Poetess and Historian Gangadevi!

madura vijayam

Written by London swaminathan

Research article No. 1787; Date 8th April 2015

Uploaded from London at   21-44

Gangadevi and her Sanskrit poetic work Madura Vijayam have made immense contribution to South Indian History.

Gangadevi was the chief queen of Kumara Kampana II (1343—1379). She accompanied her husband in his southern expedition. Though Kampana had many wives like other Indian kings, Gangadevi was the chief consort.

Gangadevi wrote Madura Vijayam in Sanskrit poetry. The book was brought to light by G.Harihara Sastri and V Srinivasa Sastri of Trivandrum in 1916. S Thiruvankatachary translated into English and Annamalai University published it in 1957. He commented on her poetic merits in the following words, “Being a biographer first and then only a poet, her literary borrowings do not affect the work in any way.”


Gangadevi was a learned person. She mentions and pays homage to the ancient poets like Kalidasa, Bhattabana, Bharavi, Bhavabhuti, Dandin along with Valmiki and Vyasa. She gives some interesting information about Agastya. She described him as the author of 74 poetic compositions. She praises Agastya’s nephew Gangadhara, who dramatized the story of Mahabharata. She acknowledges Viswanatha, one of the two sons of Gangadhara, and his influence on her as a guru.

When Kampana invaded South India, it was under Madurai Sultanate. Malik Kafur attacked Madurai in 1311 CE. He just plundered all the temples and went back to Delhi. The second invasion took place under Ghiyasuddin Tughlak and he established Madurai Sultanate. From 1335 to 1371, Madurai suffered a lot. The temple was closed for nearly forty years. Madura Vjaya described the appalling condition of Hindus during that period. Though Hoysala ruler Veera Vallala tried to dislodge the Sultan he was killed in the war. Kampana came with a big army and killed Madurai Sultan Qurbat Hasan Kangu.

Gangadevi gave minute details of her husband’s expedition and the condition of Madurai. Her report was like a modern day war correspondent in the warfront. Even now women rarely go to war fronts to cover the attacks. But Gangadevi did it 700 years ago! Publishers of Madura Vijayam praised her as the first historian of South India like Kalhana of Rajatarangini in North India.

East-Hem in 1400 AD

Chidambaram = Abode of Tigers!

Gangadevi described the political and religious conditions in such a way that the descriptions looks like a faithful portrait of  the real state of affairs in those days. The famous Saivite temple town Chidambaram is called Vyagrapuri (Tiger town). She described the condition, “As a result of the tyrannical rule of Muslims, Vyagrapuri has actually become the Abode of Tigers”. It is a pun on the word Vyagra=Tiger.

It is believed that Kampana got a divine sword from the goddess before invading Madurai. It is in the Madura Vijayam. There are nine chapters. Earlier chapters describe the life of Kampana and later chapters describe his victorious march to Madura. His victory sounded the death knell to Muslim Rule in Madurai.

Source: Madura Vijayam and Kingship: State and Religion in South India by D Sridhara Babu.