Parashurama Kshetra Part 5

Live and let live, Kerala Style

Lord Parashurama may or may not have intended, when he threw his legendary axe and created India’s Arabian Sea-coast west of the Sahyadri Mountains, that his Kshetra would forever be open and susceptible to winds of change. Indeed any person, who has studied the colourful history of the region, cannot be faulted for assuming that that was in fact his intention. Like the Khyber and Bolan passes in our Northwestern Mountains, the waves of the Arabian Sea have been beckoning the stranger throughout history. The recent sad advent of the 26/11 terrorist group landing in Mumbai without much of a problem, while backed by a motive very different from trade or honest war with the people of the land, illustrates the openness and susceptibility dramatically. But we are wandering from the subject and the context.


When Kulasekharavarman and Rajasekharavarman were trying to consolidate the Chera kingdom and the Kerala way of living of their subjects, they were in a kind of equilibrium on which other forces were exerting their pull. The relative strengthening of the Pandyas beyond the Aryankavu Pass or of the Chozhas beyond the Kollam Pass had to be carefully kept in mind as well as sudden adventures from the border with Kongu land. But more sinister was the covetous eye of the strangers who sailed the Arabian waters and arrived, who did not speak your tongue but loved your spices and incense, your pearls and other produce. Often a trade relationship never went beyond that, but the possibility of the land itself going into foreign hands always existed. Kerala survived for centuries, engaging its guests warily and hospitably and resisting more committing bonds. Right from the beginning of the Christian era and possibly even before that, middle-eastern travellers found their way here and the traders went back with precious spices and gems. Several stayed back, a few adapting fully to Keralite mores, but others retaining strong vestiges of their religious and cultural moorings from where they came. Thus you find in Kerala some of the oldest forms of Zionism and Christianity that can be found the world over. Arabs and Persians too were visitors even before the advent of Islam and continued to arrive with the Moslem tag.

There is a claim that Rajasekharavarman cultivated the friendship of an Arab sultan and actually married his daughter as well. The Tamil poet and novelist Kannadasan has woven a novel round this romantic fantasy. The story also asserts that he made a number of trips to Arabia and was personally converted to Islam by the Prophet himself. A mosque in Kodungallur is believed to be in honour of the queen. The entire set of beliefs has been refuted by some recent researchers, who point out that the king’s reign in Kodungallur was in the ninth century, at least two hundred years after the time of the founder Prophet of Islam.

Was Rajasekhara’s long absence from Kodungallur towards the final years of his reign consistent with a) his visits to Saivaite pilgrimage centres in Pandyanadu and Chozhanadu , culminating with the final visit to Kailasa itself, b) possible acceptance of the hand of a Pandyan princess at Pandalam and settling there as its ruler and becoming responsible for the Ayyappa puranic lore or c) visits to Arabia including possibly winning the hand of an Arab Princess, whether we take or leave the conversion story ? It is difficult to decide.

There is a reference to gifts from tribal chieftains, of a variety of things that included mountain goats of a particular species to the much older Chera King Chenguttuvan, in the Tamil epic Silappadikaaram. The mountain goat, identifiable as the Nilgiri Tahr, available strictly in slopes of a particular height and temperature range in the Anamalai-Nilgiri stretch of the Western ghats, is highly endangered. Only a little less than a thousand are available according to a recent count. The Himalayan Tahr, indigenous to lower Himalayan slopes especially in the North-eastern side, shares some of its characteristics, but surprisingly a mountain goat found in the hilly regions of the Arabian peninsula resembles the western Indian variety more than it does the Himalayan one. Any guesses? Were some ancestors of these goats among the presents made to Saudi Arabia by Cheran kings?

Let us now turn ‘inwards’ and look at instances of camaraderie between Chera rulers and other Tamil kings, primarily Chozhas. The first among the Chozhas who came into prominence after Rajasekhara’s time was the king Vijayalaya Chozha {A.D.848-881}, who ruled his kingdom from Thanjavur. It appears that the Chera kings of his period and later had very friendly relations with the Chozha country. Sthanu Ravi and his daughter were both of Saivite faith. They maintained excellent relations with the Chozha royalty and made liberal endowments to the Siva temples in the Chozha country.

In the year A.D.849 during the rule of the Chera king Sthanu Ravi, the villagers of the Chalukkipparu in Kerala gifted a village named Sattanur in the Thondainadu to the temple of Siva named as Tiruayanisuramudaiya Nayanar.

The Chera Queen Kizhaanadigal provided gold for making a lamp at the temple of Thiruvannamalai in Thondaimanadu (adjacent to Chozha country) in the year A.D..851. The Chera king (Ko)Kandan Ravi alias Sthanu Ravi also gifted land for lighting the lamps at the temple of Iswara at Kuttalam in Pandiyanadu in the year in the year A.D.870.

In the year A.D.881 when Vijayalaya Chozha passed away, his son Aditha Chozha {A.D.871-907} succeeded to the Chozha throne. He had been a co-regent of Vijayalaya from A.D.871. Aditha Chozha waged war on Kongunadu assisted by the Chera king Sthanu Ravi, and captured it from the Pandiyan king. A general named Vikki Annan, the chieftain of Kodumbalur was greatly instrumental in winning this war by the Chozhas, and was rewarded jointly by the Chozha & Chera kings with a crown, palace, elephants, royal palanquin, drum and the given the title “Sembiyan Tamizh Vel”.
Towards the middle of Aditha Chola’s rule the Chera king Sthanu Ravi died and was followed by Rama Varma Kulasekara{A. D.885-917} on the Chera throne. During this time the Pandiya king Paranthaka Vira Narayanan (A.D.860-
905) married a Chera Princes named Vanavan MaDevi, and to them was born the Pandiyan king named Rajasimhan-2 (A.D.900-920) .

Aditha Chozha was succeeded by his son Paranthaka Chozha in A.D.907 and the latter ruled up to AD 953). He married Udaiya Pirattiyar Kokkizhaan Adigal daughter of the Chera king Rama Varma of Kulasekara dynasty. He also married the daughter of another Chera king Pazhuvettaraiyar Kandan Amuthan named Arumoli Nangai ruling from west Pazhuvur of the present Tirutchirappalli in Tamil Nadu bordering Kerala. Still another of his queens was Villavan MaDevi probably the daughter of the Venad King of the Chera country, who refer themselves as “Villavar’. Paranthaka Chozha-1 had an elder son by Kokizhaanadigal named Rajadithya, a second son by the name Kandaraditha and a younger son by Arulmoli Nangai named Arinjayan. A native of Nandikkaraiputtur of Kerala Country named Velankumaran was the general of the Chozha Prince Rajadithya. This Prince was unfortunate to die very young, while engaging in a war with Thondainadu.

When Paranthaka Chozha attempted annexing Pandiyanadu and waged war with the Pandiya king Rajasimhan-2, the Chera king Rama Varma Kulasekara assisted Paranthaka. Rajasimhan-2 was defeated and went to Lanka, and with the
assistance of the king of Lanka fought back with Paranthaka and his allies namely the Pallavas and the Chera king Rama Varma at Thirupurambiyam. But he was defeated again and had to take refuge in Lanka. After the tumult had died down, he returned to Cheranadu and remained as a guest of his royal mother Vanavan Madevi.

The matrimonial alliances of Paranthaka Chozha with the foremost among the royal families of Kerala country paved way for the friendly relations that existed between these two kingdoms to increase manifold. During this period there seems to have been a massive inflow of a number of people from Chera country to the Chozhla
country, some of whom even worked for the Chola king.

Kokkizhaan Adigal daughter of this Chera king (and the queen of Paranthaka Chola) is known to have provided gold for expenses for lightinglamps at the temple at Lalgudi in Chozhanadu in the year A.D.923.

In this same year of A.D.923 Alala-arisilar Kumaran, a native of Kodungollur also gifted gold for a lamp-stand at the temple of Thirunallakundram in Kudumiyanmalai in Chozhanadu. Yet another native also from Kodungollur
gifted gold for a lamp to the same temple. In the year A.D.926 Queen Kokkizhaan Adigal provided gold for lighting lamps at the temple at Thiruvidaimaruthur in Thanjavur. She also ordered the construction of a stone temple named Thiruththondiswaram at Thirunavalur in Chozha country. During her time a tank was constructed near Tribhuvani (near present Pondicherry), then a part of Chozha region, and named after her as Kokkizhaanadi- pereri. There was a Chera noble known around these times as Kerala Kurumban, who was conferred a high office in the Chozha kingdom by Paranthaka Chozha . He was given the title Parakesari Mevenda Velar and his wife made gifts to the the temple at Tiruvottriyur in the year A.D.927. In the year A.D 936 Ravi Nili, the daughter of Chera king Vijayaragadevar (who was the son-in Law of the earlier Chera king Sthanu Ravi) provided thirty kalanju of gold for providing alamp to the Mahadeva at the temple of Thiruvottriyur in Thondainadu. Another native of Kodungollur (Mahodayapuram) donated a lamp to the temple at Thiruchanur in Thondaimandalam in 936 AD.

In the year A.D.943, the Kerala general Velankumaran of Prince Rajadithya (eldest son of Paranthaka Chozha) built a stone temple to Arruttali Mahadeva at Mudiyur on the Pennar River in Thondaimandalam. Sheep for maintaining the lighting of the lamps (through ghee) were given to the temple at Thirumalpuram in Thondainadu by Puvan Maran a native of Nediyatali of Kodungollur in the year A.D.948. Another native of Kodungolur in Malainadu donated lands to Vishnu at the Thiruvenkadu temple in Thanjavur A.D.952.

Towards the last three decades of Paranthaka’s rule, the Chera king Rama Varma had passed away and his son Kothai Ravi Varma{A.D.917- 947} ascended the Chera throne at Mahodayapuram. After thirty years of rule Kothai Ravi Varma was followed by Indukotha Varma{A.D. 944-962}.

After Paranthaka-1, his second son of Kandaraditha Chozha (A.D.950-957) ascended the Chozha throne after being a co-regent with Paranthaka Chozha from A.D.953. Though he was formally the all powerful Chozha king his thoughts were always around God Siva and about leading an austere religious life. He inspired the composition of the famous religious hymns in Tamil known as “Thiruvisaippa” which have been included in the ninth Thirumurai of Thevaram.) He was followed by Arinjaya Chozha (A.D.956-957) who married the daughter of the Chera king Indukothai Ravi Varma, named Athithan Kothai Piratiyar.

With the premature death of Arinjaya Chola his son Sundara Chozha ascended the Chozha throne. One of his wives was Paranthakan Deviammanar, a daughter of a Chera king, and to this couple was born the great Chola king RajaRaja-1.

During this period the Chera king Indukotha Varma was succeeded by Bhaskara Ravi Varma -1{A.D.962-1019} at Mahodayapuram. Baskara Ravi Varma – 2{A.D.979-1014} appears to have assisted Bhakara Ravi Varma 1 in ruling his vast Chera empire which stretched from the present Calicut to Tiruvanandapuram region encompassing the Kudamalainadu, Kongunadu and Venad. Bhaskara Ravi Varma-2’s function as co-regent was probably from Uthakai in the Kongu region which was also then under the Chera rule.

After the demise of Sundara Chozha his son Rajaraja 1 was of course the legitimate heir to the Chozha throne, but he whole-heartedly gave the throne away to Uthama Chozha (A.D.970-985) the son of Kandarathitha Chola . Uttama was his uncle. Uthama Chozha had among others, a queen named Panchavanmatheviyar who was the daughter of the Chera king Pazhuvettaraiyar known as Kandan Sundara Chozhan.

Uthama Chozha died in the year A.D.985, and was succeeded by the rightful heir Rajaraja Chozha-1{A.D. 985-1014}. One of Rajaraja’s queens was VillavanmaDevi the daughter of the king of Venadu of Chera country. He also had a queen known as Panchavanmathevi who was the daughter of Pazhuvettaraiyar Kandan Maravan the Chera king of Pazhuvur on the west of Thiruchirappalli bordering Kerala state. It was to this Vanavanmadevi that the greatest emperor in the Chozha history namely Rajendra Chozha 1 was born.

The great honeymoon relation between the Cheras and the Chozhas was soon in peril, because of the expansive ambitions of Rajaraja and his son.


——————————————————————————-to be continued——-

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