Sunday, 22 September 2013

Remembering a Selfless Kongu Chieftain

The Kongu chieftain Kalingarayan, who made a vow that he would not get his beard shaved until the completion of constructing the 56 mile-long canal to link Bhavani and Noyyal rivers, was having a sound sleep at his home. As he was tired after spending twelve full years for the project’s completion, his family barber, who knew his chieftain’s vow, shaved his beard while he was asleep. He also kept a mirror in front of him so that he would see his clean, shaven face as soon as he woke up.

As expected by the barber, Kalingarayan was happy to see his new face in the mirror and lauded the barber asking him what gifts he would like to get from him. However, the barber told him the only gift he wanted was that his name would last long for ever in history along with the name of his chieftain.   

In contrast to the present age, when most politicians show great interest for their wide publicity, Kalingarayan, who ruled the Kongu region 700 years ago, removed his name from the village’s name ‘Kalingarayan Palayam’ and renamed it into ‘Naavidhan Palayam’ rewarding his barber. Interestingly the Tamil Nadu Government has announced a memorial for Kalingarayan at the same place, which is now called ‘Anai Naasuvanmpalayam’

Kalingarayan, whose real name was Lingayyan, was born at Kanakapuram, a hamlet near Perundurai in the present day Erode district. When the Kongu region was under the rule of Veerapandian of the  Kongu Pandya dynasty in 13th century AD, Lingayyan joined as a soldier in the army and later rose to the position of becoming a commander and minister to the Pandya king. After the king conferred him the title ‘Kalingarayan’ and provided him the power to rule the northern part of Kongu region, he de-silted several ponds and lakes and laid new roads in the region. As he constructed the 56 mile-long canal with several curves like the crawling of a snake at elevated places, an oral tradition in the Kongu region maintains that Kalingarayan constructed the canal, as directed by a snake!

Transporting large rocks from Ooraatchi Kottaimalai on Buffalo- drawn carts, the chieftain took 12 full years to complete the construction of the canal and a dam to provide irrigation for over 15,000 acres of land. Though Kalingarayan collected tax naming it as ‘Kalingarayan Viniyogum’ from all classes of the society, he exempted the people from the lower strata from paying the tax.

In an age, when many caste-based political outfits work for the welfare of their respective castes, Kalingarayan, passed an order that the descendants belonging to his sect called ‘Saathanthai Kulam’ from the Kongu Vellalar community, shall not have the right to use the water from the canal!

Compiled by: B. Meenakshi Sundaram
Sources: Pulavar Se. Rasu’s article in Kongu Kalanjiyam – Volume I   

Link to my article in The New Indian Express:

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