Post No.7923

Date uploaded in London – 4 May 2020   

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Great Sanskrit scholars like Bhandrakars and Goldstucker dated Panini around 8th century BCE. His coinage which Arthasastra doesn’t know also place him well before Kautilya of fourth century BCE . So whatever he said becomes very important to decide the chronology of many things. One such thing debated by the scholars is his knowledge about Tamil Nadu. He covered several thousand square miles of north India from Afghanistan to Assam in the north and up to Asmaka country in the South on River Godavari.

But for one who reads deeply it becomes clear that he knew the South of India up to land’s end. In one sutra he mentioned black peppercorns and honey coming through the land route. The long list of articles he mentioned in several sutras shows his vast knowledge in economics, commerce, trade routes and wealth of the community.

And supporting evidence comes from Buddhist Jataka tales. Earlier people like Bodhayana and Yaska also talk about south India. Epics Mahabharata and Ramayana mentioned the customs of Southerners.

We have very clear references to the Tamil kingdoms in the inscriptions of Emperor Asoka and Orissa King Kharavela.

First let us look at the trade routes.

Panini  wrote only a grammar book, but yet his references and the commentaries on his book give us very interesting information.

He mentioned roads leading from one city to another city- sutra 4-3-85

Katyayana in his comments mentioned kantara pathika, that is the forest route. In addition to it, he listed Jangala patha, Vari patha and Sthala patha, and they are routes via jungle thickets, water and land. We also hear about Aja patha- goat track, Sanku patha- narrow mountain paths.

In the Devapathathi Gana 5-3-100 we hear about more interesting routes Hamsa patha and Deva patha which relate to air.

He might have meant air -plane route used by Rama, Ravana and Kubera. Or it may be routes used by the migratory birds. Or it may be the routes used by the Siddhas with supernatural powers. We have literary evidence to support every one of the above.

Kalidasa goes one step ahead and listed three different air routes depending upon the height. While returning to Ayodhya from Sri Lanka by thought powered air -plane the three routes are explained in

Raghuvamsa 13-19. He refers to Sura \ Deva patha, Ghana patha and Kagapatha.

My comments

Even a Tamil book that came about 250 years ago mentioned air routes used by siddhas with super natural powers (Tiru Kutrala Kuravanji by Tri Kuta Rasappa Kavirayar).

Raja patha is still the road name in several Indian cities.

English word path also came from Sanskrit ‘patha’.

Now to this particular sutra regarding the black peppercorns and honey—

Kerala known as Chera Nadu 2000 years was the main exporter of peppers. When Panini mentioned it in sutra 5-1-77,

He must have remembered Kerala.

Black Pepper corns from Tamil speaking Chera nadu (now Malayalm speaking Kerala) went up to Rome and Greece. Till today Kerala exports to other places.



Sutra 4-3-84 is about the gem-stone Vaidurya, known as cats eye.

It said that it was available in Valavaya mountains and polished at Vidura town and so it was called Vaidurya .

We have some references to Vaidurya, Beryls and others  exported from Coimbatore inT amil Nadu. So we may conclude that pepper and gemstones were exported via Coimbatore about 3000 years ago.

V S Agrawala adds more supporting information—

“As pointed out by Keith, Yaska already mentions a southern use of the Vedic word ‘Vijaamatri’ for a son in law who pays to his father in law the price of the bride.

Vijaa maateti sasvad Dakshinaajaahaa kriitapatim aachaksate

—Nirukta 6-9

My comments

Sangam Tamil literature and later Tamil literature confirm this bride price.

“Secondly, the Deccan was the home of Sanskrit as early as Katyayana’ s time whom Patanjali regards as a southerner on account of his partiality for the Tadhita.

Priya taddhitaahaa Daakshinatyaahaa

(Katyayana lived around 4th century BCE.)

“Thirdly, Panini besides referring to the sea and the islands lying near the coast and in mid ocean , actually mentioned that portion of the country which lies between the tropics as

Antarayana desa 8-4-25

It can refer only to Deccan lying south of the Tropic of Cancer, which passes through Kutch and Avanti.”

My comments

Sri Lankaan history book ‘Mahavamsa’ gives more information about the marriages that took place between the royal families of Madurai Pandyas and the first king Vijaya of Sri Lanka. It happened in the sixth century BCE, not far from Panini’s time

So it is very clear that North Indians had a very good knowledge of Southern India and its peoples.

Tags– Panini , Black pepper, Land routes, Yaskar, ,bride price, Katyayana, ,Taddhita


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