Mesha, the goat that signifies the Mesha rashi of the zodiac is known as Aadu, Varudai, Thagar or Thagadu in Tamil. Of these Varudai, as an animal of the goat variety appears in many places in sangam literature. That Varudai also refers to the Mesha Rashi is known from the paripadal verse 11 that I quoted in the context of 3 Veethis (part -5 ) and the olden Tamil Thesaurus, ‘Choodamani NigaNdu’
(1) From ParipAdal – 11 -5)
“varudaiyai padimagan vaayppa”
Varudaiyai = to Mesha (goat)
Padimagan = son of earth = Bhauman = Mars.
Vaayppa = got into
varudaiyai padimagan vaayppa”= Mars got into Mesha rashi.
(2) From ChoodamaNi nigaNdu – verse 1-64
”மைவருடை ஆடுகொறி மறி மேடம் என்ப”
“mai varudai aadu koRi maRi mEdam enpa”
‘mai, Varudai, aadu, koRi, maRi’ etc are synonyms for goat or ram
mEdam = Mesha
enpa = it is said
“mai varudai aadu koRi maRi mEdam enpa” = It is said that mai, varudai, aadu, koRi and maRi are (synonyms of) Mesha.
In the NAdi manuscripts in Tamil, the solar months and rashis are mentioned in the name of the above synonyms of Mesha, the animal. The only other name found in Nadi manuscripts was “Mudhal Maatham” (First month) for Mesha maasa.
In the temple inscriptions that appeared around 1000 years ago, the names of solar months are mentioned by the rashi names.
To quote a few,
“Makara naayiRu” (literal meaning = Makara sun) for the solar month of Capricorn (Azhaga-p Permual temple, SEvUr, Avinashi, Coimbatore)
“Meena naayiRu” (literal meaning = Meena sun) for the solar month of Pisces (Patteeshwara temple, PErUr, Coimbatore)
These show the practice of mentioning solar month by rashi names or by the name of the animal, Mesha. If we notice, further back in time, say 2000 years BP, the practice was to mention the name of the animal whenever Mesha rashi or solar month of Aries had to be mentioned. For other months they had used (in sangam literature) the Tamil solar month names such as Maasi and Panguni – which is what we continue to use even today. The exception is Mesha which was mentioned as Varudai or Aadu - which goes to show the special importance given to Mesha – as it signified the year-beginning. Such traditions could not have come from a far-off Mleccha land of Greece, but could have been an extension of the culture of rest of India.
As we go further back in time, we find mention of ‘Aadu’ and ‘Varudai’ for Mesha. For example the year is known as “Varudam”in Tamil. This is derived from Varudai, in which the Tamil New Year begins. Similarly the Rajaraja Cholan inscriptions mention “AattaaNdu” meaning “the year that begins with Aadu /goat”
Varudam as the generic name of Year in Tamil has a story behind it which has been repeatedly quoted by Karunanidhi, the self-proclaimed protector of Dravidians (!). The 12thcentury Tamil Thesaurus of Abhidhana ChinthamaNI, written by a Jain monk, Hemachandra Suri says that the Year (Varudam) was formed by the pair of male Varudan and a male Varudi! (This Thesaurus only states the pre-existing idea or tradition in the Tamil society). This became a pet topic for Karunanidhi who loses no occasion to abuse Vedic system by saying that this system projects the New Year as the child born to a gay couple – male Varuda and a male Varudi, and therefore is fit to be rejected by the Tamils!
The inner meaning of this is that the Varuda (year) that comes with Varudai (the mesha) is also coming along with a pair. Who makes that pair? The Aswin brothers make the pair! The actual import is that the Tamil New Year begins with Mesha (Varudai) and a pair (of Aswins). Please recall the Messha–Aswin verse of Varahamihira (BJ 1-4). The same idea has been there in Tamil culture. These are being told here to justify that whatever is there in Tamil sources is therefore acceptable as Pan Indian or Vedic idea. The loss of literature and temples in North India due to invasions must be compensated by the evidences found in Tamil sources.
Now coming to the core theme of this article, the word Varudai for an animal is found in as many as 8 places in Tamil Sangam literature and in Silappadhikaram of the 2nd century AD. (Silappadhikaram was written in post- Sangam period). There is a sutra in the Sangam Grammar book of Tholkappiyam that mentions the name of the young one of Varudai. This goes to show the familiarity with this animal in the pre-common Era. These texts also say that Varudai is Varai–aadu meaning “Cliff-goat” – the goat that is found in mountain cliffs. The Sangam texts also say that these goats can effortlessly scale the steep slopes of the mountains.
These goats were not native to Tamil lands. A Cheran King brought them from DandakaraNya cliff! This act got him a title “Aadu kOtpaattu ChEralAdhan” – meaning “the king who brought the goat”!! Doesn’t this name sound weird? A king may be glorified with a title if he overpowers a lion or tiger or an elephant or some such feat that is normally not possible. But here is a Cheran King who was glorified for having brought the goat! Unless the goat is a special one and difficult to be obtained and groomed, this title could not have been conferred on him.
The important information is that this king brought “varudai”,the Mesha that I have written above. In the compilation of poems on Cheran kings called as “PathiRRu-p-patthu”(meaning, 10 compilations of 10 poems on 10 kings), the 6th group of poems is on the Cheran King whose original name is not known. But his titular names have been given in the introductory verse as “Aadu- kotpaattu Cheraladhan” and “VAna varamban” VAna varamban means “the one for whom sky is the limit”. The verse says,
தண்டாரணியத்துக் கோள்பட்ட வருடையைத்
தொண்டியுள் தந்து கொடுப்பித்துப் பார்ப்பார்க்குக்
கபிலையொடு குடநாட்(டு)ஓரூர் ஈத்து
வான வரம்பன்எனப் பேர்இனிது விளக்கி …………
*ஆடுகோட் பாட்டுச் சேரலாதனை*
யாத்த செய்யுள் அடங்கிய”
“DandakAraNyatthuk kOLpatta Varudaiyaith
thONdiyuL thanthu koduppiththup paarppaarkkuk
kapilaiyOdu kuda nAttu OrUr eenthu
vAna varamban enap pEr inithu viLangki...
Aadu kOt pAttuch chEralAdhnai
yAttha seyyuL adangkiya”
DandakAraNyatthu = danda kAraNya
kOLpatta = brought from
Varudaiyai = varudai / goat
thONdiyuL thanthu = brought to ThoNdi, the capital city of ChEra kings
koduppiththu = gave
paarppaarkku = to Brahmins
kapilaiyOdu = along with cows
kuda nAttu OrUr = a place (Ur) in Kuda nAdu
eenthu = gifted
vAna varamban = ‘one with sky as the limit’
enap pEr = such a name
inithu viLangki...= becoming suitable (for him)
Aadu kOt pAttuch chEralAdhnai = The Cheran king who brought the goat
yAttha seyyuL adangkiya = upon him these verses are made.
“The Cheran king went to DandakaraNya and brought Varudai goats to ThoNdi, his capital city and donated them to Brahmins, along with cows and gifted them a place in Kuda Nadu. This gave him an apt name as ‘one for whom sky is the limit”. Such a king ‘who brought goat’ – upon him these verses are made.”
By the title of VAna varmban (sky as the limit), it is known that he has scaled the peaks of Vindhyas in Dandakaranya. By the title of Aadu kOtpattu ChEralaadhan, it is known that he had brought a rare variety of goats from DandakaraNya region. By the mention of Varudai, as the goat that he had brought, it is known that the Mesha goats were procured by him from the cliffs of Vindhyas – a feat which was considered as rare in his times. It is rare because these goats do not survive in plains. They are adapted to cliffs and cold and dense forested areas of the mountains. That is why he had settled them in Kuda Nadu – a mountainous region of the western ghats. These goats are still surviving today, though they are an endangered species.
The popular name of them is Nigiri Tahr though they continue to be called as Varudai and Varai aadu (cliff goats) as found mentioned in sangam texts. Browse this link for more information on this species.
- Area of occupancy- (pre-colonial) 4000-5000km2Extent of occurrence-(present) 400-500km2
- Elevation:Upper limit - 2695mt (Anaimudi)Lower limit (present)- 600mt.(past) - 300mt.Population Estimations1000 (Schaller,1970)2200 (Davidar,1978)2234 (Rice,1984)2500 (Shackleton.1997)1950 (Daniels et al., 2006).2600- Min (Easa et al., 2010).
The Nilgiri Tahr (Nilgiritragus hylocrius) is the only species of Caprine ungulate that is found south of the Himalayas in India. The eleven other species of Indian Caprine ungulates are confined to the Himalayan biogeographical zones. The Nilgiri Tahr presently occurs patchily over a short 400km stretch of the southern Western Ghats that spans the high altitude plateau of the Nilgiris and the hills of the Kanyakumari district; the total area of which is a mere 5% of the entire Western Ghats region.