DISCLAIMER: You can debate the contents of this article as there is no real evidence on the origins of Madurai Veeran or we can also say that it is not fully proven. What I have written here is based on existing oral tradition and opinions. The origin of Veeran remains a mystery and time shall tell who he really was. If I find anything new about his origins that contradicts with what I have written here, I will write a sequel to this post and share it with everyone.
|Madurai Veeran with Bommi and Valliyammal|
Madurai Veeran is worshiped as a guardian deity by the Tamils. As what I know, there is no written record about him.
According to certain oral tradition, he was the prince of a king in Kaasi (Varanasi). When he was born, the astrologer predicted that the baby will bring bad luck to the king. So the king decided to dispose him and requested his guards to do it.
The guards then threw him away. Some say he was left to die in the forest. Others say he was placed in a trunk and left to float away in the river.
Veeran was then found by the Sakkiliyar community (presently known as Arunthathiyar). They were cobblers and leather workers. They raised him as their own son. He became a powerful warrior.
He fell in love and eloped with a local chieftain Bommana Naicker's daughter, Bommi. As he belonged to a different caste, Bommana Naicker became very angry and sent soldiers to kill him. The ruler of Trichy at that time was also a Naicker. He saw the military potential of Veeran. So he gave Veeran protection.
At that time, Madurai was ruled by Tirumalai Naicker (1623-1659 AD). He got to know about Veeran and requested the ruler of Trichy to send him over to serve in Madurai. This is how Madurai Veeran became a commander in Tirumalai Naicker's army.
He then fell in love with a beautiful damsel named Valliyammal. He also subdued the Piranmalai Kallars and their leader, Sanggili Karupu. Later, Veeran was wrongly accused of treason and sentenced to death by amputation.
That is the summary of the folk legend.
I believe that Veeran's origins is debatable. Let us look at some fine details which skipped the normal ears.
For a start, the legend claims that Veeran was the prince of a king who lived in Kaasi. He was then abandoned by the king but raised by the Sakkiliyar community.
The Sakkiliyars are actually Telugus. The original name of the Sakkiliyar community is Madiga. They migrated to Tamil Nadu from Andhra when the Telugu Naickers were ruling South India.
As they were leather workers, they usually lived close to the military camps. They were needed to prepare equipment such as boots, shields and guards for the soldiers. Some of the Madigas also served in the army of the Naickers.
During the rule of the Palayakarar chieftains, Sakkiliyars also served in their army. One of the earliest Palayakarar to fight against the British, Pooli Thevar, had a Sakkiliyar warrior named Ondi Veeran Pagadai. The Sakkiliyar soldiers are known as Pagadai.
Veeran was probably never a prince of Kaasi. Kaasi is located in Uttar Pradesh. That is about 1700 km north of Tamil Nadu-Andhra region. It will not be possible for a new born baby to be abandoned in Kaasi and then found by a community which lives so far away in South India.
Furthermore, the royal guards would have not traveled that far to abandon the baby. Considering the obstacles such as hills and forest with no proper roads in the 17th century, it would have taken weeks for them to travel that far just to throw a baby away. The most impractical thing to do!
If at all Veeran was a prince, how did his adopted parents find out about it? Who told them he was a prince?
Royal guards who were tasked to abandon a royal baby would have not dared to leave any mark of royalty such as garments, jewels on the baby as this can invite trouble for the king. If Veeran was a prince, Bommana Naicker would have not objected his love for Bommi.
Some claim that Madurai Veeran's image shows him wearing a Poonool (sacred thread). Therefore, they assume that he must be a royalty or an upper caste like Brahmins.
Poonool was actually used by many castes in ancient times. It was not exclusively for the Brahmins or any upper castes alone. Today, many of the practices like wearing Poonool or keeping Kudumi (hair knot) is no longer done by us but our ancestors did it.
Just because we don't wear Poonool today, it does not mean our ancestors never wore it.
It is only logical to assume that Veeran was indeed born in a Sakkiliyar community. Like other Sakkiliyars, he lived near the military camp and learned martial arts from there. He then became a great warrior.
It is either this or he could have been an abandoned child found by the Sakkiliyars and raised as one of them. Meaning no one knows his actual caste or lineage.
I believe that his royal origin could be a myth created because some cannot accept the fact that someone either born into or raised by the cobbler community became one of the most successful warriors of all time.
When you become too proud of your lineage to the extend of looking down on others, you will not bow down and pray to a deity who was from the cobbler community. Myths like this is created to elevate the deity's position so that others will worship him too.
Veeran will remain as an icon of bravery. A true warrior. May the Tamils of the villages continue to sing ballads on his name. May our descendants remember him for his service in upholding justice.