IN SEARCH OF A LOST COMMUNITY
I have an interesting story to tell.
Long long ago, while I was doing medicine in Madurai, I also picked up archaeology as a hobby.
My subject of interest was Parambu Malai of Paari and the adjoining areas. My ancesteral hometown Singampunari is just 3 miles from Parambu Malai which is now called Piranmalai. A thousand and five hundred years ago, it was known as ThiruKodungunRam. There are many ancient temples and many more destroyed temples and townships.
One among the totally destroyed entities, was a merchant town - a town which belonged to a merchantile colony - Aruviyur @ Kulasekara Pattinam which was discovered by me. They had a guild called 'Thisai Aayiraththu AinnuuRRuvar' which traded with North India and South East Asia.
The main body of inscriptional evidence came for a temple called Sivapuri.
One of the noteworthy inscriptions belonged to the 12th year of Vikrama Cholza - around 1132 AD.
Who was Vikrama Cholza?
Around 1000 AD, the Pandya country was conquered by RajaRaja Cholzar who named it 'RajaRaja Pandi Mandalam'.
From that time onwards, the Pandya land was under the rule of the Imperial Cholzas who were the descendants of RajaRaja Cholza. His son, Rajendra Cholza I had 3 sons who ruled after him. But there were some mysterious developements and Kulothunga Cholza came to the Cholza throne. He actually belongs to the Eastern Chalukya royal family. But he was the grand son of Rajendra Cholza I through his daughter.
There were some administrative changes during Kuloththunga's time.
After him, his fourth son Vikrama Cholza came to power. He ruled from 1120 to 1150.
In the inscription was a term 'VaaLilaar'.
They were an elite army corps of specialised swordsmen. The Emperor endowed land
as udhirappatti to the VaaLilaar and also to their servants who do not bear arms.
Udhirappatti is a grant of taxless cultivated land which would be enjoyed by the descendants of the warrior who died for the Emperor. The land was in lieu of the blood shed by the warrior. Hence the term 'udhirappatti'.
I started my search for the place which was given as 'udhirappatti' and if possible find the descendants of the VaaLilaar army.
In the course of my search, I was told that there is a very small hamlet called
'Vaal-LLa Chukkaampatti' which even in 1969 did not have buses going to their place. There was no proper road.
It was quite an interior place with no electricity until a few years ago.
Something struck me as bearing some similarity and connection with the VaaLilaar.
It was a few miles south-west of Singampunari. So I decided to make a visit to the place.
The people who knew the place told me that there is no road. I will have to cycle parts of the way and mostly I will have to walk.
I had to pass through Kannamangala Patti and then proceed to Kumari Patti.
Although both of them bear the name 'Patti', Kannamangalam was a big town one thousand years ago. It was a subcapital of the region. The local feudatory had his seat of government there. It also had a big fort. KumariPatti also had a fort. There is a place which people used to identify as 'KOttai'. They used to hold some sort of worship in the place where the 'KOttai' was.
I passed through these places.
I had to cycle there and several miles had be covered pushing the bicycle over the varappus - bunds between rice fields.
On the way, the drinking water finished. And mid-day was fast approaching. Hunger pangs also started.
After losing our way, we were wandering.
Suddenly, a tall youth appeared. He had long brown hair - what we would call 'sempattai mayir'. And he had pale brown eyes and sharp-cut features.
He certainly did not look like a typical Tamilian.
He told me the direction to VaLiiaa Chukkaampatti.
I was very curious because the youth had a Caucasian look with sharp features. I
asked him what community he belonged to. He said he was a KOnaar. I have seen some Konars in the neighbourhood of Singampunari who had sharp features with Caucasoid appearances.
Then we went to VaaLilaa Chukkampatti. We reached the place by afternoon.
This is the area where VaaLilaa Chukkampatti is situated. Within the triangle bounded by Singampunari, Karungalakudi and Thumbaipatti. You can see outlines of a fort/
We asked for some water. They gave nice well-water which we drank to our fill. Then they followed up with young coconuts That took care of the intense thirst and hunger.
It was inhabited by a certain caste of people called Val-LLa PiLLaimaar. The whole uRavinmuRai was called 'Vaalulaa-manai'.
The chief of the community was Sundararaja Pillai.
Again Caucasoid features. If he had had fair skin, he would easily pass for a Greek/Roman or Iranian.
I asked whether he had any copper grants.
He admitted that there was a copper plate given during ancient times. He said nobody can read what is written in the grant.
I asked him whether the land and the village belonged to them.
He answered that a very large tract of land once belonged to them, given by the 'RaasaakkaL' during their time. But the predominating community from the surrounding area appropriated all the land.
It is true. it was a very large area belonging to that predominating community.
In the middle of this area was this tiny island of Vaal-LLa Pillaimaar.
They said they were a branch of a community called KaaraaLar.
The KaaraaLar were another mysterious people of unknown antiquity with connections to a very important branch of the Tamil ruling class.
The Val-LLa piLLaimaar were the descendants of the VaaLilaar warriors who were awarded by Vikrama Cholza.
They were still around after 900 years.
Thats how I discovered a lost 'community'.
Now coming to the copper plate.....
It was in a worn out state. It seems that the owners had been polishing it on and off.
The letters were not clear. They kept it in pujai.
But they had other edu leave records of later times where the name 'Vaalilaa PiLLaimaar' was mentioned.
I told them that they were the descendants of warriors and there was an inscription in Sivapuri temple.
I did not tell them anything more because it would start an intercaste war. Probably
they might get annihilated by the predominating communities surrounding them, if they knew that Vikrama Cholza, the son of Kuloththunga Cholza I, had given the large tract of land.
It corresponds to what SundaraRaja Pillai said, "The land was given by the RaasaakkaL".
This happened sometime before 1972.
I left for Malaysia in 1973.
One man wrote a Thesis on Singampunari SevugaPerumaL Temple based on my valuable findings for his M.A., sometime in 1986. My brother's daughter used my discovery
of Aruviyur for her M.A. thesis. Earlier, a present day professor of Tamil in Tiruchi made
use of my Parambu Malai research for his Ph.D. Another one used it for M.A.Thesis.
Another one used the stuff about the merchant community of Aruviyur for his thesis.
In 2000, when I went to India, I was visited by a few scholars. One of them wanted
the material on VaaLilaar because he was doing a research.
So we may have something on VaLilaar after all these years.