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Chera Empire


Chera Empire

For the district of Kuala Lumpur, see Cheras, Kuala Lumpur, for the town in Spain, see Chera, Valencia, for the town in Selangor, see Cheras, Selangor.

Chera kingdom
சேரர் ചേര
c. 3rd century BC–12th century AD 30px

Coat of arms

Extent of Chera kingdom
Capital Early Cheras: Karuvur
Chera Perumals of Makkotai: Makkotai
Languages Tamil
Religion Hinduism
Political structure Kingdom
 -  Established c. 3rd century BC
 -  Disestablished 12th century AD
Today part of  India

Chēra dynasty (Cēra, also called Kērala Putra)(Tamil:சேரர்) is one of the most ancient dynasties in India, ruling over an area corresponding to modern-day western Tamil Nadu and central Kerala. Together with the Chōlas and the Pāndyas, they formed the three principal warring Iron Age Tamil kingdoms of southern India in the early centuries of the Christian Era.

By the early centuries of the Christian Era, civil society and statehood under the Cheras was developed in present day western Tamil Nadu. The location of the Chera capital is generally assumed to be at modern Karur (identified with the Korura of Ptolemy). The Chera kingdom later extended to the plains of Kerala –through the Palghat gap – along the river Perar and occupied land between the river Perar and river Periyar, creating two harbor towns – Tondi (Tyndis) and Muciri (Muziris) – where the Roman trade settlements flourished.

The Cheras were in continuous conflict with neighbouring Cholas and Pandyas. Some Chera rules are said to have defeated the combined armies of the Pandyas and the Cholas and their ally states. They also made battles with the Kadambās of Banavasi and the "Yavanas" (the Westerners) on the Indian coast. After second century AD, the Chera power decayed rapidly with the decline of the lucrative trade with the Romans.[1]

The Tamil poetic collection called Sangam literature describes a long line of Chera rulers dated to first few centuries CE. It records the names of the kings and the princes, and of the court poets who extolled them. The internal chronology of this literature is still far from settled, and at present a connected account of the history of the period cannot be derived. Uthiyan Cheralathan, Nedum Cheralathan and Senguttuvan Chera are some of the rulers referred in the Sangam poems. Senguttuvan Chera, the most celebrated Chera king, is famous for the legends surrounding Kannagi, the heroine of the Tamil epic Silapathikaram.[2]

The Chera kingdom owed its importance to the trade with the West Asia, Greeks and Romans. The geographical advantages, like the abundance of exotic spices, the navigability of the rivers connecting the Ghat mountains with the Arabian sea and the discovery of favourable Monsoon winds which carried sailing ships directly from the Arabian coast to Chera kingdom, combined to produce a veritable boom in the Chera foreign trade.[1]

The Chera Perumals of Makkotai ruled from 9th century to 12th century AD in modern day Kerala. The Perumal kingdom was a loose federation of local chiefs nominally acknowledging the sovereignty of the Cheraman Perumal and supporting him in defensive wars against the other Tamil powers. It was a Brahmin oligarchy which propped up the Perumal, a member of the old and prestigious Chera dynasty.

The Chera rulers of Venadu, based at port Quilon in southern Kerala, traces their relations back to the Perumals of Makkotai. Ravi Varma Kulasekhara, ruler of Venadu from 1299 to 1314, is known for his ambitious military campaigns to former Pandya and Chola territories.[3]

Etymology of the term "Chera"

The word Chera probably derived from Cheral, meaning "declivity of a mountain" in ancient Tamil.[4][5][6] The Cheras are referred as Kedalaputho ("Kerala Putra") in the Asoka's edicts (3rd century BC).[7] The Graeco-Roman trade map Periplus Maris Erythraei refers the Cheras as Celobotra.[8] Pliny the Elder, the Roman author of the 1st century AD, states that the port of Muziris is located in the domain of the Caelobothras.[9]

Early Cheras

Indian literary sources

Edicts of Indian emperor Asoka mentions Chera people as Kedalaputho (Keralaputras), living around peripherals of the Maurya empire.

"Everywhere within Beloved-of-the-Gods, King Piyadasi’s domain, and among the people beyond the borders, the Cholas, the Pandyas, the Satiyaputras, the Keralaputras, as far as Tamraparni and where the Greek king Antiochos rules, and among the kings who are neighbours of Antiochos, everywhere has Beloved-of-the-Gods, King Piyadasi, made provision for two types of medical treatment: medical treatment for humans and medical treatment for animals."

The Cheras, the Pandyas, and the Cholas are also mentioned as the three ruling dynasties of the southern India in the Hindu epic Ramayana.[10][11] Cheras are also mentioned in Aitareya Aranyaka, and Mahabharata, where they take the sides with the Pandavas in the famous war at Kurukshetra[12][13]

The earliest extant Sangam literary works, such as Kalittokai, mention a mythical continent called Kumari Kandam. Pandya kings such as Chenkon, and the Cheras, supposedly ruled this country. Sangam literature further says that they fought and defeated the Nāga tribes. Kalittokai again mentions a war between the combined forces of Villavars and the Meenavars (perhaps the Cheras and the Pandyas respectively), and the Nāgas, their arch-enemies, eventually losing the war.

The primary literary sources available regarding the early Chera Kings are the anthologies of Sangam literature, created between c. 1st and the 4th century AD.[14][15] Pathirruppaththu, the fourth book in the Ettuthokai anthology of Sangam poems, mentions a number of rulers of the Chera dynasty. Each ruler is praised in ten songs sung by the court poet. The rulers (many were heirs-apparent) are mentioned in the following order:[16]

  1. Nedum Cheralathan – Kumatturk Kannanar
  2. Palyane Chel Kezhu Kuttuvan -Palaik Kantamanar
  3. Narmudi Cheral – Kappiyarruk Kappiyanar
  4. Senguttuvan Chera – Paranar
  5. Adu Kottu Pattu Cheralathan – Kakkaipatiniyar Nacellaiyar
  6. Selva Kadumko Valiathan – Kapilar
  7. Perum Cheral Irumporai – Aricil Kilar
  8. Ilam Cheral Irumporai – Perunkunrurk Kilar

Sangam literature is rich in descriptions about a number of Chera kings and princes, along with the poets who extolled them. However, these are not worked into connected history and settled chronology so far.[17] A chronological device, known as Gajabahu synchronism, is used by historians to help date early Tamil history.[18] Despite its dependency on numerous conjectures, Gajabahu synchronism has wide acceptance among modern scholars and is considered as the sheet anchor for the purpose of dating ancient Tamil literature.[19][20] The method depends on an event depicted in Silappatikaram, which describes the visit of Kayavaku, the king of Ilankai (Sri Lanka), in the Chera kingdom during the reign of the Chera king, Senguttuvan. The Gajabahu method considers this Kayavaku as Gajabahu, who according Mahavamsa, a historical poem written in Pali language on the kings of Sri Lanka, lived in the latter half of the second century AD. This, in turn, has been used to fix the period Senguttuvan, who ruled his kingdom for 55 years (according to the Pathirruppaththu), in the 2nd century AD.[21]

Archaeological sources

Archaeology has found epigraphic evidence of the early Cheras.[22] Two identical inscriptions near Tiruchirappalli dated to 2nd century AD describe three generations of Chera rulers of the Irumporai clan. They record the construction of a rock shelter for Jains on the occasion of the investiture of the crown prince Ilam Kadungo, son of Perum Kadungo, and the grandson of Athan Cheral Irumporai.

Rulers from Sangam poems

The following a general description of the Early Chera rulers (dated to the first few centuries AD) from the Sangam literature.[1][23][23][24]

Uthiyan Cheralathan

Main article: Uthiyan Cheralathan

The first of the known rulers of the Chera entity was "Vanavaramban" Perumchottu Uthiyan Cheralathan. He had his capital at a place called Kuzhumur. Uthiyan Cheralathan was a contemporary of the Chola ruler Karikala Chola. Mamulanar credits him with having conducted a feast in honour of his ancestors. In a battle at Venni, Uthiyan Cheralathan was wounded on the back by Karikala Chola (Pattinappalai ). Unable to bear the disgrace, the Chera committed suicide by starvation.[16][25]

Nedum Cheralathan

Main article: Imayavaramban Nedun-Cheralatan

Nedum Cheralathan probably consolidated the Chera kingdom, and literature and art developed highly during his period. Nedum Cheralathan is praised in the Second Ten of Pathirruppaththu composed by his court poet Kannanar. Nedum Cheralathan, famous for his hospitality, even gifted a part of Umbarkkattu (Anamalai) to Kannanar.[26]

The greatest enemies of Nedum Cheralathan were Kadambas of Banavasi. He also won another victory over the "Yavanas" (Westerners) on the coast. The chief of the Yavanas was captured and paraded in public with hands pinioned to his back and head poured over with ghee. Mamulanar refers to a sea coast township called "Mantai" and the exhibition ornaments and diamonds captured by Nedum Cheralathan there. Nedum Cheralathan was killed in a battle with a Chola ruler. But, the Chola ruler was also killed in the battle by a spear thrown at him by Nedum Cheralathan.[26]

Nedum Cheralathan is claimed to have even conquered Bharatavarsha up to the Himalayas and to have inscribed his royal emblem on the face of the mountains.

Palyani Sel Kelu Kuttuvan

"Puzhiyarkon" Palyani Sel Kelu Kuttuvan was the brother of Nedum Cheralathan. He helped his brother in the conquests of northern Malabar. At least a part of northern Malabar came under the Chera rule in this period as is proven by the title "Puzhiyarkon". In the later years of his life, Palyani retired from military life and spent time in arts, letters, gifts and helping Brahmins.[26]

Narmudi Cheral

"Kalangaikkani" Narmudi Cheral (son of Nedum Cheralthan) is praised in the 4th set, written by Kappiyanar. He, famous for his genoricity over the defeated, won a series of victories of the enemies. In the battle of Vakai-perum-turai Narmudi Cheral defeated and killed Nannan of Ezhimalai, annexing Puzhinadu.[26]

Selva Kadumko Valiathan

Son of Anthuvan Cheral and the hero of the 7th set of poems composed by Kapilar. His residence was at the city of Tondi. He married the sister of the wife of Nedum Cheralathan. Selva Kadumko defeated the combined armies of the Pandyas and the Cholas. He is sometimes identified the Athan Cheral Irumporai mentioned in the Aranattar-malai inscription of Pugalur.[26]

Vel Kelu Kuttuvan (Senguttuvan)

Main article: Senguttuvan

Vel Kelu Kuttuvan, son of Nedum Cheralathan, ascended the Chera throne after the death of his father. Vel Kelu Kuttuvan is often identified with the legendary Kadal Pirakottiya "Senguttuvan Chera"- the most illustrious ruler of the early Cheras of the Sangam Age. Under his reign, the Chera kingdom extended from Kollimalai in the east to Tondi and Mantai in the western coast. The queen of Senguttuvan was Illango Venmal (the daughter of a Velir chief).[26]

In his early years of rule, Senguttuvan successfully intervened in a civil war in the Chola Kingdom. The civil war was among the Chola princes and the Cheras stood on the side of their relative Killi. The rivals of Prince Killi were defeated in a battle at Neriyavil, Uraiyur and he established firmly on the Chola throne.

The land and naval expedition against the Kadambas was also successful. The Kadambas had the support of the "Yavanas", they were routed in the Battle of Idumbil and Valyur. The Fort Kodukur in the which the Kadamba army took shelter was stormed and the Kadambas was beaten. In the following naval expedition the Yavana supported Kadamba army was crushed. He is said to have defeated the Kongu people and a warrior called Mogur Mannan.

Ilango Adigal wrote the legendary Tamil epic Silappatikaram, which describes Senguttuvan Chera's decision to propitiate a temple (Virakkallu) for the goddess Pattini (Kannagi) at Vanchi.

Senguttuvan Chera was perhaps a contemporary king Gajabahu of Sri Lanka. King Gajabahu, according to the Sangam poems, visited the Chera country during the Pattini festival at Vanchi.[27] He is mentioned in the context of king Gajabahu’s rule in Sri Lanka, which can be dated to either the first or last quarter of the 2nd century AD, depending on whether he was the earlier or the later Gajabahu.[2]

Adu Kottu Pattu Cheralathan

Adu Kottu Pattu Cheralathan was a crown prince for a long 38 years. Trade and commerce flourished in the Chera kingdom during his rule. He is said to have gifted some villages to Brahmins in Kuttanadu.[26]

Perum Cheral Irumporai

Main article: Tagadur Erinda Perumcheral

"Tagadur Erinta" Perum Cheral Irumporai defeated the combined armies of the Pandyas, Cholas and that of the chief of Tagadur. He destroyed the famous city of Tagadur which was ruled by the a powerful ruler Adigaman Ezhni. He is also called as "the lord of Puzhinad and Kollimala" and "the lord of Puhar". Puhar was in fact the Chola capital. Perum Cheral Irumporai also annexed the territories of a minor chief called Kaluval.[26]

Illam Cheral Irumporai

Illam Cheral Irumporai defeated the Pandyas and the Cholas and brought immense wealth to his capital at a city called Vanchi. He is said to have distributed these treasures among the Pana poets.[26]

Yanaikatchai Mantaran Cheral Irumporai

Main article: Yanaikat-sey Mantaran Cheral

King Yanaikatchai Mantaran Cheral Irumporai preserved the territorial integreaty of the Chera Kingdom under his rule. But, by the time of Mantaran Cheral the decline of the kingdom had began. The Chera ruled from Kollimalai in the east to Tondi and Mantai in the western coast. He defeated his enemies in a battle a place called Vilamkil.[26]

The famous Pandya ruler Nedum Chezhian captured Mantaran Cheral as a prisoner. But, the Chera was managed to escape and regain the lost kingdom.[26]

Kanaikkal Irumporai

Kanaikkal Irumporai said to have defeated a local chief called Muvan. The Chera then brutally pulled out the teeth of his prisoner and planted them on the gates of the city of Tondi. The later Kanaikkal Irumporai was captured by the Chola ruler Sengannan and he later committed suicide by starvation.[26]

Government and society during the Sangam era


Monarchy was the most important political institution of the Chera kingdom. There was a high degree of pomp and pageantry associated with the person of the king. The king wore a gold crown studded with precious stones. The king was an autocrat, but his powers limited by a counsel of ministers and scholars. The king held daily durbar to hear the problems of the common men and to redress them on spot.[28] The royal queen had a very important and privileged status and she took her seat by the side of the king in all religious ceremonies.[28]

Another important institution was the "manram" which functioned in each village of the Chera kingdom. Its meeting were usually held by the village elders under a banyan tree and they helped in the local settlement disputes. The manrams were the venues for the village festivals as well.[28] In the course of the imperial expansion of the Cheras the members of the royal family set up residence at several places of the kingdom. They followed the collateral system of succession according to which the eldest member of the family, wherever he lived, ascended the throne. Junior princes and heir-apparents (crown princes) helped the ruling king in the administration.[26][29]

The Cheras had a well-equipped army which consisted of infantry, cavalry, elephants and chariots. There was also an efficient navy. The Chera soldiers made offering to the war goddess Kottavai before any military operation. It was tradition that the Chera rulers emerged victorious in a battle to wear the anklets made out of the crowns of the defeated rulers.[28]


A number of coins belonging to Chera rulers have been discovered from both Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Silver coins with the portrait of a Chera king and legend "Makkotai" written in Tamil-Brahmi script have been found near Karur. There are also coins with legend "Kuttuvan Kotai" and "Kollipurai" along with the Chera symbols of bow and arrow.

Foreign trade

The Chera trade with the foreign countries around the Mediterranean sea can be traced back to the pre-Christian era.

In the 1st century of the Christian era, the Romans conquered Egypt and that helped them to establish dominance in the Arabian sea trade. Periplus of the Erythraean Sea portrays the trade in the kingdom of Cerobothras in detail. Muziris was the most important port in the Malabar coast, which according to the Periplus, abounded with large ships of Romans, Arabs and Greeks. Bulk of spices, ivory, timber, pearls and gems were exported from the Chera ports to Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, Rome, Phoenicia and ArabiaDuring this time Masri people or Egyptian who came from Egypt settled , they later known as Ezhava(The pronounciation of Ezhavan and Egyptian are same in Malyalam language also .[30] The Romans brought vast amounts of gold in exchange of Pepper.[31][32][33]

Society and religion

The Chera population was not divided into castes and communities. The Varna system had not taken a clear shape. Social exclusiveness and un-approachability were unknown. Communities such as the Pana, Kuruva, Paraya and Veta were held in high esteem by the rulers. These people educated and enjoyed social freedom and equality. Many great poets of the Sangam age were Panas. Women enjoyed a high status in the Chera realms. They educated and never covered their faces. Auvvaiyar (c. 500 AD) was the most outstanding poet of her age. Child marriage was unknown and widow marriage was permitted.

Most of the Chera population followed native Dravidian practices. The worship of departed heroes was a common practice in the Chera kingdom along with tree worship and other kinds of ancestor worships. The war goddess Kottavai was propitiated with complex sacrifices. The Cheras probably worshiped this mother goddess. Kottavai was later on assimilated into the present day form of goddess Devi.[34] There is no evidence of snake worship in the Chera realms and till 7th century AD there is no proof of Ganesha worship either. Perhaps the Brahmins came to the Chera kingdom in the 3rd century BC following the Jains and Budhhists. It was only in the 8th century AD, the Arynisation of the Chera country reached its climax.

A small percentage of the population followed Jainism, Buddhism and Brahmanism. These three philosophies came from northern India to the Chera kingdom. A small Jewish and Christian population also lived in the Chera territories.[26]

Decline of Early Cheras

The fourth and fifth centuries witnessed the decline and fall of the Western Roman Empire. Also in the post-Sangam, the Chera kingdom was invaded by a number of northern powers. A Kadamba record of the 5th century at the Edakkal cave in Wayanad bears testimony to the Kadamba presence in the deep south.[35] Chera Kingdom seems to have affected by the Kalabhra upheaval

in the 5th and 6th centuries AD. According to Buddhist works, Kalabhra ruler Achuta Vikkanta kept the Chera, Chola and Pandya rulers in his confinement and established control over large portion of southern India. The Kalabhras were defeated around the 6th century with the revival of Pallava and Pandya power.

The Chalukyas of Badami must have conducted temporary conquests of Malabar. An inscription of king Pulakesin I claims that he conquered the Chera ruler. A number of other inscriptions mentions their victories over the kings of Chera kingdom and Ezhil Malai rulers. Pulakesin II (610–642) is also said to have conquered Chera, Pandya and Chola kingdoms. Soon the three rulers made an alliance and marched against the Chalukyas. But the Chalukyas defeated the confederation. Vinayaditya also subjugated Chera king, and made him pay tribute to the Chalukyas. king Vikramaditya is also said to have defeated the Cheras.

King Simhavishnu and Mahendra Varman are first Pallava rulers to claim sovereignty over the Chera kingdom. Narasimha Varman and the Pandya ruler Sendan (654–670) also won victories over the Cheras. King Nandivarman II of the Pallavas allied with the Cheras in fight against the Pandyas under Varaguna I. Rashtrakutas also claim control over Cheras. antidurga and Govinda III is said to have defeated the Cheras.

The Ay kingdom, situated south of the Chera kingdom, functioned for long as an effective buffer state between a declining Chera kingdom and an emerging Pandya kingdom. Later, the Pandyas conquered the Ays and a made it a tributary state. As late as 788 AD, the Pandyas under Maranjadayan or Jatilavarman Parantaka invaded the Ay kingdom and took the port city of Vizhinjam. But, the Ays does not seem to have submitted the Pandyas and fought against them for almost a century.

Chera Perumals of Makkotai

Chera Perumals of Makkotai (also described as Second/Later Cheras, formerly known as Kulasekharas) were the nominal rulers of the Chera kingdom, a loose federation of local chiefs, which existed between 9th and 12th century AD.[36]

The rule of Perumals was based at the city of Mahodayapuram (Makottai) near the present day Kodungalloor, Kerala.[37] The Perumal government was described by historian MGS Narayanan as a "Brahmin oligarchy with ritual sovereignty".[36]

The Chera kingdom of the Perumals was the only large state existed in pre-modern Kerala. It was a loose federation of local chiefs (known as "Naduvazhis") nominally acknowledging the sovereignty of the Cheraman Perumal and supporting him in defensive wars against the other Tamil powers, but free to govern their territories as they liked. There was a Brahmin oligarchy which propped up the Perumal, a member of the old and prestigious Chera dynasty. Most of the Perumals were saintly scholars who remained submissive to the power of Brahmin councilors (called "Tali Adhikaris"). State formation was weak and state military enterprise in the imperial Chola style was out of question.[38]

In the Chera period the quasi-autonomous Brahmin settlements were administered by the “Sabha” under the supervision of Naduvazhis. Naduvazhis were mostly the sons of Brahmins on account of the Marumakkathayam system which promoted sambandham, a form of Brahmin-Sudra (Aryan-non-Aryan) matrimonial alliance.[38]

The Chera state had only a precarious existence for three centuries, within which the Perumals were subordinate to the neighboring Cholas for more than half a century. The Cholas often controlled the Chera state during the 11th century. The Cholas had conquered the Cheras but the latter continued to rule as feudatories of the Cholas for well over a hundred years. It was only in the last decades of the 11th century, when the power of the Chola kingdom had weakened, that the Perumal of Mahodayapuram asserted his sovereignty. But this did not last long. The reign of the last Perumal, Rama Kulasekhara, was disturbed by internecine quarrels which led to his abdication, possible religious conversion and disappearance.[37][38]

Subsequent to the disappearance of Rama Kulasekhara at the beginning of the 12th century, the land of Kerala was governed by dozens of Naduvazhis under a feudal system which went by the Brahminical codes of morality, precedents and traditions.[38]

The Chera state had extensive trade relations with countries of the outside world. Sulaiman and al-Mas'udi, the Arab travellers who visited Malabar Coast during the period, have testified to the high degree of economic prosperity achieved by the state from its foreign trade. Sulaiman makes specific mention of the brisk trade with China. Malayalam emerged as a distinct language during the Mahodayapuram era, and Hinduism became the prominent religion of the state.[39]

Perumals of Makkotai

    • Rama Rajasekhara (c. 800–844 AD)
    • Sthanu Ravi Kulasekhara (844–883)
    • Kota Ravi Vijayaraga (883–913)
    • Kota Kota Kerala Kesari (913–943)
    • Indu Kota (943–962)
    • Bhaskara Ravi Manukuladilya (962–1021)
    • Ravi Kota Rajasimha (1021–1036)
    • Raja Raja (1036–1089)
    • Ravi Rama Rajaditya (1036–1089)
    • Aditya Kota Ranaditya (1036–1089)
    • Rama Kulasekhara (1089–1122)

Cheras of Venadu

Main article: Venad

In the absence of a central power at Makkotai, the divisions of the Chera kingdom soon emerged as principalities under separate chieftains. The post-Chera period witnessed a gradual decadence of the Nambudiri-Brahmans and rise of the Nairs.

The rulers of the kingdom of Venadu, based at port Quilon in southern Kerala, traces their relations to the Perumals of Makkotai. Venadu ruler Kotha Varma (1102–1125) probably conquered Kottar and portions of Nanjanadu from the Pandyas. Under the reign of Vira Ravi Varma the system of government became very efficient, and village assemblies functioned vigorously. Udaya Marthanda Varma's tenure was noted for the close relationship between the Venadu and Pandyas. By the time of Ravi Kerala Varma (1215–1240), Odanadu kingdom had acknowledged the authority of the Venadu rulers. The next Venadu ruler Padmanabha Marthanda Varma is alleged to have been killed by Vikrama Pandya in 1264 AD.[26]

Probably, the Pandyas led a successful military expedition to Venadu and captured the capital city of Quilon between 1250 to 1300 AD. The records of Jatavarman Sundara Pandya and Maravarman Kulasekhara Pandya testify the establishment of Pandya rule over Venadu Cheras.[26]

Ravi Varma Kulasekhara

The death of the celebrated king Jayasimha initiated a civil war in Venadu. Ravi Varma Kulasekhara, the last of the Venadu kings came to throne according to patrilineal system, came out successful in this battles. Ravi Varma ruled Venadu as a vassal of the Pandyas till the death of king Maravarman Kulasekhara. But, after death of the king he became independent and even claimed the throne of the Pandyas (Ravi Varma had married the daughter of deceased Pandya ruler). He later annexed large parts of southern India and raised Venadu Cheras to the position of a powerful military state for a short time. The chaotic situation in the Pandya kingdom helped his conquests. The Venadu ruler invaded Pandya kingdom and defeated the prince Vira Pandya. After annexing the entire Pandya state, he crowned as "Emperor of South India" in 1312 at Madurai. He later annexed Tiruvati and Kanchi (the Chola kingdom). Under Ravi Varma Venadu attained a high degree of economic prosperity.[26]

The success of Ravi Varma was short lived and soon after his the death, the region became a conglomeration of warring states. And Venadu itself transformed into one these states. The line of Venadu kings after Ravi Varma continued through the law of matrilineal succession.

Aditya Varma Sarvanganatha (1376–1383) is known have defeated the Muslim in raiders of the south and checked the tide of Islamic advance. Under the rule of Chera Udaya Marthanda Varma, Venadu gradually extended their sway over the Tirunelveli region. Ravi Ravi Varma (1484–1512) was the ruler Venad during the arrival of Portuguese in India.[26]

Copper Plates Grants

Vazhapalli plates or Vazhapalli sasanangal (ചേപ്പേടുകള്‍) are a set of copper-plate grants that were issued by Kulasekhara Mahodayapuram King Rajasekhara Varman (820-44).[40]

Tharisappalli Plates or Tharisappalli sasanangal (ചേപ്പേടുകള്‍) are a set of copper-plate grants that were issued to Sapir Iso the leader of the Syrian Christians by Ayyanadikal Thiruvadikal in 849 A. D. conferring on the Palli and Palliyar a large number of privileges including the 72 royal rights.[41]

Jewish Copper Plate was an Indian copper plate grant given to Cochin Jews by Kulasekhara (Later Chera dynasty) king Bhaskara Ravi Varman I (962-1019 A.D.), immortalizing himself in Kerala history. This inscription conferred on a "Jewish Chief Joseph Rabban, the rights of the Anjuvannam and 72 other properietary rights."

During the visit of Ariel Sharon to India in 2003,[42] the then Tourism minister of Kerala, K. V. Thomas presented Sharon with a replica of the copper plate issued by the Bhaskara Ravi Varman II, king of Cochin, to "Ousepp Irabban" (interpreted to be Joseph Rabban, the leader of the Jewish community of Cochin state), with permission to own, inhabit, trade and prosper in an exclusive island on the port of Kodungallur, (referred to as muziris by western authors including Pliny the Elder). The Cochin Jews had a peaceful existence, free from persecution ( the only two notable exceptions being the brief periods of Portuguese and Dutch colonial rule over Cochin) in coastal towns like Kodungallur, Mala, Paravoor (also referred to as North parur, and Jew town near Mattancheri.

The text of the Sasanam translates as follows: "We have granted to Joseph Rabban the village of Anjuvannam together with the 72 proprietary rights, tolls on boats and carts, the revenue and title of Anjuvannam, the lamp of the day, a cloth spread in front to walk on, a palanquin, a parasol, a Vaduga (i.e., Teluge) drum, a trumpet, a gate way, a garland, decoration with festoons, and so forth.

"We have granted him the land tax and weight tax; moreover, we have sanctioned with these copper plates that he need not pay the dues which the inhabitants of the other cities pay the Royal palace, and that he may enjoy the benefits which they enjoy. To Joseph Rabban the Prince of Anjuvannam and to his descendants sons and daughters and to his nephews, and to the sons-in-law who married his daughters in natural succession. So long as the world and moon exist, Anjuvannam shall be his hereditary possession. Hail."


Mahodaya Puram (Mahodaya Pattanam, Makotai, probably Udagai) was the capital city of Chera dynasty between 8th and 12th century AD. It was spread around present day Kodungallur (Cranganore), Thrissur district, Kerala.[43]

The city was built around Tiruvanchikkulam temple (10°12′37″N 76°12′23″E / 10.2103°N 76.2064°E / 10.2103; 76.2064 (accident site)Coordinates: 10°12′37″N 76°12′23″E / 10.2103°N 76.2064°E / 10.2103; 76.2064 (accident site)) and was protected by high fortress on all sides and had extensive pathways and palaces. The temple was a centre of Saivite cult in the early years of the Later Chera age. The royal palace was at Gotramalleswaram, which is now popularly known as Cheraman Parambu. The city administration was controlled by a special representative body called the Kuttam. Mahodaya Puram was also called Vanchi by the later Chera rulers after their former capital.[43]

The Chera rulers shifted their capital to Mahodayapuram from Vanchi. Chera ruler Kulashekhara Varman (9th century) styles himself in his works as the "Lord of Mahodayapuram". The famous Jewish Copper Plate grant (1000 AD) was issued from Muyirikkode (Mahodayapuram).[43]

Mahodayapuram was famous all over South India in the 9th and 10th centuries as great centre of learning and science. A well-equipped observatory was functioning there under the charge of Sankaranarayana (c. 840 – c. 900), the Chera court astronomer.[44] It functioned in accordance with the rules of astronomy laid down by Aryabhata. Chera ruler Sthanu Ravi equipped a section of the observatory with some special types of machines (the yantras; Rasi Chakra, Jalesa Sutra, Golayantra etc.) and hence it came to be called Ravi Varma Yantra Valayam. It seems that that arrangements had been made in the city for recording correct time and announcing it to public from different centres by the tolling of bells at regular intervals of a Ghatika (25 minutes). It is known that this practice (called Nazhikakkottu) continued till the early 15th century.[43]

Districts of the city were,[43]

  • Senamugham
  • Kottakkakam
  • Gotramalleswaram
  • Kodungallur
  • Balakrideswaram etc.

A recent archaeological excavation was conducted at Pattanam, south of Kodungallur. It is hypothesized that Pattanam could be an integral part of the famous ancient port city of Muziris situated in the Chera Kingdom.

Decline and fall

In the 11th and 12th centuries, the Cholas attacked the Chera state from the west. The Chola ruler Raja Raja made a number of successful military campaigns to the Chera kingdom during the rule of Bhaskara Ravi. The Cholas attacked the capital from the north and ravaged the city. The Chola records suggests the fall of the fort at Udagai (Makotai, Mahodayapuram) sometime before 1008 AD. The other records suggests the Chola ruler's long journey through forests for burning down Udagai.[43]

The Chola ruler Rajendra Chola probably surrounded the capital and killed the Chera king Bhaskara Ravi II in a decisive battle at Mahodayapuram in 1019 AD. The number of Chera generals and chieftains were also killed in the battle.[43]

During the long war during rule of Rama Varma, Mahodayapuram and neighboring places were completely burnt down and ruined by the Cholas. Probably the royal palace at Gotramalleswaram was also burnt down and the king is known to have stayed at multiple locations such as Nediatali in Kodungallur and at Kollam (1102 AD). Later the Rama Varma shifted his capital to Kollam.[43]

After the end of the Chera state, Mahodayapuram fell into the hands of the Kingdom of Perumpadappu. Traditionally, the rulers of Perumpadappu are regarded as descendants of the Chera rulers in the maternal line. In 1225 AD, the Perumpadappu ruler Vira Raghava issued the famous Syrian Christian Copper Plate grant to Iravi Kortanan from Mahodayapuram. Mahodayapuram served as the capital of Kingdom of Perumpadappu between 13th century and 15th century.[43]



  • Mahavidwan R.Raghava Iyengar, Vanjimanagar (1918, 1932) University of Madras
  • Inscriptions of India – Complete listing of historical inscriptions from Indian temples and monuments
  • Tamil Coins, R. Nagasamy –
  • A magnum opus on Tamil-Brahmi inscriptions – Book review –
  • Mahavamsa –
  • Aihole Inscription of
  • Asoka's Rock Edicts –

See also

Classical India
Timeline: Northwestern India Northern India Southern India Northeastern India

 6th century BCE
 5th century BCE
 4th century BCE

 3rd century BCE
 2nd century BCE

 1st century BCE
 1st century CE

 2nd century
 3rd century
 4th century
 5th century
 6th century
 7th century
 8th century
 9th century
10th century
11th century

(Persian rule)
(Greek conquests)

(Islamic conquests)

(Islamic Empire)

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