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Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."
Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C

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Home > The Tamil Heritage - History & Geography > Third Tamil Sangam and The Mauryas - Nallathambi Thevar

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Third Tamil Sangam and The Mauryas

© 2005 Nallathambi Thevar
27 December 2006


The objective of this thesis is two fold. To explore

1) the idea of Tamil Sangam and its history and
2) origin and history of the Mauryas.

It is the writer's contention that Tamil Sangam was actually the association of the Tamil Kings and the Mauryas were nobody but Tamil Kings who had invaded the Northern Part of India as mentioned clearly in the so-called Sangam literature.

Tamil Sangam and its history

The Tamil Sangams form one of the main parts of history for the Tamil people. It is a tradition that they cherish and have been passing it on from generation to generation. Nobody knows exactly what it means and how it came about. According to some it was a literary academy where the scholars or poets met to discuss and criticize various things including literature in Tamilaham. It is mentioned in a commentary on the Iraiyanar Ahapporul. It is said to have been composed by the sangam poet Nakkirar. According to tradition it was a literary academy established and supported by the Pandyan Kings. The first sangam or Talai sangam was established at Ten Madurai the capital of the Pandyan kings on the Indian Ocean shores. When a deluge destroyed Ten Madurai the capital was shifted to Kapatapuram and the second sangam called the idai sangam was established there. After sometime when Kapatapuram too was destroyed by the sea the capital was shifted to present day Madurai away from the sea on the banks of the Vaigai. Madurai became the latest capital of the Pandyan kings and third sangam or Kadai sangam was established there. There are a number of historical persons and kings associated with these sangams. The Pandiyan king who ruled during the period of establishment of the Third sangam was Mudattirumaran who was lame. His other name was Ariyappadaikadanda Nedunjeliyan. He was contemporary of Karikalan Cholan and Senguttuvan Cheran and Elangai Gajabahu.

History of Tamilaham from Third Sangam

The history of Tamilaham revolves around five main kingdoms and numerous smaller kingdoms under the control of this main five Kings. The Third sangam age starts around the time Karikalan, Nedumcheziliyan, Senguttavan, Gajabahu and 'unidentified adithyman king' were ruling the Kingdom of Cholas (Thanjavur), Pandyas (Kapatapuram), Cheras (Karur-Kerala), Elangai (Tampapanni) and Satyaputra (present day Andhra/Karnataka/North Tamil Nadu below the Krishna/Godvari belt). The smaller kingdoms were ruled by numerous velirs and chieftains having loyalty to the above five kingdoms.

The ancient tamilaham during the Third sangam extended from Krishna/Godvari(including portions of Andhra/Karnataka/Telengana/Maharashtra) to Elangai(present day Srilanka) including present day Kerala. It is the contention of the author that the Tamil sangam mentioned in the literature is the actual association of the rulers of Tamilaham along with it being a literary academy of poets and thinkers. The second sangam extended for 1300 years as mentioned in Kharvela inscription. The polity varied in various city/states ranging from monarchial to republican to democratic. The inter-state relationship was carried based on the treatise of Arthasastra, a Tamil literary document which was later converted to Sanskrit. The government structure in the north at that time was nomadic with tribes ruled by a King. The Arthashastra was later modified by the sanskritist to include their notion of Varna. A point to note is whereas varna is hierarchical, caste(Jathi) is not.

The Pandyas claimed lunar origin and their emblem was the double carp(Meen). The Cholas claimed solar origin and their emblem was the Puli(Tiger) and Chera emblem was bow.

The Deluge - Pandiyas

During the period of the second sangam the Pandyas had their capital at Kapatapuram and because of that they were also called as Kapata by the ancient custom of a person being called with the name of the place/Ur from where they come from. Thus the Pandyas were also called as the Kapatas. This Kapatas got transformed into Guptas during later period. When natural disaster struck Kapatapuram and destroyed the city the Pandyas capital has to be shifted along with the people. They settled in present day Madurai on the banks of Vaigai away from the sea. After moving the capital to Madurai and extending/building the Meenakshi temple, the King started the third sangam there.

The Cholas and the Elagais helped the Pandyas during this time. The Cholas already a matrimonial relationship with the Pandiyas as King Vijayalaya Cholan had already married a Pandyan princess. After the deluge cholan men married lot of destitute pandyan womens who had suffered because of the natural disaster. Some of them moved to Elagai as some(Northern) portion was ruled by the Cholas that time. This is mentioned in the Mahavamsa - the ceylonese chronicle. The pandya men joined the miltary in large numbers. The Pandya king had to find a way to settle his uprooted people and provide land for agriculture to compensate for the lost land. He looked up North and that starts the campaign to get more land and starts the movement of Tamils to the North one of the many in history. This king was called Nilamtaru Tiruvir Pandyan or the Mudathirumaran the lame.


The Chola king during the time of deluge was Karikalan or Sundara Chola. The mother of the king was a Pandiyan princess, hence he was also called as Sundara Kapata or Sundara Pandiyan. He ascended the throne at the age of five after some confusion in the succession. His uncle Irumbidartalai from mother's side helped him during this period. His other name was Vishnu Kapata as he was a Pandiyan.


The Chera king during the time of deluge was Senguttavan. His mother was a Cholan princess Narsonai. Narsonai was related to Karikalan Cholan. His brother Ilango Adikal wrote Silappadikaram.

The Conquest

The conditions were ideal for an alliance of Chola-Pandya-Chera with Karikalan being related to the Pandyan family through his mother's side and to the Cheras through Narsonai. Narsonai was a Chola princess. This along with the condition of the Pandyan country at that time sets the stage for the third Sangam and northern conquest of India. This alliance of Kings from the five major mandalam and the various small Ur/Nadu(City/States). Their warrior Kadavul who led them was the Tamils most revered Kadavul after their parents - Murugan Sami.

This sangam led by Karikalan after subduing various Kings on the way to Himalayas finally reached the Kingdom of Prassi whose capital was located at Rajgriha a mountainous place very difficult to conquer. It was also called parambu hills or sathpahari. The sanskrit name for the kingdom was Magadha with its capital located at Rajgriha a tough place to conquer. This kingdom was very famous and the king was known as 'Pari of Parambu hills' in sangam literature whose close friend was Kapilar the Brahmin. The Kingdom of Magadha was the most powerful Sanskrit kingdom in the Northern region at that time. The three Kings met together and under the able guidance of VishnuKapata attack the Parambu hills and defeat him. This completes the conquest of Northern India.

The kingdom of Magadha was ruled by the nomadic tribes called aryans divided into four varnas and they spoke a form of sanskrit called chanda. They had no written script and no grammar. The religious scriptures was transmitted by word of mouth which was kept a closely guarded secret. By populations they were not numerous. It was just an accident that they were there and ruling magadha at that point of time when the sangam kings attacked them. They called the victorius king Chandragupta(SundaraKapata) and his advisor Vishnugupta(VishnuKapata). The sangam alliance being led by the Tamil's warrior Kadavul they named the alliance 'The Mauryas' after the mount of Murugan Kadavul the peacock -'Mor'.

The Cholas stayed back to rule the Mauryan empire. The Cheran-Cholan-Pandiyan kings making up the Moriyas after conquering whole of India and visiting the Himalayas and putting their emblems on the mountains returned to rule their respective dominion in South. Thus the legend was born of the Chera, Chola and Pandya making up the Moriyas embossing their emblem on Himalayas. It was during that period Silpaathikaram was written with the patronage of the Cheras. It was this way that all three major Tamil kings had each of their own history preserved. It was during this time that the various Moriya Kings attended a festival in Chera Nadu for the dedication of Kadavul Kannagi. Some of the major names include Karikalan, Nedunchezliyan, Senguttavan, Gajabahu etc. It was during this period that Megasthenes the Greek ambassador was a member of the Karikalan's court.

The Cholas - Moriyas


He is the earliest Cholan king with written records as of now. He set up the Chola kingdom with Thanjavur as capital. He expanded his kingdom to include various regions including northern portion of Elangai. He married a Pandyan princess.

Parantaka I

The next important king in the chola line as Parantaka I. He had three sons. Rajaadithya, GandarAdithya and Arinjaya. He helped consolidate the new chola kingdom.

GandarAdithya - Xandrames - (Dhana Nanda??)

The elder son of Parantaka I he took over after Parantaka I. He might well have been Dhana Nanda the one who was overthrown by Chandragupta, but that would mean Nanda was a Tamil King and a different line of cholas ruling Chola Nadu. After Chandragupta overthrows him he starts on a northern campaign and ultimately defeats and rules the Magadha country.

Arinjaya - Agrammes

According to present historians, he ruled for 1(one) year. Younger brother of GandarAdithya. His son was Sundara Chola.

Sundarakavata - CholaPandiyar - Sundaracolla - Sandrocottus- Parivendravarman

According to present historians he came to power because Uttama(son of GandarAdithya) was too young. So how can SundarCholan be old enough rule as he is the son of younger brother(Arinjaya) of GandarAdithya. Some consider him to have usurped the throne from the line of GandarAdithya. His other name is Karikalan and he came to the throne at the age of 5(five). At the age of five when his father died there was some palace intrigue and the palace was set fire to kill him. Karikalan escaped with the help of his uncle Vishnu Kapata or Irumbidartalai and stayed in Chera country for some time.

When the Chola upsurper dies without a successor a search is made by the people for the new King. As was the custom that time the royal elephant with a flower garland was used to find the new King. The elephant eventually puts the flower garland on the young Karikalan. Karikalan was bright and powerful. He grew up under the guidance of Vishnu Kapata. He started a war campaign against other Tamil Kings eventually making everybody accept his authority. But instead of dispossesing the other kings of their throne he lets them have it but forms a association (Sangam) to start a Northern campaign.

Karikalan brings over lot of people from the conquered territory of Elangai. He immediately sets these people in the construction of a kallainai(dam) over Cauvery under the control of Adithyan. This brings the cauvery under some control which till then was wild and was uncontrollable during the rainy season. He was also called as Parthivendravarman (Pari-vendra-varman.) as he had defeated King Pari of Magadha.

SundaraKapata after ruling for a period of time converted to Jain and retired to Tamilakam near present day Shravanabela.

Adithyan Cholar - Vindyahara - Bindusara - Agathiyan(??)

SundaraCholan's elder son Adithyan who helped his father in the Northern Campaign subdued the mighty Vindhya kings and hence was called Vindhyahara or Bindusura. As Sundarakapata took too many scholars and bureaucrat along with him for his newly established kingdom at Prasii(Magadha) he sent his son Vindhyahara back to Chola nadu to rule from there. He establised law and order in the high sea by clearing the sea in the east and west coast of pirates. He brought the eastern region - present day Malaysia, Thailand etc under Moriya rule. He helped his father in taming the Cauvery river. He was himself a scholar too and was the author of various Tamil works. Adithyan's life history follows closely the life history of the most famous and revered Tamil Sage Agathiyar. It was Adithyan who due to his interaction with the Greeks brought the western contemporary knowledge into Tamil whatever it was during that period of time.

Arulmozhli Cholan - Amitrochates

He was one of the most important kings in this dynasty. He was one of the most famous Hindu kings ever known to India. He built lot of temples and created lot of endowments all over India especially in Tamilaham. It is the author's suspicion that he exists under a different name in the Tamil and Sanskrit Hindu literature. It is only a matter of time to identify this Great King

Kulathunga - Ashoka

His other name might have been Kul-asoka. Kalingathu parani was the actual description of Kalinga war which Asoka carried out during the BC sangam age and not some dance drama some Vedic historians are proposing. He was partial towards Buddhism. He was responsible for erecting lot of pillars/edicts to carry out good activities to lead a harmonious life. One of his edict end with the word Capada which is the same as Kapata and its future sanskrit form Gupta. He was the first King in the history to understand the power of organized religion and tried to use in the State administration. He also exists in Hindu literature under a different name.

RajaMahendran and Madurantaki - Mahendra and Sanghamitta

The next important Cholas in this line were RajaMahendran and Madurantaki. They were responsible for carrying Buddhism to Srilanka. They are mentioned as Mahendra and Sangamitta in the Buddhist Chroncile. Infact the Vijaya mentioned in Mahavamsa is none other than the Vijayalaya who brought this particular line of Chola into prominence. Since this particular line of Cholas brought Buddhism to the Island, the Buddhist gave high honour to Vijayalaya by stating that Vijaya brought civiliation to Srilanka eventhough Tamils lived in the island long before Vijaylaya Cholan came into the scene as was the case in other part of Tamilagam. The third Buddhist council which is mentioned by Mahavamsa but not by other Northern sources was most probably held in Tamilaham.

The Mauryan empire

The Moriyas took lot of Tamil scholars from South to Magadha for administration and other governmental purpose. These scholars started popularising Tamil culture in that region and this happened in all areas be it in Dance, Drama or Music. A great flowering of literature took place. Not only were Sanskrit and Buddhist oral literature collected and documented but more rigour was added to it. The major fillip received by Buddhism immediately after Moriyas came to power resulted in it emerging from obscurity to becoming almost the state religion in Asoka's time. The affect on Sanskrit and on Brahmins was not immediate but was tremendous over a longer period of time.

The modern Sanskrit as it existed in ancient times emeged from chanda by the effort of SundaraKapata. The new language was called Bhasa. There were multiple reason why it came into existence, among them the major ones are -

1) To simplify the Tamil language and its scripts.

2) To provide a modern unifying language for the vast Moriya empire.

3) To make it easy to write.

4) To provide script to the nomads who inhabited the gangetic plains and Northwestern India.

5) To provide a structure to the sanskrit/chanda language by way of providing a grammar ie the basic morphology and orthography to the language.

6) To accommodate the new sounds/alphabets provided by chanda/Greek and other Central Asian languages.

Sundarakapata hired Panini who was born in Northwestern India for this job. He knew Tamil and its grammar Tolkapiyam. Panini set about this task in the Kingdom of Pari/magadha. From its inception the Brahmins tried to control its development and restrict its learning, with the result that it never came into widespread use. Chandas was used in that region though it died over a period of time.

A lot of Tamil scriptures, culture, custom, ideas were transmitted into this new Sanskrit language by these Tamil scholars. The translation of Tamils texts into Sanskrit was carried out by the Tamil scholars based on the new grammar written by Panini. The epics of Pandyas - Mahabharata and the Cholas - Ramayana were translated into Sanskrit. Numerous embellishments were given to it later by the Sanskritist to bring its origin in line with Northern region. The presently understood northern origin of it is true in a certain sense as the Sanskrit version of the Tamil original was written for the first time in Northern India. A point to note in this is that Chola were also called as sibi. The five major regions of Tamilaham also corresponds to the five pandavas of the Mahabharata. This is also proved by the matrimonial relationship that existed between the five royal family and which is mentioned frequently in the sangam literature.

The Script

The grammar commissioned by SundaraKapata under the leadership of Panini was dead on arrival. It was used only by the court scholars and not by masses because it needed lot of resources to spread its usage. The result was that Moriyas stuck with local Prakrits in the different region of the empire. Instead of using Sanskrit as a royal and uniform language across the empire, they instead gravitated to having a common script. They used the same script or customised script for the various languages they came across the empire. The script was based on the Brahmi script which the Tamils had been using for quite some time then but had been discontinued. They used the script they had been using in the past and modified it to fit North Indian needs.

Tamil Words: Some of the Tamil origin words are Varman - Varmar the reverse of maravar, mar(Sanskrit attack), killi - Kill(English),Teiyvam - Deva(Sanskrit).


After the decline of the Moriyas two things came together to create a new social environment. The Brahmins and the new Sanskrit literature translated from Tamil. The major contribution of Brahmins towards Sanskrit being the books of names and the Varna. The book of names was used to rename whatever was found in Tamil culture and varna was used to enforce their dominance which was broken by Buddhism. Class morphed into Varna when in came into contact with caste as followed by Tamils.

Now when this Brahmins moved into Tamilaham, whenever they came across Tamil literature whose translation was available in Sanskrit, they declared the Sanskrit translation as the original and killed the Tamil original - the main ones being Mahabharata and Ramayana. Books of names was used periodically to claim more Tamil words as Sanskrit. This is the mythical dominance enjoyed by the Brahmins in ancient India. Silapathikaram was left alone as it had too many Buddhist thoughts and it did not suit Brahmins purpose and was spared from the ravages of the Brahmins.

The Brahmins claimed the Sanskrit translation done by the Tamil scholars of the various local cultural tradition and literature oral as well as written, as the original and their own and assigned a aryan origin to it. Since the Tamil power(Mauryas) had waned in the North after couple of centuries there was nobody to contest that and they got away with it.They kept coming up with Sanskrit origin for various Tamil words and kept on renaming things based on their book of names. It can be still seen in the activities of North Indians who claim aryan origin inspite of a lot of them being from local pre-aryan stock and more specfically in the activities of the Tamil Brahmins.They tried to subsume the various jathis(caste) into varna and advanced the argument that jathis are sub division of varna and they were the topmost in it. Inspite of the attempts of the Brahmins to force Sanskrit on the locals after the decline of the Mauryas the various regions resisted it. The locals retaliated by coming with hybrid language which was a cross between Sanskrit and Tamil. The percentage of Sanskrit and Tamil influence indicating who was in power at that point of time. That in short has been the history of various different languages in India.

Indian History and Brahmins

It has often been said that writing Indian history is an impossible task especially the chronology. The reason are not far to seek. All the Indian history studies were done based on Sanskrit being the foundation. But Sanskrit(classical) was itself based on and branched off from Tamil. The interpretation of classical Sanskrit text without understanding the context, the environment and its background will always will be a useless task. It is like understanding, interpreting and extrapolating the history of England based on the English translation of Sanskrit literature and coming up with a Hindu ancestry for the English.

The other main reason is that Sanskrit language was never used by the masses nor the royal authority. The grammar commissioned by SundaraKapata under the leadership of Panini was dead on arrival. It was used only by the court scholars and not by masses because it needed lot of resources to spread its usage. Even where the Tamil origin words conveyed some meaning the Brahmins gave a Sanskrit origin to that, the result being it lost its original meaning. So the Sanskrit literature devoid of the context, devoid of the original meaning of the words did not convey historical information accurately. Even where it did convey some information but where it did not agree with Brahmin scheme of things they twisted it out of context and gave a spiritual meaning to it.

The result is a spiritual history of India based on the Brahmin view point. The Brahmins will keep it that way waiting for that day when hard evidence is dug out from the earth to support their supremacy, till that time Indians will get a Spiritual history of India devoid of any human emotions or accuracy. But it is never going to happen. The 'Moriyas' provided the golden age for Sanskrit before that they being wandering nomads. Any attempt to find the history of Brahmins or the Aryans will involve finding the history of bunch of nomads who did not have any script and did not have any literature. It will be like finding a needle in a haystack. The more excavations are carried to establish the foundation of Brahminical history the more foundation of Tamil history will be strengthened.

The Moriyas also patronized in addition to the Brahmins who were held in high esteem in Aryan society, the Buddhist who started as reaction of the natives against the oppressive system of the Brahmins. The Moriyas helped in collecting and organizing all the works of Buddha Kadavul and provided patronage to it. They patronized Jains also. They provided patronage to all kind of religious movement based on there belief in Tamil religion and culture which was Saivism. This resulted in the flowering of both Sanskrit and Pali literature, the language of the Brahmins and the Buddhist.

Tamilakam in 20th Century

The present day Sinhala-Tamil conflict though originally a conflict between followers of Hinduism and the neo converts to Buddhism had morphed into a conflict between casteist Tamil Hindus and Tamil followers of 'Organized Buddhism' to a conflict between Tamils and Sinhala with the converted Buddhist shifting there allegiance to Pali/Sinhala.Organized Buddhism succeeded in separating Elangai from Tamilakam with its own language of Pali/Sinhala. Organized Brahmanism succeeded in separating Kerala from Tamilakam with Sanskrit/Malayalam as their own language.

The anti-Brahmin movement which was started to restore Hinduism to the casteist(Jathikarangal) from Varnas has degenerated into a anti-Hindu movement. Tamil and Hinduism mean the same. It is not possible to separate one from the other in the name of imaginary secular Sangam age. The future of Tamil as a living language lies with Hinduism.

The main reason why South India especially Kerala/TN has been considered the source of Sanskrit knowledge( a fact conceded by the Brahmins from all over India) in 19 and 20th century, is because it originated from the Tamils instead of the convoluted logic that Brahmins employ to explain away that fact as just mere storehouse of Sanskrit knowledge. A point to note for the people who want to tinker with Tamil language to include alphabets for exotic sound. It will be better to use Sanskrit(Hindi) as that was the reason why it was created in the first place.

Sheet Anchor for Tamil/Indian History

Tamil Name
Other Sources Name
Other Sources

Sundara Pandiyan , Sundara Kapata
Chandragupta Moriya

Vishnu Kapata, Irumbidartalai
Vishnu Gupta / Chanakya

Sundara Cola, Sundara Kapata
Greek, Megasthenes - Indika

GandarAdithya Chola
Greek, Megasthenes - Indika

Adithya Cholan(Sage Agathiyan?)
Bindusara, Vindhyahara

Arinjaya Chola
Greek, Megasthenes - Indika

Arulmozli Cholan
Greek, Megasthenes - Indika



Elangai - Mahavamsa

Elangai - Mahavamsa

Vijayalaya Cholan( First of the chola rulers in sangam age)
Elangai - Mahavamsa


Pari of Parmbu/Kapilar

Capital of Magadha

Kingdom of Pari
Kingdom of Prasii
Greek, Megasthenes - Indika


As the paper shows the Mauryas were Tamils whose origins got mixed up in Sanskrit literature and myths. The Vijayalaya line of Cholan rulers along with the Pandiyans and Cherans who ruled in the age of the Third sangam have been mixed with the rulers from the same dynasty but who ruled inaround 9th Century. The epigraphical sources for the Sangam age need to be separated from other periods and a proper classification needs to be arrived at. The salient points to be noted are -

Sundara Pandiyan, Sundara Chola, Sundara Kapata were the original names of Chandragupta Maurya. Sundara Pandiyan's uncle Vishnu Kapata or Irumbidartalai was the original name of Chanakya - the author of Arthashastra. Under Sundara Pandiyan's guidance Panini wrote the Sanskrit grammar 'Asthadhyayi'. Ashoka was none other Kulathunga Chola. Out of the terrific tidal destruction was created the new Moriya Empire.The terrific tidal wave which destroyed the city of Puhar - the capital city of Cholas and Kapatapuram - the capital city of the Pandiyans started the chain of events which led to the emergence of the Moriyas. The Chola-Pandya dynasty which formed the core of the Moriyas were from Devar caste more specifically from Maravar caste.

The Tamils used Brahmi script long before Sanskrit got a grammar and a script. The Tamils had moved to a different script by the time of the Moriyas.
Gupta is the Sanskrit corruption of Tamil - Kapata. This does not necessarily mean the Gupta caste is from Tamilakam. They might have taken the name at a later time.

The above table is the sheet anchor of Tamil/Indian History.

A society need not be urban to be called a civilization, a rural society can also be a civilization. The Tamil society did not attach much premium to sophistication and subtlety as defined today which are the hallmark of civilization controlled by small rich elites. They were close to Nature and lived and expressed themselves that way.

As a first approximation all the words appearing in the Third Sangam literature should be classified as originally Tamil.

Tamilakam is the center of origin of Hinduism and the centre of civilization of the world. Hinduism belongs to the casteist hindus and not to the hierarchial varnas who have hijacked it.

It is the author's sincere request to not quote things out of context. If the url for this site is included along with the quote that will be very nice. The author does not condone ranking or hierarchical ordering of human beings in any order. The author is not against Brahmins or anybody else. http://www.geocities.com/nallathambi_thevar/TamilSangam_Mauryas.htm

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