References to Nanda & Mauriya Dynasties of North India in Ancient Tamil Literature

Thread started by virarajendra on 29th June 2012 10:06 PM

Author - Virarajendra

References to Nanda & Mauriya Dynasties of North India in Ancient Tamil Literature

Historically the earliest dynasties who ruled the Magadha kingdom of North India after the Shishunaga dynasty were the Nandas (B.C.424-321) and the Mauriyas (B.C.322-185).

The Nanda dynasty had nine Rulers commencing from Mahapadma Nanda and ending up with Dana Nanda over a period of 97 years. The Nandas with their vast army conducted numerous exploits and created a large and a rich empire. It was during the time of the last Nanda king the Dana Nanda the great political theoretition the Kautilya popularly know as Chaanakkiya who wrote the political treatise known as “Arathasastra” lived in the Magadha kingdom. At one instant the Nanda king had been rude to Chaanakkiya and insulted him in his court.

The insulted Chaanakkiya determined to destroy the Nanda dynasty, conspired to overthrow Dana Nanda using his great influence in the Magadha kingdom. He built an army in colaboration with the young Chandragupta aspiring for the Magadha throne, and waged war with the king Dana Nanda successfully which put an end to the Nanda dynasty and the rise of the Mauriya dynasty.

The Mauriya dynasty had nine Rulers commencing from Chandragupta Mauriya and ended up with Brihadratha Mauriya over a period of 137 years. The Mauriyas under Chandragupta, Bindusaara and Asoka the great with their vast army conducted numerous exploits and created a vast empire.

The "Ancient Tamil Literature" of Second & Third Sangam Periods namely "Puranaanooru", "Ahanaanooru" has references to these two North Indian Dynasties namely the "Nandas & Mauriyas" who consecutively ruled the Magadha kingdom - the present west-central region Bihar State in North India that were known to the Tamil Poets of these two Sangam Periods which are as follows:

The Nandas

"......the Nandas (Nanthar) full of many fame in victorious wars, leaving the much prosperous Paadali (Paadaliputra - capital city of Magadha kingdom) also protected their wealth even under waters of (river) Gangai......."

Ahanaanooru - verse 265 by poet Maamoolanaar

"......even if Nanda (Nanthan) has become empty handed (lost all his wealth in war), long live the other valiants (the country people) remaining....."

Ahanaanooru - verse 251 by poet Maamoolanaar

"......the elephants with white tusks playing in the river Sonai of the Paadali (Paadaliputra - capital of Magadha kingdom) with plenty of gold......."

Kurunthokai - verse 75 by poet Mosi Keeranaar

From the first reference it is very clear the Nanda kings during the period of their 97 years rule amassed imense wealth which was so great possibly the excess wealth had to be kept safe under water at one point only known to them on the flowline of the great Gangetic river flowing adjacent to their capital city the Padaliputra the present Patna of Bihar state.

From the second reference we note that a Nanda king became empty handed meaning lost all his wealth. The Nandas from the start of the rule of their dynasty under Mahapadma Nanda were never driven off from the city of Padaliputra the capital city of the Magadha kingdom. It was the last king in the Nanda dynasty namely the Dana Nanda who met the defeat at the hands of the Chandragupta Mauriya.

From the third reference we note the Paadaliputra the capital of Magadha kingdom was with 'plenty of gold'. Undoubtedly this too refers to the period of Nanda dynasty at Paadaliputra even though the name of Nandas have not been specifically mentioned in same, as we already know the Nanda kings of Magadha kingdom collected immense wealth in their wars. This is further confirmed by the fact the Tamil Literature "Kurunthokai" is dated around mid fourth century B.C.

Discussion & Inferences

The Sangam period Tamil Poet Maamoolanaar had actually made the second reference to the king Dana Nanda. Here he says in "present tense" long live his dependents that is his country people, even though the last Nanda king of the Magadha kingdom lost his wealth. Hence we are very certain the Sangam period poet Maamoolanaar lived during the period of the rise of the Mauriya king under the Chandragupta Mauriya around B.C.322. Further the first reference shows the people in Tamil Nadu of this period knew that the Nandas had immense wealth, and in addition to their capital city Paadaliputra they also had to hide them under waters in river Gangai. From the third reference they were also aware the capital city of Nandas had immese gold (in their treasury). These references gives us a hint that the Pandiya country had good political and trade relations with the Nanda dynasty for quite a long period, and hence they knew very well of the great riches of the Nanda dynasty. This gave the Tamil poet Maamoolanaar 'the mind to bless the people of the Magadha kingdom' who were in good relations with Tamil Nadu - with "long life" even though the last king of the Nanda dynasty has fallen in the war with Mauriyas.

Further we are aware the political theoretician of Mauriyas who in collaboration with Chandraupta Mauriya put an end to the Nanda dynasty was Kautilya also know as Chaanakkiya. It was he who wrote the treatise on political administration known as "Arathasastra". It is in this Arathasastra he refers to the goods of import from various countries which came to the Magadha kingdom. Among them were the pearls from the then capital city 'Kavaadam" (Kapaadapuram) of Paandiyar of Tamil Nadu adjacent to the sea, and precious stones from the Thamiraparani (river) region of south Tamil Nadu. He refers to the variety of pearls from Paandiya country too by the name "PandiyaKavaata". From these references it is clear that Paandiya country had good trade relations with Magadha kingdom during the period of Nanda kings recorded by Kautilya in his 'Arathasastra' which was written during the period of Nandas dynasty.

Kavaada city was popularly know in the Tamil literature as Kapaadapuram. Hence it is very clear the poet Maamoolanaar was a poet of the Tamil Sangam at Kapaadapuram being the Second Thamil Sangam. Further it is confirmed that the capital city of Kapaadapuram of the Paandiya country existed even during the period B.C.322. It was probably some time after this year the Tsunami destroyed the Paandiyan kingdom with its capital Kapaadapuram, which also put an end to the Second Thamil Sangam.

The Mauriyas

Chandragupta Mauriya succeeded on the throne of Magadha kingdom in the year B.C.322, with the fall of the Nandas in the war between them. He gradually conquered many other kingdoms surrounding Magadha on its north, east and west gradually forming an empire. Thereafter he turned his attention towards the countries in the south of India. He was assisted by one of his allies namely the Vadukar (Andhra) king, who lead them on their expedition towards the south. The Mauriyas in this expedition wherever required had to widen the narrow roadways and the valleys between mountains for the smooth running of their chariots with tall umbrellas and of wheels with gold fittings.

This is confirmed by the reference in the Tamil Literature namely 'Ahanaanooru' which is as follows:

".......with the very fearce Vadukar (Andhras) leading, the Mauriyas came on a war expedition towards the southern direction......"

Ahanaanooru - verse 281 by poet Maamoolanaar"

".......the Mauriyas to run their chariots having skyhigh tall umbrellas and with fittings of gold on it's wheels, widened the narrow roadways (on their way)......"

Ahanaanooru - verse 69 by poet Parankottranaar"

".......the Mauriyas to run their chariots having skyhigh tall umbrellas with flags and with fittings on wheels of bright shine, widened the narrow entrance to valleys (between mountains on their way)......"

Puranaanooru - verse 175 by poet Aaththiraiyanaar"

"......while Kosakar (king) with chariot fitted with victorious flag staff destroyed (enemies at) all fronts, the (kingdom) of Mokuur being not submissive beat the war drums at the "pothiyil" under the shade of a Banyan tree with large branches requesting surrender, (on refusing) the mischevous Mauriyas on horses took the lead (in support of the Kosakar) and their chariots retarded by clear (water) tributories (on the way)....."

Ahanaanooru - verse 251 by poet Maamoolanaar


The term "pothiyil" in the above verse correctly means a "mantram" an open terrace built under large trees with long shady branches as a meeting place for discussions. This has been wrongly interpreted by some Tamil Scholars as "Pothikaiyil" meaning Pothikai Malai(hill), and that the Mauriyas under Chardragupta went as far as Pothikai hills in the Thirunelveli district deep in the south Tamil Nadu which is 'totally incorrect'. The very fact that the Mauriyas never penetrated into Tamil Nadu at any time is clearly confirmed by the two Edicts (Inscriptions) of Asoka No 2 & No 14 seen right below. These two Edits very clearly states that the "Tamil countries" were beyond the boundries of the Mauriyan empire having the Mysore region of Karnataka as its southern boundries, even during the period of Emperor Asoka.

The Kosakar referred in the above verse in Ahanaanooru were the ruling dynasty of the Tuluva country having their capital city at Paali of this period, covering the present Goa, Mangalore, and surrounding region of the Karnataka state. This is confirmed by a verse in Ahanaanooru as follows:

"........very truthful great Kosakar......of Tulunaadu where there are peacocks with netted feathers.......the great old (capital)city.......the Paali with great security of Nannan, having an elephant with headcovering (sooli) of shining gold......"

Ahanaanooru - verse 15 by poet Maamoolanaar

Discussion & Inferences

From the above references on Mauriyas, it is very clear the Mauriyas came on an expedition towards the south with the assistance of the Andhra king who lead them towards the south. The Tamil Poet Maamoolanaar as seen earlier lived during the period of the fall of Nandas and the rise of Mauriyas.

The first Mauriya king ruling after the fall of Nandas was Chandragupta Mauriya. During this period the king Nannan of Kosakar dynasty of the Tuluva country - a region which covered the present Goa and the surrounding conquered all the neighbouring kingdoms and expanded his region of authority. However the kingdom of Mokur on the north-east frontiers of present Kongu region of Tamil Nadu was not submissive. The king of Nannan of Mokur possibly seeked made treaty with the Mauriya king and also seeked his assistance in defeating the kingdom of Mokur which "possibly" fell to the Kosaker. There is no reference to the name of the king of Mokur.

The Mauriya king who invaded the south up to the region of southern Karnataka was undoubtedly was Chandragupta Mauriya as the poet who mention of this Mauriya invasion in the Ahanaanooru is the same Tamil poet Maamoolanaar who livided during the period of the fall of Nandas and rise of Mauriyas under Chandragupta Mauriya. However he could not invade the regions beyond the boudaries of then Karnataka region in Tamil Nadu.


The Chandragupta Mauriya long after this war expedition to the regions up to southern Karnataka, came on a second - but a spiritual expedition with the Jain Monk Badrabahu to the Saravanabelagola in the Mysore region after handing over the Magadha empire to his son Bimbisaara, and end spent his final years in this holy centre and died in this region. This is confirmed by the two inscriptions at Srirangapattna in south Karnataka and by a Karanataka Chronicle.

Among the Mauriya kings it was the Chandragupta Mauriya who came on a war expedition towards the south and expanded his territorial region. His son Bindusara during his period of rule never conquered additional territories other than what he inherited from his father. Even during the period of his grandson the Emperor Asoka has to his credit of only annexing the Kalinga kingdom to the already existing Mauriya empire inherited from his grandfather. He never came on any war expedition towards the south up to the boundries of Karnataka during the period of his rule.

It was the Chandragupta Mauriya who was the "Territorial Conqueror" of many kingdoms of India which made Mauriya empire grow with much territories under its fold. Hence it is more appropriate to call the Chandragupta Mauriya as "Chandragupta Mauriya the Great".

Emperor Asoka of Mauriya dynasty was only a great "Spiritual Conquerer" of many regions of India "with his spreading of Buddhist religion" in the north and east of India, in the west of India in Afganistan upto Alexandria and Greece, in the south upto southern Karnataka, southern Tamil kingdoms the Chola, Pandiya and the island of Sri Lanka. The Rock Edicts found in many parts of India in the north - beyond the southern borders of Karnataka are his "spiritual messages" on Buddhism and not of any 'victory messages' of any territories conquered by him. (Note: Only territory conquered by him during the period of his rule was the Kalinga kingdom).

This is very clearly confirmed in the Emperor Asoka's Inscription which is as follows:

"....Every where within 'Beloved-of-the-Gods' the King Piyadasi's (king Asoka the great's) domain, and among the people beyond the borders, the Cholas, the Pandyas, the Satiyaputras (the "truthful" Kosakar), the Keralaputras, as far as Tamraparni, and where the Greek king Antiochos rules, and and among the kings who are neighbors of Antiochos ...."

Edicts of Asoka No 2 - an English rendering by Ven Dhammika, publised by Buddhist Publication Society, Kandy, Sri Lanka - 1994 (Edition)

However he spiritually conquered the regions of then Tamil Nadu namely the Chola Nadu and Paandiya Nadu and Kosakar kingdom with the spread of the Buddhist religion in these regions by Buddhist monks of his empire.

This too was confirmed by an Inscription of Emperor Asoka which runs as follows:

"......Now it is conquest by Dhamma that Beloved-of-the-Gods (Emperor Asoka) considers to be the best conquest. And it (conquest by Dhamma) has been won here, on the borders, even six hundred yojanas away, where the Greek king Antiochos rules, beyond there where the four kings named Ptolemy, Antigonos, Magas and Alexander rule, likewise in the south among the Cholas, Cheras and the Pandyas and as far as Tamraparni (river).

Edicts of Asoka No 14 - an English rendering by Ven Dhammika, publised by Buddhist Publication Society, Kandy, Sri Lanka - 1994 (Edition)


In the reference above in Ahanaanooru it ia stated about the Kosakar as "very truthful great Kosakar", who undoubtedly were the "Satyaputras" (Satya + truthful) of the above inscription of Emperor Asoka. Some Scholars have mistook the name of 'Mokur king Palayan' found in the Tamil Literary work Pathirtruppaththu and have mentioned that the Mokur king who was defeated by Kosakar with the help of Mauriyas was king Palayan which is totally incorrect.

The king Palayan of Mokur was a contemporary of the Chera Emperors Neduncheralaathan and Cheran Chenguttuvan of Chera Nadu. In fact Cheran Chenguttuvan defeated Palayan and brought Mokur under his rule. But all these are the events that took place in the mid second century A.D. But the Mokur king of the period of Kosakar king Nannan referred in Ahanaanooru belonged to the contemporary period of the Chandragupta Mauriya of mid fouth century B.C. whose name is not evident from any sources of this period.


In conclusion it could be arrived at that the Paandiya kings of Tamil Nadu had good political and trade relationship with the Nanda dynasty of Magadha kingdom upto the time of their fall. With the rise of Mauriyas under Chandragupta Mauriya and with his desire for territorial expansion, came on a war expedition towards the south of India upto the southern borders of Karnataka. Their expedition into this new region had to be lead by his ally the Vaduka(Andhra) king (name still not known) through the narrow roadways and valleys inbetween mountains. Subsequently on their arrival to south Karnataka, and with alliance with the king Nannan of the Kosakar kingdom ruling from his capital city Paali covering the regions of the present Goa, Mangalore and its surroundings, assisted them in their conquer of the king of Mokur (name not known) on the southern bounderies of Karnataka adjacent to the Mysore region.

The southern boundries of the Magadha empire remained intact from the time of Emperor Chandragupta Mauriya through the period of rule of Bimbisaara and the Emperor Asoka. But none of the Mauriyan kings could ever penetrate into the Tamil Nadu of that period, and the Chera, Chola, Paandiya kingdoms ("Muth Thamil Nadu") continued to remain independent "free of any domination by the Mauriyas". After the demise ofthe Emperor Asoka the kingdoms on the southern boundry of Karnataka gradually freed themselves from the yoke of the Mauriyas, who gradually declined during the periods of their sucessors.



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