Chera Dynasty

Kerala and parts of southern Tamil Nadu formed the erstwhile Chera kingdom with Tiruvanchikulam near Cranganore as its main capital. They rivaled the neighboring dynasties of Cholas and Pandyas in prosperity. Cheras had strong overseas trade links with Romans in natural produce such as spices, ivory and sandal.

The first Chera ruler was Perumchottu Utiyan Cheralatan, a contemporary of the great Chola, King Karikalan. After suffering a humiliating defeat at the hands of the Chola ruler at the battle of Venni, he committed suicide.

His son, Imayavaramban Nedum Cheralatan, another important Chera ruler, succeeded him. During his long rule of 58 years, Imayavaramban Nedun Cheralatan consolidated the Chera Dynasty and extended its frontiers. He inflicted a crushing defeat on his sworn enemies, the Kadambas of Banavasi (see Uttar Kannad for details). Imayavaramban's reign is of special significance to the development of art and literature. Kannanar was his poet laureate.

However, the greatest Chera King was Kadalpirakottiya Vel Kelu Kuttuvan, who is also identified with the mythical hero of the Silappadigaram (The Jewelled Anklet). Silappadigaram is one of the three great Tamil epics of the Sangam Age. The great Tamil poet, Paranar, refers to his military exploits including his famous victory at Mogur Mannan and Kongar.

The last known Chera ruler, Cheraman Perumal converted to Islam and built the first mosque in India. The Cheras faded out of history by the 8th century AD.