Antiquity of the divyakṣetras in Pāṇḍināḍu


  • R.K.K Rajarajan



The Āḻvārs in their hymns, the Nālāyirativviyappirapantam, have listed 108 sacred venues or centers of worship of Viṣṇu in the Indian subcontinent, called divyadeśa. The 108 are brought under certain topographical segmentations such as Malaināḍu (Kerala), Pāṇḍinaḍu (south of River Kāviri), Cōḻanāḍu (Kāviri delta), Vaṭanāḍu (North India) and so on. Among these 18 are found in the Pāṇḍya country. The hymns present a cavalcade of data bearing on these sthala/kṣetras, dealing with the Mūrti, tīrtha, vkṣa, ecology, landscape, flora and fauna, pūjās and utsavas, mythologies bearing on Viṣṇu and so on. The impact of the Vedas and Sanskritic purāṇas such as the Harivaṃśa and Viṣṇu Purāṇa may be found in them. Besides, the Āḻvārs have recast the theme to the Tamil taste to suit the local cultural traditions. The present article presents a summary of data bearing on the 18 divyadeśas, trying to locate the roots in an ancient poem, called Paripāṭal. The date of the Āḻvārs is briefly discussed. Among the twelve only seven have extolled the divyadeśas in Pāṇḍināḍu. Of the 24 integral wings of the Nālāyiram eleven talk of these sthalas. The Āḻvārs have presented a picture of the deśas as they found these around the 6th-9th century CE. Later the temples under study have developed at the hands of the successive rulers of the land down to the 18th century CE. The photographic evidences we have presented relate to such a later phase while in some cases such as Tirumeyyam the early medieval rock-cut temples and images are to be found. The text is supported by maps and photographic evidences.