The next poem I am taking up is a short one sung on the city of Madurai. This is not on Thirumaal, but an interesting connection to Thirumaal is told in this poem.
This is categorized in ‘Paripaadal thirattu’ (பரிபாடல் திரட்டு ) as this was picked up from the commentaries. So we do not have the commentary by Parimelazhgar.
The poem is in praise of the city of Madurai.
In the very first line of the poem we get a mention of மாயோன் .
The city looks as though it has sprung form the navel of Thirumaal.
A lotus sprang from the navel of Thirumaal at the time of creation which became the seat for the Creator god, Brahma.
Similarly the city of Madurai seems to have sprung form the navel of Thirumaal.
A striking truth is that even today, the shape of the city looks like that of a Lotus flower.
Madurai is built around the Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple. Concentric rectangular streets surround the temple, symbolizing the structure of the cosmos. The entire city is laid out in the shape of the lotus. Some of these rectangular streets are named after Tamil months. The six major rectangular streets around Meenakshi temple are Aadi, Chithirai, Aavani Moola, Maasi, Maarat and Veli streets.
It seems that Madurai was a planned city, constructed by the Pandyan kings.
If we go by the information given by அடியார்க்கு நல்லார் in his commentary to the opening line of Venil kaadhai in Silappadhikaaram, there were 7 cities of Madurai in the now sub merged Kumari lands.
The division of lands in that area was not like Kurinji, mullai etc - what we hear from Tholkaappiyar. Tholkaappiyar’s work obviously refers to the newly classified lands after the last deluge at the turn of Kaliyuga. The division of lands in olden Kumari land of Pandyans who had their capital in Then Madurai (Then Madurai) was like this:
7 Thenga naadu (தெங்க நாடு),
7 Madurai naadu (மதுரை நாடு),
7 Mun paalai naadu (முன் பாலை நாடு),
7 pin paalai naadu (பின் பாலை நாடு ),
7 kundra naadu (குன்ற நாடு)
7 GuNakarai naadu (குணகரை நாடு) and
7 kurumpanai naadu (குறும்பனை நாடு)
In all there 49 lands or places were there in Kumari kandam.
Going by their names we can deduce the kind of topography as (in the above order of names)
(1) தெங்க நாடு
dotted with coconut trees – so sea shore areas
(2) மதுரை நாடு
marutha nilam – Madurai must have been inland dotted with agricultural lands.
(3) முன் பாலை நாடு
Dry and desert area that becomes so sometime in the former season of the year
(4) பின் பாலை நாடு
Dry and desert area that becomes so sometime in the latter season of the year
(5) குன்ற நாடு
Land of mountains
(6) குணகரை நாடு
Land near the eastern shore – Guna means eastern direction. Recall Guna thisai in the Prabhandam “ கதிரவன் குண திசை சிகரம் வந்து ”
(7) குறும்பனை நாடு
Land of short pani trees. (palm trees)
Another Tholkaapiyar had lived then according to this urai (commentary) by Adiyaarkku nallar.
What is of relevance in our context is that, the Pandyans had set up the present day Madurai in the cultivable areas – in consonance with how they used to have in olden Kumari.
A question may arise why not this Madurai (explained in this poem) from the olden Kumari?
No. The poem proceeds to compare Madurai to the other two capital cities of Cheran and chozhan which are near the present day Madurai.
I can not say the same for Irunthaiyur which we saw in the proceeding poems.
Nowhere there is a mention of Madurai in that poem.
Naana maadak koodal is mentioned and the exact place where the temple of Thirumaal is located was called as Irunthaiyur.
The poet could probably be Irunthaiyur Kurunkozhi who is noted as the 2nd Sangam poet by commentators.
So in my opinion, Irunthaiyur had exited as Irunthaiyur with the town of Naan maadak koodal close to it. It was not called as Madurai when that Paripaadal was written.
Later when the Pandyans were forced to move to these places due to their lands being lost to the seas, they had chosen Irunthaiyur and Naan maadak koodal as their capital city and renamed it as Madurai.
They seemed to have preferred the agriculturally rich land with a river nearby, as their capital city and for the King to live.
The earlier capital was Then Madurai (தென் மதுரை ).The river was Kumari.
Kumari river has been named by olden texts of encyclopedia as one of the sacred 7 rivers of Bharath, along with Ganga and Saraswathy.
There is scope to believe that Then Madurai was on the banks of Kumari.
The 2nd capital was Kapaata puram (கபாட புரம்). This was on the banks of river Pahruli. This also must have been an inland with rich agricultural fields. Could have been one of the 7 Madurai lands of Kuamri.
The 3rd capital was Madurai, the present day Madurai. Irunthaiyur must have been renamed as Madurai.
The town of naan maadak koodal mentioned in Irunthaiyur poem must have been developed in a planned way by the Pandyan king.
From the poem that we have taken up now, it is known that it was shaped like a lotus – with petals.
All these are written to impress upon the reader the one important issue that though the Pandyans were traditionally Shiva worshippers – as they have bequeathed their tradition from Somasundara who married Meenakshi of their dynasty (obviously in the olden Then Madurai), their devotion to Vishnu could not be undermined.
Why should they have planned the city as a lotus from Thirumaal’s navel?
It is because the basic idea of the Thrimoorthy had been recognized and respected by them.
Vishnu always stands for protection.
Anything that is rooted on land comes under the jurisdiction of Vishnu.
When Ganga comes down from Shiva’s head, the place where she touches the ground is known as Vishnu patham.
Similarly Surya Siddhantha, an astrological work, taught by Lord Surya to Maya, a danava in Romaka desa which was a Mlechcha city, situated at 90 degrees west of Lanka, says that the two entrances of Sun – one at the start of Uttarayana and the other at the start of Dakshinayana are known as two steps of Vishnu – Vishnu paatham.
For prosperity on land, Vishnu’s blessings are sought.
Sangam people have been very well aware of this and had fashioned their god-beliefs accordingly.
That is why we find a very good clarity in the way gods are mentioned in Sangam texts.
The poem with meaning will be analyzed in the next post.