|Capital||Vizhinjam, Mavelikkara, Periyaoor, Keezhperoor, Aykudi (Near Tenkasi), Ayiraperi Village (Near Tenkasi), Alwarkurichi|
|•||Established||Early Sangam age|
|•||Disestablished||c. 12th century|
The Ay dynasty (I / Aioi dynasty) (later known as the Venad and subsequently the Thiruvithamkur Dynasty) ruled parts of southern India from the early Sangam age, which spanned from c. 3rd century BC to c. 4th century AD, till the Independence of India. At their zenith, the dynasty ruled an area extending from Tiruvalla in the north to Nagercoil in the south including the naturally rich Western Ghats in the east. One part of the Ayi Kingdom was headquartered in Mavelikkara while another was headquartered at Periyaoor, later called Keezhperoor, Aykudi, Alwarkurichi,Tenkasi (Ayiraperi village), .
Ays were a prominent political power in the region, from the time the Cheras established themselves as a major power. Greek geographer Claudius Ptolemy (2nd century AD) described the Ay kingdom as extending from the River Baris (Pamba) to Kanyakumari. The former south Travancore (Nanjanad) was also included in the Ay kingdom. According to the epic Purananuru, the capital was at Aykudi, Podiyil Malai (near Shenkottai) and later an administrative capital was established at Vizhinjam. The elephant was the royal emblem of the Ay rulers. After the 10th century, the state of Venad overpowered the Ays in southern Kerala and south-western Tamil Nadu.
The name Ay is derived from the ancient Tamil word Ay (mean ruler or leader). According to Tamil Sangam literature, Ay trace their origins to the people who lived in Mullai, one of the five geographical tracts of ancient Tamil land. The Paliyam Copper Plates of Vikramaditya Varaguna points the origin of Ay from Ayars. (Ayars are also called Konars or Idaiyars). It is generally agreed that the Ays were a native Dravidian clan of South India.
Some Prominent Ay Rulers
Some prominent Ay Rulers from Ay Kingdom (Ay vel, Ay=shepherd, Vel=king)
Ay Antiran -
Karunandadakkan - 857 – 885
Vikramaditya Varaguna - 885 – 925
Among the Ay rulers of the Sangam Age, Ay Antiran, Titiyan and Atigan are the most outstanding. Ay Antiran is mentioned in the Purananuru as the lord of Podiyil Malaya in southern Western Ghats. He is said have defeated the Kongu rulers and pursued them to the Arabian sea. He was an elder contemporary of the Chera royal Antuvan Cheral. It is a possibility that during the time of Antiran the Ays were more powerful than the Cheras. He practiced polygamy and all his wives committed ritual suicide on his death.[need quotation to verify]
The next important Ay ruler was Titiyan. He was contemporary of Pandya ruler Bhutapandya, poet Kapilar and Parnar. An understanding seems have been reached between the Pandyas and Ays during this period. Atiyan was another important ruler of the Ays during the Sangam Age. Under Atiyan, the Ay state began to disintegrate. The Pandya ruler Pasumpun Azhakia Pandya invaded the Ay kingdom and subjugated Atiyan. The successors of Atiyan are known to have fought against the Pandya supremacy. An Ay ruler took part in the famous battle of Talai-yalankanam, in which the Pandya king Nedum Chezhiyan defeated several of his enemies. Later the Ays recovered from the Pandya yoke.[need quotation to verify]
As other royal families in South India, the immediate post Sangam Age was a dark period in the history of the Ays. Later Ays functioned as buffer state between the powerful Pandyas and the Cheras for long time. After the decline of the Chera power the Pandyas and Cholas led multiple attacks to the Ay territories. Pandyas made successive raids to the Nanjanad area in the Ay kingdom. The Pandya ruler Jayantavarman (7th century) defeated the Ay king, and his successor Arikesari Maravarman won a battle at Sennilam, attacked Kottar and captured the next Ay ruler alive. During the time of the Kocchadayan Ranadhira (8th century) the Ays accepted the Pandya supremacy. Kocchadayan Ranadhira is known to have defeated the Ay ruler in the Battle of Maruthur.
In the last half of the 8th century, the Ay state was ruled by Sadayan (till 788) and his Karunandan (788-857). During this time the Pandyas under Jatilavarman Parantaka invaded and defeated the Ays multiple times. According to the Kazhugumalai inscription, he led a successful expedition against Karunadan and destroyed Fort Ariviyur. He also annexed the then Ay capital Vizhinjam. But, the Ay ruler fought vigorously for more than ten years in the outskirts of Vizhinjam. The Cheras helped them against the Pandyas.
However, in the 9th century, the Ay Kingdom came to be ruled by two illustrious rulers Karunandadakkan and his son Vikramaditya Varaguna. Karunandadakkan (857-885 AD) ruled with his capital at Vizhinjam. He is perhaps the founder of the famous Kandalur Salai. He addressed himself to the arts of peace and took much interest in the promotion of education and learning. Vikramaditya Varaguna (885-925) succeeded Karunandadakkan. He helped Pandyas in their fight against the newly arose political power in south India, the Cholas. After the death of Vikramaditya Varaguna the glory of the Ays departed and lost their territories to neighbouring powers such as the Cheras. By the 10th century, Kandalur and Vizhinjam became Chera strongholds. A branch of the Ay family, which had been controlling the temple of Sri Padmanabha, later merged with Keezhperoor illam, the ruling house of Venad (c. 1100 AD). Both the Thiruvithamkur and the Kolathiri Dynasties are descendants of the ancient Ay Dynasty.
Ay-velirs and Krishna
Another important line of chieftains of Tamil Nadu during the sangam period with whom krsna was intimately associated was the Ay-velirs. The cow-herds were known as Ayars in Tamil even as they were known as Ahirs and Abhiras in North India.Tradition says that the Ahirs in Pandya country came to Tamilakkam along with the ancestors of the Pandyas(Kalithogai,verse 104:4-6). Potiya mountain region was known as Ay-kudi (another name for Ayarpadi).The capital of that region is also called Ay-kudi.
In his commentary on the prefatory sutra to the tholkappiyam, nachinarkiniyar describes a tradition relating to the migration of the yadava race as follows: the sage Agasthya repaired to dwaraka and taking with him 18 Kings of the line of krsna,18 families of vels or velirs and others, moved to the south with the aruvalar tribes. They settled forest areas(mullai region). Later there, he had the forests cleared and built up kingdoms settling therein all the people he had bought with him. Kapila, a poet probably of the 2nd century A.D., addresses the reigning velir chief as the 49th descendent from the original founder of that dynasty.
M.Srinivasa Iyengar points out that allowing the usual 25 years of each generation, the above kingdom must have been established about B.C. 1075 and this may be assumed as the probable date of the migration of Ay velirs to South India. There were many Velir chiefs in the Tamil country during sangam period. They had ‘Ay’ as a prefix or a suffix to their names, such as “Ay-andiran” and “vel-Ay”. The latter had his capital in Ay-kudi and ruled the Potiya region. Many Sangam poets has glorified his bravery and charitable qualities. Poets like Uraiyur Enicheri,Mudamosiyar,Turaiyur Odaikilar,Kuttuvan Kiranar,umattur Kilanmaganar,parankorranar,paranar and karikannanar have composed poems in praise of this king and his region. One of the Aykudi rulers was Ay-andiran. Once he defeated kongars and drove them to western side.
A Purananuru verse says, “without the southern Aykudi in the world there will be in chaos”. Pegan, one of the seven Velir chieftains(kadai-elu-vallals) of the Sangam period belonged to Aviyar kudi. He was addressed by kapilar as ‘ Aviyar kove’ M.Raghava Iyengar held that the popularity of the worship of krsna in the ancient Tamilakam might be partly due to the influence of the Velirs who are often referred to in the Sangam works. He has clearly shown that the Velirs referred to in the sangam works belonged to the 18 Kudi-velirs of the descendants of the Yadu-kula to which krsna also belonged, and that the Velirs migrated from Dwarapati, and settled in different parts of south-India. The Ay-Velir kings of later period also mention in their copper plate charters that they belonged to the Yadu-kula of krsna The Ay dominion was situated between Kerala and Pandya Nadu and it comprised the parts of the present kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu.
The Sangam literature portrays the Ay rulers as independent sovereigns in the region around Potiya hill. The early Ays hold special position among the Velir chieftains ruling in several parts of the Tamil country. The Parthivasekarapuram inscription of Kokkurunandakkam – the Ay ruler claims that he belonged to the line of the Ayar. Yadava people who lived in the Mullai region were called as Ayars, Kolayars, Konars and Idaiyars. In Tamil land division mullai is placed in the mid-region between the hills(kurinchi) and the plains(marudham). As mullai enjoys the idai(middle) position,the people of that region were called Idaiyars. There are references to idaiyars in Sangam works. The name of one of the poets was Idaikkadanar. The name denotes that the poet belonged to mullai region. Even now idaiyar is the most commonly used word for the cowherds in Tamil. According to the Tholkappiyam, presiding deity of the mullai region was Mayon i.e. krsna or Vishnu. Another name for the ayars was pothuvar, meaning common.
- Aswathi Thirunal Gowri Lakshmi Bayi, Rudrakshamala; TBS books ISBN 978-81-300-1547-7