First Tamil Historian- Paranar

Paranar was a great Tamil poet during Sangam period. He was the first poet to record almost all the historical events that happened during his lifetime. Since he wrote all these things two thousand years ago he can be called First Tamil historian. He was paired with another great poet Kapilar. Kapilar stood first in the number of poems that he composed. He had 205 poems to his credit, the highest for any single poet of Sangam age. Paranar stood first in narrating the maximum number of historical anecdotes.

Paranar gave at least one anecdote in each of his 85 poems. He used similes for this or narrated the actual incidents. We wouldn’t have known much about ancient Tamil rulers without his narrations or similes. He was raised to the level of divine poets. Later day poet Nakkirar equated him with Agastya Rishi. Famous Chera King Senguttuvan even entrusted his son’s education to him. He sent his son Uthiyan Cheral along with Paranar for training in life.

Paranar described four famous battles of Tamilnadu at Venni, Vagai, Kudal and Pazi. He sang about the great Chola Kings Ilamchet Senni, Peruvirar Killi, Karikal Cholan ,  Chera kings Neduncheralathan, Cheran Senkuttuvan, the great philanthropists Ay, Anji, Kari, Ori, Pegan and minor chieftains/ leaders Ay Eyinan, Thazumpan, Mohur Pazaiyan,  Adimanthi, Attanathi, Perunalli,minjili, Akuthai, Aruvai, notorious Nannan, Panan, Thiththan, Veliyan, Katti, Porunan, Kanaiyan, Pasumput Pandian, Maththi, Kazuvul, Azisi,  Senthan, Manthram Poraiyan, Viran, Vichiyar Perumakan, Perumput Poraiyan, Vallan kizavan, Van Paranar, Velli Veethiyar and Maruthi. He had included over forty famous personalities of Ancient Tamilnadu in his list.

In addition to the for battles, he narrated how Senkuttuvan destroyed the sea pirates, how Pegan was rejoined with his separated wife, how Nannan sentenced a young girl to death for plucking a mango from his garden and how even birds came to help for a man who loved birds all his life.

(I have given in five articles about Paranar’s verses  on : Karikalan- fore runner of British Judges Wigs; Tamil Bird Man, where birds made an umbrella shelter for Ay Eyinan; Sea in Kalidasa and Tamil Literature, where Paranar’s geographical knowledge is highlighted; Kannakis burning of Madurai with a single breast; Tulabharam, where Nannan refused gold measure to measure and murdered the Tamil girl; Senkuttuvans destruction of sea pirates in Hindu Gods’ Daring Attacks against Sea Pirates etc.)

Paranar narrated a sad story where in Karikal Chola’s daughter Adi Manthi lost her husband Attanathi in the river Kaveri. She cried and cried and ran along the banks of the river looking for him. At last Attanathi was rescued but the rescuer Maruthu was washed away by the floods.

Paranar gave in full detail the Nannan-mango incident and chastised Nannan for sentencing the girl to death. Paranar looked like an anti war campaigner. He described the bad practises of Tamil community. All the defeated countries were set on fire. Their golden crowns were melted and made as foot stools. The kings made rope with the hair locks of wives of defeated kings. He also said that the blood flowed like a river where wars took place.


Another Sangam poet Mamulanar gave an account of a Mauryan invasion against Tamil kings. He described how they laid roads in the mountains (Akam 251,281). The Sangam age was confirmed because of this reference and other references to Roman trade.

Ilango, author of Tamil epic Silappadikaram, listed the kings who took part in the consecration event of Kannaki temple. One of the kings was Kayavahu of Sri Lanka. Seshagiri Sastri, Professor of Sanskrit, identified Kayavahu with Gajabahu I of Mahavamsa who ruled Sri Lanka between 113 A.D and 135 A.D. All the scholars have agreed with him. These lines served as the anchor for dating the Tamil history.

Though Silappadikaram was the most famous book among the five Tamil epics, there was no cross reference anywhere in Sangam literature except one indirect reference. Maruthan Ilanakan, who belongs to the later period of Tamil Sangam Age refers to a lady who lost her breast in Narrinai verse 216. Tamil scholars think that it was a reference to Kannakis burning of Madurai city by throwing her breast on it in anger.

Appar, Saivaite saint of seventh century referred to the poet Tarumi who won a purse of gold in Tamil Sangam. This reference gave credibility to the story of Tiruvilayadal Puranam and Tamil Sangam and the earlier Tsunamis that devoured first two Tamil Sangams (Tirupputtur Tiruthandakam hymns in Thevaram). Appar’s Thevaram hymns helped us to date Manikkavasakar and Adi Sankara. ( I have given the details in my Tamil article– Dating Adi Sankara through Tamil literature).

Paranar praised Karikal Chola’s victory in the Battle field of Venni in Akam. Verse 246. He defeated famous Tamil Kings along with 11 Velir chiefs and destroyed their war drums. In another poem (akam. 125) Paranar narrated what happened at the battle field of Vagai. Karikalan defeated the famous kings and their nine umbrellas were destroyed.

Let us salute the great Tamil historians!


Bird Migration in Kalidasa and Tamil Literature


V  shaped formation of birds

(This is the second part of my thesis that Kalidasa, the greatest of the Indian poets, lived in the first century BC, prior to Sangam Tamil period. Please read first part, if you have not read it)

Migration of birds is one of nature’s mysteries and wonders. Birds migrate to warmer places from cold countries for food and breeding. Some of the birds like Arctic Terns travel an amazing distance of 28,000 miles! They fly from North Pole to South Pole and return in six months. It is still a mystery and we don’t know for sure how the birds fly such a long distance generation after generation. Various theories tell us that they use earth’s magnetic fields or stars to navigate. Scientists even think that they have these routes embedded in their magnetic cells in their bodies. It is like our computer memory chips. We have a large number of bird sanctuaries in India where in birds from distance places come and breed and go back to their homes with their little ones.

One more amazing thing about the bird migration is that our ancient Sanskrit and Tamil poets have noticed it and included it in their literature. Golden peaks of Himalayas and the Himalayan lakes with swans are sung by Kalidasa and the Tamil poets. The great poet and playwright Kalidasa lived in the First century BC, during the time of Vikramaditya. A lot of evidence in the form of similes and expressions of Kalidasa are found in Sangam Tamil literature. These Tamil books are dated to the first few centuries of our era.

Bird migration is in Mahabharata as well. Our forefathers were keen observers of nature. They used this observation in their day to day life. When Draupadi asked for water in the forest, the Pandavas identified the water source from a very long distance by watching the circling the water birds. Then the most interesting ghost story of Mahabharata called Yaksha Prasnam was narrated in the question and answer format. This format is called Socratic method after Socrates. It is wrong because it is in Upanishads and Yaksha Prasna of Mahabharata. There are many more referencesto bird migration in the epic. Bhisma watched the bird migration from his bed of arrows before deciding his day of death in Uttarayanam. (Please read my article World’s first acupuncturist Bhisma)

Mysteries in Kalidasa’s Books

Kalidasa’s knowledge of geography, history, science, customs, psychology, arts, natural wonders and flight techniques are amazing. Shakespeare followed him in dramas and Leonardo Da Vinci followed him in innovations. In one of his books he describes how the wilder beasts migrate in a great rush. Those who watched National Geographic  TV channels will be wonder struck how Kalidasa knew this animal migration. Perhaps it happened in his time in Indian forests. When he describes the flight in the sky he describes what the pilots see while landing a plane. This is experienced by the pilotsin their early days of flying training. No one other than a pilot would undergo such an experience. When you land a plane the earth would come towards you in such a great speed that you would be taken back. We also experience such things when we watch 3 D Movies  wearing special glasses.

Kalidasa also talked about Light emitting plants (Kumar.  I-30 and Ragu. IX-90). So far the scientists knew only light emitting jelly fish, electric eel and lower organisms like planktons. They are called photo luminescent or bio luminescent organisms. Fire flies are known to every villager. They emit light in the night. But Kalidasa wrote about light emitting plants (Jyotir latha). The BBC nature programme by David Attenborough showed such plants in New Zealand. Actually millions of fire flies crowd together on trees and hills and emit light in coordinated sequences. Only when one watches such Nature Channels on TV one will understand the mysterious things written by Kalidasa.

Birds in Tamil Literature

Ornithologists use Ringing or Electronic Tagging to find out the movements of birds. But without these modern gadgets, Tamil and Sanskrit poets have found out the movements of birds two thousand years ago.  We have references to bird migration in Purananuru- verse 67 by Pisir Anthaiyaar, Natrinai 70 by Velli Veethiyaar( migration of cranes), Natr. 356 by Paranar, Akam 120 by Nakkeeran and Akam 273 (“v” formation of migratory birds) by Avaaiyaar. The Tamils called bird migration as “valasai pothal”.

Sangam poet Paranar (Natrinai 356) describes Himalayas with beautiful swans and celestial women. Alathur Kizar sings about the advancing South West monsoon towards Himalayas in Puram verse 34. I have written in another article it was not Hippalus who discovered monsoon but  the Tamils who lived in the peninsular India. Karikal Cholan was praised by a poet (Puram verse 66) as using wind power to sail his ships in the ocean (see page 33 of my book Thamiz Ilakkiyaththil Athsiya Seythikal).

Avur Kizar greets a Brahmin by name Kaundinya Vishnu Dasan (puram166) to live longer like the Himalayas where bamboo trees grow. Murinjiyur Mudi Nagarayar sings in Puram 2 about the beautiful deers in the Himalayas with golden peaks where the Brahmins perform fire sacrifices. Paranar and Kumattur Kannanar praise the holy Himalyas as divine hills in Pathirrup Pathu verses. All these are echoes of Kalidasa’s verses in Megadhutam, Raguvamsam ,Vikrmorvasiyam and Kumarasambhavam.

Kalitokai by Maruthan Ilanagan (92) sang about the swan and the Himalayas .Also Kali 72,, 146 (Nallanthuvanar), Kali 12 (PP Katunko)

When we give milk mixed with water, swans and geese can drink milk only leaving the water. They have a magical skill to filter it says Kalidasa .Gatha Saptasati poets copied it.

The migratory birds use the Krauncha Pass in the Himalayas to travel further north says Kalidasa (Krauncha means crane). The modern name for this pass is Niti Pass. The gait of the swans is compared to the gait of women. The cry of the swans is compared to the tinkling sound of the anklets. The white colour of the crane is compared to the glorious white umbrella of the royalty. The feathers of swan are used in the beds and mattresses of Tamil kings.

Lord Murukan is called Kraunchabedanar, one who created the pass in the Himalayas, though which the birds migrate from Siberia to Vedanthangal near Chennai. Lord Muruka’s name as Kraunchabedanar  is used in Tamil literature

Kalidasa’s references of swan, cranes and Himalayan geese: Mega. 11,23, 59, 70,81.

Vikra. IV 2,3,4,6,20;31,32,33,3441,54

BIRD MIGRATION :Vikra IV 14 to 17

Kumara. 1-30 (Hamsa mala)

Ragu. IV 19,VIII 59, XIII-33, XVI 33, 56, XVII-75


Nala Damayanti story narrated in the Hindu mythology also tells us how Damayanti sent messages using the birds.

Tamil and Sanskrit Comparison

Birds flying in V shaped formation is compared to garlands by both Sangam poets and Kalidasa (Mega. 11,59). This formation was used by fighters in Mahabharata war as well. It was called Krauncha formation.

Raguvamsam (I-41) described this as festoons welcoming a king. In another place the birds flying in V shaped formation was compared to the Skull garland in the neck of black demon woman Thataka. It was a beautiful comparison of white cranes flying with the dark clouds as background.  Tamil Brahmin poet Nakkeeran who was well versed in Sanskrit compared this bird formation to the garland in the neck of Lord Skandan (Murugan) in Akam verse 120. Another verse in Akam 234 also used this simile. This simile is found in GSS (Gatha Saptasati) as well. But GSS poets never talked about Murukan and so they were not the sources for Tamil poets or vice versa.

Most important verses are of Pisiranthaiyar (Puram 64) and Paranar (Natrinai 356).Let us look at them in detail and compare them with that of Kalidasa:

Pisiranthaiyar (Puram 67) sends a message through a swan travelling from Kanyakumari to Norhtern Mountains after eating the fishes in the Indian Ocean. The poet asked the swan to take rest at Uranthai and deliver a message to his friend Kopperuncholan whom he never met (Please read my article Amazing Powers of Human Mind to fully understand the friendship between the two great people of ancient Tamil Nadu). The poet very well knew the northward journey of swans after satisfying its hunger. This poem is an echo of Megadhutam sloka 98.A later day poet Saththimutraththu Pulavar also used the same technique of addressing a crane (Krauncha) to deliver a message.

Paranar in Natrinai 356 made it very clear that the red legged, may be pink legged flamingos, go to the Himalayas to feed its little ones/bird lings after taking food from the southern oceans. In the same poem he sang about the golden peaks of the Himalayas where the celestial angels play with the swans.

Kalidasa in Vikramorvasiya Act IV slokas 14 to 17 made three points which were used in Tamil poems

1. Love message through Swans

2. Cooing of swans was mistaken to tinkling of anklets of his girl friend

3. Swans travelling to Manasasovar Lake in the Himalayas

(There is a big bird sanctuary for flamingos in Kodikkarai/Point Calimere in Tamil Nadu)

In short, whatever Kalidasa said about the bird migration, their V -shaped formation looking like a garland, their northward journey towards Himalayan lakes, the golden hued Himalayan peaks, the celestial angels playing with the deer and swans, the Brahmin saints doing fire sacrifices and the cobras dancing with their crown jewels in the Himalayas (see Kakkaipadiniyar Nachchellaiyar’s sixth song in the Pathitrupathu) all these are used by various Tamil poets. No one would doubt that the Tamil poets copied or imitated Kalidasa .Not all of them would have travelled to the Himalayas when there was no transport, safer land routes or bridges to cross big perennial rivers two thousand years ago.

Sakuna Satram (omens) is a branch of Hindu astrology which proves that Hindus are keen observers of birds’ movements. Sakuna means bird in Sanskrit. A bird’s movement, its cry, its position –all are taken in to account before predicting the future.




No Brahmins, No Tamil!!

Written by By S Swaminathan

Posted on 14th January 2012

Tamil is one of the oldest, richest and sweetest languages in the world. A great many people, irrespective of their religion and caste, have shed their blood and sweat to foster and preserve the language and the culture. We salute all those great people. But yet a lot of mischievous propaganda by the Dravidian political parties in Tamil Nadu has misled the public to a great extent that they really believed Brahmins were aliens to Tamil culture. But anyone who goes deeper in to ancient Tamil literature known as Cankam (also called Sangam) literature would find out that without Brahmins Tamil would have died or at least become poorer two thousand years ago. The reason being Brahmins were the teachers of that language, like in other parts of India. So much was their contribution that any deletion of references to words like Brahmins, Vedas, Yagas, Sanskrit words, Sanskrit names from those books would leave the Tamil literature like a virus affected software. That is to say it would be incomplete without their contribution. Literally hundreds of references are there in the books. Ramayana ,Mahabharata and Puranic references are also in abundance.

The oldest Tamil book Tolkappiyam says Tamils worshipped the Vedic gods Indra , Varuna and Vishnu (Ref.Porul Adhikaram-1.5)

Two great Tamil kings were praised for their great yagnas- RAJASUYAM vetta Perunarkilli and Mudukudumi Peruvazithi. The first one was a Choza who did the great fire ceremony called Rajasuyam. We knew from Mahabharata that Dharma did this yaga. The second one was a Pandya king whose country was full of Yupa pillars. He was praised as if he would bow only twice-when he goes around a temple or when he sees a Brahmin. He was indomitable and invincible that the entire world would bow to him (ref.Purananuru Poem 6)

Nalliakodan’s palace is open to Brahmins 24 hours a day,  says Sirupantruppadai. Seraman Selvak Kadungo Vaziyathan will bow only to Brahmins , says Pathitru Pathu. In short we have so many references about kings bowing only before Gods and Brahmins.

Kapila was the giant among Cankam poets. He composed the highest number of poems (over 230) in Cankam period. Not only he composed Tamil poems, he taught a North Indian King Brahadhathan and made him to write a poem in Tamil. When he ridiculed Tamils, Kapila did teach him a real lesson. Kapila was praised by other Cankam poets as “A Brahmin of spotless character”.

A lot of Cankam poets have Sanskrit Names : Damodaran, Kesavan, Mahadevan, Vishnudasan, Kannadasan, Valmiki, Sahadevan, Gauthaman, Kausikan (Viswamitra), Kavya (written as Kappiya), Acharya (aasaan),Brahmachari

Over twenty Tamil poets are Nagas! They may not be Tamils. There is no reference to Nagas in five fold land division of traditional Tamils: Kurinji, Mullai,Marutham,Neithal and Palai landscapes have their own set of peoples and their own Gods such as Skanda Murugan,Vishnu,Indra, Varuna and Durga. Naga race lived in different parts of India.

The word Veda was beautifully translated by the Tamil poets. One poet described Veda as ‘Ezutha Kilavi’= unwritten word. Another poet praises it as ‘Ezutha Karpu’= unwritten chastity. He means that once written it’s purity would be lost and that is why the Brahmins pass it by word of mouth. Other poets call the Vedas as Marai= secret. They understood that the Vedas are written in a secret language with enigmatic or hidden meanings. Kaduvan Ilaveyini says that God is in secret form in the Vedas (Ref. Paripatal)

Karikalan and the Vedas

Karikalan and Rig Veda: Karikal Choza was praised as a supporter of Vedic practices. When you want to see your friends off you will have to walk seven steps with them and say good bye-says Rig Veda. The Saptapadthi ceremonly in wedding is also part of it. Karikalan was praised to have walked seven teps with his guest and see them off (Ref. Line 166 in Porunar Atruppadai by Mudathama Kanniyaar)

Brahmins are always referred to as one who looks inward (Anthanan or Paarppaan), one who always think of Brahman (Brahmanan). They are called one who do six jobs –Aru Thozilor- (In Sanskrit Shad Karma sukrutha:) because they do the following six kind of jobs,1.Learning,2.Teaching,3.Performing fire ceremonies  for others 4.Doing fire ceremonies for themselves,5. Accepting Gifts and 6.Donating gifts.

They are attributed with six virtues 1.One who seeks Brahman,2.One who takes two Births/Dwija,3.One who worships three forms of Agni/fire 4.One who practises four Vedas,5. One who controls all the five senses and 6. One who does six kinds of Jobs. Anyone can notice numbers 1,2,3,4,5 and 6 are used to describe Brahmins. The play on numbers has been used by thevTamil poets for two thousand years.

Brahmins acted as messengers as well during Cankam period. Dramas of Kalidasa and Bhasa also attributed this messenger role to Brahmins.


Following Hindu Gods and Godly persons were mentioned in Cankam literature:

Indra,Varuna,Agni,Yama,Rama,Krishna,Balarama, Shiva,Uma, Vishnu,Lakshmi, Parasurama,Kubera,Surya,Chandra,Arundhati, Gods in City Squares, Gods in trees, Gods in Hero Stones, Goddess of Kolli Hills,Gods in water sources etc. Reference of Holy bath in Cape Comorin and Dhanuskoti is also found in Tamil books.

Tamil Queen Committed Sati

There is a reference of a Pandya queen, Bhuta Pandyan Perun Devi, committing Sati as well. There is another reference of a poet going straight to heaven after performing a particular type of Yagna (Ref. Pathitru Pathu/Tenfold Ten poems).Gowthamanar who sang about Kuttuvan Cheral was transferred to Swarga (heaven) when he completed ten yagams with the help of the king. It is mentioned in Silappathikaram as well.

List of Brahmin poets and their contribution in Cankam literature:

Agasthyar ,who received Tamil language from Shiva

Tolkappiyar (Thruna dumagni), who wrote grammar after Agaththiyam became obsolete.

Amur Gowthaman Sathevanar (Sahadevan)

Kadiyalur uruththiran Kannanar ( Rudra Aksha)

Kodimangalam Vathula (Gothra) Narsenthan

Sellur Kosikan (Kausika Gothra) kannanar

Madurai Teacher Nalanthuvan

Madurai Ilam kausikanar

Madurai Kanakkayanar

Nakkiran,son of Madurai Kanakkayanar

Madurai gownian (Kaundinya Gothra) daththnar


Uraiyur enicheri mudamosi

Perunkundrur Perungkausikan

Kumattur kannan



Vadamavannakkan damodaran

Vembathur kumaran


Kapilar-Paranar, Kallada-Mamulanar are always treated as pairs. Of them Kapilar and Mamulanar are known Brahmins. But others are not classified under any caste. But my research shows Paranar is a Brahmin.

  1. Chera King sent his son with him for education. This was done in those days only with Brahmins.
  2. He was given land (Umbarkadu as Brahmadeyam) which was also done only to Brahmins or Temples in those days.
  3. Paranar is not a Tamil name. It is one of the Gothra Rishi’s name.
  4. Scholars like P T Srinivasa Iyengar also consider him a Brahmin.
  5. Dr R Nagaswamy, eminent historian and archaeologist of Taminadu also listed Paranar as a Brahmin in his book Yavarum Kelir.
  6. Paranar must be well versed in Sanskrit because he has translated and used lines from Kalidas’s poems and Vedic hymns.
  7. The name Paranar comes as a Brahmin’s name in the Story of Vikramaditya.

If we include Paranar’s  80+ poems with Kapilar’s 230+,  it will form a huge chunk in the Cankam works.


Books by Brahmin poets

Tolkappiyam (Pre Cankam period)

Kurinji pattu (lines 261)

Thiru murugatruppadai (lines 317)

Pattinap palai (Lines 301)

Perumpanatrup padai (Lines 500)

Malaipadukadam (lines 583)

Nedunal vadai (lines 188)

Six out of Ten Idylls sung by Brahmins

Pathitrup pathu (all except one)

Ainkurunuru (Kapilar’s 100)

Brahmin’s contribution adds up to 10,000 lines, nearly one third of the Cankam literature. The man who went from village to village to collect all these manuscripts was Mr U V Swaminatha Iyer, a Brahmin. We would have lost most of the Tamil treasures without his hard work.

Post Cankam Brahmin Writers

Thiru Gnana Sambandhar


Manikka Vasagar



Madura kavi alvar

Tondaradippodi alvar



(Though Adi Shankara and Dandi are from the South they did wrote only in Sanskrit)

Parimel Azkar: Though ten scholars wrote commentaries on the most famous Tamil ethics Tirukkural, Parimel Azakar’s was the best and most popular.

Nachinarkiniyar: The greatest commentator of Tamil literature. What Adi Sankara did for Upanishads, Brahmasutra, Bagavad Gita and Vishnu Sahasranama, Nachinarkiniyar did for Tamil literature. He wrote and wrote and never stopped. Without his commentaries we wouldn’t understand the Tamil poems at all. He was a voracious reader and a prolific writer.

Senavaraiyar: He wrote commentary on Tolkappiyam

U Ve Swaminatha Iyer: He was the doyen of Tamil literature. He saved Tamil books by visiting village after village to collect the old palm leaf manuscripts. Without his collection Tamil would have lost very valuable works. The Tamil world is indebted to him forever.

Bharathiyar: This twentieth century revolutionary poet was the giant of modern Tamil. He simplified the language of the poems and made it popular. He was the first one to write on various themes like God, nature, women’s liberation, education, freedom from poverty and patriotism. He broke the shell which insulated Tamil and made it available for laymen.

Parithimar Kalaignar: He was the first one to suggest Tamil should be declared a classical language.

We don’t want class and caste divisions in the society. But if anyone says that Brahmins came from outside India via Khyber Pass and they were alien to Tamil language and culture, my argument will be a nail in the coffin of those Brahmin haters.