The Cheras (9th To 12th Century) - Medieval India



A Dravidian royal dynasty from Tamil Nadu, the Cheras. They were the first in the region to form a mediaeval ruling dynasty, and they controlled sizable portions of Tamil Nadu and Kerala in south-eastern and south-western India, respectively. This dynasty was divided into two separate periods. The Later Chera (also known as the Kulasekharas) ruled between the 8th and 12th centuries AD, whereas the Early Chera controlled between the 4th and 5th centuries BC. 

The Cheras (9th To 12th Century) - Medieval India

History of Cheras

•    One of the most important dynasties of the Sangam period in Tamil Nadu and the modern-day state of Kerala was the Chera dynasty.
•    Along with the Cholas of Uraiyur and the Pandyas of Madurai, the early Cheras were considered one of the three primary powers of ancient Tamilakam in the early decades of the Common Era.
•    Their kingdom was situated to the north and west of the Pandya kingdom, and they were also known as "Keraputras."
•    The Cholas and the Pandyas have been the Cheras' continuous enemies throughout their history.
•    According to Tamil scriptures, Uthiyan Cheralathan is regarded as the Chera line's first recorded king.
•    His capital was Kuzhumur in the Keralan district of Kuttanad.
•    The Kulasekhara dynasty, which eventually developed into the later Chera kingdom, was founded by Kulasekhara Alwar, the first ruler of that state.
•    A Chera king had been extinct for more than five centuries when Kulasekhara Alwar, who claimed to be a Chera ancestor, suddenly arrived.
•    He most likely governed from Tiruvanchikkulam in the modern state of Kerala approximately 800 AD, and he did so for a period of more than 20 years.
•    The throne was then held by Ramavarma, also known as Kulasekhara Koyiladhikarikal, Kulasekhara Perumal, or Ramar Tiruvati.
•    Political unrest and instability characterised his administration.
•    He served as the Later Chera dynasty's final emperor.

Important Rulers of Cheras 

Uthiyan Cheralathan (first to third centuries AD)

•    The first Chera king of ancient South India during the Sangam era was Uthiyan Cheralatan, also known as Udiyanjeral.
•    From his birthplace, he founded his capital in Kuzhumur, Kuttanad (Kerala), and grew his empire north and east.
•    Between the first and third century AD are thought to have been the range of his life.
•    His cavalry and elephant units are well-known.
•    He is said to have had his renowned royal kitchen in Kuzhumur. During the Mahabharata battle, he is also credited with providing food for the Kaurava and Pandava forces.
•    While leading the army with Karikala Chola in a conflict known as the "Battle of Venni," he had a back injury and passed away.

Kulashekhara Alwar (800 AD) 

•    Kulasekhara Varman or Kulasekhara Nayanar, also known as Maharaja Kulasekhara Alwar, was a member of the Travancore royal dynasty (Kerala).
•    His reign as a monarch of the later Chera Dynasty is seen as lasting from 800 to 820 AD.
•    Maharaja Kulasekhara Varman rose to power and ruled the surrounding Chola and Pandya countries in addition to the Chera territory.
•    He became well-known as one of South India's legendary kings very rapidly. The nations of Uraiyur, Madurai, and Kongu make up his realm.
•    The people in his realm were content and lived in peace, and his administration was faultless.
•    He later underwent a saintly transformation thanks to the teachings of Vaishnava saints.
•    He paid visits to several shrines in Tirunagari, which is close to the modern-day Tinivelli, in his dying days.
•    At the age of 67, he most likely passed away there.

Rama Varma Kulasekhara (1090 until 1102 AD)

•    The Chera Perumal dynasty of mediaeval Kerala was ruled by Ramavarma Kulasekhara till its end.
•    He lived during the reigns of Vikrama Chola (1118–35 AD) and Kulottunga I (1070–1120).
•    The lengthy conflict between the Cholas and Cheras enters a significantly more lethal phase.
•    He defeats the Cholas, but is unable to restore his already-devastated empire because of his animosity for the indigenous Brahmins.
•    Rama Varma abdicates the throne and passes away shortly after, further destabilizing the state as a result of internal conflict.

Cheras Administration

•    The monarchy was the most significant political institution in the Chera kingdom. Much pomp and ceremony was associated with the king's personality.
•    The royal Queen also maintained a very prestigious position and sat next to the monarch at all religious occasions.
•    The 'king's council' and the other 'five assemblies' are mentioned in the Shilappadikaram as parts of the Chera Dynasty's government.
•    The most influential nobles, including area rajas like the "ruler of Alumbil," make up the Chera king's council.
•    When the Chera monarch assembled his daily durbar to hear petitions and pass judgement, the council served as both the highest consultative body and the last judicial tribunal.
•    The Chera kingdom was divided into four sections, with Cannanore in the north and Trivandrum in the south.
•    The strong dewans who, until the twentieth century, presided over the realms of Travancore and Cochin on behalf of the local rulers were comparable to the Chief Minister in the Chera dynasty.
•    Policy decisions were heavily influenced by the top priest, who also acted as the Nair war goddess and chief astrologer.
•    The "Manram," which operated in each hamlet across the Chera kingdom, was a further significant institution.
•    Village elders regularly hosted their meetings under a banyan tree, and it helped to settle neighborhood disputes.
•    The ancient Chera state featured a complex executive organization in addition to governing committees that made decisions about royal policy and the law.
The Cheras (9th To 12th Century) - Medieval India

Society of Cheras

•    Native Dravidian faiths were practiced by the majority of Chera people.
•    Possible religious practices included offering sacrifices to numerous gods, including the supreme god Murugan.
•    Kottava, the goddess of war, was the recipient of numerous offerings of meat and toddy.
•    It is believed that Kottava was incorporated into the goddess Durga's current form.
•    It is believed that the first wave of Brahmin immigrants to Chera region arrived alongside or after Jain and Buddhist missionaries in the third century BCE.
•    While the vast majority of people practiced their native Dravidian religion, a small minority, mostly migrants, practiced Jainism, Buddhism, and Brahmanism. There were also recognised Jewish and Christian populations in Kerala.
•    Early Tamil texts do frequently discuss social stratification, as seen by the word kudi (meaning "group") being used to refer to "caste."
•    One remarkable aspect of Cheras civilization was the high prominence given to women.
•    In Cheras society, farming and pastoralism were the two main professions.

Economy of Cheras 

•    The Indian Ocean trade and "pastoral-cum-agrarian" activities were the mainstays of the early Chera economy.
•    Over time, there was an increasing focus on agriculture, which laid the groundwork for more significant economic transformation.
•    The Chera chiefdom's trade with Graeco-Roman traders, the "Yavanas," and with north India gave the region substantial economic momentum.
•    Before the Common Era, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean (Graeco-Roman) navigators traded spices.
•    The "trade" that took place in Keprobotras' domain is extensively detailed in the Periplus Maris Erythraei. The Periplus considered Muziris to be the most significant city along the Malabar Coast.
•    Bulk spices, ivory, lumber, pearls, and stones were "exported" by the Chera nation to Middle Eastern and Mediterranean nations.
•    In exchange for black pepper, the Romans brought a lot of gold. This has been confirmed by the finding of Roman coin hoards in numerous locations throughout Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
•    The Chera family was renowned for creating steel of the highest caliber.
•    For the Romans, Egyptians, Chinese, and Arabs, they make seric iron.
•    The steel was exported in the shape of "Wootz," or steely iron cakes. Wootz steel came from India and has a lot of carbon.

Cheras's Art And Architecture

•    Dravidian architecture is referred to as Cheras architecture, and its temples are often octagonal or rectangular in shape and made of granite or sandstone. Four sections the vimanam, mandapams, gopurams, and garbhagriha are present in each of their temples.
•    In the villages and cities where they were constructed, the gopurams, an imposing tower over the entryway, were the tallest buildings.
•    It was not merely a place of worship at the temple. It served as a gathering spot for people to socialize, receive education, and celebrate local events like weddings as well as the king's military successes.
•    Many temples also served as hospitals, and the temple was also employed as a form of emergency storage store.
•    It was a setting where the arts including music, dance, theatre, and handicrafts were promoted and flourished.
Among Cheras's most significant temples are:

Thiruvanchikulam Shiva Temple 

•    It was constructed in Keralan style during the Chera era, when Umadevi worshipped Lord Shiva.
•    This temple, which belongs to Indian archaeology, was constructed in the Kodungallur district of Thrissur and is one of the earliest Shiva temples in South India.

Bhagavathi Amman Temple 

•    One of the 52 Shakthi Peetam temples, this one in Kanyakumari, Tamil Nadu, is also known as the Bhadrakali Amman temple.
•    Legend has it that after Lord Shiva broke his pledge to marry her, she evolved into a monster.
•    Here, the festivals of Navarathri, Kalabhavan, and Vaisakha are all lavishly observed.

Temple of Mahavishnu

•    It is a representation of five historic shrines related to the Mahabharatham and is situated in Thrikkodithanam, Kottayam, and Kerala.
•    Between the pond and the eastern entrance is a display of a peculiar kind of art called Kazhivetti Kallur.
•    It is preserved as a memento of the king's use of corruption to obtain entry to the temple, where he fell ill and eventually passed away.

Literature of Cheras 

•    The Sangam texts are a significant body of Tamil writings that include descriptions of several Chera kings as well as Pandya and Chola kings.
•    The most significant Chera literatures are the Pathitrupathu, Akananuru, and Purananuru.
•    When Paranar and Kongar, two Tamil poets, were in power, Silapathikaram was written.
•    Tolkappiyam, Ettutogai, Pathinenkilkanakku, and the two epics Silappathikaram and Manimegalai are some further Sangam-era literary masterpieces that are shared by the Cheras, Pandyas, and Cholas.
•    The first piece of Tamil literature is regarded as being Tolkappiyam, penned by Tolkappiyar. Although it is a study on Tamil language, it also sheds light on the political and economic circumstances of the day.
•    The collection Pathinenkilkanakku contains 18 writings on morality and ethics. The most significant of these writings is Tirukkural, which was authored by the eminent Tamil poet and philosopher Thiruvalluvar.
The Cheras (9th To 12th Century) - Medieval India

Decline of Cheras

•    The Cheras were subjugated by the Rashtrakutas in 805 AD, and they had a brief reign over them between 855 and 865 AD.
•    The Chola Chera conflict (also known as the "Hundred Years War") started under Bhaskara Ravi Varman I.
•    By the end of Raja Raja Chola's rule, the Cholas had taken over all of southern Travancore from the Cheras south of Kuzhithara.
•    The Chera power had been substantially diminished as a result of these protracted battles, and numerous Chera leaders took advantage of this chaotic window of opportunity to declare their independence.
•    Later, the Cholas strengthened their hold on a sizable portion of the Chera kingdom.
•    The newly crowned King, Rama Varma Kulasekhara, was faced with a chaotic and unprecedented dilemma.
•    He fought valiantly, converting a sizable percentage of his troops into suicide squads known as "the Chavers."
•    The splits of the Later Chera monarchy, without a centralized authority at Mahodayapuram, quickly manifested as principalities ruled by several chieftains.
•    Nambudiri Brahmins gradually lost ground to the Nairs throughout the post-Chera era.


The Cheras were an ancient Dravidian-born Tamil royal dynasty. In the southern part of the nation, they were the first to create a historical ruling dynasty. The bulk of Cheras practiced Dravidian faiths, and their civilization was predominantly agrarian. They were fervent Shiva worshippers, and they gave women significant social standing. Their building style is referred to as Dravidian architecture. The "Glorious Period of South India" during the reign of Cheras was known for its rapid social, economic, and cultural advancement.

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