Middle Kingdoms of India, Part 78
BY: SUN STAFF
Pandya dynasty, Tamil Nadu, late 8th c.
Aug 26, 2015 CANADA (SUN) A serial presentation of India's great history, religious movements and temple architecture.
'The Pallava dynasty was replaced by the Pandyas in the 8th Century. Their capital city, Madurai, was in the deep south, away from the coast. The Pandyas had extensive trade links with the Southeast Asian maritime empires of Srivijaya (Sumatra) and their successors. They even had diplomatic contacts reaching as far afield as the Roman Empire.
During the 13th Century, Marco Polo mentioned the Pandyas as being the richest empire in existence. Temples like Meenakshi Amman at Madurai and Nellaiappar Temple at Tirunelveli are the best examples of Pandyan Temple architecture.
The Pandyas also excelled in literature, and were known for controlling the pearl fisheries along the South Indian coast, between Sri Lanka and India, which produced some of the finest pearls known in the ancient world.'
Among the places Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu visited during his preaching sojourn in South India was the tirtha of Pandya-desa. This is described in Caitainya-caritamrta Madhya Lila:
Madhya Lila 9 Summary
"Then the Lord went to Setubandha and took His bath at Dhanus-tirtha. He also visited Ramesvara, where He collected some papers connected with Sitadevi, whose illusory form was kidnapped by Ravana. The Lord next visited the places known as Pandya-desa, Tamraparni, Naya-tripadi, Ciyadatala, Tila-kanci, Gajendra-moksana, Panagadi, Camtapura, Sri Vaikuntha, Malaya-parvata and Kanya-kumari."
Later in Madhya 9, Srila Prabhupada provides further details on Pandya-desa:
sei ratri tahan rahi' tanre krpa kari'
pandya-dese tamraparni gela gaurahari
sei ratri -- that night; tahan -- there; rahi' -- staying; tanre -- unto the brahmana; krpa kari' -- showing mercy; pandya-dese -- in the country known as Pandya-desa; tamraparni -- to the river named Tamraparni; gela -- went; gaurahari -- Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
"Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu passed that night in the house of the brahmana. Then, after showing him mercy, the Lord started toward the Tamraparni River in Pandya-desa.
Pandya-desa is situated in the southern part of India known as Kerala and Cola. In all these areas there were many kings with the title Pandya who ruled over Madurai and Ramesvara. In the Ramayana the Tamraparni River is mentioned. The Tamraparni, also known as the Purunai, flows through Tirunelveli before entering the Bay of Bengal. The Tamraparni River is also mentioned in Srimad-Bhagavatam (11.5.39)."
Tamraparni River, Pandya-desa
The Pandyan Dynasty began in the 2nd century B.C. in the south of India as an ancient Tamil state, one of the four Dravidian Tamil dynasties along with the Cholas, Cheras, and Pallavas.
The Pandyas are mentioned in the Pillars of Ashoka (c. 273-232 B.C.). In his inscriptions, Asoka refers to the peoples of South India — the Cholas, Cheras, Pandyas and Satiyaputras — as being the recipients of his Buddhist preaching:
"The conquest by Dharma has been won here, on the borders, and even six hundred yojanas (5,400–9,600 km) away, where the Greek king Antiochos rules, beyond there where the four kings named Ptolemy, Antigonos, Magas and Alexander rule, likewise in the south among the Cholas, the Pandyas, and as far as Tamraparni (Sri Lanka)." 
 Advanced History of India, K.A.Nilakanta Sastri (1970)p. 181-182, Allied Publishers Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi
 The Edicts of King Asoka: An English Rendering by S. Dhammika. Buddhist Publication Society, Kandy (1994).
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