The later Pandyas of 1150 AD -1350 AD resurged under the rule of Maravman Sundara Pandyan I and Jatavarman Sundara Pandyan I. Both these rulers extended their empire to Telugu regions, Kalinga and Sri Lanka. Many rulers of the Pandya dynasty have been mentioned in the Sangam literature also.
Origin of Pandya Dynasty
The word "Pandya" has its derivation from the Tamil word "Pandi" which means bull. Bull is considered as a sign of masculinity and valour. In Sangam Literature, however, Pandya means 'old country.'
History of Pandya Dynasty
Kadungon established the first Pandyan Empire in the 6th century by defeating the Kalabhras. Thereafter the kingdom grew in strength and territory. Cholas became obscure; the Tamil territory was divided between the Pallavas and the Pandyas and River Kaveri served as the border line between the two dynasties.
Vijayalaya Chola conquered Tanjore thereby re-establishing the Chola dynasty and resulting in the downfall of the Pandyas. Cholas were their greatest enemies. Parantaka I invaded the territories of the Pandyas and defeated Rajasimha III. However, the Pandyas could never overcome the Cholas despite their alliance with the Cheras and the Kings of Lanka. Chola army led by Aditya Karikala, son of Parantaka Chola II, defeated Vira Pandya in a battle. Pandyas were driven out and they stayed in the island of Sri Lanka. The Pandyas were replaced by Chola viceroys and assuming the title Chola Pandyas and ruled from Madurai.
In the 13th century the Pandya Empire reinstated its power under the rule of Jatavarman Sundara Pandyan. The foundation of the empire was laid by Maravarman Sundara Pandyan in the early 13th century. The Pandya Empire extended from the Telugu regions on banks of the Godavari River to the northern half of Sri Lanka. Their revival marked the steady decline of the Chola Empire.
Rulers of Pandya Dynasty
After the Sangam age, the first Pandyan Empire was established by Kadungon in the 6th century by defeating the Kalabhras. Thereafter few kings have ruled the empire, the most prominent being Srimara Vallabha. Nedunjayan Varaguna I was succeeded by his son Srimara Vallabha. He defeated the king of Ceylon. He had also defeated a confederation of the Pallavas, Cholas, Gangas and other kings at a place called Kudamukku. Thereafter, the struggle between the Pallavas and Pandyas continued. Near about 880 AD the Pallava king Aparajitavarman defeated the Pandya king with the help Cholas and Gangas. From 920 AD up to the end of the 12th century, Pandyas ruled only as subordinates of the Cholas. The Pandyan king made several unsuccessful attempts to be independent from the suzerainty of the Cholas. The power of the Cholas started declining during the reign of Cholas king Rajadhiraja II. At that time the Pandyas received the help of the king of Ceylon. Jatavarman Kulashekhar ruled in 1190 A. D. For about a century Pandyas ruled over Dravidian province. The well known rulers of Pandya dynasty have been described below:
Maravarman Sundara Pandya I
The Chola power increased during the reign of the successor of Jatavarman. But Sundara Pandya again defeated the Cholas and burnt the cities of Tanjore and Udaipur. Chola king Rajaraja III had to submit to the Pandyas and became a subordinate of the Pandyas. He once again revolted against the Pandya king but was defeated.
Jatavarman Sundara Pandya
Jatavarman Sundara Pandya came to the throne of Pandya kingdom in 1251 A.D. He was a powerful king of this dynasty. After defeating the Cholas, he brought Kanchi under his control. He also helped Chera, Konga and Ceylon kingdoms to become independent. After conquering Hoysala king Someshwara, he occupied fort of Koppam and drove away the Hoysala king. He also defeated Kakatiya king Gajapati and also Pallava king. He extended his empire up to Kadappa and Nellore. Jatavarman was a very generous and charitable man. He donated a lot of money to the temples and performed many yajnas as well. He ruled up to 1271 A. D.
After the death of Jatavarman Sundara Pandya, Maravarman succeeded him as a king. He fought many wars and conquered Travancore and Ceylon. Maravarman Kulasekhara sent his minister Arya Chakravarti to attack Ceylon at the time when there was a famine in that island. Arya Chakarvarti conquered the fort of Subhagiri and plundered huge wealth for its ruler. For about twenty years, Ceylon remained under the control of the Pandya kings. During the reign of Maravarman himself, there was a terrible war of succession in between his legitimate son Sundara and illegitimate son Vir Pandya. Maravarman was killed in this war of succession. However, it is certain that seeing the revolt of the Pandyas, Ala-ud-din Khilji's general, Malika Kafur, took advantage of the situation and by attacking Madurai, plundered all the wealth and carried it away with him. Ala-ud-din again sent his general, Khusrav Khan who attacked Madurai thereby putting an end to the rule of Pandya dynasty.
Religion under Pandya Dynasty
The Pandya Dynasty initiated a religious era in Tamil Nadu. In Madurai, Shaivism was practiced during the Pandya rule. Jainism and Buddhism also formed the basis of religion in Pandya Dynasty. Jainism flourished in the Pandya kingdom following the invasion of Kalabhras. The references of the existence of both these religions are found in ancient Tamil literature. During the rule of the later Pandyas an increased amount of Hindu worshippers existed who claimed themselves to be descendents from Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati.
Art and Architecture of Pandya Dynasty
Rock-cut and structural temples are part of the art and architecture of Pandya dynasty. The early rock-cut temples have monolithic vimanas. During the Pandya Dynasty rule, several structural stone temples were built which had all the features of bigger temples like vimana, mandapa and sikhara. In the latter period of the Pandya rule development of elegant vimanas with finely sculptured idols and the gopurams or portals of the temples originated. Meenakshi Temple in Madurai and Nellaiappar Temple in Tirunelveli were built during the reign of the Pandyas. Pandya Kings were mighty rulers as well as courageous warriors. They have been constantly under the attack of the Cholas, Pallavas and Muslim rulers. It has been revived by few powerful rulers later on however subsequently declined. Jatavarman was one such celebrated emperor who came to the throne of Pandya kingdom in 1251 A.D. He gained supremacy over the state of Tamil Nadu after defeating the Cholas. Maravarman succeeded him as a king. He fought many wars and conquered Malaynadu, present day Travancore and Ceylon. Other influential rulers among the Pandyas were Sirvallabha, Maravarman Sundara Pandya I and Maravarman Kulasekhara, who constantly proved their superiority throughout their reign.
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Pandya Dynasty, Medieval History of India