Forensic Fashion
(c) 2006-present R. Macaraeg


>Costume Studies
>>1025 Chola tirumeykāppār
Subjecttirumeykāppār vēḷaikkārar royal bodyguard
Culture: Tamil
Setting: Chola empire, south India 10-12thc

Context (Event Photos, Primary Sources, Secondary Sources, Field Notes)

* Veluthat 2009 p321
"'Details of this institution [vēḷevāḷi] strike us with its close resemblance with the institution of vēḷaikkārar in Tamil records.  The vēḷaikkārar were personal bodyguards of a chieftain who banded themselves to protect their master both in the battlefield and outside it, and to die along with him in case of his death'.  Professor Mahalingam rightly surmised that to the same group belonged the Tennavan Āpattudavigaḷ figuring in Pāṇḍyan records, who were 'helpers of the Pāṇḍya (king) in times of distress'.  They are referred to in Cōḷa records as tirumeykāppār.  Abu Zaid describes such bodyguards gathered around the person of the king as his 'Companions of Honour' and Marco Polo finds in these 'Barons' the 'King's Trusty lieges'.  The balaudjers referred to in the Arab Book of Marvels of India correspond to them in every detail and one is tempted to identify the term balaudjer as the corruption of Kannada vēḷevaḍicar."


* Dehejia 2002 p223
"Jewelry continued to hold a position of prime importance during the Chola period.  While Chola jewelry has not survived as corroborative evidence, even a cursory examination of a temple bronze reveals both the character and the importance accorded to jeweled ornamentation.  In his wax image, the sculptor painstakingly delineated elaborate jeweled crowns, headbands, earrings, necklaces, armlets, bracelets, girdles, anklets, and rings for both fingers and toes.  By its very nature, the lost-wax process reproduced these details exactly in the resulting bronze image ...."

* Untracht 1997 p


* Rawson 1968 p39-40
"The lack of published reproductions of Southern Indian art of the late medieval period is almost complete.  The whole range of the monuments of the great Hoysala and Cola dynasties and of the empire of Vijayanagara is represented in the standard works on the history of Indian art by a mere handful of photographs.  It must be recognized, therefore that the history of the sword offered here is of a very fragmentary character and is based chiefly on inference.
    "The evidence of what reproductions there are is such as largely to justify the assumption that the forms of sword in use in the Southern kingdoms were very similar to the actual weapons collected in modern times, and preserved in the National collections; for the traditions of craftsmanship seem to have hardened in late medieval times and ceased to develop.  In addition we know that the swords preserved today in the temples of the Nayars, who were for centuries the prime military caste among the Tamil peoples, are based upon types which in older times were used for actual fighting."

* Nicolle 1999 p326
"The classic early medieval Indian sword had a straight, double-edged blade which may sometimes have broadened towards its tip."

* Elgood 2004 f8.6
"Swords with a broadened spear point can be seen in sixth- to seventh-century sculpture at Ajanta; a shorter blade of this form can be seen in Hoysala eleventh- to thirteenth-century sculpture.  This type of blade continues in general use until the sixteenth century, when it appears in the Codice Casanatense and elsewhere.  The presumption must be that it dates from the late medieval period.  This form has been classified as 'temple sword' but none of these short swords have a ritual function and they are battle swords, known in Kerala as vāl or cūrika.  The sword is portrayed in the hands of the warrior-hunter god Ayyappan in seventeenth century wall painting in the Padmanābhapuram Palace, Kerala.  However, the rest of his appurtenances date from rather earlier and the sword, too, must be seen likewise and as specific to the god, following a medieval canonical style.  The pommel shown in the mural is the same as that on the swords of the eleventh-century Chola guardians (dvarapalas) at the Brhadīsvara Temple, Tanjore.  Hilt forms in general, particularly the quillons, provide slightly greater indication of date than the blade."


* Elgood 2004 p


* Nicolle 1999 p326-327
​"Indian warriors appear to have made considerably less use of armour than most others.  This probably reflected climatic conditions since India was rich enough, and had a sufficient technological base, to produce abundant armour.  Unfortunately the terminology is again obscure and often archaic.  For reasons which are unclear the finest, most decorated defences used by senior warriors were sometimes called 'Chinese armours'.  Metallic, horn or leather scale and lamellar protections all existed, yet quilted cotton armour and even helmets were probably more widespread, being used for both men and animals, particularly in southern India.  References to large 'ox hide' protections may have alluded to shields rather than armour.  Mail was relatively rare, though it may have increased in popularity towards the end of the medieval period as a result of Iranian-Islamic influence.  Helmets, meanwhile, remained uncommon, perhaps because the traditional Indian turban provided adequate protection while being lighter and more comfortable in a hot climate.  Until recently, apparent references to helmets made of wood and supposedly exported to the Islamic world had to be treated with extreme caution, but the recent discovery in the Fertile Crescent of several leather hats or light helmets reinforced with blocks of wood means that the issue should now be given more serious consideration."