The dynasty ruled parts of South India from around 600 BCE (Early Pandyan Kingdom) to first half of 17th century CE. They initially ruled their country Pandya Nadu from Korkai, a seaport on the southernmost tip of the Indian Peninsula, and in later times moved to Madurai.
Origin of Pandya Dynasty
The word “Pandya” has its derivation from the Tamil word “Pandi” which means bull. Bull is considered as a sign of masculinity and valour. In Sangam Literature, however, Pandya means ‘old country.’
History of Pandyas
One of the three ancient kingdoms in the south of India was the Pandyan Kingdom who ruled over Tamil Nadu until the end of the fifteenth century.
Korkai, a seaport on the southernmost tip of India was initially their capital, but then later the capital was moved to Madurai.
The Pandyan Empire was established by the Emperor Kadungon in the sixth century. He ascended the throne after defeating the clan of Kalabhras.
The Pandyas grew in strength and expanded their kingdom. Tamil Nadu was divided between the Pallavas and the Pandyas. The river Kaveri acted as a boundary between the two kingdoms.
The Pandyas controlled the districts which are known as Madurai and Tirunelveli today as well as parts of Southern Kerala.
The Pandyas were best known for their extensive trade network which spread as far as Rome and Greece. They excelled in trading though the seas from Dhanushkodi, the sea shore of Ramanathapuram, and Poompuhar, a city which was used to trade with China, Malaysia, Maldives and other. The Pandyas controlled the pearl fisheries along the South Indian coast between Sri Lanka and India, producing some of the finest pearls known.
The Pandyan Kingdom was a powerful kingdom but were often subdued during clashes with the Pallavas and the Cholas. This happened because as their kingdom expanded, their neighbors, feeling threatened by them, attacked.
The Pandyas were soon overshadowed by the Cholas during the rule of Parantaka Chola II. His son, Aditya Karikala and his army went to war with Vira Pandya, defeating him in battle. Sinhalese forces (Sri Lankan) came to the Pandyas’ rescue, but even with their help, the Pandyas were defeated. The Pandyan Kings were driven out of their strongholds and sent to Sri Lanka, where they sought refuge. This was the beginning of a long period of exile for the Pandyas.
Their kingdoms were taken over by Chola Viceroys who called themselves Chola Pandyas and they ruled from Madurai from 1020 AD.
In the thirteenth century, the Cholas had become very weak and were fast losing control of their lands. The Pandyas in the meantime emerged from hiding and expanded their territory from the Telegu lands by the Godavari to the northern half of Sri Lanka.
The two kings who revived Pandyan glory were Maravarman Sundara Pandya and his successor, Jatavarman Sundara Pandya. Jatavarman was a brave and ambitious king. His main goal was to subdue the Cholas completely. He fought many battles and managed to consolidate his hold over Trichy, Srirangam, Tanjore and Kumbakonam.
Maravarman Kulasekara Pandya I was another Pandyan king who tried to revive Pandyan glory. But after his death, his two sons, Sundara Pandya and Vira Pandya fought against each other for the throne. A general of the Delhi Sultanate took advantage of this chaos and raided the kingdom, which brought an abrupt end to Pandyan rule.
Political History of Pandyas
No continuous history of the Pandya Kings prior to 12th century AD has been clearly written. In Maurya Period, the Pandya Kingdom was independent. One of the Pandya Kings had sent an embassy to Augustus Caesar. The Pandya Kingdom was well known to Greeks and Romans for its pearl trade. Many Roman coins have been found in many places in Pandya Empire, which shows an existence of a well-developed trade between the Romans and Pandyas in the early centuries AD.
Pandya Dynasty Literature
Pandya kings find mention in a number of poems in the Sangam Literature. Among them, Nedunjeliyan, ‘the victor of Talaiyalanganam’, and Mudukudimi Peruvaludi ‘of several sacrifices’ deserve special mention. Beside several short poems found in the Akananuru and the Purananuru collections, there are two major works Mathuraikkanci and the Netunalvatai in the collection of Pattupattu which give a glimpse into the society and commercial activities in the Pandyan kingdom during the Sangam age.
Pandya architecture includes both rock-cut and structural temples. The early rock-cut temples have monolithic vimanas. The structural ones are small stone temples and have all the features of bigger temples i.e. vimana, mandapa and sikhara. Groups of small temples are to be seen in Tiruchirapalli district of Tamil Nadu. The Shiva temples have a Nandi in front of the maha mandapa.
The period of the latter Pandya rulers saw the development of elegant vimanas with finely sculptured idols and the gopurams or portals of the temples. The rectangular entrance or portals of the temple are called the gopurams. The portions above the entrance are pyramidal in shape. Gradually the gopurams were given more importance than the sikharas. While the former were higher and more imposing, the latter declined in height. Lofty gopurams of great proportions with lavish decoration were constructed by succeeding dynasties.
Rulers from Pandya Dynasty
1. Sadayavarman Parakrama Pandiyan I – (1357 AD) – It’s said that he ruled for 23 years
2. Parakrama Pandiyan – (1384 AD to 1415 AD)
3. Sadayavarman Kulasekara Pandian I – (1395 AD)
4. Sadayavarman Vikram Pandian – (1401 AD to 1422 AD) – Pandiyan ruler who ruled during the same period.
5. Sadayavarman Parakrama Pandian II – (1422 AD to 1463 AD) – He ruled during the reign of Devaraya II. He died in 1463AD.
6. Sadayavarman Kulasekara Pandian II – (1430 AD to 1474 AD)
7. Parakrama Veera Pandiya – (1468 AD) – Started to rule and shared the rule with his father.
8. Sadayavarman Kulasekara Pandian III – (1480 AD to 1507 AD) – This Pandiyan was defeated by Narasa Nayaka when he tried to conquer Madurai in 1479. Till 1479 AD, the Pandiyans were ruling as independent rulers. After 1479 defeat the Pandiyans were reduced to feudatory rulers under Vijayanagara rulers.
9. Chandrasekara Pandian – (1502 AD) – He ruled during Krishna Devaraya period. The place he ruled was called Chandrasekara Pandiya Mandalam. Through Pudukottai plates we hear of 2 Pandiyans Abirama Parakrama Pandiyan and AGAVARAMAN. Thenkasi and Kayathar Indians
10. Sadayavarman Srivallaba Pandiyan son of Agavaraman ruled the areas of Shenkottai, SankaranKovil, SriVilliputhur with THENKASI as the capital.
11. Vettum perumal Raja who ruled the some areas of Tirunelveli, Kovilpatti and SriVaikundam regions with KAYATHAR as his capital. Again we hear of 2 Pandiyans. They were the sons of Abirama Parakrama Pandiyan. They were
12. Sadayavarman Parakrama Kulasekara Pandiyan – (1543AD)
13. Nelveli Maran – (1552AD to 1564AD)
14. Sadayavarman Adhiveerarama Pandiyan (1564AD to 1604 AD)
His son – Sokkar. His brother – Vallabar
His uncle’s son – Varathungarama Pandiyan
15. Varathungarama Pandian – (1588AD)
Started ruling some regions with Karivalamvantha Nallur
16. Varaguna Rama Kulasekara Pandiyan – (1613 AD)
He did a yoga in 1615 AD and came to be known as Kulasekara Somasriyar.
17. Adigal Perumal Vela -Varaguna Rama Kulasekaradevar.
He is the last ruler of the Pandiyan dynasty. He ruled till the sake period 1675 that is equivalent to 1753 AD.
Religion under Pandya Dynasty
The Pandya Dynasty initiated a religious era in Tamil Nadu. In Madurai, Shaivism was practiced during the Pandya rule. Jainism and Buddhism also formed the basis of religion in Pandya Dynasty. Jainism flourished in the Pandya kingdom following the invasion of Kalabhras. The references to the existence of both these religions are found in ancient Tamil literature. During the rule of the later Pandyas, an increased amount of Hindu worshippers existed who claimed themselves to be descendants from Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati.
Fall of the Pandyas
It was in 1311 that Madurai was invaded by the Delhi Sultanate forces that the conditions of the Pandyans worsen and they turned into mere local rulers. At the time of the invasion of the Kalabhras, the Pandyans, as of the Sangam literature marched into complete obscurity.
It was in about 940 AD, that the Chola king Rajaraja reduced the Pandyas to tributary dependence which lasted for about the following two centuries. The Cholas dominating rule brought in a number of kings and emperors to rule the once powerful the Pandyan Kingdom, such as Madura Sultans, Vijayanagara Rayas, Nayakas of Madura, Nawabs of Arcot. Towards the end of the sixteenth century, the Pandyan dynasty suddenly disappeared from Indian historical scene forever.
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