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Thread: Medieval Chola empire and it's relations with Palantheevukal

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    Author - Virarajendra

    The Medieval Chola empire and it's relations with Palantheevukal (Maldive Islands)

    (1) References to and the location of Palantheevukal (Maldive Islands)

    Among the near overseas territories conquered by Rajaraja Chola - 1 (A.D.985-1014) and Rajendra Chola - 1 (A.D.1012-1044), other than Sri Lanka and Saanthimaaththeevu, were the "Palantheevukal". They are presently referred to, partly as Maldive Islands coming under a separate rule, and partly as Laccadive Islands (Lakshadweep) coming under the rule of mainland India.

    Rajaraja Chola's conquer of "Palantheevukal", is referred to in his "Meikeerthi" in Tamil as "Munneer Palantheevu Panneer aayiram" meaning the "old islands tweleve thousand of the sea".

    Rajendra Chola's conquer of "Palantheevukal" is referred to as "Sangathir velaith thol perung kaaval pal Palantheevum" in Tamil in his "Meikeerthi" meaning the "ancient many old islands with waves resounding conches and having strong guard"

    The first mention of this place name - namely the "Palantheevukal" in Tamil meaning the "Old Islands" is found in an early Tamil Grammer work known as "Akaththiyar Vaakku", quoted in another 12th Century Tamil Grammer Work known as the "Nannool" by one of it's commentator named the Mayilainaathar.

    This reference to "Palantheevukal" is found in a group of regional names given in "Akaththiyar Vaakku" - as the other countries where Tamil was spoken, which is as follows:

    ".......Kanni then karai ka(da)t Palan theevam, Singalam, Kollam……..palaku Thamil thiri nilangalum mudiyudai moovarum idu nila aatchi......."

    "Nannool" – Page 272 Mayilainather Urai - U.V.Saminatha Iyer Publication
    (Also refer Tholkaappiam – Sollathikaram, Theiva Sillaiyar commentry)


    From the above it is noted that the approximate location of Palantheevukal was in the south of the Kanni, the region of Kanyakumari of TamilNadu State, South India.

    The exact location of these Palantheevukal could be further gleaned from the writings of a Portugese Traveller named "Duarte Barbosa" of the early 'seventeenth century' to the Indian Archipelago.

    ".......Opposite this country of Malabar, forty leagues to the west in the sea there is an archipelago of isles which the Indians say amount to twelve thousand, and they begin in front of mountain Dely and extend southwards. The first are four small flat islands which are called Malandiva, they are inhabited by Malabar Moors and they say that they are from the kingdom of Cananor............Over against Panam, Cochin, and Coulam to the west and south-west at a distance of seventy-five leagues are other islands of which ten or twelve are inhabited by Moors, brown and small in stature who have a separate language and a Moorish king who resides in an island called Mahaldi(v)u. And they call all these islands Palandiva..........Leaving these islands of Mahaldiva further on towards the east where the cape of Comoary......."

    "A Description of the coasts of East Africa and Malabar" - by Duarte Barbosa, page 164 & 166


    From the above it is very clear the present Maldive Islands and Laccadive Islands (Lakshadeevip) together were known as Palanthivukal to the Indians of the early days. It seems though these islands together would not had an exact count, the Indians from early days believed that there have been twelve thousand islands.

    But there could have been a good possibility of many more tiny inhabitable islets been in existence in the early days, but not as much as twelve thousand that could have existed during the time of Rajaraja Chola and Rajendra Chola 990 years ago. Many of such small islets could have been possibly submerged into the sea and now left with the present number of Islets as it exists today - as two seperate groups with one known as Maldive Islands and the other as Laccadive Islands (Lakshadeevip).

    (2) Capture of Palantheevukal by Rajaraja Chola – 1

    In two inscriptions of the 29th year of Rajaraja Chola - 1 on the walls of Thanjavur Great Temple, we note that there is no mention of Palantheevukal among the list of countries conquered by him.

    However in two other subsequent inscriptions of the same 29th year in the same temple, we note the Palantheevukal has been included in the list.

    Hence it is very clear that in the mid of 29th year of Rajaraja's rule the Cholas captured the Palantheevukal, that is in the year (985+29) = A.D.1014 almost towards the end of his reign.

    The principal reason for capture of these small group of Islets, many of which are inhabitable and with less useful vegetations that could be grown there, could have been that there lived the Sea Priates in these islands who would have been a great hinderence to the Sea Traders from Kerala state and Tamil Nadu state which formed parts of the then Chola Empire, from moving around freely in the Indian Ocean with their trading activities.

    This would have made Rajaraja Chola to think that it was necessary to capture these Islands too and bring them under the Chola fold, even at the tail end of his rule.

    Or may be that Rajaraja Chola himself would have felt, that without conquering also these vast number of small Islets close to his mainland empire, that his imperialistic adventures would not be complete.

    (3) Capture of Palantheevukal by Rajendra Chola - 1

    From the inscriptions of Rajendra Chola – 1, we note many of his 6th year inscriptions speak of the capture of Palantheevukal as the last in the list of countries found in his Meikeerthi. We also come across an inscription of his 5th year which too mentions his capture of the Palantheevukal as the last.

    Hence it is very clear that it was in the latter part of the 5th year of Rajendra's rule the Cholas captured Palantheevukal, being in the year (1012 + 5) = A.D.1017.

    Rajendra Chola - 1 after ascending the throne would have found it necessary to send another expedition to the Palantheevukal to firmly establish the Chola hold on these islands.

    There "could have been a possibility" that he appointed and left one of his generals with some forces in the principal island among this group of islands, whose generation over a period of time would have become the sole rulers of these islands.

    (4) The new generation of kings of Palantheevukal

    The Maldivian "copper plates grant' (known as `Lomafanu' in Maldivian language and as 'Sasanam' in Sanskrit) issued in A.D.1196-97 in the "Haddummati Atol" (an Island among the group of modern Maldive Islands), nearly 190 years later after Rajendra's conquest, starts the narration of the list of Maldivian kings with the prefix to their name as "Swasti Sri", as it was prevalent in Meikeerthis of the Chola kings of that Period.

    The list of names of the rulers of the island found in these plates are as follows which shows much South Indian influence. The names are,

    (1) Sri Marhabarana
    (2) Svasti Sri Buvana Aditya
    (3) Svasti Sri Buvanabarana
    (4) Svasti Sri Darmmananda
    (5) Svasti Sri Srimat Somanga


    Yet another set of plates from "Bodugala Miskit of Male Atol" (another Island among the group of modern Maldive Islands) issued in A.D.1356-57 too has further names of it's rulers, also having Indian influence. But among them the most interesting one is the name which reads as,

    "Sri Ra-aradesvara"
    Could this have been a corruption of Rajarajeswara over a period of approximately 350 years ???[/color]

    All above references are from the book titled -
    "The Maldive Islands - Monograph on History & Archaelogy by H.C.P.Bell – Pages 179-186

    However we do need "more evidence" to prove positively, that these kings were the decendents of "a possible General or Chieftain who would have been placed to be in charge" of these islands by Rajendra Chola.

    Mr Clarence Maloney in his book on Maldive Islands has made the following two statements which are also noteworthy.

    (1) "the Divehi (the Maldivian language) word for trader is "Soliya", and many foreign ports of call are known in Divehi by their Tamil names.

    (2) "Influence of medieval Tamil traders on the Maldives can be seen in most of the Divehi words for trade, and many words for items traded . Words for bundle, to sell, trade, steel, and cloves, and navigation terms such as pilot and compass are of Tamil origin. C(h)ola coins "kasu" which were standard in Sri Lanka and much of South India, have been found in the Maldives too.


    "People of the Maldive Islands" - by Clarence Maloney (Page 107/8)


    (5) King of Palantheevukal invades Sri Lanka

    We also have another interesting account on a king of Maldive Islands, in the Sri Lankan Pali chronicle named "Culavamsa" from which we note "few years after the death of king Vijayabahu – 1(A.D.1059-1114) of Sri Lanka", during the parallel period when Kulothunga Chola – 1 (A.D.1070-1118) was ruling in South India, a warrior lord of the Ariya country by the name "Viradeva" who was the 'sole sovereign' of "Palandipa" (Palanthivukal) invaded Sri Lanka and pursued after it's new ruler Vikkramabahu – 2 for his capture and for his kingdom. However after Viradeva's initial success, he was finally defeated and killed by Vikkramabahu, which is confirmed from the following reference.

    "......A warrior, lord of the Ariya country, Viradeva by name sole sovereign of Palandipa a most foolhardy man landed at that time with brave warriors in Mahatittha in the belief he would be able to bring whole of Lanka into his power......Viradeva who was ever hard at his heels reached the capital and took up his abode there for some days, then he set off in haste thither to capture Vikkramabahu. But the latter sent off his whole large army forced Viradeva to fight in a great swampy wilderness near the village Antaravitthika slew him and dwelling then with might in Pulattthinagara......"

    Culavamsa (Wilhelm Geiger's Translation – Part 1, Page 228)


    From the above reference it is clear, even to the Sri Lankans of that period the Maldive Islands were known as "Palandipa".

    Further we note, in the year A.D.1070 Kulothunga Chola - 1 became the next successor to the Chola Empire. However he lost the northern part of Sri Lanka in A.D.1088 which he never attempted to regain.

    "May be" the warrior lord "Viradeva" referred above who was the sole sovereign of Palandipa was a "decendent" of a possible Chola prince or general who was placed in Palandipa during the period of Rajendra Chola - 1, and who with the death of Kulothunga Chola - 1 in A.D.1118 and becoming independent free of Chola control on Palantheevukal, and with the death of Vijayabahu – 1 in A.D.1114 and turmoil following same in Sri Lanka would have thought of capturing this island for himself, and could have possibly made this expedition.

    However "the above 'inferences' needs further evidences" to prove them very positively.


    -------------------------------------------------------
    Last edited by virarajendra; 26th February 2012 at 07:52 AM.

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    Re: The Palanthivukal conquered by the Medieval Cholas

    Apart from habitation from piracy, the other important reason why Maldives was conquered is its strategic location. There are two routes to China from the East. One is Calicut, Nagapattinam/Kaveripumpattinam/Mahabalipuram, Kedah, Mallacca, round to South China Sea. The other way is Maldives, Galle, Aceh, Mallacca, and South China sea.

    As any economic power would want it, countries need commerce and that comes with ships stopping at their ports. Taxes, customs, sale of goods, entreport, etc was good business. If ships from Somalia, Egypt, and South Africa took the Galle route, a lot of business is lost. Hence, the conquer of Maldives.

    Another major reason for depending on this business is the play of the monsoons. During the North East monsoon, the Nagappatinam-Kedah route was unserviceable. During the South West monsoon, the Calicut route was unserviceable. So, to keep the major economy growing, the Cholas insisted on occupying both coasts for unimpeded trade. This example was later followed by the Pandyas, Vijayanagar, and British.

    Lakshwadeep needs to be viewed as distinctly different from Maldives. They were called "theevugal oru laksham."

    As has been pointed out, there is a very strong Tamil influence in the Maldives.

    Rgds, Aravind Sitaraman

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