When we talk about Tamil history we are confined to the Cheran, Cholan and Pandyan dynasties and if we discuss the later part of the Tamil history then Pallava dynasty comes into the picture. But did you know there were other kingdoms within Tamil Nadu who ruled alongside the Moovenders( Chera, Chola and Pandya)?
Velirs or the Fraternity of Truth was a Tamil dynasty which was a vassal and in some cases the rivals of the Moovenders during the early part of Tamil history. They are known to exist from the 3rd century BCE as they were featured in King Ashokan’s edicts, but their rule is to have extended from far before then.
According to Tholkappiyam ( one of the oldest Tamil works), the Velirs had come from Dwarka ( the legendary city in which Krishna lived and was destroyed towards the end of Mahabaratha) under sage Agastya ( Father of Tamil Language) and were part of the Yadava clan. This means that Velirs had migrated from North of the Vindhyas to set roots in the Tamil Country
The Velirs Dynasties
The Velirs were split into the following dynasties each of whom had their own capital around the Tamil region and used the seaport of Arikamedu located in Puducherry overlooking the Bay of Bengal.
- Vēl Pāri
- Vēl Āviyar
- Ilanji Vel
The most famous of the above is the Athiyaman Clan.
They ruled parts of the Kongu Nadu ( Dharmapuri and Salem) from Tagadur which is the present day Dharmapuri from at least the third century CE. They were bordered by the Cheras on the west and Cholas and Pandyas on the east.
The Athiyaman Velirs were considered to be on par with the Cheras, Cholas and Pandyas from the 3rd Century BCE and this power structure was said to be in place for the next 3to 4 centuries.
Out the Athiyaman Velirs the most famous was Athiyaman Neduman Anci and Enci ( his son). Both of them were part of the Kadai ezhu vallalkal (7 great patrons of Tamil Literature) in ancient Tamil Country.
Athiyaman Neduman Anci was the patron of Avvaiyar ( The Lady Tamil poet who wrote 59 poems in Purana Nuru, not to be confused with the author of Athicudi ). Being a small kingdom sandwiched between the Cheran and Cholan empires he played a delicate game of diplomacy to keep his kingdom same. He sent Avvaiyar to a Chola viceroy and she helped Anci develop a friendship with the Cholas thus deterring the Cheras from conquering his Kingdom.
There are many interesting anecdotes about Avvaiyar and a Tamil chieftain Thondaiman who was Anci’s rival. Once when Thondaiman was showcasing his skill his archery Avvaiyar had reportedly told him that whilst his Armour glistened in the sun unlike Anci’s which was worn out because of the numerous battles which he had to fight.
The Tamil Sangam history
The Tamil Sangam period is one of the golden ages of Tamil Nadu and there are lot’s we still do not know about that age. For example, what were the diplomatic methods used by the Velirs to keep themselves safe from the Moovenders? When did they first migrate to Tamil country? How did they integrate into the Tamil populace? Since they had arrived under the leadership of Agastya did they have any influence in the Tamil grammar rules laid out by Agastya?
So many questions. But alas the answers are very few.