|House||Vēḷir (Satyaputo) - Fraternity of Truth|
The Vēḷir (Tamil: வேளிர்) were a royal house of minor dynastic kings and aristocratic chieftains in Tamilakam in the early historic period of South India. Extolled in Sangam literature for their charity and truthfulness, they were the ancestors and head of the modern Tamil Veḷḷālar caste. However, the Journal of Kerala Studies states that etymological interpretations that connect Vellalar with Vēḷir are unconvincing. It suggests that the word Vellalar comes from the root Vellam for flood, which gave rise to various rights of land; and it is because of the acquisition of land rights that the Vellalar got their name. However, they are still considered to be the actual descendants of the Vēḷir - "But this does not mean the Vellālars may not be the descendants of the Vēlir; probably they are; but the words Veḷḷālar, Vēḷāṇmai, Vēḷālar, are derived from their art of irrigation and cultivation rather than from their original chieftainship." Vassals of the three main Tamil dynasties of Tamilakam — Chola, Chera and Pandya, the Vēḷir had close relations with them through marriages and coronation right. The Vēḷir were crowned with the epithet Satyaputo "members of the fraternity of truth" for their virtues, and their lands were often hill/mountainous terrain.
There were twelve to thirteen Vēḷir dynastic families of fame in the Sangam age. Seven kings from seven dynastic clans of the Vēḷir royal house formed the Kadai Ezhu Vallal (The last of the 7 (lines) of Great Patrons), liberal patrons of arts and literature in ancient Tamilakam. Vēḷir became a title inherited by Veḷḷālar chiefs of the medieval period.
The Kongu Vēḷir dynasty ruled Kongu Nadu, while the Vēl Pāri dynasty produced numerous kings ruling Parambu Nadu, the most popular of whom was a close friend of the poet Kapilar. The Irunkōvēl line ruled over Ko Nadu and their most famous ruler, Pulikadimal, was a contemporary of Karikala Chola and Kapilar. The most heralded of the Āviyar line was Vaiyāvik Kōpperum Pēkan, a contemporary of the poet Paranar, and renowned for his generosity. The Malayamān Vēḷir dynasty ruled Nadu Naadu around Tirukoilur, their royal emblem featured a horse and their most famous king was Malaiyamān Thirumudi Kāri. Both he and his son Thaervann Malaiyan assisted the early Cholas and Cheras. The most famous Vēḷir dynasty was the Athiyamān dynasty, and this dynasty's powerful and most famous king was Athiyamān Nedumān Añci. His son Elini ruled Kudiramalai of the ancient Jaffna kingdom and Vanni, a co-ruling contemporary of the famous king Korran. These kings belonged to a prolific Tamil horseman tribe. The ancient Tamil Naka Oviyar tribe of the Vēḷir house, whose nation stretched to the Tamil emporiums of Mantai and Kudiramalai, had the famous king Nalliyakkotan who ruled this region and is paid tribute to in the Ciṟupāṇāṟṟuppaṭai.
Each of the Vēḷir dynasties ruled from their own capitals and utilized the seaport of Arikamedu.
According to Tamil mythical tradition, the Velirs came to south from the city of Dwarka in north India under the leadership of the Vedic sage Agastya just after the collapse of the Indus Valley Civilization and belonged to the Yadava Kshatriya clan. However, some Tamil researchers say that Agastya mentioned in Vedas and Agathiyar mentioned in Tamil texts are two different characters. In Tamil language the term 'Agam' means inside and 'iyar' means belong. One who belong inside (soul) is the Tamil meaning for Agathiyar. The Velirs of Kongu Nadu were called Kongu Velirs (கொங்கு வேளிர்) and they ruled the Kongu region. Numerous poems in the ancient Sangam literature extol these chieftains' charity and truthfulness. Among the most prominent were those known as the 'seven patrons' (kadaiyezhu vallal); Paari, Malayaman Kaari, Ori, Adigaman, Avi, Nalli and Veliyan. Athiyamān Nedumān Añci and his son Ezhini, were Adigaman chieftains, based in Tagadur. They were contemporaries of Auvaiyar. The Sangam poem "Thagadur yathirai", now lost, was written about his battle with the Chera king. Another Velir was Irunkōvēl (Purananur-201 by Paranar) who ruled from Koval (modern day Tirukovilur) on the banks of the Pennai, (the present Ponnaiyar River) which presently discharges into the sea at Cuddalore in Tamil Nadu. It is likely that the course of the river has changed to the south over many centuries. Other Velir chiefs of repute include Alumbil Vel, Alandur Vel and Nangur Vel In Sangam literature the more prevalent word used is Vel, such as in the names Vel Avi and Vel Paari.
Asoka's edicts mentioned a clan of rulers called Satyaputas along with three crowned Tamil kings Sathiyaputo as mentioned in the Asokan Girnar edict is the same as Sathiyaputo mentioned in the Jambai inscription. The Jambai inscription was issued by Adigaman Chieftain. The Sanskrit name means "members of the fraternity of truth". A Tamil epigraph found recently at Jambai near Tirukkovilur in Tamil Nadu says satiyaputo atiyan netuman anci itta pali which translates to "Monastery given by Satyaputa Athiyan Nduman Anji"
Potsherds with early Tamil writing from the 2nd century BCE found in excavations in Poonagari, Jaffna bear several inscriptions, including a clan name—vela, a name related to velir from the ancient Tamil country.
Asoka mentions the Satyaputras in his inscriptions along with the Cholas, Pandyas and the Kerala putras. The Satyaputra-Athiyamān Velirs wielded sufficient power in the time of Asoka (3rd century BCE) almost on par with the Cheras, Cholas and Pandyas, a power which continued for several centuries.
|“||Ye Ca anta ata Choda, Pandiya, Satiyaputo, Ketalaputo, Tam bapanni, Antiyogo naama, Yonalaja||”|
|“||Everywhere in the conquered dominions of king Priyadarsin, the beloved of the gods, and the dominions on the borders as those of the Chola, the Pandya, the Satiyaputra, the Cheralaputra, Tamraparni, the Yavana King named Antiyoka and the other neighbouring kings of this Antiyoka...||”|
The inscription, assignable to first century CE, mentions the Athiyā Chief Neduman Anci, a heroic historic king celebrated in volumes of the Sangam literature classics Purananuru and Akananuru. This Athiymān king was most likely a descendent of the dynasty mentioned in Asoka's edicts. The inscription records the endowment of a cave-shelter by the chieftain Atiyan Netuman Anci who sports the title Satiyaputo. The inscription gives the name of his clan (Atiyan), of his father (Netuman) and of himself (Anci). This clear statement enables researchers with absolute certainty, to identify a chieftain mentioned in the Tamil Sangam literature with a personage figuring in a Tamil-Brahmi inscription.
The Gummireddipura plates make mention of the Satyaputra-Velir Adigaman dynasty.
An inscription belonging to one of the kings of the Irunkōvēl line from the Adhipuriswara temple in Tiruvorriyur district mentions Velirs :
- Mahadevan, Iravatham (2009). "Meluhha and Agastya : Alpha and Omega of the Indus Script". Chennai, India. p. 16. "The Ventar - Velir - Vellalar groups constituted the ruling and land-owning classes in the Tamil country since the beginning of recorded history"
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- Arokiaswami, M. (1954). The early history of the Vellar Basin, with special reference to the Irukkuvels of Kodumbalur. Madras: Amudha Nilayam. p. 21.
- The Journal of Kerala Studies, Vol 14, p.6-7: "Also some modern scholars have tried to equate them with the Vellalar caste. However, such etymological interpretations to connect Vellalar with Velir appear unconvincing".
- The surnames of the Caṅkam age: literary & tribal, by M. A. Dorai Rangaswamy, Mor̲appākkam Appācāmi Turai Araṅkacāmi, p.151-155: "The commentators on Tolkappiyam speak of two kinds of cultivators, the Melvaramdars and the Kilvaramdars, relying upon like ‘Kutipurantarunar param ompi’ (Patir 13, line 24), ‘safeguarding the burden of those who protect the cultivators’, - and of some cutrams in Akatinnai Iyal (24, 29, 30) and the Marapiyal (80, 81, 84)... Tolkappiyar is not concerned with the codification of the actual habits and social conditions of the castes as contrasted with the literary tradition. Therefore one is tempted to look upon these as interpolations of a later age. Therefore the attempt at confusing the velir with vellalar and at identifying the Vellalar with the Sudras of the Smritis, is misleading. The word Vellalar comes from the root Vellam, the flood of the water which the Vellālar directed into proper channels; the name Kārālar is an exact equivalent of this word. But this does not mean the Vellālars may not be the descendants of the Vēlir; probably they are; but the words Veḷḷālar, Vēḷāṇmai, Vēḷālar, are derived from their art of irrigation and cultivation rather than from their original chieftainship."
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