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Cheras

The Cheras were an ancient Dravidian royal dynasty of Tamil origin. The first to establish an historical ruling dynasty in the area, they ruled wide-ranging areas of Tamil Nadu and Kerala in south-eastern and south-western India respectively, areas that had been settled since at least 5000 BC, when Neolithic carvings had been left in Edakkal Caves. Chera territory included regions such as Venad, Kuttanad, Kudanad, Pazhinad, and others, encompassing the area between Kanya Kumari in the south to Kasargod in the north (now in the far north of Kerala). Also included in this list are Palghat, Coimbatore, Salem and Kollimalai, although they quite probably did not rule all of these areas at all times as ancient borders could be quite fluid at times. Their core territory was in Kerala, while the later rise of the Pallavas pushed them out of Tamil Nadu. However, they did establish a capital at Vanchi, which was known by the Romans as Muzris after an active sea-borne trade sprang up between the two powers.

Vedic influence seemed to have been minimal before the advent of Brahmanism. The Cheras had no particular religion - even the caste system was absent from their society - but ancestral worship was popular. The war goddess was known as Kottavai, but there existed no structural temples. Instead, images of gods were kept in the open air, probably under a tree (which echoes Indo-European practice in Europe, notably amongst the Celts and Germanics, so it has to be wondered whether the Dravidians copied the practice from similar Indo-European arrivals in northern India or if the practice predated the rise of either group). Unlike the later La Tène Celts, an established priesthood was conspicuously absent from Chera society. Structural temples only came into existence after the arrival of the Brahmins.

Agriculture was the main occupation for the great majority of the populace. As mentioned in the Roman connection, foreign trade also flourished. Tools and tackles were made of iron, and fishing, hunting, spinning, weaving, carpentry, and salt manufacture were all important. Precious stones, pearls, and spices were exported from Kerala. Ports included Muzris, Tyndes, Barace, and Nelaynda. The ruler's income depended on the war booty he collected, plus land revenue and taxes. This individual was called 'ko', or 'kon', or 'kadumko' (meaning 'great king'), and these kings were generally known by their titles, which were based on personal peculiarity, a singular habit, or an important achievement.

Early Cheras (Samgam Period)
c.270 BC - c.AD 710

The Chera kings have been rather vaguely described in the Sangam literature (the Sangam age encompasses the first four centuries of the Christian era). Their historical dating is conspicuously absent and genealogy is lacking, and most attempts to construct a meaningful list of kings can vary wildly in the order in which it places those kings. However, this is largely due to a misunderstanding in how the lists have been assembled in the first place.

A consensus has been established by Stephen Barr between multiple sources of information on the early Chera kings (called the Barr List here for reasons of simplicity). As well as the problem of showing two lines of kings who ruled simultaneously, it seems possible that some of the differences among the several lists found online may be due to the many aliases that these kings often had (whether contemporaneously or later). They are all legitimate, so it is possible to have two lists with different names that are really talking about the same people. All of these names have to be researched very carefully. Where sons are shown here, they may in fact be grandsons, or even further removed. As this list may be somewhat unorthodox when compared to generally available lists of Chera kings, their more usual ordering is shown in grey text and in parentheses, (1), and so on.

All of the Chera kings stemmed from one of two clans, the Vanavaraman and the Irumporai, but there also seems to have been a level of intermarriage between the clans, making any attempt to construct a genealogy a complex affair. Stephen Barr has discovered that many lists (especially those online) are taken directly from one or two modern written sources - most especially the work by Professor Pillai. According to Pillai, the first Chera king on record was one Karuvur-Eriya-ol-val-ko-Perunceral Irumporai, who ruled at the end of the first century BC. Several sources give a list of nine rulers that extends backwards into the fifth century BC, but these are merely rehashes of existing names.

An early king that does precede these, however, probably did exist - Vanavaramban of circa 430 BC. This is assumed because the early Chera leaders called themselves the Vanavar, or 'celestials' and it was common among Hindu dynasties to be called after the name of their founders (with just the same practice to be found in Germanic dynasties of post-Roman Europe). Vanavaramban is shown here as 'possibly an early Chera leader' because the Cheras claimed to have had a presence in their region of southern India for many centuries before the known history of them begins.

What is usually not understood - and which Pillai doesn't make clear - is that there were two lines of kings that ruled simultaneously, the aforementioned Vanavaraman and the Irumporai. Instead they are generally shown as one combined list, even in instances in which the correct family tree with two lines of rulers is also included. If the king list in Pillai is compared to the lists in A History of South India then it is easy to see how Pillai's order holds up, even with two simultaneous lines of kings, but this is something that is easy to miss. The second line begins with Anthuvan Cheral, possibly the brother of Uthiyan Cheralathan, who was given command of a newly conquered northern area as a viceroy (sub-king). It seems that the kingdom existed with two rulers - the senior one who oversaw the main territories, and the junior one who oversaw the newly-conquered north. A very similar set-up can be seen in the early kings of Kent.

(Information by Stephen Barr, with additional information by Abhijit Rajadhyaksha and from Chronology of the Tamils, K N Sivaraja Pillai, from A History of South India: From Prehistoric Times to the Fall of Vijayanagar, K A Nilakanta Sastri, from Regents of Nations, Part 1, Peter Truhart (Antiquity Worldwide), from Eastern Ganga kings of Orissa, M Chakravarti (Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, Vol 72 Part 1 to Vol 73 Part 1), from Kalinga Under the Eastern Gangas, Mukunda Rao (1991), and from External Link: History of Odisha (Odisha News, in Hindi).)

fl c.430 BC

Vanavaramban

Possibly an early Chera leader. Dynasty founder.

Although several early names of Chera kings have been proposed, only Vanavaramban can be judged seriously. The other names appear to be rehashed versions of later kings. His unnamed successors term themselves the 'Vanavar', the 'celestials', with it being common for Hindu (and also early Germanic) dynasties to refer to themselves by the name of a founding figure. The gap between him and the next ruler who can be listed with any certainty can be accounted for by the lack of records for the state, and probably also by its unimportance.

Tiruvanchikkulam Siva Temple
The Chera Thiruvanchikulam Siva Temple, otherwise known as the Mahadeva Temple, is a Hindu temple that is located in Kodungallur in the central Thrissur district of India's Kerala state - at the heart of Chera territory

fl c.20s/10s BC

Peruncheral Irumporai / Perumkadungo

'Son' of Selva-kodunkovaliyatan (Yanaikat?). Ruled 17 yrs. (15)

This king is mentioned in the eighth decade of the century by the poet Arisil Kilar after winning a great victory at Takadur against the Adiyaman and two great kings. However, his position in this list is highly subject to change, and he is never shown in the same place twice in other lists. He also goes by the name of Karuvar-Eryia-ol-val-ko-Perunceral Irumporai. It seems likely that he is the son or descendant of Yanaikat-sey Mantaran Cheral (of the second century AD), but the Barr List places him first (as does the Pillai list), ahead of the more traditional founder of the dynasty, Perumchottu Uthiyan Cheralathan, who is shown as the third ruler.

The succession after Peruncheral is where things become really complicated. The kingdom appears to divide in two or, more probably, forms a boundary region that is governed by a junior member of the royal house. Each of Peruncheral's sons gain a throne of their own with one, seemingly the Vanavar (Vanavarambanas) branch, being the senior.

Natuvan (or Antuvan) Cheral Irumporai and Udiyan Cheral have been connected together as those two sons, since they are already accepted as being brothers. However, it is not certain that Peruncheral is their father. The accepted story is that Udiyan, carrying the dynastic name Vanavaramban, succeeds his father and conquers territory to the north, but he later places his brother Antuvan in charge there to begin a co-ruling 'dynasty' while he rules the main kingdom.

Pallai, however, places Antuvan before Udiyan in his listing. Since each have their own poets relating their exploits, their actual timing cannot be determined with any finality. If Peruncheral Irumporai is their father then it is likely that Antuvan is the eldest of the two, since Irumporai is a significant title in the ruler's lists. But Udiyan is supposedly the elder brother, the one carrying the dynastic name, so again an estimation has to be made of what happens based on later Hindu dynasties: upon the death of their father, both Udiyan and Antuvan succeed, either (1) to avoid the trouble of a war of succession or (2) to eliminate a looming threat from the north; both probably take part in conquering the northern area which is then given to Antuvan. The 'main' Vanavaramban dynasty is shown in black text below, while the 'northern branch' Irumporai line is shown in red to differentiate it.

fl c.AD 20

Perumchottu Uthiyan Cheralathan

First recorded king. (1) Founder of the two houses of Cheras?

Perumchottu Uthiyan (or Udiyan) is a contemporary of the great Chola, King Karikala, but the dating for him conflicts badly with the apparent early years AD dating for the Cheras (circa 270 BC). This is a mismatch that at the moment cannot be satisfactorily resolved (although the possibility is that the Chola dating is inaccurate). After suffering a humiliating defeat at the hands of the Chola ruler in the Battle of Venni, Perumchottu commits suicide.

fl c.20

Antuvan / Andtuvan Cheral Irumporai

Brother of Perumchottu Uthiyan Cheralathan. (2)

Two references are available regarding Antuvan, one in the colophon of Pattirupattu (ancient Tamil literature), in which Selva-kodunkovaliyatan is mentioned as the son of Antuvan Cheral (more probably his grandson); and the other in the colophon to the Purananuru (Literature) of Uraiyur, Mociyar.

Map of Central Asia & India c.50 BC
By the period between 100-50 BC the Greek kingdom of Bactria had fallen and the remaining Indo-Greek territories (shown in white) had been squeezed towards Eastern Punjab. India was partially fragmented, and the once tribal Sakas were coming to the end of a period of domination of a large swathe of territory in modern Afghanistan, Pakistan, and north-western India. The dates within their lands (shown in yellow) show their defeats of the Greeks that had gained them those lands, but they were very soon to be overthrown in the north by the Kushans while still battling for survival against the Satvahanas of India (click on map to show full sized)

He is included in the Barr List with difficulty. First he is found in many different places in other lists but secondly, and more importantly, he is not given any ruling dates on the family tree. This would seem to mean that he may not be a ruler in his own right, but more probably deputises while his brother is away on various campaigns. This would fit with the complex nature of Chera ruling policies, but it also provides support for the idea of a northern sub-state or junior kingdom that he governs instead of the main kingdom.

For succeeding kings Pallai's sequence has been retained. Interestingly, two sources give the sequence of kings for the Irumporai branch exactly as depicted by Pallai, 'Chera Kings' in A History of South India and Truhart's Regents of Nations, Part 1, Antiquity Worldwide. Dates, however, are another matter. The former work has both lines of rulers beginning after the commencement of the second century AD, more or less at the same time, which supports the idea that both brothers succeed their father at the same time. In the latter work Udiyan comes to the throne fifty years before Anduvan appears, which even flies in the face of Pallai's list. Caution is to be used with Regents... The list shown there is not the last word, as a large number of discrepancies and typographic errors have been found.

The two sources vary considerably in terms of the Vanavaramban branch. The sequence of kings in History... follows Pallai exactly, except that it ends by eliminating number eleven, Adu-Kotpattu-Cheralatan.

fl c.30

Imayavaramban Nedum Cheralathan

Son of Uthiyan. Ruled for 58 years. (3)

During his long reign, Imayavaramban Kudako Nedun Cheralatan consolidates the Chera dynasty and extends its frontiers. He inflicts a crushing defeat on his sworn enemies, the Kadambas of Banavasi. Imayavaramban's reign is of special significance to the development of art and literature in the kingdom. Kannanar is his poet laureate.

fl c.30

Calva-Kadunko-Ali Atan

(Grand)son of Antuvan aka Selvak-Kadungo Vazhiyathan. (10)

Calva-Kadunko-Ali Atan comes with an array of alternative names, including Chikkarpali-tuncia-celva-Kadunko and Mantaran-Poraiyan-Kadunko. Perumkadungo. He also appears to be the same as Selwakatunko or Selvakkadungo Vali Adan, the son of Antuvan, and Selva-kodunkovaliyatan, the son or grandson of Antuvan, otherwise known as Selvak-Kadungo Vazhiyathan on the king list. He seems not to be shown on most lists in any of these forms so it's not surprising that he is hard to pin down.

Kanya Kumari
Kanya Kumari formed the southern edge of Chera territory, with Kanyakumari Temple (otherwise known as Kanyakumari Bhagavathiamman Temple) today forming its main attraction, dedicated to the virgin goddess, Kanyakumari, an incarnation of Parvathi

fl c.40

Palyanai Sel-Kelu Cheran Chenkutuvan

Brother of Imayavaramban. Ruled? (5)

fl c.50

Kalankai-Kanni Narmudi Cheral

Son of Imayavaramban. No heir. (7)

Kalankai-Kanni Narmudi Cheral is otherwise known as Kalankaik W Narmudijera, the son of Nederancheral. This sort of confusion is typical of the Chera king lists because, of course, 'Nederancherai' is 'Nedum Cheralathan' the very Imayavaramban Nedum Cheralathan who is already listed as being this king's father.

fl c.60

Kuttuvan Irumporai

Son of Palyanai Sel-Kelu Cheran Chenkutuvan. (6) (9) (12)

Kuttuvan Irumporai (9) incorporates several Chera names who are shown elsewhere as separate rulers. He is also known simply as Kuttuvan (separately from Kuttuvan Irumporai, and listed as the son of Vel-Kelu Kuttuvan who predeceased his father) (6), Perumcheral Irumporai (previously amalgamated with his similarly-named forebear), and Tagadur Erinda Perumcheral (son of Selva-kodunkovaliyatan) (12). The most sensible place for him is as the adopted son of Calva-Kadunko-Ali Atan.

fl c.60

Kadal-Pirak-kottiya Vel-Kelu Kuttuvan

Brother of Kalankai-Kanni Narmudi Cheral. (8)

fl c.80

Adukotpattu Cheralatan

Brother of Kadal-Pirak-kottiya Vel-Kelu Kuttuvan. (11)

It is during the reign of Adukotpattu Cheralatan that Chola King Killivalavan captures the Chera capital, Karur, although it is hard to conclude an approximate date for this due to a lack of data. After this the Vanavaramban branch of kings seems to come to an end. It is hard to say for sure since Pallai lists three more kings who are not of the Irumporai branch. They perhaps continue the Vanavaramban line but are now subject to the Irumporai branch. To get more accurate dates for these kings, some artful analysis is required of the number of kings per certain period, following which the period should be divided accordingly. But even using this method will only result in approximate dates using circa since the situation being dealt with is a very loose one.

Kadambar Koil, Kulithalai, India
Kadambar Koil, a Hindu temple, is in Kulithalai, near Trichy and Karur, in modern Tamil Nadu state, which also places the first century Chera capital in its easternmost territory, a region that it would not seemingly hold for long

How it happens is also a mystery. Probably, either the capital is permanently subjugated by the Cholas or, more likely, it is eventually freed by the 'northern', Irumporai branch of kings and they now succeed to the kingship of the entire territory under the leadership of Cheraman Kuddako Ilancheral Irumporai.

fl c.80

Cheraman Kuddako Ilancheral Irumporai

Son of Kuttuvan Irumporai. Ruled for 16 years. (14)

Ilam Cheral Irumporai is described by Perunkundrur Kilar as the lord of the cities Tondi, Kongu, and Puli. He defeats Perunchola Ilam Palaiyan Maran (seemingly of the Cholas) and Vicci and destroys the five forts.

c.110 - 125

Cheraman Kuttuvan Kodai

Relationship unknown. Not on other lists. (4)

Cheraman Kuttuvan Kodai is also shown as Cheran Chenkutuvan, and as Senguttuvan. He is not mentioned in the genealogy of Chera kings, and his precise position is uncertain. The Pathirruppaththu reports that Senguttuvan rules the kingdom for fifty-five years.

fl c.110s

Yanaikat-sey Mantaran Cheral

Son of Tagadur Erinda Perumcheral (12, above). (13)

Yanaikat-sey Mantaran Cheral is also known as Yanaikkan-Mantaran-Cheral Irumporai, and more simply as Mandaran or Mantaran Cheral Irumporai.

c.125 - 150

Cheraman Mari-Vanko

Relationship unknown. Not on other lists.

fl c.160

Cheraman Ko-Kodai-Marpan

Relationship unknown. Not on other lists.

Ilamkadungo

'Son' of Peruncheral Irumporai. (16)

Ilamkadungo is sometimes referred to as a son of Peruncheral Irumporai, the first reliable king in this sequence. Instead this may be figurative speech to mean that he is a descendant of that king. More realistically perhaps, he may be related more directly to Calva-Kadunko-Ali Atan, although it seems to be impossible to work out to what degree. If he is a descendant, his position is unclear except for his relationship to his own successors, and the eclipse of Chera power following the defeat of the last king in this particular sequence, Cheraman Kanaikkal Irumporai.

?

Brother, name unknown. (17)

?

Son, name unknown. (18)

?

Son, name unknown. (19)

fl c.170s

Cheraman Kanaikkal Irumporai

Son. Died in Chola captivity. (20)

Cheraman Kanaikkal Irumporai marches against Kocengannan, the Chola king, who defeats him at the Battle of the Ovur and takes him captive. He is imprisoned at Kunavayil Kottam (Purananuru: 74). Poigaiyar, the Chera court poet, sings Kalavali Narpattu in praise of Kocengannan to secure his release, but the Chera king, feeling insulted when he is not given water to quench his thirst, breathes his last before his release can be ordered.

Pallyil Temple, Perinjanam
Pallyil temple Perinjanam, to the north of Kodungallur and Mathilakam - Trikana Mathilakam / Tiru Kunavayil Kottam / Kunava was an ancient Jain and Buddhist cultural centure - survives today in a Hinduised form

Following this defeat and the loss of the king, the Cheras return to obscurity in India for much of the next nine centuries, with only a brief resurgence under an unknown king or kings at the end of the seventh century AD. Coincidentally (or perhaps not), the Cholas also submit to obscurity at about the same time as the already-obscure Kalabhras invade Tamil country, displacing native dynasties which probably include the Cholas. Perhaps this destabilisation affects a much greater region than is suspected.

c.550

MapIt seems likely that it is the Chalukyas who inherit the territory of the former Vakataka kingdom after the latter's swift decline and disappearance in this century. The disappearance of the last of the Guptas at around the same time also presents an opportunity to expand Chalukyan control under Pulakeshi I. The Kadamba king of Banavasi is subjugated and made a vassal, the Cheras are conquered (according to an inscription), and the Western Gangas accept vassal status.

c.560s

Simhavishnu reigns as king of the Pallavas around this time, beginning the Pallava revival that defeats the Kalabhras. He recreates a strong Pallava kingdom by subduing many kings in the south (such as the Cheras, Cholas, the now reduced Kalabhras, and the Pandyas. His kingdom soon extends beyond Kanchi (as far as the River Kaveri). Through his naval expeditions he subdues Malaya (Indo-China) and Ceylon (Sri Lanka).

615

Pulakeshi II of the Badami Chalukyas conquers the eastern Deccan, taking territory corresponding to the coastal districts of modern Andhra Pradesh from the Vishnukundina kingdom, as well as territory from the Pallavas. He appoints his brother, Kubja Vishnuvardhana, as viceroy whilst also conquering the Cheras and Cholas in the south of India (according to inscriptions). The kingdoms of the south - Cheras, Cholas, and Pallavas - subsequently team up to form a coalition to defeat the Chalukyas, but that attempt ends in defeat.

642

Narsimhavarman I of the Pallavas defeats the Chalukyas under Pulakeshi II and wrests back the territories lost by his father. He also attacks and plunders Vatapi (Badami), the capital of the Chalukyas, killing Pulakeshi II in the process. He later subdues the Cholas and the Cheras (suggesting that they have regained a semblance of independence).

fl c.670 - 710

?

Unknown king or kings.

670 - 710

Arikesari Maravarman of the Pandyas is credited with defeating the (unknown) Chera king in multiple battles between these dates. Arikesari's successor, Kochadaiyan Ranadhiran, also subdues them, and in the 680s or early 690s Vinayaditya of the Badami Chalukyas has his turn in subjugating the south (or at least the Chera part of it).

Chera battle axe coin
Venad was in the southern part of Chera territory, later providing a refuge when the north fell to other kingdoms, and the two sides of a Chera battle axe coin shown here were produced in Venad

734

The awaited Chalukya invasion of the Pallava kingdom takes place, with Vikramaditya II occupying Kanchi. The Pallavas soon recover, having to fight the Cholas, Pandyas and Gangas in quick succession (with the Cheras as allies at least against the Pandyas).

750s

Dantidurga secures the power of the Rashtrakutras by eclipsing that of the Badami dynasty of Chalukyas. After the death of Vikramaditya II, he launches several attacks against his rivals and extends his authority further over the eastern parts of Madhya Pradesh, all the while assiduously avoiding any conflict with his Chalukya overlord. In the end Kirtivarman II clearly sees him as being too great a threat and attacks him in 753. Unfortunately the Chalukya king is defeated, ending the power of the Chalukyas and allowing Dantidurga to sweep to full and independent power. If he doesn't already do so, he or his immediate successors soon subjugate at least part of southern India, claiming to control the Cheras.

788

The Ay kingdom to the south of the Cheras continues to mount a strong resistance to Pandya domination. Now the Pandyas invade the kingdom and capture the port of Vizhinjam, but still the Ay kingdom refuses to submit.

Despite frequent defeats and attempts at subjugation by the kingdoms of northern and central India, the Cheras clearly still exist as a fighting force, and with a king who is at least semi-independent, or is striving to be so. However, it takes until the ninth century before the Cheras rise again as a notable power, and their kings are not recorded until this occurs.

Second Chera Empire (Kulasekharas / Later Cheras)
AD 800 - 1102

There is little information available on the early Cheras between the third century AD to the start of the ninth. An obscure dynasty, the Kalabhras, invaded the Tamil country towards the end of the second century, seemingly causing a destabilising effect across a large area of southern India. They displaced the existing kingdoms and ruled for around three centuries. In turn they were displaced by the Pallavas and the Pandyas in the sixth century AD and a Chera presence can often be glimpsed during this period, but perhaps not as a single kingdom. The Kalabhras were eclipsed in the sixth century and no single kingdom was able to assume dominance in the south. The Cheras seemingly remained a collection of tribes that may have banded together when an outside threat presented itself but which never achieved true unity as they had done in the first century or so.

The Second Chera empire made its appearance in the annals of Kerala history at the very start of the ninth century, but this was very definitely formed as a confederation of the Chera tribes, and not a kingdom with an all-powerful king. A new city, or at least a newly expanded and improved city, Mahodyapuram (modern Kodangallur), was the capital of the revived Chera state, founded by Kulasekhara Alvar, one of the twelve Alvars. The Alvars were Tamil saints who composed and sang hymns in praise of Vishnu (the 'Preserver' in the Hindu Holy Trinity of 'Creator-Preserver-Destroyer'). They were exponents of the Bhakti (devotional) cult in southern India, and gave great impetus to the Bhakti cult in southern India between the seventh and tenth centuries. By now, however, the Indo-European Aryans of the north had also filtered into the deep south, with the result that the new empire is classed as an Aryo-Brahmin state.

Again there are differences in how these kings are listed and how many kings are included in each list, but this is nowhere near as much of a problem as it is with the early Cheras. Pillai shows thirteen kings, while Narayanan shows eleven, missing the first, Kulasekhara Alvar. However, he shows the rest in much the same order, albeit with sometimes major variations in names and minor variations in dates. The more complete Pillai list has been followed here, with amendments and additions.

(Original information by Abhijit Rajadhyaksha, and from A Survey Of Kerala History, A Sreedhara Menon (2007), from Chronology of the Tamils, K N Sivaraja Pillai, from Perumals of Kerala: Political and Social Conditions of Kerala Under the Cēra Perumals of Makotai (c.800-1124), M G S Narayanan (1996), and from External Link: Ancient inscription throws new light on Chera history (The Hindu).)

800 - 820

Kulasekhara Alvar (Varman)

One of the twelve Alvars (Tamil saints).

A scholar and a great patron of the arts, Kulasekhara Alvar composes five dramas: the Perumal Tirumozhi in Tamil, and Mukundamala, Tapatisamvarna, Subhadradhamala and Vichchinnabhiseka, all in Sanskrit, which testify to his scholarship.

Mahavishnu Kshetram at Thrikodithanam
Mahavishnu Kshetram at Thrikodithanam, which was built during the Chera's second empire period in southern India, a faint resurgence of power in Kerala after several centuries of obscurity

820 - 844

Rajasekhara Varman

Narayanan considers him to be the dynasty founder.

825

This king founds the 'Kollam Era' of Kerala, which begins in 825. He is also reputed to issue the Vazhappali Inscription, the first epigraphical record of the Chera kingdom.

844 - 885

Sthanu Ravi Varman

Son. A contemporary of Chola King Aditya I.

851

The Tillaisthanam Inscription indicates that this king is on friendly terms with the Chola monarch. His reign witnesses a flourishing trade between Kerala and China. This is even testified by the Arab merchant Sulaiman who visits India in this year.

885

MapAfter Sthanu Ravivarman's death, renewed hostilities break out between the Cheras and the Cholas, which continue until the disintegration of the Chera kingdom. The Pandyas of Madurai also involve themselves in the conflict.

885 - 917

Rama Varma Kulashekhara

917 - 944

Goda Ravi Varma

944 - 962

Indu Kotha Varma

962 - 1019

Bhaskara Ravi Varman I

Killed in battle.

c.1008

Between the start of his reign and this approximate date, the Cholas under Rajaraja launch a series of campaigns against the Cheras of Mahodyapuram. Coming around from the north they attack the Chera capital and the city is sacked. The Chera fort at Udagai (also at Mahodyapuram) falls during this period.

Chera inscription
In 2011 an inscription on a granite slab was found during refurbishment work at a temple in Kurumathur, near Areekodeext which, once deciphered, seemed to state the firm date of 24 May 871 for Rajasekhara Varman, but although this date appears to place the king three decades forward in time, more study has been recommended before any definite rewriting of Chera history is carried out

1019

Pillai lists a Chera king by the name of Bhaskara Ravi Varman II, but Narayanan combines both of them into one person. Tellingly, perhaps, another, more decisive battle against the Cholas takes place in this year, when Rajendra Chola surrounds the Chera capital and kills King Bhaskara Ravi Varman I in the fighting. The Cheras also lose a number of generals and chieftains in the battle, making it a heavy defeat.

1019 - 1021

Bhaskara Ravi Varman II

The same man as Bhaskara Ravi Varman I?

1021 - 1028

Vira Kerala

1028 - 1043

Rajasimha

1043 - 1082

Bhaskara Ravi Varman III

1082 - 1090

Ravi Rama Varma

1090 - 1102

Rama Varma Kulasekhara

Son. Last Perumal Chera king. Abdicated in favour of his son.

A far more devastating phase of the long conflict begins between Cholas and Cheras. Mahodyapuram is burnt down and destroyed, so after a period of constantly shifting between various remaining centres, Rama Varma Kulasekhara relocates his capital southwards to Kollam (Quilon, a port city in Kerala). Perhaps now known as Rama Thiruvadi, he defeats the Cholas but is not able to regain his already-fractured kingdom thanks to his enmity with the local Brahmins. His kingdom is now restricted to South Kerala, where it also becomes known as Venad, and his followers as the Cheras of Venadu. Internecine quarrelling further weakens the state, so that Rama Varma abdicates the throne and soon dies.

1102 - ?

Kotha Varma

Son. Minor Chera-Ai chieftain of Venadu.

The abdication of the last Perumal Chera king, Rama Varma, has already signalled the final end of the Chera empire. His son governs a looser confederation of Chera tribes in a much-reduced territory in India, and this core remnant succeeds or merges with the last remnants of the Ay kingdom (seemingly as the Chera-Ai dynasty). Other kingdoms soon grow up in former Chera territory to succeed them, in the form of the Zamorins of Calicut, the kings of Travancore (inheritors of Venad, the southern Chera territories, and also the Ay kingdom), Kochi (Cochin, soon dominated by the Portuguese colony of Goa), the Hoysalas (from Mysore), and the Vijaynagar kingdom (with their centre in Karnataka).