Commander-in-chiefs and Chieftains
Kaikkolar were Chieftains and Commander-in-chiefs of Later chozhas. Kaikkolar Commander-in-chiefs were known as Samanta Senapathigal or Senaithalaivar. The Chieftains of Sengunthar caste were mentioned in works such as Vallaan kaviyam, Vira Narayana Vijayam and Eeti ezhubathu. They were Suban, Chieftain of Thiruchendur, Padaimaruthan, Chieftain of Thiruvidaimarudur, Gomathi, Chieftain of Pazhuvur, Kachithaniyan, Chieftain of kachi(kanchipuram), Otriyuran, Chieftain of Thiruvotriyur, Kalanthaiyarasan, Chieftain of Ponvilaintha kalathur, Putridamkondaan, Chieftain of Thiruvarur, Kolanthagan, Chieftain of Kodunkundram, Puliyur palli kondaan, Chieftain of Chidambaram, Pinavan, Chieftain of Kadambur, Kandiyuran, Chieftain of Thiru kandiyur, Mudhukundra Maniyan, Chieftain of Virudhachalam, Thanjai Vemban, Chieftain of Thiruvaiyaru and chief minister under Parantaka I’s reign. Pazhuvur Narayanan and Pazhuvur Veeran, twin-sons of Pazhuvur Chieftain, were the famous Commander-in-chiefs mentioned in the above works.
Therinja kaikolar padai
Sengunthars who were initially weavers were militarised during the chozha empire and formed a major part of the chozha army from 8th century to 13th century. There were no Sengunthar army before or after the chozha empire. Sengunthar army was known as Therinja kaikolar padai (Terinja means well known in Tamil and Padai means Battalion). Some of the regiments were further divided into Ilaya Samakkattu and Mutha Samakkattu
Some of the well known Kaikola Battalions were:
Singalantaka-terinda-Kaikkolar (a regiment named after Singalantaka i.e. Parantaka I)
Muthuvalpetra-Kaikkolar – (meaning the “recipient of the pearl ornamented sword” in Tamil)
Smarakesarit-terinja-Kaikkolar and Vikramasingat-terinja-Kaikkolar derived their names from possible titles of Parantaka Udaiyar-Gandaradittatterinja-Kaikkolar must have been the name of a regiment called after king Gandaraditya, the father of Uttama-chozha. Singalantaka-terinda-Kaikkolar (a regiment named after Singalantaka i.e. Parntaka I) Danatonga-terinja-Kaikkola (regiment or group). The early writing of the record and the surname Danatunga of Paranataka I suggests its assignment to his reign. Muttavalperra seems to indicate some special honour or rank conferred on the regiment by the king.
Sengunthars were also soldiers in the regiment of Paluvettaraiyar and were involved in the invasion of Sri Lanka by Cholas in the 10th century.
Sengunthar soldiers had practiced the tradition of Navakandam. This act involved cutting any of the nine parts of the human body such as arms, legs and even the neck. This was usually done after taking an oath to death in service of a chieftain. Nava Kandam sculpture is found widely all over Kongu Nadu and at Tharamangalam Kailasanathar kovil
Saavaankal or Nadukal was a rock fixed in place of warrior who sacrificed his life by slicing his neck. The name and specialities of the warrior would be written along with his portrait in this Saavaankal. In Thenkarai Moolanatha sami temple in Madurai, a Saavaankal depicting the act of a Kaikkolan warrior holding his hair with his left hand and slicing his neck with his right dated 14th century is said to be annually worshipped by Kaikolar
In Journal of the Bombay Historical Society, the authors state that in the army of Medieval and Later chozhas, many commanders and captains were drawn from the ranks of Sengunthar. Further records of exploits of Sengunthar army in Ceylon, Bengal, Burma and Indonesia were recorded in temple inscriptions.
According to Carla M. Sinopoli in the book The Political Economy of Craft Production: Crafting Empire in South India, evidence for Kaikkola armies appear from the chozha period. They describe that Sengunthars were both weavers and merchants and maintained armies to guard their regional trading ventures. Throughout the chozha period, trading and military activities of Sengunthar are predominant. Sengunthar were members of the Ayyavole 500 regional trading corporation. Sengunthars were referred to as the members of the chozha emperor’s royal bodyguards.