Wednesday, 22 January 2020

The Pandalam royal family, Kerala traced their origin in Pandya Dynasty of Madurai. Escaped to Kerala during Muslim invasion in 1311!!

Pandalam map 1498
en.wikipedia.org
Narayana Varma of Royal Pandalam family, Kerala. simplicity.in
During the popular  pilgrim season in November to January every year to the famous Sabarimala Sri Ayyappan temple on the Pathanamithitta hills  of Kerala the most sacred puja called Mandala puja is done in the second week of January. On the day of Makkara villakku, the tradition has it Lord Ayyappa wears the gold ornaments sent by the royal members of Pandalam family (once erstwhile rulers of Pandalam kingdom)  from their royal palace on the banks of Achankovil river.  The religious procession covers a distance of 83 km on foot and takes 3 days to get to Sabarimalai. The ornaments, etc  reach the shrine on the 14th of January before evening. 
Front viewtwo-storeyed Pandalam Valiyakoyikkal palace en.wikipedia.org
More often than not we have heard about the great rulers of Travancore and Kochi whose contribution to the culture of Kerala and Hinduism is vast. Only during the Sabarimala pilgrim season every year we have heard about the rulers of a small kingdom.  When in the recent past the supreme court kicked up the controversy over the entry of menstruating women into the shrine of Sri Ayyappan who is a naishtika Brahmachari there was a big row between the Hindu devotees and certain hardcore rationalists  and the state government headed by a Communist leader.  Their primary obsession is to destroy the age-old  Hindu  temple customs and traditions.  During this tumultuous time which Sabarimala never saw before, we often ran into the Pandalam royal family and their long association with  the holy shrine.
/Sabarimala, the holy abode of Ayyappa en.wikipedia.org

If you turn the faded Indian history pages relating to the Pandya dynasty of Madurai  and go to the 14th century,  certain interesting facts  emerge  about the origin of the Pandalam rulers of this part of Kerala.  Pandalam dynasty is said to have their origin  in the  Pandya kingdom of South Tamil Nadu with capital at Madurai. The two royal family heirs had dispute over the succession to the famous  and rich kingdom. Malik Kaufer  rided Hoysala kingdom in 1311. The Hoysalas could not withstand the onslaught.  The invaders forced  ruler Veera Ballalla III to submit, and looted him of 312 elephants and 20,000 horses, besides  vast jewellery treasures. (the plundering continued in the later years as wel and later destroyed).  Taking advantage of the unstable political situation in Pandya kingdom in the same year - 1311  the military commander of Alauddin Khilji (1296–1316)  marched into Madurai  city with a strong contingent of 10000 soldiers, half of them were ferocious butchers and mercenaries. 

The two groups of Pandya rulers were no match for this strong treacherous  army. It was an unexpected  and sudden raid on their kingdom. Having failed to face the ferocious attack and widespread looting and destruction of Meenakshi Amman temple, the two brothers fled along with their families clandestinely towards west (Chera Nadu/Kerala) for safety from further  attacks  and certain death. The invaders looted  and took away all the Pandya  kingdom's vast  rich treasures. Please refer to: https://navrangindia.blogspot.com/2014/10/first-muslim-invasion-to-tamil-nadu.html

One group, after crossing the mountainous terrain, settled at Poonjar in Kottayam in the western ghat region and established the Poonjar kingdom. The other group (Chembazhannur), after considerable wandering, settled at  Pandalam.  The fleeing Chembazhannur branch at first settled in Valliyur (near Tirunelveli) and enjoyed a privileged position in the society. But, later earned the ire of the Nayak ruler Thirumalai nayak as they turned down the wedding proposal of Nayak ruler's daughter. In the midst of threats from Nayak's army, they moved to different places and they 
kept troubling  the Chembazhannur group  where ever they had settled.
The royal family - Chembazhannur  group moved farther west via places such as Achankovil, Aryankavu, Kulathupuzha and settled in Konni by c. 79 ME (according to the Copper manuscript issued by the Venad Raja).  A full-fledged kingdom was established by them  around c. 370 ME (1194 CE)  after obtaining the land from Kunjunni Varma Thampan (Kaipuzha Thampan) of Amanthur Kovilakam at Kaipuzha and the local ruler and landlord of the region.  As mentioned before,  the Venad ruler also played a great role in the establishment of this kingdom.  The rulers of Chera region recognised the status of the Pandya rulers, their rich legacy,  wealth and their contribution to the construction of countless Hindu temples in Tamil Desam.
 Pandalam is part of Pathanamthitta district. The family constructed a shrine for lord Shiva in Konni (Muringamangalam Sreemahadevar Temple) for their daily worships. This temple is considered as  one of the most noted contributions of Chembazhanuur family in Kerala.  Being charitable  and humane, they built a  number of Mutts, Manas and Koyikkalls  for the benefits of people. The local people who faced continuous threats from the robbers and thieves  accepted the family as the ruling class which was named as Chembazhanji kovilakom. Unfortunately, the unexpected attack of  Travancore by later Chola rulers  forced the family to flee Konni  and finally settle down at  Pandalam which became their permanent capital.
The Pandalam rulers (Chembazhannur  group)  earned the love and affection of the natives as they created a  peaceful atmosphere  for coexistence and growth of the land, besides the welfare of the people.  According to the Travancore state manual, Pandalam kingdom maintained a friendly relations with  various rulers
of  Travancore with the help of  Kunjunni Varma Thampan 
who was the close friend and  advisor to  the  Maharajah of Travancore.
The territories of Pandalam kingdom extended over an area of 1,000 square miles (2,600 km2), covering  parts of Konni, Achankovil, Tenkasi and the forest regions of Sabarimala, the abode of Ayyayppa.  It was during 345 ME, Aadhichavarman a  ruler of Venad  gave  a sizable portion of land to this kingdom. Marthanda Varma, the popular  Venad ruler and  founder of  Travancore kingdom (925 ME)  annexed many parts in Central Travancore, but he never touched the Pandalam kingdom and left it independent. This was the outcome of special status and friendship they had with Travancore rulers. Further, in the conquest of  Kayamkulam region, the  Pandalam  rulers were of great help to the Travancore ruler. 
In the wake of devastating raid by Tipu Sultan of Mysore, in the 18th century the Travancore rulers forced the Pandalam ruler to pay Rs.2,20,001 to Travancore government during 965 ME.  It is mentioned in the history of Travancore the money was paid in instalments,  being the income from  Sabarimala temple. However, by 995 ME, tTravancore ruler made an agreement with  the Pandalam king. It was a written assurance that they  would support  every member of the royal family if they were allowed to collect revenue from Pandalam.  In accordance with this agreement,  the kingdom of Pandalam  became part of Travancore and a monthly pension was issued for each royal family member. The administration of  many  temples including Sabarimala  in the  kingdom came under the direct control of Travancore. After Travancore became part of the Indian union, the  management at last came under the Travancore devaswom board. Now, Sabarimala is part of Pathanamthitta district; earlier Pandalam was  part of the Mavelikkara taluk of Alappuzha district.
Many family members live  in Pandalam and the senior most member of the royal family is known as the Valiyaraja. Revathinal Ramavarma Raja holds the position as of today. The ruler of this family as mentioned before has a son and father relationship with Lors Ayyappa. From the post, you would have understood how historically they have close link with the famous Pandya rulers of South Tamil Nadu who made vast contribution to Srirangam Ranganathar and other Hindu temples. Their association with lord Shiva and his consort Parvati has many mythological anecdotes. They are,  it is said, the 'Pithrusthanis ' of Lord Ayyappa. The royal members are being held in great esteem by the people of Kerala and others. so are the Pandya dynasty of bygone era in Tamil Desam. 
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pandalam_dynasty
https://simplicity.in/articledetail.php?aid=840