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First Tamil Historian- Paranar

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(This is already posted in Tamil under literature. This translation is only for those who couldn't read and understand Tamil).

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!
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