|Gotra||Upa Subramanya, Nandhi|
|Religions||Hinduism, Veerasaivam, Kaumaram|
|Populated states||Tamil Nadu|
Sengunthar ([sɛŋkʊnʈɻ]) or Kaikolar is a Tamil community found in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu and also in some parts of Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Northern Province, Sri Lanka. Sengunthars use the title of Mudaliar after their names. They are classified into various sub-sects based on a patrilineal system called Koottams, which is similar to gotras.
- The word Kaikkolar comes from the words kai (hand) and kol (shuttle used in looms)
- Kaikkolar also means men with stronger arms.
- Senguntham means a red dagger. Sengunthar literally means a warrior with Red Dagger.
Senguntha Prabanda Thiratu is a collection of various literary works written about Kaikkolars. It was originally published by Vannakkalanjiyam Kanji Shri Naagalinga Munivar in 1926 and republished in 1993 by Sabapathi Mudaliar. The collection contains:
- Senkunthar Pillai Tamizh by Gnanaprakasa Swamigal, Tirisirapuram Kovintha Pillai and Lakkumanaswami. A collection of songs about the Sungunthars, taken from palm-leaf manuscripts, that was first published in the 18th century in Kanchipuram
- Eetti Ezhubathu, the major literary work about the Sengunthars. It comprises poetry by Ottakkoothar written in the 12th century CE during the reign of Rajaraja Chola II. It describes the mythical origin of Sengunthar, expeditions of Sengunthar chieftains and also praises the 1008 Kaikolar who were beheaded trying to enable it to be written.
- Ezhupezhubathu, a sequel to Eetti Ezhubathu written by Ottakkoothar. In this work, he prays the goddess Saraswathi to reattach the heads of the 1008 Sengunthars to their respective bodies.
- Kalipporubathu, a collection of ten stanzas compiled by Kulothunga Chola III. These stanzas were written after Ezhupezhubathu to express joy when the 1008 heads were reattached. These stanzas include the songs who witnessed it in the court of Raja Raja II including himself which was later compiled by his successor Kulothunga Chozha III
- Thirukkai Vazhakkam, which describes the good deeds of Sengunthars and their Saivite religious principles. It was written by Puhalendi.
- Sengunthar Silaakkiyar Malai was written by Kanchi Virabadhra Desigar. It describes the legends and eminent personalities of the Sengunthar community.
In the army of the medieval and later Chozhas, many commanders and captains were drawn from the ranks of Sengunthar. Further records of exploits of Sengunthar army in Ceylon, Bengal, Burma and Indonesia were recorded in temple inscriptions.[page needed][page needed]
Some were chieftains and commanders-in-chief of the later Chozhas. Kaikkolar commanders-in-chief were known as Samanta Senapathigal[page needed] or Senaithalaivar.[page needed][page needed]
Sengunthars were both weavers and merchants and maintained armies to guard their regional trading ventures. Throughout the chozha period, trading and military activities of Sengunthar are predominant. Sengunthar were members of the Ayyavole 500 regional trading corporation.
Sengunthars served as Agampadiyar to Chola Emperors which literally means the members of the Chola emperor's royal bodyguards.
After 13th century Sengunthars had become associated with weaving completely.[full citation needed][full citation needed][page needed] According to Deepak Kumar, the Sengunthar weavers very often figure in the capacity of kudi, i.e. tenant-cultivators and also holders of kaniyachi, that is hereditary possession over the land.[full citation needed] During the period of Sadasiva raya, the sthanathar of the Brahmapuriswara temple made an agreement that they would cultivate certain lands of the Kaikkolar regiment.[page needed]
Community Legends and festivals
Myth of origin
Shiva was enraged by the giants who harassed the people of the earth and sent forth six sparks of fire from his eyes. His wife Parvati became frightened by this and retired to her chamber. In so doing, she dropped nine beads from her anklets. Shiva converted the beads into nine females, to each of whom was born a hero with full-grown mustaches and a dagger. These nine heroes, namely Virabahu, Virakesari, Viramahendrar, Viramaheshwar, Virapurandharar, Viraraakkathar, Viramaarthandar, Viraraanthakar and Veerathirar with Subrahmanya at their head, marched in command of a large force, and destroyed the demons. The Kaikolar claim to be the descendants of these warriors.
After killing the demon, the warriors were told by Shiva that they adopt a profession, which would not involve the destruction or injury of any living creature and weaving being such a profession, they were trained in it. Chithira valli,[page needed] daughter of Virabahu, one of the above commanders was married to Musukunthan and gave birth to Angi Vanman. His descendants were claimed as first generation of Sengunthars. This legend was also recounted by the saint Kachiappa Sivachariyar of Kanchipuram around 14th to 15th century AD[page needed] in his masterpiece, Kanthapuranam.[page needed]
Legend of Ayiramkaliyamman Temple in Thirumalairayan Pattinam
Ayiramkaliyamman Temple is located in Thirumalairayan Pattinam near Karaikal. It is said that a pious Sengunthar had a dream to collect a Goddess Amman in a silver box floating in sea. The next day himself along with his friends had gone to the sea-shore and in accordance with the dream found the box. It contained the image of Goddess Amman with an inscription on a palm leaf to indicate that this deity had to be worshipped with 1000 items daily. But since that could not happen daily, people conduct pooja with 1000 items once in 5 years. The idol is dismantled part by part and kept back in the box to be opened after another 5 years only.[full citation needed]
Sengunthar Shaivite priests are vegetarian, wear the sacred thread, and shave their foreheads in the Brahmanic fashion. Both alcoholic and sexual abstinence are valued, as is control of the passions. But when they are concerned with the sacred locus of the interior, meat eating, blood sacrifice, spirit possession, and the worship of small gods are all prominent. Sengunthars thus follow both a priestly model and a Dravidian tradition.
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