The Pandya Dynasty was one of the four most popular dynasties of the Southern India. The dynasty was also a part of the Triumvirate called “World of the Three” along with Chola, and Chera Dynasties. The name of the Dynasty is derived from the word Pandi meaning bull in Tamil. The first Pandya king was Kulasekharan and it was with his name that the epithet Pandya was assigned for the first time as he was of a built as strong as a bull. The Pandyas ruled for the longest time in the Indian history and are believed to be the richest dynasty in the history of India. The origin and the succession history of the Dynasty is often debated and the only source to any information on the initial rulers of the dynasty is through the epics of Tamil Literature named Silapathikaram and Manimekalai which contain short epic poems dedicated to several Pandyan Kings over a span of time.
The Pandyan rule in India is believed have been started in the 3rd century BCE generally called the Sangam Period. However, it is only after the end of the Sangam Period that their rule strengthened in India.
Pandyan Kings in Sangam Period
Some of the significant names that have emerged through various historical sources in respect to the rulers under the Pandyan Empire are Koon Pandiyan, Nedunj Cheliyan I , Aariyap Padai Kadantha Nedunj Cheliyan), Pudappandiyan, Mudukudumi Paruvaludhi, Nedunj Cheliyan II, Nan Maran, Nedunj Cheliyan III (Talaiyaalanganathu Seruvendra Nedunj Cheliyan), Maran Valudi, Kadalan valuthi, Musiri Mutriya Cheliyan and Kadalul Maintha Ukkirap Peruvaludi
The First Pandyan Empire and the Rulers
The first Pandyan Empire refers to the Pandya rule in the South India initiated by Kadungon in the sixth century by thrashing the Kalabhras. The victory gave a momentum to the empire and they grow in valour along with the Pallavas. Howver, the Chola Kings revived their lost pride by capturing Pandyan owned Thanjavur region. After this, there was no lloikng back for the Cholas and the Pandyans could not retain their earlier supremacy despite of the repeated efforts to wage wars and form alliances. Some of the significant Pandyan Rulers at this time were Kadungon 560 – 590 AD, Maravarman Avani Culamani 590 – 620 AD, Cezhiyan Cendan 620 – 640 AD, Arikesari Maravarman Nindraseer Nedumaaran 670 – 710 AD, Kochadaiyan Ranadhiran 710 – 735 AD, Arikesari Parankusa Maravarman Rajasimha I 735 – 765 AD, Parantaka Nedunjadaiyan 765 – 790 AD, Rasasingan II 790 – 800 AD, Varagunan I 800 – 830 AD, Sirmara Srivallabha 830 – 862 AD, Varagunavarman II 862 – 880 AD, Parantaka Viranarayana 880 – 900 AD, Maravarman Rajasimha II 900 – 920 AD.
The Pandya Rulers under the dominance of Cholas
Due to the efforts of Parantaka Chola, The Cholas continued to dominate the South South India, Deccan and the Eastern and Western Coast of India during AD 880- 1210 and most of the Pandyan kings were banished from their kingdoms and lands. Some of the Pandyan kings were forced to add epithet Chola with their names as they were ruling in Chola conquered lands. The Pandyan rulers who lived in misery at this time were Sundara Pandya I, Vira Pandya I and 11, Amarabhujanga Tivrakopa, Jatavarman Sundara Chola Pandya, Maravarman Vikrama Chola Pandya, Maravarman Parakrama Chola Pandya, Jatavarman Chola Pandya, Srivallabha Manakulachala (1101–1124), Maaravaramban Seervallaban (1132–1161), Parakrama Pandiyan (1161–1162), Kulasekara Pandyan III, Vira Pandyan III, Jatavarman Srivallaban (1175–1180),Jatavarman Kulasekaran I (1190–1216).
13th century: A New Lease of life for the Pandyan Dynasty
After being shadowed by the Chola Dynasty for over two centuries, the Pandyan Dynasty finally made a come back under the Pandyan Kings Maravarambam Sundara Pandyan and Jatavarman Sundara Pandyan 1. The Pandyans extended their rule even to the northern half of Sri Lanka during the 13th century under Jatavarman Vira Pandyan 1. As the Pandyas grew in stature, the dominion of the Cholas weakened. The alliance with the Hoysalas did no good to the Cholas and with the death of Vira Someshwara Hoysala. The Pandyans got hold of the Kongu territories, Chola Nadu and some of the Hoysala countries during the time and a new clan called Kongu Pandiyar was established under Jatavarman Vira Pandiyan. The loss of Vira Someshwara against Jatavarman Sundara Pandiyan resulted in the end of the Hoysala Empire. Jatavarman Sundara Pandiyan went inside Kannada country after conquering Tiruchy and occupied parts of Hoysala territory up to the Konkana coast and established his son Vira Pandiyan as ruler of those territories. Rajendra 3 of the Chola Empire who has defeated the Pandyan princes in history was the next target of Jatavarman. He challenged Rajendra -3 who hoping that Hoysalas will help him accepted the challenge. But the already frightened Hoysalas were in defensive mode and Rajendra -3 lost and was humiliated in the war which is believed to have taken place somewhere around 1268-70. This was the end of the Chola Empire.
Raids by the Mughals and end of the Pandyan Rule
The Khilji Dynasty ruling under Allaudin Khilji in Delhi at the time sent its general Malik Khasur to the expedition of South India with treasure hunt being the prime motive. Veera Ballala III of the Pandyan Kingdom was the first victim in Malik Khafur’s siege of South India. His defeat led to the capture of the Hindu temples at Halebidu and their subsequent loot. The next target of Allaudin was the rich Madurai about which they heard from Veera Virupaksha Ballala, son of Veera Ballala III of the Pandyan Kingdom and now a confidant of the Mughals. Sundara Pandyan decided to attack Malik Khafur’s army before they could launch an attack on them and marched with his enemies to meet the Malik’s forces at Thiruchirapalli while Vira Pandyan stayed back to protect the walled city of Madurai with his men.
The poor execution and even more poorly armed Pandyan Dynasty was soon out of stock essentials like water. The fatigued armies could not combat against the well armed soldiers of Khilji Dynasty who met them much before Thiruchirapalli. Soon, the Pandyan army collapsed in face of a well planned attack and Sundaram Pandyan was taken captive. Vira Pandyan was successful in restraining the opponents and preventing them to enter the revered Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple. A truce was proposed by the Mughals under which they gained hold of all the gold and valuables of the temple and the ration in the fort of Madurai while they had to release Sundaram Pandyan and leave the deities of the temple unharmed in return. However, the later expeditions by Khilji rulers Khusro Khan in 1323 CE and Ghiyath al-Din Tughluq in 1333 CE were enough to wipe the Pandyan Dynasty from the face of South India.