Pandyas were fierce warriors who took part in the Kurukshetra War as per the epic Mahabharata. They were mentioned both in the epic Mahabharata and epic Ramayana. A Pandya king named Sarangadwaja (alternatively Malayadwaja) is mentioned as participating in the Kurukshetra War, siding with the Pandavas. It is not clear if Pandyas had any tribal links with the Pandavas of north-India. This kingdom existed in the southern part of modern day Tamil Nadu state of India, to the south of Kaveri River. Their capital was Madhura on the banks of the Tamraparni River, which is now known as Vaigai river. The name Madhura resembles the Mathura of northern India indicative of a connection with the Yadavas who once ruled at Mathura.
Pandyas, Cholas and Keralas were also mentioned in Tamil literature complementing their mention in the Sanskrit literature (constituted by Ramayana, Mahabharata, Puranas and Vedas).
References in Mahabharata
Places in Pandya Kingdom
All the references (n:m) found in this article refer to Mahabharata, nth book, mth chapter
The mountain Rishabha in Pandya kingdom is mentioned at (Mahabharata 3:85). In the country of the Pandyas are the tirthas (places) named Agastya and Varuna! There, amongst the Pandyas, is the tirtha called the Kumaris (Kanyakumari) (3:88). Tamraparni and Gokarna (Gokarn) also is mentioned in the same passage.
Krishna's encounter with the Pandyas
Vasudeva Krishna slew king Pandya by striking his breast against his, and moved down the Kalingas in battle (5:48). The Cholas and the Pandyas were mentioned as vanquished by Krishna at (7:11).
The mighty Sarangadhwaja, the king of the Pandyas, has white steeds, decked with armour set with stones of lapis lazuli. His country was invaded and his father was slain by Krishna in battle. Obtaining weapons then from Bhishma and Drona, Bala Rama and Kripa, prince Sarangadhwaja became, in weapons, the equal of Rukmi and Karna and Arjuna and Achyuta. He then desired to destroy the city of Dwaraka and subjugate the whole world. Wise friends, however, from desire of doing him good, counselled him against that course. Giving up all thoughts of revenge, he is now ruling his own dominions. Steeds that were all of the hue of the Atrusa flower bore a hundred and forty thousand principle car-warriors that followed that Sarangadhwaja, the king of the Pandyas, opposing Drona in Kurukshetra War.(7:23).
Sahadeva's expedition to South
Having brought king Nila of Avanti Kingdom under his sway thus, the victorious son of Madri (Sahadeva) then went further towards the south. He brought the king of Tripura under his sway. And next turning his forces against the Paurava kingdom, he vanquished and reduced to subjection the monarch thereof. And the prince, after this, with great efforts brought Akriti, the king of Saurashtra and preceptor of the Kausikas under his sway. The virtuous prince, while staying in the kingdom of Saurashtra sent an ambassador unto king Rukmin, the son of Bhishmaka within the territories of Bhojakata. And the monarch along with his son, remembering their relationship with Vasudeva Krishna, cheerfully accepted, the sway of the son of Pandu. He marched further to the south and reduced to subjection, Surparaka and Talakata, and the Dandakas also. The Kuru warrior then vanquished and brought under his subjection numberless kings of the Mlechchha tribe living on the sea coast, and the Nishadas and the cannibals and even the Karnapravarnas, and those tribes also called the Kalamukhas (dark faced) who were a cross between human beings and Rakshasas, and the whole of the Cole (Chola or Kolwa) mountains, and also Surabhi-patna, and the island called the Copper island, and the mountain called Ramaka. He having brought under subjection king Timingila, conquered a wild tribe known by the name of the Kerakas. The son of Pandu also conquered the town of Sanjayanti and the country of the Pashandas and the Karanatakas by means of his messengers alone, and made all of them pay tributes to him. The hero brought under his subjection and exacted tributes from the Paundrayas (Pandyas?) and the Dravidas along with the Udrakeralas and the Andhras and the Talavanas, the Kalingas and the Ushtrakarnikas, and also the delightful city of Atavi and that of the Yavanas. And, He having arrived at the sea-shore, then dispatched with great assurance messengers unto the illustrious Vibhishana, the grandson of Pulastya and the ruler of Lanka (2:30).
Other Military expeditions to South
Bhishmaka, the mighty king of the Bhojas (of Vidarbha Kingdom) who governs a fourth part of the world, by his learning conquered the Pandyas and the Kratha-Kausikas (2:14).
Having met with Rukmi (of Vidarbha Kingdom), Karna, repaired to Pandya and the mountain, Sri. And by fighting, he made Karala Kerala?), king Nila, Venudari’s son, and other best of kings living in the southern direction pay tribute (3:252).
Tribute to Yudhisthira during Rajasuya
Pandya was present in the Rajasuya ceremony of Pandava king Yudhisthira (2:36,43).
The Kings of Chola and Pandya, brought numberless jars of gold filled with fragrant sandal juice from the hills of Malaya, and loads of sandal and aloe wood from the Dardduras hills, and many gems of great brilliancy and fine cloths inlaid with gold. Singhalas gave those best of sea-born gems called the lapis lazuli, and heaps of pearls also, and hundreds of coverlets for elephants (2:51).
Pandyas in Kurukshetra War
Pandya king Malayadwaja sided with the Pandavas in the great Kurukshetra War. His main opponent was Ashwathama.
As per Bhishma's ratings, Pandya king was rated as a great Ratha (a grade for chariot-warriors) (5,172).
Pandya, who dwelt on the coast-land near the sea, came accompanied by troops of various kinds to Yudhishthira, the king of kings (5:19). There hath come Pandya. Remarkably heroic and endued with prowess and energy that have no parallel, he is devoted to the Pandava cause. (5:22).
Dhrishtadyumna and Shikhandi and the five sons of Draupadi and the Prabhadrakas, and Satyaki and Chekitana with the Dravida forces, and the Pandyas, the Cholas, and the Keralas, surrounded by a mighty array - were mentioned as part of the Pandava army (8:12).
Pandya, that foremost of warriors skilled in shafts and weapons, was destroying crowds of foes by means of diverse kinds of shafts. Piercing the bodies of the elephants and steeds and men with sharp shafts, that foremost of smiters overthrew and deprived them of life. Cutting off with his own shafts the diverse weapons hurled at him by many foremost of foes, Pandya slew his enemies (8:19). He was slain by the Kaurava hero Ashwatthama (8:20,46) His name was mentioned as Malayadhwaja. It is not clear if the Pandya king Malayadhwaja and the Pandya king Sarangadhwaja were the same person.
There is a doubt if some other Pandya king sided with the Kauravas as indicated by the following passage at (9:2):- When the mighty Pandya, that foremost of all wielders of weapons, has been slain in battle by the Pandavas, what can it be but destiny?
Pandya king took part in the self-choice event of Panchala princess Draupadi (MBh 1:189) along with the rulers of Kalinga, Vanga and others.
- Kingdoms of Ancient India
- Pandyan Kingdom