KARUR: Karur, which is currently one of the industrial hubs in the State, was once a vital trade guild of South India during the Sangam era. With Karur district turning 26 on Friday after the trifurcation of the Tiruchy district on September 30, 1995, TNIE looks back at the district's ancient trade history.
Being one of the oldest towns in the State, Karur was ruled by the Chera, Chola and Pandiya kings known as 'Moovendhargal'. All of them wanted to capture Karur and rule it as trade was flourishing in the town during the early Sangam period. Merchants and traders from across the country and other nations visited Karur for trade.
Melai Pazhaniappan, Karuvoor Thirukkural Peravai Secretary told TNIE, "Before all this trading began, Karur or Karuvoor was also known as the birthplace of life, as it is believed that the Hindu god BrahMa began his creation works on the banks of the Amaravathi in Karur. And that is the main reason why the town got the name Karu-Uru-Oor, which later got transformed to Karuvoor, meaning the place where the creation of life/embryo. At one point, the town that was called Karuvoor got changed to Karur."
Karur and the trade carried out here during the Sangam period has several mentions in numerous Tamil literatures, including, Agananuru, Purananuru, Silappatikaram, etc., said Tamil linguistic experts.
M Rajasekaran Thangamani, renowned historian, author and retired history professor in Karur, has been working on unearthing the history of Karuvoor and the trade carried out here during the early days.
Speaking to TNIE, the 82-year-old historian said, "We have a lot of inscriptions, archaeological findings and pieces of evidence in Karur which lead to the Sangam era trade . The 2nd century Aarnattanmalai inscription in Karur is one of the predominant archaeological findings that reveal the trade carried out in the town during the Sangam period. Also, to be noted, Aarnattanmalai inscription is the only one in the whole country which depicts three generation rulers from a single-family."
Apart from that, inscriptions on Perumal temple walls in Karur, Vedaranyam temple and Thiruvaiyaru temple depict the merchants of Karur, who carried out salt, jewels and oil trade in the town, Thangamani added.
"A lot of Sangam Tamil literature, including Manimekalai, mention Karur's trade and the streets named after merchants and their trade. Karur was also the trade capital of Cheras. As trade prospered here, the Moovendhargal fought over gaining control of this land. It is also to be noted that Karur was one among the five places where the Cholas carried out their coronation," Thangamani said.
Karur, also called 'Vanji Managaram,' was a vital trading point of South India during the Sangam period as it lay right in the between the Kaveripattinam's Poompuhar harbour (now in Tamil Nadu) and the Muciri harbour (now in Kerala).
"Karur was known as the trade guild then, as merchants and traders from across the country and other countries arrived here for trading, mainly in precious stones which were available here. And that is the main reason for the discovery of numerous Sangam era coins from the Amaravathi River and other places of Karur," Thangamani said.
V Raju, a numismatist, epigraphist and secretary of Karur District Numismatic & Philatelic Association, told TNIE, "No other place in the country has discovered more coins than Karur. And the Sangam era trading is one of the main reasons for that. Coins of numerous kings and dynasties, including Chera, Chola, Pandiyas, Pallavas, Mauriyas and foreign nation coins, including Romans, Greeks, Judayas and Chinese were discovered here. Even coin seals were also found in the Amaravathi. Traders arrived through the Palghat pass and carried out business. As Karur lay in the Dakshinapatha, many merchants preferred it as a trading point. Karur is also the only place in the country where all types of Sangam era coins have been found."