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Updated: March 13, 2014 14:10 IST

From Kashmir to Srirangam — a tale of medieval tourism

IANS
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A view of Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple, in Srirangam. Photo: A. Muralitharan
The Hindu A view of Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple, in Srirangam. Photo: A. Muralitharan

Tourism was a highly-developed economic and cultural activity in South India during the medieval period with even people from Kashmir in the far north ventured deep into the region to support temples and cultural activities, an expert in the field said.

“From the epigraphs available of the period, it is clear that there was a lot of North-South movement. Generally, people from North India are termed as Aryan in the inscriptions. You can see people from Kashmir and Bengal in many pilgrim centres of South India,” historian and epigraph-specialist S. Chandni Bi of the Aligarh Muslim University’s history department told IANS in an interview.

“There are many inscriptions in Tamil denoting the presence of Kashmiri people. They are seen as donors, making endowments to the Srirangam, Tiruvottiyur, Kancheepuram and Chidambaram temples, to mention only a few. There are at least eight Tamil epigraphs that mention Kashmiri donors between the 11th and 13th centuries,” she added.

Defining tourism as the “movement of people from one place to another, a considerable distance away, for a stay longer than a day, with or without a purpose,” Chandni Bi said “Hiuen-Tsang’s accounts tell us that he came from China, travelled to many places in India, and finally got into the ship from Sri Lanka to return home.”

Not only the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, but the Silapathikaram, one of the five great epics according to later Tamil literary tradition, and the Thevaram, a 63-volume collection of Tamil devotional songs, also give us a vivid picture of common people and saints continuously moving to different parts of the country for a variety of reasons.

In modern times, entertainment is the main focus of tourism, but in ancient India, the purpose was religious, cultural or simply business, the historian clarified.

For instance, in the Srirangam Vaishnava temple, engraved on the eastern wall is a Kashmiri referred to as Arya Vasudeva Bhattan alias Rajaraja Brahmarayan from Anishtanam of Kashmirdesam. Rajaraja stands for king and brahmarayan denotes he was a Brahman occupying a very high and distinguished administrative office in the regime of Kulottunga I. These inferences make clear that the people from North India were settled in the Tamil land and played significant roles in politics and religion, Chandni Bi added.

People from not only different parts of South India but also from many parts of the North extensively toured the south for political, economic and philanthropic reasons. Thus, the Srirangam inscriptions are written in Tamil, Sanskrit, Oriya, Telugu, Marathi and Kannada, pointing to visitors from these lands.

Rulers from outside India also showed great interest in constructing religious buildings and mutts for pilgrims from their countries.

“We have the two Laiden Plates (artifacts) of Rajaraja I and Kulothunga I of the 11th century. Both relate to donations to a Buddhist vihar at Nagapattanam,” Chandni Bi said, adding that this was clear proof that tourism was a major activity in medieval south India among all classes — irrespective of class, creed, caste, language, religion and even country.

“To sustain tourism, facilities for stay and food had to be created. Most travelled by road and so the kings took special care to provide shady trees along the roads. Inscriptions in different parts refer to many big and small roads which connected places. Royal roads and temple roads had the special prefix of Tiru and were called Tiruvidi. Interestingly, one such peruvidi (big street) of the 11th century at Tiruvalankadu is a part of the Golden Quadrilateral Project initiated by former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee,” the historian noted.

Horses, bullock carts and donkeys were largely used by all sections of the people as modes of commuting. A larger section of the population trusted their own legs. The inland waterways were also utilised and specially-built boats plied.

The temple premises and mutts were used as resting places. Choultries, called “chattirams” were common at all junctions of main roads connecting different townships. Chattirams were managed by watchmen and care for the traveller, his luggage and the animal, if there was one, was available for a price, as was food and fodder. The term Ira Chattiram (night chaultry) perhaps indicates they were meant for night stays, the historian stated.

After transport and stay, the next priority was food. It appears that eateries were available on roadsides, which provided livelihood to destitute women. An elaborate free food distribution system ensured that tourists would not need to pay at the popular pilgrim centres, Chandni Bi said.

At many centres, there was provision perhaps for exchange of currency of different kingdoms and rulers that facilitated the tourists.

“We also have evidence of a hospital functioning in the Srirangam temple,” the historian said.

“Moreover, almost all the houses had single or double raised platforms at the entry point that helped travellers to avail of rest and night stay. Generally, the common public were also kind and large-hearted to take care and spare food and water for travellers from far and near,” Chandni Bi added.

Mr.Siv posted on 13th: Why do the so called "Historians" and 'experts
on History' keep flogging the dead horse called Aryan invasion theory?
Are they so removed from (scientific progresses of) the times that
they still attribute this mythic theory to hold water? Every modern
scientific evidence encompassing multiple domains - archaeology,
literary,paleontology and other domains all point to only one thing -
that Aryans were synonymous with the citizens of the Indus Valley
Civilization(IVC complex) and were no aliens that walked in from
elsewhere in Eurasia." .....Abandoning "invasion theory" does not
amount to accepting " Autochthonous Aryans theory". It is Rajaram and
his tribe who are flogging a dead horse, by forging "Mackay 453, Bull
seal", to prove that IVC is vedic. Vedic Aryans came from Persia long
after the fall of IVC. Linguistically too vedic language belongs to
the Indo-Iranian, which again is a sub group of Indo-European
language.

from:  Ramanan P.G
Posted on: Mar 15, 2014 at 16:43 IST

The word 'arya' in this Middle Tamil (and consequently Malayalam)
context refers to the north. There are several examples of this in both
languages. Examples include, Ezhuthachan's reference to ariyaezhuthu
(i.e. Northern writing in reference to Pallava grantha script), famously
in the epithet of the Pandiyam King 'Ariya padai kadantha (Victor of the
Northern army) Nedunchezhiyan' and recently in Koteswara Iyer's piece
'Varana Mukava Thunai,' he refers to 'ariyam tamizh' as two languages.

from:  Na. Palaniappan
Posted on: Mar 14, 2014 at 14:42 IST

It may not be an Aryan invasion theory but a migration theory which
cant be dismissed as just myth, there are conflicting scientific
claims also, only people who believe they have Aryan lineage dismiss
this. I'm not posting this due to bias, but this is something not to
be dismissed as a political argument. It is quite evident that they
came form ariyana(comprising Turkmisitan, Kazakasthan, Uzbekistan and
Kyrgystan), there is a BBC documentary available in youTube which
shows archaeological evidence in turkmnistan. Even Iranians calls
themselves as Aryans, the "parsis" are the vedic Aryan cousins who
migrated to Persia and later came to india, their holy scripture Zend
Avesta is very close to Rig Vedas.

from:  Krishna
Posted on: Mar 14, 2014 at 11:52 IST

Aryan-Invasion theory has been proven to be fake based on genetic
methods, archaeology, linguistic studies etc. There are plenty of
information for this on youtuse etc.. Arya in sanskrit means a "noble"
one. Aryan invasion was a cooked up theory by the British imperial
indologists to deprive indians of their cultural pride...Its funny to
see how we are still believing this fake theory to be true even today..

from:  Avinash
Posted on: Mar 13, 2014 at 18:09 IST

Articles like this can lift the spirit of the present day common man. One only longs for the return of such camaraderie among our present day people of the different regions.

from:  S.Balaraman
Posted on: Mar 13, 2014 at 17:17 IST

Why do the so called "Historians" and 'experts on History' keep
flogging the dead horse called Aryan invasion theory? Are they so
removed from (scientific progresses of) the times that they still
attribute this mythic theory to hold water? Every modern scientific
evidence encompassing multiple domains - archaeology, literary,
paleontology and other domains all point to only one thing - that
Aryans were synonymous with the citizens of the Indus Valley
Civilization(IVC complex) and were no aliens that walked in from
elsewhere in Eurasia. It is time these people that 'love'
histrionics... sorry history shed their political biases and look at
their domain purely from a scientific perspective - unless that is
done, science will remain politicized - especially of the Left.

from:  Siv
Posted on: Mar 13, 2014 at 16:34 IST

Srirangam & Ranganathanswamy Temple is significant not only in those
days but thousands of years ago too. Srirangam temple has a Kashmir
connection not only by tourist but by a daughter of a Kashmir King who
became the consort of Sri Ranganathar. Yes, she is called as "Thuluka
Nachiar" (Thuluka means Muslim / Nachiar means wife).

While Sri Ramanuja was on expedition to recover the deity named
"Selvapillai" which was with Kashmir King's daughter, She wasn't able
to bear the pain of separation from the deity & followed Ramanuja to
Srirangam & when she saw Ranganathar, she fell in love & prayed to
marry her & became his consort. Her shrine is next to Ranganatha's
inside the temple.

Even today, Muslim food "Roti" is prepared & offered to Nachiar & you
wont believe that the remaining food is then offered to Ranganatha.
That is Ranganatha consumes the food which is left behind by Thuluka
Nachiar.

This action denotes to respect womanhood & love. Everyone MUST visit
the shrine.

from:  Shankar
Posted on: Mar 13, 2014 at 15:52 IST

I thank the newspaper for publishing this article. This country has seen
a peaceful (atleast until muslim invasion) continuous migration and
inter-mixing of its people since ancient times. Unfortunately today
several faultlines (aryan vs dravidian) have been drawn which never
existed back then.

from:  Ravi
Posted on: Mar 13, 2014 at 14:48 IST
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