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Far East Kingdoms

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The Pändyas / Pandyas

The Pandyas ruled regions in southern India which now lie in the state of Tamil Nadu, existing there alongside other dynasties such as the Cholas, the Cheras, the Pallavas, etc. The early Pandyas were reduced to obscurity by the Kalabhras, until their revival in the sixth century AD. They were again subdued by the Cholas in the ninth century, only to rise once more in the twelfth century.

During their long existence as a recognisable people, the Pandyas enjoyed diplomatic ties with the Roman republic and empire (apparently dating as far back as 550 BC, when Rome was still an occupied Etruscan kingdom), the Greeks, the Chinese, the Ptolemy Egyptians, etc. The Pandyan kingdom was also independent during the Mauryan rule of northern India, and had friendly ties with them. Marco Polo made mention of the Pandyan kingdom as one of the richest he had ever seen, as did Megasthenes in his work the Indika, and the Chinese traveller Yu Huan.

In the fourteenth century, the kingdom met its end after an invasion by the Islamic Delhi sultanate. The Pandyas subsequently became a part of the Vijayanagar empire. The word Pandya is derived from the Tamil word, 'Pandi' which means the 'bull', and considered a symbol of masculinity , strength and valour by the early Tamils. The early Pandyas are also said to have taken part in the Kurukshetra war, on the side of the victorious Pandavas.

(Information by Abhijit Rajadhyaksha.)

Kulashekharan Pandya

First-known Pandya king.

Kulashekharan is said to be as strong as a bull. He is apparently killed by Lord Krishna, but although his son wants to avenge his father's death, he is dissuaded from doing so by his well wishers.

fl c.1300? BC

Malayadwaja

Son.

c.1300? BC

One of the contemporaries of Jarasandha of the Brhadratha dynasty of Magadha is Jayatsena of Magadha. He takes part in the Kurukshetra War in the Mahabharata as one of the leaders on the side of Kauravas, along with Srutayus of Kalinga, Paundraka Vasudeva of Pundra, Karna of Anga, and Malayadwaja of the Pandyas. Bhagadatta of the Naraka kings is also involved in the war.

During the battle, Malayadwaja apparently wounds the mighty Dronacharya, the teacher of both the Pandavas and the Kauravas, and who fights on the side of the Kauravas. Malayadwaja goes further and takes on Drona's son, Ashwathama, in a duel.

Malayadwaja's daughter is Meenakshi, after whom the famous temple of Meenakshi Amman is built in Madurai. The city of Madurai is built around this temple. After this, the Pandyas fall back into obscurity for seven centuries.

Meenakshi Temple
The Meenakshi Temple is a centrepiece of the city of Madurai

Pandyas (Sangam Period)
c.600 BC - c.460 BC

Although the period of the Kurukshetra War is semi-legendary in Indian history, the oral and written sources do seem to be remembering real events and leaders, however hazy the view might be. There is nothing more on the Pandyas until they emerge properly into history in the sixth century BC.

By this time they are a recognisable people whose leaders are credited for constructing many beautiful temples in their kingdom (the Meenakshi Amman temple in Madurai, and the Nellaiappar temple in Tirunelveli, for example) and who apparently rule a very prosperous state. Their kingdom is famous for its involvement in the pearl trade, and the arts, poetry and literature all progress under them.

The early Pandya list here is from the Sangam literature and poems.

fl c.600 BC

Nedunj Cheliyan I

Nedunj Cheliyan is also known as Aariyap Padai Kadantha Nedunj Cheliyan. The capital of the early Pandyan kingdom is at Korkai, around 600 BC, but is moved to Kudal (now Madurai) during the reign of Nedunj Cheliyan I.

Pudappandiyan

Mudukudumi Paruvaludhi in the Sangam literature.

Nedunj Cheliyan II

Nan Maran

Nedunj Cheliyan III

Also known as Talaiyaalanganathu Seruvendra Nedunj Cheliyan, this king finds mention in a Meenakshiuram record when he gifts a rock-cut bed to a Jain ascetic. He is also described in the Sangam literature as the victor of Talaiyalanganam.

Maran Valudi

Musiri Mutriya Cheliyan

Ukkirap Peruvaludi

c.460? BC

The Sangam age ends when the Kalabhras take over the Pandyan regions, relegating them to obscurity for the next eleven hundred years (although this dating needs to be reviewd, as the late second century Ad seems to be a much more realistic date for this event, tying it in with the submission of the Cheras, Cholas, and the Pallavas.

During this period, especially in the third century BC, the Pandyas are in a state of regular conflict with the emerging Cholas.

Map of Bactria and India 200 BC
The kingdom of Bactria (shown in white) was at the height of its power around 200-180 BC, with fresh conquests being made in the south-east, encroaching into India just as the Mauryan empire was on the verge of collapse, while around the northern and eastern borders dwelt various tribes that would eventually contribute to the downfall of the Greeks - the Sakas and Tocharians (click on map to show full sized)

Pandya First Empire
AD 580 - 960

The Sangam age of Pandyan kings ended when the Kalabhras took over the Pandyan regions. It took eleven centuries, but the Pandyas eventually bounced back, retook their territories and established what is now known as the first empire. Kadungon was the king who achieved this, reviving the Pandyas in southern India at the very start of the seventh century AD (alongside a similar Pallava resurgence under King Simhavishnu), marking the beginning of a new era in the Tamil-speaking region. He assumed the title Pandyadhiraja.

AD 580 - 590

Kadungon

'Pandyadhiraja'.

c.590 - 620

Maravarman Avaniculamani

Son.

c.620 - 640

Cezhian Cendan

c.640 - 670

Jayantavarman

Also known as Sendan?

c.670 - 710

Arikesari Maravarman Nindraseer Nedumaran

Son. Rules from Madurai.
 

670

The Pallava king, Mahendravarman II, is killed in a collective attack by the Chalukyas, the Gangas and the Pandyas. Arikesari Maravarman later conquers Kerala, and makes common cause with the Chalukya king, Vikramaditya, against the Pallavas (Paramesvaravarman). He is credited with defeating the unnamed Chera king in multiple battles, and also subjugates the recalcitrant Parathavar of the coastal areas and the inhabitants of the Kurunadu.

Map of India c.AD 500
The vast empire of the Guptas encompassed much of northern India at this time, although the south remained a fairly stable patchwork of smaller but persistent kingdoms which constantly strove to outdo each other when it came to expanding their own borders (click on map to view full sized)

c.710 - 735

Kochadaiyan Ranadhiran

Son.

Kochadaiyan Ranadhiran conquers the greater part of Kongu country (Coimbatore, Salem). He subdues the Cholas and the Cheras, and his campaigns against the Chalukya kings and Ay chieftains are also recorded. The latter eventually become his vassals, but seemingly not permanently as they are still resisting domination later in the century.

c.735 - 765

Maravarman Rajasimha I

Son.

Maravarman Rajasimha subdues the Pallavas (with help from Chalukyan king Vikramaditya II), and the Western Gangas (King Sripurusha). (The Chalukyan king Kirtivarman II subsequently gives his daughter in marriage to Maravarman's son, Jatila Parantaka.) He defeats the ruler of Kongu Nadu and crosses the Cauvery to bring about the subjugation of Malakongam, which was situated between Trichy and Thanjavur districts. The Malava chieftain who suffers defeat at his hands gives his daughter in marriage to Rajasimha.

c.765 - 790

Parantaka Nedujadaiyan

Son. Rules in Madurai. Defeated Pallavas on Kaveri's south bank.

788

The Ay kingdom to the south of the Cheras continues to mount a strong resistance to Pandya domination. Now the Pandyas invade the kingdom and capture the port of Vizhinjam, but still the Ay kingdom refuses to submit.

c.790 - 800

Rasasingan II

c.800 - 830

Varagunavarman I

Varagunavarman extends his empire to Tiruchirapalli by defeating the Pallava King Dandivarman, critically weakening his kingdom.

c.830 - 862

Srimara Srivallabha

Son.

Srimara invades Lanka and captures the northern provinces of the Lanka King Sena I . He defeats the Pallavas at a battle at Kumbakonam. His son, Varagunavarman, later rebels against him and invites the Sinhalese forces under Sena II and the Pallava king Nripatunga to invade Pandya territory and sack Madurai. Srimara dies soon afterwards. His successor attempts to throw off Pallava overlordship but suffers a massive defeat at the hands of Pallava King Nandivarman III.

c.862 - 880

Varagunavarman II

Son. Pallava vassal.

c.880 - 900

Sri Parantaka Viranarayana Sadaiyan

Younger brother.

885

After the death of Sthanu Ravivarman of the Cheras, hostilities break out between them and the Cholas, which continue until the disintegration of the Chera kingdom. The Pandyas of Madurai also involve themselves in the conflict.

891

Aparajita of the Pallavas tries to revive the fortunes of his kingdom by defeating the Pandyas again, with the help of the Cholas who are his vassals. In 891 the Chola king, Aditya, breaks the yoke of his Pallava overlords and completely defeats them, paving the way for Chola supremacy in southern India.

c.900 - 920

Maravarman Rajsimha II

Son.

c.900 - 910

Maravarman Rajsimha II opposes the Chola king of Thanjavur at Kodumbalur and plunders the Chera capital at Vanchi in Kongu Nadu.

Map of India c.AD 900
India of AD 900 was remarkably unchanged in terms of its general distribution of the larger states - only the names had changed, although now there was a good deal more fracturing and regional rule by minor states or tribes (click on map to view full sized)

c.910 - 920

The Pandyas suffer defeat at the hands of Parantaka Chola I, the son of Aditya Chola. Parantaka invades the Pandyan kingdom and earns himself the title Maduraikonda (the one who captured Madurai). Rajasimha appeals to Kassapa V, the Lanka king, for assistance, but even the combined forces of the Pandyas and the Sinhalese are not able to keep the Cholas at bay and they suffer a huge defeat in Vellur near Madurai.

After these successive defeats, Rajasimha II flees to Ceylon but, unable to secure refuge there, he proceeds to Kerala, as he himself is descended in part from a Chera king. There he spends the remainder of his days in obscurity.

c.920 - ?

Sundara Pandya I

fl c.960

Vira Pandya I

c.960?

The Chola domination of the Tamil country begins in earnest during the reign of Parantaka Chola II. Chola armies led by Aditya Karikala, son of Parantaka Chola II, defeat Vira Pandya in battle. The Pandyas are assisted by the Sinhalese (Sri Lankan) forces of Mahinda IV. The Pandyas are driven out of their territories and have to seek refuge on the island of Sri Lanka. This is the start of their long exile.

Pandya Second Empire
AD 1251 - 1345

The Chola domination of former Pandyan territory remained in place for over two centuries, until 1210. The Pandyas were driven into exile and replaced by Chola viceroys known as the Chola Pandyas. While the following list concentrates mainly on the revival of Pandya power under the second empire, it also gives the names of the Pandya kings who were active during the tenth century and the first half of the eleventh century and who built the foundations for that revival. It is difficult to give their dates of accession and the duration of their rule but nevertheless, their presence in the southern country requires recognition.

fl c.980

Vira Pandya II

First of the true exile kings.

Amarabhujanga Tivrakopa

Jatavarman Sundara Chola Pandya

Maravarman Vikrama Chola Pandya

Maravarman Parakrama Chola Pandya

? - 1101

Jatavarman Chola Pandya

c.1100?

Taila II of the Kadambas of Hangal assists the Hoysalas against the Pandyas, defeating the latter. However, this defeat probably marks the start of the Pandyas' attempts to reclaim their former lands.

Nellaiappar Temple
The Nellaiappar Temple in Tirunelveli, one of the ancestral glories that the Pandyas wished to regain

1101 - 1124

Srivallabha Manakulachala

1132 - 1161

Maaravaramban Seervallaban

1161 - 1162

Parakrama Pandiyan

1162 - ?

Kulasekara Pandyan III

? - 1175

Vira Pandyan III

Led a failed rebellion against Kulothunga Chola III.

1175 - 1180

Jatavarman Srivallaban

Chola vassal.

1180? - 1190

Vikkikarma Pandyan

Chola vassal.

c.1190

Vikkirama Pandyan gains the throne of Madurai with the help of Kulothunga Chola III. It had been Kulothunga who had defeated a rebellion by Vira Pandyan III and his Sinhalese allies and on this occasion he rewards Pandyan cooperation by awarding the throne to Vikkirama Pandyan. The Tamil country is divided between the Pandyas and the Pallavas, with the River Kaveri being established as the frontier between them.

However, the Pandyas are again undone by a Hoysala king, this time Vir Ballala II, consequently eclipsing the rule of their vassals, the Kadambas of Uchchangi.

1190 - 1216

Jatavarman Kulasekharan I

Son. Chola vassal.

Jatavarman Kulasekharan is a brother-in-law of the Chera Prince Kothai Ravivarman. Remaining a Chola vassal, he resents this humbling position and rebels against his overlords. He is defeated, and is forced once again to accept the Chola yoke, regaining his throne as a result.

1216 - 1238

Maravarman Sundara Pandyan I

Younger brother.

Maravarman avenges his brother's defeat at the hands of the Cholas. He leads a revival of Pandya fortunes, sacks the Chola cities of Thanjavur and Uraiyur and sends the Chola crown prince, Rajaraja Chola III, into exile. Kulothunga Chola III appeals for aid for his son-in-law, approaching the Hoysala monarch, Veera Ballala II. Ballala sends an army under his son, the Crown Prince Vira Narasimha II. Under pressure from the Hoysala threat, Sundara Pandyan agrees to restore the Chola kingdom to Kulothunga, but only after the Cholas acknowledge his suzerainty. Maravaram subsequently rules over extensive territory including Trichinopoly and Pudukottai.

1238 - 1251

Maravaram Sundara Pandya II

Son. Defeated by Rajendra Chola III.

1251 - 1268

Jatavarman Sundara Pandya III

Son. Established the Second Pandyan Empire.

Jatavarman avenges the defeat of his father by completely destroying the Chola empire and establishing the second powerful Pandyan empire. He also defeats the Cheras, Hoysalas (in 1279), and the Kakatiyas.

During his reign he provides a golden roof for the temples of Chidambaram and Srirangam from the wealth acquired in his conquests. He also gives many grants to temples in Trichy, Thanjavur and Kanchipuram. He builds a temple at Aragalur (Magadai Mandalam) for the merit of Kulasekara around 1259. He acknowledges the contributors of other dynasties to Tamil Nadu by building a gate at the Sri Ranganathaswami Temple at Srirangam in which he engraves the names of all four great empires of Tamil Nadu, the Cholas, Pallavas, Pandyas and Cheras. He also builds the east tower of the Madurai Meenakshi Temple.

1268 - 1308

Maravaramban Kulasekhara Pandya I

Son.

1279

The Pandyas drive out Ramanatha of the divided Hoysala kingdom, seizing his territory.

1308

Kulasekhara Pandya has two sons, one of whom, Jatavarman Sundara Pandya, is legitimate, while Jatavarman Vira Pandya is illegitimate. The latter is chosen as the heir apparent, so the former kills his father. This leads to a civil war between the brothers.

1309 - 1327

Jatavarman Sundara Pandya

Son.

1309 - 1345

Jatavarman Vira Pandya

Illegitimate brother and official heir.

1327 - 1345

Jatavarman Sundara Pandya appeals to Alladin Khiljis, the Deccan viceroy, and General Mallik Kafur for help. Kafur invades and destroys the Pandyan kingdom over the course of two decades, ending Hindu Pandya rule and starting a Mahomedan overlordship from Delhi.

However, Delhi loses power in the Deccan in the fourteenth century and a patchwork of kingdoms and principalities emerges, one of the biggest of which is the Vijaynagar empire, which lies immediately north of the Madurai region. In 1334, Madurai itself becomes an Islamic sultanate which is initially independent.