Monday, December 14, 2015


workshop schedule - tentative

Buddhist Centres, Monks and Writings in the Tamil Country in Ancient Times.

Buddhist Centres, Monks and Writings in the Tamil Country in Ancient  Times.
                    .Prof. V. Balambal 
                     Professor(Retd) Of History, University of Madras,, Chennai.
India has mothered Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and  Sikhism ; received  Islam, Christianity and Zorashtrianism with open arms.  In the 6th century BC., Mahavira and Buddha preached tolerance and ahimsa, opposing some ritualistic practices of    Hinduism. They did not pronounce new religion but wanted some reforms in the existing religion of the land. But after their death, their devotees accepted their preaching as new faiths. That was the birth of Jainism and Buddhism in India.
Jainism continues to be an accepted religion in India though not like Hinduism. Buddhism received royal support to some extent, especially during the reign of King Asoka and the Kalabhras  (4-6 century AD)  in South India. Due to the revival of Hinduism in  India , these two religions lost their importance in land of their birth. Though Jainism continues to survive in India, Buddhism migrated to East, South and South East Asian countries and flourishes well.
The early Buddhism is Hinayana or Terravada Buddhism. Till the First Century AD, it was popular  in India. Buddha preached in Pali and most of the  Teravada  literature are in Pali. Buddhism flourished in the Tamil country and there were great centres of Buddhism and many monks lived in Buddhist viharas and spent their time in writing and translating Buddhist works. This study deals with the places, monasteries, monks and their writing related to Buddhism, giving importance to Pali language in the  ancient Tamil country ..
Archaeological sources like inscriptions and monuments connected to the study period, Buddhist works written in the Tamil country and some published works form the main sources.
Royal Patronage:
After the Kalinga war, Emperor Asoka gave up warfare, meat eating, hunting etc and started following Buddha’s doctrines  and spread Buddhism in  nook and corner of the country and even  sent missionaries to Sri Lanka .His royal edicts state not only Buddha’s teaching but Asoka’s contribution too.(Rock Edict 3-Dhamma Vijaya) .In this task, he was helped by Maha Aritta, a nephew of the Sri Lankan king Devanampiyatissa.He sent his son Mahendra and daughter Sangamitra  to Sri Lanka.  Mahendra is said to have erected seven viharas at Puhar(Kaveripoompattinum) the capital of the  Cholas, while he was on his way to Sri  Lanka. (Lakshman Jayavardane,  Ancient Buddhist links between Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka,   Chennai  ).
Maṇimekhalai , a Tamil epic,  mentions that there was a small Buddhist shrine in a park called Upavana and a replica of the Buddha’s footprint was worshipped there. In the same poem it is said that King Killivalavan, who reigned in the 2nd century, became a Buddhist and converted the prison to a preaching hall at the request of the nun Maṇimekhalai. He  gifted it to Buddhists who utilised the building for a palli and a charity house .(T.N.Ramachandran, The History of Buddhism in the Tamil Kingdoms of South India)


 The first Pallava king, Skandavarman ( 3rd century AD)  also helped the cause of Buddhism. His two sons were Buddhavarman, who is mentioned as Yuvaraj in a grant issued by his queen, Charudevi   and Buddhyankara. (Buddha’s Light International Association.—Chennai Chapter).
The Kalabhra rulers who  defeated the Tamil kings and ruled the Tamil country for three centuries patronized Jainism and Buddhism. The great Kalabhra conqueror Achutavikranta (5th---6th century) favoured Buddhism and patronized Buddhist scholars and their writings. He was responsible for the well establishment of Buddhism in the Tamil country and translation of many Pali Buddhist literature in the Tamil country.  In Yapparungalam, a Tamil work of eleventh century AD, written by Amitasagaranar, the poet "prays to the Buddha to grant Achuta with the long arms like the clouds in charity and with the fighting spear so that he might wield his scepter of authority over the whole world". When the Kalabhras were routed by the Pallavas and Pandyas,  Buddhism and Jainism lost their glory. (South Indian Inscriptions, Vol.II,  No.73, Kasakudi Copper Plates of  Nandivarman Pallavamalla).
Though most of the Chera, Chola, Pandya and Palla rulers were Saivites and Vaishnavites, they were very tolerant towards Buddhists. Many Buddhist viharas were built; monks were patronized; donations were made to maintain the Buddhist institutions.
Rajaraja I (985-1014 AD),   permitted Srivijaya ruler Choodamanivarman to construct a Buddhist vihara at Nagapattanam and    it was completed by his son  Sri Mara Vijayottungavarman of Srivijaya For the maintenance of the Choodamani Vihara, Rajaraja I donated the whole village of Anaimangalam.It was also called Rajaraja Perumpalli after him . The Larger Leiden Copper Plates of Rajaraja I  give a detailed account of the Vihara and donation (Epigraphia Indica , Vol. XXII, No.34) . Later the grant was renewed by   Kulottunga Chola I (1070-1122) in 1090 AD. (Epigraphia  Indica  , Vol.XXII,No.35, Smaller Leiden Copper Plates).   
The Pandya, Chera and Pallava rulers also contributed to  Buddhist learning and Viharas.
Buddhist Centres :
Though Buddhism had its birth and growth  in north  India,  during the rule of Emperor Asoka, it reached South India and Sri Lanka.The first missionary was sent by Asoka. He sent his son Mahendra and daughter Sangamitra to Sri Lanka to spread the new faith. On their way, they spread Buddhism . It reached its pinnacle during the Kalabhra period  till the  Pallavas and Pandyas reestablished the rule of the Tamil kings defeating the Kalabhras.
Some of the important Buddhist centres in the Tamil country are  Kanchipuram, Nagapattinam,   Kaveripoompattinam (Puhar), Buthamangalam,  Uragapuram, Saṅghamangalam, Kumbakonam, Madurai, Tiruppadiripuliyur ,  Mayūrapaṭṭanam, Alamkuḍipaṭṭi , Kūvam  and Saṅghamangai, 

Buddhadatta, a well-known Pali commentator who flourished in the fifth century says in the Vinaya-viniccaya that he wrote that work for the sake of Buddhasiha while he was residing in the lovely monastery of Venhudas (Vishnudas) in a city on the banks of the Kaveri, by name Butamangalam and it was begun and completed at the time when Achuta Vikranta of Kalabhra Kula was ruling over the earth.

Kanchipuram was a great centre of Buddhist learning during the 300 year rule of the Kalabhras. There were many monasteries where Buddhist monks and students lived. Nagaguttanar, author of Kundalakesi, (4th century), Buddhadatta, the Pali commentator, (5th Century), Dinnaga, the great logician, (5th century), Dhammapala, another Pali commentator, (6th century), and Bodhidharma, the great Dhyana teacher, (6th century), Buddhaghosha, the greatest Pali scholar and commentator, who was contempoary of Buddhadatta lived in Kanchi.
Silappadikaram speaks about  Puhar, Madurai and Vanchi, the capitals of the Cholas, Pandyas and Cheras respectively. Buddhism was seen in these regions too.

At Nagapattinam,  Buthamangalam and Anuradhapura   Buddhadatta stayed in  viharas  arranged by  his devotees  and wrote commentaries.  During the reign of  Pallava king, Narasimhavarman II (8th century AD) ), a Buddhist Vihara was constructed in  Nagapattinam for the use of Chinese mariners who came there for trade  purposes. This monastery was known as the Chinese monastery by Marco Polo in 1292 AD.

Choodamani Vihara was built at Nagapattanam  by the Sailendra King with the assistance of Rajaraja I as stated earlier. Some scenes from Buddha's life  are  represented in the great temple at Tanjore (Thanjavur) built by him. In 1090 AD,  the   Srivijaya ruler sent an embassy to Kulottunga Chola I  to enquire about  the Nagapattanam Buddha Vihara which his predecessor  had built  and about the  Chola endowments to  it. Kulottunga I  reconfirmed the grant by issuing  a copperplate grant (Smaller Leiden Copper Plates.E.I.Vol XXII, No.35).

Rajaraja I‘s sister Kundavai also donated lands for the maintenance of Buddha viharas in the Chola country.

Sittalai Sattanar, author of Manilekalai lived in Madurai, the Pandya capital  around 2nd century AD.

Buddhagosha stayed in the monasteries at Kanchi, Nagapattinam and Mayurapattinam and wrote many works.

Puhar (Kaveripoompattanam) was the Chola capital and a port city  in the Sangam age.Internal and external trade flourished there. There was a big monastery at Puhar, where Aravana Adigal lived. Many other Buddhist monks  also stayed in the Vihara.


Buddhist Monks, Scholars and Writings:

Many Buddhist monks  and  scholars  contributed to Buddhist literature in Pali, Tamil, Sanskrit, Sinhalese  and other languages.    Tamil Buddhists  excelled in  writing not only in Tamil but in translating  the     Pali works into  Sinhalese and Sanskrit. As Buddha preached in Pali ,initially the Buddhist doctrines were written in Pali only. After Mahayana form came into existence, the Pali works were translated into Sanskrit.. The rulers requested the monks and scholars to reside in Buddhist monasteries and write new works or  commentaries or translations of Pali  and other texts. The great centres accommodated them and many works were written by scholars and monks. Some important ones are dealt with below:

The earliest  Tamil Buddhist poet was IIambodhiyar who flourished during the last Sangam period of Tamil literature (1st-2nd century AD). Iambodhiyar's very name indicates that he was a Buddhist. Since the Buddhists worshipped the Bodhi Tree, the Saiva and Jaina Tamil works often refer to Buddhists as "bodhiyar" or worshippers of Bodhi tree. Several of Iambodhiyar are found in a work called  Narrinai composed during the last Sangam period
 Sittalai Sattanar
The most famous Buddhist poet in the Tamil land was Sittalai Sattanar, the author of the celebrated Tamil epic Manimekalai. Sattanar was a grain merchant of Madurai and lived in the second century AD. The Manimekalai deals with the  life of Buddhist Nun(Bhikkhuni)  Manimekalai, daughter of Kovalan and Madhavi and Buddha  Dhamma. .
This epic gives much information on the history of Tamil Nadu, Buddhism and its place during that period, contemporary arts and culture, and the customs of the times. The exposition of the Buddhist doctrine in the poem deals elegantly with the Four Noble Truths (ārya-satyāni), Dependent Origination (pratītyasamutpāda), mind (citta) and Buddhist practices like virtue (Śīla) and non-violence (ahimsa)..
 Madhavi became a Buddhist after the end  of Kovalan and Kannagi. Her daughter Manimekalai was also focused towards   Buddhism. While narrating the story of Manimekalai, Sattanar shows the superiority of Buddhist doctrine. Manimekalai is  one of the five Tamil epics. Many other verses of Sattanar are found in Narrinai, Kuruntokai, Purananuru and Ahananuru.
 Aravana Adigal (2nd Century A.D)
Aravana Adigal ,a Tamil Buddhist monk propagated  the Dhamma . He was the head of a flourishing Buddhist monastery at  Puhar, He  was the preceptor of Manimekalai.  When Kaveripattanam was ravaged by sea, Aravana Adigal went to Vanchi ,  where he stayed for a short while  and moved to Madurai and Kanchi.  Manimekalai joined the  Sangha, the Order of the Buddhist nuns and  followed  the footsteps of her  preceptor, and came to live at Kanchi. What was the righteous path of the Dhamma expounded by Aravana Adigal has been summed up by the poet in Book XXX of Manimekalai.
Manimekalai  the daughter of Madhavi and  Kovalan  is the heroine of the famous Tamil epic, named after her,  written by Sittalai Sattanar. When Kovalan was executed on a false accusation by the king of Madurai, Madhavi became disgusted with the life, and sought solace in her-grief from Aravana Adigal,  who was head of a Buddhist monastery at Kaveripattanam. On hearing the excellent Dhamma, she joined the Buddhist order. Her daughter Manimekalai, lost interest in worldly life and became a nun and propagated Buddhism.  She went on pilgrimage to SriLanka and worshipped at the Buddha's footprint at the Nagadipa shrine on an island off the northern coast of Sri Lanka. There a deity gave her a miraculous bowl (Amudhasurabhi) from which she could feed any number of people without the supply of food becoming exhausted . On return to Kaveripattinam, Manimekalai gave alms daily to the poor in a public hall. Later, Manimekalai was implicated in a murder case on a false charge and imprisoned. When, however, true facts came to light, she was freed, and the Chola queen, who had manipulated her imprisonment begged her pardon.
.Manimekalai went on a pilgrimage to Java. On return from this pilgrimage, she went to Vanchi, the Chera capital, and further studied the Dhamma. Finally, she came to Kanchi where  Aravana Adigal  had permanently settled. She also  lived the holy life of a Buddhist nun in a   vihara specifically built for her at Kanchi. She spent her time  in meditation and service to humanity.  (The present day Darupadiamman koyil is said to be on the site of the Manimekalai Vihara).
Nagaguttanar (4th century A.D)
Nagaguttanar  was  the author of another Tamil epic Kundalakesi. The story  is based on the biography of the Bhikkuni Kundalakesi found in the commentary on the Therigatha as well as in the Dhammapada  commentary. Kundalakesi was originally a Jain nun, who was fond of challenging anybody to refute her views. Duriputta, the chief disciple of the Buddha, took up the challenge  and defeated her in a debate. Consequently, Kundalakesi, left  Jainism and embraced Buddhism. The author of the Tamil poem depicts the Buddhist nun Kundalakesi championing the cause of Buddhism, Kundalakesi is now lost, But the Jaina Nilakesi, written in response to Kundalakesi, is still extant. The Jain work contains references to Kundalakesi. A commentary on the Nilakesi also refers to the story of Kundalakesi.
 Buddhadatta (5th century AD.)
The first Pali scholar of Tamil country was Buddhadatta. He belonged to  Uragapuram (Uraiyur). He learnt and taught  Pali language  and Buddhism at the Mahavihara at Anuradhapura in  Sri Lanka. He  was contemporary of the great Pali commentator, Buddhaghosha and exchanged views on Pali and Buddhism. Another work attributed to Buddhadatta is the Ultara Vinicchya which he is said to have written while he was residing at Anuradhapura. His disciple, Buddha Sikha, followed him everywhere. Buddhadatta Thera  held charge  of Buddhist monasteries at  Anuradhapura, Kaveripattanam, Uragapuram, Butamangalam and Kancipuram. He has written about these monasteries.
On  return from Sri Lanka, Buddhadatta resided in a Vihara at the request of a Buddhist minister named Krishnadasa at  Nagapattanam. While staying there, he wrote Madhurattha Vilasini (Commentary on the Buddhavamsa). He wrote another famous work Abhidhammavatara (Summary of Buddhaghosha's commentaries on the Abhidhammapitaka) at the request of a bhikkhu named Sumati. His another important work is Vinaya Vinicchaya (Summary of the Buddhaghosha's commentaries on the Vinaya-Pitaka).
Sanghamitra (4th century A.D):

He was  a Tamil Buddhist monk  of the Chola country .He went to Sri Lanka,  converted the king to Mahayana.He was  patronised by his second son Mahasena. He  destroyed the Mahavihara which was a seat of Hinayana and renewed and enlarged the Abhayagiri Vihara, which became thereafter the stronghold of Mahayana.(T.N.Ramachandran, The History of Buddhism in the Tamil Kingdoms of South India )
Buddhaghosha(5th century AD)
He was the greatest Pali scholar and commentator , born near Bodh Gaya.But  K.R. Srinivasan. believes that the monk was born in Kanchi.. According to Mahavamsa , Buddhaghosha accomplished his literary pursuits in SriLanka and became a great Buddhist writer. 
By 5th century AD, Pali Buddhism was waning. Mahayana was well accepted. More and more scholars were turning to Sanskrit. But the Bodh Gaya monks stood firm in their allegiance, to Pali. Under their guidance, Buddhaghosha studied Buddhist Philosophy. He also compiled a treatise on Buddhism , 'Nanodaya'. He also planned to compose commentaries on Abhidhamma and the Suttas. On knowing his intention, his teacher, Mana Thera Revata advised Buddhaghosha to go to Sri Lanka.
Thus encouraged and inspired, Buddhaghosha went to Sri Lanka during the reign of King Mahanama (410-432) AD and reached the Mahavihara at Anuradhapura. While staying in the Mahavihara, Buddhaghosha made a thorough study of the Sinhalese commentaries. He also heard the tradition of the elders like  Thera Sanghapala. Convinced of their usefulness, he then sought permission of the bhikkhu-Sanghapala of the Mahavihara to translate the commentaries from Sinhalese to Pali. In order to test his knowledge and  capabilities, the learned Theras asked Buddhaghosha to comment on a Pali stanza. In response to this, Buddhaghosha compiled a compendium of the whole of the Tripitaka, and named it Visuddhimagga or "The Path of purification.". Highly pleased with his performance, the bhikkhus of the Mahavihara gave all the facilities to Buddhaghosha and placed all the Sinhalese commentaries at his disposal. According to Mahavamsa, it is a summary of the three Pitakas together with the commentary. When Buddhaghosha had been staying at Granthakara Pirivena at Anuradhapura, he completed his task of rendering Sinhalese commentaries of Tripitakas into Pali.
Besides the Visuddhimagga, Buddhaghosha wrote commentaries on the Vinaya-Pitaka, Patimokha, Digha-Nikaya, hima-Nikaya, Anguttara-Nikaya, Khuddaka-Patha. The commentaries on the Dhammapada and the Jataka  are done by  Buddhaghosha. The voluminous literature produced by Buddhaghosha exists to this day. The commentaries and the Visuddhimagga of Buddhaghosha are not only a great achievement in post-Tripitaka literature but they are  a key to the Tripitaka.
Buddhaghosha  resided for some time at Kanchi and wrote some of the commentaries. ln the colophon to the commentary on the Anguttara Nikaya, Manorathapurani, Buddhaghosha says that at the time of  completing  the work he lived at Kanchipura with his friend Bikkhu Jotipala, Again in the commentary on the Majjhima, Papancasudani, he says that when he was  at Mayurapattanam ( Mayavaram), with  Buddhamitta, he was invited to write this. Buddhaghosha  stayed  at Nagapattanam,  from where he had worked for Sri Lanka too..
 Dhammapala (6th century AD):
Dhammapala was  a great  Pali scholar of Tamil Nadu. He  was a native of Tanjavur. According to Hiuen Tsang, Dhammapala was born at Kanchipuram. Dhammapala also stayed for some time at Nagapattanam in the Dharmasoka Vihara. In the Nettipakarna commentary, Dhammapala says that "he wrote this commentary while he was residing at the monastery built by King Asoka at Nagapattanam which is like unto a port for embarking on the ocean of the Dhamma”.
Dhammapala studied at Anuradhapura in Sri Lanka as he mentions in his works the Atthukatha of the Mahavihara of Anuradhapura.  He  also  refers to the commentaries of Buddhaghosha .  Dhammapala wrote seven commentaries on such books of the Khuddaka-Nikaya, which had not been covered by Buddhaghosha. His famous work the Parmattha-dipani, is an exposition of the Khuddaka-Nikaya covering mainly Udana, Itivuttku, Vimanavatthu, Peta-Vatthu, Thera-gatha, Theri-gatha, and Cariya-Pitaka. Dhammapala’s other commentaries  are Parmatta-manjusas (Commentary on Buddhaghosha's Visuddhimagga), and Netti - Pakarnassa Attha Samvannana (Commentary on Netti, a post­ canonical work).
 Dinnaga (5th Century AD)
Dinnaga was born around 450 AD at Simhavaktra, near Kanchipuram. After completing his studies at an early age, Dinnaga became a Buddhist monk and joined the Vatsiputriya school. It is said that one day, Nagadatta, his preceptor, asked Dinnaga to meditate over the principle of the Atman which from the stand point of the Vatsiputriyas was expressible and was neither identical with the groups of dements (Skandhas), nor differing from them. When Dinnaga expressed some skepticism about the existence of Ego, he was expelled from the community by his teacher. He was unable to compromise with the views of other scholars as he was convinced of his views. Dinnaga finally came to Vasubandhu  under whom Dinnaga studied all aspects of the Buddhist philosophy and became well-versed with all the texts of Buddhism .
Dinnaga travelled all over India holding religious contests with scholars. At Nalanda, he defeated a Brahmin logician named Durjaya in a religious discussion, In Orissa, Dinnaga is said to be converted the royal treasurer, Bhadrapalita, who built a monastery in Dinnaga's honour  in the Bhorasila mountain in Orissa . Mostly he stayed there  or  in the Accra monastery in Maharashtra. Dinnaga wrote about a hundred treatises on logic, most of which are preserved in Chinese and Tibetan translations. His most important works are Pramanasamuccaya , Alambana- Pariksha , Hetuchakradamru), Nyaya-mukha, Hastavala - prakarna, Arya naparmitavivarana, and Abhidharmakosha-Marma-Pradipa, a commentary on Vasubandhu's Abhidharmokasa.
He was the founder of the Buddhist logic, and is often referred to as the Father of the medieval Nyaya .
Bodhidharma (6th Century AD)
Bodhidharma, a seer of royal family of Kanchi . On seeing his interest in  the Buddhist Sangha, he was initiated into Buddhism by a renowned teacher of the Dhyana or meditative form of Buddhism. After his teacher’s death, he worked for few years to popularise the Dhyana (meditation) teachings in India. Later, he left for China around  A.D. 526 for propagating his school of Buddhism..
Bodhidharma was cordially welcomed by the emperor Wu-ti, who was a devout Buddhist, at his capital, Nanking. Later, finding that the emperor was not able to appreciate his mystic trend of philosophy, Bodhidharma left the capital, and went to the Shaolin monastery, near Lo-yang, in north China.
It is said that Bodhidharma sat meditating  deeply  facing the wall (pi-kuan­) at the Shaolin Temple ,without interacting with others for nine years. In Chinese, pi means "wall" and kuan means "observation". Thus Bodhidharma is  well-known for pi-kuan or "wall meditation" in China. He lays stress on meditation by which alone,"enlightenment should be attained". The meditative school founded by Bodhidharma is known as Ch'an Buddhism in China. The mystic philosophy of Bodhidharma has great spiritual influence among the Japanese Buddhists, Ch'an Buddhism became  the popular Zen Buddhism  with certain modifications in Japan.
Dharmapala (7th century AD).                                                           
He was born at Kanchi . It is said that when he was about to be married, he secretly left home and  joined the Buddhist Sangha. Hiuen Tsang gives a good  account of Dharmapala's initiation to Buddhism .  He learnt the tenets of Buddhism and propagated the faith. He travelled widely in India. While at Kosambi, with his great knowledge, he won over the Hindu scholars. His popularity made him the head of the Nalanda University,  a great abode  of  Buddhist Learning. Scholars  and students from India and abroad came to Nalanda to learn more about Buddhism. 
 He died at the young age of 32. His pupil Silabhadra, succeeded  him as Vice-chancellor, under whom Hiuen Tsang, the Chinese pilgrim , studied Buddhism at Nalanda.

(7th century AD) Dharmakirti  was the great Buddhist logician. In his boyhood,  Dharmakirti studied  the Vedas. Later, he concentrated on  Buddhist philosophy at  Nalanda, There he  joined the Buddhist Order as a disciple of Dharmapala who was at that time the Chief of the Nalanda Mahavihara. He studied logic from Isvarsena, a direct pupil of Dinnaga, and made a thorough study of the Pramanasamuccaya of Dinnaga. He travelled throughout India and tried to re-establish, through philosophy, the glory of Buddhism which was showing signs of decline.
 Dharmakirti wrote seven important works. Those are,                                
1. Pramanavartika,
2. Pramanavinischaya,
3. Nyayabindu,
4. Hetubindu,
5. Vadanyaya,
6. Sambandhaparikasha,
7. Santanantarasidhi.

Almost all the works of Dharmakirti were lost in India. For a long time , nothing was known of Dharmakirti's works except Nyayabindu. But the Tibetan scholars preserved his works ; some in original Sanskrit and all in Tibetan translation. In modem times, Mahapandit Rahul Sankrityayan  made many visits to  Tibet and brought back to India some of the manuscripts of Dharmakirti's works in Sanskrit and commentaries on them. He  also edited Dharmakirti's monumental work Pramanavartika with three commentaries and  Vadanyaya. He is considered to be a great Buddhist philosopher and logician.Great western philosopher   Dr.Stcherbatksy calls Dharmakirti, the Kant of India .
Bodhiruchi (7-8th century AD)
Dharmaruchi. belonged to  Tamil Nadu and later he went  to China.His name was changed to Bodhiruchi  by the orders of Empress Wu Tso- thien  in 705 . In China, he studied Buddhism under Yasaghosa, a Mahayanist. He thoroughly learnt entire Tripitaka in  three years. Thereafter, Bodhiruchi devoted  his time  in translating Sanskrit works in to Chinese.. During AD 693 - 713, he translated 53 works which ran into 111 volumes in Chinese. He is aid to have died in AD 727 when he was in his 156th year.
Dipankara Thera alias Buddhapriya Thera and "Coliya Dipankara," was a  disciple of  Ananda Vanaradana in Sri Lanka , and later on became the head of Baladicca- Vihara at Kanchipuram.  He was the author of the Pali works, Vajjamadu and Rupa-Siddhi, the former on  Buddhist art, and the latter on arithmetic. He wrote also a commentary on the Rupa-Siddhi. (World of Buddhism)

Vajrabodhi (661 – 730A D.)
He was born at Podiyakanda in the Pandiya country. Another view is that he was a native of Kanchi. He went to Nalanda, and  became a Mahayana monk. He returned to Kanchi and  propagated  Mahayana. He was contemporary of the Pallava king Narasimhavarman II (c.700 - 728 AD). His missionary tours took him to Sri Lanka where he stayed for six months at the Bhayagiri Vihara. Later, along with his disciple Amoghavajra, he  went to China for missionary work. He took with him  the text of Mahaprajnaparamita to China.
Dharmakirti (13th century A.D.)
  He belonged to the Pandya country . He was a famous  Buddhist acharya who was invited and patronised by SriLanka ruler Parakrama Bahu II (1236-68 A.D.). He organised in Sri Lanka an international conference of Buddhists. The Datha-vamsa and Culavamsa (later part of Mahavamsa recording history of Sri Lanka from Mahasena to Parakrama Bahu II) are the works of  Dharmakirti.
The Gandhavamsa  mentions ten South Indian Buddhist scholars who stayed in Kanchi and wrote works on Buddhism in Pali.
The ten scholars are           
( 1 ) Buddhadatta (5th century A.D.).
(2), Ananda the author of Mulatika on the Abhidhammattakatha.
(3) Dhammapala (5th-6th century A.D.) a native of Tambarattha (Tirumnelveli district) who became suvccessively the head of the Buddhist monastery called Bhataraditta - Vihara at Kancipuram and the Mahavihara at Anuradhapura, wrote good commentaries on Buddhist basic texts, such as Attakatha, Paramartha Manjusa and   Nettipakaranatthakatha. He resided in the city of Tanjai in Tirunelveli district. (This may be  different from Thanjavur, the Chola capital)
(4-5) Two unnamed former teachers (Purvacaryas) who wrote the Niruttimanjusa and Mahaniruttisankhepa.
(6) Mahavajirabuddhi, author of Vinayaganthi, a glossary of the five the Vinaya books.
(7) Cullavajirabuddhi. The name of his work is not traceable.
(8) Dipankara Thera 91100 A.D., alias Buddhapriya Thera and "Coliya Dipankara
. (9) Culladhammapala who wrote the Saccasankhepa and
(10) Kassapa, who wrote the Mohaviccedani and Vimativicccedana
Lost  Buddhist literature:
Virasoliyam is a grammar work by monk Buddhamitra of 11th  AD  during the reign of Chola Vira Rajendra. Apart from grammar, it says about .Buddhism
.Siddhāntattokai This too is a Buddhist is a Tamil work which has now been lost. From the  name it appears to have been a work on the Abhidhamma.Some references to this work is made in Sivagnanaiddhiyar and Nilakesi, a Jain work.
Tiruppadigam: Verses from this work in praise of Buddha are mentioned in Nilakesi  and  Sivagnanasiddhiyar.
Bimbisāra Kadai,. In the paraphrase to the Nīlakesī  four verses are quoted  and the remark is made, ‘this quotation is from the Bimbisāra Kadai, a Buddhist work.Gnanaprakasar mentions few verses from this work in his Sivagnanasiddhiyar.

Kassapa, in his Pali work, Vimatti-Vinodani,        

The lost Tamil Buddhist works include the grammar Virasoliyam,  Abhidhamma  Siddhantattokai,  Tiruppadigam, and the biography Bimbisara Kada.
Kundalakesi : It was written by Tamil poet Nagaguttanar (4th century A.D). It is referred to in some other literary works.
There is mention about the presence of wandering monks of Sri Lanka in Vanchi, which was the capital of the Chera Kings of Tamil Nadu. The Chinese traveller, Hiuen Tsang, wrote that there were around 300 Sri Lankan monks in the monastery at the Southern part  of Kanchipuram
Though there were many monks and scholars devoted to Buddhism, there were two great religionists who had shown their interest in other religion. They are Sakkiya Nayanar and Kurruva Nayanar.
 Sakkiya Nayanar :
He was born in  Tiruchangamangai (Sangaramangai), in a  Vellala agricultural land owners family.. He gave up worldly life and studied in pursuit of  truth and emancipation (moksha). He went to Kanchipuram and became a Buddhist monk (Bhikshu) and  an expert in Buddhist philosophy. He earned the name Sakkiya, after the clan of the Buddha. However, Buddhism did not satisfy  his thirst for knowledge and enlightenment. So, he embraced Saivism. But he did not give up the garb  of a Buddhist monk and continued to dress in saffron garments as he was convinced that external appearances did not matter for self-realization. Sakkiya is said to have realized that Saivism was the true path to salvation and became a devotee of  god Siva, the patron deity of Saivism. ( Swami Sivananda (1999). Sixty-three Nayanar Saints (4 ed.). Sivanandanagar: The Divine Life Society.)
Kurruva Nayanar:
The Periya Puranam narrates that Kurruva was the chieftain of Kalandai . He was from the Kalabhra community. He is described a devotee of Shiva. Generally  all the Kalabhra rulers followed Jainism or Buddhism. But how and why  Kurruva followed Saivism is not known.  He was praised by Saint Sundarar.(Indira Viswanathan Peterson (2014). Poems to Siva: The Hymns of the Tamil Saints. Princeton University Press. p. 334. ISBN 978-1-4008-6006-7)
Buddhism, a world religion was from India. It was patronized by great rulers like Asoka, Acchutavikkanta, RajarajaI and others.There were mant centres of Buddhist learning in Tamilnadu. Many rulers built Buddhist viharas, chaityas and pillars  and donated liberally for the maintenance of the same. Many commentaries and translations have taken place by learned monks and scholars. Though it lost its significance in India , it has made its mark in East, South and South East Asian countries. South India continued to be the centre of Pali Buddhism as late as the 12th century A.D.
 Tamil country  has produced great monks, scholars who have contributed to Buddhist literature. Though Buddhism is not popular in the present day  in India, the literature it has given to the world in the early period of Buddhism in ancient Tamil country  is remarkable. India is proud of  her early Buddhist literature and the authors in the Tamil country.
 Arunachalam, M. (1979). The Kalabhras in the Pandiya Country and Their Impact on the Life and Letters There (Original from the University of California, Digitized Jul 30, 2008 ed.). University of Madras
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 Hisselle Dhammaratana, Buddhism in South India, Buddhist Publication Society, Kandy, 1964. Available on Buddhist Publication Society Online Library [2]
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Lakshman Jayavardane, Ancient Buddhist links between Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka,  Chennai 

Malalasekera, G.P. (2003). Dictionary of Pali Proper Names: Pali-English. Asian Educational Services. ISBN 81-206-1823-8
Nilakanta Sastri,K.A., The Colas,(Reprint) University of Madras, Chennai
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Rao, S.R..  Marine archaeological explorations of Tranquebar-Poompuhar region on Tamil Nadu coastJournal of Marine Archaeology, Vol. II, July 1991, pp. 6. Available online at [3]
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World of Buddhism