Chera Dynasty – Kingdoms of South India
The lands south of the Mauryan Empire which included the Malabar coast, Karur, Coimbatore and Salem districts in South India were all part of the Chera Dynasty. The Chera capital was Tiruvanchikulam.
Utiyan Cheralatan was the first Chera king and is accredited with founding the dynasty. One of his battles was against the Cholas where he suffered a humiliating defeat as a result of which he committed suicide.
Utiyan’s son, Imayavaramban Nedun Cheralatan, through his grit and determination was responsible for making the Chera dynasty one of the most powerful kingdoms in the south. His rule lasted 58 years and during this time he won multiple battles and wars, the most famous of which was against his sworn enemies, the Kadambas of Banasvi.
Imayavaramban not only extended his kingdom, he also supported the local arts, culture and literature during his reign.
Yet, the greatest Chera king was to follow – King Kadalpirakottiya Vel Kelu Kuttuvan. The great Tamil epic, Silappadigaram ( which means the jeweled anklet) which tells the story about a mythical hero is supposed to be about him. There were two other epic works during that time which were Manimegalai and Sivagami Sindamani.
Kuttavan established the Patni (wife) cult which says that a wife must be completely devoted to her husband. An example of this is the story of the faithful wife Kannagi, who is remembered even today.
Kuttavan is also said to have achieved the famous victories at Mogur Mannan and Kongar.
The Chera kings used marriage to strengthen their ties with other clans as they were constantly warring with their neighbors and needed to strengthen their positions. With strong overseas links with places like Rome, the kingdom prospered immensely. The trade consisted mainly of spices, ivory and sandalwood. They also exported pearls and gems to the Middle East.
This period of success was followed by the Kalabhras overthrowing the Cheras. The Chera dynasty however, overthrew the Kalabhras and the second Chera Empire was founded with Mahodyapuram as their capital.
Mahodayapuram was founded by Kulasekhara Alvar, one of the twelve Alvars or Saints who sang hymns and composed songs in praise of their beloved Lord Vishnu. The Bhakti movement of south India established by the Alvars.
Kulasekhara Alvar authored five dramas ‘Perumal Tirumozhi,’ ‘Mukundamala,’ ‘Tapatisavarna,’ ‘Subhadradhamala’ and ‘Vichchinnabhiseka.’ He was a renowned scholar and lover of art.
Kulasekhara was succeeded by Rajasekhara Varman Rul. He was followed by Sthanu Ravi Varman who was friendly with the Cholas. During his time, trade flourished with China and Kerala amongst other places.
However, with Sthanu’s death, the relationship between the Cheras and Cholas turned sour. The last Chera King was Rama Varma Kulasekhara who shifted his capital to Quilon. After his death, the Chera dynasty disintegrated and the Cholas took over.
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