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Ayar was an ethnic group of yadavas in India and were possibly related to the yadava people mentioned in puranic history. In the early sangam literature, the Ayars are described as having occupied the mullai or 'forest region'. The word Ayar is derived from the Dravidian word "A" meaning 'cow'. However, they are also known by other names, including Kon, konar and Idaiyar. In the Tamil land they were also referred as Pothuvar or Commons (from the Dravidian word 'Podhu') apparently because they possessed friendship with the Nagas and Tamil. The Ayar in the Pandyan dominion had a tradition that they came into the Tamil land, along with the founder of Pandyan family.
Dr. V. Manickam in his work, Kongu Nadu gives an expanded version of his doctoral thesis as follows, "It was noted that the pastoral people (Ayar) of the mullai land in Kongu formed the major component of the velir clan. However, We come across references to Idaiyar of Kiranur, alias Kolumam Konda Cholanallur (SII : 5:283), Kon from the same place (SII : 5: 265,267,269), and Yatavar in two epigraphs from Chevur (Eye Copy 94,98). Further, there are also references to Tiruvayappadi nattar, which indicate the supra-local activities of the herdsmen discussed in chapter 15. The presence of the herdsmen, with the titles as found in the macro region, may be explained as survivors of the pastoral people[further explanation needed] of the pre-chola period who were reluctant to integrate themselves in the new setup or new additions.
The Ayars initially lived in pastoral tracts known as Mullai Tinai. Here cattle was the main source of wealth. P.T. Srinivas Iyengar in his book 'History of the Tamils' suggests that since cattle wealth tended to multiply fast the first evidence of fission of tribes into families happened in this region. Rajan Gurukal stretches this argument to mention that state formation took place initially in the mullai region.
Legends of the cowherd Krishna and his dances with cowherdesses are mentioned in the Sangam classics. The term Ayarpati (cowherd settlement) is found in Cilappatikaram (Iyer, 1950). It is argued that the term Ayar has been used for the Abhiras in ancient Tamil literature, and V. Kanakasabha Pillai (1904) derives Abhira from the Tamil wordAyir which also means cow. He equates the Ayars with Abhiras, and Suryavanshi (1962:17-18) treats this as evidence of migration of the Abhiras to the south in the first century A.D.
Thus, linguistic evidence is used to support the argument that the Abhiras spread to different parts of India, and that they retained different but related cultural traditions. The most common denominator, as was pointed out earlier, was a descent from the Yadu dynasty and their association with cattle.
Important line of chieftains of Tamil Nadu during the sangam period with whom Lord Krishna was intimately associated was the Ayars. Sangam literature mentions a tradition relating to migration of ayars from Dwaraka with sage Agastya. There were many velir chiefs in the Tamil country during sangam period. They had Ay prefix and prominent among them were Ay-andiran and Ay-Vel. They had their capital as Ay-Kudi and ruled the potiya region. The Ay chieftains cherished their yadava lineage and their settlements were known as Ayarpadi.
- "yadavas". http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Konar_(caste). Wikipedia.
- T Padmaja. Temples of Krishna in South India: History, Art and Traditions in Tamilnadu. University of Mysore. p. 35.
- Madhava Menon. A Handbook of Kerala. International School of Dravidian Linguistics. p. 121.
- Neolithic Cattle-Keepers of South India page 101. Cambridge university press. p. 101.
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- Centre for Studies in Civilizations. History of Agriculture in India.
- T Padmaja. Temples of Krishna in South India: History, Art and Traditions in Tamilnadu. University of Mysore.