Chera Perumals of Makotai

Chera Perumals of Makotai,[1] also known as the Perumal dynasty of Kerala,[1] or Cheraman Perumal dynasty of Mahodayapuram,[2] (fl. c. 9th–12th century CE) were a ruling dynasty in present-day Kerala, south India.[3] Makotai, or Mahodayapuram, the seat of the Cheraman Perumals, is identified with present-day Kodungallur in central Kerala.[4][5][6] Initially, their influence appeared limited to the area between present-day Quilon and Quilandy, but later extended to up to Chandragiri river in north Kerala and to Nagercoil in the south.

Chera Perumals of Makotai
Perumal dynasty
c. 9th century CE–Early 12th century CE
Chera Perumal Kingdom with respect to the Chola Empire
Chera Perumal Kingdom with respect to the Chola Empire
Capital
Common languages
Religion
Hinduism
History 
• Established
c. 9th century CE
• Disestablished
Early 12th century CE
Today part ofIndia

The medieval Cheras claimed that they were descended from the Cheras who flourished in pre-Pallava (early historic) south India.[7][7] The exact relationship between the medieval Chera rulers of present-day Kerala and that of western Tamil country is not known to scholars.[8] The Chera Perumals are often described as the members of Surya Vamsa (the Solar Race).[8]

The Chera Perumal kingdom derived most of its wealth from maritime trade relations (the spice trade) with the Middle East.[9][1] The port of Kollam, in the kingdom, was a major point in overseas India trade to the West and the East Asia.[10] [ settlements of agriculturally rich areas (fertile wet land) were another major source of support to the Makotai kingdom in the Periyar Valley.[1][11] The Cheraman Perumals are known for employing a single script (Vattezhuthu with Grantha characters) and language (early form of Malayalam) in all of their records in Kerala.[12]

HistoriographyEdit

  • An earlier version of conventional Kerala historiography had believed that the "Second/Later Chera Empire", or "Kulasekhara Empire" was a highly centralized monarchy (unitary or imperial state model, emphasising centralised administration).[2][12][13] Modern scholars have accused early Kerala historians of inventing a "Second Chera Empire" to rival the glories of the imperial Cholas.[14]
  • However, critical research in the late 1960s and early 1970s offered a major corrective to this (a monarchy supported by a Brahmin oligarchy).[12][2] The theories of a Chera "empire", propounded by the early writers, were rejected.[13] It was also discovered that the Chera kings did not bear the specific abhisekanama "Kulasekhara".[13] Some recent scholarship also proposes a gradual transition from 'a monarchy' to a 'ritual monarchy'. They question the general inclination to treat the three centuries of Chera Perumal rule as a "single historical block".[15]
  • Suggestions pointing to the other extreme, that the king at Kodungallur had only a "ritual sovereignty" and the actual political power rested with "a bold and visible Brahmin oligarchy" has also emerged.[2][16] It describes "a fragmented array of local chiefdoms ... held in check by a loose Tamil hegemony".[14]

"The Cera kingdom was not a strong, absolute monarchy by any means, but rather a confederation of lords and powerful Brahmin communities under the mantle of the Perumal...Therefore, the portrayal of the post Cera period as a time of major political decentralization attributes a false centrality to the Cera period itself..."

— Donald R. Davis Jr., [1]

According to the third model, the power of the Perumal was restricted to the capital Makotai (Kodungallur).[5] His kingship was only ritual and remained nominal compared with the power that local chieftains (the udaiyavar) exercised politically and militarily. Brahmins also possessed huge authority in religious and social subjects ('ritual sovereignty combined with a bold and visible Brahmin oligarchy').[5][16]

Index to Chera inscriptionsEdit

An index of most of the so-called Chera Perumal inscriptions can be found in 'Perumals of Kerala' (1972) by M. G. S. Narayanan. This general catalogue lists records discovered till 1972 (some of the recently discovered inscriptions remain unreported and undeciphered).[17]

HistoryEdit

 
Remains of the Thillaisthanam inscription (9th century CE, Aditya Chola)
 
Thiruvanchikkulam Shiva Temple (northern entrance gateway)
 
Fragmentay laterite walls, outside Thrikulasekharapuram Temple, Kodungallur (10th-11th centuries)

The Chera Perumals of Makotai claimed that they were descended from the Cheras who flourished in pre-Pallava (early historic) south India.[7] There are clear indications as to how different branches of the Chera family managed different centres of power in Kerala and Tamil Nadu in the early Tamil poems.[18]

The Chera/Perumal dynasty introduced rule through kingship in Kerala (a departure from the early historic system of clan-based societies).[3] It is speculated that there was little economic pressure on the Kerala rulers for territorial conquest, the region being naturally rich and obtaining income from the trade with the Middle East.[19] The Perumal kingdom had alternating friendly or hostile relations with the Cholas and the Pandyas.[9] The kingdom was attacked, and eventually forced into submission, by the Cholas in the early 11th century CE (in order to break the monopoly of trade with the Middle East).[9]

"A naval campaign led to the conquest of the Maldive Islands, the Malabar Coast, and northern Sri Lanka, all of which were essential to the Chola control over trade with Southeast Asia and with Arabia and eastern Africa. These were the transit areas, ports of call for the Arab traders and ships to Southeast Asia and China, which were the source of the valuable spices sold at a high profit to Europe."

— Romila Thapar, [20]

The Perumal kingship remained nominal compared with the power that local chieftains, the so-called "nattu-udaiyavar" or "nadu-vazhumavar", exercised politically and militarily.[13][5] Chiefdoms under Chera Perumal rule, known as "nadus", are roughly comparable to the "rashtra" under the Rashtrakutas and "padi" under the Cholas.[13] These chieftains wielded militaristic authority over their country (even over the Brahmin temples and settlements in the nadu).[13] The udaiyavar chieftains were liable to serve the Chera Perumal in battles (against invading Pandyas and Cholas[5]) and the chiefdoms functioned as revenue collection units for the Chera kingdom.[13] The Chera Perumal only held direct authority over the country that extended from Palakkad to Vembanad Lake, including the port of Kodungallur.[13] Koyil Adhikarikal/Al Koyil, the Chera royal present in a chiefdom, collected regular dues (the attaikkol and arantai) from the chiefdoms for the Perumal at Kodungallur.[13]

Bhakti saints Cheraman Perumal Nayanar and Kulasekhara Alvar are generally identified as Perumal kings of Kerala.[6][2] Shankaracharya, founder of the Vedanta advaita, is also traced to 8th century Kerala.[2] Copper-plate charters of the Perumals show grants to Jewish and Christian merchants of West Asia.[19] The West Asian Muslims had also established themselves as traders in the kingdom.[9] Merchant guilds such as manigramam, and anjuvannam were active in the Perumal kingdom.[21] The origin of the Malayalam language is also dated to the Chera Perumal period in Kerala.[21] Temple architecture style known as "Kerala-Dravida" can be seen from the 11th century CE.[22]

In the 12th century, the Perumal kingdom was dissolved into several local powers. The Perumal dynasty was succeeded in south Kerala (Venad) by the Kulasekhara dynasty (whose kings were also known as the Cheras[23]).[24] In other parts of Kerala, chieftains of Kolathunad, Kozhikode and Kochi succeeded the Perumals.[5]

Organs of the Perumal stateEdit

 
Chola coin of king Rajendra, with legend "Uttama Chola", showing the Chera emblem (Bow, left to the Sitting Tiger).[citation needed]

Koyil Adhikarikal or Ala Koyil was the Chera royal appointed to a chiefdom. This prince collected regular dues (the attaikkol and arantai) from the chiefdoms for the Chera Perumal.[13] The managers of the four Nambudiri-Brahmin temples around Kodungallur, known as the Nalu Thali, acted as Chera Perumal's permanent council or ministers.[25]

Four Temples (the Nalu Thali) [6]
Temple Brahmin settlement Notes
Nediya-thali or Thiruvanchikkulam Shiva Temple Paravur Associated with Cheraman Perumal Nayanar
Mel-thali or Thrikkulasekharapuram Temple Muzhikkalam Founded by Kulasekhara Alvar.
Kizh-thali Airanikkalam
Chingapuram/Sringapuram Thali Iringalakkudai

The Thousand or the Ayiram were the personal Nair protection guards of the Chera Perumal king (related to the Kodungallur Bhagavathi Temple). They functioned as the 'companions of honour' of the Perumal.[2][6] Padai-nayakar or Padai-nair was the commander of the armed forces of the kingdom or a chiefdom.[25] The Hundred or the Nutruvar was the military organisation of each chiefdom (this body had no defined limits of territorial jurisdiction). The Hundred multiple generally indicated the number of households in the nadu that could join the militia.[13] The Shadow or the Nizhal were the personal protection guards of the udaiyavar. They functioned as the 'companions of honour' of the udaiyavar.[2][13] Prakrithi was a body of non-Brahmin or Vellala notables assisting the udaiyavar.[13] The Adhikarar were the temple or royal servants involved in management and collection of dues or a local arbitrator.[13]

Major chieftainciesEdit

Through the analysis of the medieval Kerala inscriptions relating to the Chera Perumal period, scholars have substantiated the existence of several chieftaincies. From north to south, they are as follows: Kolla-desam (or) Kolathu-nadu (proposed name[26]), Purakizha-nadu, Kurumporai-nadu, Erala-nadu, Valluva-nadu,[13] Kizhmalai-nadu (the Eastern Hill Country[27]), Vempala-nadu, Munji-nadu, Nanruzhai-nadu[13] and Venadu or Kupaka (Kollam[26]).[28]

Kolathu-nadu came under the influence of the Perumals during the 11th century and Venadu was probably formed under the influence of the Perumals during the early 9th century.[13][28] The Perumal held direct authority over the country that extended from Palakkad to Vembanad Lake (including Kodungallur in the Periyar Valley).[13] Within this country, the nadus were present as militaristic/revenue units (with members of martial families serving the Perumal king appointed as the Udayaivar).[13]

Chera Perumal genealogyEdit

 
Depiction of "Cherman Perumal" Nayanar in Brihadisvara Temple, Thanjavur

AbhisekanamaEdit

An earlier version of conventional Kerala historiography had believed that the kings of the "Second/Later Chera Empire", or "Kulasekhara Empire" borne the specific abhisekanama "Kulasekhara" (hence "Kulasekhara dynasty").[2][12][13] However, critical research in the late 1960s and early 1970s offered a major corrective to this.[2][12] The theories of a Chera "empire", propounded by the early writers, were rejected.[13]

It was also discovered that the Chera Permal kings did not bear the specific abhisekanama "Kulasekhara".[13]

Chera Perumal genealogyEdit

Corrected by M. G. S. Narayanan (1972) from E. P. N. Kunjan Pillai (1963)[29][30] Recent corrections (2014 and 2020) on Narayanan are also employed.[15][17]

Lists of Chera Perumals
Chera Perumal Regnal years (tentative)

[15][17]

Notes
Sthanu Ravi Kulasekhara 844–870[15]
Rama Rajasekhara 870–883[15]
Vijayaraga 883–895[15]
  • Married the daughter of king Kulasekhara.[34]
  • Married off his two daughters to Chola king Parantaka.[35][36]
Goda Goda 895—905[15][37]
Kerala Kesari
  • Probably identical with king Goda Goda (above)[37]
Goda Ravi 905–943[15][37]
Indu/Indesvaran Goda 943–962[38]
Bhaskara Ravi Manukuladitya 962–1021[17][39]

(or)

959–1025[15]

Ravi Goda[40] 1021—1089[41][42][40]
Rajasimha[40][a]
  • Contemporary to Chola king Rajendra[40]
  • Contemporary to Chola viceroy Jatavarman Sundara Chola-Pandya[40]
  • Probably identical with king Ravi Goda (above)[40]
Raja Raja[42]
  • Contemporary to Chola viceroy Jatavarman Sundara Chola-Pandya.[42]
  • Contemporary to Chola viceroy Maravarman Chola-Pandya.[42]
Ravi Rama[41]
Adityan Kota Ranaditya[41]
Rama Kulasekhara 1089—1122[45]
  1. ^ Both Rajasimha and Raja Raja, from the Pandya inscriptions at Ambasamudram, were categorically identified as Chera Perumals by M. G. S. Narayanan (1972).[43] This was confirmed in a recent book edited by Kesavan Veluthat (2014).[17] The claim is disputed by Daud Ali (2007).[44]

Chera Perumal epigraphic recordsEdit

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b c d Thapar, Romila, The Penguin History of Early India: From the Origins to AD 1300. Penguin Books, 2002. 331-32.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Noburu Karashmia (ed.), A Concise History of South India: Issues and Interpretations. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2014. 143-44.
  3. ^ a b Thapar, Romila, The Penguin History of Early India: From the Origins to AD 1300. Penguin Books, 2002. 326-27.
  4. ^ "Cheraman Parambu - the royal seat of the Cheraman Perumals of Chera dynasty| Historic sites at Muziris Heritage Area, Ernakulam". www.muzirisheritage.org. Retrieved 1 February 2023.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Noburu Karashmia (ed.), A Concise History of South India: Issues and Interpretations. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2014. 143-44.
  6. ^ a b c d e Veluthat, Kesavan. 2004. 'Mahodayapuram-Kodungallur', in South-Indian Horizons, eds Jean-Luc Chevillard, Eva Wilden, and A. Murugaiyan, pp. 471–85. École Française D'Extrême-Orient.
  7. ^ a b c Narayanan, M. G. S. Perumāḷs of Kerala. Thrissur (Kerala): CosmoBooks, 2013. 89-90 and 92-93.
  8. ^ a b Narayanan, M. G. S. Perumāḷs of Kerala. Thrissur (Kerala): CosmoBooks, 2013. 80-81.
  9. ^ a b c d Thapar, Romila, The Penguin History of Early India: From the Origins to AD 1300. Penguin Books, 2002. 364-65.
  10. ^ Thapar, Romila, The Penguin History of Early India: From the Origins to AD 1300. Penguin Books, 2002. 382-83.
  11. ^ Thapar, Romila, The Penguin History of Early India: From the Origins to AD 1300. Penguin Books, 2002. 379-80.
  12. ^ a b c d e Veluthat, Kesavan. "History and Historiography in Constituting a Region: The Case of Kerala." Studies in People's History, vol. 5, no. 1, June 2018, pp. 13–31.
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v Ganesh, K. N. (2009). Historical Geography of Natu in South India with Special Reference to Kerala. Indian Historical Review, 36(1), 3–21.
  14. ^ a b Freeman, Rich (2003), 'Genre and Society', in Literary Cultures in History, ed., Sheldon Pollock. Berkeleyand Los Angeles: University of California Press. 444-445.
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h i Devadevan, Manu V. (2020). "Changes in Land Relations and the Changing Fortunes of the Cēra State". The 'Early Medieval' Origins of India. Cambridge University Press. p. 150. ISBN 9781108494571.
  16. ^ a b Narayanan, M. G. S. 2002. 'The State in the Era of the Ceraman Perumals of Kerala', in State and Society in Premodern South India, eds R. Champakalakshmi, Kesavan Veluthat, and T. R. Venugopalan, pp. 111–119. Thrissur, CosmoBooks.
  17. ^ a b c d e 'Changes in Land Relations during the Decline of the Cera State,' In Kesavan Veluthat and Donald R. Davis Jr. (eds), Irreverent History: Essays for M.G.S. Narayanan, Primus Books, New Delhi, 2014.
  18. ^ Gurukkal, Rajan. "Classical Indo-Roman Trade: A Historiographical Reconsideration." Indian Historical Review, vol. 40, no. 2, Dec. 2013, pp. 181–206.
  19. ^ a b Thapar, Romila, The Penguin History of Early India: From the Origins to AD 1300. Penguin Books, 2002. 368-69.
  20. ^ "The Rajputs". Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved 10 July 2020.
  21. ^ a b Noburu Karashmia (ed.), A Concise History of South India: Issues and Interpretations. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2014. 136-37.
  22. ^ Noburu Karashmia (ed.), A Concise History of South India: Issues and Interpretations. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2014. 161-62.
  23. ^ Thapar, Romila, The Penguin History of Early India: From the Origins to AD 1300. Penguin Books, 2002. 368.
  24. ^ Noburu Karashmia (ed.), A Concise History of South India: Issues and Interpretations. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2014. 124-25.
  25. ^ a b Narayanan, M. G. S. Perumāḷs of Kerala. Thrissur (Kerala): CosmoBooks, 2013. 161-63.
  26. ^ a b Narayanan, M. G. S. Perumāḷs of Kerala. Thrissur (Kerala): CosmoBooks, 2013. 118-119.
  27. ^ Narayanan, M. G. S. Perumāḷs of Kerala. Thrissur (Kerala): CosmoBooks, 2013. 189-90.
  28. ^ a b Narayanan, M. G. S. Perumāḷs of Kerala. Thrissur (Kerala): CosmoBooks, 2013. 234-36.
  29. ^ Narayanan, M. G. S. Perumāḷs of Kerala. Thrissur (Kerala): CosmoBooks, 2013. 64-73.
  30. ^ Pillai Elamkulam, P. N. Kunhan. Cila Keralacaritra Prasnangal, (Kottayam, 1955 Second Ed. 1963), pp. 152-4.
  31. ^ Narayanan, M. G. S. Perumāḷs of Kerala. Thrissur (Kerala): CosmoBooks, 2013. 79-80.
  32. ^ a b Noburu Karashmia (ed.), A Concise History of South India: Issues and Interpretations. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2014. 143.
  33. ^ Veluthat, Kesavan. "The Temple and the State in Medieval South India." Studies in People's History, vol. 4, no. 1, June 2017, pp. 15–23.
  34. ^ Narayanan, M. G. S. Perumāḷs of Kerala. Thrissur (Kerala): CosmoBooks, 2013. 437-438.
  35. ^ Narayanan, M. G. S. Perumāḷs of Kerala. Thrissur (Kerala): CosmoBooks, 2013. 442-43.
  36. ^ George Spencer, 'Ties that Bound: Royal Marriage Alliance in the Chola Period', Proceedings of the Fourth International Symposium on Asian Studies (Hong Kong: Asian Research Service, 1982), 723.
  37. ^ a b c Narayanan, M. G. S. Perumāḷs of Kerala. Thrissur (Kerala): CosmoBooks, 2013. 65-67.
  38. ^ Narayanan, M. G. S. Perumāḷs of Kerala. Thrissur (Kerala): CosmoBooks, 2013. 67-68.
  39. ^ a b Narayanan, M. G. S. Perumāḷs of Kerala. Thrissur (Kerala): CosmoBooks, 2013. 68-69.
  40. ^ a b c d e f g Narayanan, M. G. S. Perumāḷs of Kerala. Thrissur (Kerala): CosmoBooks, 2013. 461-62.
  41. ^ a b c Narayanan, M. G. S. Perumāḷs of Kerala. Thrissur (Kerala): CosmoBooks, 2013. 72-73 and 466-67.
  42. ^ a b c d Narayanan, M. G. S. Perumāḷs of Kerala. Thrissur (Kerala): CosmoBooks, 2013. 71-72 and 464-66.
  43. ^ Narayanan, M. G. S. Perumāḷs of Kerala. Thrissur (Kerala): CosmoBooks, 2013. 70-72.
  44. ^ Ali, Daud. "The Service Retinues of the Chola Court: A Study of the Term Veḷam in Tamil Inscriptions." Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, vol. 70, no. 3, 2007, pp. 487–509.
  45. ^ a b Narayanan, M. G. S. Perumāḷs of Kerala. Thrissur (Kerala): CosmoBooks, 2013. 73-74 and 467-70.
  46. ^ Narayanan, M. G. S. Perumāḷs of Kerala. Thrissur (Kerala): CosmoBooks, 2013. 470.