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Bilingual discourse and cross-cultural fertilisation: Sanskrit and Tamil in medieval India

 | 
Whitney Cox
, 
Vincenzo Vergiani

Section III. Written in stone? Shifting registers of inscriptional discourse

Praising the king in Tamil during the Pallava period1

Emmanuel Francis

Texte intégral

  • 1 I would like to thank Whitney Cox and Vincenzo Vergiani for organising the Cambridge workshop and c (...)

1In The Language of the Gods in the World of Men, Sheldon Pollock writes:

“It is an interesting fact that in six centuries of Pallava rule not a single inscription was produced in which Tamil does any work beyond recording the everyday — remitting taxes, specifying the boundaries of a land grant, and the like. While examples exist in earlier Pallava records of Sanskrit being used to document the everyday world — a function that would become increasingly rare wherever it could be relegated to the vernacular — none exists where the everyday language is allowed to do the work of Sanskrit in a praśasti: the literary work of interpreting and supplementing reality and revealing it in its truth” (2006: 122).

2This statement is repeated later, but with a significant nuance: “For the six hundred years of their existence, with [their] very few exceptions, the Pallavas never spoke literarily in Tamil in their public records” (op. cit.: 291).

3On both occasions, Pollock indeed cites some exceptions. “One marginal exception to the documentary restriction of Tamil in Pallava grants is the account of the election of a new king, Nandivarman II, after the death of Parameśvaravarman II around 730” (op. cit.: 122, n. 15). This inscription is found in the Vaikuṇṭhaperumāḷ temple at Kāñcīpuram (infra, p. 382 ff.). “Aestheticized inscriptions are sometimes found within Pallava domains, as in the two singular verses engraved on a ca. eighth-century temple in Tañcāvūr district (EI 13.134 ff., especially pp. 143, 148). Being completely untouched by Sanskrit in idiom and discursive style, these present a picture of literary-political inscriptions very different from what was to come. They may have been unique experiments, with no prehistory and no future” (op. cit.: 291, n. 12). These verses are in fact engraved on pillars in the Mīṉāṭcīcuntaresvarar temple at Centalai; pace Pollock, there actually are more than two (infra, p. 376 ff.).

4It is no denial of the importance of Pollock’s study to state that in general he understates the Tamil side of the picture. Motivated by this observation, the present paper is an attempt to refine our understanding of the use of Tamil during the Pallava period (ca. 4th to the 9th centuries CE). I propose to scrutinise the epigraphic corpus of the Pallavas lato sensu (i.e. Pallava dynastic inscriptions, inscriptions of their feudatories, local inscriptions by local individuals) in their Tamil realm (i.e. the northern districts of present-day Tamil Nadu, which is the region later known as Toṇṭaimaṇṭalam, and the northern portion of the Cōḻamaṇṭalam). I will focus on instances of literary, imaginative or expressive Tamil, and specifically on instances of what could be called political Tamil, that is Tamil used in panegyric discourse. To complement the epigraphic data, I will also pay attention to belletristic Tamil under the Pallavas. After reviewing the relevant data, I will discuss their impact on Pollock’s general theory about vernacularisation in the Tamil cultural sphere. In doing so, I will deal also with the political discourse of the Pāṇḍyas and Cōḻas.

5The evidence of literary, expressive or political Tamil in the Pallava realm is substantially more diverse than the two examples mentioned by Pollock. Orr has already warned us that “we must take exception to Pollock’s statement (...). While inscriptions in which Tamil epithets or verses of praise appear are not common in Pallava territory, neither are they completely nonexistent” (2009: 100–1). Orr found Tamil “expressive” language in some Pallava inscriptions and pointed out that, “Given that the total number of ‘Pallava inscriptions’ is not huge” at least at an early period, “these few inscriptions count for something” (op. cit.: 101, n. 9).

  • 2 Read pōttaracar.
  • 3 For the edition of epigraphic sources, the following conventions are adopted: engraved letters that (...)
  • 4 With a non-negative use of in pakā.
  • 5 On the title Pōttu of the Pallavas, see infra, p. 371. On Pakāppiṭuku and Lalitāṅkura as birudas of (...)
  • 6 A colophon providing the name of the poet concludes the inscription: itu pāṭit tant[ō*] n peruṅkāvi (...)

6Orr refers to stone inscriptions: on the northern pillar of the façade of one of the Vallam rock-cut caves, a certain Kantacēṉaṉ is presented as the “servant of Catturumallaṉ (i.e. Sanskrit Śatrumalla, “He who is the wrestler to his enemies”) Kuṇaparaṉ (i.e. Sanskrit Guṇabhara, “He who bears qualities”) Mayēntirappōttarecaru (i.e. the bull-king or the sproutking [i.e. Pallava king] Mahendra)” (catturumallaṉ kuṇaparaṉ may[ē*] ntirapp[ō*]ttar [ē*]caru2 aṭiyāṉ; IP 36. B = SII 2.72. B; first quarter of the 7th century).3 On the southern pillar (IP 36.A = SII 2.72.A), we find a pair of birudas, Pakāppiṭuku (“He who is an invincible [literally: which cannot be split] thunderbolt” or “He who is a forked lightning”,4 see infra, p. 369, for discussion of the meaning of piṭuku) and Laḷitāṅkuraṉ (i.e. Sanskrit Lalitāṅkura, “He who is a gracious bud”), known to belong to Mahendravarman (ca. 600–630).5 At Tiruveḷḷaṟai, a local chief named Cellikkōmāṉ Mallavāṉ is praised in fragmentary Tamil verses preceded by a Sanskrit titulature and date of Dantinantivarmaṉ, i.e. Nandivarman III, the son of Dantivarman (IP 119 = SII 12.48; ca. 850).6

  • 7 Mahalingam (1988: 615) suggests that here Perumāṉaṭikaḷ means “king”, probably since it is a title (...)
  • 8 The metre is āciriyaviruttam according to Subrahmanya Aiyar (1916: 155).

7Besides these brief statements of praise, we have instances of literary Tamil compositions in Pallava inscriptions. At Tiruttaṇi, a certain Perumāṉaṭikaḷ composed a foundation verse, in veṇpā metre as the colophon of the inscription itself indicates (IP 245 = SII 12.94; end of the 9th century).7 At Tiruveḷḷaṟai again, an inscriptional verse inviting donations is engraved on a svastika-shaped well (IP 98. B = EI 11.15. B = SII 12.40; first half of the 9th century).8

Fig. 1 Map of Tamil Nadu (not to scale; district divisions as in 1966) showing expressive Tamil inscriptions under the Pallavas (7th-9th century).

8These few inscriptions that “count for something” are actually not isolated examples. Other instances of unequivocal political Tamil in Pallava inscriptions are known (see Fig. 1 for the map with all the examples known to me). I will distinguish two stages in the form of this Pallava political Tamil. The first stage starts around 600 with Mahendravarman I (hereafter Mahendra I). I shall be concerned here with inscriptions from four sites (Tiruccirāppaḷḷi [hereafter Trichy], Taḷavāṉūr, Centalai and Kāñcīpuram) and with the use of Tamil in royal titulature. The second stage, partly overlapping with the first stage since Tamil birudas and titles continued to be used, concerns mainly one king, Nandivarman III (hereafter Nandin III) who reigned for approximately 20 years around 850. For this king I will focus on a court poem, the Nantikkalampakam, and on the use of a specific epithet prefixed to his name in local Tamil inscriptions.

1. Pallava political Tamil (ca. 600–900)

9We encounter the first instances of Tamil used in Pallava political discourse under the reign of Mahendra I (ca. 600–630), in two of the caves he had excavated, at Trichy and at Taḷavāṉūr.

1.1. Birudas in the upper cave at Trichy (ca. 600–630)

10In the so-called upper cave in Trichy (Trichy tāluk and district), besides Sanskrit dedicatory or foundation inscriptions (IP 32, 33 and 35), there are at least sixty birudas engraved at different places on the pillars and pilasters (IP 34 = SII 12.8, with facsimiles, plate I). The classification of birudas as pertaining to political discourse may not be immediately evident, since they are names/epithets mostly preserved without discursive context. However they do tell us something about the self-presentation of their bearers and, in this respect, participate in the political imagery of a dynasty.

  • 9 Birudas are clearly identifiable as Telugu when they have the termination -anpu.
  • 10 See Subramaniam (1967: 75 ff.), Mahalingam (1969: 71).

11The Trichy birudas are in different languages: some are clearly Sanskrit, others Telugu and Tamil,9 while the language of other birudas has not been clearly identified. Lockwood et al. (2001: 245 ff.) have proposed etymologies from Prākrit, Telugu, Kaṇṇaḍa or Tamil. Scholars influenced by a chauvinistic view of the role of India in South-East Asia have even fancied that some of them were in Khmer.10

12But even though these birudas are not all clearly understood, one point is clear: namely that we see a mixing of birudas in Sanskrit and in Dravidian languages, Tamil and Telugu in particular. This mixture involved the use of different scripts: Grantha letters for Sanskrit and Telugu birudas, and sometimes even for Tamil birudas (see vañjavalava below); for Tamil birudas Tamil letters are used, but some are still undifferentiated from Grantha. As an illustration, let us look at some birudas on the exterior (south) row of pilasters and pillars (see Fig. 2). At the top, on the corbels (facing south), we can read from left to right:

Fig. 2 Trichy, exterior of the cave, facing south. Circles show the birudas on the corbel and base of the central pillar. Photo by the author.

  • 11 These are just possible translations of this vocative case of vañjavalavaṉ. There are several entri (...)

vañjavalava (western pilaster), “He who is a conqueror of the universe?” or “He who is a conqueror of the deceit (or: lie)?” or “He who is a conqueror in his lineage?”11

  • 12 Contra SII 12.8 (sarvvabha[ṭa]), see Lockwood et al. (2001: 213 and 221).

sarvvana[y]{aḥ}12 (first pillar from the west), “He who is fully wise/prudent”.

  • 13 The second translation is the usual one, but rests on the artistic repute of Mahendra I and on the (...)

saṃkīrṇṇajātiḥ // (second pillar from the west), “He who is of mixed birth” or “He who [has invented a system] of mixed jāti (i.e. rāga)?”13

satyasandhaḥ (third pillar from the west), “He who is in agreement with the truth” or “He whose intention is truth”.

[laḷ]itāṃkuraḥ (fourth pillar from the west), “He who is a gracious bud”.

lakṣitaḥ (eastern pilaster), “He who is distinguished”.

13These are all written in Grantha characters. All are in Sanskrit language except the first one, which is in Tamil. At the bottom, on the southern face of the square base of the four pillars, we have from leftto right the following birudas:

  • 14 SII 12.8 reads da ..... ku. Lockwood et al. (2001: 205) read da(ṇ) ... ku. The first character is d (...)

[ḍa][...] ku14 (first pillar from west), “?”

  • 15 The second translation rests on the artistic repute of Mahendra I (citrakāra, “painter”). But here (...)

cit[t]i{rakā}[ra]ppu{li} (second pillar from the west), “Lion among wonder-doers” or preferably “Lion among painters”.15

  • 16 From piṇam (“corpse, carcass; devil, disembodied soul, spirit”) and piṇakku = piṇakkam (“disagreeme (...)

piṇapiṇakku (third pillar from the west), “He who is in disagreement with the devils?”16

  • 17 Contra SII 12.8 (kucagrāṇa), see Lockwood et al. (2001: 202 and 216).
  • 18 This is the vocative case of kucañāṇaṉ, from kucam (<Sanskrit kuśa) and ñāṇ (“string, cord; bowstri (...)

kucañāṇa17 (fourth pillar from the west), “He whose bowstring is darbha grass?”18

Fig. 3 Trichy, sample of biruda. From top to bottom: saṃkīrṇṇajātiḥ (after SII XII, plate I), piṇapiṇakku (after SII XII, plate I), kucañāṇa. Photo by the author.

  • 19 See Lockwood (2004, 2008).
  • 20 Interestingly the “k” of kucañāṇa in another list of birudas of Mahendra (IP 21) is in Tamil script (...)

14These are apparently all Tamil birudas written mainly with a Tamil alphabet, which appears here maybe for the first time,19 some characters still being undifferentiated from the Grantha script (see Fig. 3). For instance the retroflex “ṇ” is very similar in Tamil and Sanskrit birudas. Compare also the “k” in a Sanskrit biruda from the top list and in a Tamil biruda from the bottom list: both types have two vertical strokes. As for the fragmentary first biruda, its first letter may be Grantha and the first part of its compound a Sanskrit word. But the ending (-ku) seems to indicate that the second part of the compound is Tamil (or some other Dravidian language). This could be a biruda made from one Sanskrit word and one Tamil (or other Dravidian) word, where script differentiates the etymology, in contradistinction with cittirakāra° and kuca° which are Tamilised forms of Sanskrit words. These last two words attest for their part that the distinct Tamil letter “ca” had already been invented.20

  • 21 Some of these birudas appear in the three lists, others only at Trichy or at Pallāvaram. The biruda (...)

15As I have said above, there are more than sixty birudas engraved in the upper cave at Trichy. The same kind of nomenclature is available for Mahendra I at two other sites: on the beams of the Pallāvaram caves (some 100 birudas; IP 28 = SII 12.13) and on a pillar, originally found in the Ekāmbaranātha temple at Kāñcīpuram (14 birudas; IP 21 = SII 12.14). Mahendra I thus possesses more than 130 different birudas, in at least three different languages.21 We have seen already that four of his birudas are also engraved at Vallam (IP 36 = SII 2.72; supra, p. 361). In that case only one is not of Sanskrit etymology (Pakāppiṭuku), while the three others are Tamilised forms of Sanskrit birudas usually found in Sanskrit and Grantha (Laḷitāṅkuraṉ, Catturumallaṉ, Kuṇaparaṉ).

16This use of different languages is previously attested on coins of Śātavāhana kings. For instance Mahadevan (2003: 201, 2006: 87) reads the bilingual legend of a coin of Sātakaṇi (2nd century CE) as follows:

Obverse: rāño vāsiṭhiputasa sirisātakaṇisa, “Of the king Vāsiṭhiputa (i.e. Sanskrit Vāsiṣṭhīputra, “son of a Vāsiṣṭhī”) Sirisātakaṇi (i.e. Sanskrit Śrīśātakarṇin)”. [my translation]

Reverse: aracaṉku vāciṭṭimakaṉku tirucātakaṇiku, “Of the king, son of a Vāciṭṭi (i.e. Sanskrit Vāsiṣṭhī), Tirucātakaṇi (i.e. Sanskrit Śrīśātakarṇin)”. [my translation]

  • 22 On the debate about the identification of this language, see Mahadevan (2003: 199–205, 2006: 86–87)

17On the obverse, around the face of the king, is a Prākrit legend in genitive case. On the reverse, around some symbols, a legend of same meaning, in dative case, is provided in a language diversely identified by scholars as Tamil, Telugu or proto-Dravidian.22 For our purpose, it is important to note that in any case a Dravidian language contrasts here with the Indo-Aryan of the obverse and that this is an early case of a vernacular used in public discourse.

  • 23 See Krishnamurthy (2004: 134–160 and 183–186), Francis (2009: 118–119).
  • 24 See Krishnamurthy (2004: 162–165 and 187), Francis (2009: 119–120). Krishnamurthy (2004: 165) attri (...)

18To conclude about Mahendra I’s birudas, it is noteworthy that they were also used as legends on his coins. About twenty of these, in Sanskrit and Dravidian languages, that are known from the stone inscriptions of Mahendra I as well as others not attested elsewhere (possibly because the Trichy list of birudas is lacunary), appear also individually on coins.23 A handful of coins of Mahendra I’s direct successors bear Sanskrit birudas such as Śrībhara and Śrīnidhi.24 There is however no instance of bilingual legends as for the coins of Śātavāhana kings. In any case, these Pallava coins point to the importance of birudas for the self-presentation of the ruler and to the use of Dravidian ones for this purpose.

1.2. Tamil birudas and titles of the Pallavas (7th to 9th century)

19Tamil birudas or titles were subsequently used for successors of Mahendra I, even though Sanskrit birudas were far more numerous (due to the existence of lengthy praśastis). In the 8th and 9th century Tamil birudas or titles such as Viṭēlviṭuku, Kāṭuveṭṭi or Kāṭavar are commonly found. Pōttaraiyar, a dynastic name, was used since the 7th century.

  • 25 For a survey of the occurrences of Viṭēlviṭuku, see Minakshi (1938: 46–48), Govindasamy (1965: 38–6 (...)
  • 26 Cf. Ayyar & Rao (1908: 173) on viṭuku and Hultzsch (SII 3, p. 93, EI 18, p. 7) on the meaning of th (...)
  • 27 Mahendra I is Pukāpiṭuku (IP 21) and Pakāppiṭuku (IP 36), that Hultzsch (SII 2, p. 341, n. 5) trans (...)
  • 28 Nagalingam (1955) suggests a link with the vocabulary of seafaring (“the chief who drops the sounde (...)

20The meaning of Viṭēlviṭuku is a matter of debate. It is found in royal and local inscriptions as well as in the Nantikkalampakam, a court poem dated to ca. 850 (infra, p. 387 ff.). This biruda or title is sometimes associated with Pallava kings, but more often with their vassals and officers.25 For some scholars, viṭuku is a Telugu or Kaṇṇaḍa word (piṭuku, “thunderbolt”) and the whole compound would mean “the crashing thunderbolt”.26 Minakshi (1938: 45) argues that viṭēl is the contraction of viṭai (“bull”) and vel(lu)-tal (“to conquer”) and considers viṭuku as an abstract noun derived from viṭu-tal (“to issue, emit”). The term would then mean “issue (i.e. royal order) [marked with] the victorious bull” and, as a biruda, “He whose issues (i.e. orders) [are marked] with the victorious bull”. Some of Minakshi‘s arguments are sound, for instance her interpretation of IP 93, section J, and her reference to Nantikkalampakam 15 concerning the mention of royal orders (supra, p. 368 n. 25). But we can dismiss her reference to Viṭōlaiviṭuku° in IP 155.47, since this is a misreading for Viṭēlviṭuku° (see correction by Hultzsch, EI 18, p. 11). To add credit to Minakshi’s view, I remind readers that the expression tirumukam viṭu-tal (“to issue a royal order”, literally “to issue a gracious face”) is common in the Tamil portion of Pallava copper-plates, that the seals of Pallava grants are usually adorned with a bull, and that the “victorious bull-banner” (viṭai vel koṭi) of the Pallava king is mentioned in Periya Tirumoḻi 186 = 2.9.6c (p. 317). However viṭuku occurs in other birudas where its meaning seems to be “thunderbolt”.27 Neither of these two interpretations can thus account for all attestations. Other hypotheses have been advanced but are less convincing.28

  • 29 Kāṭuveṭṭi has variants: Kāṭupaṭṭi (IP 135), Kāṭapaṭṭi (TTDES 1.8–9), Kāṭuvaṭṭi (EI 5, p. 171, n. 1)
  • 30 On the equation of Kāṭavar and Kāṭuveṭṭi, see Krishna Sastri (1926: 9–10).
  • 31 See Ramesan (1972: 55). Actually, the word Kāṭava is found only once, and possibly twice, in the sa (...)
  • 32 For local Pallava inscriptions, see, for instance IP 132, 135, 156, 168, 237 and 240. For a Pāṇḍya (...)

21As for Kāṭavar (“forester” from kāṭu + avar) and Kāṭuveṭṭi (“forest clearer” from kāṭu and veṭṭu-tal, “to cut”),29 they appear in Tamil epigraphy in the 8th century.30 In Pallava royal inscriptions Kāṭavar rarely designates Pallava kings, whereas Kāṭuveṭṭi is not infrequent in designations of Pallava vassals, petitioners or executors of grants.31 Both terms are used in local Pallava inscriptions and in inscriptions of other dynasties (maybe as early as the 6th century).32 Kāṭavaṉ apparently designates the younger brother of Nandin III in Nantikkalampakam 33. The Pāli form Kaṇḍuveṭhin occurs in Mahāvaṃsa 47.7 and 77.79 (that is Cūḷavaṃsa) where, according to Hultzsch (1913: 527), it designates Narasiṃhavarman I. Kāṭavaṉ is found twice in the Tēvāram (7.39.7d and 7.39.9a) and five times in the Periya Purāṇam (1411b, 4045d, 4052d, 4053b and 4179a).

  • 33 The genealogy of Nandin II is given in IP 77, verse 28. He was the son of Hiraṇyavarman, himself a (...)
  • 34 Ramesan (1972: 55) associates the name Kāṭavar, as well as Viṭēlviṭuku, with the southern parts of (...)
  • 35 See Ramamurthy for a genealogical table (1983: 337) and on Maḻavas identified as Atiyamāṉs of Takaṭ (...)
  • 36 According to Ramamurthy, kings whose regnal years appear mostly in hero-stones from the hilly distr (...)

22For Krishna Sastri (1926: 9–10), Kāṭavar designates members of a collateral line of the great Pallavas of Kāñcīpuram, descending from Hiraṇyavarman, a branch that rose to power with his son Nandin II.33 Ramamurthy (1983) elaborated on this view and suggested that there were actually two collateral lines of Kāṭavars, ruling the west of Toṇṭaimaṇṭalam, that is, the Palkuṉṟakkōṭṭam (“district of many hills”) of epigraphy, a mountainous and wooded region.34 This feature of their realm would explain their name, which finally became the name of their kula. For Ramamurthy both lines descend from Bhīmavarman, the younger brother of Siṃhaviṣṇu of the main line, who was entrusted with the Maḻava territory conquered by his elder brother.35 When the main line of Siṃhaviṣṇu came to an end at the death of Parameśvaravarman II, his cousin Nandin II of one of these Kāṭavar lines became king in Kāñcīpuram.36 We can doubt the existence of a second line of Kāṭavars, but what seems certain is that before Nandin II (ca. 730), Kāṭavar is not used for Pallavas reigning in Kāñcīpuram.

  • 37 See Hart (1999: 16–17).

23Even though their etymology is clear, one can wonder about the exact purport of the birudas Kāṭavar and Kāṭuveṭṭi. Do they refer to the original home of the Pallavas, sometimes supposed to be related to the tribal Kuṟumpars? Or, as argued by Minakshi (1938: 12 ff.), do they tell us more about the civilising work of the Pallavas of claiming forest land for cultivation? It is also possible, as suggested to me by Charlotte Schmid, that we have in the second of these a reference to the tribal custom or topos attested in the Caṅkam literature of kings cutting the tutelary tree of their vanquished enemies.37

  • 38 For Pallava inscriptions, see IP 20 (infra, p. 374), IP 36.B (supra, p. 361), IP 42, 75 and 269, fo (...)

24As for Pōttaraiyar (and its variants Pōttarecaru, Pōttaracar, etc.), it is associated with the Pallavas from the 7th to the 9th centuries, in the Pallava epigraphic corpus, but also in inscriptions from other dynasties.38 Pōttu means “male of animals”, especially of cattle, tiger and deer, but also “tender branch of shoot of a tree”, according to the Tamil Lexicon. Pōttaraiyar may thus be understood as the Tamil equivalent of Sanskrit pallavarāja-, for Sanskrit pallava means “sprout, shoot, twig, bud”. This meaning has been played on in Pallava dynastic myths (see for instance IP 77.31, verse 17, where the eponym is born on a litter of sprouts: palla[va*]saṃstareṣu). Pōttaraiyar may also mean “Bull-king” in reference to an animal associated with kingship since Aśoka’s time and figuring on the majority of the seals and coins of the Pallavas. The bull may be considered as a symbol of male or reproductive force, but also, subsequently when around 700 the dynasty turned almost exclusively Śaiva, as a mark of their sectarian leaning.

  • 39 The Western Gaṅga king Śrīpuruṣa boasts of having deprived the king of Kāñcī of this title, along w (...)

25To be exhaustive, it is to be added that Nandin II bears the title Perumāṉaṭikaḷ (“venerable great lord”), occurring in IP 93, section K, unfortunately fragmentary.39

26A first observation concerning these Tamil birudas or titles is that they rarely occur in royal inscriptions, i.e. inscriptions directly commissioned by Pallava kings. The narrative inscriptions in the Vaikuṇṭhaperumāḷ temple in Kāñcīpuram (IP 93) and the Tamil portions of copper-plates are, from this point of view, exceptions. This rarity is not surprising since most of the royal Pallava inscriptions are in Sanskrit. Noteworthy also is the fact that these Tamil birudas or titles are also borne by Pallava officers and vassals. It is sometimes unclear if a given title in a given inscription refers to a Pallava king or to a vassal or officer, bearing it on his own or entitled to bear it by his overlord. In literature, on the other hand, Viṭēlviṭuku is clearly a title of Nandin III in the Nantikkalampakam (15, 17 and 78), but this text is relatively late (ca. 850). As for Kāṭavar, it may originally be attached to a collateral and regional line of Pallavas. These Tamil birudas or titles seem thus to be associated to a local Tamil context rather than to the dynastic discourse.

1.3. Anuṣṭubh and veṇpā in Taḷavāṉūr cave (ca. 600–630)

27In another cave commissioned by Mahendra I, in the village of Taḷavāṉūr (Gingee tāluk, undivided South Arcot district, today Viḻuppuram district), we find inscriptional verses in Sanskrit and Tamil praising the royal patron (Hultzsch 1914 = EI 12.27). On the exterior, at the top of the left (western) pilaster near the arm of the western dvārapāla, is a Sanskrit anuṣṭubh (IP 19 = EI 12.27. A, with facsimile = SII 12.10; see Fig. 4), facing south, at a visible place, like most dedicatory Sanskrit stanzas engraved on Mahendra I’s caves (IP 24, 27 and 29). It reads:

daṇḍānatanarendreṇa narendreṇaiṣa kāritaḥ
śatrumallena śaile [’*]smin śatrumalleśvarālayaḥ
“By order of Śatrumalla, the king by whose army (or: authority) the kings were bent, this has been made on this mountain: the Śatrumalleśvarālaya”.

Fig. 4 Taḷavāṉūr, exterior of the cave, facing south. Photo by the author.

  • 40 On the previous incorrect statement locating this veṇpā on the same pillar as the Sanskrit anuṣṭubh (...)

28Inside the cave, on the eastern face of the square base of the left (southern) pillar of the porch in front of the cella, a Tamil veṇpā is found engraved. Its colophon is found on the perpendicular face of the same square portion of the pillar, facing south (IP 20 = EI 12.27. B, with facsimile = SII 12.11 = Peruntokai 972, where the text is thoroughly emended).40 They read (Grantha being marked in bold):

  • 41 Peruntokai 972: curēntirappōttaraiyaṉ.
  • 42 Peruntokai 972: veṅkōṭṭiṉ.
  • 43 Peruntokai 972: ṟeṉpāṉ.
  • 44 EI 12.27.B reads ālaiyam, very clear in situ, contra IP 20 (ālayam). Peruntokai 972 emends in cattu (...)
  • 45 Peruntokai 972: aṉṟu.

śrī
toṇṭaiyantār v[ē*]ntaṉ nare[ē*]ntirapp [ō*]ttaraiyaṉ
41 veṇp[ē*]ṭṭiṉ42 ṟeṉpāl43 mika makiḻntu — kaṇṭāṉ cara mikka veñcilaiyāṉ catturumalleśvarālaiyam44 eṉṟ’araṉukk’iṭam ākav āṅku45
ivvūr
[b]rammamaṅkalavaṉ cellaṉ civadāsan colliyatu

  • 46 This village is mentioned in a later Pallava inscription on another pilaster at the entrance of the (...)

“Prosperity!
Narentirappōttaraiyaṉ (i.e. “the bull-king/sprout-king among the kings”), the king with the beautiful garland of
toṇṭai, he whose cruel bow is overflowing with arrows, has ordered with great joy that, on the southern side of Veṇpēṭu (i.e. “the white hamlet” or “the white hill”46), there be for Araṉ (i.e. Hara = Śiva) a place called the temple of Catturumalleśvara.
Uttered by Brammamaṅkalavaṉ Cellaṉ Civadāsaṉ of this village”.

  • 47 A possible exception is found at Trichy (SII 12, p. 5, n. 1: [...] [pr]ābhākariṇā l[i] kh[ita]m); h (...)
  • 48 See Hart (1999: 18).

29Several points are of interest here. The Sanskrit anuṣṭubh is neatly engraved pāda by pāda and compares well with other cave inscriptions of Mahendra I: we have similarly one verse in Sanskrit at Maṇṭakappaṭṭu (IP 27, gīti), at Makēntiravāṭi (IP 24, nardaṭaka), at Cīyamaṅkalam (IP 29, āryā), and at Trichy (IP 35, āryāgīti). In contradistinction, the Tamil veṇpā is not arranged aṭi by aṭi and is badly engraved with the lines bending to the left (see Fig. 5). From this, we may surmise that it is not an inscription commissioned by the king. This seems to be confirmed by the colophon specifying that a local poet uttered (i.e. composed) this verse. It has to be emphasised that poets of Pallava stone inscriptions in Sanskrit (in contradistinction to the poets of Sanskrit portions of copper-plates) are rarely named.47 Noticeable also is the beginning of the veṇpā, which phonetically echoes the beginning of the anuṣṭubh: toṇṭai echoes daṇḍā°; narendra is repeated in narentira. Finally the veṇpā has a specific Tamil flavour with the mention of the toṇṭai garland: in Caṅkam literature, each of the three major dynasties is associated with a specific flower.48 The toṇṭai is a creeper whose flower is distinctively associated with the Pallavas.

Fig. 5 Taḷavāṉūr, southern pillar inside the cave, south-east corner. Photo by the author.

  • 49 The veṇpā is a “Tamil translation in verse of the previous record [i.e. the anuṣṭubh]” for Venkatas (...)
  • 50 I am inclined to follow this scholar, even though he considers narentira as a biruda on the basis o (...)

30All scholars referring to this veṇpā considered that it was composed to emulate the Sanskrit anuṣṭubh of the first quarter of the 7th century. There is less agreement concerning its date.49 Venkatasubba Ayyar (SII 12, p. 7) assigns it to the 9th century on palaeographical grounds. Srinivasan (1964: 77–78) finds it “reasonable to consider the two [inscriptions] as coeval and complementary to each other”. This author noted that palaeography has its limitations and that we have few Tamil records of this period for comparison.50 He argued also that he does not know of any late Tamil translation of a Sanskrit inscription, but that there is an example of coeval Sanskrit and Tamil inscriptions in a Pāṇḍya cave at Tirupparaṅkkuṉṟam (see IEP 10–11).

31This co-presence of Sanskrit and Tamil verses bearing similar content in different languages and cultural contexts is remarkable. The initiative for composing and inscribing the Tamil veṇpā seems wholly local, like in the case of the Tamil birudas or titles. More precisely it seems that the royally commissioned Sanskrit praise urged some local people to praise the royal patron in Tamil language and literary context (alluded to by mention of the toṇṭai).

1.4. Tamil inscriptions at Centalai (8th century)

  • 51 There are 11 veṇpās (I.c, I.d, I.h, II.a, II.b, II.c, III.b, III.c, III.d, III.e, IV.b), 8 kaṭṭaḷai (...)

32Royal inscriptions with panegyric Tamil can be found on pillars that are now reused in the Mīṉāṭcīcuntaresvarar temple at Centalai (Tiruvaiyāṟu tāluk, Tañcāvūr district; Subrahmanya Aiyer 1916 = EI 13.10; poems are named by Roman numerals for the pillar and Roman letters for the face of the pillar). As mentioned earlier, Pollock mentions these inscriptions, but does not describe them in detail (2006: 291, n. 12). Actually there are many more than the “two singular verses” he refers to. Four pillars, originally set up in the nearby village of Niyamam and brought to Centalai at an unknown date, are engraved on the four faces of their upper and bottom square portions, and, in one case at least (III.c), also on the middle octagonal portions. It seems that originally there was a total of 32 inscriptions, but due to later constructions, only 29 could be read and edited: one prose inscription introducing the lineage of the Muttaraiyar kings (I. a), four lists of birudas (I.b, II.d, III.a, IV.a), and 24 stanzas.51 Although not dated internally, these inscriptions have been assigned approximately to the first half of the 8th century from a palaeographical point of view (Subrahmanya Aiyer 1916: 135–36). The Centalai inscriptions are not of a Pallava king but of a member of the Muttaraiyar family, which was allied to the Pallavas at least at this period (see Centalai verses I.g and II.h). The Centalai verses, some of them with a colophon — we thus know the names of four poets — extol the greatness of the patron king Kuvāvaṉ Māṟaṉ alias Perumpiṭuku Muttaraiyaṉ, like verse I. d (a veṇpā) which reads (Subrahmanya Aiyer 1916: 140):

  • 52 Subrahmanya Aiyer (1916: 140) edits viḻi-[k*]kaṭ-pēy.
  • 53 Subrahmanya Aiyer (1916: 140 n. 6) suggests that the engraver corrected “pu” into “pa”, by erasing (...)
  • 54 See Subrahmanya Aiyer (1916: 140, n. 7) for the metrical scansion of the stanza.

[.....................................p]pa [ō*]ṭik
kaḻuku koḻuṅ kuṭar kavva viḻi kaṭ p[ē*]y
52
puṇṇ aḷaintu kaiy ūmpap
53 p[ō*]r maṇalūr veṉṟat[ē*]
ma[ṇ]ṇ aḷainta cīr māṟaṉ vāḷ
54
pāccil v[ē*]ḷ nampaṉ pāṭiṉa

  • 55 This lacuna probably contained another subordinate proposition with an infinitive (...ppa).
  • 56 According to the Tamil Lexicon, viḻi-ttal, has several meanings: “to open eyes; to wake from sleep; (...)
  • 57 The word pāṭiṉa being a plural, it has to be understood that Vēḷ Nampaṉ of Pāccil composed this poe (...)

“The sword of the glorious Māraṉ who has embraced the earth, has been victorious in Maṇalūr battle where (...),55 where vultures, rushing, grasped fat bowels, and where pēys (i.e. demons) with wide-open eyes56 sucked their hands after thrusting them into wounds (or: flesh).
[Poems] sung
57 by Vēḷ Nampaṉ of Pāccil”.

33This veṇpā is reminiscent, as pointed out to me by Charlotte Schmid, of the battlefield atmosphere in the Puṟanāṉūṟu, as in this extract from poem 62 (lines 2–6), where the battle scene of a fight between a Cēra and a Cōḻa is described in the following words:

porutu āṇṭu oḻinta maintar puṇ toṭṭu
kuruti ce kai kūntal tīṭṭi
niṟam kiḷar uruviṉ pēey peṇṭir
eṭuttu eṟi aṉantal paṟai cīr tūṅka
paruntu arunt’uṟṟa
(...)

“In that battlefield while, to the sound of mourning drums beaten high (?), pēy women with bright-coloured bodies (or: with bodies of shining lustre), having smeared their tresses with their hands red of blood after digging out the wounds (or: flesh) of dead warriors, were dancing and kites were eating (...)”

34The common theme of both poems is obvious: pēys (clearly women in Puṟanāṉūṟu 62) are red-handed (kai) with blood from the flesh or wounds (puṇ) of dead warriors. However the metre is different (veṇpā versus āciriyippā). This shared theme may not prove, as observed to me by Herman Tieken, that Vēḷ Nampaṉ and the other poets of the Centalai verses (see also Centalai verses II. c and III. e for birds feeding on battlefields) knew the Puṟanāṉūṟu. And as observed by Eva Wilden, the fact that the pēys are female in Puṟanāṉūṟu is a later stage in the development of the representation of evil in Tamil (beings like aṇaṅku, cūr, pēy originally not having a specific sex) and this feature — the female sex of pēys and even the pēy topos itself — may be in fact imported in Tamil literature from popular folklore or Sanskrit literature. It could then be that Puṟanāṉūṟu 62 and Centalai’s verse I.d draw on common sources without being directly related.

  • 58 See, for instance, poru kaḷiṟṟu in I.g, vāḷ amar in II.b, kūr vāy in II.c, pēr ilai in II.e, vaṇ ka (...)
  • 59 On these three terms, see Murugan and Mathialingam (1999: 31, 122 and 243). On pūvainilai and kaikk (...)
  • 60 See Subrahmanya Aiyer (1916: 149): taṉa mutal āyamum pūvaiyun taṉ kaikkiḷaiyu muṉp’ iṭṭeṉa mutal aṉ (...)

35However there is also a lexical commonality between the Centalai verses and the Eṭṭuttokai.58 I have not been able to check if this lexical commonality is also formulaic. If so, this would be a firmer argument in favour of the Centalai poet’s knowledge of Caṅkam poetry. But there is another fact which certainly does point in that direction: Centalai verse IV.e, even though not clearly understandable, indicates that at least one poet was familiar with Caṅkam poetry or poetics. It first mentions āyam (group of the female attendants of the heroine in Akam according to the Tamil Lexicon), pūvai (a term that may be related to pūvainilai, a tuṟai in the pāṭāṇtiṇai of Puṟam, mentioned in Tolkāppiyam, Poruḷatikāram 60, as Jean-Luc Chevillard informed me) and kaikkiḷai (one-sided love, an originally Akam, then Akappuṟam, tiṇai) in one coordinated group.59 After that, it apparently describes the sorrow of a heroine as in Akam poetry.60

36Also noteworthy is the lexical commonality between Centalai verse I. d and contemporaneous Bhakti poetry when describing the pēys dwelling in the cremation ground, which is the place of Śiva. In Kāraikkāl Ammaiyār’s Tiruvālaṅkāṭṭut Tiruppatikam, the first stanza reads:

eṭṭi ilavam īkai cūrai kārai paṭarnt’ eṅkum
cuṭṭa cuṭalai cūḻnta kaḷḷi cōrnta kuṭar kauvap
paṭṭa piṇaṅkaḷ paranta kāṭṭiṟ paṟai pōl viḻi kaṭ pēy
koṭṭa muḻavaṅ kūḷi pāṭak kuḻakaṉ āṭumē

Eṭṭi (strychnine-tree), ilavam (clearing-nut tree), īkai (mimosa-tree), cūrai (jujube-tree), and kārai (canthium-tree) spread everywhere in the forest where corpses have been grasped and their bowels fell on the spurges that surround (or: fence?) the hot burning-ground [there] while [he?-] demons (kūḷi = Sanskrit bhūta) sing and [she?-] demons (pēy) with drum-like wide-opened eyes beat drums, Kuḻakaṉ (i.e. Śiva as young and beautiful) dances”.

  • 61 Another possibility is that both poets make use of a pre-existing pool of formulae.

37Centalai verse I.d and Kāraikkāl Ammaiyār’s stanza share vocabulary (and in one instance this is even a formula): viḻi kaṇ pēy (occurring also and more complete as paṟai pōl viḻi kaṇ pēy in Tēvāram 1.67.3a, that Subrahmanya Ayyar rendered as “the pēy which has open eyes as big as a drum” even though it is probably a plural) and kuṭar kauva/kuṭar kavva. It is then possible that Vēḷ Nampaṉ knew Kāraikkāl Ammaiyār’s poem, if the latter is really earlier than the 8th century.61

  • 62 See Puṟanāṉūṟu 264 and Akanāṉūṟu 297.6–10, for instance.

38So whatever the literary background of Centalai verse I.d, it shows a typical Tamil evocation of the battlefield that is met with in Caṅkam poetry and adopted in Tamil Bhakti poetry for the evocation of the cremation ground. Centalai verse I.d (and also II.c and III.e) clearly resonate within a Tamil literary culture. The same may be true for Centalai verse II.f, which mentions warriors who entered stones (kaṟ puka), a reference to hero-stones, set up as memorials to them, which is a pan-Indian practice also known in Caṅkam poetry.62

  • 63 Note that “i” and “ī” are not differentiated in the script in these lists of birudas.

39As for the birudas at Centalai, we have two different lists of four birudas. Each list is engraved on two pillars. Two birudas appear in both lists. So there are six different birudas in total. On the pillars I.b and II.d, we read (cf. Subrahmanya Aiyer 1916: 139 and 143; Grantha is marked in bold63):

[śrīmāṟaṉ], “He who is warlike”.

  • 64 Subrahmanya Aiyer (1916: 139, 143, 145 and 148) reads °śatṛ° and emends in °śatru°. But a small loo (...)

śrīśatrukesarī,64 “He who is a lion for his enemies”.

  • 65 Subrahmanya Aiyer (1916: 139, 143, 145 and 148) reads kaḷvarkaḷvan (I.b), kaḷvarakaḷvan (II.d) and (...)
  • 66 The term kaḷvaṉ may also have an erotic flavour here, recalling the hero who steals the heart of th (...)

śrīkaḷvar(a)kaḷvan,65 “He who despoils the despoilers?”66

śrī’atisāhasan, “He who is extremely intrepid”.

Fig. 6 Centalai, list of biruda, pillar IV, facing north. Photo by the author.

40On the pillars III.a and IV.a (for III.a see the estampage reproduced in Mahadevan 2003: 208; for IV.a see Fig. 6), we read (cf. Subrahmanya Aiyer 1916: 145 and 148; Grantha is marked in bold):

  • 67 In IV.a, only the bottom part of this biruda appears.

śrītamarālayaṉ,67 “He who is an asylum for his relations (or: friends)”.

śrī’abhimānadhīran, “He who is firm in pride”.

śrīkaḷvarakaḷvaṉ

śrīśatrukesarī

  • 68 This biruda, appearing also in stanza II.f. Subrahmanya Aiyer (1916: 144), reads there [kaḷvāra]kaḷ (...)

41What is at first remarkable here is the alternation of Sanskrit and Tamil birudas in both lists. In the second list it is marked by the use of different alphabets: Grantha and Tamil scripts are well differentiated here, unlike in Trichy; the letters “k” and “r” have two vertical strokes in Sanskrit and only one in Tamil. But in the first list, śrīkaḷvarakaḷvan, which is a Tamil word, is written entirely in Grantha, up to the point of having a final “n” (and not “ṉ”). It contrasts with śrīkaḷvarakaḷvaṉ of the second set which is entirely in Tamil letters except for the prefix śrī-.68 Peculiar also for the Sanskrit birudas and for the Tamil śrīkaḷvarakaḷvan written in Grantha is the final “n”. This stands for the Tamil alveolar “ṉ” and means that the Sanskrit birudas bear the Tamil pronominal suffix of the third person singular (“aṉ”), which is not uncommon for Sanskrit words in Tamil inscriptions, but is usually represented with a Tamil letter.

1.5. The narrative inscriptions in the Vaikuṇṭhaperumāḷ at Kāñcīpuram (ca. 800)

  • 69 Actually, there are narrative inscriptions only for the panels that concern the beginning of the re (...)
  • 70 Some letters are not clearly differentiated between Grantha and Tamil script (“k”, “ṭ”, “t”, “p”, “ (...)

42The last instance of political Tamil — or at least a mixture of Sanskrit and Tamil — before the 9th century is the second exception mentioned by Pollock, that is the inscriptions provided for some of the narrative sculptures of the southern corridor of the Vaikuṇṭhaperumāḷ temple at Kāñcīpuram (Kāñcīpuram tāluk and district; Krishna Sastri 1923 = IP 93 = SII 4.135, with facsimile, plate II; Fig. 7). These prose inscriptions are exceptional in the sense that they narrate the dynastic events represented on the panels they are attached to.69 They explain the circumstances that lead to the coronation of Nandin II (ca. 725), but were probably engraved toward the end of his reign (ca. 800). Let’s examine the first narrative inscription (IP 93, Section A; Grantha is marked in bold):70

  • 71 Read brahmādi.
  • 72 Read varāniṉṟa.

[s]vasti śrī ivvakay[ē*] brah[m]anādi71 ’āka vārāniṉṟa72 pallavavaṃśattuḷ para[m]eśvarapp[ō*]ttar[ā*]yar svarggasthar ’āvatu rājyam utsannam [ā*]ka mattrakaḷu ghaṭakayāru

Fig. 7 Vaikuṇṭhaperumāḷ temple at Kāñcīpuram. Southern corridor with panels facing north. N. Ramaswamy pointing at IP 93. Photo by the author.

  • 73 Read mattra kaḷum ghaṭakayārum mūlaprakṛt[i] yum.
  • 74 Read aṭaikka.
  • 75 Read rājyabharam.
  • 76 Krishna Sastri (1923) reads govaḷappott’.

mūlaprakṛt[i]yu73 k[ā*]ṭaveśakulahiraṇyava[r*]mamah[ā*]r[ā*]jar aṭekka74 rājabharam75 [gra]hakka sama[r*]tthar ubhaya[ku] laparaśuddhar [g]ovalapp[ō*]tt’76 [ā*]kav eṉṟu viṭukapaṭ[u?] [...] p[ō*]nta iṭam /

  • 77 These translations are based on the analysis of [g?]ovala respectively as Tamil kō+valla and Sanskr (...)

“Hail! Prosperity! Here is the place where, while the kingdom was in chaos because Parameśvarappōttarāyar of the Pallava lineage — which descends continuously from Brahmā — was residing in heaven, the mattrakaḷ, the ghaṭakayār and the mūlaprakṛti went (...) in order to appoint (aṭaikka) the mahārāja Hiraṇyavarman of the Kāṭaveśakula, telling [him]: ‘Let the one who is able to assume the charge of king and is pure (paraśuddhar, from pariśuddha) in both lineages, be the [G?]ovalappōttu (i.e. “the bud/the bull who is a powerful king?” or “the bud/bull-king”,77 that is, in both cases, the Pallava king)!’”

  • 78 This epigraphic Maṇipravāḷam (where Sanskrit words have Tamil inflectional terminations, e.g. graha(...)
  • 79 The language of inscriptions with only syllables (eḻuttu) in Grantha is what Vīracōḻiyam 182 (p. 71 (...)

43The mixing of Grantha and Tamil letters of this narrative inscription, that is the mixing of Sanskrit and Tamil words with proper differentiated alphabets, makes its language better characterised as epigraphic Maṇipravāḷam than as Tamil.78 Unlike other inscriptions in Tamil where we find occasionally a few words or syllables in Grantha when Sanskrit words are used, here a major part of the vocabulary is Sanskrit and written almost consistently in Grantha letters.79 In some cases Tamil letters are used for a Sanskrit word (kula in its first occurrence andjabharam for instance). Note also the content. It is a narrative of the events that followed the death of Parameśvaravarman II and how a delegation went to ask his remote cousin Hiraṇyavarman to take over the kingdom. The next narrative inscriptions recount that Hiraṇyavarman refused the throne, that his youngest son, Parameśvara alias Pallavamalla (IP 93, section C) proposed himself, that Hiraṇyavarman was at first reluctant to let him go because of his young age, that Hiraṇyavarman was convinced by someone who was apparently his purohita to do so, and that Parameśvara successfully reached Kāñcīpuram where he received abhiṣeka, some regalia and a coronation name (Nandivarman). So, these inscriptions do not provide a panegyric but a political narrative aiming to legitimate the accession of a collateral branch of the Pallava dynasty, the Kāṭavars we have already discussed above (p. 370). As such, and since they are engraved in a royal temple, these are royal inscriptions. This probably accounts for the reliance on Sanskrit terminology.

44These inscriptions at Trichy, Taḷavāṉūr, Centalai and Kāñcīpuram represent the first stage of Pallava political Tamil. Let us sum up their characteristics. First, their literary nature is obvious, especially in the case of the veṇpā at Taḷavāṉūr and of the verses at Centalai, and, to a lesser degree, in the case of the lists of birudas. Second, most of these examples show either an influence from or an interaction with Sanskrit. The Dravidian and Tamil birudas are intermixed with Sanskrit birudas at Trichy, Pallāvaram, Kāñcīpuram and Centalai. Tamil birudas of Mahendra I are written in a mix of specifically Tamil letters and letters not yet differentiated from Grantha. Some of these birudas are partly composed of Sanskrit words and there is hesitation as to the alphabet: Cittirakārappuli in Tamil script and Citrakārappuli in Grantha script are both attested. The veṇpā at Taḷavāṉūr seems to be a new rendering of an earlier Sanskrit anuṣṭubh. The narrative inscriptions of the Vaikuṇṭhaperumāḷ are so full of Sanskrit words that they deserve to be characterised as a record in epigraphic Maṇipravāḷam. At the same time, even if a Sanskrit praśasti tradition acted as a trigger, a regional tradition or a local initiative is also operative. The polyglossia of the birudas of Mahendra I recalls the bilingual legends of Śātavāhana coins. The veṇpā of Taḷavāṉūr is the work of a poet of the very same locality leaning on the Tamil literary tradition (see the association of the Pallava king with a specific flower). Some stanzas of Centalai are thematically Tamil and possibly draw on earlier Caṅkam literature. Pure Tamil birudas and titles (Kāṭavar or Viṭēlviṭuku) are few in number but the ones that do exist are often used and occur mostly in Tamil local inscriptions. As for Kāṭavar, it appears in the Pallava royal epigraphic corpus only when a collateral branch of local importance so named came to occupy the throne in Kāñcīpuram.

45These inscriptions show that Sanskrit surely played an important role in the rise of political Tamil, but less as a formal or thematic model than as a paradigm to be adapted or translated into a specifically Tamil garb. To close this first section on Pallava political Tamil, I should also mention that the local Tamil literary culture may sometimes influence its Sanskrit counterpart. In the Kacākūṭi copper-plates (ca. 750) stanza 26 (vasantatilakā) reads (IP 77 = SII 2.73.61–62):

  • 80 Read dayitāni.
  • 81 Read nayasya.
  • 82 Read dhiṣaṇādhikṛtasya.
  • 83 Read mārgge.

etā dhanāni daitāni80 yaśodhanāni
jetā kaler vvilasitāni babhūva tasmāt /
netā nayaśya
81 dhaṣaṇādhikṛtasya82 mārgga83
pātā jaga[n*]ti parameśvarapotavarmmā
//

“From him (i.e. Narasiṃhavarman II) was born Parameśvarapotavarman (i.e. Parameśvaravarman II), who obtained the desired riches — those of glory — , who conquered the seductions of the kali [age], who was a leader in the path of politics as shown by Dhiṣaṇa (i.e. Bṛhaspati), who protected the worlds”.

  • 84 A similar assonantal device is used throughout chapter 31 of book 10 of the Bhāgavatapurāṇa (Goodal (...)

46What is remarkable here is the rhyming of the second syllable of each pāda. Although theoretically this literary embellishment is not impossible in Sanskrit (cf. anuprāsa), it clearly recalls the etukai of the Tamil poetry.84

1.6. Pallava political Tamil under Nandin III (ca. 850)

  • 85 Royal Pallava stone inscriptions in Sanskrit are very rare in the 9th century. I know only of IP 25 (...)

47In the middle of the 9th century a major shiftseemingly occurred concerning panegyric Tamil under the Pallavas. While Sanskrit praśastis were still composed for Pallava kings, this was done almost exclusively in copper-plates.85 Literary Tamil was fostered at the Pallava court itself, and not under some of their feudatories like in Centalai or through local impetus like in Taḷavāṉūr. One Pallava king played a crucial role in this development: Nandivarman III (hereafter Nandin III), who reigned for a little more than 20 years around 850.

  • 86 The patron of Pārataveṇpā is mentioned only in the fourth stanza. He is not named and is described (...)
  • 87 On Kalampakam, see also Zvelebil (1974: 200, n. 20; 1995: 305–306).
  • 88 See for instance Nantikkalampakam 26ab: niṟka maṉṉavar niranta veṇ kuṭai miṭainta nīḷ kaṭai neṭun t (...)
  • 89 On the distinction between pāṭṭuṭai talaivaṉ (hero of the poem, i.e. of the whole work) and the kiḷ (...)

48Nandin III is usually — and maybe rightly — considered as the patron of the Pārataveṇpā of Peruntēvaṉār, which is the most ancient Tamil version of the Mahābhārata, a large portion of which has survived.86 What is certain however is that Nandin III is the hero of the Nantikkalampakam, the most ancient kalampakam extant today. Kalampakam, from kalampu (= kalappu, “mixing, mixture”) and akam (“place”) is translated by Shulman as “mixed bag” (2004: 157) or “inner aspect of mixing” (2004: 175). The genre may owe its name to the variety of themes (tuṟai) and metres it allows.87 Shulman (2004: 161) speaks of a “musical and rhythmic tour de force”. The genre name may also be due to the fact that a kalampakam draws on Puṟam and Akam conventions, actually mixing these two worlds clearly demarcated in Caṅkam poetry.88 The mixing goes to the point of deliberately confusing the pāṭṭuṭai talaivaṉ and the kiḷavi talaivaṉ, in contradistinction to the kōvai genre, another pirapantam.89

  • 90 See Nantikkalampakam 2, 5, 19, 27, 28, 39, 41, 44, 49, 58, 63, 65, 69, 74, 84 and 88.
  • 91 See Nantikkalampakam 5, 7, 12, 13, 26, 28, 29, 36, 38, 50, 54, 55, 56, 58, 59, 73, 76, 79, 88, 93 a (...)
  • 92 See Nantikkalampakam 32, 33, 37, 42, 53, 56, 57, 68, 75, 79, 82, 84, 85, 90 and 91. Ayyar and Rao ( (...)
  • 93 See atteḷḷāṟṟ’ eṟinta māṉōtayaṉ in Nantikkalampakam 85.

49Nanti, the pāṭṭuṭai talaivaṉ of Nantikkalampakam, is described in the poem as a Pallava and is associated to the toṇṭai (the flower of the Pallavas) and to the toṇṭai country, later known as Toṇṭaimaṇṭalam, i.e. the Tamil realm of the Pallavas.90 His three major cities are in the Pallava kingdom: Mallai (Mahābalipuram), Mayilai (Mylapore, today in Ceṉṉai) and Kacci (Kāñcī).91 Since Nanti is described as a Pallava victorious in Teḷḷāṟu, it is clear that he is Nandin III, who bore a specific epithet invoking this deed in local Tamil inscriptions (infra, p. 390)92 and occurring once, verbatim, in the Nantikkalampakam.93

  • 94 See Ayyar and Rao (1908: 170 and n. 2), Shulman (2004: 157).
  • 95 See Vaiyapuri Pillai (1988: 97), Zvelebil (1975: 168; 1995: 479).

50As I have dealt extensively with this text elsewhere (see Francis 2009: 508 ff., and forthcoming a), I will just sum up the important points. We do not know the name of the poet and there are later traditions presenting him as the brother of Nanti. A major problem with the Nantikkalampakam is that some verses were possibly interpolated. According to descriptions of the genre in the Pāṭṭiyals, a kalampakam should contain 90 verses if the pāṭṭuṭai talaivaṉ is a king.94 The Nantikkalampakam consists of 116 stanzas in the Kaḻakam edition. Some scholars concluded on this ground that stanzas were interpolated.95 And indeed the antāti scheme is not consistently observable. Nevertheless one may question the trust in later norms (Pāṭṭiyals), especially in the case of the first specimen available of a genre presumably predating the treatises setting its norms. Without going into further detail, suffice it to say that some of the verses are only of Puṟam flavour and summarise the royal and martial qualities of Nanti. Particularly interesting is verse 65, presumably genuine and not interpolated because it fits in the antāti scheme:

tiruviṉ cemmaiyum nilamakaḷ urimaiyum
potuv iṉṟi āṇṭa polam pūṇ pallava
tōḷ tuṇai āka māveḷḷāṟṟu
mēvalark kaṭanta aṇṇāl nanti niṉ
tiru varu neṭuṅ kaṇ civakkum ākiṉ
cerunar cērum pati civakkummē
niṟaṅ kiḷar puruvam tuṭikkiṉ niṉ kaḻal
iṟaiñcā maṉṉarkk’ iṭam tuṭikkummē
maiyil vāḷ uṟai kaḻikkum ākiṉ
aṭaṅkār peṇṭir
pūṇ mulai muttap pūṇ kaḻikkummē kaṭu vāy pōl vaḷai atira niṉṉoṭu
maruvā maṉṉar maṉam tuṭikkummē
mā mata yāṉai paṇṇiṉ
utiram maṉṉu(m) niṉ etir malaintōrkkē

“O Pallava with golden ornaments, who ruled (or: cherished), without sharing the excellence (or: beauty) of Tiru (i.e. Śrī) and the possession of Nilamakaḷ (i.e. Bhū),
O Nanti, great man who overcame the enemies in the big Veḷḷāṟu with the help of his arms,
If your large eyes where beauty dwells become red, the place where the [enemy] soldiers gather becomes also red;
If your bright-coloured eyebrows (or: eyebrows with shining lustre) quiver, the leftside of the kings who do not bow to your feet (literally: anklets) also quivers;
If you remove your bright (or: unblemished) sword from its sheath, the wives of reluctant [kings] also remove the pearl-ornaments of their ornamented breasts.
When conchs similar to your
kaṭuvāy (“harsh voice”, i.e. Nanti’s drum) resound, the determination of the kings who are not on your side falters (quivers);
If you prepare your big intoxicated elephant(s) [for battle], the blood of the kings opposing you congeals”.

  • 96 It is to be noticed also that most of the birudas of Nandin II in the Nantikkalampakam are Tamilise (...)
  • 97 In Pallava Sanskrit praśastis, mentions of actual victories rather than the listing of vanquished e (...)
  • 98 See Francis & Schmid (2010: xvii–xviii).

51In this verse of Nantikkalampakam there are undoubtedly themes borrowed from the Sanskrit literary tradition, such as the association of goddesses Śrī and Bhū with the king or the description of elephants as intoxicated (mata yāṉai).96 But the vocabulary is mostly Tamil and the metre is the profoundly Tamil āciriyappā, which is also the principal metre of Puṟanāṉūṟu. These features as well as the focus on war victories, the mention of an actual battle (at Veḷḷāṟu),97 and the introduction with the goddesses, are similarly found in the Cōḻa meykkīrttis (i.e. Tamil epigraphic panegyrics) which consist almost exclusively — after the mention of the goddesses — in the enumeration of victories, if not historical at least set in an historical context.98

  • 99 That is eight (IP 122, 123, 125, 135, 137, 141, 142, 329; spanning from the 10th to the 22nd year o (...)

52As for the practices in inscriptions, the reign of Nandin III is marked by an innovation. As far as I know, he is the first king to bear in local Tamil inscriptions a recurrent and specific Tamil epithet (properly a relative participle clause) prefixed to his name which is itself followed by his regnal year as internal date. This epithet — teḷḷāṟṟ’ eṟinta (see Fig. 8) which means “who vanquished (or: smashed; or: blew, as the wind) [the enemies] at Teḷḷāṟu” — occurs with slight variants (erinta; eṟiñca; teḷḷāṟṟ’ eṟintu rājya[mu]n koṇṭa in IP 141), in approximately 25% of the Tamil inscriptions dated to the reign of Nandin III.99 In most of them the mention of Nandin III has no other purpose than providing a date: the king is not involved in the transaction recorded. These are mostly local inscriptions, so the exact role of the king in imposing this epithet is debatable. But we can guess that he himself provided the impetus in this matter (on meykkīrttis and their seeming imposition by Cōḻa kings at least in the early period, see Francis and Schmid 2010: xlvi).

  • 100 For examples, see Francis and Schmid (2010: xv, n. 55).

53If we thus consider verse 65 of the Nantikkalampakam side by side with this epigraphic innovation under Nandin III, we have here the forerunner of the Cōḻa meykkīrttis. In this context I must recall that Cōḻa meykkīrttis, whose first example is that of Rājarāja I a little before 1000, are mainly encountered in local Tamil stone inscriptions, in which the Cōḻa king plays sometimes no other role than providing a regnal date, and that the use of brief epithets, based on the model of teḷḷāṟṟ’ eṟinta, is known for Cōḻa kings since the 9th century.100 Cōḻa meykkīrttis can thus be considered as a development of the Tamil panegyric of Nandin III: they are a versified development of epithets like teḷḷāṟṟ’ eṟinta and a thematic avatar of a poem like Nantikkalampakam 65.

54In this second stage of the political use of Tamil under the reign of the Pallava Nandin III, we can thus identify a development which is more autonomous from Sanskrit tradition and which assumes the heritage of the Caṅkam literature, a literature that has not been referred to in detail by Pollock. Under Nandin III we have a mature literary form of vernacular Tamil political discourse with the Nantikkalampakam and we also have the prefixing of an epithet to the king’s name in local Tamil inscriptions, both phenomena that, taken together, give us the forerunner of Cōḻa meykkīrttis.

Fig. 8 Tirucceṉṉampūṇṭi, Caṭaiyar temple. IP 137 = SII 7:503.1-8 (Grantha in bold): svasti śrī teḷḷāṟṟ’ eṟinta nantipp[ō*]ttaraiyarkku yāṇṭu 18āvatu tirukkaṭaimuṭimāh[ā*]devark...(read as °mah[ā*]devark...). Photo by Charlotte Schmid.

2. Vernacularisation: a literarisation of the vernacular?

55The evidence presented above helps to draw the picture of the rise of “an aestheticized public political discourse in Tamil” sketched by Pollock (2006: 322). It entails that the theory of vernacularisation he advances must at least be qualified concerning the Tamil area. To proceed in this way I will first recapitulate my findings and summarise Pollock’s vernacularisation theory.

56In a first stage Pallava epigraphic political Tamil was indebted to, or at least associated with or triggered by political Sanskrit. Remarkably all the evidence reviewed consists of stone inscriptions as opposed to copper-plates, which are always royal inscriptions. Most of these stone inscriptions are local (Taḷavāṉūr veṇpā, inscriptions with Tamil birudas and titles, Tiruttaṇi) or records of vassals of the Pallavas (Vallam, Centalai, Tiruveḷḷaṟai). Royal inscriptions (lists of birudas of Mahendra I, Vaikuṇṭhaperumāḷ) show less influence from the Tamil literary tradition.

57In the second stage, under Nandin III (ca. 850), a tendency already at work in the first stage — that is, the reliance on specific Tamil literary conventions and themes — is intensified and reaches the Pallava court. Tamil political discourse then becomes rather autonomous vis-à-vis the Sanskrit model or antecedent. This trend was perpetuated with the Cōḻa meykkīrttis, which followed the path that Nandin III paved in a court poem (Nantikkalampakam) and in local Tamil inscriptions. The Cōḻa meykkīrttis are, in a sense, heirs of the Puṟam literature of the Caṅkam corpus with regard to metre, the heroic and martial stature of the king — which cannot be considered as imported from Sanskrit as implied by Pollock (2006: 322) — , the mention of his name and actual victories. Nandin III thus appears as the missing link between Puṟam and the Cōḻa meykkīrttis. Tamil as a cosmopolitan vernacular actually drew minimally on the superposed Sanskrit tradition but maximally, and more and more as time passed, on Tamil antecedents or specific traits. This conclusion now has to be confronted with Pollock’s concept of vernacularisation.

58By vernacularisation, Pollock means “the historical process of choosing to create a written literature, along with its complement, a political discourse, in local languages according to models supplied by a superordinate, usually cosmopolitan, literary culture” (op. cit.: 23). This process has three connected components: literisation, literarisation and superposition (i.e. “presence of a dominant language and literary formation”). The superordinate literary cultures in premodern India are “Sanskrit, but also to some degree Prakrit and Apabhramsha (...), Tamil in some areas of South India, and, much later, Persian, in areas of the north” (op. cit.: 26). Vernacularisation began around 1000, a little earlier for Tamil. In this process, to quote Ali (2011: 280) commenting upon Pollock, “Sanskrit, in other words, taught the vernaculars how to be literary”.

59Although Tamil is considered by Pollock as one exception regarding bhāṣākāvya in the first millennium (since kāvya-like literature existed early on in Tamil) and is included among the superordinate literary cultures, actually Pollock does not draw consequences from the early existence of a Tamil literary tradition. The reason is that Tamil literary prehistory is “unique, and uniquely obscure”, “opaque”, “uncommonly obscure” (op. cit.: 383, 292). Pollock argues that “disentangling fact from fiction in Tamil literary history is complicated, and the more reliable the date (as in inscriptions), the more the Tamil case conforms with the general picture of literary South Asia” (op. cit.: 100). I will not deny that the history of the Caṅkam corpus is a complex and debated matter, but when Pollock presents (op. cit.: 383–385) a description of Tamil in the first millennium, he only mentions facts that go well with his general theory: the late appearance of the legend of the Caṅkam, the written character of Bhakti poetry, the commentatorial writing modelled on Sanskrit, the adaptation in Tamil of Sanskrit epics, the philologisation of language, the conceptual borrowing from the Sanskrit grammatical tradition. Not a word about the Puṟam literature centred on kings, about the tiṇai concept so specific to Caṅkam poetry, about the pirapantams (a specifically Tamil type of work, even though its name is Tamilised Sanskrit) which are the heirs of Tamil Caṅkam conventions, however subverted they may be sometimes. As for the inscriptions, reliable as they are, only two of the Pallava inscriptions discussed above are mentioned by Pollock, and then only in footnotes.

  • 101 This verse is generally dated to the 7th century, but I am inclined to follow Pollock in assigning (...)

60So for Pollock, as far as the expression of political power in the Tamil country is concerned, it was in Sanskrit, for much of the first millennium (op. cit.: 384). This would have begun to change in the 8th or 9th century with Pāṇḍya records “and even more dramatically in the Cōḻa realm around 1000 with the invention of the Tamil meykkīrtti and the ornate historiographical records of Rājarāja I and his successors” (op. cit.: 384). These Pāṇḍya and Cōḻa records are discussed as examples of “cosmopolitan vernacular” (op. cit.: 322–323). Wishing to illustrate that “any new vernacular literature (...) had to acknowledge and come to terms with the superposed model established in the cosmopolitan tradition [i.e. Sanskrit] for everything from lexicon and versification to figures, genres, and themes” (op. cit.: 322), Pollock uses a verse from the Pāṇḍya Cēntaṉ that he dates tentatively to the 8th century (Vaikai riverbed inscription; EI 38.4 ff. = IEP 4).101 He draws attention to the mixing of Tamil and Sanskrit words it shows — differentiated by the use of two scripts, Vaṭṭeḻuttu and Grantha, which makes this inscription an example of epigraphic Maṇipravāḷam, like the Vaikuṇṭhaperumāḷ narrative inscriptions (supra, p. 384) — and argues rightly that we have here “the language and style of Sanskrit political poetry gradually being domesticated to the ways of the Tamil world”. Pollock goes on to say that the Cōḻa meykkīrttis were developments of “a piece with this sort of Pāṇṭiya innovation” (op. cit.: 323). Meykkīrtti he defines as “an account of ‘true fame’ or ‘personal fame’, a new public literary-political genre that details the genealogy and achievements of a king along with mentions of his biruḍas, or titles [...] marked throughout by a cosmopolitan-vernacular idiom embodied in the term itself, which offers a blending of Tamil (mey) and Sanskrit (kīrti) that epitomises the larger cultural (and political) synthesis under way”. Then Pollock introduces Maṇipravāḷam which “embodied the very process of localization of the Sanskrit universal, in both political discourse and literature, that was occurring across southern Asia from this moment on, with the vernacular at first supplementing the Sanskrit and later taking on an ever-increasing proportion as vernacularization gained power and confidence”.

61Several reasons urge me to not fully endorse Pollock’s views on the vernacularisation of political Tamil discourse.

  • 102 Pollock insists that kāvya is written literature (2006: 81 ff.), and that literarisation is not pos (...)
  • 103 An exception to this consensus is the work of Tieken (2001) who considers the Tamil Caṅkam corpus a (...)
  • 104 On the Caṅkam legend, the connection of the early Pāṇḍyas with Tamil and Caṅkam, and the anthologis (...)

62First, there is an ancient Tamil literature going back to the first centuries of the first millennium, the so-called Caṅkam corpus known through later anthologies. Pollock quite rapidly dismisses this Caṅkam corpus as being “obscure” or “opaque” as far as its history and development are concerned. Even though the date of any particular poem in these anthologies and the status of this literature — the usual opinion is that a bardic oral tradition was taken over by a literary written tradition responsible for its anthologisation — is debatable, it is nevertheless generally accepted that already several centuries before Pollock’s vernacularisation, that is relatively early in the first millennium, there existed an expressive or imaginative Tamil for the description of kings (that is the Puṟam poetry; see also the theme named pāṭāṇ in poetics).102 However thorny the dating, the consensus is that at least before the middle of the first millennium, Caṅkam poetry, which is a worldly literature comparable to kāvya, was established.103 However late a written aspect may have come to attach itself to this Caṅkam poetry, the anthologisation as well as the later creation of a Caṅkam legend proves that there was an interest for this early literature in the Tamil country, that it was an early revered and known beginning.104

63Second, Pollock’s ensuing view that “there is no doubt that for many centuries Tamil was, if not mute, then certainly not loquacious in the domain of political-expressive, until in the last several centuries of the millennium it began to speak with an altogether new and confident voice” (2006: 292) is an overstatement. The Pallava evidence provided above attests to the relatively early appearance of political, literary, expressive or imaginative epigraphy in Tamil, that is at the beginning of the 7th century, as opposed to the 8th century, at the earliest, for Pollock. We may find that the lists of birudas are not very imaginative. But the veṇpā at Taḷavāṉūr and the Centalai verses are good pieces of political poetry.

  • 105 On these early Pāṇḍya copper-plates, see Tieken (2001: 135–36) who contends that they provide detai (...)
  • 106 See IEP 18 and 20 = SII 14.44 and 45, and also ARE 1929–30, no. 73. Both inscriptions date to the 9(...)

64Third, if a Tamil cosmopolitan vernacular existed that was like Cēntaṉ’s verse or early Pāṇḍya copper-plates (IEP 7, 11, 16, 61, 79, 90, and Āvaṇam 18.1) modelled on Sanskrit, it is in no way a general rule that Tamil cosmopolitan vernacular relied on Sanskrit. It may be triggered by the antecedent of Sanskrit, but relies heavily on Tamil literary culture. Such was the case at Taḷavāṉūr, at Centalai, and in the Nantikkalampakam. The early Pāṇḍya records could well represent a vernacularisation as represented by Pollock, but they are relatively isolated.105 They can compare with some of the instances of Pallava political Tamil from around 600 CE, triggered, as we saw, by Sanskrit, but this is only one part of the picture. We know also of Pāṇḍya inscriptions entirely in Tamil, literary or political, that do not follow strictly this Sanskrit-modelled thread and are, like the Taḷavāṉūr veṇpā and Centalai verses, true examples of Tamil poetry.106 The innovations under Nandin III show that at least from 850 onwards, the literary reference was increasingly Tamil, not Sanskrit. This reference is inherited by the Cōḻa meykkīrttis. It may be true that without the Sanskrit cosmopolis we would not have cosmopolitan Tamil, but the latter is less and less modelled on the Sanskrit paradigm. It is the cosmopolitan vernacular of early Pāṇḍya copper-plates that could be best described as “unique experiments, with no prehistory and no future” (Pollock, 2006: 291, n. 12), not the Centalai inscriptions.

  • 107 See also Centalai verse III.f, with its mention of real battles and of the goddess residing with th (...)
  • 108 On meykkīrtti, see Francis and Schmid (2010: viii ff.). On Caṅkam references in Cōḻa times, see als (...)

65Fourth, the definition of Cōḻa meykkīrttis by Pollock (2006: 323) is based on an approximate paraphrase of the Paṉṉiruppāṭṭiyal 198 given in the Tamil Lexicon: in Cōḻa meykkīrttis there is no place for genealogy, which is instead a common feature of praśasti. Cōḻa meykkīrttis cannot be considered as a development of a Pāṇḍya cosmopolitan vernacular. If early Pāṇḍya copper-plates, portions in Tamil are indeed genealogy, these are, I believe, not meykkīrtti (contra Pollock 2006: 323, n. 70; see Francis and Schmid, 2010: xiv). In Cōḻa meykkīrttis Sanskrit words in Grantha are extremely rare and Sanskrit words are usually Tamilised, in contradistinction to what is observable in Cēntaṉ’s inscription and in the early Pāṇḍya copper-plates. In that sense Cōḻa meykkīrttis are by no means instances of epigraphic Maṇipravāḷam. The model for Cōḻa meykkīrttis is Caṅkam literature and the epigraphic example of Nandin III (see Nantikkalampakam 65 and epigraphic titulature).107 The Cōḻa meykkīrttis are less an adaptation in Tamil of Sanskrit models than the continuation of a long thread of royal description in Tamil going back as far as the Puṟam poetry of the Caṅkam corpus through a host of Tamil antecedents, epigraphic and literary.108

  • 109 See Francis and Schmid (2010: xiii, n. 47).

66If we try to characterise the political discourse of the early Pāṇḍyas (8th–10th century), on the one hand we find Tamil eulogies, modelled on Sanskrit praśastis, in copper-plates (following the praśastis) and in a stone inscription like Cēntaṉ’s. On the other hand, in the same Tamil eulogies of copper-plates, the Pāṇḍyas claim association with the Caṅkam academy and with a Tamil rendering of the Mahābhārata. These copperplates are instances of how the Sanskrit tradition shaped the discourse of power in Tamil, but this was done more profoundly than in the first stage of Pallava political Tamil. The early Pāṇḍyas are in a sense paradoxical: they present themselves as linked to the ancient Tamil literary tradition while at the same time adopting a heavily sanskritised Tamil political discourse. The later Pāṇḍyas (11th–15th centuries) followed the meykkīrtti model of the Cōḻas, which was a continuation of Puṟam, and were even more faithful heirs of Puṟam: their āciriyappās are more classical, conforming more closely to the Caṅkam type, than the Cōḻa ones.109

67As for the Cōḻas, we have to distinguish two threads. On the one hand we have praśastis, in fact relatively few, mostly on copper-plates. The Cōḻas ruled the territory of the Pallavas (and later the Pāṇḍya territory through a vice-royalty) and their copper-plates follow the Pallava model (that is without an expressive versified Tamil portion), not the Pāṇḍya one. These praśastis are remnants of Pollock’s Sanskrit cosmopolis of the first millennium. On the other hand, we have no less than 40 different meykkīrttis for the 15 Cōḻa kings. These do not, in my opinion, represent a vernacularisation as conceived by Pollock, that is, a literarisation of the vernacular with Sanskrit as model. These Cōḻa meykkīrttis are heirs, through Pallava antecedents, of an ancient Tamil literary tradition. The definition of meykkīrtti given by Pollock as embodying in the term itself two streams is exaggerated since the Sanskrit influence seems finally to be minor.

  • 110 See Shulman (2007), Tieken (2008) mainly about North India, Fussman (2008: 171 ff.), and Ali (2011) (...)

68So, if vernacularisation as conceived by Pollock concerns only the early Pāṇḍyas, what is the impact of this fact on his general theory? Criticism of Pollock’s concept of vernacularisation has already been expressed from a variety of perspectives,110 but I will concentrate here on Tamil. Since vernacularisation as conceived by Pollock played only a minor role for Tamil, as I have tried to demonstrate, and since there was an ancient Tamil literary tradition, we arrive at the question why, before political discourse in Tamil, Sanskrit was adopted, for centuries, as the language of power in certain sectors of the Tamil area.

69One has to keep in mind that Sanskrit appeared relatively late in the epigraphy of the Tamil country. Sanskrit is used intensively in royal Pallava epigraphy only from the middle of the 6th century (IP 17) onwards. Earlier Pallava Sanskrit praśastis exist, but mostly in the Andhra region. Only one has been found near Kāñcīpuram (IP 10), but it is in prose, not in verse as Pallava praśastis usually are from ca. 550. It thus seems that before the Pallavas, usually considered as culturally oriented towards the north, there was no need in the Tamil country for a discourse of public power, be it in Tamil or in the Sanskrit, supposing that Puṟam poetry had no public dimensions. In any case, the Pallavas played a decisive role in making the Tamil country part of the Sanskrit cosmopolis.

  • 111 Actually, the very first Pallava inscriptions are in Prākrit. It seems that in this regard the Pall (...)

70Pollock argues that Sanskrit was chosen for its aesthetic dimension (power and culture being inseparable, see Pollock 2006: 2 ff.), not because it was a language associated with Hinduism. But since there was an ancient Tamil literary tradition — as Caṅkam poetry certainly presents a form of the language with significant aesthetic dimensions — why then did Tamilian dynasties not rely on it straight away, instead of waiting until after the Sanskrit discourse of power had been established to choose Tamil? In other words, why is it that Sanskrit served as a model in the case of the early Pāṇḍyas, and as a trigger in the case of the Pallavas? The choice of Sanskrit by the Pallavas may be explained not only by the fact that it enabled the aestheticisation of power through its specific features (on these, see Pollock 2006: 254 ff.), but also because Sanskrit was associated with Hinduism, a rationale Pollock dismisses (op. cit.: 74).111

  • 112 See Francis (2009: 138 and 287, and forthcoming a). Fussman (2008: 175–76) rightly remarks that Pol (...)
  • 113 See Fussman (2008: 178–80) on the decisive role of Buddhism in the secularisation of Sanskrit.
  • 114 See Francis (2009: especially 210 ff., 2012 and forthcoming a) on the Pallavas’ claim of being brah (...)

71Pallava Sanskrit, with the exception of IP 17, is linked to the establishment of Brahmanic institutions (brahmadeya) and Hindu temples (devadāna). When we know the authors of these praśastis, their names reveal they are brahmins.112 It is then conceivable that while dynasties turned away from Buddhism — too moralist, not sufficiently sanctifying the violence of royal duty — towards Hinduism, they adopted Sanskrit because it was the language of that religious culture (even though it could be shared by others) and of the Brahman elite. Pollock shows that Sanskrit was adopted first by foreign dynasties which could emancipate Sanskrit from its religious background, that is, secularise it.113 That may be true, but it doesn’t follow that the same logic operated everywhere, every time. Sanskrit had to be secularised to be able to serve as the language of politics, but once this had been accomplished, it could be adopted also precisely because it was associated with the specific religious specialists that the brahmins are. What I want to say is that in a Brahmanic world, dynasties could choose Sanskrit because it allowed them to pretend to be dharmic kings in the eyes or ears of Brahmans, or even to challenge Brahmanic discourse on kingship in its own language.114

  • 115 See Ali (2000: 184 ff.) on “contesting representations” among rival dynasties, and Fussman (2008: 1 (...)

72This suggestion goes against Pollock’s view about religion in the choice of Sanskrit, and against his criticism of the concepts of brahmanisation, sanskritisation, legitimation, ideology and functionalism (op. cit.: 511 ff.). I believe these theories indeed have their flaws, several of which are pointed out by Pollock, but that the analysis of political discourse in Tamil invites us to refine them, not to dismiss them and replace them entirely with Pollock’s aesthetic theory. I contend that kings were engaged in an ideological debate for legitimation not with the people dominated, but with the dominant Brahmanic Sanskrit ideology and with rival dynasties. They chose Sanskrit because, after it had been secularised, it was available for political discourse and because it was the language of those at whom their discourse was directed: the brahmins as source of authority — or of contested authority — and the other competing dynasties. They chose Sanskrit as a political lingua franca permitting a discursive relation with Brahmin ideology and rival dynasties.115

  • 116 Contra, Pollock (op. cit.: 29) places vernacular beginnings “not at the monastery but at the court” (...)

73As Sanskrit developed as a language of political discourse, it triggered expression in the vernaculars. Such expressions surfaced first in the Tamil country, because it already knew a literary tradition to latch onto. The early Pāṇḍyas adopted a political Tamil fitting the model of vernacularisation described by Pollock. In the Pallava realm, a political Tamil relying more on the Tamil literary culture was adopted, at first mainly on local initiative (Taḷavāṉūr; Centalai, from a minor dynasty that never used Sanskrit). This trend finally reached the Pallava court under the reign of Nandin III.116

74In this rise of political Tamil we can discern an early form of regionalism that can be related to the process of “territorialization of Tamil cultural space” and to the creation of a “political regionality in the premodern Tamil world” mentioned by Pollock (2006: 385–86, 413 ff.). In a sense the intrusion of Sanskrit caused this rise: Tamilians took conscience of their difference in an India globalised through the Sanskrit cosmopolis, and wanted to show their Tamilness in the language of public political discourse itself. From the local level this process arrived at the court. It is maybe symptomatic that this happened in the middle of the 9th century, at a time when the Pallava dynasty was near its end, no longer playing a major role in South India.

Bibliographie

BIBLIOGRAPHY

I. Primary Sources

I. 1 Epigraphic Sources

Abbreviations

ARE: Annual Report on Epigraphy. Followed by year of copying, if necessary appendix number, and inscription number.

EI: Epigraphia Indica. Followed by volume number and inscription number.

IEP: Inscriptions of the Early Pāṇḍyas. Followed by inscription number.

IP: Inscriptions of the Pallavas. Followed by inscription number.

IPS: Inscriptions of the Pudukkottai State. Followed by inscription number.

IWG: Inscriptions of the Western Gaṅgas. Followed by inscription number.

SII: South Indian Inscriptions. Followed by volume number and inscription number.

TTDES: Tirumalai Tirupati Devasthanam Epigraphical Series. Followed by volume number and inscription number.

Annual Report on Epigraphy [first published as Government Order, then as Annual Report on Epigraphy, Annual Report on South-Indian Epigraphy, and Archaeological Survey of India Annual Report on Indian Epigraphy]. Madras, New Delhi: Government of Madras, Government of India, Archaeological Survey of India, 1885–1995.

Āvaṇam. 20 volumes. Tañcāvūr: Tamiḻakat tolliyal (āyvuk)kaḻakam, 1991–2009.

Centalai inscription. K.V. Subrahmanya Aiyer (1916). “Sendalai Pillar Inscriptions”, Epigraphia Indica, 13 (1915–1916), pp. 134–149.

Ciṟṟūr grant. Ramesan, N. (1972). The Chitrur Plates of Pallava Nṛpatunga Varma. In N. Ramesan, Studies in Medieval Deccan History. Based on Two New Unpublished Copper Plate Inscriptions of the Hyderabad State Museum. Copper Plate Inscriptions of the State Museum. Volume 3, pp. 1–76. Hyderabad: Government of Andhra Pradesh (Archaeological Series 29).

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Inscriptions (Texts) of the Pudukkottai State Arranged According to Dynasties. Pudukkottai: State Press, 1929.

Inscriptions of the Early Pāṇḍyas (from c. 300 B.C. to 984 A.D.). Edited by K.G. Krishnan. New Delhi: Indian Council of Historical Research & Northern Book Centre, 2002.

Inscriptions of the Pallavas. Edited by T.V. Mahalingam. New Delhi: Indian Council of Historical Research — Delhi, Agam Prakashan, 1988.

Inscriptions of the Western Gaṅgas. Edited by K.V. Ramesh. New Delhi: Indian Council of Historical Research — Delhi, Agam Prakashan, 1984.

Kāñcīpuram, Vaikuṇṭhaperumāḷ temple narrative inscriptions. Krishna Sastri, H. (1923). In South Indian Inscriptions. Volume 4, inscription No. 135, pp. 10–12.

Pūlāṅkuṟicci inscription (text). Supparāyalu, E., and Rākavavāriyar, M.R. (1991). “Pūlāṅkuṟiccik kalveṭṭukkaḷ”, Āvaṇam, 1, 57–69.

Pūlāṅkuṟicci inscription (translation). Subbarayalu, Y. (2001). “The Pūlāṅgurichi Inscriptions”. In S. Rajagopal (Editor), Kaveri. Studies in Epigraphy, Archaeology and History (Professor Y. Subbarayalu Felicitation Volume), pp. 1–6. Chennai: Panpattu veliyiittakam.

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Taḷavāṉūr inscriptions. Hultzsch, Eugen (1914). “Two Cave-Inscriptions at Dalavanur”, Epigraphia Indica, 12, pp. 225–226.

Tirumalai Tirupati Devasthanam Epigraphical Series. 6 volumes. Edited and translated by S. Subrahmanya Sastry and V. Vijayaraghavacharya. Madras, 1931–1938.

Vēḷañcēri copper — plates. Nagaswamy, R. (1979). “Aparajita’s Plate”. In R. Nagaswamy, Tiruttani and Velanjeri Copper Plates, pp. 3–22. Madras: Tamil Nadu State Department of Archaeology (Tamil Nadu State Department of Archaeology Publications 55).

I. 2 Texts

Akanāṉūṟu: Akanāṉūṟu. Pāṭiṉōr pāṭappaṭōr varalāṟukaḷuṭaṉ. Edited by Puliyūrk Kēcikaṉ. Reprint. Ceṉṉai: Pāri nilaiyam, 2002.

Cūlavaṃsa: Cūlavaṃsa. Being the More Recent Part of the Mahāvaṃsa. Edited by Wilhelm Geiger. Reprint. London: Pali Text Society (Pali Text Society Text Series 20–21), 1980.

Kuṟuntokai: Kuṟuntokai. Mūlamum uraiyum. Edited by U. Vē. Cāminātaiyar. Reprint. Ceṉṉai: U. Vē. Cāminātaiyar nūl nilaiyam (U. Vē. Cāminātaiyar nūlnilaiya veḷiyīṭu 137), 2000.

Nantikkalampakam: Paṭṭuṭaittalaivaṉ tampiyaruḷ oruvar pāṭiya Nantik Kalampakam. Uraiyuṭaṉ. Edited by Pu. Ci. Puṇṇaivaṉanāta Mutaliyār and Ce. Re. Iramacāmi Piḷḷai. Tirunelvēli-Ceṉṉai: Tirunelvēlit teṉṉintiya caivacittānta nūṟpatippuk kaḻakam (kaḻaka veḷiyīṭu 789), 1955.

Paṉṉiruppāṭṭiyal: Paṉṉiru Pāṭṭiyal. Mēṟkōḷ cūttiraṅkaḷuṭaṉum. Edited by Kā. Ra. Kōvintarāca Mutaliyār. 2nd edition. Tirunelvēli-Ceṉṉai: Tirunelvēli teṉṉintiya caivacittānta nūṟpatipuk kaḻakam (kaḻaka veḷiyīṭu 354), 1949.

Tiruvālaṅkāṭṭut Tiruppatikam: In Chants dévotionnels tamouls de Kāraikkālammaiyār, pp. 66–72. Edition et traduction par Karavelane. New edition. Pondichéry: Institut Français d’Indologie (Publications de l’Institut Français d’Indologie 1), 1982.

Pārataveṇpā: Peruntēvaṉār Pāratam eṉṉum Pārata Veṇpā. Uttiyōka, Vīṭum, Turōṇa paruvaṅkaḷ. Edited by A. Kōpālaiyaṉ. Ceṉṉai: “Centamiḻ Mantiram” puttakacālai, [1925].

Periya Purāṇam: Cēkkiḻār Cuvāmikaḷ eṉṉum Aruṇmoḻittēvar aruḷiya Periyapurāṇam. Edited by C.K. Cuppiramaṇiya Mutaliyār. Kōyamputtūr: Kōvait tamiḻc caṅkam (Kōvait tamiḻc caṅka veḷiyīṭu 12 ff.), 1964–1975.

Periya Tirumoḻi: Tirumaṅkaiyāḻvār aruḷiya paṉuval āṟaṉuḷ Periya Tirumoḻi. Edited by Ti. Vē. Kōpālaiyar. Tañcāvūr: Teyvaccēkkiḻār caivacittāntap pāṭacālai, 2006.

Peruntokai: Peruntokai. Mūlamum uraiyum. Edited by Mu. Irākavaiyaṅkār. Reprint. Maturai: Maturait tamiḻc caṅkam, 1969.

Puṟanāṉūṟu: Puṟanāṉūṟu. Edited by Cu. Turaicāmip Piḷḷai. Reprint. Ceṉṉai: Tirunelvēli teṉṉintiya caivacittānta nūṟpatippuk kaḻakam (kaḻaka veḷiyīṭu 438), 2002.

Tēvāram: Digital Tēvāram/Kaṇiṉit Tēvāram. With the complete English gloss of the late V.M. Subramanya Ayyar (IFP) and furnished with a full concordance of the Tamil text accompanied by 6 hours of MP3 audio recordings (illustrating all the 24 paṇ-s), various maps (showing all the 274 talam-s) and other related material. Edited by Jean-Luc Chevillard and S.A.S. Sarma. Pondichéry: Institut Français de Pondichéry/École française d’Extrême-Orient (Collection Indologie 103), 2007.

Tolkkāpiyam: Tolkāppiyam. Poruḷatikāram. Akattiṇaiyiyal, Puṟattiṇaiyiyal. Nacciṉārkkiṉiyar urai. s.n. Reprint of the 2nd edition. Ceṉṉai-Tirunelvēli-Maturai-Kōvai: Tirunelvēli teṉṉintiya caivacittānta nūṟpatipuk kaḻakam (kaḻaka veḷiyīṭu 431), 1970.

Vīracōḻiyam: Puttamittiraṉār iyaṟṟiya Vīracōḻiyamum. Peruntēvaṉār iyaṟṟiya uraiyum viḷakkaṅkaḷuṭaṉ. Ed. Ti. Vē. Kōpālaiyar. Ceṉṉai: Śrīmat Āṇṭavaṉ ācciramam — Śrīraṅkam, 2005.

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Notes

1 I would like to thank Whitney Cox and Vincenzo Vergiani for organising the Cambridge workshop and carefully editing this volume. My sincere thanks also to Daud Ali, Jean-Luc Chevillard, Dominic Goodall, N. Ramaswamy alias Babu, Charlotte Schmid, Herman Tieken and Eva Wilden for various forms of assistance. My special thanks to Arlo Griffiths who read my draft, commented upon it, and polished its language. Many in situ readings have been made possible thanks to the EFEO team of the Pondicherry Centre.

2 Read pōttaracar.

3 For the edition of epigraphic sources, the following conventions are adopted: engraved letters that have been damaged but remain somehow readable stand between []; restored letters, that is unengraved letters that are supplied or vowels with unmarked length stand between [] and are marked by an asterisk; letters entirely worn and restored on the basis of parallels or meaning stand between {}; engraved letters that ought to be erased stand between (); the sign’ precedes initial vowels. All inscriptional readings in the main text are my own, made in situ.

4 With a non-negative use of in pakā.

5 On the title Pōttu of the Pallavas, see infra, p. 371. On Pakāppiṭuku and Lalitāṅkura as birudas of Mahendra I, see IP 28, 29, 34 and 35.

6 A colophon providing the name of the poet concludes the inscription: itu pāṭit tant[ō*] n peruṅkāviti caṭaiyaṉ paḷḷi.

7 Mahalingam (1988: 615) suggests that here Perumāṉaṭikaḷ means “king”, probably since it is a title borne by Nandivarman II (infra, p. 372), but this is merely a guess.

8 The metre is āciriyaviruttam according to Subrahmanya Aiyar (1916: 155).

9 Birudas are clearly identifiable as Telugu when they have the termination -anpu.

10 See Subramaniam (1967: 75 ff.), Mahalingam (1969: 71).

11 These are just possible translations of this vocative case of vañjavalavaṉ. There are several entries in the Tamil Lexicon for vañcam (1. < Sanskrit vañcana: fraud, deceit; lie; cruelty, violence; etc.; 2. < Sanskrit vaṃśa: race, lineage, descent, family; etc.; 3. < Sanskrit prapañca: universe) and for valavaṉ (1. < Tamil valam < Sanskrit bala: capable man; conqueror; etc.; 2. < Sanskrit vallabha: charioteer; Viṣṇu). The meaning “He who is a conqueror of the deceit (or: lie)” echoes the Sanskrit biruda Satyasandha that follows in the list and is attested at Māmaṇṭūr (IP 26) as well as at Pallāvaram (IP 28). It comes close to the translation “Subduer of the wicked (or rebels)” by Lockwood et al. (2001: 220).

12 Contra SII 12.8 (sarvvabha[ṭa]), see Lockwood et al. (2001: 213 and 221).

13 The second translation is the usual one, but rests on the artistic repute of Mahendra I and on the debatable attribution of musical inscriptions from the Putukkōṭṭai region (especially IP 22).

14 SII 12.8 reads da ..... ku. Lockwood et al. (2001: 205) read da(ṇ) ... ku. The first character is difficult to interpret. It seems to me “ḍa” rather than “da”.

15 The second translation rests on the artistic repute of Mahendra I (citrakāra, “painter”). But here citra- could simply mean “wonder”.

16 From piṇam (“corpse, carcass; devil, disembodied soul, spirit”) and piṇakku = piṇakkam (“disagreement; sulks, bouderie; press of a crowd, pressure; twisting, interlacing, plaiting”). Lockwood et al. (2001: 218) suggest the followings translations: “A devil to devils” (Tamil) or “Champion of champions” (Telugu).

17 Contra SII 12.8 (kucagrāṇa), see Lockwood et al. (2001: 202 and 216).

18 This is the vocative case of kucañāṇaṉ, from kucam (<Sanskrit kuśa) and ñāṇ (“string, cord; bowstring”). This biruda would stem from the conception of royal duty as sacrifice, by assimilating an element of weapon with an element of sacrifice. According to Lockwood et al. (2001: 202 and 216): ñāṇa derives from Sanskrit jñāna, but jñāna is realised, through Prākrit ñāna, as ñāṉam and not as ñāṇam in Tamil. Lockwood et al. actually read kucañāṉa in the list of birudas at Kāñcīpuram (IP 21), but I think it is also kucañāṇa.

19 See Lockwood (2004, 2008).

20 Interestingly the “k” of kucañāṇa in another list of birudas of Mahendra (IP 21) is in Tamil script (with only one stroke) and instead of the Tamil Cittirakārappuli we find Citrakārappuli in Grantha in the two other lists of birudas of Mahendra (IP 21 and 28).

21 Some of these birudas appear in the three lists, others only at Trichy or at Pallāvaram. The birudas at the Ekāmbaranātha appear at least in one of the two other lists.

22 On the debate about the identification of this language, see Mahadevan (2003: 199–205, 2006: 86–87).

23 See Krishnamurthy (2004: 134–160 and 183–186), Francis (2009: 118–119).

24 See Krishnamurthy (2004: 162–165 and 187), Francis (2009: 119–120). Krishnamurthy (2004: 165) attributes the coins with Śrībhara and Śrīnidhi legends to Narasiṃhavarman I (ca. 630–660), but has to agree that these birudas were borne also by other kings.

25 For a survey of the occurrences of Viṭēlviṭuku, see Minakshi (1938: 46–48), Govindasamy (1965: 38–67, especially 49). In IP 93, section J, Nandin II receives “the royal order named “Viṭēlviṭuku”” (viṭēlviṭuk’ eṉṉun tiruvāṇai). In the Nantikkalampakam, Nandin III is thrice qualified as Viṭēlviṭuku. See stanzas 17, 78, and especially 15, which seems to gloss the meaning of the title (viṭai maṇ poṟi ōlai viṭēlviṭukē, “O Viṭēlviṭuku whose palm-leaves (i.e. orders) [bear] the ornamental seal of the bull”). In IP 132, a brahmadeya named Viṭēlviṭukuvikkiramātittacaturvvedimaṅkalam is created. Among officers, see for instance, Viṭēlvitukupallavapperuntaccaṉ (IP 90.59–60), Viṭēlviṭu[ku] peruṅkaṉnāṉ (Nagaswamy 1979, line 84), [V] iṭēlviṭukukāṭupaṭṭittamiḻppēraraiyaṉ (IP 155.47). Viṭēlviṭuku is also the name of a standard measure for gold or ghee current even after the fall of the Pallavas (IP 124, 129, 165 and 240; SII 3.96; ARE 1908, no. 466 and 1918, no. 353). The title is commonly borne among Muttaraiyars, Irukkuvēḷs and Vēḷirs, sometimes clearly vassals of the Pallavas (IP 106, 124, 154, 219 and 260; SII 6.446; EI 13, p. 136).

26 Cf. Ayyar & Rao (1908: 173) on viṭuku and Hultzsch (SII 3, p. 93, EI 18, p. 7) on the meaning of the whole compound (but without explanation for viṭēl).

27 Mahendra I is Pukāpiṭuku (IP 21) and Pakāppiṭuku (IP 36), that Hultzsch (SII 2, p. 341, n. 5) translated as “the thunderbolt which cannot be split”. See also Lockwood et al. (2001: 219). On Māṟappiṭuku (“warlike thunderbolt”), or Māṟpiṭuku for some scholars, see IP 98.2 and 119.5, EI 11 (p. 156), SII 2.69.103 and 2.70.92, Govindasamy (1965: 80–81). On Ka[ṭu] mpiṭukucēri (“the hamlet of the terrible thunderbolt”), see SII 1, p. 66 and 2, p. 341, n. 5. Muttaraiyars bear the title Perumpiṭuku (EI 13, p. 136; IPS 31). See also IP 152.79–80 and 260.5.

28 Nagalingam (1955) suggests a link with the vocabulary of seafaring (“the chief who drops the sounder”) because of the repute of Tamils as seafarers, and, implicitly, because of the ostensible overseas conquests of the Pallavas. Ramesan (1972: 54) suggests an association with the cult of Murukaṉ-Subrahmaṇya (“He who throws the victorious spear”). According to him, the word viṭēl is a contraction of viṭu-vēl (vēl, “spear”, weapon of Murukaṉ-Subrahmaṇya).

29 Kāṭuveṭṭi has variants: Kāṭupaṭṭi (IP 135), Kāṭapaṭṭi (TTDES 1.8–9), Kāṭuvaṭṭi (EI 5, p. 171, n. 1).

30 On the equation of Kāṭavar and Kāṭuveṭṭi, see Krishna Sastri (1926: 9–10).

31 See Ramesan (1972: 55). Actually, the word Kāṭava is found only once, and possibly twice, in the same royal inscription (of Nandin II). See IP 93, section A (infra, p. 382) and section D (khāṭakakula in SII 4.135, which I read vāṭakakula, possibly a mistake for kāṭavakula). For vassals, see for instance Kāṭupaṭṭi[m]uttar[ai] yaṉ and Kāṭupaṭṭittamiḻppēraraiyaṉ in IP 152.44–45.

32 For local Pallava inscriptions, see, for instance IP 132, 135, 156, 168, 237 and 240. For a Pāṇḍya record, see the Vēḷvikuṭi copper-plates (IEP 7 = EI 17.16.92: kāṭavaṉai, but pallavaṉai in line 77). For a Western Gaṅga inscription, see Kāṭuveṭṭi in IWG 26 (datable to the 6th century on palaeographical grounds). However in the Karnataka context, this term could designate the Noḻambas (see Ramesh 1984: 105), who pretend in their records to be related to the Pallavas.

33 The genealogy of Nandin II is given in IP 77, verse 28. He was the son of Hiraṇyavarman, himself a descendant of Bhīmavarman, the younger brother of Siṃhaviṣṇu of the main line.

34 Ramesan (1972: 55) associates the name Kāṭavar, as well as Viṭēlviṭuku, with the southern parts of Toṇṭaimaṇṭalam close to Cōḻamaṇṭalam, which is, according to him, the region of origin of Nandin II.

35 See Ramamurthy for a genealogical table (1983: 337) and on Maḻavas identified as Atiyamāṉs of Takaṭūr (1983: 334).

36 According to Ramamurthy, kings whose regnal years appear mostly in hero-stones from the hilly districts of western Toṇṭaimaṇṭalam represent the second line of Kāṭavars. Their names, sometimes Tamilised forms of Sanskrit names of kings of the main line of Kāñcīpuram, do not appear in Nandin II’s genealogy given in IP 77.

37 See Hart (1999: 16–17).

38 For Pallava inscriptions, see IP 20 (infra, p. 374), IP 36.B (supra, p. 361), IP 42, 75 and 269, for instance. See also pottrāḍhirājan [sic! i.e. Tamil pōttu + Sanskrit adhirāja] in IP 40 and 43 (usually erroneously read as pottrāthirājan), [go]valapp[ō*]tt[u*] in IP 93, section A (infra, p. 383). Parameśvaravarman I is named Īśvarapotarāja in a Western Cāḷukya inscription (EI 10.22.21–22).

39 The Western Gaṅga king Śrīpuruṣa boasts of having deprived the king of Kāñcī of this title, along with his parasol. See Mahalingam (1969: 179).

40 On the previous incorrect statement locating this veṇpā on the same pillar as the Sanskrit anuṣṭubh, see K.R. Srinivasan (1964: 76).

41 Peruntokai 972: curēntirappōttaraiyaṉ.

42 Peruntokai 972: veṅkōṭṭiṉ.

43 Peruntokai 972: ṟeṉpāṉ.

44 EI 12.27.B reads ālaiyam, very clear in situ, contra IP 20 (ālayam). Peruntokai 972 emends in cattumallē cammeṉ, in order to fit the metre.

45 Peruntokai 972: aṉṟu.

46 This village is mentioned in a later Pallava inscription on another pilaster at the entrance of the cave (IP 128 = SII 12.52). This is clearly the ancient name of the place and it refers to the hill in which the cave is excavated.

47 A possible exception is found at Trichy (SII 12, p. 5, n. 1: [...] [pr]ābhākariṇā l[i] kh[ita]m); however likh- may not refer to the poet, but to the engraver.

48 See Hart (1999: 18).

49 The veṇpā is a “Tamil translation in verse of the previous record [i.e. the anuṣṭubh]” for Venkatasubba Ayyar (SII 12, p. 7), “a longer poetical rendering of the Sanskrit verse” for Srinivasan (1964: 77).

50 I am inclined to follow this scholar, even though he considers narentira as a biruda on the basis of the usual title X-Pōttaraiyaṉ (in my opinion, in the Taḷavāṉūr inscription, this word means simply “kings” as in the anuṣṭubh) and Śatrumalla as a possible biruda of Narasiṃhavarman I (even though it is known only for Mahendra I).

51 There are 11 veṇpās (I.c, I.d, I.h, II.a, II.b, II.c, III.b, III.c, III.d, III.e, IV.b), 8 kaṭṭaḷaikkalittuṟais (I.e, I.f, I.g, III.f, III.g, IV.c, IV.d, IV.e) and 5 unidentified metres (or prose?) (II.e, II.f, II.g, II.h, III.h). Verse IV.e as well as some portions of the bottom part of pillar III are today covered by construction.

52 Subrahmanya Aiyer (1916: 140) edits viḻi-[k*]kaṭ-pēy.

53 Subrahmanya Aiyer (1916: 140 n. 6) suggests that the engraver corrected “pu” into “pa”, by erasing the “u” sign. But on the stone this “u” sign is clearly later damage made to the inscription.

54 See Subrahmanya Aiyer (1916: 140, n. 7) for the metrical scansion of the stanza.

55 This lacuna probably contained another subordinate proposition with an infinitive (...ppa).

56 According to the Tamil Lexicon, viḻi-ttal, has several meanings: “to open eyes; to wake from sleep; to watch, be vigilant, be wide awake; to look attentively; to gaze, stare; to shine; to be clear; to be alive”. Here it seems to mean that the eyes of the pēy are bulging. See infra, p. 379, where pēy’s eyes are compared to drums (paṟai) maybe in relation to the fact that some drums are hemispheric such as the muḻavu. See also Puṟanāṉūṟu 333.1–2, where hares (muyal) have “wide-opened eyes [that are] like bubbles [formed by] big drops of rain falling on water” (nīruḷ paṭṭa māri pēr uṟai mokkuḷ aṉṉa pokuṭṭu viḻi kaṇṇa).

57 The word pāṭiṉa being a plural, it has to be understood that Vēḷ Nampaṉ of Pāccil composed this poem and the other versified inscriptions found on the same top section of this pillar.

58 See, for instance, poru kaḷiṟṟu in I.g, vāḷ amar in II.b, kūr vāy in II.c, pēr ilai in II.e, vaṇ kai in III.b, vaḷai tōḷ in III.f.

59 On these three terms, see Murugan and Mathialingam (1999: 31, 122 and 243). On pūvainilai and kaikkiḷai see Marr (1985: 35, 148 and 503). On tiṇai, see Tieken’s contribution in this volume.

60 See Subrahmanya Aiyer (1916: 149): taṉa mutal āyamum pūvaiyun taṉ kaikkiḷaiyu muṉp’ iṭṭeṉa mutal aṉpum eṉṉ ākac ceytāḷ (...), “I placed at first riches, āyam, pūvai and kaikkiḷai. What she did with her original love...”

61 Another possibility is that both poets make use of a pre-existing pool of formulae.

62 See Puṟanāṉūṟu 264 and Akanāṉūṟu 297.6–10, for instance.

63 Note that “i” and “ī” are not differentiated in the script in these lists of birudas.

64 Subrahmanya Aiyer (1916: 139, 143, 145 and 148) reads °śatṛ° and emends in °śatru°. But a small loop on the vertical stroke of the “r” (and not “ṛ”) stands for “u”. See Fig. 6 and compare with the “r” elements in recurring śrī.

65 Subrahmanya Aiyer (1916: 139, 143, 145 and 148) reads kaḷvarkaḷvan (I.b), kaḷvarakaḷvan (II.d) and kaḷvarakaḷvaṉ (III.a and IV.a). The addition of the adjectival — a is attested in Kannaḍa epigraphy, as Whitney Cox informs me, and does not bear much significance.

66 The term kaḷvaṉ may also have an erotic flavour here, recalling the hero who steals the heart of the heroine in Akam (cf. Kuṟuntokai 25). In that case this biruda would mean “He who is the seducer among the seducers”.

67 In IV.a, only the bottom part of this biruda appears.

68 This biruda, appearing also in stanza II.f. Subrahmanya Aiyer (1916: 144), reads there [kaḷvāra]kaḷvaṉ, apparently entirely in Tamil script. Subrahmanya Aiyer’s edition does not distinguish Grantha and Tamil letters, but the final “ṉ” is Tamil. The “ā” in kaḷvāra could be a misprint for “a”. I was unable to check this part of the pillar in situ, because vehicles of gods were heaped up around the base of the pillar.

69 Actually, there are narrative inscriptions only for the panels that concern the beginning of the reign of Nandin II.

70 Some letters are not clearly differentiated between Grantha and Tamil script (“k”, “ṭ”, “t”, “p”, “y”, “v”). I mark them as Grantha when occurring in Sanskrit words. It is to be noted also that ligatures appear in Tamil words, which is a relatively rare feature.

71 Read brahmādi.

72 Read varāniṉṟa.

73 Read mattra kaḷum ghaṭakayārum mūlaprakṛt[i] yum.

74 Read aṭaikka.

75 Read rājyabharam.

76 Krishna Sastri (1923) reads govaḷappott’.

77 These translations are based on the analysis of [g?]ovala respectively as Tamil kō+valla and Sanskrit gopāla.

78 This epigraphic Maṇipravāḷam (where Sanskrit words have Tamil inflectional terminations, e.g. grahakka in the present narrative inscription, but not always, see rājyam utsannam) has to be contrasted with the Maṇipravāḷam, i.e. literary Malayālam, described in the Līlātilakam (where Sanskrit words keep their actual Sanskrit inflectional terminations). See Zvelebil (1995: 413–414) and Freeman (1998: 49) on the difference between Tamil and Maṇipravāḷam according to the Līlātilakam. Interestingly, the language of our narrative inscription is what Līlātilakam defines as Tamil. On Līlātilakam, see Freeman’s contribution in this volume.

79 The language of inscriptions with only syllables (eḻuttu) in Grantha is what Vīracōḻiyam 182 (p. 711) calls viraviyal (“mixture”), which it contrasts with manippiravāḷam where Sanskrit words occur. See Zvelebil (1995: 413).

80 Read dayitāni.

81 Read nayasya.

82 Read dhiṣaṇādhikṛtasya.

83 Read mārgge.

84 A similar assonantal device is used throughout chapter 31 of book 10 of the Bhāgavatapurāṇa (Goodall 1996: 384, n. 29).

85 Royal Pallava stone inscriptions in Sanskrit are very rare in the 9th century. I know only of IP 259, SII 4 (p. 8, n. 2), and ARE 1972–73, nos. B.261–62.

86 The patron of Pārataveṇpā is mentioned only in the fourth stanza. He is not named and is described only as the one who vanquished his enemy at Teḷḷāṟu. The patron is designated as Pallava in the prose following this stanza. As Kōpperuñciṅkaṉ (first half of the 13th century) gained, like Nandin III, a victory in Teḷḷāṟu and claimed to be a Pallava by descent bearing the title Kāṭavar, and as one can doubt that the prose is contemporary to the stanzas — could it be a later commentary, that insidiously made some believe that the Pārataveṇpā is a campū? — , it is hazardous to draw any definite conclusions on this sole basis. If Nandin III is the king alluded to in stanza 4, one could imagine that he only had stanzas of an earlier work collected and commented upon in prose, and that the first four stanzas of the edited text also date to the time of this operation. On Pārataveṇpā, see Francis (2009: 108 ff.; and forthcoming a).

87 On Kalampakam, see also Zvelebil (1974: 200, n. 20; 1995: 305–306).

88 See for instance Nantikkalampakam 26ab: niṟka maṉṉavar niranta veṇ kuṭai miṭainta nīḷ kaṭai neṭun takai viṟ koḷ nal nutal maṭantaimār mika muyaṅku tōḷ avaṉināraṇaṉ, “While Avaṉināraṇaṉ (i.e. earthly Viṣṇu, a biruda of Nandin III) stands, he whose shoulders are embraced by women with beautiful bow-like brows, whose excellence is supreme, whose great door is swarmed by the white umbrellas of [other] kings, lined up in rows...”. A comparable mixing or dichotomy of the erotic and heroic in the king’s personality is perceptible in Sanskrit eulogies. See for instance IP 76.29–30, i.e. verse 4, where Nandin II is described as Kṛtānta (i.e. Yama) for his enemies and Anaṃga (i.e. Kāma) for women.

89 On the distinction between pāṭṭuṭai talaivaṉ (hero of the poem, i.e. of the whole work) and the kiḷavi talaivaṉ (hero of the narration or context, i.e. of a specific verse in the work), see Cutler (1987: 83). On their confusion in the kalampakam genre, see Shulman (2004: 168 ff.).

90 See Nantikkalampakam 2, 5, 19, 27, 28, 39, 41, 44, 49, 58, 63, 65, 69, 74, 84 and 88.

91 See Nantikkalampakam 5, 7, 12, 13, 26, 28, 29, 36, 38, 50, 54, 55, 56, 58, 59, 73, 76, 79, 88, 93 and 105.

92 See Nantikkalampakam 32, 33, 37, 42, 53, 56, 57, 68, 75, 79, 82, 84, 85, 90 and 91. Ayyar and Rao (1908: 173) place Teḷḷāṟu in the Wandiwash tāluk (Vandavasi tāluk, Tiruvannamalai district). Nandin III is the only Pallava king who won a victory at Teḷḷāṟu. Among the victories of Nandin II and of his general Udayacandra mentioned in IP 76, none appears in the Nantikkalampakam.

93 See atteḷḷāṟṟ’ eṟinta māṉōtayaṉ in Nantikkalampakam 85.

94 See Ayyar and Rao (1908: 170 and n. 2), Shulman (2004: 157).

95 See Vaiyapuri Pillai (1988: 97), Zvelebil (1975: 168; 1995: 479).

96 It is to be noticed also that most of the birudas of Nandin II in the Nantikkalampakam are Tamilised forms of Sanskrit words. Thus, the root is Sanskrit, but the word-form is fully Tamilised.

97 In Pallava Sanskrit praśastis, mentions of actual victories rather than the listing of vanquished enemies or of the conquest of the whole world are rarely met with. One exception is IP 76.

98 See Francis & Schmid (2010: xvii–xviii).

99 That is eight (IP 122, 123, 125, 135, 137, 141, 142, 329; spanning from the 10th to the 22nd year of his reign) out of the 41 inscriptions (IP 114–148, 325–330) of this king collected by Mahalingam (1988), and two other inscriptions discovered later than this publication (ARE 1992–93, no. B. 391 = Āvaṇam V.12, ARE 1995–96, no. B.107). For details see Francis (forthcoming b).

100 For examples, see Francis and Schmid (2010: xv, n. 55).

101 This verse is generally dated to the 7th century, but I am inclined to follow Pollock in assigning it to the 8th century.

102 Pollock insists that kāvya is written literature (2006: 81 ff.), and that literarisation is not possible without literisation. This view is debatable in respect to Caṅkam poetry. And in any case, an oral Caṅkam poetry could serve as model for written Tamil literature.

103 An exception to this consensus is the work of Tieken (2001) who considers the Tamil Caṅkam corpus as written poetry adapting kāvya in Tamil — in a kind of early vernacularisation that goes well with Pollock’s view — and ascribes it to a late date (8th–9th century under the aegis of the early Pāṇḍyas). However, Tieken’s position, specifically concerning the date of Caṅkam poetry, has been received sceptically or dismissed. See Eichinger Ferro-Luzzi (2001), Cox (2002), Monius (2002), Wilden (2002) and Hart (2004).

104 On the Caṅkam legend, the connection of the early Pāṇḍyas with Tamil and Caṅkam, and the anthologisation of Caṅkam poetry see Tieken (2002: 131 ff.; early Pāṇḍyas as creators of Caṅkam poetry), Wilden (2002: 114 ff. and 125 ff., 2009a, 2009b: 133 ff.; early Pāṇḍyas as anthologisers of Caṅkam poetry).

105 On these early Pāṇḍya copper-plates, see Tieken (2001: 135–36) who contends that they provide detailed “local histories” contra Ali (2011: 283, n. 13) considering rightly that they show a Tamil with “strong pretensions toward poetic claims and symbolic association — even in the presence of literary Sanskrit”. See also Wilden (2009a: 148, 2009: 133 ff.), Orr (2009: 101–102), Francis and Schmid (2010: xiii–xiv).

106 See IEP 18 and 20 = SII 14.44 and 45, and also ARE 1929–30, no. 73. Both inscriptions date to the 9th century, are entirely versified (business portion included!), do not contain any Grantha letter, have very few words of Sanskrit origin, and contain, besides the praise of the local donor, a praise of Cirivallavaṉ/Cirivalluvaṉ, i.e. Sanskrit Śrīvallabha, the Pāṇḍya king. See also ARE 1911, no. 563 and, on this matter, Govindasamy (1977, part II: 88). More examples could probably be produced, since I have not consulted Irākavaiyaṅkār (1937) and Veṅkaṭacāmi (1959), nor systematically searched the Peruntokai. Strongly literary prose Tamil was also produced in the Pāṇḍya realm. While mentioning the Centalai verses, Pollock (2006: 291, n. 12) quotes Zvelebil (1992: 126) about an inscription, maybe ca. 500, from Pūlāṅkuṟicci, as an instance of “polished literary Tamil as we know it from ancient texts”. See Supparāyalu and Rākavavāriyar (1991) for the text of this inscription and Subbarayalu (2001) for its translation.

107 See also Centalai verse III.f, with its mention of real battles and of the goddess residing with the king, as well as many other Centalai verses mentioning actual battles.

108 On meykkīrtti, see Francis and Schmid (2010: viii ff.). On Caṅkam references in Cōḻa times, see also Nagaswamy (2004).

109 See Francis and Schmid (2010: xiii, n. 47).

110 See Shulman (2007), Tieken (2008) mainly about North India, Fussman (2008: 171 ff.), and Ali (2011) about Indonesia. Tieken and Ali insist that the dichotomy between symbolic, expressive Sanskrit and documentary, administrative vernacular during the first millennium is not sustainable. For the same criticism concerning Pallava records, see Orr (2009: 99 ff.).

111 Actually, the very first Pallava inscriptions are in Prākrit. It seems that in this regard the Pallavas followed in the footsteps of the Śātavāhanas, although only during a brief period.

112 See Francis (2009: 138 and 287, and forthcoming a). Fussman (2008: 175–76) rightly remarks that Pollock underestimates the role of brahmins even after the secularisation of Sanskrit had begun.

113 See Fussman (2008: 178–80) on the decisive role of Buddhism in the secularisation of Sanskrit.

114 See Francis (2009: especially 210 ff., 2012 and forthcoming a) on the Pallavas’ claim of being brahmins and kings.

115 See Ali (2000: 184 ff.) on “contesting representations” among rival dynasties, and Fussman (2008: 178–179) on middle Indo-Aryan languages becoming mutually unintelligible at the beginning of the first millennium, a fact that drove Buddhism to adopt Sanskrit as medium “pour permettre la communication entre moines et maintenir l’unité idéologique de la communauté”.

116 Contra, Pollock (op. cit.: 29) places vernacular beginnings “not at the monastery but at the court”. The first part of the proposition is acceptable, but not the second, at least in the Tamil case for which the stimulus for vernacularisation (here simply taken as the development of a political discourse in a vernacular, without necessarily being modelled on Sanskrit) came both from the court (Mahendra I’s birudas) and outside the court (Taḷavāṉūr). The Centalai poems, commissioned by a minor local dynasty, stand midway between court and locality.

Table des illustrations

Légende Fig. 1 Map of Tamil Nadu (not to scale; district divisions as in 1966) showing expressive Tamil inscriptions under the Pallavas (7th-9th century).
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifp/docannexe/image/2915/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 132k
Légende Fig. 2 Trichy, exterior of the cave, facing south. Circles show the birudas on the corbel and base of the central pillar. Photo by the author.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifp/docannexe/image/2915/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 208k
Légende Fig. 3 Trichy, sample of biruda. From top to bottom: saṃkīrṇṇajātiḥ (after SII XII, plate I), piṇapiṇakku (after SII XII, plate I), kucañāṇa. Photo by the author.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifp/docannexe/image/2915/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 272k
Légende Fig. 4 Taḷavāṉūr, exterior of the cave, facing south. Photo by the author.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifp/docannexe/image/2915/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 180k
Légende Fig. 5 Taḷavāṉūr, southern pillar inside the cave, south-east corner. Photo by the author.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifp/docannexe/image/2915/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 232k
Légende Fig. 6 Centalai, list of biruda, pillar IV, facing north. Photo by the author.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifp/docannexe/image/2915/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 152k
Légende Fig. 7 Vaikuṇṭhaperumāḷ temple at Kāñcīpuram. Southern corridor with panels facing north. N. Ramaswamy pointing at IP 93. Photo by the author.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifp/docannexe/image/2915/img-7.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 128k
Légende Fig. 8 Tirucceṉṉampūṇṭi, Caṭaiyar temple. IP 137 = SII 7:503.1-8 (Grantha in bold): svasti śrī teḷḷāṟṟ’ eṟinta nantipp[ō*]ttaraiyarkku yāṇṭu 18āvatu tirukkaṭaimuṭimāh[ā*]devark...(read as °mah[ā*]devark...). Photo by Charlotte Schmid.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifp/docannexe/image/2915/img-8.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 164k

Auteur

Researcher at the CNRS and member of the Centre for South Asian Studies (UMR 8564), Paris. As an historian of South India, especially Tamil Nadu, his main interests range from royal ideology, Tamil epigraphy, manuscriptology and philology, to social and cultural history of the Tamil language. He co-authored with Valérie Gillet and Charlotte Schmid three chronicles about Pallava studies in the Bulletin de l’École française d’Extrême-Orient 92–94 (2005–2007). He also co-authored with Charlotte Schmid the preface dealing with the genre of Tamil epigraphical eulogy (meykkīrtti) in the second volume of the Pondicherry Inscriptions (Pondicherry, 2010). His article “The Genealogy of the Pallavas: from Brahmins to Kings” has recently appeared in Religions of South Asia 5.1-2 (2011). Forthcoming is a book derived from his PhD dissertation about the royal ideology of the Pallava dynasty: Le discours royal dans l’Inde du Sud ancienne. Monuments et inscriptions pallava (IVème–IXème siècles), Louvain. He is currently preparing a critical edition and a study of the paratexts of the Tirumurukāṟṟuppaṭai, revised editions of the meykkīrttis of the Cōḻa kings, and is engaged in a long-running study of textual production in Tamil from a historical point of view.

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