Land system in the Tamil country is always a fascinating subject because of the vast data that are available in inscriptions. In this analytical work the author discusses the control exercised by the kings, feudatory chiefs and officials in the land administration. He also discusses the part played by the various local assemblies such as ur, nagaram and sabha. His study on the various aspects of the land system such as land yield, land use, taxes, exemptions and collection of taxes and the interpretations he offered to the various details embedded in the inscriptions are not only convincing but also interesting. The author also brings out the differences among the various regions in the matter of land system -revenues, yields and he dwells at length the reasons for such variations. He also throws light on the role of the temples which came to possess large parcels of land and the conditions under which they administered these lands. The chapters on the land -prices, measuring rods, irrigation facilities give a comprehensive picture of the land-system that was prevalent in Tondaimandalam right from the age of the Pallavas.
Dr. J. Sundaram obtained his Ph.D. from Delhi University. He was born in Sivakasi, Ramnad District on 14-4-1927. His first education was started at Mettur Dam and then he came to Chennai. He finished his M.A. in History from Presidency College.
He was working as Senior Epigraphical Assistant at Ootacamund in the Office of the Government of India. Then he went to New Delhi there, for Some- time he was he was a Junior Research Officer in the Epigraphy. He wrote a narrative on the "Operation Shanti" (Indian Army on Peace Mission in Egypt in 1956-1967) which was published by the Ministry of Defence. Then finally he retired as the Senior Research Officer in the Ministry of Defence. After retiring, Dr. S. N. Prasad asked him to write three chapters about the South Indian Army to be included in the Encyclopedia of the Syria Army.
He is now/working for the Uttankita Vidya Aranya Trust at Mysore (Karnataka), initially inspired by the Paramacharyal of Karnakotipitham, Kanchipuram,(now he has attained siddhi), for publishing in series of volumes, all the inscriptions in Sanskrit those have been edited and dealt with in the various publications concerning this subject, so far.
Auvaiyar, the Tamil poetess who is reputed to have belonged to the Sahgam age (1-15 centuries AD) is credited with a verse which purported to say that the higher the embankments of the fields, more water would stagnate therein leading in turn to a better crop prosperity of the husbandsman (kudi) and ultimately of the king. This reflected that during her period the essentials for promoting rice cultivation and the value of agriculture for the prosperity of the king had been grasped. This verse tells only about the husbands man and the king as the dependent on the land. It does not indicate any intermediary. Whatever may have been the theory behind the king's expectation of a portion of the yield of land. As per this verse, King's interest was in the yield rather than in the land and the dues payable to him were adjusted to the crop. About who these husbandsmen were, other Sangam poems indicated that there were both Brahmins and vellalar, Neither of them is indicated to have had any ulterior purpose in holding land beyond enjoying the benefits from the yield.
So far as the land held by the Brahmins was concerned it can be surmised that it was what had been given to them by the kings for their maintenance on account of their adhering to their ordained duties. There is no reflection in the Sahgam literature that any special rights were enjoyed by these
Brahmins holding land during the Sangam period. The Sahgam poems also indicate that during that period the area under agriculture (the main irrigated rice cultivation) was restricted to the basins of the main rivers Kaveri and Tamraparni- Vaigai. On the basin of the Kaveri, in the upper and lower reaches the Chola ad probably the Chera respectively had established their kingships and on the basin of the Tamraparni - Vaigai complex the Pandya kingship was based. The archaeological excavations at Korkai near the confluence of the river Tamraparnl with the sea, have reached that irrigated-rice cultivation had been going on in that portion of the Pandya country from very ancient times. Only these three kings, the Chera, Chola, and Pandya are seen described as the crowned kings (mudi-mannar) of the Tamil country in these poems indicated that their primacy and power were due to their territories agriculturally developed. The beyond the base territories of these crowned kings were apparently underdeveloped or awaiting development. This is borne out when the Sangam poems while describing the exploits of Karikala -Chola (2 century A.D) says that when he conquered the people Aruvalar, Oliyar etc. around the basin of the river South Pennar (i.e.) the southern portion of the land to clear forest and settle Vellalar there into bring that land under the agriculture scheme.
Though there are no indications above the origin of these three crowned kings available the Sahgam Classics, it can be surmised that they were part of the local population. As such they could have faced any' problem (i.e) hostility from the local population, necessitating the devising of special measures and to keep them in good disposition and under control.
Subsequent to the 7th century a sizeable number of the records are available in the shape of inscriptions. It has is these records revel that more regions had been brought under agriculture. In these inscriptions the terms devadana, brahma-deyam, irai-ili etc. begin to get mentioned Thus the land system has seen to have been institutionalized and based on land. These institutions are also seen to have given a new shape to the land system. The origin of this change is traced to Tondaimandalam.
The region that came to be known as Tondai-nadu or Tondai-mandalam lay along the basin of the rivers Palaru and its major tributary Cheyyaru. During the Sangam period though not unknown, this territory seems to have been only partially settled. The available source material does not throw any light on the land system that was in operation even in that settled portion (i.e.) the areas nearer the coast, though included in the Tamil country had stronger links with the Guntur-Nellore region in the north both politically and culturally. It might have served as a channel for the percolation of the cultural developments in the northern region to the core of the Tamil country in the south. Even so it is seen that the practice of issuing charters granting brahmadeyam which had started in the Guntur-Nellore region even in the 3rd century had not spread even to Tondaimandalam till the latter half of the 7th century. This practice is seen to have been adopted in Tondaimandalam in the 7th century under a special set of circumstances. By this time Tondaimandalam had become the base territory of the Pallava rulers. This dynesty which was earlier based in the Guntur-Nellore region and which probably had portions of Tondaimandalam as adjunct to its territory had been displaced from its original territory and had come to depend on Tondaimandalam for supporting its political existence.
As a consequence they had not only to take measures not only to develop the economic and agricultural potential of the region but they had also to devise ways and means to secure Their control over the different localities in the region. It was in this context that they are seen to have issued the brahmadeyam charters.
Through the issue of such charters they entrusted the brahmins who were fortified with several rights and privileges. The position of the brahmins in society was further strengthened by the development of the institution of temples. Beginning with rock cut shrines, impressive structural temples were set up during the period. Worship in these temples required the presence of the brahmins. Sometimes villages were attached to the temples and such attachment is referred to as devadana. These villages were often left in the charge of the brahmins. Thus brahmadeyam and devadana became characteristic features of the land system in Tondaimandalam under the patron-age of the pallavas. Once developed in Tondaimandalam these institutions are seen to have been adapted into the land system of the Tamil country to change the shape of the land system from 9th century onwards. Hence it has been found that to understand the ramifications of the land system in the Tamil country during the periodi AD800-1200, it is necessary to study systematically the shaping of the land system in Tondaimandalam on the basis of brahmadeyam and devadana during the period (c.AD 670-1000). Such a concentrated study is attempted here and has been cast under the following chapters: The first chapter deals with the physical background against which the land system was developed. It is pointed out how the limited natural resources in the region is evidenced to have been judiciously tapped to maximise their utility only during this period.
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