Chennai: The ‘Sadhayam’ celebrations of Tamil emperor Raja Raja Chola have become an occasion for a few caste outfits, who are painting one of the greatest of Tamil kings as belonging to a particular caste, as a symbol of caste pride and assertion.
The trend has raised concern among Tamil scholars and social activists, who want a ban on celebration of Sadhayam festival by caste groups and garlanding of the king’s statue by such organisations.
By portraying the kings as members of their caste they want to convey a message that they belong to the ruling class and justify the oppression of the scheduled communities, social activists said.
Some of the caste groups have openly declared that Raja Raja Chola belonged to a particular caste and asked the people of the community to come in large numbers to the Thanjavur Big temple to garland the statue of the king on his 1,031st birth anniversary.
They are citing the title of Arunmozhi Thevan used for Raja Raja Chola as a proof of the great king’s caste. Tamil scholars point out that there is a tradition of equating kings with Gods and the title only shows that he was considered as equal to a deity.
They also point out that none of the other Chola kings have such a title and if it was a caste tag, it should apply to all the kings. None of the early Cholas, who ruled two thousand years ago in the Sangam age, including ‘Karikalan’, considered as the greatest of Tamil kings, have any such titles to suggest their caste, a Tamil scholar, on condition of anonymity said.
Tracing the history of the rise of kingdoms in Tamil Nadu, he said out of the five land categories in Tamil Nadu, large kingdoms arose in Marudham land, which consists of agricultural fields and the areas around them. Smaller chieftains arose from Palai (desert) land where robbery was the main occupation.
The people on the five lands were classified according to their professions by the Sangam literature, he pointed out and other kinds of identities were not specified for anyone including the rulers of the land.
Hindu Makkal Katchi leader Arjun Sampath, who had arranged special poojas at the Thanjavur temple, urged the state government to ban caste outfits from celebrating the Sadhayam festival.
He said “Some of the national leaders have already been portrayed as caste leaders creating tension among the people. The period of Raja Raja Chola, who ruled Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka was a golden age in the state history and he is beyond castes”.