ஆண்ட பரம்பரை மீண்டும் ஒரு முறை ஆள நினைப்பதில் என்ன குறை? – a glimpse of a common past.


Patanjali had a famous notion, known today as “Patanjali’s Potters Principle”, which roughly states that “if you want pots, you go to a potter, but if you want words, you don’t go to a grammarian.” What he meant by this was that languages are more significant than regular, everyday commodities like pots. Words cannot just be made up on the spot by a grammarian like a pot can by a potter, but rather, new words come into being as a language evolves.

I have a theory.

It will be interesting to understand words relating to the Tamil root-word “Kal” (stone, strength) : kalvar – the strong men, kaliru – elephant, the strong animal par excellence and also the shark, kal – liquor (the strength-giver) and kalam – the field of battle.

Ka, Kal,  Kar, Kai etc. all also mean “take-எடுப்பது“. It certainly requires a person to be of great strength to ‘take’ in ancient times. From this context, Kalvar / Kallar / Kallan, is one who takes (a thief takes, …a king acquires wealth for his subjects) – the greatest empire of ancient India, the Cholas, had the habit of taking into possession statues of gods and goddesses from conquered lands all over India and reinstalling these statues in full grandeur in their capital cities as guardian deities. The famous idol of Mahishasura Mardhini in Gangaikonda Cholapuram is one example.

Tholkappiyam describes in detail the Tamil war-craft in “Puram” where cattle-raiding in a pattern called vetchi is the beginning of any warfare. In those days cattle symbolized the wealth of a kingdom and rival kings often attacked and raided each other’s cattle to establish their supremacy. The raided cattle were then safeguarded by the victor. The Tamil custom of raiding and seizing the cattle of rival kings was practiced by Kauravas – Mahabharata speaks of this.

** It is in this practice that the ancient game of bull-fighting among the Tamils evolved from – Lord Krishna won over 7 bulls in a bull-baiting contest to take the hand of Nappinnai. In case, you have not noticed, I just described Krishna and Kauravas as Tamils.

Krishna, has another name… Kalla. In a rare warrior-like form, with bow and sword, Vishnu as Kallalagar of Madurai and His divine bodyguard Karupanaswamy are the deities of the Kallars – more specifically Piranmalai Kallars. The Eesanattu Kallars from Tanjore are traditionally more Saivites (eesan nadu i.e. the land where Shiva in the form of Sundareswarar ruled – “Then Madurai”, 1st Sangam).

Empires, were built on those principles. Ugly, they appear to the modern man …who do it with better diplomacy.

There is something more to the description on cattle-lifting. It was not merely an act of thievery – cows were vital to the agriculturist, highly revered in the religion …and there was a code of war-conduct to make sure cows are never harmed in a war. Thus, the 1st to be evacuated from the war zone!

The custom of cattle raiding leads to a systematic three-tiered invasions of the raiders’ territories – Kalla-padai (raiders), Mara-padai (warriors – infantry / cavalry) and Aga-padai (fort defenders). This often complemented the traditional fourfold army formations – chariots, elephants, horses and foot soldiers. The three-tiered system however, were not definitive or suggestive of specific roles of the Mukkulathors in the battle field. Roles could have been based on one’s clan BUT… one’s merit in war is more significant – empires could not be built on quota systems! I would also dismiss that Mukkulathors were the only one’s who took arms in battles. There were definitely others. And yes, the Mukkulathors, were definitely there.

In a similar way, I have discussed in earlier notes how segmentation of Maravars and Agamudayars evolved in the Tamil martial community. If you can see from the above, there is a natural pattern to it – Kallar, Maravar, Agamudayar. I also find reasons to believe the term Mukkulam (the three clans) and Mukkulathor actually evolved in a much later period of time, possibly a few centuries closer to the colonial era. In fact, it also appears that the first linguistic reference of “Kallar” as a clan only started happening after the imperial Chola period circa 1300.

Perhaps, in reading Sun Tzu’s ‘Art of War’ one can relate how effective the three combined forces can become.

The most subtle 1st strategic strike will benefit in a war. Mental or spiritual defeat of the enemy is considered an essential aspect of military victory – while physical annihilation may or may not follow psychological defeat, the psychological component is a necessary prerequisite.

Sun Tzu’s worded “…the supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting”. This, the Kallars did well! This too, the Tamils taught the Chinese warlord!!

Some interesting accounts on how ancient Tamil militarism conquered lands are given in another post in this blog. I can’t seem to find Pandey’s original blog. The Pandey theory, although at a different time-line seems to geographically (at least) fit with claims that the Indus civilization was actually Dravidian. The other research on Sumerian-Tamil links connect to these 2 claims too, however arguable any of these 3 may be!

Post-sangam inscriptions shed some light to a different groups of Kallars from the North e.g. the Sendalai Pillar inscription of Perumbidugu Muttaraiya, a Muthuraiyar chief is styled “the king Maran, the Lord of Tanjai (Ko-Maran-ranjai-kkon) and Kalvar-Kalvan,  Tanjai-nar-pugal-alan, a Kalva of Kalvas, the distinguished Lord of Tanjai …upon his conquest over the Chola, Pandya and Chera. These groups of invaders from the northern regions of Thondaimandalam were associated with the Kalabhra 300-year (maybe more) rule, opt-quoted as the dark age of the Tamils.


1) Kalvarkalvan means the warrior-of-warriors / thief-of-thieves, thus suggesting grouping of Chola, Chera, Pandya to a single clan of warriors / thieves i.e. Kallars, and that the Muthuraiyars subdued them.

2) The Kalabhras are also known as a band of thieves with chieftains like Tiraiyan of Pavattiri and Pulli of Vengadam… but a different lot from the Chola, Chera, Pandyas.

Why were the Kalabhras – “Kallappirar” (the other Kallars?) different ? Because they, unlike the earlier Kallars propagated a new religion – Buddhism and Jainism to the South.  It is known that Buddhism entered South India during the reign of Asoka. This, did not necessarily mean that Kalabhras were not Hindus. They, perhaps were against Brahminism and allowed Buddhism and Jainism to flourish. It was during this time too that Bodhidharma, a Pallava prince from Kanchipuram left to China to spread Buddhism via Shaolin Monasteries.

The Kalabhra’s were ousted by Pallavas a.k.a. Pallavarayars somewhere in 6th century CE. The revival of Hinduism from its root during the Kalabhras spurred the construction of numerous temples and these in turn generated Saiva and Vaishnava grand temples and devotional literatures by the later Pallavas, Chola, Pandya and Cheras.

Historians like Edgar Thurston (pre / post-colonism) explicitly define Kallars as simply a band of unholy hereditary thieves and murderers during the British occupancy. This, they articulated well for a couple of reasons. However, while many compromised the British by turning as ‘peace loving agriculturist’, certain sub-clans of the Kallars did exactly that… now, from the non-Tamil invaders. Well, thieves they were! Could we have sparked the legend of Robin Hood in the English?

So much has been lost, some altered to suit the needs of certain groups – enemies, and traitors… and infinity may seem the right word to describe efforts to regain the truth. The research to establish the ancient Tamil race to whatever that it is rightfully claimable needs a concentrated effort from it’s champions. Truth, after all is ours to tell …or ours to hear. Thank you.


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