Devikapuram Inscriptions  -  NOBORU KARASHIMA

Noboru Karashima - Japanese bases Tamil Historian- Courtesy -The Hindu

Nayakas as lease holders of Temple Lands

There are many Tamil inscriptions of Vijayanagar times which are inscribed on the walls of a Siva temple in Devikapuram, North Arcot District, Tamilnadu, in South India. Thirteen of these inscriptions record the lease of temple lands to individuals or institutions  on certain conditions. No only in the Devikapuram inscriptions but also in the inscriptions of many other  localities do we find similar cases of the leasing of the temple land, when we go through the contents of Vijayanagar inscriptions in The Annual Report on (South Inidan) Epigraphy. Such abundance of evidence of the  lease of temple lands leads us to infer that the lease system was probably of importance among the various  systems of land tenure prevailing in the Vijayanagar Empire. So far, however , no detailed study of such leases has been attempted and I wish to examine here these thirteen Devikapuram inscriptions so as to place the problem in the wider context of the land systems and the control of land attempted by both the central and local powers.
Temple Authorities
As for the authorities  who leased out the temple land, there appear in inscriptions the names of several groups and individuals. Those groups are tanattar, mahesvarar, tanamahesvarar, gurukkal and kaikolamudaligal. The individuals are Isanasivacharya and Visvesvarasivacharya, both of whom belonged to Bhiksha matha of Devikapuram and are stated to be responsible for the finances of the temple.
Though we do not know the interrelation of these groups, one thing is clear: that when tanamahesvarar is mentioned in the inscriptions as one of the authorities  who transacted the lease, the tanattar or mahesvarar do no appear. The tanamahesvarar therefore, may have consisted of tanattar and mahesvarar together, or may have combined in one body the functions of the two.
As our present concern is with the lease- holders and not the temple organization, we simply treat these groups as representatives of the temple and do not go into details concerning them.
Lease –Holders
As for lease –holders, the first thing we notice on reading the thirteen inscriptions is that five out of the thirteen recipients of the land were nayakas. They are: Tirumalai –nayaka(No. 352) Sadasiva-nayaka(353), Koniappa nayaka(369). In the inscriptions of the Devikapuram temple which record the donation of land and other items there appear yet other nayakaas as the donars. May of those nayakas who appear in the Devikapuram inscriptions are mentioned as ' belonging to the regiment of Kannadiya nayakas who stat in Mardarasar Padaivedu, Marudarasar seems to be a title borne by some high officer, and Padaividu, which literally means the residence of the army, may well be identified with the present Padavedu which lies some twenty miles to the North – West of Devikapuram. Therefore we may conclude that these  nayakas were sent from the Kannada Country (the central region of the Empire) to be stationed there and govern this region.
We may also trace the relation between these nayakas and central power. In one inscription (395)  Tirumalai Nayaka is stated tobe the agnet of Narasanayaka of the Tuluva dynasty (regnet of the last  king of the Saluva dynasty) and in another (355) Isvaranayaka, a brother of Tirumalai nayaka, is also said to be the agent of Narasa-nayaka. However, all these nayakas need not necessarily be in direct releationship with the central power. For example, Kondama nayaka residing at Serrupattu is said in one of the inscriptions (374) to have  endowed a certain shepherd's family to the Devikapuram temple with the permission of Kalattisura nayaka, who was ruling Padaividu sirmai and who is said in yet another inscription (356) to be a son of Tirumalai nayaka mentioned above. Similarly, Nayinappa nayaka is mentioned in some inscriptions (381 and 383) of the Devikapuram temple as the agent of Mallappa nayaka, who is thought to have belonged to Marudarasar Padaivide.Thus we notice a difference of grade among nayakas  in relation to the central power, which may suggest the relationship  of sub- infeudation.
Among the rest of the thirteen inscriptions we have tow cases in which the lands were taken by  institutions, namely by a siva temple  established  by Tirumalai nayaka in a village which was a devadana of Devikapuram temple (373)  and by a matha which was located in another devadana village of the same temple(375).
In all the cases the lands were leases out to certain individuals who were not nayakas. They are a manradi(shepherd) who lived in Devikapuram (354) , a vidvan(scholar) who came from Arrtuvanpadi(365)  a man who influence the king  Krishnadevaray to grant a village to Devikapuram temple (366), a cetain amblatadiyar(367) another manradi of Devikapuram (368) and a certain Tiruppanivasuvana – udaiya, who seems to have had some connection with temples, judging from his name (372).
The Land Leases out:
In all these cases the object of the lease is land, but in several cases houses are also leased together with the land.
As for the nature of the land, in six inscription the leases lands are referred to as tangal, like 'Murugamangalam naruvilitangal' for example. Though tangal is usually takn as pond used for irrigation, in these inscriptions it evidentlymeans some class or type of land itself . In two inscription(373 and 387) it is stated to include both nanjey(wet land) and punjay (dry land) Tangal in thses inscriptions seems tohave been the land around or benath the irrigation pond. In other cases lands are referred to simply as nanjey or punjey or wase land.
The area of the lands is mentioned in some cases: for instance '500 kuli' (354) 'nanjey 1000 kuli' and punjey 500 kuli' (365) punjey 500 kuli and nanjey 500 kuli (366)  and punjey 750 kuli (369) . From these references we gather that the areas of the leases lands were in most cases between 500 and 1500 kuli. the average being  about 1000 kuli. The lands were scattered in ten villages of which five villages are known to have located near Devikapuram.
Seven inscriptions records that houses (in one cases two houses and in the others one house) were also leased out. In two cases it is known that the houses were situated  in the villages where the leases lands lay, but in four cases the houses were in Devikapuram itself. The implication of the lease of the house in Devikapuram is not clear.
The rights given
What rights did the lease – holders obtain and what conditions were  there on these lease? To clarify these points, we shall examine the phrases referring to the rights and conditions of the leases.
In all thirteen inscriptions it is stated that the land was handed over as kani. to be more exact, in four cases it is described as kaniatchi, in there cases as kaniparru and in six cases as ulavu kani-atchai. Kani generally means 'right' and atchi, parru and ulavu mean holding, acquiring, and cultivation' respectively . Though in seven cases the word ulavu does not appear, substantial difference in the contents between  the six which have this word and the seven which do not have it cannot be found. Therefore we may plausibly infer that in these thirteen cases the receivers of temple lands obtained the right of cultivation.
In five inscription this right is stated to be enjoyed also by descendants of the recipient (in the case of matha by the disciple  who succeeds the guru) and in two inscriptions (368 and 387) kani is stated to be given with the eight kinds of right (ashtabhogam) on land, which comprised the right of safe, transfer, exchange etc. It will be understood, therefore, the right granted was hereditary and well protected.
Some of the inscriptions contain phrases which  refer to reclamation of the land. No. 353 has the phrase reclaiming pond, bank and land'. Similarly, such expressions as digging a pond (three  cases) 'reclaiming fields' (two cases), and digging a well (one case) are also seen.

As for the crops to be cultivated , in six inscriptions the phrase 'cultivating  the necessary crops' appear. And as to the cultivators, there can be found in seven inscriptions such a phrase as colonizing the land with the cultivator(kudiyum-erri) In one case (354)the exact expression is colonizing the land with the cultivator who will come to reside and in another (369) colonizing the land with the necessary cultivator. This mention of colonization clearly indicates that the receivers of the land  were not the cultivators themselves, and the same is also to be inferred from the fact that many of the recipients were nayakas or officers, who could not themselves be cultivators of the land they received. The expression ' cultivators (kudigal) who will come to reside leads us  to infer that these  cultivators were not mere labourers hired for wages but people who had some rights over the land as tenants. It is not clear whether  or not  the land had already been cononized in the case in which the phrase about colonization does no appear, but that might have been the case.

Payments to the Temple.
In nearly all the thirteen inscriptions a certain amount of paddy or money or both, which the lease – holder had to pay into the temple  treasury is mentioned, with the enumeration of tax terms . Though it is not at all easy to understand  the meaning of the tax terms, if we closely examine this portion of the inscriptions, we can tell what was to be paid to the temple by lease holders and thus will comprehend the substantial meaning of these leases.
In seven inscription a large number of tax terms are enumerated and in one case (354) the number of enumerated terms exceeds forty. It is very difficult as mentioned above, to speak about or categorize the nature of these  taxes, but all seven cases have the tems kadamai, palavari and puduvari  and also at least two of the following three terms : kanikkai, kattayam and mugamparvai. In four cases all these three terms appear. Thus a considerable number of important tases are listed and since the fixed  amount which is stipulated  to be paid to the temple treasury  is described as the payment in respect of these  tax items, it seems that the temple collected from the lease holders almost the whole  of the taxes imposed on the land by the central government and also by some local authorities.
What, then, was the profit gained by the temple which leased out these lands? We may recall  in this context the commen belief of scholars that temple lands were exempted from heavy taxation, if not from all taxes, and that temples usually enjoyed the major portions of the state taxes on the lands donated to them, which  were otherwise to be sent to the government . In fact one of the present thirteen inscriptions (365) is itself quite suggestive of this . Threre it is stated that the land was leased to a certain scholar as iraiyili, that is exempt from tax. At the same time, however it is stipulated that the  very temple  which leased out the land was to be responsible for the  payment of kanikkai which heads several tax terms. From this we may well infer that Devikapuram temple has to send the kanikkai imposed on the leased land to the government but that it was allowed to enjoy the other taxes. including kadamai, which was the major item of the revenue.


Having examined these thirteen inscriptions we conclude as follows: The lands of Devikapuram temple were leased out to certain people, including five nayakas and two institutions. The lands were cultivable  and the area of each averaged about 1000 kuli. The right given to lease  holders was that  of cultivation, and  they  were allowed  to reclaim  the lands by gigging ponds and wells, and to plant whatever crops they wanted. The lease holders however do not seem to have cultivated the lands themselves  but apparently brought in cultivators to do the work. The lease holders probably sent to the temple treasury an amount of paddy or money or both. which was more or less  equivalent to government taxes and enjoyed the rest of the produce, though they had to give some amount to the cultivators also. If we further take into consideration the facts that  these leases were hereditary and that in the transactions were granted the rights of sale, mortagage, etc., besides the right of cultivation  we may even  regard these  lease holders as having been the actual owners or lords of the leases land.
Now that the  character  or the lease holders is defied as such the significance of the fact that  five nayakas appear in these inscriptions as the lease holders allows us to see these  examples of leases in the  wider context  of state economy  and politics . It is generally believed  that  in the heyday of the vijayanagar Empire nayakas were placed  under the full control of the  central power. The territory in which  they could claim their  lordship was limited and they had to send to the central government a half of the revenue of their assigned territory, and besides this  payment they had to maintain from their income certain armed forces for king. In this and other  ways the central government was carefull not to let the nayakas grow too powerfull. Nevertheless in the  later period of the Empire, some of the nayakas  increased their power remarkably. one of the  reasons for rise of the nayakas must have been the political situation of the time, namely the pressure and invasion of the Muslim kingdoms to the north of Vijayanagar and the subsequent  decline of the central authority. Another reason however  seems  to have been  this system of leasing  temple  land, through which the local powers  such as the nayakas could  increase  their  income, which  was otherwise  limited by the control of the central power. The ties between  the nayakas and the locality must have been greatly  strengthened  by this system. If we examine  all such lease inscription of other localities also we may derive from them a better knowledge of growth of nayakas in the time of Vijayanagar Empire.

Nadukal (or) Hero Stones

Hero stone (வீரக்கல் Viirakkal, Nadukal  in Tamil) is a memorial  commemorating the honorable death of a hero in battle of Tamil People. A hero stone can display a variety of adornments, including bas relief  panels, statues, and figures of carved stone. Usually they are in the form of a stone monument and may have an inscription at the bottom with a narrative of the battle.

The Tamil Nadu Department of Archeology found several hundred hero stones that had been erected in the memory of warriors who sacrificed their lives defending their community or region. Those that are carved with inscriptions detail the acts of the hero, the battle involved, and the name of king in whose name the battle was fought. The stones are found alone or in groups, usually near an irrigation tank or lake outside a village.

About 20 hero stones found in and around Devikapuram village ranging from 12th century  to 18 century.It denotes that the village Devikapuram was a important centre in medivial period. Several types of nadukal found in various places in Devikapuram, these are 1. Vediappan, 2. Satikal, 3. Ayyanar , 4. Thoru, 5. Navakandam etc.,

15th Cen.  Nadukal in Devikapuram

12th cen. Nadukal in Kolakaravadi

Navakandam Nadukal in Devaradiyar Kulam, Devikapuram