Intellectual Kings of India – Mahendravarma Pallava -I (600-630 CE) All along our school days history generally means when a king ascended the throne, the year in which he waged war against another country, whether he won or lost. Terribly uninteresting. But if taught well history will be really very interesting.
Recently my interest in the history was rekindled after reading Ponniyinselvan by Kalki, may be for the third or fourth time in life. With internet provding fodder, my appetite grows stronger for history. Books like K.A.N.Sastri’s ‘The History of South India’ makes history interesting.
I am attracted to intellectual kings more than other politicaly successful kings. Thus Mahendravarma Pallava is more attractive than Narasimhavarma Pallava or Rajaraja Chola and Samudragupta over Chandragupta, so on and so forth. Being a native of Pallava territory I wish to write first about Mahendravarma Pallava.
Kings of Tamil Nadu were in general great patrons of art, literature, architecture etc. However very few among them are themselves artist or writers . I feel Mahendravarman is the best intellectual king in Tamil Nadu – I am not an expert in history – may be I am wrong. Mahendravarman was the first one to introduce permanent temple structure by carving rocks – commonly known as kudavari – குடவரை – in Tamilnadu. Some say Pandiyas were the pioneer like Pillayarpatti. But in my opinion he made the turn towards Rock/Granites a permanent one. It is said the Chalukian temples at Ajanta/Ellora belt were his inspiration.
He gave importance to immutable paintings, which again is inspired by the Ajanta/Ellora one. Till his time such things were not prominent in this part of India. In fact in ‘Sivakamin Sabatham’ his quest for secrets of Ajanta/Ellora paints plays an important role. He himself being a good painter- got the name சித்திரக்காரபுலி.
He is a sanskrit scholar. He has written two books – Mattavilasa Prahana and Bhagavadajjuka. There is some doubt about authorship of the second one. The first one is still used in Kerala as part of Kathakali dances. You can read a Tamil translation at varalaaru.com – a nice site.
He is a musician. It is said he invented seven string veena called parivAdhini. He played instruments along with his wife, who was very good at singing. One of his pet names is ‘palapadi’ பலபாடி- meaning can sing in different voices. He seems to have done some research on instruments and created/fixed musical notes.
The tamil vattelu – script ,it is said was refined during his reign and present day script owes lot from his period. However, I need to read a lot on this subject. But it is clear,he did bestowed his attention on tamil script – itself a great feat for any king.
K.A.Neelakanta Sastri in his History of South India describes him as – Mahendravarman I , a many-sided genius, greate alike in war and in peace ….. He was a great builder, a poet and musician.
Note: Nowdays historian do not use AD and BC for denoting years. It is BCE – Before Common Era for BC and CE- Common Era for AD.