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Chera territoriesa.png
Chera territories
Official language Tamil
Capitals Kizhanthur-Kandallur (Vanchi Muthur, Kodungallur)
Government Monarchy
Preceding state Unknown

Pandya kingdom mentioned in the Mahabharatha (around 1500 BC) could be the early Villavar kingdom preceding the Chera (Villavar) kingdom. The Pandya king was called Sarangha Dwaja (Bow flagged king) in Mahabharatham. The ancient Pandya kingdom included the presentday Kerala Tamil Nadu and Gokarna in Karnataka. The Alupas, the Pandyan kingdom and the Chera Kingdom could be succeeding Villavar-Meenavar kingdoms.

Succeeding states Gangas, Zamorins, Kochi, Travancore, Hoysala, Vijayanagara
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The Chera Dynasty (Tamil: சேரர்) was a Dravidian Tamil dynasty that ruled in southern India from before the Sangam era (300 BC - AD 250) until the twelfth century AD. Kalitokai, a Sangha work describes Cheras as Villavar people. Tamil literature calls the Chera king Villavar Kon, the king of Villavar (hunter) tribe. Chera Flag had bow and arrow the insignia of Villavar people. The early Cheras ruled Kerala, Kongu Nadu, Salem, Dharmapuri and probably the Southern Nagapattanam and Thiruvarur districts consequent to the marriage of the Second king of the First Chera Dynasty from the Royal family of Cholas. Their capital was Vanchi Muthur. Since they were a hill tribe, their ancient capital could not be on the plains or on the coast. Karur is on the plains and Kodungallur is on the sea coast. These places cannot be considered as their ancient capital, Vanchi Muthur. Their ancient capital Vanchi Muthur is in Kanthallur-Kizhanthur region of Idukki District of Kerala.[1] They moved their administrative capital to Karur (Karur Vanchi) in second century, until the first dynasty perished in 3rd Century AD.[1] The second dynasty ruled from out skirts of Muziris on the banks of River Periyar [2] from 9th century CE.

The other two major Tamil dynasties were the Cholas in the eastern Coromandel Coast and Pandyas in the South Central Peninsula. Chera rulers engaged in frequent warfare with the Pandyas and Cholas. Throughout the reign of the Cheras, trade continued to bring prosperity to the then Tamil Country (part of which was modern-day Kerala), with spices, ivory, timber, pearls and gems being exported to Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, Rome, Phoenicia and Arabia. Evidence of extensive foreign trade from the ancient period is available throughout the Malabar Coast, from the Greek, Roman and Arabic coins unearthed from Kollam, Kodungallur, Eyyal (near Thrissur) etc in Kerala. Muziris has been referenced by ancient writers, such as the author of the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea to be an inland port probably near Kodungallur. Sangam Chera coins are found in Pattanam, near Kodungallur in Kerala, Karur, Namakkal, Erode and Coimbatore regions of modern-day Tamil Nadu.

While Cheras had their own religion worshiping 'Kottave', the mother goddess, who was later on assimilated into the present day (Hinduism) in the form of Devi. Other religious traditions like Jainism and Buddhism came to this area during the period of the Chera Kings. The Chera dynasty was revived in 800 CE with the installation of Kulasekharas who probably ruled from Kodungallur. They were Hindus and ruled under the direction of Brahmins. Brahmin Community of Kerala consisted of 32 settlements and they were represented by four settlements in the court of the Chera King. These representative sttlements were called Kazhakams. Each Kazhakam had two representatives each in the Kings Council. They were called Taliyathiris. This dynasty perished in 1102 CE when the Chola King ransacked the Chera Capital. The last Kulasekahara, namely Rama Kulasekahara moved to Kollam and ruled from there. He was finally successful in driving away the Cholas, but could not regain power due to the enmity he earned from the Brahmins. His kingdom was confined to the South of Kerala and was called Venad. The Travancore dynasty originated from the remnants of the Second Chera Dynasy.



In Sangam Tamil lexicon the word Chera means hill country in contrast with the Pandya meaning old country, Chola meaning new country and Pallava meaning branch in Sanskrit. The Chera, Chola and Pandya are traditional Tamil siblings and descendants of the Kings of ancient Tamilakam.

The word Khera is derived from the word Cheral meaning declivity of a hill or a mountain slope in classical Tamil[3]. This is supported by the fact that the Chera Kings were called Chera-alatan which means Lord of the Slopes in classical Tamil[4]. Kera means Coconut in Sanskrit. Kerala was called Coconut country (Kera Alam) by the Aryans. It is plausible to say that Kera was derived from Chera because Chera kings never called themselves Kera kings in the Sangam age.Sangam Literature never used the word Keralam, but Ashoka's edicts mentioned Keralaputra (inaccurate!, but 'Kelalaputho') in 261 BC. Pliny who probably visited Kerala in the first century AD in his Natural History (Pliny) called Cerobothra[5].


The earliest Tamil literary works, such as the Kalittokai, mention a continent called Kumari Nadu or Kumari Kandam, which was believed to have been located to the South of the present-day Kanyakumari tens of thousands of years ago, between the then Kumari and Pahruli rivers. Pandyan kings such as Chenkon, and the Cheras supposedly ruled this country, tens of thousands of years ago. They fought and defeated the Nāgas, who might have been a non-Dravidian people, or another species of living beings. Kalittokai again mentions a war between the combined forces of Villavars and the Meenavars (the Cheras and the Pandyas respectively), who fought a fierce war against the Nāgas their arch-enemies, eventually losing the war, and subsequently Central India to the Nagas. Bhil Meena of North India could be the equivalent rulers in North India.

Also, the Cheras, along with the Pandyas and the Cholas, find mention as one of the three ruling dynasties of the Southern region of the then Bharatavarsha, in the very ancient Hindu epic of the Ramayana.[6][7] They are also mentioned in the Aitareya Aranyaka, and the Mahabharata, where they (along with the Pandyas and the Cholas) are believed to have been on the side of the Pandavas in the Great War.[1][8][9][10]

Again in other early Tamil literature the great Chera rulers are referred to as Cheral, Kuttuvan, Irumporai, Kollipurai and Athan. Chera rulers were also called Kothai or Makothai. The nobility among the Cheras were called Cheraman in general. The word Kerala, of possible Prakrit origins, does not appear in Sangam Literature. Ashoka's edicts mention an independent dynasty known by the name Kedalaputho, who were outside Ashoka's empire.

The unknown author of Periplus of the Erythraean Sea mentions Chera as Cerobothra ("Keralaputhra") whose capital is Karur, while Pliny, the Roman historian of the first century, calls it Caelobothras. It is believed that religiously the Cheras were Shaivites.[11] Some kings of the dynasty referred to themselves as Vanavaramban, Imayavaramban etc.[12]

Sangam Cheras

The only source available for us regarding the early Chera Kings is the anthologies of the Sangam literature. Scholars now generally agree that this literature belongs to the first few centuries AD.[13] The internal chronology of this literature is still far from settled. The Sangam literature is full of names of the kings and the princes, and of the poets who extolled them. Despite a rich literature that depicts the life and work of these people, these are not worked into connected history so far. Their capital is stated to be modern Karur in Tamil Nadu.

Pathirruppaththu, the fourth book in the Ettuthokai anthology mentions a number of Kings of the Chera dynasty. Each King is praised in ten songs sung by the Court Poet and the Kings are in the following order:

  1. Nedum Cheralathan
  2. Palyane Chel Kezhu Kuttuvan
  3. Kalankai Kanni Narmudi Cheral
  4. Chenkuttuvan Cheran (Kadal Pirakottiya Vel Kezhu Kuttuvan)
  5. Attu Kottu Pattu Cheralathan
  6. Chelva Kadunko Azhi Athan
  7. Thakadur Erintha Perum Cheral Irumporai
  8. Kudako Ilam Cheral Irumporai.

The first recorded King was the son of Uthiyan Cheralathan and Veliyan Nallini. The third, fourth and fifth kings were sons of Nedum Cheralathan, while the mother of fourth King (also known as Chenkuttuvan) was Chola Princess Manikilli. Chelva Kadunko Vazhiyathan was the son of Anthuvan Cheral Irumporai and Porayan Perumthevi. Perum Cheral Irumporai was the son of Vazhiyathan and Ilam Cheral Irumporai was the son of a Chera ruler Kuttuvan Irumporai (son of Mantharan Cheral Irumporai).[citation needed]

Archaeology has also found epigraphic evidence regarding these early Cheras of recorded history.[14] Some inscriptions trace the Chera Dynasty from Puranic Kings of Chandraditya Dynasty, meaning that they descended from both the Solar and Lunar Races. The most important of these is the Pugalur (Aranattarmalai) inscription. This inscription refers to three generations of Chera Rulers, namely Adam Cheral Irrumporai, his son Perumkadungo, and his son Ilamkadungo. The charter was issued when Perumkadungo was the Ruler Monarch and Ilamkadungo was appointed Prince. Athan refers only to a crowned King of the Chera Dynasty who accepted this title at the time of coronation. Athan Cheral Irumporai was the son of Perum Cheral Irumporai. It therefore follows that Perumkadungo was the son of a crowned King of the Chera Dynasty. Perum Kadunko means that he was the Senior Ko (Senior ruler) of Kadunadu, located in the Tamil Nadu side of the Sahya Mountains. Athan Cheral Irumporai was probably the last crowned king of the first dynasty.

'Purananuru' refers to a certain Udiyan Cheral. It is said that he fed the rival armies during the war of Mahabharata. Imayavaramban Neduncheralathan, another Sangam Age King claimed to have conquered Bharatavarsha up to the Himalayas and to have inscribed his emblem on the face of the mountains. Senguttuvan was another famous Chera, whose contemporary Gajabahu I of Sri Lanka of Lanka according to Mahavamsa visited the Chera country.[15]

The early Cheras controlled a large territory of the Kongu region. Senguttuvan won a war against Kongar or Ganga people Western Ganga Dynastyand chased them away. They also ruled the Kodunthamizh regions of Travancore (Venadu) and the Malabar (Kuttanadu) West Coast through vassals. They were in contact with the Satavahanas in the north and with the Romans and Greeks.[16] Trade flourished overseas and there was a considerable exchange of gold and coins, as seen by archaeological evidence and literature. The Romans brought vast amounts of gold in exchange of 'Kari' (Pepper) from Malainadu.[17]

Bhakti era Cheras

Little is known about the Cheras between c. third century AD and the eight century AD. An obscure dynasty, the Kalabhras, invaded the Tamil country, displaced the existing kingdoms and ruled for around three centuries. They were displaced by the Pallavas and the Pandyas in the sixth century AD. A Pandya Ruler, Arikesari Parankusa Maravarman (c.730 – 765AD), mentioned in a number of Pandya copper-plate inscriptions, was a prominent ruler during this period. He claims to have defeated a prominent Chera King. The name of the Chera King is not known, however from the details of the battles between the Pandya and the Chera, the Chera territory ceded seems to have included the entire Malabar and Travancore (Kuttanadu and Venadu) and the Southern Pandya country from Kanyakumari to Thirunelveli, the seat of the Cheras being in Karur Kongu Nadu. The Chera kings took the title of Perumal during this period and patronised the Vaishnavite sect. Kulasekara Alwar who ruled in the 8th century became a devotional Vaishnavite poet. Pallavas also mention in their inscriptions their battles with the Cheras. Pulakesin II, in his Aihole inscription mentioned " Pulikesin II, driving the Pallava behind the forts of Kanchi, reached as far south as the Kaveri river, and there caused prosperity to the Chola, Chera and Pandya".[18]

During the reign of Pandya Parantaka Nedumjadaiyan (765 – 790), the Cheras were still in Karur and were a close ally of the Pallavas. Pallavamalla Nadivarman defeated the Pandya Varaguna with the help of a Chera king. Cultural contacts between the Pallava court and the Chera country were common.[19] The Saivite saint Cheraman Perumal and the other is the Vaishnavite saint Kulasekhara, were famous in the Hindu religious movements. Kulasekhara became one of the celebrated Alvars and his poems came to be called the Perumal Thirumozhi. Cheraman Perumal ruled around the eighth and the ninth centuries. In this Kulasekhara calls himself Kongar Kon (the king of the Kongu people) hailing from Kollinagar (Karur). Though Kongar were defeated by Cheran Senguttuvan in the second century AD, the Kongu region had been occupied by the Kongars of Karnataka Western Ganga Dynasty around 470 AD. The title Kongar Kon indicates Kulasekhara had subjugated and regained Kongu region from the Western Ganga Dynasty around 800 AD. The other titles of Kulasekhara mentioned in the Periyar Thirumozhi are Villavar Kon, Malayar Kon, Kollikkavalan, Koikkon and Koodal Nayagan.[20] Adi Shankara was his contemporary. Kongumandala Satakam also says that Cheraman Perumal went to Kayilai with Sundarar from Kongu Nadu.


  1. ^ a b c
  2. ^ (Ancient name, Chully ref: Akam. 149)
  3. ^ A Survey of Kerala History by A. Sreedhara Menon - Kerala (India) - 1967
  4. ^ The Chronology of the Early Tamils - Based on the Synchronistic Tables of Their Kings, Chieftains and Poets Appearing in the Sangam Literature By Sivaraja Pillai
  5. ^ Cerobothra
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ P. 104 Indian Anthropologist: Journal of the Indian Anthropological Association By Indian Anthropological Association
  12. ^ P. 15 The Ācārya, Śaṅkara of Kāladī: A Story By Savita R. Bhave, M. G. Gyaltsan, Muṣṭafá Amīn, 1933- Madugula, I S Madugula
  13. ^ The age of Sangam is established through the correlation between the evidence on foreign trade found in the poems and the writings by ancient Greek and Romans such as Periplus of the Erythrian Sea. See Nilakanta Sastri, K.A., History of South India, pp 106
  14. ^ See report in Frontline, June/July 2003
  15. ^ See Mahavamsa – Since Senguttuvan (Kadal pirakottiya Vel Kezhu Kuttuvan) was a contemporary of Gajabahu I of Sri Lanka he was the Chera King during 170-185 AD.
  16. ^ These foreigners were called Yavana in the ancient times
  17. ^ [1]
  18. ^ See Verse 31 Aihole Inscription of Pulakesi II -
  19. ^ See A History of South India – pp 146 – 147
  20. ^ [2]


Simple English

Chera dynasty
சேரர் / േചര

Chera territories
Official languages Tamil
Capitals Vanchi Muthur
Government Monarchy
Preceding state Unknown
Succeeding states Zamorins, Kochi, Travancore, Hoysala, Vijayanagara

The Chera dynasty (Tamil: சேரர் Malayalam: േചര ) was one of the ancient Tamil dynasties who ruled the southern India from ancient times until around the fifteenth century CE. The Early Cheras ruled over the Malabar Coast, Coimbatore, Karur and Salem Districts in South India, which now forms part of the modern day Kerala and Tamil Nadu states of India.

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