Did You Know Maritime History Medieval History Talk Snippets

Pallava King Nandivarman II and his Southeast Asia Lineage

Now very often the ideas that Indians have is that, the influence of India always goes out towards Southeast Asia, that is not the case, it was not as if the Southeast Asian was sitting around and saying aaah!! The Indians have arrived and let’s take some “Gyan” from them (and). Not at all .They were doing their own thing too, so the Indonesian for example in the 8th, 9th, 10th centuries began to do their own explorations. In fact the first human beings to colonize Madagascar, just off the coast of Africa were actually Indonesian. It’s quite surprising because Madagascar is it’s actually right next to the origin of the human species, but somehow the Africans did not colonize Southeast Asia, it was the Indonesians who did so. But they were also interacting with India and there was lots of give n take. Nalanda University, of which we are very proud was partly funded by the Sumatran Kings, the Shri Vijayan Kings of Sumatra. So foreign funded universities is not a new thing in India.

But even some of the most famous Kings of India may in fact have been of Southeast Asian origin and of course there’s a huge influence in the Northeast, which I’m not even getting into, because it’s not a matter of time Maritime influence but it can be a subject of another session, but even in Southern India, one of the greatest Kings of India, was a guy called, the Pallava king called Nandivarman II. Now the story of Nandivarman II is quite fascinating, because Nandivarman II has left us the story on the panels of the Vaikunda Perumal temple in Kanchi, where it says that, somewhere in the beginning of the 8th century, the king of the Pallavas died out, and there was real panic because he died early and dint have children and the Chalukyas were going to turn up and take over the place. There was basically chaos, so a grand assembly was called, of all the Chieftains and scholars etc. and they decided that they were going to go and hunt for another line of the Pallavas that had many many years ago gone o off to a distant land.

So there was a (king), a younger brother of a Pallava king a century earlier, who had gone off to a foreign land, married the local princess and had become the king and his lineage evidently was still alive somewhere. So very hurriedly (you know they) a group of learned Brahmins were put together and they were put on a boat from Mahabalipuram and was send off to someplace to get this king and they turned up at this court of this king (or) and they asked for one of his sons. He had four sons, this descendant of Bheema, and the first three refused to come, but the youngest one who was only 12 years at that time agreed and that young boy then got in and made his way back to Kanchi and he was anointed as Nandivarman II and (he became the), became a great king and many of the temples of the Pallava period (are from) because of Nandivarman’s contribution.

Now who was this Nandivarman and where did he come from? Now if you go to this temple and you wander around, you find something very odd about all the faces that are there, carved on the walls. A very significant proportion of them are clearly oriental, there are even Chinese faces there. Yes, Vaikunda Perumal temple in Kanchi (answering the audience). Now my guess, he doesn’t mention it, but there are many signs that the Pallavas brided themselves, of being of having their female lineage, of that of the Nagas. In fact it’s there in some of their inscriptions. So while we do not know where the Pallavas themselves came from. The fact that they had this great pride in this female Naga lineage, suggest that they had, at least from the female side a Southeast Asian origin and this is interesting because, of course the Pallavas have enormous influence on Southeast Asia. You know their scripts of many countries even today are derived from Pallava script like Thai and so on. So clearly they had a lot of influence and there is, in fact even an inscription on Nandivarman II, in Malaysia and it’s very interesting where it is, it’s in the Bujang Valley, the valley of the snakes. So my guess is that he was possibly from Cambodia, Malaysia area and he came in the 8th century and took over this Kingdom and it’s quite amazing that today you know we would not imagine that one off the great Kings of Southern India was actually from that part of the world.

Featured Image: Ancient Indian Coins.

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