Senguttavan Chera, literally the Good Chera, identified with Katal Pirakottiya Vel Kezhu Kuttuvan, (c. 2nd century CE) was the most celebrated ruler of the Chera dynasty in early historic south India.
|Reign||c. 2nd century CE|
|Mother||Uraiyur Chola Nalconai|
The kuttuvan is eulogized by Paranar in the fifth decad of Patitrupattu of the Ettutokai anthology (early Tamil texts). The kuttuvan successfully intervened in a succession dispute in the Chola country and established his relative on the Chola throne. The Kadambas ― helped by the Yavanas (perhaps Greek or Roman mariners) ―attacked the kuttuvan by sea, but the Cera ruler destroyed their fleet. He is said to have defeated the Kongu people and a warrior called Mokur Mannan. Under his reign, the Cera territory extended from Kollimalai near Karur Vanci in the east to Tondi and Mantai on the western coast (Kerala).
Military achievements of Senguttavan are described, albeit in an exaggerated manner, in the medieval Tamil epic poem Cilappatikaram. A method, known as Gajabahu Synchronism/Triple Synchronism, based on text proper, canto 30:160 of the epic, is used by scholars to date Chenkuttavan Chera to c. 2nd century CE.
Life and careerEdit
Early Tamil textsEdit
The kuttuvan is eulogized by Paranar in the fifth decad of Patitrupattu of the Ettutokai anthology. Purananuru 343 refers to the hill products and sea products, mainly pearls, of Cenkuttuvan and to the Yavana gold that reached ashore by boats, in exchange.
The kuttuvan's mastery over the sea might have led to the often used title Katal Pirakottiya, which translates as "One who Lagged the Sea Behind". Paranar praised the kuttuvan for his naval powers -
"Kuttuvan not finding an enemy worthy to fight with became angry, with martial might besieged the sea and with magnificent spear drove back the sea whose wave rose high".
Paranar also praised kuttuvan's military prowess -
"Kuttuvan of the gold garland, whose army destroyed the beauty of many lands, till the noise rose loud of the drums used in numerous battles with the monarchs of the country between Kumari (Cape Comorin) on the south and Himalayas, the mountain that rises high as the northern boundary."
- Kuttuvan was the son of the Cera ruler Netum Ceralatan and Nalconai (of the Colas of Uraiyur). The wife of Cenkuttuvan was Illanko Venmal (the daughter of a Velir chief).
- Cenkuttuvan ruled the Cera country for 55 years (Patitrupattu).
- Warriors of the Kuttuvan used bull-hide shields to protect themselves from the enemy darts (Patitrupattu, 45).
- Kuttuvan successfully intervened in a succession dispute in the Cola territory and established his relative (brother-in-law) Killi on the Cola throne. The rivals of Killi were defeated in the battle of Nerivayil, Uraiyur (leading to the death of nine other contenders to the throne).
- The Kadambas are described as the arch enemies of the kuttuvan. The kuttuvan was able to defeat them in the battle of Idumbil, Valayur (Viyalur). The "fort" of Kotukur in which the Kadamba warriors took shelter was stormed. Later the Kadambas (helped by the Yavanas) attacked kuttuvan by sea, but the Cera ruler destroyed their fleet.
- Kuttuvan defeated the Kongu people (Cilappatikaram, XXV, 152-53). Kuttuvan defeated a warrior called Pazhaiyan Mokur Mannan (one of the Cera's allies was Arukai, an enemy of the Mokurs) (Patitrupattu, 44 and 49).
- The patikam to Patitrupattu, decad V mentions Ilanko Atikal and the expedition of Cenkuttuvan to north India to bring a stone from which to carve the Pattini idol (scholars are of the opinion that the patikam is a later interpolation to the text)
Senguttavan Chera in SilappatikaramEdit
Authorship of Silappatikaram is traditionally ascribed to prince Ilanko Atikal (literally the Junior Prince), who appears in the work as the younger brother of Cenkuttuvan Cera. The third part of Silappatikaram (the Vanci Kantham) deals with Cenkuttuvan's expedition to bring the virakkallu from the Himalayas for an idol of Kannaki/Pattini.
According to the patikam of Silappatikaram, the royal astrologer at the court of Cera king predicted that (the younger prince) Ilanko would succeed the king, which angered the elder prince Senguttavan. Ilanko at once chose to renounce his claims to the throne and live a life of an Jain ascetic. He shifted to a monastery on the outskirts of Vanci, where he composed epic Silappatikaram.
Chera king Senguttuvan's wife Illango Venmal was moved by Kannagi's tragic story and wanted her to be worshipped as a goddess of chastity. Senguttuvan agreed and asked his court at Vanji for advice, which suggested to carve out a stone block from the Himalayas for the virakkallu. The king then ordered the march to the Himalayas by the royal sword and umbrella pointing northwards.
Senguttuvan first moved to the Nilgiris mountains of Odisha by sea, where he was welcomed by Sanjcharya, a general of Magadha. Sanjcharya informed Senguttuvan, that he was sent by Nuruvar Kannar to inquire about the needs of the Chera king for the campaign to the Himalayas. Senguttuvan responded, that he needed ships to travel through the River Ganges. With Sanjcharya's ships the army sailed to Magadha, where they were received by the Magadha king. The expedition ended at Uttarai, where the Arya princes led by Kanaka, Vijaya and allied princes Uttara, Vichitra, Rudra, Bhairava, Chitra Singha, Dhanuttara and Sveta encountered the forces of Senguttuvan with a huge army. After a long battle, the Arya alliance was defeated. Kanaka and Vijaya were caught and brought back to Magadha, where Senguttuvan honoured the warriors of the battle. Two-and-half months after his departure Senguttuvan victoriously returned to Vanchi, where the temple for Kannagi (Pattini) was consecrated with the virakkallu from the Himalayas.
Dating Senguttavan CheraEdit
- According to Silappatikaram (text proper, canto 30:160), severals neighbouring kings were invited by Cenkuttuvan to the installation of Kannaki-Pattini at Vanci.
- Kayavaku,the king of Lanka is identified with Gajabahu I, king of Sri Lanka (r. c. 171/73 - 193 CE). In this context, Cenkuttuvan can be dated to either the first or last quarter of the 2nd century CE.
- Despite its dependency on numerous conjectures, the method is considered as the sheet anchor for the purpose of dating the events in the early historic Tamil texts.
- Subbarayalu, Y. 2014. 'Early Tamil Polity', in A Concise History of South India: Issues and Interpretations. ed. Noburu Karashima, pp. 50–51. New Delhi: Oxford University Press.
- K.G. Sesha Aiyar, Chera Kings of the Sangam Period, London, 1937. 21-23.
- "Classical Indo-Roman Trade". Economic and Political Weekly. 48 (26–27). 5 June 2015.
- Zvelebil, Kamil. ''The Smile of Murugan: On Tamil Literature of South India''. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1973. 52–53.
- Menon 1967. sfn error: no target: CITEREFMenon1967 (help)
- Menon 2007, pp. 67–68. sfn error: no target: CITEREFMenon2007 (help)
- Shulman, David (2016). Tamil: A Biography. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. pp. 99–101.
- Menon, A. Sreedhara (1987). Kerala History and its Makers. Kottayam: DC books. pp. 24–25.
- Zvelebil, Kamil V., Companion Studies to the History of Tamil Literature, Leiden, 1992. 110-111.
- "Silappathikaram | Tamil epic poem by Adikal". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 4 February 2020.
- "Silappathikaram | Tamil epic poem by Adikal". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 16 November 2018.
- Zvelebil 1973, pp. 37–39: The opinion that the Gajabahu Synchronism is an expression of genuine historical tradition is accepted by most scholars today sfn error: no target: CITEREFZvelebil1973 (help)
- Zvelebil 1973, p. 38. sfn error: no target: CITEREFZvelebil1973 (help)