ponnarshankar
                                                          PONNAR SHANKAR

 

Ponnar-sankar are two sons of the couples Kunnadaiyaa Gounder &Thaamaraiya Goundachi. They had a Daughter called 'Thangammal. They belong to Vaangal Perungudi kottam. Both ruled PONNI VALANADU. Now they are worshiped as gods by KONGU VELLA GOUNDERS. Veerappur is a historic place in Kongu region, where Kongu Vellala Gounders fought with their rivals Vettuvans during medieval times.

Verappur is a place of pilgrimage connected with the history of Ponner-Sankar who ruled this region. There are Temples for Ponner- Sankar & Periyakandi Amman. Ponnar-Sankar are said to have lived at Valanadu and Veerapur. The Neeli Valanadu Fort is rectangular in shape (460 feet x 295 feet). There was a moat around the palace. Ichi tree, the basement of the entire fortification, some remains of the moat are existing. The Story of Brother is the story of ancestors of Kongu Vellala Gounders who inhabit the Kongu area of Tamilnadu. Although there is no official geographic area called Kongunadu at present, it covered the districts of Coimbatore, Erode, Karur, parts of Trichi and parts of Madurai. This area is generally dry land compared to other parts of Tamilnadu. The rivers Bhavani and Noyyal flow through this region. Some parts of the Kongu are irrigated by Kaveri. Kongu Gounders make up about 37% of the Kongu region and is a dominant community in the Kongu region.

It is said that Kongu migrated to the Kongu region about thousand years back to inhabit the forest lands and convert them into agricultural lands for cultivation. It is also said the Kongus helped the Chola kings in their attempt to inhabit the land and in the fight against the original hunter-gatherer communities and in setting up settlements in the region. The Chola kings donated to the Kongus large tracts of lands and gave them also rights to set up small kingdoms. That may explains why the Kongus are the major landowners in the Kongu areas and main cultivators of the land.

One of the major landmarks that one will find traveling across Kongu region are "Roadside Temples" dedicated to The Brothers. It is impossible to miss the sight of the colorful effigies of brothers carrying swords with fearsome looks. Although The Brothers belong to the community of gounders, "Brothers" are celebrated by many other communities besides gounders. In fact, gounders do not celebrate the festival of The Brother. Instead, they sponsor the celebrations performed by other communities and perform some rituals assigned to them.

The story of brothers used to be one of the greatest folklores of the Kongu region. Local bards used to sing the story for a period of thirteen days. At the end of the story they used to perform ritual death of the brothers and the soldiers and their resurrection.

M. Karunanithithi, former chief minister of Tamilnadu, was fascinated by the sight of temples dedicated to brothers when he lived in the Coimbatore region and took deep interest in understanding the story. Then, he wrote a historic novel titled "Ponnar-Sankar" to tell a slightly modified version of the story. Perhaps, it may be one of the best sources to understand The Story of Brothers.

This story is about the early settlement of gounders in the Kongu region and their struggle to establish their roots in the region. The story narrates the hostilities between the parallel relatives for the land and the resentment of the original hunter-gatherer community to the new settlers. History tells us that settlements of the new comers to a new land never takes place without the struggle with the original inhabitants of the land. The story exemplifies the victory of the brothers over the hunter-gather community and the parallel relatives who in collusion with hunter-gatherer wanted to defeat the Brothers and take the land away from them. Perhaps, that fight would have settled the dispute of the gounders for their right of settlement in the region and their expansion to the whole of present Kongunadu.

So. What is the story?

Kolatha Gounder ? Patriarch of the Story

This story traces the history of three generations of gounders. The patriarch of the story is Kolatha gounder. He belonged to PerunKudian Koottam and ruled a small kingdom from a village named Vaangal. His wife was Paavaathal. Kolatha gounder was a good and benevolent king. He built a temple near Mathukarai for the goddess Chelliamman. He also built a water pond ( Vellan Kulam ) in that area and irrigated nearby lands.

During his time, there were hostilities among the more powerful Tamil Kings belonging to Cheran, Cholan and Pandian dynasties. He offered his services to settle their disputes by organizing a conference at the Mathukarai temple. It is said that the Chola king was very pleased with his services and donated him large parcel of land. He also gave him rights to rule the area.

Unfortunately, Kolatha gounder and Pavathal did not have a child for a long time. They finally got a son after praying to the goddess Chelliamman and undertaking pilgrimages to temples. They named him Nellian Kodan. Although, the couple had a son, the son did not turn out to be a typical gounder boy. Unlike the usual gounder boys who were aggressive and strong, Nellian Kodan turned out to be meek and weak. As he was very soft, people started calling him "Masai Swamy" meaning brainless boy.

Kolatha Gounder and Pavathal were getting old. Kolatha gounder was not keeping good health. Naturally, they were worried about their son and started wondering what would happen to him after they were gone. Kolatha Gounder summoned his brother Chellatha Gounder and the household worker Cholan Thotti to his house. He told both of them about his worries. He pleaded with his brother to groom his son and to take care of him until he became an able adult.

Kolatha gounder's wife Pavathal had a brother named Malai Kolunthu living in the village Maniam Kurichi. As it was customary in those days to marry the daughter of Mama, Kolatha gounder wanted his son to marry Thamari Nachi, the beautiful daughter of Mali Kolunthu. He asked his brother to promise him that he would get his son, Nellian Kodan, get married to Thamari. With all earnestness, Chellatha Gounder promised his brother that he would fulfill his wishes and he need not worry about his son's well being.

As Kolataha gounder became very sick, he returned back the land he got from the Chola King. Then one day he passed away, leaving his only son in the hands of Chellatha Gounder.

Nellian Kodan ? an unfortunate son

After the death of Pavatha Gounder, Chellatha Gounder did not prove to be good caretaker of Nellian Kodan. Nellian was meek, weak and young. Chellatha Gounder and his sons and other parallel relatives joined together and troubled him in a number of ways. As Nellian Kodan could not cope with the aggression of his relatives on his land and his cultivation, he somehow wanted to escape from them. He left all his lands and his agriculture and ran away to nearby Maniam Kurichi village. There he got work as a shepherd and tended cattle for his master. His work was to take the cattle such as lambs and goats to the grass lands for grazing and bring them back safe to the farm. One day, the head farm worker noticed that one goat was missing during the head count. The supervisor severely whipped him until blood poured out of his body and kicked him out of the farm. Nellian Kodan tried to return to his own farm in his native village. By that time, his blood relatives completely encroached his land. They also severely beat him and drove him out of his own village.

Without support from any of his relatives, he reached a village named Adi Chetti Palayam. There he went to a Chettiar's ( shopkeeper) house. Chettiar kept him in his house and took care of him. Nellian Kodan did some household work to the chettiar.

As Nellian Kodan is gone, Chellatha Gounder took possession of all of Nellian Kodan's land. As he became very rich, he also schemed to get Thamari to marry his own son Malai Swamy. Mali Kolunthu also agreed for the marriage of his daughter to Chellatha Gounder's son. Both of them proceeded ahead with marriage preparations.

 

Thamari and her Oath

The news of the marriage of Thamari with Chellatha Gounder's son spread around the region. Cholian Thotti who was present during the promise made by Cheelatha Gounder to his brother heard about it and was alarmed. He went to Adi Cheetti Palayam to inform Nellian Kodan of that marriage. Both of them decided to go to Maniam Kurichi to stop the marriage.

After reaching Maniam Kurichi, they devised a tactic to meet Thamari. At that time, as Thamari was entertaining beggars with food and grain gifts, they decided to approach her as beggars and reveal their identity after reaching her. When Nellian Kodan was approaching Thamari, his aunt advised Thamari to give that beggar a measure of rye grain. Nellian Kodan revealed himself to Thamari and his aunt and asked his aunt to give Thamari's hand in marriage.

At that time, Malai Kolunthu happened to come there. He became very furious to learn that Nellian Kodan came to ask for the marriage of his daughter and took him away to a separate place. Later, He beat him severely. He dragged him and locked him in a hut infested with ants and termites.

Hearing what has happened to Nellian Kodan, Thamari became extremely angry and was highly repulsed by her parent's actions. All along, she was under the impression that Nellian Kodan could not be found and nobody knew about his whereabouts. As he was the rightful groom, she told her parents that she wanted to marry him only. She removed all the jewelery that she was wearing in the preparation of the marriage and threw all of them on the ground.

As Thamari became very adamant and determined in her decision, Malai Kolunthu did not have a choice. He reluctantly agreed for the marriage of Thamari to Nellian Kodan. When Chellatha Gounder heard about the dramatic turn of events, he became very angry. He wanted to physically punish Nellian Kodan. Malai Kolunthu somehow pacified him and sent him back to his village.

However, Malai Kolunthu was not only disappointed with Thamari but was very angry with her. Thamari was equally angry with her father. During their verbal exchanges, Thamari took an oath in front of her brother. Thamarai's oath is the seminal part of our story. With anger in her eyes and bitterness in her tone, she cursed her father:

" I will give birth to two lion like sons. You will get two grand daughters through your son. My sons will marry your grand daughters and bring them to my home".

Nellian Kodan Becomes Kunru Udayaan

Nellian Kodan had absolutely no place to go. He went to the Chola King and told him his story and pleaded with him for help. As the Chola had respect for Nellian Kodan's father, he wanted to help. He gave a worst tract of hilly land for free! The land was full of cactus, bushes and stones. He advised him to use that land and somehow save himself from disaster. The servant in the household of his father, Cholian Thotti also joined him in clearing the land and preparing it for cultivation. Fortunately, as there was good rain, they had a good harvest of sorghum. The worst tract of land became a good land due to their hard work. Nellian Kodan became a rich farmer in this area in course of time. He also cultivated many other lands in the hilly area. As he became owner of many hilly lands, he came to be known as Kunru Udiyan meaning the owner of hillocks. The story of the brothers is also known as the "Story of Kunnudian".

Nellian Kodan ? Thamari ? Childless Couple

Nellian Kodan not only became rich but also became famous as he was owning large tracts of hilly lands. Although, the couple was happy of their good fortunes, they were very much worried as they were not a getting a child as desired. They prayed to all of the nearby gods. They also took pilgrimages to famous temples in the region. They built a Ratham for Mathukari Temple?s Chellandiamman and conducted special puja for the procession of the Ratha around that temple. Even then, they did not get a child. They consulted many astrologers and observed many ceremonies for getting a child as advised.

As their problem could not be solves locally, they were advised to take a pilgrimage to Chidambaram Nataraja Temple for praying and getting His Blessings for the birth of a child. As Chdambaram was far away for them in those days, they decided to entrust their lands and their cultivation to the custody of a Vettuva King in the adjacent MayNadu. But, the Vettuva King was a cunning and conniving person. He secretly schemed to take all lands and jewelry from Nellian Kodan. He also planned to murder Nellian Kodan and take Thamari forcibly into his kingdom. Nellian Kodan and Thamari came to know of Vettuva King?s secret plan but only after they had entrusted their jewellery and other belongings in his custody. As soon as they knew his secret plan, they went to his kingdom and demanded the return of their belongings and the jewellery. But the Vettuva king refused. He severely beat Nellian Kodan and threw him out of his house. Thamari became very angry. She could not physically much in front of the Velltuava Kings?s servants. She became wild and took an oath in front of them which may be forerunner of the Great Battle in the story.

? I will cause a blood bath for your Breach of Trust?

This is Thamari?s second oath that is very important in this Story.

Afterwards they returned back to their lands. They were extremely distressed with the breach of the trust of the Vettuva King. However, they decided to go to Chidambaram to get the blessings of Lord Nataraja for the birth of a child. They undertook the journey and returned successfully back to their lands. In course of time, Thamari became pregnant.

Birth of Ponnar-Sankar

All these days, Chellatha gounder was very happy and was leading a rich life. He expected no threat from Nellian Kodan after all Nellian Kodan was a weak man and did not possess the physical prowess to challenge him about the lands that were annexed. But the news of the pregnancy of Thamari troubled him. What would happen if Thamari gives birth to a male child? In course of time, the male child could become an able adult and challenge him and his son Maliswamy for the rights of his land. He was soon thinking of various schemes to avert the birth of a male child in Nellian Kodan?s Family.

In those days it was customary to have midwives to take of the pregnant ladies. Chellatha gounder secretly approached the midwife tending to Thamari. He bribed her sufficiently and tempted her to join him in his a malicious scheme. He asked her to take good care of Thamari as usual until birth of the child. If the child happened to be female, she would tend the child giving oil bath and treat the visitors with sweets. If the child happened to be a male, she would smother child to death and would announce to the world that the child was stillborn. That way nobody would ever what had happened. The mid-wife agreed to this diabolical and cunning scheme. She was attending to Thamari as advised by Chlellatha gounder.

The time came for the child birth. Thamai went into labor. The mid-wife got ready to smother the child to death without her knowledge if it happened to be male. The moment was tense. Instead of one child, Thamari gave birth to two children. Both of them happened to be male. However, before the mid-wife could kill them, the children kicked the midwife and simply disappeared from her sight. It is said that the first child Ponnar came out of the right-side of the Thamari?s womb and the second child Sankar came out of the left-side. It was possible that the children were hidden for their safety by Thamari and Nellian Kodan. All we know is that Ponnar and Sankar disappeared and did not come into the story for quite some time.

After a while, Thamari?s brother Mari Kolunthu also got children of his own. He had two daughters and three boys a total of five children in all. Nellian Kodan had a loyal servant by name Cholian Thotti who was with Nellian Kodan throughout his ordeal with his Pangalis. In course of time, he got married and got a son named Sambuvan.

After the loss of the twin boys, Thamari again became pregnant and this time she gave birth to a female child which did not create any problems to the Nellian Kodan?s pangalis. The girl was named Arkani Nalla Thangam. (Arkani used to be a common name among gounder girls in the olden days). Chellatha gounder was very happy that Thamari did not produce male challenger to the lands.

Ponnar-Sankar ? Joining Parents

Although Arkani had two brothers, she was growing up alone in the family. One day Thamari described to Arkani her life story. She informed the little girl of her cunning relatives who stole the land from her father. She also informed her about her missing brothers. She lamented over the severe punishment her father received from the pangali relatives when he went to them to ask for his lands. She cried and sobbed unable to control her emotions. Arkani also cried along with her mother severely for the physical pain her father had to endure because of her Pangali relatives.

Thamari nostalgically remembered hers sons and worried what had happened to them. It is said that Ponnar-Sankan overheard the entire conversation and appeared in front of their mother and revealed themselves. Thamari was extremely happy that her sons joined her back. But, she was also afraid of their safety. She was worried that Chellatha gounder would harm her sons and would even get them killed.

Thamari and Nellian Kodan decided to leave their village and go to the village named Adi Chetty Palayam along with their children. The children grew there until they became able adults. Nellian Kodan arranged to teach his sons Fencing, Silambam and other martial training from a well-known vettuva gounder guru named Rakkianan in a nearby village named Maari Gounden Palayam. Rakkianan gave excellent training to Ponnar and Sankan and made them great experts in martial arts. Ponnar ? Sankar also grew into extremely handsome adults and commanded great respect for their personality. They were physically well developed with commanding height, shape and powerful looks. One can appreciate the physical features of Poonar-Sanker by visiting the Annanmar temples and watching the statues in the temple. They turned out to be the very opposite of Nellian Kodan who was a weak person. While Ponnar ? Sankar were taking martial arts training, Arkani grew up with her mother Thamari learning many things from her mother. Thamari taught her daughter cooking and instilled in her a sense of respect for her family and the love for her brothers and the family. Perhaps Arkani-Ponnar-Sankar sibling love and affection is one of the preeminent themes of the Ponnar-Sankar Story.

 

In course of time Ponnar and Sankar completed their martial arts training and joined their parents at Kudiyur. Ponnar ? Sankar became well known warrior adults in the region. Thamari never forgot the humiliation her family endured from the pangalis. During a family gathering, Thamari recounted to Ponnar-Sankar the whipping their father received from Chellatha Gounder during an encounter. She cried uncontrollably remembering that episode. Ponnar-Sankar became very wild learning the humiliation and indignity their parents had to endure with their parallel relatives. Both of them went to the pangali?s village and challenged them to a fight. Ponnar-Sankar whipped Chlellatha Gounder and his sons with a special whip ( anju mani kairu) and reprimanded Pangali?s wives for their cruelty to their mother.

Challenge to Pangalis and Resentment of Vettluva Leader After this challenge and severe whipping, Chellatha gounder realized that Ponnar-Sankar had grown too big and he could not control them on his own. He decided to seek help from the nearby village Thaliyur. The leader of Thaliyur village belonged to Vettuva Community. His name was Kali. Thaliyu vettuva leader was already resenting the growing influence of Ponnar and Sankar in the region. Kali readily joined forces with Chellatha Gounder and his son Maliswamy and decided to stop the spread of influence of Ponnar-Sankar. They decided to trouble Ponnar and Sankar in the cultivation of the land and restrict them in their hunting expeditions.

In those days, young adults participated in many competitions showcasing their skills in martial arts. In those competitions, Ponnar and Sankar offered serious challenge to the youths belonging to the Vettuva Community. As Ponnar ? Sankar won most of the competitions, vettuva community developed hatred towards them and naturally Kali being leader of Vettuva community, hated Ponnar ? Sankar for their extra ordinary skills in martial arts. Kali regarded Ponnar-Sankar as his worst enemies and wanted them to be eliminated.

One day Kali challenged Ponnar-Sankar for a rooster fight. In those days rooster fighting was very common. They would tie a sharp blade to the leg of the rooster and let two roosters fight against each other until one is eliminated. The owner of the victorious rooster claimed victory for the fight. The brothers accepted the challenge and agreed for the fight. However, Arkani had uncanny power to read the mind of the persons and warned her brothers that Kali was deliberately setting up these fights and he was meaning to physically harm them. Moreover, she performed some pujas and blessed a Rooster that would be used in the fight again Kali. Ponnar and Sankar were vigilant and Kali did not do anything out of order. The Rooster blessed by Arkni won the fight and the bothers returned home victorious.

In course of time Sankar ? Ponnar well known in the entire region. They also became very strong. They decided to go back to Valanadu, the original village of their grand father and decided to claim back the land that belonged to them. When Ponnar and Sankar challenged Chellatha gounder for the land, he could not do anything to prevent them from taking their lands back. They announced themselves as the leaders of the region and collected taxes on behalf of Uraiyur Chola King and paid their dues to him. They also built a Palace for themselves and made their parents very happy. Finally, Thamari and Nellian Kodan passed away more or less at the same time.

Arkani could not bear the death of her parents. She did not have too many friends either except Kuppayee the daughter of Mutaliar. Kuppapyee gave very good company to Arkani and did everything possible to help her during the sad times. The Brothers were very much worried that her sister was completely overwhelmed with the death of their parents. They tried their level best to cheer her up. They knew that she liked birds and playing with birds made her happy. Sankar went on a hunting expedition to catch birds in the nearby jungles. ( This ritual is still celebrated during Annan-mar Festivals). He brought variety of birds for his sister ? parrots, doves etc. The sight and the chirping of the birds made Arkani happy and slowly she came out of depression. After recovering from grief, Arkani concentrated her attention on ?Meditation?. Because of her continued meditation, she received the ability to predict the future happenings.

One day Sankar went on a hunting expedition and killed a Leopard. As soon as Kali knew about it, he protested charging that the jungle where Sankar killed the leopard, belonged to him. He also charged Sankar for wanton violation of his property. Kali decided to strike at Ponnar-Sankar lands. Kali sent his men to the border area of Valla Nadu. Kali?s men looted cattle and destroyed cultivated lands to provoke Ponnar-Sankar. Kali?s men also abducted Kuppayee a close friend of Arkani thinking that they were abducting Arkani. Hearing about the abduction of Kuppayee, Sankar went after Kali?s men and recovered her from the enemies after a big fight. However, Kuppayee was humiliated. She could not control the humiliation and the loss of dignity that she had to endure with Kali?s men. She was overwhelmed with grief. She decided to take her life. One day when nobody was watching, she committed suicide hanging herself by a rope. Arkani was devastated at the death of her close friend. It took a long time for her to come back to normalcy.

Meanwhile, Thaliyur Kali continued to frustrate Ponnar ? Sankar and troubled farmers living in the Valla Nadu by committing atrocities, stealing cattle, destroying crops etc. As the land belonged to Uriyur Cholan, affected people in the region also complained to the Chola King about Kali and his atrocities. Uriyur Chola King already knew about Ponnar ? Sankar and their good work in the region. He summoned them to his court and conferred on them the status of ?Small Kings?. Ponnar ? Sankar were highly pleased and returned back to the Valla Nadu to continue their good work to the people in their kingdom.

Fulfilment of Thamari?s Oath

Arkani never forgot her family history. She vividly remembered her mother?s oath in front of her maternal grand father.

? I will give birth to two lion-like sons. You will have two grand daughters through your sons. My sons will marry your daughters and bring them to my home?.

These sentences were constantly ringing in her ears. She could imagine her mother in front of her grandfather exchanging verbal tirade with bitterness in her voice, and anger in her face. She could see her father with a drooped head with the shame of humiliation and sense of inability. Arkani thought that it was time for the fulfillment of her mother?s oath.

After Poonar and Sankar returned from Uriyru after getting the tile of ?Small-Kings? from the Chola King, Arkani broached the subject of marriage with her brothers. She reminded them of the oath of their mother and the duty of her children to fulfill that oath to vindicate her decision to marry to Nellian Kodan. The brothers were convinced by the persuasion of Arkani and agreed to ask their Mama?s daughter in marriage.

Sinna Mali Kolunthu was the brother of Thamari and hence Thaai Mama of Ponnar and Sankar. Sinna Mali Kolunthu had two daughters. The first dautghter was named Muthayee and second one was named Pavalayee. It was decided that Ponnar would ask for the hand of Muthayee and Sankar would ask for the hand of Pavalayee. As Ponnar and Sankar have already become famous, Sinna Mali Kolunthu was very much pleased to give his daughters in marriage to Ponnar and Sankar. The marriage took place with all the pomp and show befitting small kings. Arknai was very happy that her mothers? oath was fulfilled by this marriage.

Ponnar and Sankar ruled their kingdom very fairly. In course of time their good name spread all around the region. Even Vettuva Community members who were traditionally hostile to Ponnar ? Sankar started respecting them for their uprightness and honesty. That made the Vettuva Leader Kali very angry and wanted to take revenge on them by subterfuge and cunningness.

Trickery of Goldsmith

He enlisted the services of a goldsmith named SembaKulan to trick Ponnar and Sankar and get them bad name in the region. As per the plan, Sembakulan undertook a journey through Vallanadu. He reached Sankar?s palace and requested him to accommodate him in their palace for a night stay. Being king and generous, Ponnar readily provided him shelter for the goldsmith in his palace. He treated him like a guest and provided him dinner in the tradition of Kongu gounders. While retiring to the bed, Sembakulan approached Ponnar and requested to him to keep custody of an ornamental gold cup for that night. Sankar innocently accepted the cup and kept it in a safe for its safety.

The next day, after finishing the breakfast, Sembakulan asked for the gold cup. Ponnar took the cup from the safe and returned it back to him. Sambakulan here played his game to trick Ponnar. He told Ponnar that the cup Ponnar returned was not the same one that he gave Ponnar the previous night. He also told Ponnar that the cup he gave him previous night was made of pure gold and the cup Ponnar returned him as was only gilded with gold ? it was actually copper inside. Ponnar was astonished to hear this charge.

Ponnar was very angry and wild. He could have punished him and sent him out of his palace. But, he wanted to prove that he was innocent. He controlled his anger and decided to act calmly. Sembakulan, being wily and cunning, told Ponnar that he wanted justice in front of a village jury. Ponnar called the members of the village jury. Sembakulan pleaded to the jury that he was a weak, and powerless person. He could not do anything against a rich and powerful king like Ponnar. With a persuasive language and a smooth demeanor Sembakulan projected a very credible image for his story. He almost convinced the jury that he was telling the truth.

Ponnar was at a loss. He felt that he had to do something to prove his innocence. He did not have a convincing argument against the wily Semabakuln excepting his words. As was customary in those days, he offered himself to any test to prove his innocence. The popular test used to be lighting of incense on the hand while it was burning with flames. If the person could bear the pain without any effect on the skin, the person was supposed to have passed the ?test of innocence?.

 

When Ponnar offered himself to the test of innocence that would be proposed by the accuser, Arkani happened to come to the palace. Learning what had happened, she immediately understood the ploy played out by the goldsmith. She pleaded with Ponnar that the whole thing was a set-up and he should not subject himself to this cruel test of innocence designed by his enemies. However, Ponnar was convinced that being innocent he would pass any test and vindicate his innocence. He consoled Arkani that she need not worry about any harm to him, as he was innocent.

Sambakulan proposed a deadly test. He knew it was almost impossible for anybody to swim to the bottom of the nearby Velaan kulma pond and come out through the duct to the other side of the pond. He proposed exactly that test hoping that Ponnar would die in the process. Ponnar and Sebakulan decided to go the pond for the test.

Ponnar knew that Kali had been plotting to attack and destroy him and his family. He expected Kali to attack his palace during his absence. Hence, he advised Sambuvan and his brother-in-laws to remain at the palace and guard it from any attack from Kali and his men.

Bloodbath at Padu Kalam

Through his men, Kali came to know that Ponnar has left for the Velaan Kulam with Semba kulan. Kali thought that it was appropriate time for him to attack Ponnar ? Sankar palace and destroy it. Kali and his men decided to attack the palace. They were on their way to Sankar-Ponnar Palace. Hearing the arrival of Kali and Kali?s men into the Vengal area, a contingent of four consisting of Ponnar-Sankar?s brother-in-laws ( Three of them) and Sambuvan went to meet them on the way for a battle. They met Kali and his men on the way. A fierce battle ensued. They defeated Kali?s men and made them run for their lives. After winning Kali?s men, the four of them returned happily savoring their victory over Kali?s men.

As they were thirsty, they went to a nearby pond to drink water. But they did not know that water in the pong was already poisoned by Kali and his men. As all the three brother-in-laws drank the water, they died on the spot. However, Sambuvan was spared as he did not drink that water. Sambuvan was highly devastated witnessing the tragic death of the Ponnar-Sankar?s brother-in-laws. He immediately ran to the palace to tell the news. There, he found Sankar and told him want had happened. Sankar became extremely furious and immediately started on his horse to search for Kali and destroy him.

Sankar shouted for the revenge of Kali in his hands. His anger had no bounds. It is said that the god Mayavar ( an avatar of Vishnu ) who was also military adviser to Kali, thought that Sankar would destroy everything if he is not contained in the jungles. To stop Sankar and to mitigate the destruction, Mayavar hid behind a bush and charged arrows to his chest. One arrow lodged into the chest of Sankar and wounded him. Realizing that he had been wounded, Sankar could not tolerate that he could be wounded and that he would suffer from pain. He called Sambuvan and told him that he did not like to live any more as he was wounded. He asked him to prepare the ground where he could commit courageous suicide by piercing his own body with sharp sword. His death was considered to the death of bravery. The spot where Sankar committed suicide could be visited in a place called ?Padu Kalam?.

 

Seeing the dearth of his master, Sambuvan was devastated. He also did not want to live any more. Following the footsteps of his master, Sambuvan also committed suicide in the same spot. Both Sankar and Sambuvan chose death of bravery.

 

Ponnar?s Revenge on Vettuva Leader When all these unfortunate deaths and suicide were happening at Padu Kalam, Ponnar was still at the Velan Kulam trying to pass the test of innocence proposed by the goldsmith Sambakulan. First Ponnar swam from the inside of the pond to outside through the duct. After he came out to the other side of the pond, Sambakulan demanded that he should do the same in the reverse by going from the outside of the pond to the inside through the duct. As Ponnar was capable of doing that, he decided to swim from the outside of the pond to the inside. While doing it, he thought that Sambakulan had some other evil design in his mind. While he was coming into the pond, he also heard the sound of beating of the drum by Sambuvan signifying some thing wrong happening at the Palace. When he came out into the pond, he saw Sambakulan standing on the end of the pond with a large stone on his hand ready to throw it on Sankar?s head. As soon as he saw what Sebakulan was about to do, Sankar took a magic knife that he was always carrying with him and instantly aimed it at Sembakulan. The knife struck Sambakulan and he was killed instantly.

Ponnar went back to the palace and came to know that most of his close relatives had died at the battle at Padu Kalam. He became very furious. He decided that revenge of Kali was the only solution to avenge the death of his beloved brother. Sankar took with him all his soldiers and searched for Kali in his village. Kali tried to escape Ponnar. However, Ponnar pursued him and found him. In the ensuing fight, Ponnar killed Kali and avenged the death of his brother. Sankar?s soldiers defeated Kalis?s men and the battled ended with victory for Ponnar.

After death of Kali and defeat of his men, Ponnar went back to Padu Kalam. There he witnesses his indomitable brother lying dead on a boulder after committing suicide. He could not tolerate the death of his only twin brother. By the side of Sankar he found the body of Sambuvan ? their loyal soldier from their young days. At a distance, he found the dead bodies of all of his brother-in-laws. He was devastated by the death of so many of his close blood relatives. He could not carry on with his life without them. He decided to seek the death of bravery as that of his brother and his soldiers. He pierced his sword in his chest and took his own life.

End of Arkani

Arkani, Kuppaye and Pavayee were in the palace anxiously waiting to hear about the result of the battle with Kali. They came to know that Ponnar, Sankar and other close relatives are dead after the battle with Kali. Arkani was shocked to hear the news and decided to go to the battle ground to look for her dead brothers. She asked her sister-in-laws to join her. It is said that fearing what would happen to them after the death of the husbands, they committed suicide by burning themselves in a fire.

Arkani left for the battleground along with some friends. She found her dead brothers in the battleground and was overwhelmed with grief. The description of her sorrow and her lamentations over the death of the brothers exemplifies the supreme love and affection that existed between the sister and the brothers. The Story of brothers is also a story that exemplifies the story supreme love and affection between the brothers and sisters.

She cried uncontrollably singing the virtues and the extolling the brave deeds of her brothers. At that time, the local goddess Peria Kandiamman appeared before her in the form of a human and consoled her. She went to the body of Sankar and stitched the wounds of Sankar and resurrected him by performing some holy rituals. Peri Kandiamman also resurrected the Ponnar and Sambuvan.

 

So what is the end?

It appears that everybody in Ponnar ? Sankar family is dead after the great battle. That does not explain the establishment of the gounders hegemony in the area and the spread of gounders in the Kongu Region. It is suggested that Ponnar survived the battle and established his rule over the region with the help of Chola king. Chola King also helped Ponnar to expand his influence in the region. He also helped Ponnar winning the disputes with hostile vettuva gounders that we had seen in the story.

But the following are true.

Ponnar and Sankar is simply a legend of the region. They have been elevated to the statue of God as there numerous Annanmar temples all over Kngunadu. Annanmar Temples are the landmark of the Kongu region. Many other communities celebrate Annanmar festivals with gusto and fanfare. Although gounders do not celebrate Annanmars as other communities do, grounders do encourage other communities to celebrate Annanmars. It is said that gounder communities also celebrate Annanmars in some villages.

The theatre of action mentioned in the story took is located at Veerappur, some ?? km from Karur. The area where Sankar committed his act of bravery is located at Padu Kalam. We can witness that area.

Access to the Veerappur and Padu Kalam is not good. In spite of the fact, a large number of devotees visit the Padu Kalam, the area is not kept well. I once visited Veerappuer and Padu Kalam during my India visit. At that time my understanding of the Annanmar Stories is very limited.

In my home town of Sathyamangalam, Matharis (cobblers) celebrate the festival. Although gounders do not celebrate the festival, they do participate in some rituals that are assigned to them. I remember that they enact the trapping of the five-colored parrot by Sankar to make his Arkani sister happy.

[ edit] lessons from the story

This is not definitely an inter caste rivalry or fight. To learn more, one of our young Gounder historian's analysis:

The fist fixed settlements in Kongu history were at the Amaravati -Noyil valley because of the perennial supply of water from the Palani Koadaikkanal and Vellingiri ranges. The cowherd rearing shifting farmers achieved a sustained state and organised themselves as Velallas or landlords. They later, for deforesting the land brought in the Vettuvar tribes, descendents of Kannappa Nayanar from the Kalahasti region. These Vettuvar hamlets were called Vadugapattis, literally northener's cowpens. The Vettuvars also being successful, at one stage became numerically equal to the Vellalars. They also started questioning the authority of Vellalars. This is the point when we see the Vettuva-Vellala war symbolised by the Chinnanan- Periyannan story. The Vettuvars, eventhough being later settlers take advantage of their increased numbers and challenge the Vellalars through committing excesses on Vellala territory and harassing Vellala women. Here is where God or eternal order intervenes. Sivan, in order to support the order, steps in himself brings up the brothers who are killed at birth by their uncle. The first settler of any land has the rights of ruling and defending it, though the ownership might change hands. This is the Indian concept of the

native's right. The native Vellalas, who were such an agrarian-warrior tribe or the Vellala-Kshatriya tribe, defeat the Vettuvars and place them under their subjection. Decrease in forests and increase in farming also leads to their decrease in numbers and increase of Vellala natives.