draupadi ammAL and chunItan

A sub-set of the smarta brahmins of Gingee, Melaccheri Kadu and parts of the modern Telugu country upwards of Kalahasti, usually belonging to the great sect of bR^ihatcharaNaM or rarely the vaDamas (northerners), are called pAratiyAr-s. There are other pAratiyAr-s belonging the middle caste vELALar-s. Both of them are associated with the draupadi ammAL temples of the region, whose many patrons are vanniyar-s. The vanniyar-s are described by some as shUdra or avarNa, but their and internal beliefs point to the possibility that they were actually vahni-kula rAjaputra-s. Both the smArta and vELALar pAratiyArs are experts in the narration of the mahAbhArataM or the makApArataM as they respectively call it. Their versions are obviously different. The vELALar version, is very popular with the vanniyars and they enact it in kuttu-s or Dravidian dance-dramas, though the smArta version too is enacted by these actors. The vELALar form is ahistoric, anachronistic and full of local Dravidian deities. While the smArtas too incorporate some of these their narrative of the draupadi ammAL kathai has an interesting consistency with the paurANIc narratives.

The critical smArta version recorded in full by mAtAshrI’s clanswoman goes thus:
1) bhIma the second pANDava killed baka in the outskirts of ekachakra.
2) His terrified attendents and wives begged bhima to spare them. He agreed but asked them to leave ekachakra for good.
3) In the reign of king shuchadratha, 6 rulers after king janamejaya pArikShita, hastinApura was drowned by the unexpected flood. The king and his family fled the place with the surivors.
4) A colateral kuru prince vR^iShNiman declared himself king of the kuru realm. But by then shuchadratha had reached kaushambi, where he established a new city and declared himself ruler again.
5) In the new kuru capital of kaushambi, sunitha succeeded shuchadratha
6) achalAdhipa, a rAkShasa and descendent of baka, attacks sunItha and ravages his kingdom. He has a hundred heads and he could not be killed if 99 of them are cut. Anyone who cut the 100th head would die instantaneously like the curse of vR^iddhakShatra and jayadratha.
7) He is told by his brAhmaNa-s that he has to invoke draupadi to incarnate again.
8) sunItha goes to the Himalayas and performs a fire ritual. As he casts the oblations in the fire, draupadi emerges from it holding a trishUla, shakti and pAsha.
9) The draupadi asks sunItha to get her assistant yuddhapati (tamil: pOrmannan or pOttu-rAjan, a popular vanniyar deity) to help her in the campaign, and he duely does so.
10) After a fierce fight she cuts of all the heads and finally severs the 100th head with her trishUla. But before it could fall to the ground yuddhapati grabs it and keeps holding it for enternity.
11) sunIta founds the cult of draupadi by building her primal temple and in its AvarNa there is yuddhapati with the achala’s severed head. The Gingee temple and others in the region are said to be replicas of this original temple of sunItha.

In some versions pOtturAja comes out of li~Nga.

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