Pallava Origin of the Pallavas History

The period of Pailava rule is an important chapter in the history of Tamil Nadu. After defeating the Kalabhras, Pailavas established their rule in the Tamil country. Their rule had extended from Sixth century A.D. to Ninth century A.D. The core of the Pallava kingdom was known as Thondai Mandalam. It extended from the river Krishna in the North to the river Palar in the South.

The Paliava rule was significant in many respects. There was religious revival as well as literary growth. An excellent administrative structure had existed under the Pallava rule. The Pallavas had also effected important changes in the sphere of art and architecture.

Origin of the Pallavas

Kanchipuram one of the seven best cities of India, was the capital of Pallavas. Kanchi was under pallavas rule from 3rd to 9th century AD. Vincent Arthur Smith opined in 1st edition of ’History of India’, that Pallavas were the Pahlava of Persian origin and in the third edition of his book, he concluded they were South Indians.

There are many theories regarding the origin of the Pallavas. Some scholars consider that the Pallavas were foreigners. According to this theory, the Pallavas were the descendents of the Persians who invaded North India. But many scholars do not accept this theory.

The theory that the Tamil country had been the original home of the Pallavas is based on the story of Thondaiman Ilanthiraiyan. He was considered to be a descendent of the Chola-Naga tribes. However, the Tamil origin for the Pallavas has been ruled out on many counts.

It is generally considered that the Pallavas had migrated to the Tamil country from North India. While in North India, they served under the Mauryas. After the decline of the Mauryas, the Pallavas migrated to the Andhra region. Before coming to the Tamil Country, they stayed in the Andhra region for some time and served under the Satavahanas. Subsequently, they established the Pallava kingdom in Thondaimandalam by overthrowing the Kalabhras.

They were the descendants of Thondaiman Elanthiraiyan. However let us also examine the views of other historians.  A researcher by name rice said that Pallavas were the descendants of Pahlavas who migrated to and lived in the North Western India.

Suvisahan Pahlavan a minister of the Andhra Emperor Rudradaman ruled during 150AD and his descendants took over the southern part of Andhra Empire at its decline. Virakurchavarman who married the daughter of a Naga, the ruler of South-Western states of Andhra Empire.  The copper plates of Pallava described him as the first Pallava king.

Dr.Venkaiyar is of the view that the West Persian word “Panthiyas” changed to Pahlava and then as Pallava.

A painting of Nandhivarman II wearing a crown with the shape of an elephant head is found in Kanchi Vaigunta Perumal temple.  The same type of crown is engraved in the coin of Indo-Bactrian King Demetria’s.  Hence Venkata Subbaiyar felt that Pallavas were Pahlavas only.

The Nasik inscriptions of Andhra Queen Gautami Bala Sri while telling the victory of her son Gautamiputra Sri Satakarni, recorded the defeat of Sakas, Pallavas and Yavanas who fled the battle field.  Pallavas who came towards south could have been prevented by Gautamiputra Sri Satakarni the Andhra King who conquered them.

Pallavas being the feudatories of the empire of Andhra for some time, they might have created an independent Kingdom after the fall of the Andhra Empire.

The word ‘Pahlava’ does not find place in the inscriptions of Pallavas.  Inasmuch as the state of Scythian Warrior is found in Nagarjunakonda, Iksha Vahus are not treated as Scythians.  Rajasekaran lived during the 10th century AD wrote in his book Bhuvanagosha that the Pahlavas lived beyond the river Indus and the Pallavas of South India belonged to different and distinct tribes.

A Sri Lankan researcher Rajanayagam tells us that the Manipallavam near Sri Lanka is the places of origin of Pallavas.  The Chola king Killivalavan referred to in ‘Manimekalai’, that he married Peelivalai, daughter of Naga King Valaivanan of Manipallavam.  Their son was Elanthiraiyan.  Elanthiraiyan who livd at Manipallavam with his mother sailed to Tahmizhagam to meet his father in a ship which sank in the sea and he reached the shore floating on the waves.  A creeper called Thondai was found encircled in his leg, hence he was called Thondaiman Elanthiraiyan.  His descendants were named Pallavas as they came from Manipallavam Island.

Pallavas belonged to Thondaimandalam, who were subjects of Satavahanas Rule doing service to them (Thondu) and hence called Thondaiyar.  That name later was Sanskritised as Pahlava. Krishnaswamy Iyer stated that the Thalavanur inscriptions indicated the wearing of the garland made of Thondai by Mahenravarma Pallavan.

K.P. Jayaswal opined that Pallavas were a sect amongst Vakatakas. Even in early inscriptions there is no mention of North Indian connection and hence not acceptable point.

Pallavas of later period were the descendants of the Kurumbar Tribes. Kurumbar means shepherds and cowherds and ‘Pal avar’ (milk-man) might have changed as Pallavar.

Manimekalai refers to Athonda Chakravarthi who defeated Kurumbar and conquered their land, named it as “Thonda Mandalam”.

The ancestors of Marathas were of Aryan origin and for Pallava too and hence usage of Maratha’s Prakrit language by Pallavas – C.V. Vairya.

D.C. Sirayan opines that even though letter Pallavas were treated as Kshatriyas, they might have been of Brahminicial origin earlier.

H.Krishna Sastri says that the first Pallava was born to Asvathama son of Dhrona a Brahmin and Naga Kannigai, a Dravidian for who a bed was made of creeper, (Padarkodi) and hence he was called Pallavan.

K.A. Neelakanta Sastri is of the view that Pallavam in Prakrit and Sanskrit meant “Thondaikodi” and hence they got this tittle as Pallava.

As per Mahavamsa of Srilanka Pallavas hailed from Pallavabogam to Thamizhagam; Pallavabogam may pertain to parts of Andhra. According to A.M. Paramasivanandam, early Pallava inscriptions were found in Andhra.

Mythology mixed up with history on royal tradition might not be correct to conclude that Pallavas belong to Aryan race.

Pallavas, feudatories of Satavahanas, became independent after the fall of Satavahanas.  Prakrit language copper plates confirm their rule from Kanchi to Krishna in the north.  Prof R. Sathiyanathaiyar tells us that their association with Satavahanas made them the patrons of Prakrit-sanskrit languages.

Rawlinson feels that after their rise in the estuaries of Krishna and Gothavari, Pallavas invaded Tamil Nadu and established their rule (350AD) conquering Kanchi, with the help of Kallar, Maravar and Kurumber.

Rajasimhan’s Vayalur inscriptions describe the lineage of Pallava next to Asvathama and earlier to Ashoka while fixing Ashoka’s ancestry. Hence Pallava dynasty existed prior to Ashoka and a family from cross marriage who were subjects of Andhra Empire became independent.  Under this influence they adopted Prakrit language and accepted the local language later. – V.Ponnusami Pillai

The inscriptions after 8th century AD contain different names like, Kadavan, Kadavarkon and Kaduvetti as the Pallavas developed the country reclaiming to forests.

The origin of the Pallavas could not be ascertained as Puranic stories were mixed in the history.  In spite of the researches with conclusions made, some are of the view that their origin was from North.

Though Pal lava belonged to Thondaimandalam, they adopted Pali and Prakrit languages under the dominance of Buddhism and Jainism.