Friday, 21 October 2016

The Mysterious European Statue In Brihadeeswara Temple

Please view the video above before reading further. Turn on the audio. You can also click on Ancient Indian Sculptures show International Connections - Brihadeeswarar Temple 

There is a sculpture of a European man carved on the gopuram (tower)  of Thanjavur's Brihadeeswara temple. Some people believe that king Rajaraja Chola had international contact with Europe and this is why there is such sculpture on the temple. I don't know if Rajaraja had any European contact but I doubt this was made by the Cholas.

If you look at the sculpture it is flanked by a pair of female attendants. Usually, female attendants are used for female deities and male attendants for male deities. So it is quite odd that the Cholas considered to use female attendants for a male European figure. This is the first hint we get indicating that the European image was not made by the Chola sculptors of the 11th century AD. 

It was perhaps done under the orders of a British officer who cared less about temple sculpture rules.

We can get some answer if we look at British records. There is something written by Clements R.Markham in his book A Memoir on the Indian Surveys which was published in 1871. He mentioned about an accident which happened at the Brihadeeswarar temple involving Colonel William Lambton.

The Colonel who was back then a Major, was given the task to measure and map British India. Measurement was done using an instrument called the theodolite.

The theodolite used by Lambton weighed over 1000 pounds. It was made by William Cary for the Great Survey of India. Lambton brought it to India in 1802 when he was a Captain.

The 3 foot theodolite made by William Cary for the Great Survey of India in 1802. It was later revised by Barrow, photographed on the gallery during the exhibition 'Science in India' at the Science Museum, London in 1982. Weighing over 1000 pounds, the theodolite was taken to India by Captain Lambton in 1802 and later used by Colonel Sir George Everest (1790-1866), Surveyor General of India, in the Great Trigonometrical Survey of India (1830-1843). The equipment's extreme solidity was needed to ensure that the readings were of the highest accuracy. In 1849, survey officer James Nicolson also used this theodolite to establish that a peak on Mount Everest, then known as peak 'b', was the highest in the world. In 1865, the mountain was named after George Everest by the Royal Geographical Society as a tribute to his pioneering work in mapping India. This tribute came in spite of Everest's own belief that mountains should be known by their local names. Source: Science Museum Photo Studio

Lambton made some workers to carry the theodolite up the Brihadeeswara gopuram. This was done so that he can get better readings. The theodolite broke away and fell to the ground dislodging a statue on the wall as it plunged down. 

This means the original statue was broken and the wall was damaged. Lambton probably then asked a local sculptor to repair the damaged portion of the wall with the image of himself. Even the hat on this image does not look like it belonged to the 11th century AD.

So now you know that the story in the video above about the European connection is after all a myth created in recent times.

Lambton. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Why Tamil Barbers Don't Work on Tuesdays?

Picture Credit Malaysia Daily

The Tamil barbers are called Ambattar, Navidar or even Pariyari. They are also called Maruthuvar which carries the same meaning as "doctor" or "medical practitioner". 

This is because the Tamil barbers also served as surgeons during ancient times. Some are still involved with native medicinal practices especially massages. If you have a bad sprain or a stiff neck, the Tamil barber is probably the best person who can fix it for you.

In the past, the Tamil barbers will not work on Tuesdays. Their shops will be closed. But nowadays they no longer do this. The shops will be opened every day.

Why was there a tradition of not working on Tuesdays?

Tuesday is the day of Mars (Chevvai). As per Hindu tradition (also Greeks & Romans) Mars is associated with fights, quarrels, wars and anything aggressive. This is why the God of War, Muruga and his mother Durga are worshipped on this day. 

It is believed that anything associated with Mars is suitable for violent purpose. This also includes injuries whether wanted or unwanted. So as per Hindu astrological belief, it is best to avoid sharp weapons or objects on Tuesdays as it can cause injuries. 

So the Tamil barbers of the past don't use their scissors and shaving blades on Tuesdays and it became their off day.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Kabali - What Malaysians Need to Know


As expected, Kabali was received well worldwide. Rajini fans particularly those in Malaysia are very excited about this movie. They believe that PA Ranjith did an excellent work by telling the story of the Indians in Malaysia.

On a personal note, I think Rajini should do more films which shows him as an aged man. It suits him better. Just like what Amitabh Bachan is doing. An aged don Rajini certainly looks better than the young Rajini in Kuselan or Lingga.

Many reviewers from India have stated that Kabali is a Dalit story and not just about the Indians in general. However, the reviewers in Malaysia seem to disagree with it as they believe that there is no caste stereotype in the movie.

Unknown to the Malaysian fans, the Indian reviewers were not wrong. They were right about the review. There are certain elements in Tamil cinema which is understood by those in India but not by those in Malaysia.

Whether we like it or not, caste is a big thing in Tamil cinema. Gone are the days where caste is mentioned openly like in Thevar Magan, Chinna Gounder or Vedham Puthithu. There are many indirect references to caste in present day Tamil movies.

Let me give you some examples:

Sillunu Oru Kathal - Surya is the Thevar boy who falls in love with Bhoomika the Gounder girl of Coimbatore. The father rejects their love and takes Bhoomika away. This movie is inspired by actual love stories which happened in Coimbatore. During the last century, there were migration of Thevar people particularly Maravars from Ramnad and Tirunelveli into Coimbatore which is predominantly a Kongu Vellala Gounder area. After the migration, there has been instances of Thevar-Gounder love story. This is what they showed in the movie. During Surya's arranged marriage with Jothika in the movie, there will be a song. In the song, there is mention of Alagu Thevar, Ambasamudram (an area in Tirunelveli) and Sudalai Madan, the tutelary God of the Maravars in Tirunelveli.

Ejamaan - The movie is about the feud between the Gounder Pattakarar families. The names Vallavarayan and Vanavarayan are titles used by Kongu zamins. In the movie, there will be a dispute between Rajinikanth and Napolean over who should marry Meena. For this, the father of Meena, played by Vijaykumar suggest they compete in their traditional sport which is Rekhla. This bullock cart race is the traditional sport of the Gounders in the western region of Tamil Nadu. 

Rajini Murugan - It is about love stories and wealth dispute among Kallars in Madurai. The panchayat scene involving Raj Kiran and Samuthrakanni is referring to the traditional panchayat of the Kallar feudal lords in Madurai. Not any ordinary Tamil movie panchayat. Parts of Madurai forms the traditional Nadu system known as Kallar Nadu.

In Tamil cinema, references to Madurai, Jallikattu is associated with the Mukkulathor.
Coimbatore, Pollachi, Rekhla refers to Gounders.

Karaikudi refers to Chettiars
Words like Annachi refers to Nadars

There is also color symbolism used in reference to castes or social groups

Red & Yellow or Green & Yellow for the Mukkulathor (Thevar)
Yellow or Yellow, Blue and Red for Vanniyars (Palli. In Malaysia called as Vanniya Gounder)
Black & Light Blue for Dalits

Black or Black & Red for Dravidian supporters
Red for Marxist and Naxalites
Orange for Hindutva
Green & White for Muslims

This is how they insert the caste theme into their movies. It also has a regional flavour and goes well with the movie viewers back in Tamil Nadu because the people understand these symbolisms.

Along this line, we have PA Ranjith who brings in the culture of northern Chennai with the intention of highlighting the Dalit community, especially the Paraiyar community. He is a very creative film maker and tries to be realistic in his approach.

His movie Madras is about the politics involving Dalit youths in Chennai. The song "Yengga Oor Madras, Ingga Nangga Thaan Address" is about them. In the song, you can even see Karthi reading a book entitled Theendatha Vasantham. It is a book about Dalits. 

During the song "Agayam Thee Pidithal Nila Kayuma", you can see a quick glimpse of a couple behind Karthi. It resembles Ilavarasan the Dalit youth and his Vanniyar girlfriend Divya. The girl's churidar in this song clip resembles the flag of Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK), a political party for the Vanniyars. Do a quick search in Google about the Ilavarasan case. I don't wish to elaborate further.

Kabali is no exceptional. There are Dalit elements in this movie which some Malaysians refuse to acknowledge.

The movie Kabali is about a Malaysian man from the rubber estates. He fights for the estate workers and rise to become a don. He also runs a foundation to rehabilitate troubled youths. This idea of foundation was taken from our very own Myskills foundation.

To the general Malaysian public, Kabali is the story of Indian plight in Malaysia. Therefore, our local reviewers rejected the caste tag which the Indian reviewers mentioned.

This is what most of us didn't notice about Kabali.

The movie starts with a description of gang activities in Malaysia. It then shows Kabali in prison reading a book entitled My Father Baliah. What is this book about? The book is about a Dalit family from Telangana which goes through hardship. By showing this scene, Ranjith made things clear just like how he did in Madras. The opening scene establishes that the hero of the movie is a Dalit. 

Then throughout the entire movie, there are references to Ambedkar, the famed Indian leader who struggled for Dalit uprising in India. There are also scenes which shows portraits of Ambedkar and Buddha. 

Usually, in the Indian political sense, Buddha-Ambedkar combination is an expression of Dalit uprising. Even today, you can see this form of expression used by Dalit political outfits in India.

Then during the session with students in the foundation, Kabali's friend Ameer explains that Tamils will take their caste and religion wherever they migrate to. He also tells that Kabali was rejected by Valli's family. In the movie, we know that both Kabali and wife were Hindu Tamils. So the rejection mentioned here is intercaste marriage. 

Then during the scene in the gang gathering, Tamilmaran mentions that it was a mistake by his family to even allow Kabali enter his house. Another reference to caste stigma practised during that era.

There is a direct provocation found in Kabali's song Ulagam Oruvanukka (Is The World Only For One). This song was written by lyricist Kabilan.

Mettukudiyin koopadu ini naatukulle kekkadhu 
(The voice of the upper caste won’t be heard in the country anymore)

Kalagam Seidhu Aandaiyarin Kadhai Mudippan 
(End the story of the upper caste by creating chaos)

The word Mettukudi and Aandaiyar refers to the traditional upper castes of the Tamil society, the non-Dalits like the Thevars, Pillais, Mudaliars, Gounders and Chettiars. 

Even in the caste themed movie Thevar Magan, we can't find offensive lyrics. The movie only focused on  caste pride, internal feud and honour. 

In Thevar Magan, there were phrases like "Thekku Thisai Aanda Mannar Inam" (The Royal race which ruled southern land).  But Thevar Magan or even movies like MadhaYanai Kootam did not provoke the Thevars (Mukkulathor) to attack the Dalits. Because those movies were about internal fighting within the same community.

But the lyrics in Kabali is about Dalits vs Non-Dalits. 

These elements in the movie only confirms the first scene in prison involving the book, that Kabali is a Dalit and it is about Dalit uprising.

There are some truth in Kabali about the Malaysian Indian plight such as discrimination in education, estate fragmentation, gangsterism though not accurately described. 

For example, unequal wage between Chinese and Indians didn't happen in the 90s, it happened in the 40s and earlier. But those are probably just minor errors in his movie. 

He did well in showing how some words like sareke, ponne, semme, gaadi, lah, are used by Malaysians. The gang ritual involving guardian deities and the funeral scene were fantastic. Ranjith did his homework well to understand local culture.

Although we would like to see the movie as a Malaysian Indian story, we need to accept the bitter truth that it was made by a non-Malaysian influenced by Ambedkarism and Dalit politics. PA Ranjith inserted caste elements which are irrelevant.

The Malaysian Indian plight is a class struggle involving all Indians in this country irrespective of caste. Therefore, it was not necessary to show My Father Baliah or Ambedkar-Buddha in Kabali as those things are about Dalit politics in India and not about us in Malaysia. 

One movie which showed the Malaysian Indian plight well was Jagat. There is a difference between Jagat and Kabali. Jagat's movie makers are Malaysians and they understood the local class struggle better.

PA Ranjith should have used elements which are more general in nature and one that reflects struggle from a class perspective and not a caste perspective. He could have used books or portraits which are more relevant to Malaysians.

It is for these reasons reviewers from India has labelled Kabali as a Dalit story instead of a typical Malaysian Indian story. Of course we Malaysians do not realise it because most of us are not even aware of casteist themes and Dalit elements in cinema which I explained here.

So we can't blame those reviewers because that is how Ranjith has made the movie look like for them.

Indian reviews:

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Muruga & Naga Worship

Muruga or Skanda is the God of war for the Hindus. He is the general of the Devas. Hence he is also known as DevaSenapathi. Muruga's mother is Durga,  the Goddess of war and also victory. The Tamils call her Kotravai. Muruga has many names. Each name has its own meaning.

One of it is Subramanya. MahaPeriyava mentioned that Subrahmanya also known as Subbarayadu in Telugu region refers to serpents or nagas. In the state of Karnataka, there is a temple called Kukke Subramanya temple. In this temple, Muruga is worshipped as the Lord of Serpents. This is something uncommon for many Hindus especially the Tamils.

Kukke Subramanya

However, even in Tamil Hindu temples, he is indirectly worshipped as the Lord of Serpents. It is just that we do not realise it.

Do you notice that there is often a separate shrine under the arasamaram (Sacred Fig) in our temples?
Do you also notice that in this shrine, the statue of Vinayagar is often paired up with a statue of naga?

There is also a ritual where devotees will go around the Vinayagar statue under this arasamaram.

It is best to first drench ourselves wet before doing that. The logic given is that the oxygen from the tree is taken in not only through breathing but absorbed by the wet skin thus cleansing ourselves. It also activates our chakras. It is some sort of therapy for the well being of the mind and body.

So the concept here is to first cleanse ourselves before continuing. The ancient wise people knew that not everyone had the capacity to understand the scientific reason behind. So they placed the statue of Vinayagar and the naga under the tree. They then tell the people that if they go around this two statues good things will happen to them. The people then just do it without understanding the actual reason behind.

One thing to realise here is that they could have used any statues and tell the people to go around the tree. But why did they put Vinayagar and that too paired up with a naga statue?

When we cleanse and energise ourselves, our chakras will be activated. Our Nadi will flow smoothly. Our nervous system will function well.

Vinayagar represents the first chakra in our body, the Mooladhara. This is why he is shown as the first God to be worshipped before any ritual. Activate the Mooladhara first before proceeding to other chakras. The naga statue which you see is actually Subramanya or Muruga.


Let's take a look at Murugan iconography. Muruga is often shown together with his two consorts, Valli and Devasena. There is another scientific reason for this.

There are many Nadi in the human body. To understand what Nadi is all about, you can do a quick Google search. Of the various Nadis, there are 3 main ones. It is known as Ida, Pingala and Sushumna.

Valli is Ida
Devasena is Pingala
Muruga is Sushumna

Both Ida and Pingala coils together with the Sushumna in the centre. When you look at it, it looks like serpents. Hence, this image of the Nadis is shown in the form of naga statues. Since the Nadis begin in Mooladhara, the statue of Vinayagar representing Mooladhara and naga representing Muruga with his consorts is kept as a pair under the tree.

So going around the arasamaram by having these two as focal point is a symbolic way of telling us that when you go around, inhale the air under the tree, you activate your Mooladhara and that is good for your Nadi and nervous system!

This is why Muruga or Subramanya is worshipped as the Lord of Serpents.

Monday, 7 March 2016

Why Must There Be Vedas, Agamas and Puranas?

Shiva as Dakshinamurti, teaching the Sanatkumaras after crushing the Ego under his foot.
The Hindu scriptures can be classified in many ways. What is more important is that we understand the essence of these scriptures. It is also important to know the difference between the various types of scriptures.

If the scriptures share the same root and same message, why do they exist in different forms? Why must there be Puranas if there are already Vedas? If Vedas are revelation of non-human origin, why must there be another scripture of non-human origin known as the Agamas ? Isn't it redundant to have too many scriptures? 

To answer these questions, I will summarise it according to contemporary perspective.

We know 1 + 1 = 2, 5 x 9 = 45 or 9/3 = 3. This is basic Maths. It can be further expanded into equations such as the ones we see in Trigonometry, Tan A = Opposite/Adjacent = a/b = a/c X c/b = (a/c)/(b/c) = Sin A/Cos A. This can get even more complicated. We also know that fire burns. We then notice that fire requires oxygen, fuel and heat. Fire can be used to cook food and warm our bodies. This is basic Mathematics and Science.

This basic knowledge can be developed into specialized knowledge i.e Engineering. Say you want to build a rocket, you need to first understand how fire and explosion works. You also need to develop the right fuel. Proper materials need to be used to construct the body. The trajectory of the rocket have to be calculated using Physics and Advanced Mathematics. A computerized system must be placed in order to navigate the rocket. All these must be put together so that your rocket can take off and reach its destination without any failure. 

The layman may not have the time or convenience to study your Science, Mathematics or anything advanced that came from it. But you need to tell him about this technology which you have. You need to share the knowledge. Although he may not understand how it was made, he needs to at least understand that it exist. He needs to know the good and bad of it. So you develop Science Fiction movies like Star Wars. In this movie, you tell the story of a rocket which was launched from Earth by a race of Humans. The rocket travels to a star far away. Many things happen during its journey and the viewer sees it through your movie. He feels happy, sad, angry, puzzled, awed when he watches it. He does not know how you made it. He does not understand the technical aspects of its creation. He may even have his own interpretation of the story. But he will learn something from what you have showed him. He will benefit from it and apply it accordingly.

If Vedas are like Mathematics and Science, then the Agamas are like Engineering and the Puranas are like Science Fictions.

All these can then be further summarised into simplified methods. This methods have the essence of Vedas, Agamas and Puranas. Since it is simplified, it will be much more easier to be understood by the common people. Method is known as Murai in Tamil. Since this methods shown by great sages is sacred (Thiru) to the Tamil people, it is known as Thirumurai.

Therefore, for the Tamil speaking Siva devotees, the Thirumurai is a conclusion and summary of our sacred scriptures. The Thirumurai has the breath of the Vedas, the spirit of the Agamas and the wisdom of the Puranas.

May this article of mine open your mind on this Maha Shivarathri day!
Hara Hara Mahadeva!

Friday, 26 February 2016

Tamil New Year - What Year Is It?

Picture Credit: huffingtonpost

In my previous two articles on Tamil New Year, I wrote about the two types of solar calendar, the myth of Tamil calendar starting in Thai instead of Chitra, the 60 years cycle and the science of the calendar itself. I even explained in detailed why the Tamil Calendar starts on 1 Chitra. You can read both articles at the following links.

Tamil New Year Date
The Science Behind Tamil Calendar

Today I will explain about another important matter. The Dravidian ideologist claim that the present calendar followed by Tamils is not suitable because the years do not have a numeric value. They claim that only the Tiruvalluvar Calendar has a numeric value.

So according to them, the Gregorian Year 2016 AD is Tiruvalluvar Year 2047 because they claim that Tiruvalluvar was born in 31 BC. But as explained in my previous articles, there is no evidence to show that Tiruvalluvar was born in 31 BC. So we cannot assume. 

Furthermore, Tamil civilization existed for thousands of years even before Tiruvalluvar was born. So it is a great insult to our Tamil society if we cut down the age of our calendar to just 2047 years.

There are 4 Yugas and we are currently in the 4th one known as Kali Yuga. Yugas are a period of time which we call as Epoch in English. The present Yuga or Epoch began somewhere around 18 February 3102 BC. This is equivalent to 1 Chitra Kali Yuga 0.

But at present, 1 Chitra starts somewhere around 13-14 April and not February like how it was 5118 years ago!

The Tamil Calendar is based on Constellation. Constellations are the Zodiacs. They are a coordinates of stars and their position in space is fixed. 

The speed of Earth's own rotation and its orbit around the Sun is not fixed. The speed changes. It can go faster or even slower. This means that a year can be 365 days or 365 days (+ or -) a few minutes/hours. 

To understand this, imagine yourself driving your car in a circle around the roundabout. You need to make complete circles.

1st round 1 minute
2nd round 1 minute + 3 seconds

3rd round 56 seconds

The actual 1 year of Earth is when Earth moves from Point A, orbits around the Sun until it re-enters Point A. It has to make a full circle.

The Westerners invented the Gregorian calendar and they made a rule that once every 4 years, there will be an extra day. This is why our February is either 28 days or 29 days. It is done to accommodate the different length of time of Earth's orbit.

But this Gregorian Calendar is not accurate because although the time is fixed, it will not reflect the actual year or the moment Earth enters Point A.

The ancient Tamils knew the exact moment because their science of astronomy was better than the Westerners. So they made Constellation as the referral point. 

In our calendar, 1 Chitra starts the moment Earth enters into Aries as per the Sidereal system. The Earth then orbits the Sun and the next moment it returns to Point A is taken as the next new year. Point A is the starting point of Aries.

Since the speed changes, the Earth will not always return to Point A at the same time. This is why when Tamil New Year date is announced by temples, they will mention the exact time it starts. This shows that we calculate it so accurately to the exact moment Earth completes the full circle.

Say for example, this year it starts at 5:43 am. Next year it could be 7:15 am. The following year could be 8:23 am. For 3 years, it will be on the same day because minutes of differences will not be noticeable. 

But if we plus or minus minutes for each year for about 5000 years, the difference of the starting point will be so wide that it could be falling on different Gregorian months.

This is why the new year and the new epoch 1 Chitra Kali Yuga 0 started on 18 February 3102 BC. The speed of Earth's orbit around the Sun since then has been changing.

So in 2016 AD, Tamil New Year will start on 14 April which is equivalent to 1 Chitra Kali Yuga 5118.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Penang Thaipusam & The Chettiars

A Malaysian Indian politician based in Penang recently expressed his unhappiness over the Chettiar community for dominating the Thaipusam celebration in Penang. 

The points raised by the politician is highlighted in Yellow. My comments will be in the usual White. I have also included some supporting documents. So after you read the comments, scroll down to view the attachments.

You can then judge if that politician should have said such things.

Chettiars, an exclusive caste group?
There is growing resentment amongst ordinary Indians in Penang that the Chettiars of the Sri Balathandayathabani (Murugan) temple, Waterfall Road, Penang, should cease organising the annual Thaipusam silver chariot procession. Public donations from this procession are meant for their own sub-caste or sub-community!

We have no evidence to support any allegations that the Chettiars are using public funds for their own caste purpose. If there is evidence, then it should be taken up legally. I believe the Penang Hindu Endowment Board can do it if they are 100% sure about it.

It was the Tamil labourers who organised the chariot procession when the Arulmigu Balathandayathabani (Hilltop Murugan temple) was established more than 100 years ago. However, why and how this was taken over by the Nagarathars or the Nattukootai Chettiars remains a mystery until today.

The Vel was planted by Tamil workers. Vel worship was conducted even during Francis Light's era. There was a shrine for this Vel. There were kavadis and this was mentioned by James Low in the 1800s. However, the Balathandayuthapani temple was only constructed in 1855 after the British allocated land to relocate the shrine. 

It is indefensible to say that the Chettiars were the first to organise the silver chariot procession in Penang.

The Chettiars were the first to organize Silver Chariot procession. This started in 1894. The chariot was purchased from their native Karaikudi region and was shipped into Penang in the SS Ronna vessel. Prior to this, they organized Wooden Chariot procession beginning 1856. There is no record of any Silver Chariots in Penang before 1894. The Wooden Chariot was made from Burma teak. In that era, Chettiars were the only ones who were financially capable of purchasing chariots made from Burma Teak or Silver. The Wooden Chariot was then given to another Chettiar temple in Medan, Indonesia. 

The Chettiars, a caste or sub-community amongst the Tamils have a quite a high profile due to their economic and financial success. During the British colonial days they were involved in money lending activities in places like Malaya, Burma and Singapore. Following political independence and nationalization of foreign properties in Burma, Chettiars lost their property and many fled to India. Similarly in Malaya they were mainly involved in money lending activities as far back as the late 19th century. In fact, it would not be incorrect to say that they nearly owned nearly half of the lands in Malacca and had considerable land ownership in states like Perak, Negeri Sembilan, Selangor and Penang. Again fearing that their properties would be nationalized in Malaya, many of them sold their properties and left for India.The Malay Reservation Act was introduced by the British in the early 20th century mainly to curb the non-Malays especially the Chettiars from acquiring Malay lands by way of money lending activities. This fact has been well demonstrated in the historical works on British colonialism and the role of immigrant communities.

I agree with this :)

The Chettiars although they are Tamils, speak the same language and observe all the rituals and customs of Tamils in relation to religious and cultural practises, they think themselves as a class apart from ordinary Tamils, especially those who are members of the working class. This is not only true in Tamil Nadu but also in Malaysia and other parts of the world.

The Tamil society has its own diversity. Some customs are only observed by the Chettiars and nobody else. There are some differences in the rites. You can Google about their marriage customs or even their cuisine. This is why there is even a separate Tamil cuisine known as Chettinadu Samayal. Although we are Tamils, we have our differences.

Due to to their sheer economic and financial success in comparison to the larger Tamil population, they always want to remain distinct and seek to differentiate themselves from the larger proletarian Tamils through various ways. The choosing of marriage partners is always within their community. Marriages outside their sub-caste are quite infrequent. 

The choosing of marriage partner from the same caste is done not only by the Chettiars but also other castes. This is a normal practice and not something new. I wonder why the politician singled out the Chettiars as though they are the only ones who do it.

Temples owned and managed by the Chettiars are exclusively meant for this own community although they do not bar other Hindus from entering and worshipping the gods.

The politician once posted a picture of himself visiting his ancestral temple in India. That temple is also managed by their own caste people and it is not open to public. At least the Chettiars allow other people into their temples. By the way, the practice of ensuring that temple ownership and management is kept within their own caste is done by almost every caste in Malaysia. Can the politician guarantee that his caste people don't do it like the Chettiars?

Although the Chettiars collect donations from the public through temple activities, however, these are never given back to the poor Indian community. These donations are very often channelled to the Chettiar community in Malaysia or repatriated for their members in Tamil Nadu or elsewhere.

Again, if there are facts to support that funds have been mismanaged, then it must be taken up legally.

Given the exclusivity of the class and caste basis of the Chettiar community, the rank and file Tamils do not have a positive or healthy respect for them. This is precisely the reasons why Tamil in general do not attend in large numbers to Hindu festivals organised by the Chettiars in the country.

Speak for yourself. I have no issues with Chettiars. The Chettiars have successfully organized Penang Thaipusam for approx 160 years. The crowd never seem to be reducing. So it is wrong to say Tamils in general do not attend it. 

In Penang, this is the reason why many Tamils think that the Chettiars should not organise the annual Thaipusam procession and collect public donations. This is simply due to the fact that public donations are not used for educational and welfare needs of the larger and poorer Tamil community.

Again, speak for yourself and please take it up legally.

Historically speaking, it was the Tamil labourers who used to organise the annual Thaipusam silver chariot procession even before the coming of the Chettiars to Penang. The PHEB which manages the Arulmigu Balathandayathabani (Hilltop Murugan temple) wants this procession to be "returned" to the rightful temple!

How can the Tamil labourers organize Silver Chariot procession when the first Silver Chariot was introduced in 1894 and that too by the Chettiars? Please show evidence that there was a Silver Chariot prior to the one purchased by the Chettiars.

In sharp contrast to the Chettiar's Murugan temple, the temple under the jurisdiction of the Penang Hindu Endowments Board (PHEB) caters for all Hindus, irrespective of their caste or linguistic background.

Good. Well done. Baleh!

Given the differential orientation of these two temples, it is only fair and just that the PHEB be given the responsibility to organize the silver chariot procession from next year onwards. This will also mean that the Hilltop Murugan temple started by the poor Tamil labourers is restored its original right.

Ah! So your aim is to take over the Silver Chariot procession. 

Indians in are beginning to wonder as to why the Chettiars are immune to the sensitivity of the larger Indian community in Penang. Money collected from the public in the name of Lord Muruga only goes to serve the interests of their own caste-based members.

Don't wish to repeat the same comment again and again. I just began to wonder why PHEB is not taking any legal action if the Chettiars are mismanaging public funds.

Even though the Chettiars, I mean the temple committee, promised to give a donation to the PHEB last year, a portion from the public funds, they have not done so yet.

I cannot comment on this as it looks like some "hidden deal"

Regretably, during the recent Thaipusam, there was hardly a crowd to welcome the Penang Chief Minister at the Chettiar's temple. Those who came in to the hall the last moment were those who followed the Chief Minister. The Chettiar temple committe not only insulted members of the Penang state government but also the Penang Chief Minister. This was the feeling of those who attended the gathering inside the temple compound.

It is Thaipusam. The main hero is Muruga. So it should not matter even if the CM was not welcomed unless you think that you politicians are bigger than him and you deserve a grand welcome. Usually, devotees get annoyed only when they see these politicians getting special treatment by temple committee. I am yet to see any true devotee who gets angry because some politicians didn't get the red carpet. 

Enough is enough! The Chettiar temple committee members have taken the Penang Indians for a long ride. Something must be done to ensure that their temple do not use the Thaipusam festival to collect public funds to assist their own caste members. Poor and ordinary Indians are not the beneficiaries of the public funds that flow into the Chettiar temple. This is in stark contrast to the PHEB which collects public funds during religious festivala and are used to give educational grants to poor Indian students and to those who are in need of medical assistance. There is also an allegation that those who are involved in the management of the Chettiar temple are not even citizens of Malaysia! If this is true, how can they manage the temple and collect public funds during religious festivals?

Again, public funds......take legal action la

Now, some additional notes from me.

The Nattukottai Chettiar community have been living in Penang island for a long time. Big migration would have happened after 1850s but there were also pockets of other Chettiar castes even before that. For example, in 1801, the British granted land for a temple to one Betty Lingam Chetty, a Gumudi Chettiar.

Muruga is actually the tutelary deity of the Chettiar caste. You may wonder how, since Muruga is known as God of War and Chettiars are merchants. 

Well, Muruga was not only the God of War but he was also the God of Kurinji landscape. The inhabitants of this landscape are known as Kuravars. Among the Kuravars, those who became involved with salt business are known as Uppu Kuravars. This Uppu Kuravars are also known as Chetty and they are linked to the Nattukottai Chetties. 

Muruga is also known as Chetty in the Palani temple. In fact Muruga is also fondly addressed as Chetty Murugan.  Muruga is also addressed as Chetty in the Tirupugazh, a collection of sacred hymns.

chetty enum or thiru namakkara vetri ayil thodu prathapakkara
Translation: You have a beautiful name called Chetti, Oh Lord! You have a lasting fame of wielding the triumphant spear!

The statue of Muruga in Palani is in the form of a young boy with the silambam stick. This form is known as Balathandayuthapani (Bala = boy, thanda = stick, ayutha = weapon). It is the same form worshipped by the Penang Chettiars as their caste deity. 

Now you would understand why the Penang temple is named as Balathandayuthapani Temple. 

When the Chettiars came to Malaya, they promoted Murugan worship. Although Murugan worship was present among other Tamils, it was the Chettiars who made it popular. They spent alot for Murugan temples. They organized many festivals related to Murugan. The other community which made Murugan worship popular is the Ceylonese community.

So prior to 1850s, there was Murugan worship at the Vel shrine near the waterfall. The procession is said to start from the Mariamman temple in Queens Road. 

Before I proceed further, keep in mind that the Mariamman temple did not allow members of the low castes to take part in the past. The doors of the temple was only open to the lower castes in 1935 after a conference lead by Dravidian movement start pressuring in 1933. So before that, members of lower castes were not involved in temple management.

The Chettiyars purchased a chariot made from Burma Teak. Since there was already a procession from the Mariamman temple, the Chettiars decided to introduce a new procession for themselves. This procession starts from the Kovil Veedu and came to be known as Chetti Pusam. 

Over time, people became more interested in the procession organized by the Chettiars because it was much more grand and lavish. 

Furthermore, it had a chariot made from Burma Teak. The Chettiars also organized fireworks display to entertain the crowd. They also gave free food for 3 days. This attracted more crowd. What the Chettiars organized then became the main event. 

Then in 1894, the Chettiars replaced the chariot with a Silver Chariot. The wooden chariot was given to another Chettiar temple in Medan, Indonesia. This new chariot attracted more people as nobody witnessed silver chariot at that time. 

Some people are claiming that Silver Chariot was hijacked by the Chettiars only in 1970s. This is not true. The chariot belongs to them. They used their own money to purchase it. So they kept it. 

The procession starting from Mariamman temple became less popular. In fact, the Mariamman temple purchased their own chariot only in 1916 but they were not able to match the one used by the Chettiars. You can't blame the Chettiars for this. 

The procession from the Mariamman temple was the original procession. The procession organized by the Chettiars, the Chetti Pusam, was later. But today's procession is a continuation of the Chetti Pusam and not the original one by the Mariamman temple. It was the Chettiars who introduced chariots in procession, not the Tamil labourers.

This is why Thaipusam in Penang is dominated by the Chettiar community. It was they who made it grand with their money in the past. So their descendants are now enjoying the privilege which we call as "Muthal Mariyathai". 

Think. Understand the root of tradition. Then comment wisely. Don't let this silly politicians take us for a ride. 


1786 - Francis light gets Penang from Kedah. Renames it as Prince of Wales Island. Notices that Indian workers carry water up the hill to bath the Vel.

1833 - Mariamman temple built in Queens Road. Original Thaipusam procession starts from here. There is mention of kavadi but no chariot.

1854 - Chettiars build Balathandayuthapani temple

1856 - Chettiars introduce chariot made from Burma Teak and start new procession from Kovil Veedu. They call it Chettipusam.

So since 1856 there were 2 procession. More people start to go Chettipusam instead of the one from Mariamman temple. Reason : Free food by Chettiars, much more grand, fireworks display etc

1894 - Chettiars replace chariot with a new Silver Chariot brought from Karaikudi. Wooden chariot given to another Chettiar temple in Medan, Indonesia.

1905 - Mariamman temple goes through management crisis. There was a power crisis.

1906 - Penang Hindu Endowment Board is formed. Temple comes under PHEB.

1916 - Mariamman temple gets their own chariot. Crowd still goes to Chettipusam.

Today's Thaipusam in Penang is based on Chettipusam introduced in 1856, not the earlier one introduced in 1833. The Silver Chariot belongs to the Chettiars as they purchased it using their own money. It was not purchased by PHEB.

Postcard shows the Chetties and chariot in 1940

Postcard shows the Chetties and chariot in 1930

Painting shows the Silver Chariot in 1910

The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884-1942), 12 February 1935, Page 2

The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884-1942), 26 January 1921, Page 6

The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884-1942), 26 January 1940, Page 6

The Straits Times, 3 February 1958, Page 7

The Straits Times, 11 November 1949, Page 4

The Straits Times, 13 January 1962, Page 9

The Straits Times, 26 January 1916, Page 8

Friday, 15 January 2016

The Origin of The Sailendra Dynasty

The Sri Vijayan empire of South East Asia was once a superpower of the region. They controlled over 24,000 islands. This was once a very successful maritime empire. 

Prior to the establishment of Srivijaya, there were other kingdoms such as Tarumanegara and Kutei. Many of these kingdoms were influenced by Indian kingdoms such as the Pallavas and Kalingas. The people of the kingdom were local natives. This includes the royalties. But there were intermarriages with the people and royalties of India.

The Sri Vijayan empire was first mentioned by the Chinese traveller I-Tsing in 671 AD. The earliest record referring to the Sailendra dynasty in Indonesia are in inscriptions. It has a mix of Sanskrit, Javanese and Old Malay.

The oldest reference to the Sailendra dynasty in Indonesia is the Sojomerto Inscription dated around late 7th century AD to early 9th century AD. This is the oldest proof of the Sailendra dynasty in Sri Vijaya. 

The earlier Chinese (671 AD) record and Kedukan Inscription (683 AD) does not mention about the Sailendra dynasty although they speak about the kingdom. But the Kedukan Inscription spoke about a ruler with the name Dapunta Hyang who departed from Minanga Tamwan with 20,000 soldiers and conquered several places.

Some historians claim that this Dapunta Hyang is the same as Dapunta Selendra in the Sojomerto Inscription. Some disagree with it. The Sojomerto Inscription also mentioned the names of Dapunta Selendra's family members. Santanu was his father, Bhadrawathi was his mother and Sampula was his wife.

We can conclude that the name Sailendra or Selendra first appeared in Indonesia during the late 7th century only. If Santanu the father of Dapunta Selendra was the first king, then the rule of Sailendras began in the mid or late 7th century. i.e after 650 AD.

Prior to that, there were no Sailendras in Indonesia. It is generally accepted that they took over from the earlier Sanjaya Dynasty. The Sanjaya Dynasty were Hindus but the Sailendras were Buddhist. 

The kings of the much earlier Funan kingdom centred around the Mekong Delta were known as Sailaraja. There was also a dynasty in Kalinga known as Sailobhava. They existed before the Sailendras during 550-736 AD.

Saila is the Sanskrit word for hill or mountain. Indra or Raja refers to lord. The word Indra also refers to the Vedic deity Indra known as Devendra (Deva + Indra) as he was the lord of the Devas  in heaven. Sailendri refers to the Goddess Parvathi and her husband Shiva can also be addressed as Sailendra.

Before the kings of Funan or Srivijaya addressed themselves as Sailaraja or Sailendra, the Pandyan kings were also addressed as "Minankita Sailendra" which means the "Lord with the Fish Emblem". This is probably associated with Shiva because he is the main God of the Pandyas.

The Pandyans were known under several names. Malayan (Lord of Hill/Mountain), Thennavan (Southerner), Panchavan (The 5 Person) and a few others. Thennavan because they came from south. Panchavan because the Pandyans always rule with 5 kings with 1 king as the main king. 

They were known as Malayan because their original kingdom was further south of India in the remote past. It was known as Kumari and it comprised a chain of islands with many mountain peaks. The original Meru mountain is said to have existed here. Sangam literatures also speak about it.

The origin of the Indian kings is based on Itihasas like Ramayana and Mahabaratha, and the Puranas. According to Hindu tradition Manu son of Surya (Sun) was the progenitor of mankind. This is why humans are called manusha (Sanskrit), manushan (Tamil) or manusia (Malay).

During the Great Flood, Manu was saved by Vishnu in the form of Matsya Avatar (Fish). Manu then had 10 children. His son Ishvaku created the Suryavamsa (Sun lineage) named after his paternal grandfather Surya.

Ishvaku's sister Ila, married Buddha son of Chandra (Moon). That created the Chandravamsa. This means the Suryavamsa and Chandravamsa are cross cousins. 

As per Hindu tradition, major royal families in India originated from either the Suryavamsa or Chandravamsa. Later, other lineages like Nagavamsa, Agnivamsa and Indravamsa were created. Intermarriage with the same lineage is not allowed.

The Pandyas are Chandravamsa
The Cholas are Suryavamsa

The Pandyas of the Chandravamsa also intermarried with those from Indravamsa. For example, according to some version of the Mahabaratha, Arjuna married a Pandyan princess. 

Although Arjuna was the prince of Pandu and Kunti, his actual father was Indra himself. This is one of the earliest reference to marital alliance between the Chandravamsa and Indravamsa. 

There are then many legends of Pandyan king defeating Indra himself, taking away the armour of Indra with him and Indra refusing to give Pandya nation rain out of jealousy. 

There are also mentions of ancient festivals conducted in Pandyan nation in honour of Indra. It is known as Indra Vizha in Tamil. Then there are mentions of Indra offering worship to Siva in Pandyan country.

All these points to coexistence of Chandravamsa and Indravamsa in the Pandyan country much earlier than South East Asia. 

Earlier I mentioned that there was a dynasty in Kalinga named Sailobhava. The Pandyans and the Kalingans even had marital alliances. 

For example, when the Kalingan Prince Vijaya wanted to establish a colony in Sri Lanka, he married the daughter of the Pandyan king. Kalinga and the Pandyas had alot of interaction directly and also via Sri Lanka colonies.

One important thing which we need to understand here is regardless of the kingdoms, the origins of their dynasties be it Chandravamsa or Suryavamsa is as stated in the Hindu scriptures. It began in India and branched out into several royal families. These royal families maintained ties throughout the ages through marriage.

The royal vamsas then spread out to South East Asia. Some royal families in South East Asia, although they are part of a different race and religion today, trace their ancestries to these royal vamsas which began in India.

Pandyans were powerful between the 3rd century BC and 3rd century AD. Pandyan power declined after the 3rd century AD and this is because of the invasion by the Kalabhras. Then in the 6th century, together with the Pallavas, they defeated the Kalabhras and re-established themselves.

Kingdoms rise and fall. There were times the Pallavas were more powerful than the Pandyas allowing them to even spread their wings into South East Asia, then there were times the Pandyans were under the imperial Cholas. During such times, they will either live as feudatory or remain in exile. 

The Burmese historian, Prof Dr.Than Tun (6 April 1923-30 November 2005) mentioned that when the Funan forces withdrew from Pugama or Pugamadavara in 225 AD, the Mon forces and the Pandyas forces occupied it. It was then renamed as Pandya-Pura. It is presently known as Panthwa. ((Ref : Studies in Myanma history, Volume 1).  Dr.Than's works were banned when Burma (Myanmar) was under the Junta regime. He criticized the military regime for trying to hide the history of Myanmar and accused them of rewriting it in favour of them.

There is a dynasty in Assam known as the Ahom dynasty. They too trace their ancestry to Indravamsa. I am not sure if this Ahom dynasty is linked to the descendants of Pandyas who intermarried and mixed with the Mons in Burma 1000 years earlier. It has to be checked but possibilities are there.

The reason I wrote about the Pandyas and their link with those of Indravamsa is to show that there has been some sort of alliance or inter mingling between Chandravamsa and Indravamsa. The Sailendras could be an offshoot of this union. 

An inscription was discovered in Nalanda, Bihar. It was written in the year 860 AD. According to this inscription, the Sailendra ruler from Srivijaya, built a monastery in Nalanda. He was the son of Samaragriwa.

Samaragriwa's wife and Balaputra's mother named Tara was the daughter of Dharmasetu. According to the Nalanda inscription, Dharmasetu belonged to the Lunar race which is Chandravamsa.

We know that Parameswara, the founder of Malacca, belonged to the Sailendra dynasty. His descendants formed the Perak Sultanate. The Perak royalty can be divided into two houses. The first is the Malacca house. They were the direct descendants of Parameswara. This lineage ended in 1635.

Then in 1636, a scion from the Siak royal family in Aceh was crowned as the ruler of Perak. The Siak royal house is also known as Siak Sri Indrapura, meaning Siak City of Indra. 

I previously posted an article about the royal coronation of Perak. You can view it here

An account of the Malay "Chiri" : a Sanskrit formula by Maxwell, William Edward, Sir, 1846-1897

During the coronation, Sanskrit mantras are chanted. The ruler is addressed as Maharaja Indra Chandra Bhupati. This shows that the Perak royal family is of the Chandravamsa and Indravamsa ancestry. 

The Perak regalia contains an object known as Chap Halilintar or The Lightning Seal. Lightning or Thunder represents the Hindu god Indra. This seal was inherited from Parameswara and the image in the seal was previously known as Dewa Petir (Lightning God). After the Malacca rulers became Muslims, Arabic inscriptions were added on the seal.

I told you earlier that the Pandyans were also known as Minankita Sailendra. We know that the traditional emblem of the Pandyas is fish or to be specific, the double carp. But in the 7th century, the Pandyans had an additional emblem.

It was the thunder/lightning flag and this was mentioned about 3 times in the ancient Tamil literature known as Paandikovai by Nakkeerar (not the Nakkeerar who lived earlier). 

To add on, the Agastya cult was brought to Indonesia from India in the 7th century. The worship of Rishi Agastya is not popular among North Indians. It is popular among South Indians and it is associated with the Tamil Siddha Tradition. 

In Indonesia and Malaysia, Agastya is also addressed as Batara Guru (In some places Batara Guru is Shiva himself). In Perak, the Malay bomohs (shamans) often invoke Batara Guru when they perform their magic rituals. 

Agastya was also the kulaguru (family priest) of the Pandyas. This was mentioned not only in the Tamil Sangam literatures but also in the Chinnamanur Copper Plates.

So you see the link now?

References (Please ask me if you cannot find the resources mentioned)
Epigraphica Indiga. No.17-The Nalanda Copper-Plate of Devapaladeva by Hirananda Shastri: M.A, M.O.I Ootacamund
Kedukan Bukit Inscription (683 AD)
Sojomerto Inscription (late 7th century AD - early 9th century AD)
Kalasan Inscription (778 AD)
Pandikovai (Verse 219,307 and 325)
Madurai Tiruvilayadal Puranam
Chinnamanur Copper Plates
Shaman, Saiva and Sufi A Study of the Evolution of Malay Magic, Chapter 2 Gods, Spirits and Ghosts by R. O. WINSTEDT

Note: This article was written to explain the origins of royal lineage. As time goes lineages gets passed into different races. Such process is known as "Dynastic Drift". It is the story about how the Y-DNA travels from a single male ancestor. Although some Malay royalties could trace their ancestry back to India it does not mean they are Indians today.