One dynasty which is probably overhyped, be it due to megalomania or due to inferiority complex, much more than the rest is the Pandyan Empire. No questions that the word Pandya is very antique, having references in Mahabharata and elsewhere, but the reality is that they are petty rulers who ruled a carved out area in southern Tamil Nadu and never ventured in force out of that area. The greatest advance was that of Jatavarman Sundara Pandya, whose armies were stopped near Vijayawada and forced to turn back by the Kakatiyas. Competing in antiquity with the older Cholas, Cheras and Pallavas, we notice a few things regarding them –
1. The name Pandian originates from the word bull. The current etymology provided is, Pandian means one as virile and powerful as a bull. In that case, one would have used a tiger or an elephant as their name, not surely a bull! This means either a bull is much above their social stature(meaning they are social outcastes or tribals vying for recognition in society) or a bull(not tiger or elephant) is the mightiest animal they may have ever come across – an indicator of how small their kingdom is. Add the Southern Tamil custom of Jallikattu to it, you will get an impression that they took the title of a village head who subdued a bull. Note that the other meaning of the word Pandian is old. Surely, no one will have a dynastic name as old man.
2. There is a reference to Malayadhwaja Pandya in Mahabharata – he shoots a few arrows at Aswathama and he is killed by Aswathama without any effort. There is reference to a queen of Pandyan Kingdom – Meenakshi who conquered the whole world and married Lord Siva himself. Both, if looked as independent events fit the greater picture perfectly. However, the real problem is that Meenakshi, deified as Goddess Meenakshi of Madurai is the daughter of Malayadhwaja Pandya. There is no reference of Meenakshi defeating Yudhistira or Parikshit or Balarama or Janamejeya or any such, her supposed to be contemporary heavyweights. This clearly is a later insertion in an attempt to make their kingdom antique, going by the fact that the contemporaries, Pallavas and Cholas have got the main temples in their capital cities on a firmer footing. Another thing to note here is the name Meenakshi – eyes like a fish.
3. Fish is the emblem of the Pandyans. Is the name Meenakshi invented because of that, no one can prove. Being known all over the world for their navigation skills and for their pearls, they may have built up a story on top of that – Kumari Kandam – a large Pandyan ruled landmass south of Tamil Nadu completely submerged now. Note that it is ruled only by the Pandyans, not their contemporaries of Cholas and Cheras. May be, it’s nothing more than a small island in the Palk Strait washed away by a tsunami.
4. Till the last, almost all the rulers shared the throne with four or five – clearly an indicator of a power sharing custom of an older date, an indicator of the fact that supremacy of a single family is not tolerated – either they are allied tribes with one dominating the other or they saw too much bloodshed in wars of succession, which ironically, is the reason for their downfall.
5. For a kingdom that antique and that important with considerable literary output, we don’t have a clear picture of the dynastic succession, even in the last hundred or two hundred years unlike the Cholas.
On top of this, we see that a dynasty setup by Kadungon around 590 AD calls itself the Pandyan Empire, there is no link between the older Pandyan lines and the new one. Though there was an eclipse of power around 900 due to the Cholas, they bounced back by 1220, only to be one of those five South Indian kingdoms which collapsed before the Delhi Sultanate.
All of this point to an usurper using the name Pandyan, a word long forgotten in history and weaving history around it to claim legitimacy. The king list is below.
|Jatavarman Seliyan Sendan
|Arikesari Parankusha Maravarman
|Maravarman Sundara Pandya
|Jatavarman Sundara Pandya
|Sundara Pandya & Vira Pandya