Tourism in olden days
  • Tourism started in medieval times: Scholar Chandni Bi (AMU)

    *Tiruchirapalli, Feb 13 *: The movement of people from one place to
    another over considerable distance is evident even from medieval history
    and can be understood from the Chola and Vijayanagar Dynasties, a scholar
    has said. Speaking at a National Seminar on CulturalTtourism in Tamil Nadu
    with special reference to Tiruchirapalli at a private college here
    yesterday,S. Chandni Bi Associate Professor, CAS, Department of History,
    Aligarh University said the such movement, termed as tour, was with or
    without purpose.

    'In this context, we are to look in the medieval South India for tourists
    and tourism,' she said. The term 'medieval' can conveniently be understood
    to cover the time period during which the Cholas and Vijayanagar dynasties
    ruled almost the whole of South India. For history students with even some
    knowledge of stone age and the consequent periods, it is not difficult to
    recollect how people moved from one continent to the other. She cited the
    examples of Alexander who pursued conquests and Emperor Ashoka whose empire
    extended up to Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh in the South. Samudra Gupta's
    march up to Kanchipuram, Rajendra Chola I and Kulottunga I not only touched
    Bengal in India but waged sea wars to South East Asian Islands of Combuja,
    Java etc. These are some of the examples that one could pictorise in a
    fraction of a second to understand that really people moved for various

    Ramayana and Mahabharata, Silapadigaram, Devaram etc also give us a vivid
    picture of common people and saints moving to different parts of our
    country for many reasons. Thus it was conspicuous for anyone to understand
    that tour and tourism were not something that was not known in Ancient and
    Medieval times, she claimed. Religion was the strong underlying factor for
    tour in the medieval period.

    Ms Chandini Bi said in medieval India, business and religion served as a
    combined factor for the promotion of tourism. 'Hence, I have chosen to
    prefer the epigraphical sources that are available in the temples. It is
    needless to claim that the inscriptions are more authentic sources. In the
    first step, one can see if people moved from one place to another from
    epigraphs. There are many inscriptions in Tamil language itself denoting
    the presence of Kashmir people.

    They are seen as donors, making endowments to Sri Rangam, Tiruvotriyur,
    Kanchipuram, and Chidambaram to mention a few. There are at least eight
    Tamil epigraphs that mention about Kashmir donors between 11th and 13th
    centuries, she added. Inferences make clear that the people from North
    India were settled in Tamil land and played significant role in the fields
    of politics and religion, she added. Apart from this, one could see the
    Arya Bhattas engaged in temple affairs from the many inscriptions in Sri
    Rangam. The Aryabhattas lived in groups and owned houses in the main
    streets of Sri Rangam could be traced well. A less known pilgrim
    centre--Tribhuvani in Pondicherry Taluk-- has a Siva temple named
    Bilavanateeswarar with early 80 inscriptions,a majority belonging to the
    Chola regime and less to Vijayanagar period, she said.

    She further said donors who came from outside Tribhuvani were from
    different places like Tirutthuraipoondi, Cuddalore, Papanasam and Manavil.
    and many generations of his family alone could be seen as coming from
    Guntur as donors and making large hearted donations in gold.' 'Thimmarasar,
    son of Dhandu Obla Arasar, gave 200 pon (gold) in charity came from Red
    Hills in Chennai while Virriyundan Seman, a chief probably from Salem,
    donated 1,000 kasu for a special festival. Thus, it is evident that people
    within different states of South India and also from many parts of North
    India toured exhaustively for their political, economic, philanthropic
    reasons in medieval south India.

    Ms Chandini Bi further said similarly, people from south India also went to
    North India for same reasons. Instances of Kings making endowments and
    grants to places outside their own dominions through their officers or
    feudatories or getting some religious rites performed in such places are
    many. For example, Eastern Ganga King and Queen were seen at Kanchi,
    Gahadavala King at Suryanar Koyil and several of the Hoysala and
    Vijayanagar Kings at Kasi. There are many examples in Indian history that
    speak about rulers outside India, showing interest to construct religious
    buildings and mutts for the convenience of pilgrims from their country to
    stay in the holy places. There is clear evidences to prove the existence of
    the concept of tourism in medieval South India among all classes of people.
    Most of the time the tourists' natural mode of transport was by road.

    'There are many references that we have come across right from the time of
    Ashoka the Great, that kings constructed roads with shade giving trees on
    both the sides, inns and resting places at particular distances. Locating
    the ancient and medieval roads is a bigger issue that we have not touched
    in our research so far extensively. But it goes without saying that our
    volumes of inscriptions have many references denoting big and small roads
    and the ways connecting near and far places. Royal roads and temple roads
    had special prefix as Tiru and called as Tiruvidi.

    It is really astonishing to understand that one such peruvidi ( big street)
    of 11th century at Tiruvalankadu is a part of the Prime Minister Golden
    Quadrilateral initiated by our former Prime Minister Vajpayee, she said..
    Horses, bullock carts and donkeys were largely used by all sections of the
    people as modes of tranport. A larger section of the population trusted
    their own legs. The inland waterways were also not spared and boats
    specially built were utilised thoroughly. The temple premises and mutts
    were used as resting places, she added.

    She said choultries called "chattiram" were very common perhaps on all
    junctions of main roads connecting different townships. Chattirams were
    managed by watchmen and the care for the traveller, his luggage and the
    animal, if accompanied, were available, ofcourse for a price. 'Even food
    and fodder were also available. The term Ira Chattiram(night choultry)
    perhaps indicate that it was meant for night stays. 'After transport and
    stay the next priority is food. In the days when packed food was not
    available all tourists generally satisfied themselves with the accessible
    local made food.

    'It appears that eateries were available on road sides, which has been
    looked as a specific livelihood of destitute women. Some literature and
    hearsay stories confirm this practice,' she said.. When donations were
    extensively made in medieval times the donors did mention especially from
    Vijaynagar days that a particular portion of the food offerings should be
    meant for public distribution. The temple functionaries definitely had a
    share in it, she added.

    There were also night choultries that were functioning and received this
    sort of food. The donations to serve food on festive days were enormous. In
    SriRanagam temple town alone one could come across a number of mutts and
    charity halls where these food offerings were diverted. Such was the
    system,the tourist would not have to spend on his or her food for days
    together at pilgrim centers. Tolerance prevailed in general mind set of all
    classes of people. The kings had sent their family members and ministers or
    chiefs as their representatives to the pilgrim centers in the rival land
    cutting across the political boundaries.

    Ms Chandini Bi further said there was a provision perhaps for exchange of
    currency of different kingdoms and rulers that facilitated the tourists.
    There is one inscription that records a donation from the Chera country
    that also gives the rate of exchange between the Chera currency 'Achchu'
    and the Chola currency 'Kasu.' Their relation was one is to nine. The
    belief that supplying water to the needy people added merit to one's life
    encouraged people to create water pandals and supply free drinking water to
    humans and animals in the country. Such practices could be seen on all
    days, round the year at important places especially in the temple arenas.
    'We find two water pandal people receiving a share of food from the
    SriRangaanathar Temple, Srirangam,' she added. There was a hospital
    functioning in fourth prakhara of SriRnagam Temple.

    A particular family has been maintaining it for more than two centuries and
    the hospital maintainer also appears as a donor. The hospital is referred
    as 'Arogyasalai' There were many such instances where hospital existed and
    it was meant for both human and animals. Even Kundavai, the elder sister of
    the Chola king Raja raja I have donated to one such hospital in Kumbakonam.
    The college at Thirumukkudal had a hospital also. There was a special
    medical school at Tiruvavaduthurai, which would have catered to the needs
    of Vaidyans (physicians) to look after various hospitals in the Chola
    regime, she said.

    Thus, for the convenience and comfort of tourists or pilgrims various
    facilities like roads, food and hospitals existed. With the infrastructure,
    the currency exchange system also prevailed. Moreover, almost all the
    houses had single or double raised platforms in front of the houses at the
    entry point called 'thinnai' which helped strangers and travellers to avail
    for rest and night stay. Generally the common public were also kind and
    large hearted to take care and spare food and water to the travellers from
    far and near. This is how the whole system of tourism functioned in
    Medieval South India, she added.

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