‘Kongu Vellalar' refers to only Kongu Vellalar gounders.
Kongu Vellalar Marriage
The Vellalar were of great assistance to the king by being in various positions and ranks in the army. They also got the title 'Kamindan' from the king for their meritorious service and loyalty. Later the title got modified as ‘Gounden'. To streamline the living together of the boy and the girl, certain regulations and procedures were created. The procedures and habits as per certain regulations later became ‘rites'. The performance of all the rites collectively in a sequence is called marriage.
Kongu Vellala Gounders-Ceremonial Rites in Marriages
The various rites being performed nowadays in the marriage ceremony of Kongu Vellalar community are unique in nature. Each and every rite is performed for some specific reason. The original rites performed centuries ago in Kongu Vellalar marriage ceremony which resembled ‘Sanagam’ age rites have undergone minor changes and modifications from technology and consequent changes in customs, habits and facilities. Some rites have ceased to exist because of their having become obsolete.
The rites which are being performed nowadays in Kongu Vellalar marriage ceremony reflect the superior character, rich culture and high tradition of Kongu Vellalar community.
Who perform rites?
All the ceremonial rites relating to Kongu Vellalar marriage are performed by ‘arumaikaarar’ ,arumaikaari, naavidhan (barbar), washer man (vannaan) and such others who are closely associated with the occupation of Kongu Vellala Gounders.
Arumaikaarar
An ‘arumaikaarar’, who is a respected elderly member of the community, is the prime person for performing the marriage rites of Kongu Vellalar. The arumaikaarar is also used to be called ‘arumaiperiyavar’, 'seerkaarar’ and ‘pudavaikaarar’. The aruamikaarar should have wife and child/children.
On the specified day, the three arumaikaarars, after planting the ‘Muhurthakaal’, will go to an anthill of white ants, offer prayer, gather sacred earth in three baskets and bring the same to the wedding place
Arumaikaari
A women gets the name arumaikaari after the performance of certain rites on her by an arumaikaarar at the time when her son or daughter has attained age for marriage. The rite relating to this is called ‘Ezhudhingam’, as mentioned by Thiru R.Venketeswaran in his research paper titled ‘Vennandhur Vattaara Kongu Vellalar Vaazhviyal’. The arumaikaari ( the women who has undergone the process of ezhudhingam) along with the arumaikaarar will perform all the rites relating to women.
The rites being performed on men or women who wish to become arumaikaarar or arumaikaari respectively clearly point out that only those who are respected elders, who are well experienced and who are having spouse and child/children, are qualified to perform the rites of a marriage ceremony.
Brahman(Kulaguru) The role of the Kulaguru is compulsory.The initiation of the marriage starts with the matching of the Jatakam of the pair.The Brahmin's recital of vedas is compulsory.This is said by Kambar in his Mangala Valthu.
Naavidhan (Barber)
Next to arumaikaarar, the naavidhan (barbar) plays an important role in conducting the rites of the marriage ceremony of Kongu Vellalar. The naavidhan is called ‘Kudimagan’. The Kudimagan’s important works in the conduct of the marriage are to invite all relatives for the marriage, to perform each and every rite of the marriage ceremony along with the arumaikaarar, to recite the ‘mangala vaazhthu’ song and to announce and call the relatives concerned before performing each rite.
Vannaan (Washer man)

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