Mar 31, 2008

History of Gounder Community


Gounder is the name of the head in a system of decentralised panchayat administration used with various regional variations by distinct castes. The root word is Kavunda (கவுண்ட). This system gained political ascendancy during the greatest king of the Ganga dynasty, Durvinita. The posts of the village headmen were usually assumed by the warrior clans of the Kongu Nadu region and so fell to the ruling Gangakulam (ref:Kongudesa rajakkal). The Kongu Vellalar Mangala Vazhthu (மங்கள வாழ்த்து), sung by the Tamil poet and saint Kambar, also strengthens the claim as he blest the marrying couples as ones belonging to Gangakulam."கங்கா குலம் விளங்க கம்பர் சொன்ன" (ref:Mangala Vazhthu).Various other references like the Velalapuranam confirm the claim.The 'kadayezhu vallalkal'or the last seven benovalent rulers hail from the community.References to the community have been found in the Purananooru of the sangam age.
Contents

* 1 Geographical spread
* 2 History
* 3 Political History
* 4 Religion and communal structure of the Gounders:
* 5 Royal houses and gotras:
* 6 Language of Gounders
* 7 The Modern caste:
* 8 Subgroups
* 9 Peculiar customs
* 10 Marriage customs
* 11 Kongu Vellalar Marriage
* 12 Notes

Geographical spread

The traditional Gounder belt is the area now known as Kongu Nadu, derived from Ganganadu (see Gangas) கங்க நாடு (ref:copper plates)(Gangeya in Sanskrit means: "the one descended from Ganga"). This areas now comprises the lower Kaveri catchment basin (after the loss of the upper basin to Kannada), consisting the following districts in the western part of Tamil Nadu: Erode, Coimbatore, Ooty, Karur(excluding Pettaivaithalai region),Dindigul (Palani,Oddanchattiram,Dindugul,Vedasandur and parts homogenous regions of Kodaikkanal taluk), Tiruchirapalli(Tottiyam,Turaiyur taluks and Musiri panchayat union), Salem, Namakkal, Dharmapuri, Krishnagiri,Vellore (Tiruppatur taluk) and Villupuram (Kalrayan taluk). These districts have a Gounder population somewhere between 50 and 80%, while a secondary population of anywhere between 2 and 10% can be found in the districts of Theni, Madurai, Villupuram, Perambalur, Thanjavur (all in Tamil Nadu), Palakkad (in Kerala), Kollegal, Mysore, Chamrajnagar, Kolar, Mandya, and Bangalore (all five in Karnataka).Modern days have seen the emigration of Gounders to Sri Lanka,South Africa,Malaysia,Singapore,U.S.A and theU.K in large numbers.

They adopted family planning very early, even before the Indian Government started advising small families. For the last 30 years 90% of their families do not have more than 2 children. Today one can see single child families in thousands of their families thereby might be credited as the only caste in India having reverse growth ratio.

HistoryThe Gounders claim to be descendant from the ancient Kshatiriya Suriyavamsam (Solar dynasty) through the Gangakulam (preserved in names like Suriya Kangeyan and titles having Kangeyan).There are various theories on the origin of the Gangas.The famous Velala puranam traces the origin through Marapalan the son of river Ganga.The plates in Karnataka (esp Gummireddipura) trace them through sage Kanvayana or Jahnavya.This research paper traces the movement[1] Kanungo: Gangavamsa has spread all over India and the historians are completely silent about it. The kings of the Ganga dynasty had got their pedigree inscribed by their brahmin eulogists as well as the courtiers. In this regard, Dr. S.N. Rajaguru has given the following opinion:“Different royal dynasties, while narrating their genealogy, were eager to identity themselveswith the famous solar or lunar dynasties of the Puranas”. Dr. H. K. Mahatab and other historians have given similar opinions and have said that for this reason the genealogy available from these inscriptions do not tally with the historical facts. For all these reasons, we have to trace out the common men of the Ganga dynasty or Ganga community spread all over India and try to know their ancestry in order to unravel the mystery surrounding the origin of the Ganga dynasty. It can be asserted that the historical Ganga dynasty has evolved from among the common men of the Ganga dynasty or Ganga community. Hence this writer has made an humble attempt to discuss the family history of Ganga dynasty or Ganga community, while trying to establish the origin of the Ganga dynasty. A brief account of the Ganga dynasty available from the inscriptions engraved by the royal dynasties of Ganga community may be discussed. It is known from the inscription of Jainaguru Simhanandi, compiled by B. Lewis Rice that the forefathers of Ganga dynasty coming from Ayodhyapur under the leadership of Vishnugupta had initially settled at Ahichhatra located in the basin of the rivers Ganga and Yamuna. Later on they proceeded to Southern India in quest of new territory. Being advised by Jainaguru Simhanandi, Vishnugupta along with others came to Karnataka and established a new kingdom. According to this inscription the Ganga dynasties of Karnataka and Kalinga had come from Northern India. In the opinion of Dr. N. K. Sahu, both the western and eastern Ganga dynasty belong to one and the same dynasty and they came from North India in 5th century A.D. and established new kingdoms in Kalinga and Karnataka respectively. We cite here the views of B.Lewis. Rice on the above mentioned inscription of Jainaguru Simhanandi: “The origin of the Gangas is derived from Iksvaku and trace back to Ayodhyapura. Under Visnugupta the seat of government was moved to Ahichhatra, which, it is hinted, as Vijayapura. With the arrival of Dadiga and Madhava in the South, at Ganga-perur and the establishment of the Gangavadi kingdom in Mysore aided by Simhanandi, we seem to come to historical events.

It is known from the Vizagapattanam & Korni copperplate inscriptions16 of Chodaganga Dev that by 5th century A.D., eighty kings of the Ganga dynasty had ruled over Gangabadi of Kolahalpur. If one king had ruled at least for a period of twenty years, then these eighty kings would have ruled for about 1600 years. If we consider from this angle the Ganga dynasty had appeared 1600 years before 5th century A.D., which means their origin dates back to 11th century B.C. In this context we may mention that historians have agreed that the Mahabharata war was fought in 9th century B.C. This means the Ganga dynasty had appeared and achieved renown much before the events described in the epic Mahabharata. It has been noted above that Sevananda Bharati has established ancient Tamralipta or Modern Tamluk as the primary abode of the Ganga dynasty.

The Gola caste is an important branch of Go-oda or Gauda caste. The Golas have been divided into branches such as; kadu Gola, Puja Gola, Komi, Jami and Musti etc. They are the important inhabitants ofAndhra Pradesh, Orissa, Karnatak and Tamilnadu. The branches like Uduta, Idiga and Kuduga etc., reside in Southern India and they call themselves Gauda-Gounder.

It is clear from the facts stated in the Madalapanji and Korni copperplate inscription of Chodaganga Dev that the Gangas are the descendants of a king or an individual named Gangeya who belonged to the solar dynasty. While claiming his descent from some Gangeya in his Korni copperplate inscription, he has bidentified both the ancestors and descendants of Gangeya. But all these have been rejected by historians. However, Dr. Rajaguru, basing on the facts stated by Chodaganga Dev, has accepted Gangeya and the Gangas as belonging to solar dynasty.

Another website [www.jaintirths.com/general/ganga dynasty.htm] says, The Ganga dynasty came into existence in 2nd century AD after the name of its founder Gangeya or Gangadutt. Jain Acharya Simhanandi inspired his two disciples Daddigh and Madhav to establish their rule, which they did by constituting the territory of Gangawadi with Kolar as their capital. But actually Madhav Kongunivarma I was the first crowned king of this dynasty, who ruled for a long period during 189-250 AD Jainism was the national religion during his rule. King Durvinit Konguni of this dynasty was the disciple of famous grammarian Acharya Devanandi Pujyapad. Marasingh got victory over several powerful rulers and ruled gloriously. During his last days he became an ascetic. He died with Sallekhana in 974 AD at Bankapur in the feet of his Jain preceptor Ajitsen. The Ganga rulers built several Jain temples and established Jain institutions. [www.ourkarnataka.com/states/history/historyofkarnataka11.htm] says, The Ganga dynasty came into existence in 2nd century AD after the name of its founder Gangeya or Gangadutta. Jain Acharya Simhanandi inspired his two disciples Daddighaa and Madhava to establish their rule, which they did by constituting the territory of Gangawadi with Kolar as their capital. But actually Madhava Kongunivarma I was the first crowned king of this dynasty, who ruled for a long period during 189-250 AD Jainism was the national religion during his rule. King Durvinita Konguni of this dynasty was the disciple of famous grammarian Acharya Devanandi Pujyapad. Marasingh got victory over several powerful rulers and ruled gloriously. During his last days he became an ascetic. He died with Sallekhana in 974 AD at Bankapur in the feet of his Jain preceptor Ajitsena. The Ganga rulers built several Jain temples and established Jain institutions

The Gangas, like the Kadambas, rose to political eminence in the middle of the fourth century A.D., and ruled over the southern parts of Karnataka. Their political hegemony over what was called Gangavadi lasted for a long period of seven centuries. They played an interesting role in the dynastic politics of South India, in which figured many political heavyweights like the Pallavas, the Chalukyas of Badami, the Rashtrakutas and the Cholas.

The origin of the Gangas presents many problems. Some of the later inscriptions provide an account of a tradition which connects the Gangas with Ayodhyapura. Its ruler was Harischandra of the Ikshvaku family, whose daughter-in-law, Vijayamahadevi bathed in the river Ganga and gave birth to a son named Gangadatta, who became the progenitor of the Ganga family. Another version of this legend speaks of Puruvasu, the son of Yayati; the former is said to have propitiated the river Ganga and had a son by name Gangeya, whose descendants were called the Gangas. They are referred to as having ruled from Ahichchatrapura. The legend also has it that one of the descendants of the family by name Bhagadatta established his authority over Kalinga and became the founder of the Eastern Ganga Dynasty.

Another legend describes how the two Ikshvaku princes, Dadiga and Madhava, migrated to Gangaperur in the South, where they met a Jaina teacher Simhanandi who obtained for them a boon from the Goddess Padmavati, confirmed by the gift of a sword and the promise of a Kingdom. Madhava is supposed to have seized a sword and struck at a stone pillar to break it into two pieces. With the blessings and moral admonition of the preceptor Simhanandi, Madhava is said to have founded the Kingdom of Gangavadi with Nandagiri (Nandi Hills near Bangalore) as his stronghold and Kuvalala (Kolar) as the Capital. Robert Sewell, M. Arokiyaswamy and S. V. Vishwanatha are of the opinion that the Gangas belonged to the Kongudesa, and they contend that Perur was in the Coimbatore region.

ref: [www.intamm.com/history/jain.htm]

Jain Vestiges in Coimbatore District
M. AROKIASWAMI, M.A., Ph.D.

COIMBATORE, the headquarter of the district which goes by its name in the State of Madras, is well-known to-day as the "Manchester of South India." There is perhaps not another place in the whole of this region to equal it not only in the numerous spinning and weaving mills it possesses but also in the general standard of wealth, health civilisation and culture. But few are interested in studying the history of this district and particularly the development of culture in this area. Of the era preceding the period of British occupation of the district, which began in 1799, particularly little or nothing is known.

In this paper I propose to make an enquiry into a subject which forms part of a larger whole, viz., the cultural development of the Coimbatore region in early times and the particular subject for enquiry here is an estimate of the Jain contribution to this quota. So many vestiges of Jainism are to be found in this district that there is no doubt about the great influence this religion must have exerted over the people of this region in early times. That it must have been much more than any one would suspect is certain. Names of places like seenapuram clearly remained one of the early jain influent over the region; while old jain shrines found in places like. Vijayamangalam, Tirumurthimalai and Karur bear an equally strong evidence to the same. A figure of the Jain Thrithankara is found in Tirumurthimalai; and a number of Jain beds are found to this day in Arunattarmalai in Karur Taluk while in Arasannamalai near Vijayamangalam the Neminatha temple has been now converted into a Vinayaka temple. Not only this. The district of Coimbatore in early times seems to have been the home of several Jain scholars, not the least of whom was the great Bavanandi, the author of the celebrated Tamil grammar, Nannul, who seems to have lived in the region of Vijayamangalam in Erode Taluk.

It is impossible for us to explain these vestiges unless we postulate a period of Jain glory in the district at some time during its sojourn in South India. The Kongadesarajakkal, a XVII century Tamil Mss., which has been recently edited by Mr. C. M. Ramachandran Chettiar, Advocate, Coimbatore, (Madras Govt, Oriental Series, VI, 1950) brings to light a set of seven rulers called Rattas (Rashtrakutas?) in this region during the period between 250 A.D. and 400 A.D. Many if not all of them are represented in this work as professors and strong supporters of Jainism. (Ibid., pp. 1-2). In the reign of the fourth ruler, Govindaraya, a grant to the jain Arishtanna is mentioned and in that of the sixth ruler, Kannaradeva, the names of three great Jain theologians, of whom one Naganandi is mentioned by name, are referred to. (Ibid)

The history of the origin of the Ganga dynasty of Mysore indicates even more clearly how deep-rooted was janism in the district of Coimbatore in early times. It would appear that in the closing years of the IV century A.D., King Padmanabha of the Gangas had to send his two sons, Dadiga and Madhava to the south by way of preparing himself to meet his enemy, King Mahipala of Ujjain. (Rice; Mysore and Coorg; p. 31). The rest of the narration as found in Rice's words is as follows:

"When they arrived at Perur, which is still distinguished from other Perurs as Ganga-Perur (in Cuddapah district), they met there the Jain Achariya Simhanandi. He was interested in the story of these Ganga princes and taking them by the hand, gave them instruction and training and eventually procured for them a kingdom."(Rice: Op., cit., loc., cit).

Many Ganga records like the Udayendiram plates of Prithvipati II, the Kudlur grant of Marasimha and the Santara inscription on the Huncha stone* bear clear evidence to the fact that Simhanandi gave them a kingdom and that he was a reputed Jain teacher. The last mentioned record indeed refers to him as "the archariya who made the Ganga kingdom.":

"Ganga-rajyaman madida Simhanandy acharyya."(EC., VIII, Nr. 35)Indrabhuti in his Samayabhushana names him as a great poet to be kept on par with Elacharya and Pujyapada. (IA., XII, 20). Still, no better description can be given of Simhanandi than what is found in the Jaina record near the Siddhesvara temple at Kallurgudda in Shimoga Taluk:

"The Vijaya or victory to the farthest shore of learning, the full moon to the ocean of the Jaina congregation, possessed of patience and all the ten excellent qualities, his good life, a secure wealth, rejoicing in the modest, his fame extending to the four oceans, keeping at a distance from the evil, a sun in the sky of the Kranurgana, devoted to the performance of the twelve kinds of penance, promoter of the Ganga kingdom-Sri Simhanandiacharyya."(EC., VII, Sh. 4)

On the other hand we owe to the evidence of inscriptional records like those of the Parsvanathi Basti at Sravana Belgola and others to be seen at Kallurgudda and Purale in Shimoga Taluk that Madhava definitely came under the influence of Simhanandi, who intiated him into jain doctrines and conferred on him a kingdom on condition that he always took care to uphold that Faith throughout its confines. (Ibid, also 64). The latter tow give a detailed account of this origin of the Ganga Kingdom, which deserves to be quoted at least in part, as it gives one an idea of the depth of Jain influence that ruled over the region where the Ganga kingdom was founded:

"On Madhava impressing him with his extraordinary energy... Simhanandi made a coronet of the petals of the Karnikara flowers bound it on Madhava's head, gave them (the two brothers) the dominion of all the earth, presented them with a flag made from his peacock fan and furnished them with attendants, elephants and horses. Along with these he gave them also the following advice: 'If you fail in what you have promised, if you do not approve the Jina sasana; if you seize the wives of others; if you indulge in wine and flesh; if you form relationship with the low; if you give not your wealth to the needy; if you flee from the field or battle-your race will go to ruin.

The question that has to be decided here is the identification of Perur mentioned in ganga records. Taken in conjusction with the history of the Rattas, the Kongadesarajakkal furnishes proof that it was on their fall that the Gangas rose to power and began ruling from Skandapura in Kongudesa (which is the ancient name for the territory comprising the modern disteicts of Coimbatore and Salem). The Chronicle would even inform us that the last Ratta ruler changed his religion from Jainism to Saivism and that was the cause of his downfall. Further, all the early activities of Konganivarman-as the first historical ruler of the Ganga house becomes known in all the records of this dynasty-are confined to this Kongudesa. (Kongadesarajakkal (Or Mss. Edn.) pp. 2-3). It is true that we lack definite epigraphic evidence in support of this, which we have mainly only from the Tamil chronicle above referred to. But it must be remembered that in the first place we have only a few records for the Ganga period here referred to; and even the few references that we have to the early grants of the Gangas seem to refer only to places in Coimbatore district. Such are places like "Kudluru" to the west of the Tatla and east of "Marukarevisaya", in which the names of Kudluru and Marukarevisaya are easily identifiable with the present Gudalur and Madukari in this area. (Kudaluru grant of Madhavavarman; MAR., 1930).

The conclusion naturally follows that Per here referred to as the spot on which Madhava was initiated into Jainism and conferred a kingdom on condition that he upheld it through all its confines must be the Perur within 3 miles from Coimbatore. We have numerous evidences to show that at the time referred to and for long afterwards this Perur was indeed an important place. The place referred to by this name cannot be the Perur in Cuddapah district, as Rice surmises, where no Jain remains are to be found. The tratdition is that Dadiga and Madhava were sent to the south of Mysore, as already indicated. Further, the very title assumed by the first ruler as Madhava Konganivarman seems to give an unmistakable proof of this conclusion, since as the Kongadesarajakkal aptly remarks:

As wealth, the Kongu country and great munificence were possessed by him he was styled srimalt Konganivarman Dharmamahadiraja. (Kongadesarajakkal (Taylor's trans.); MJLS., XIV)

While the mention of Simhanandi as a "person of the southern country' in the inscription at Parsvanatha Basti at Sravana Belgola already referred to, seems to set the seal upon this conclusion.

It is an agreed fact that the canarese country of which modern Mysore forms the crown and centre furnished a home for the religion of Mahavira in the days when it was not very much liked by his own countrymen of the north. The Brihatkatha of Harisena clearly refers to the migration of the Bhadrabahu mission from Mysore to Punnata in the years following the dealth of Chandragupta Maurya. (Rice; Mysore Inscriptions, p. 146; IA., XVII 366). Historians are not yet agreed as to what country is meant by the name, 'Punnata.' All available evidences seem to point to the region of S. Coorg and N. Coimbatore district as the region designated as 'Punnata' by Harisena, so that it would appear that a portion at least of the modern district of Coimbatore was the central hearth of Jainism even before the beginning of the Christian era.

A copper plate of the Ganga King Durvaniti seems to give a direct clue to this identification, when it refers to the King's conquest of Punnata in his 20th. regnal year. (MAR., 1916). On the other hand, the Komaralingam copper plates of the Punnata King Ravidatta indicate the occupation of the Kingdom by Durvaniti by positing a break in the regular line of Punnata rulers. (IA., XVIII, 362). The latter plates record the grant of the village of pungisoge by Ravidatta while on his victorious march an in his camp at Kirtipura-a place generally identified in the southern portion of modern Mysore. Whatever be the strength of this identification, if cannot be definitely said what region was comprised in this kingdom of Punnata.

In the first place, it must be remembered that Kirtipura was not its capital, as has often been maintained by writers, but only a camp in the victorious march of King Ravidatta. It is quite possible that he had undertaken a campaign in the attempt to strengthen his possessions, which had suffered during the occupation of Durvaniti. The mention of varuous grants made on the occasion from Kirtipura of places like Kolur, Kodamuku etc., "to persons to whom they belonged," as the grant clearly mentions, only confirm this conclusion. Further, the copper plate grant which gives evidence here is obtained from the village of Komaralingam in the Udumalpet Taluk in the modern district of Coimbatore; and Ptolemy designates a country called 'Ponnuta' as a "land of beryls," so much found in the Kangayam area of the same district. Besides, the donor of the grant, Ravidatta, expressly states that he is making it with the permission of the Cheramman:

"While his, Ravidatta's, victorious camp is at the town of Kirtipura, which is the best of towns, with the permission of Cheramma(n) ........the village known as Pungisoge in the east central desa in the Kudugur nadu which is in the

Punnadu vishaya has been granted." (Komaralingam Copper plates, 11, 11 ff)

As has been already said, several villages like Kolur, Kodamuku, Tanagundur and Elagovanur are mentioned as coming under other grants made on the same occasion. Though these names must still remain unidentified, it is clear that all these places abutted on the Kongu frontier. The location of Pungisoge as mentioned in the above quoted passage, "in the eastcentral desa in the Kudugurnadu (Modern Coorg) only supports this conclusion. The name Elagovanur itself suggests the possibility of a location near to if no Coimbatore itself. That Ravidatta was a feudatory of the Cera sovereign of the time is put beyond doubt by the permission he is said to have obtained from the Cheramman for issuing the grants referred to.

From all these considerations it seems but natural to conclude that the Kingdom of Punnata must have been a small state carved out from parts of S. Mysore and N. Coimbatore during the period of the weak rule of the Gangas over Kongu, possibly immediately after the death of Vishnugopa. This period seems to have offered a golden opportunity for Chera revival. Through silence is no argument the omission of the Chera name in all the victories detailed in the inscriptions of the various Ganga rulers from Kongani I down to Durvaniti is very significant. A few inscriptions from Vellalur in Coimbatore district give the names of two Cera rulers, Kokkandan Viranarayana and Kokkandan Ravikodan who style themselves "sovereign jewels of the luni-solar race (ARE, 1910 pp. 147-'48). Unfortunately there is no indication about their date, except the fact that the letters of the records are of old archaic characters. On the other hand, the style assumed by the kings, "Jewels of the luni-solar race" clearly indicates the Cera-Pandya connection, since the moon (luna) is mentioned. The effective appearance of the Pandya in Kongu occurs only in the VII century AD, so that it may be safely surmised that these inscriptions of the Cera must belong roughly only to this period.

These points of information help us to posit

(a) that the Ceras had come on a decline after the era of the sangam age and it helped the rise of ganga power in Kongu and Karnataka;

(b) that the Ceras made attempts to revive in the VII century AD;

(c) that the Vellalur inscriptions record the establishment of Cera power once again in Kongu;

(d) that the line of rulers of the Komaralingam copper plates were Cera feudatories.

From these deductions the indentification of the Punnata country seems plausible. It must have been a kingdom subordinate to the Ceras comprising parts of Coorg and Coimbatore district. Ptolemy's description of Punnata as "a land of beryl" seems definitely to point to the region of Kangayam in modern Coimbatore Dist, as lying within the kingdom of Punnata (McCrindle: Anc. India). The Mercara copper plates refer to Punnata as a "ten-thousand country;" and, as Mr. Rice contents, it must be the same as the later-day "Padi-Nadu" (Ten country), mentioned in the Yelandur inscription of AD. 1654 (Mys. Inss., P. 283, 334). In locating this region the above mentioned record clearly mentions the place. 'Tarapura,' evidently modern Dharapuram in the district of Coimbatore, which is said to lie SE of the kingdom (Ibid, p.334). 'The fact that equidistant to both Kangayam and Dharapuram (lying within a distance of six miles) is Padiyur, which is still famous for the far-famed beryls of Ptolemy, must be taken as giving a very strong cnfirmation to the view here advanced. That Coorg and this region of Coimbatore district must have once formed a unit in early times is seen from what the celebrated historian of Mysore, Col. Wilks, records in his "History of Mysore":

"In the southern part of Mysore the Tamil language

is at this day named the Gangee from being best known

to them as the language of the people of Kankayam. (Wilks, Mysore, p. 4, F, N.2) On the other hand, the same Wilks bears testimony to the fact that for some time the Cera king had complete mastery over this region, when he says:

"Cheran united Kangiam and Salem to the dominions of Kerela of Malabar."(Op., cit., p.5).

Even the name 'Punnata' and be explainted. It seems to be just a corruption of the name, 'Pounnadu' the land of gold. That there was much gold to be had from the region of Coorg and Kongu is unexceptionalble. While the Mysore gold minies bear evidence to this in some indirect way, the XVII century Tamil work, Maduraikalambakam speaks of the "gold that is found in Kondu" (Konguraippon), thus bearing a direct testimony to the Kongu wealth of gold. (The term Ponnadu seems to have been analogous to the name of the Cola country watered by the cauvery, Viz., the 'Punalnadu'.

Thus we are able to posit that the region of modern Coimbatore was a central hearth of Jainism in the south at least three conturies before the Christian era and that it continued to be so for a long time afterwards certainly through-our the period of the Ganga rule. An inscription of the XII century which referring to the Hoysala conquest of Kongu under Vishnuvardhana (1120 AD), Speaks of his general in that region, Gangarajah of great fame as" :a devout Jain. "(See Sastri; Colas, II, i). We need not try to trace the later history of Jainism in Kongu. Probably it came on a period of steady decline from that date onwards. But what has been so far said is enough to explain the numerous Jain vestiges in this region, to be seen to this day.

Political History

The first Ganga king Kongunivarma mahadirayan crowned himself at Vijayaskandapuram (later called Gangeyam-Kangayam after the Gangas)(ref:Kongudesa rajakkal). The Ganga genealogy and chronology have presented many problems to the historian. The first ruler of the dynasty was Konganivarma Madhava (C.350-370 A. D) who worked to establish his power at the expense of the Banas and by expanding in Kongudesa or the Salem region. He thought it wise to be friendly with the Pallavas, a policy which was followed by the early Ganga rulers. He was succeeded by his nephew Madhava II or Kiriya Madhava ( C.370-390 A. D.) who was the son of Dadiga who moved to Dalavanapura. His successor Harivarma (C.390-410 A. D.) is said to have been installed on the throne by the Pallava Simhavarma. During this period, two branches of the Ganga dynasty were established at Paruvi and Kaivara.

Harivarma's son Vishnugopa (C.410-430 A. D.) had a quiet, uneventful reign, and was succeeded by Tadangala Madhava (C.430-466 A. D.). He is said to have been anointed by the Pallava king Skandavarma. His friendly relations with the Pallavas did not prevent him from normalising his relations with the Kadambas. In fact, he married the daughter of Kakusthavarma. He strengthened the Pallava rule by incorporating the Paruvi and the Kaivara branches into the main line. His son and successor was Avinita (C.466-495 A. D.) who consolidated the Ganga position by marrying the daughter of the Raja of Punnata. He remained friendly with the Pallavas, but was reputed to be very stern in his dealings with the enemies.

DURVINITA (C.495-535 A. D.) Avinita's son and successor, Durvinita, was one of the most remarkable rulers of the Ganga family. His succession was a disputed one, as he had to overcome the challenge of his younger step-brother who seemed to have secured the assistance of the Pallavas and the Kadambas. The Nallala grant refers to this war of succession; so does the Kadagattur grant which gives a hint that his younger brother was supported by the Pallava King and that the " Goddess of sovereignty came to the rescue of Durvinita because of his excellent display of valour and determination".

The Pallava interference in the Ganga affairs resulted in a shift in the dynastic relations which hitherto had been cordial. Durvinita could not remain friendly with the Pallavas who had created problems for him by supporting his step-brother. The Ganga monarch swore vengeance on the Pallavas who were routed in the battle of Anderi in his fifth regal year. The Pallavas, however, continued their hostilities and it is likely that they secured the assistance of the Kadambas in their attempt to tame Durvinita. In the protracted war that ensued, several pitched encounters were fought, and the Gummareddipura record informs us that Durvinita overcame his enemies at Alattur, Porulare and Pernagra. It is possible that these victories enabled him to extend his power over Kongudesa and Tondaimandalam.

Durvinita was able to cement his friendship with the newly emerging Chalukya power. He gave his daughter to Chalukya Vijayaditya; and when his son-in-law became a victim of the Pallava aggression, Durvinita championed the Chalukyas and installed his grandson Jayasimha on the Badami throne. The timely help of the Ganga monarch did much to save the Chalukyas, and on this sure foundation was built a tradition of a durable friendship between the two ruling families.

The Gummareddipura and the Uttanur plates describe Durvinita as the Lord of Punnata. In fact, his mother was Jyeshtadevi, the daughter of Skandavarma of Punnata. It is possible that there were no male heirs to the Punnata throne and naturally the sovereignty of that Kingdom devolved upon Durvinita.

The religious outlook of Durvinita was marked by tolerance. Though he was a worshipper of Vishnu and a performer of Vedic sacrifices like Hiranyagarbha, he was a pupil of the Jaina preceptor Pujyapada. His court was adorned by many Jaina scholars. His religious catholicity is reflected in the generous patronage he extended to all religious sects.

Himself an eminent scholar, Durvinita evinced keen interest in promoting literary cultivation. The renowned Sanskrit poet Bharavi is said to have visited the Ganga court during this period. Durvinita is supposed to have written a commentary on the fifteenth canto of Bharavi's Kiratarjuniya. He also translated into Sanskrit the Vaddakatha or Brihatkatha of Gunadya, which was originally written in the Paisachi language (translated by his vassal Konguvelir to Tamil). He is also credited with the authorship of 'Sabdavatara', a work on grammar. His Nallala grant hails him as an expert in the composition of various forms of poetry, stories and dramas. In fact, Nripatunga's Kavirajamarga hails him as one of the early writers in Kannada.

The many-sided accomplishments of Durvinita are recorded on the Nallala grant. He is compared to Kautilya in expounding the science of polity; to Narada, Tumburu or Bharatadeva in his knowledge of music and dance; to Charaka and Dhanvantri in the knowledge of medicine or to Parasurama in the use of arms. He is referred to as endowed with three constituents of royal power, namely, Prabhusakti (imperial power), Mantrasakti (the power of discretion) and Utsahasakti (the power of active will). His political achievements, military victories, diplomatic skill and many sterling qualities of head and heart prove that his claims were justified. Durvinita was indeed a great ruler of the Ganga family.

Religion and communal structure of the Gounders:The Gounders are followers of the traditional form of Hinduism. In earlier times a sizeable population followed Jainism (Vijayamangalam, Jinapuram). The Gounders follow the system of Gotra, popularly called "Kootam" in which persons from the same Kootam do not marry one another as they are considered to have descended from the same ancestor. Each Kootam has its own Kulaguru, who is traditionally respected. (This fact is generally skipped by Dravidian historians). Every Kootam also has a Kuladeivam or a Clan Deity. Some of the Kootams are:

* Adhitreya Kumban* Aadai* Aadhi* Adhirai* Aavan* Andai``* Agni* Aavan* Anangan* Andhuvan* Ariyan(noble)* Alagan* Bharatan (descendants of Bharata)* Bramman* Devendran* Dananjayan (descendants of Arjuna)* Danavantan* Eenjan* Ennai* Indran* Kaadan* Kaadai (Kaadava kings-kuladeivam at Keechakanoor (Keeranur)-the Kichakan of Mahabharatam)- largest of kootams with branches nasiyanur kadai,perunthurai kadai,attur kadai,* Kaari* Kaavalar* Kadunthuvi* Kalinji* Kambakulathaan* Kanakkan* Kanavaalan* Kannan (descendants of Kannuva rishi-probably the original Ganga dynasty)- 2nd largest kootam.* Kannandhai* Karunkannan* Kauri* Kavalan* Kiliyan* Keeran* Kodarangi* Koorai* Kuruppan* Kotrandhai* Kottaarar* Kovar* Koventhar* Kumarandhai* Kundali* Kungili* Kuniyan* Kunnukkan* Kuyilan* Kuzhlaayan* Maadai* Maadhaman* Maathuli* Maavalar* Maniyan* Mayilan* Mazhluazhlagar* Medhi* Meni* Meenavan* Moimban* Moolan* Mooriyan* Mukkannan* Munaiveeran* Muthan* Muzhlukkadhan (same as porulthantha)- 3rd largest kootam.* Naarai* Nandhan* Neelan* Neerunni* Neidhali* Neriyan* Odhaalar* Ozhukkar* Paaliyan* Paamban* Paanan* Paandian (Pandya dynasty)* Paadhari* Padaithalaiyan* Padhuman* Padukkunni* Paidhali* Panaiyan* Panangadan (Elumathur Kadais and Maruthurai Kadais-distinct from Kadais,note:Salem and Namakkal dist Kadais dont marry into this kootam)* Panjaman* Pannai* Pannan* Paamaran* Pavalan* Payiran (Mandradiyar's kootam)* Periyan* Perunkudi* Podiyan* Ponnan* Poochadhai (Bhoothan+thanthai-descendants of Jain God Arhadeva(ref:Tamil grammar books)* Poodhiyan* Poosan* Porulthantha (same as mulukadhan)* Punnai* Puthan* Saakadai (same as Kaadai)* Sathandhai (Saathan+thanthai-descendants of Jain tirthankara Rishaba deva(ref:Tamilgrammar)* Sathuvaraayan (meaning:good rulers)* Sanagan (Janakar's descendants)* Sedan* Sellan* Sempoothan* Semvan* Sengannan* Sengunni* Seralan* Sevadi* Sevvayan* Silamban* Soman* Soolan* Sooriyan (Suriyavamsam)* Sothi* Sowriyan (Suriyavamsam)* Surapi* Thanakkavan* Thavalayan* Thazhinji* Themaan* Thodai* Thooran* Thorakkan* Thunduman* Uvanan* Uzhavan* Vaanan(Vaani)* Vannakkan* Veliyan* Vellamban* Vendhai* Viliyan* villi* Vilosanan* Viradhan (descandants of Viratas of Mahabharata's)* Viraivulan

Royal houses and gotras:

Various royal dynasties settled in Kongu nadu mainly to flee Kalabhara (forefathers of Kallar, Maravar, Agamudayar and Vanniyar) influx. The royals also amalgamated into the Gounder caste.
* Kaalingarayar-Kings of Kalinga Ganga dynasty(Eastern Ganga dynasty)
* Vaanavarayar-Bana dynasty
* Pallavarayar-Pallava dynasty
* Palayakottai Mandradiyar-cheiftain
* Cheran kootam-Chera dynasty
* Pandya kootam-Pandya dynasty

The indegenous dynasties are:
* Kannan(Kanvayana)-original Ganga rulers
* Kadai-Kaadava dynasty

Language of Gounders
The language of the Gounders is the popular Coimbatore Bhashai or Kongu Tamil. It must have been a distinct language as it also shows relations with Eela Tamil,Prakrit-Aprabramsa and Kannada. It was earlier called Kangee or Gangee (Gangeya Bhasai). Mysore, Col. Wilks, records in his "History of Mysore":

"In the southern part of Mysore the Tamil language is at this day named the Gangee from being best known to them as the language of the people of Kankayam". (Wilks, Mysore, p. 4, F, N.2) Later mainstream Tamil assimilated the language yet preserving idiolectical differences and markers.


The Modern caste:

The Gounder caste is a progressive caste which has excellent personae in various fields. The Coimbatore region flourishes mainly due to their innovation and hardwork in Agriculture, textiles (Salem, Coimbatore, Erode, Tirupur and Karur), Education (Namakkal, Coimbatore, Salem), Poultry Namakkal), Automobiles(Namakkal, Salem), Bus body building (Karur), Milk (Erode Aavin), Edible Oils (Erode), Turmeric (Erode has the largest market in South India).Kongunadu has the highest urban proportion and contributes 2/3rd of Tamilnadu's income. They always form part in all ministeries with important portfolios:

Late Theeran Chinnamalai(Theerthagiri)-king and freedom fighter* Subbarayan- Cheif minister of Madras state* Rajkumar Mandradiyar-traditional chief and uncle of Vivek Oberoi* S.K.Maeilanandan-S.K.M.Cattle feeds* N.Mahalingam(Sakti sugars, A.B.T parcel service) -industrialist.* Krishnaraja Vanavarayar-cheiftain and spokesman* S.V.Balasubramaniam-Well known as S.V.B, Bannariamman groups, Bannari Amman Engineering College* Late Mohan Kumaramangalam-M.P and erstwhile hero of the theme behind the 'Great Escape',when he escaped from a Nazi concentration camp.* Late Rangarajan Kumaramangalam-M.P and renown minister, various I.T professionals and industrialists.* Late C.Subramaniam-M.P. and a well renounced Central Minister during Nehru period plays a vital role in implementing green revolution* Professor Dr. P.A. Venkatachalam, Founding Chairman, Dept. Of Computer Science, Anna Univeristy* Suriya-Tamil cinema actor* Sivakumar-Tamil cinema actor* Sathyaraj-Tamil cinema actor* Muttiah Muralitharan-Highest ranked cricket bowler* K.P.Natarajan-KPN Travels India Limited* Soundara kailasam-Well known poetess and mother-in-law of Mr.P.Chidambaram* Late.GP.Somasundaram,MP -Rasipuram(A Good frind of CN.Annadurai(ANNA-A Great Tamil people leader))* Karthikeyan - former director of the C.B.I* Nalla.Govindasamy - leader of Kongunadu makkal katchi and former A.C, Tamilnadu police.* Various bureaucrats

Subgroups
There are certain small sub groups who also follow the same customs and are also called by the same name among the Gounders which are getting amalgamated nowadays into the mainstream,some of the differences are (mentioned number two group is the mainstream),

* Nattu Gounders-Kattu Gounders = of east and west Kongu divisions.* Narambukatti Gounders (Vadakarai vellalars)-Senthalai Gounders = of north and south of river Bhavani.* Padathalai Gounders - Senthalai Gounders = the people who joined and abstained Tippu sultan's army respectively)(found mostly in the Vijayamangalam belt).* Irumudi Gounders - Vellala Gounders = Gounders who fell under two rulers and proper Kongu respectively.

Castes like the Padayachi "Gounders",Vettuva "Gounders"",Vokkaliga "Gounders" and Kurumba 'Gounders" have assumed the title for the sake of respect though they are not referred as Gounders.There is enough caution among the Gounders regarding this.

3 comments:

KARTIK said...

This article of urs is just awesome..I really felt proud after reading it..

Robert said...

Gounder word derived from Kandar or Kadava, which denotes vanniyar( Famous Kandava dynasty belong to vanniyar) through south india. Kongu vellala castes is a agricultural labour caste using the title "Gounder " for the sake of respect though they are not referred as Gounders. There is enough caution among the Gounders regarding this.

Chandra said...

Robert, Its called Kongu Vellala Gounder (you missed the word Gounder). I disagree with due respect on your comments on Kongu Vellala Gounder.

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