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TRAVANCORE STATE MANUAL Volume One
V. NAGAM AIYA
Dewan Peishcar, Travancore kingdom
6. History - Section A.— Ancient History

Introduction – Keralolppathi

The Perumals

The antiquity of Keralam

Concluding remarks


 

The ancient history of Travancore is mostly tradition. The chief authority for the tradition is the Keralopati, a Malayalam treatise which fully gives whatever of tradition is known on this coast. What is traditional need not necessarily be false, and when that tradition is found closely interwoven with the details of the daily life of a population and its impress still left on the behaviour of races and classes towards each other as in Keralam, it attains the rank of authentic history.


According to this authority (Keralopati), Parasurama, a great Brahmin sage and warrior of the race of Bhrigu, the greatest of Rishis according to the Bhagavad-gita, created the land of Kerala. Parasurama’s father was the great Rishi Jamadagni and his mother was Renuka. He is said to be one of the Avatars of Vishnu. His exploits belong to the close of the Treta Yugam just preceding the birth of Rama, another Avatar of Vishnu. While Parasurama was living with his parents on the banks of the Narmuda, a distressing episode within the family circle embittered his early life.


One day his mother Renuka was late in returning from the river with the usual pot of water for the household use, which pot was not a potter’s baked vessel but one daily improvised by Renuka herself with the loose river sand, a feat ascribed to the miraculous power of her chastity. That day, it so happened, she returned without the water, for she could not make the pot of sand as usual; and on Jamadagni’s enquiring for the cause of this failure in his faithful wife, she admitted that she was distracted by the beautiful form of a Gandharva reflected in the water, after which she could not, she said, make the pot of sand. This the Bishi thought was a deflection on the part of his wife and losing his temper, he ordered his sons to cut off her head. Parasurama’s four brothers refused to obey their father’s mandate, for they said, “the sin of killing a mother is even greater than that of disobeying a father”. When Parasurama was asked, he loyally obeyed, took his axe and cut oft his mother’s head with one stroke. Jamadagni was gratified and commanded hie dutiful son to ask of him any boon he pleased. Parasurama implored, “Holy sire, I have faithfully obeyed thy behests, for I knew full well thy wonderful powers. Restore to me, I pray thee, my dear mother, the sacred person to whom I owe my birth. I have killed her, for a father’s command must not be disregarded”. The Rishi wept for repentance and restored Renuka to life. But the sin of taking away his mother’s life hung like a heavy cloud on Parasurama’s youthful mind. This was one of the early causes, it is said, that subsequently led to Parasurama’s creating and peopling Keralam.


He was then sent by his parents to the hermitage of his great-grand-father, Bhrigu, to receive his education. After some time the sage sent him to the Himalayas to pray to God Siva and obtain his blessing. Thus Parasurama spent many years on the Himalayas in devotion and penance, which pleased Siva who appeared to him in person, blessed him and directed him to visit all the holy places on earth, which he did. Meanwhile war broke out between the Devas and the Asuras, and the Devas being worsted in the fight sought the aid of God Siva who at once commanded Parasurama to assist the Devas, giving him the necessary instructions in the war and the use of his divine weapon Parasu (axe), from which circumstance he took his name Parasurama. He met the Asuras in war, gained a decisive victory over them, and restored the Devas to their former possessions. He again returned to the Himalayas and for a considerable time was engaged in penance there. Siva was much gratified, paid a visit again to his faithful votary and presented him with a divine chariot and a bow, which were to stand him in good stead when- ever he wanted their use.


Having thus obtained all he wished for, Parasurama went back to Bhrigu and thence to his own parents on the banks of the Narmuda; when to his horror he found that his holy father’s hermitage had become the scene of robbery, violence and murder. This sad story may be briefly narrated here.


Kartaviryarjuna, the well-known Kshatriya king, one day visited Jamadagni in his hermitage and as was due to a crowned monarch of his position, the Kishi gave him a right royal reception, feasting him and his numerous retinue by the aid of his miraculous Kamadhenu— a celestial cow which only a Rishi’s powder could create; for, it is said, the Rishis of old were simple anchorites living in their jungle homes without neighbours or servants or relatives and trusting only to the powers of their Tapas (penance for offering due hospitality to the kings and other great men who visited them. Kartaviryarjuna coveted so precious a cow and in a vein of absolute despotism took it away by force. Suffice it to say that the cow, however, had to be subsequently restored to the Rishi by Kartaviryarjuna himself. Thereafter his sons ever bore a grudge to the Rishi on account of their father’s humiliation, and by way of vendetta they invaded the Rishi’s home at an unguarded moment and put him to death. Renuka, his wife and the mother of Parasurama, then committed the act of self-immolation on her husband’s funeral pile as became a true Sati. Soon after this tragedy was enacted, Parasurama returned home and his rage and sorrow knew no bounds, and he set out with his Parasu granted to him by God Siva vowing vengeance on the whole Kshtriya race, of whom he resolved not to let a single one survive on earth.


The story goes on to say that Parasurama destroyed the Kshatriyas in twenty one successive wars, and the whole of India thus lay devastated and prostrate before him — his own uncontested dominion. When his wrongs were thus avenged, he was stricken with repentance, called a council of the great Rishis* and begged of them to be enlightened as to how best he may expiate his Virahatyadosham, i.e., the sin of having killed so many crowned heads and their vast armies. He was advised to make a gift of the whole laud thus acquired to Brahmins, which being done, the Brahmins who had received the land told him that his stay in the Danam land was opposed to the spirit of a free gift, and that therefore, if he would avoid sin, lie must quit the land at once. Parasurama was convinced of the sin of using what he had given away and so retired to the Western Ghauts immediately for penance again.


NOTEs: * Vasishta, Vamudeva, Jabali, Kasyapa, Visvamitra, Mrikanda, Agastya, Narada, Satananda, Gautama, Atri, Rishyasringa, Parasara and Vedavyasa are said to have met at this council.


By severe penance and the propitiation of Varuna, the god of the water, and by offering due worship to Bhumi Devi, the Goddess of the earth, he got permission to claim as his own as much land as could be covered by the throw of his axe from Gokarnam, which was then the land’s-end, into the southern sea. He hurled his axe and it fell at Kanya Kumari or Cape Comorin. Thus was created the land of Keralam, extending from Gokaarnam to the Cape, a length of 160 yojanas by 10 yojanas according to the Purana. The scientific aspect of the Puranic statement of the miraculous creation of Kerala by Parasurama is based on the upheaval of the earth and the subsidence of the sea by volcanic action, and geologists confirm the fact of Parasurama’s land having been under water in past ages. The late Shungoonny Menon in his History of Travancore quotes the following observation, by a writer in the Kottayam College Quarterly Magazine, as regards the origin of Kerala —


“There was once a subsidence, probably sudden, at Gokarnam, and afterwards a perceptible upraising, most probably in this case gradual, of at least some portion, if not of nearly all the coast between Gokarnam and the Cape. The whole appearance of the coast of Kerala, wherever at least we find the low lands and backwaters, would appear to indicate that it has been raised, certainly during the present era and if, as our legend would seem to tell, this has happened under the eye of man, it becomes the more deeply interesting”.


The land thus reclaimed is even now known in common parlance as Parasurama-kshetram or the land of Parasurama. It is said in the Purana that Parasurama desired the Trimurtis and the Devas to give a fitting name to his new land. God Siva called it ‘Kerala’ in honour of the marriage of the Sea-king’s daughter to Keralan, son of Jayanta. Vishnu gave him his Sudarsanam (Discus) and Siva his Vrishabham (Bull) and these were consecrated at Srimulastanam in Trichur. Then Vishnu crowned him king and commanded him to found 24,000 temples and govern the land according to the Dharma-Sastras. It is also known as Karma-bhumi or the land of good deeds, meaning that a man’s salvation depends entirely upon good actions, as opposed to the other coast, which is called Punny-bhumi where mere birth goes a great way towards redemption from sin. The reclaimed land is the tract of country now covered by Canara, Malabar, Cochin and Travancore.


The new land was not fit for habitation; the settling down had not been completed. The quaking did not cease, so the Purana says; hence Parasurama sprinkled gold dust and buried coins and thus formed a treasure-trove which stopped the quaking of the land. He prepared a great yagam (sacrifice) at Varkala for the same purpose. Thereafter Parasurama brought colonies of Brahmins from the north, from the banks of the Krishna, the Godaveri, the Narmuda, the Kaveri and from Madura, Mysore, the Maharashtra and from many other places and peopled Keralam. The Brahmin colonists so brought belonged to eight gotrams or families. The Arya Brahmins formerly set out from Ahikshetram and came to reside in the Kshetram of Samanta-Panchakam called also Kurukshetra, from which they were brought by Parasurama and settled in Keralam.


Parasurama then went to paradesa (foreign country), where he met a Kshtriya whom he persuaded to go with him to Kerala, and with his aid brought and established eighteen Samanta families there.


Then lie brought a representative of each profession, viz: — Carpenter, Blacksmith, Oil-monger, Goldsmith, Barber, Stone-mason, Washer-man &c. Separate houses were built for them and rules for their conduct were framed.


Then he brought all kinds of grains and seeds, such as black peas, green peas, gingelly seeds, all kinds of vegetable plants, medicinal plants and all kinds of trees, especially the cocoanut, the plantain, and the jack, which are peculiar to Kerala. All these were brought to Kerala by the sea. The cocoanut and the plantain trees were brought, it is said, on a New Moon day, and hence it is believed on this coast that these trees when planted on New Moon days yield better than other days. So every true Nayar selects the New Moon as the best day for planting them.


Parasurama introduced several changes in the customs of his Brahmin colonists to prevent them from going back to their native country which they did from time to time and thus greatly retarded the progress of Parasurama’s repeated attempts at colonisation of his new land. Some of the changes were: —


(1 That the males should give up their back tuft of hair and adopt the front tuft now so universal in Malabar


(2 That the boy’s Samavartanam should be celebrated at the age of sixteen, when he gives up the austerities of a bachelor’s life. This is for the followers of the Rig-Veda. Those who follow the Yagur-Veda celebrate the Samavartanam at the age of 12;


(3 That in the reciting of the Veda, a nodding of the head is a necessary accompaniment, so abhorrent to the Vedic scholars of the old country. They also reprobate the swaram or intonation adopted by the Nambudiri Brahmins in the recitation of the Veda;


(4 That even married males need not wear more than one Brahminical holy thread or Yagnayopavitam while on the other coast the double thread is an invariable symbol of the married man:


(5 That the eldest son alone need marry;


(6 That one Brahmin alone is sufficient to be fed at a Sraddham while two is the invariable number on the other coast;


(7 That a sweetmeat locally known as Vatsan be given to the fed Brahmins after Sraddha meal. This of course will be quite abhorrent to the feelings of the other coast people where the fed Brahmins are expected to eat nothing for the next twenty-four hours;


(8 That females when they get out of their houses should be protected from profane gaze by a big cadjan umbrella and accompanied by a Sudra maid-servant;


(9 That females need not adorn themselves with jewels considered so indispensable on the other coast;


(10 That women need not wear more than a single cloth tied round their loins. This is generally nine cubits long — one end of which is passed between the legs and fixed in the waist behind, while the other end is wrapped round. This covers but a small portion of the body below the waist, while on the other coast women wear a single cloth, of course, about six- teen or eighteen cubits long, which is tied round in such a way as to cover from ankle to the neck and sometimes up to the back part of the head. A short petticoat (ravika) is used there in addition, to cover the breasts; no such apparel is known on this coast.


(11 And that no Brahmin woman should take a second husband.


But the land newly reclaimed from the sea was a most inhospitable region to live in, being already occupied by fearful Nagas, a race of hill-tribes who drove the Brahmins back to their own lands. Parasurama persevered again and again bringing hosts of Brahmins more from every part of India to settle in and colonise his new land; the Nagas were propitiated under his orders by a portion of the land being given to them and thus his own Brahmin colonists and the Nagas lived side by side without molesting each other. And by way of conciliation and concession to the old settlers (Nagas) who were serpent-worshippers, Parasurama ordered his own colonists to adopt their form of worship, and thus serpent-worship on this coast early received Parasurama’s sanction. These Nagas became the (Kiriathu) Nayars of later Malabar claiming superiority in rank and status over the rest of the Malayali Sudras of the west coast.


The land was parcelled out into sixty-four villages and given to the Brahmin colonists with flower and water to be enjoyed as a Brahimin-kahetrarn. This giving with water and flower is of the nature of an out and out free gift and is called the Raja-amsam, Parasurama also brought other Sudras, to whom lie assigned the duty of cultivating the land and otherwise serving the Brahmin colonists. These Sudras were in addition to the Nayars, the early settlers, who had been conciliated and won over as servants and tenants as shown above. He also brought cattle and other animals for agricultural purposes.


The Brahmins thus became the lords paramount of the new colony. It may be truly said of these Brahmin colonists of Parasurama that though they had not the law and were a law unto themselves, they were so good by nature that they did the things contained in the law. Owing allegiance to no one except to themselves and paying no taxes which would be indicative of the value of protection by a ruling power, they became the sovereign-jenmies of Keralam. But it soon transpired that the Brahmins wore not able to rule the land properly.


Parasurama after consecrating the temple at Srivardhanapuram, brought a prince from the East Coast named Bhanuvikrama, a Soma-vamsa-Kshatriya, and crowned him King of Kerala at Srivardhanapuram*, presenting him at the same time with his own sword. One of his brothers, Udaya Varma, was at the same time crowned at Gokarnam to rule over Chera.


NOTEs: * According to Shungoonny Menon, Srivardhanapuram is the modern town of Padmanabhapuram in South Travancore


According to the Keralolpatti, the land of Parasurama was very early divided into four separate Districts or Khandoms as they were called, viz., Tulu Khandom, from Gokarnam to Perumpuzha river. Kupa Khandom, from Perumpuzha to Kottah river. Kerala Khandom, from Putupattanam to Kannetti including the southern half of the Kurumbranad Taluq, Cochin and North Travancore, and Mushika Khandom, extending from Kannetti to Cape Comorin.


Some time later, Aditya Varma, Bhanuvikrama’s nephew, was crowned King again by Parasurama who presented him with a sword as bright as the sun. After peopling the land and finding kings to rule it, Parasurama inaugurated the military system, founded temples and shrines, laid down the acharams or rules of conduct to his new colonists and instituted schools of medicine. He instituted the Mahamakham, Hiranyagarbham and Tulapurushadanam ceremonies and founded several more temples and shrines and places of pilgrimage. The origin of Hiranyagarbham ceremony is thus stated: — A relative of Udaya Varma, King of Kola (Kolathunad) or South Canara became a convert to Islam and went to Mecca where he died. As one of the females of the Kola family happened to perform the funeral rites of the convert, the Brahmins excommunicated the family of Udaya Varma, whereupon Parasurama in consultation with sage Narada advised him to perform the Hiranyagarbham as an expiatory ceremony. The ceremony was performed and Udaya Varma and his family were readmitted into caste. The ceremony has ever since been performed by all the kings of Kerala.


It is said that Parasurama himself performed the Hiranyagarbham and Tulapurushadanam ceremonies before he celebrated the Mahamakham, At this ceremony it is said the first seat was given to Kulasekhara Perumal (King of Travancore), and the second seat to Udaya Varma.


The Keralolpatti then describes how certain of the Brahmins, namely those of the Bharadwaja gotram, received the Sastra-biksha (alms of weapons) with the consent of all and having stretched out their hands accepted the weapons from Parasurama; how fencing schools with tutelary deities were established; how the Goddess Durga was set to guard the sea-shore on the west and the God Sastha the Ghauts on the east, and also how all the sixty-four gramams having been ordered to adopt the law of succession through the females (Marumakkattayam), only one village (Payyannur) in the extreme north of Keralam obeyed.


He afterwards established 108 fields (parade-grounds) of 42 feet square each, called Kalaris for purposes of drill and training in arms, and in each of these he placed an image of the gods who preside over arms and war and then lamps were lit and pujas ordained. He also established 108 images of Durga Devi on the sea-shore, and besides erected shrines for snakes and petty Devatas. Having thus ordained the temples and ceremonies, he ordered rain for six months in order “that abundance of corn, fruits, &c., might be produced, that piety should flourish and wealth should be obtained, by which Iswara should be served and honoured and pujas performed with due respect in honour of the gods and to the ancestors, and that cows should increase”; and he ordered the sunny season for six months so that all the various ceremonies might be duly performed in honour of the gods of heaven, and the secondary deities such as Sastha or Hariharaputra, Bhadrakali and Ganapati. The different ceremonies so ordained were: —


Oottu, — Offerings of food.

Pattu, — Singing hymns.

Utsavam — Grand ceremonies.

Vela, — The lesser ceremonies.

Vilakku, — Lamp illuminations of the temple.

Tiyattu, — Ceremony of running over fire.

Bharani Vela, — Ceremony performed in the month of Kumbham under the Star Bharani.

Arattu, — Carrying the God in procession to a tank, and performing ablutions to it.

Kaliyattam, — Ceremony of singing and dancing performed by women in honour of Bhagavati.

Puram vela, — Ceremony performed in the month of Kumbham under the star Puram, the anniversary of the death of Kama or Cupid.

Daivamattam, — Dancing in the disguise of a God.

Tannir Amartu, — Offering of cakes etc., to the God,

Talappoli, — Ceremony of women carrying raw rice and flowers round the temple.

Vaikasi Visakham, and Mahamakham, — the grand festival of 28 days celebrated once in 12 years when Jupiter enters Cancer.


“Thus in the land created by Sri Parasurama, the Brahmins should all bathe at dawn of day, and live virtuously, performing religious duties, worship and offerings of lice to the elements at the Kshetrams or holy places and Kavus (or lesser temples), and that the sorrow and the sickness which are incidental to mankind might he removed from the people, they were to cause to be performed Iswara Sevakal or worship to God by-


Homan, — Fire offering.

Dyanam, — Meditation on the deity.

Bhagavati seva — Devotion to the goddess Bhagavati.

Pushpanjali — Worship with flowers.

Andi Namaskaram, — Prostration in the evening.

Trikala puja, — Worship at dawn, noon and sunset.

Ganapati Homam, — Fire sacrifice to Ganapati.

Mrityum-Japam, — Prayer or invocation in the name of Mrityu (or god of death) to avert accidents

Munnu Laksha Sahasranaamam — The ceremony of repeating of the 1,000 names of Iswara, three lacs of times.

Brahmana Sahasra Bhojanam — Distribution of victuals daily to a thousand Brahmins

Maha-Mrityum Japam, — Prayer to Mrityu”*


NOTEs: * Wilson's Mackenzie Collection of Oriental Manuscripts Page 311


After having ordered everything and having satisfied himself of the working of the various departments, Parasurama committed the Brahmins to the protection of Devendra, so that they should be in equal felicity with the inhabitants of Devalokam, and took leave of them, promising to them however that if anything extraordinary should happen and they collectively invoked his aid, he would immediately present himself before them. No sooner was the great hero gone, than the heads of the sixty-four villages wishing to test the promised word wantonly invoked his presence and, to their utter surprise, he presented himself before them and enquired what they wanted of him. But finding that he was invoked for no good reason, and being wroth that the Brahmins should have been so silly, he cursed them and said that they would never again unite in one place. According to tradition, the sixty-four villages have never met together since. Thus was the seed of dissension first sown in Keralam. According to the Puranas, Parasurama is still alive as one of the immortals among the Brahmin sages engaged in Tapas or penance on the Himalayas. He is therefore mentioned in the Puranas appearing again and again at different Yugas or epochs.


The Perumals


After the departure of Parasurama, the Brahmins became the virtual rulers of the land. They divided the land into a number of Desams (Cantons) and in each they erected a Kshetram, consecrated it and placed an image in them and performed puja with lamps and with the prescribed rituals. They also established Adima (bondage) and Kudima (husbandry), protected Adiyar (slaves) and Kudiyar (husbandmen) and appointed Tara and Taravattukar. They then established the privileges of their respective stations and continued the custom of Kanam and Jenmam and erected houses for the Brahmins.


They tried different systems of Government. An Oligarchy was tried first. Four villages namely: — Peryanur, Perunchallur, Parappur, and Chengannur were selected to represent the sixty-four villages and they were given authority to act in place of the whole.


The Keralolpatti thus describes the political organisation of this oligarchy:* —


NOTEs: * Wilson's Mackenzie Collection Page 353


“In this manner when sixty-four Gramams and twenty-one Desams were established, the sixty-four Gramams assembled and ordained or fixed that a Baksha Vurusha should be elected once in three years in order to punish and protect.


“There were also appointed Nal-kulakams or four courts or assemblies at Panniur, Paravur, Chenganiur and Parumchellur.


“In order to appoint, if these kulakams agree or concur in the election, it is sufficient; so they settled...


“Besides the said four kulakams that ware established, were four Verna kulakams or assemblies of the representatives of the four castes.


1. Irungn’yani-Koda is the Brahmana Kulakam

2. Muly-kolam is the Kshetriya Kulakam

3. Paravur is the Vaisya Kulakam

4. Ayerani-Kolam is the Sudra Kulakam


“In this manner there are four Verna-kulakams or assemblies or courts representing the four castes.


“Besides the four Avaroda Kulakams or electing assemblies at Parumchellur, Panniur, Chenganiur and Paravur, the Gramams (or villages) of Irungn’vani-koda, Muly-kolam, Paravur, and Ayerani-kolam, determined, in order that nothing might obstruct or interrupt the daily business on that account each of the said four Gramams should have a house in the village of Kodangallur which was the seat of Government. From the village of Paravur, from the houses of Yalam Taroti, aud Cadambanad; from these two houses they should keep one man in the Nitya Tali (or chief house or palace) who should be Tala’yadri and rule.


“From the village of Ayerani-kolam, from the houses of Caringumpalli and of Churuvulli, among these two they should keep one man in the Kil Taly (or lesser palace) who should be a Kil’-Tala’yadri (inferior ruler) and rule...


“In the village of Irungn’yani-Koda from the houses of Muddil or of Kodamangalam from these two houses, they should keep one man in the Mailtaly (or superior palace) who should be Tala’yadri and rule; but no married man was to be appointed to the said situation; and only old men or boys on condition of remaining unmarried might be appointed till their death.


“The sixty-four Gramams assembled thus ordered that the four Talayadri - mars should act unanimous and protect and punish.


“Among the sixty-four Gramams, ten and a half villages* having taken the Samayem (or oath) and accepted weapons in order to protect the Vritti (rites, therefore the said ten and a half villages are denominated Kulakatil-ullavar (കഴകത്തിലുള്ളവർ) (or belonging to the Kulakam).”


NOTEs: * These were:


1 Paravur 2. Muly-kolam 3. Ayerani-kolam 4. Wuleyanar 5. Chengunad 6.Tuluvanad 7. Adavur 8. Irangn'yani-koda 9. Allatur 10. Yettumanur and the half Chemmundi Gramam - thus making 10½


While the armed Brahmins were ruling the land, it is said disputes arose and injustice ensued. So the Brahmins assembled and appointed a ‘Protector’ from each of the four villages selected, to hold office for three years and assign to each Protector one-sixth of all the land for the support of himself and his staff. This institution too did not work well and the people were oppressed by the Protectors, who sought to make the most of their opportunities during their short terms of office. So the Brahmins assembled at Tirunavoyy, resolved to appoint a king and empowered the four selected villages to choose a ‘King’.


Their first choice fell on “Keya Perumal” of Keyapuram in the country east of the Ghauts. He was brought to Keralam and installed as the first of the ‘Perumals’ in the year of Kali Era, Bhuman bhupoyam prapya, corresponding to A.D. 216. The dates in Keralolpatti and other old books are sometimes given in some such phrases generally appropriate in meaning and easy catchwords to be remembered, and which accurately represent in letters the number of the years or days of the Yuga referred to.


The Hindu chronologist will read the phrase Bhuman bhupoyam prapya thus — 4/Bhu 5/man 4/bhu 1/po1 1/yam 2/pra 1/pya, which figure when read from the right to the left gives 1,211,454 days, or divided by 365 days per year, 3,317 years of the Kali Era. Today is 5006 Kali Era. Hence according to the chronogram, the installation of the first Perumal was in A.D. 216.


It was arranged that he should rule for twelve years. The Brahmins also made an agreement with the king thus appointed, to take an oath to the following effect: — “Do that which is beyond our power to do and protect; when complaints happen to arise, we will settle them among ourselves; you are not to question us on that point. For formality’s sake you may ask why we deal with affairs ourselves after making you a king.”


At this day even when complaints arise, the king says — “Why do you deal with them? Why did you not make your complaint to me?”


This is on account of the original oath. They also assigned lands to the king and poured water and granted that land, which is called Viruthi and was the Royal demesne; some estates they granted to him and some to the Brahmins themselves and some as benefices of temples to be enjoyed in Keralam.


After the Keya Perumal who ruled only eight years and four months, came the Chola and Pandya Perumals. Then comes in a tradition of the king Bhutaraya Pandy Perumal, between whom and the Brahmins there arose a bitter enmity. He was supposed to be guarded by two spirits and the Brahmins not being able to compass his destruction, one of them, it is said, assassinated him by first winning over the services of the guardian spirits. From the Brahmin thus polluted by murder the Nambidi caste arose.


There is another version which says that the Perumal thus assassinated was Chola Perumal. The Mahatmyam says that the Pandyas invaded Kerala with an army of Bhutathans (spirits) and that Parasurama addressed the Bhutarajan angrily thus: — “Your arrival at my country is in vain. I have given it over to King Aditya Varma.” Mr. Logan, the author of the Malabar Manual says that this seems to refer to the Chola king of this name who according to present knowledge overran a large part of South India about 494 A.D. The Bhuta army was defeated and the boundary of Kerala was fixed at Bhutapandi, where Parasurama is said to have accosted the invaders. This village of Bhutapandi lies in the extreme south of Travancore.


To prevent the king from becoming despotic, he was subordinated to the authority of the heads of four villages of Ernakulam, Irinjalacode, Mushikakode and Parur. About this time, the northern thirty-two gramams seceded from the southern group and under the orders of the king, the southern gramams were rearranged. The northern group living north of the Perumpuzha river formed the Tulu Nambis.


Some time after, for what reasons and under what circumstances it is not stated, the Nambudiris brought a new king, Bana Perumal, from Banapuram in the east and installed him at Kodungalur (Cranganore). During his reign the Mahomedan missionaries came to his kingdom and explained to him the doctrines of the Bauddha-Sastram and were able to persuade him that it was the true faith. It is said the Perumal himself was converted. The Brahmins being much perplexed at this went to Tirukariur, where they remained for some time. Then by the grace of God, a great Rishi called Jangama came there to whom they declared their grievances.


The Maharishi taught them the form of purification and urged upon them to place lamps after sunset and to make Pradakshinam round the lamps and to worship, dressed in the Tarru and the Melmundu putting on the Pavitram and holding the Karam-dulu a kind of grass; he also imparted to them the principal hymn in the Sama Veda, which consisted of four Padams; when in this manner they daily prayed, six Sastries came from Paradesam, who were given an opportunity to discuss with the Mahomedan missionaries.


It is said that these scholars were so successful in their disputations that, according to the terms agreed upon, the tongues of the discomfited Mahomedans were cut off and they were banished from the country. The apostate Perumal who was called Pallibana Perumal was set aside and was granted a separate estate to live in; and another Perumal being appointed in his place after a reign of four years, it is said, he (Bana Perumal) went to Mecca. This Perumal was most probably a convert to Buddhism, not Mahomedanism, as the vernacular word Bauddha-matam may mean either Mahomedanism or Buddhism. The conversion here referred to must have been to Buddhism.


“The next Perumal was Kulasekhara Perumal from the Pandya country. He built his palace in the Mushika province, introduced Kshatriya families, and organised the country, it is said, into small chieftainship to protect it against the Mappilas. He is also credited with having introduced the study of sciences into the Malayali country, for the Malayali Brahmins were, it is said, ignorant of sciences up to this time. Kulasekhara Perumal reigned for eighteen years and went to heaven with his body in the Purudismasrayam year of the Kaliyuga, or in A.D. 333, so it is said.*


NOTEs: * The Malabar Manual Vol 1 Page 230


This Kulasekhara Perumal was probably the king of Kerala, who lived in the Eraniel Palace in South Travancore, where exists a local tradition that he went Kuttodu Swargam, i. e., to heaven with his mortal coil. A royal bedroom with daily Puja and lights burning before a stone cot in the Eraniel Palace attest this fact to this day. The sovereigns of Travancore are to this day known as Kulasekhara Perumals. The Bhagavati temple at Tiruvanchikulam is said to have come into existence in the same year. This Kulasekhara, it is also said, is the “Kulasekhara Alwar”, one of the Vaishnava Saints, who is said to have composed a portion of the Nalayira Prahandham or Tiruvoy-mozhi in Tamil and the celebrated Mukunda Mala in praise of God Padmanabha in Sanskrit.


After the reign of this Kulasekhara Perumal, the Brahmins again organised themselves into an arms-bearing guild in order to protect the country. In 428 A.D. they sent a deputation to Anagumte Krishna Rayar* requesting him to send them a king for twelve years. But this new king was suffered to reign for thirty-six years and the Brahmins were so pleased with his rule that they wished to have a race of good Kshatriyas from him.


NOTEs: * This reference to Krishna Raya, a king of the Vijayanagar dynasty who flourished 1508-1530 A.D is clearly an anachronism; it is accounts like this that tend to greatly mar the otherwise valuable historical truths contained in traditions.


Another Kshatriya, a woman, was sent for, and her two sons were given the kingdoms of Mushika and Tulu. About this time three women, one Kshatriya and two Sudras, were stranded in a boat off Mount Deli. The Perumal took them all to wife. This tradition relates undoubtedly to the northern Kolattiri family, the most ancient seat of this family having been at this particular king’s house under Mount Deli. The Keralolpatti relates a matrimonial alliance having been formed between a prince of Kolattiri and a lady of the Zamorin’s house.


Mr. Logan observes: —


“The more powerful the family of the lady was, the more likelihood there was of the provision for leading to the founding of a dynasty and to its semi-independence of the main-parent stock. It is not at all improbable therefore that the northern Kolattiris are descended from a matrimonial alliance between the last of the Kerala Perumals and a lady of the stock of the great southern feudatory, the Travancore (South Kolattiri Rajas). The two families have always observed pollution, when deaths occurred in their respective houses, and as a matter of fact the southern family would have ceased to exist long ago but for the adoption of heirs on several occasions from the northern family”.*


NOTEs: * The Malabar Manual Vol 1 Page 235


After this king (Krishna Rayar’s Viceroy) had reigned for thirty-six years, the country was invaded by Krishna Rayar himself or according to another account by a Pandya king. The last of such Perumals divided his kingdom among his friends and relatives.


Such is the account given by the Keralolpatti, — a treatise, the statements in which however should be taken cum grano salis, for it is only, after all, a collection of the best available materials known to the people of Malabar more than a century ago. It is not a document therefore which could be subjected to a severe critical scrutiny. The main incidents may however be relied upon.


We find there were twenty-five Perumals in all, who ruled for two hundred and twelve years, i.e., from 216 A.D to 428 A.D. During this period, the country was ruled at short intervals by Viceroys from the Chera, Pandya and Chola kingdoms, appointed by turns by whichever power was most influential at the time of the appointment. The first and last Perumals bear one common name, Cheraman Perumal, though they are also specifically known as Cheraman Keralan and Bhaskara Ravi Varma. According to other accounts, Cheraman Perumal was more a title than a name, and was applied to all the Perumals alike.


No clear indentification of the Perumals or of their dates seems to be possible. The Perumals are spoken of in certain places as viceroys and in others as independent kings. Shungoonny Menon, the historian of Travancore, makes the two sets of Perumals co-exist. He says that Vira Kerala Varma, who was crowned in 311 A.D., as the first Emperor of Keralam, closed his earthly career during the viceroyalty of Cheraman Perumal. According to the Keralolpatti, Keya Perumal began to rule in 21 A.D., and the last Perumal died in 428 A.D. Thus in the middle of the so-called Perumal period (216 — 428 A.D), comes this “Emperor of Keralam” who performed Tulapurushadanam and Hiranyagarbham and obtained the title of Kulasekhara Perumal. If there were two Perumals all along, it is not clear whose viceroys were the superior Perumals and whose the inferior Perumals. Mr . Logan does not believe in the two sets of Perumals.


Mr. Logan assuming that the Perumal period lasted till 825 A.D., makes a Cheraman Perumal (the last) a Mahomedan, and gives the inscription on his tomb in Arabia where he is said to have died while returning from Mecca. In support of this statement he writes: — “It is a noteworthy circumstance in this connection that even now-a-days that Travancore Maharajas on receiving the sword at their coronations have still to declare: — “I will keep this sword until the uncle who has gone to Mecca returns”.


This statement, founded as it is on Mateer’s Native life in Travancore, is clearly incorrect. The Travancore Maharajahs have never made any such declaration at their coronations, when they received the sword of State from God Sri Padmanabha. The Valia Koil Tampuran (M. R. Ry. Kerala Varma Avl., C. S. I). writing to His Highness the present Maharajah some years ago received the following reply dated 10th April 1891: — “I do not know where Mr. Logan got this information; but no such declaration as mentioned in the Malabar Manual was made by me when I received the State Sword at Sri Padmanabha Swamy’s Pagoda. I have not heard of any such declaration having been made by former Maharajahs.”


Mr. K. P. Padmanabha Menon in a recent article in the Malabar Quarterly Review, denies the statement that the last of the Cheraman Perumals became a convert to Islam or undertook a pilgrimage to Mecca, but believes that he lived and died a devout Hindu. The legend is evidently the result of the mixing up of the early Buddhistic conversion of Bana, one of the Perumals, and of the much later Mahomedan conversion of one of the Zamorin Rajahs of Calicut, who claimed to have derived his authority from the last Perumal. The Hindu account simply states that Cheraman Perumal after the distribution of the Empire among his friends, vassals and dependants, went to Mecca on a pilgrimage and died there a Mahomedan saint. The Mahomedan account embodied in the Keralolpatti narrates that after the distribution of his kingdom, the Perumal secretly embarked on board a Moorish vessel from Cranganore, and cleverly eluding his pursuers landed at Sahar Mukhal in the Arabian coast, that he had an interview with the Prophet then in his 57th year, and was ordained by him under the name of Thia-uj-uddien — ‘the crown of the faith’, that he married Regiat the sister of the Arabian king and after having lived happily for five years, undertook a journey to Malabar for the spread of Islam, but died of ague at Sahar Mukhal where his remains were interred in a mosque he had himself erected.


The history of Zeiruddeen Mukkadom, an Arab Egyptian and a subject of the Turkish Empire of the 15th Century, says that certain dervishes from Arabia on their way from Adam’s Peak in Ceylon touched at Cranganore and imparted to the Emperor the then recent miracle of Mahomed having divided the moon, that the Emperor was so affected by that instance of supernatural power and captivated by the fervid representations of those enthusiasts that he abandoned all, for the sake of proceeding with them to Arabia to have an opportunity of conversing with the Prophet, that the latter dignified him with the title of Sultan or Tauje ul Herid and that after sojourning with the Prophet for some time and addressing recommendatory letters to the Chiefs of Malabar in favour of his Mussal-man brethren, he died on his way to his own land on the first day of the 5th year of the Hejira (16th July 622 A.D).*


NOTEs: *Asiatic Researches, Vol V Art 1. But in the Madras journal of Literature and Science, O.S No. 20 Page 35, it is stated that Zeiruddeen Mukkadam denounces the story of the pilgrimage to Mecca as unfounded.


Sheikh Zinuddin, the author of the Tahafat-ul-Mujahidin, says that there is but little truth in the account of the Perumal’s conversion to Islam. The Arab merchant, Suliman (851 A.D.), ‘who wrote with knowledge as he evidently visited the countries he wrote about’, says expressly that in Malabar he did not know any one of either nation (Chinese or Indian) that had embraced Mahomadanism or spoken Arabic. None of the early travellers or geographers whether Mahomadan, Christian or Jew have left us any record of the legend. Abdur Razzak who was sent in 1442 A.D. by the Shah of Persia failed in his mission of converting the Zamorin. He too does not mention the legend at all.


Mr. Logan says: — “At Zaphar in the Arabian Coast lies buried Abdul Rahiman Samuri, a king of Malabar. The inscription on his tombstone says that he arrived at the place in 212 A. H. and there died 216 A. H. (828 A.D.)”. This statement is founded upon news given by an Arab merchant and Mr. Logan seems to believe that this may be the last Cheraman Perumal. As Mr. Padmanabha Menon observes, “it is not correct to accept the unverified statement of an irresponsible Arab merchant to prove the existence of the Perumal’s tomb and the alleged inscription on it”. The Mahomedan historian Ferishta has no doubt as to the Malabar king who embraced Islamism and says that a Zamorin turned Mahomedan and undertook a pilgrimage to Mecca. The Zamorins have frequently been confounded with the Perumals.


Other accounts go to show that the Perumal turned a Buddhist, a Jaina or Saivite. Shungoonny Menon says: — “The last Cheraman Perumal closed his worldly career at Tiruvanchikulam; the traditional account is that he disappeared suddenly from his residence”.


In the ‘Vellanai Sargam’ Periya Puranam, the last of the legends refers to the mysterious disappearance of a Chera Prince from the Capital. It is stated that the Saiva saint Sundayar departed from the earth, ascended the celestial elephant which waited upon him and started on his travels to the abode of the celestials, without even taking leave of his Royal friend. The latter unable to bear the separation mounted on his steed and uttered a mantra in its ears, which enabled it to ascend in the air and overtake the Paradisiacal pachyderm. The minister and generals beholding the miraculous scene shook off their mortal coils and followed the king.*


NOTEs: * Prof. Sundaram Pillay in the Indian Antiuary for May 1897


According to one account, Cheraman Perumal had three wives and had sons and nephews seventeen in number, and is said to have handed over the charge of Travancore to his eldest son by his third wife, one Vira Kerala Varma who was installed as king in Kali year 3412* or 311 A.D., and the other places up to Gokarnam to his other sons and nephews. This Vira Kerala Varma had an only sister, whose sons succeeded to the musnud of Travancore after him. Vira Kerala Varma was the first sovereign of Travancore who celebrated the Tulapurushadanam ceremony or the weighing against gold, which gold was subsequently distributed among Brahmins.


NOTEs: * The chronogram gives Rajya bhogam which is transliterated into Kali year 3412.


Pachu Muthathu, another writer on Travancore, says that the kingdom of Travancore was established under the auspices of Cheraman Perumal, which kingdom was bounded on the north by Edawa, east by the Pannivoykal and on the south and west by sea. But evidence exists to show that Travancore was under a ruling Prince at the time of the advent of the Perumals and that Cheraman Perumal was the name of the Viceroy sent out to Keralam or South Chera by the King of Chera himself.


It will be found from the Keralolpatti that the Travancore and Kolathunad dynasties were in existence during the rule of these Cheramans and that they had recognised them. The ancient copper-plate grants to the Christians and Jews, which were made by three of the Cheraman Perumals, including the last Perumal, Bhaskara Ravi Varma, show that the Perumals considered the King of Travancore the first sovereign in Keralam so much so that he was mentioned as the first power to witness their deeds. One of them, Stanu Ravi Gupta, even goes the length of saying that the deed was executed with the sanction of the Travancore king. One of these deeds was executed in Kali 3331, corresponding to A.D. 230, i.e., fourteen years after the commencement of the Perumal period. Hence the statement regarding the division of Kerala by the last Perumal is without foundation. As Dr. Gundert remarks —


“That whole part of the Keralolpatti in which the present dynasties of Malayalam are represented as dating their origin from the last Perumal’s distribution of the country is fully disproved by this and the Jewish document; and the relation of the Kerala Mahatmyam, according to which several families were placed here and there by Parasurama for the purpose of protecting certain temples and Brahmin villages, comes much nearer the truth if we understand by Parasurama the old time of Brahminical rule.”


From the conflicting accounts of Cheraman Perumals and Kulasekara Perumals appearing simultaneously in all the authorities on the ancient history of Kerala, one fact may be certainly inferred viz., that the Kulasekhara Perumals, whose modern representatives the Travancore Maharajahs are, did not owe their kingdom to the last Cheraman Perumal who died in 428 A.D., and who is said to have partitioned his kingdom among his sons, nephews and dependants. The weight of evidence goes to prove that the Kulasekhara Perumals who ruled the southern portion of Kerala existed, if not from the first day of the installation of the first Cheraman Perumal, at any rate as soon as the rule of the Cheraman Perumals was established in Keralam. The Kulashkhara Perumals rose to such importance during the Perumal period in Malabar that they were asked to attest documents and grants made by the Cheramans themselves, and on one occasion the Cheraman Perumal of the day was invited as a guest to witness the Hiranyagarbham and Tulapurushadanam ceremonies of one of the Kulasekhara Perumals in South Kerala.


It is quite possible that in the never-ending wars of those days between neighbouring powers, Chera, Chola and Pandya Kings might have by turns appointed Viceroys of their own to rule over the different divisions of Chera, one of whom might have stuck to the southernmost portion, called differently at different times, by the names of Mushika-Khandom, Kupa-Khandom, Venad, Tiruppapur, Tiru-adi-desam or Tiruvitancode, at first as an ally or tributary of the senior Cheraman Perumal — titular emperor of the whole of Chera — but subsequently as an independent ruler himself.


This is the history of the whole of India during the time of the early Hindu kings or under the Moghul Empire. The history of every district in Southern India bears testimony to a similar state of affairs. The Nawab of Tinnevelly was nominally the agent of the Nawab of Arcot, who was himself ruling the Carnatic in the name of the Delhi Padisha; but beyond a mere name there was nothing in the relationship showing real obedience to a graded or central Imperial authority. The Nawab of Tinnevelly himself co-existed with scores of independent Poligai’s all over the District, collecting their own taxes, building their own forts, levying and drilling their own troops of war, their chief recreation consisting in the plundering of innocent ryots all over the country or molesting their neighbouring Poligars. The same story was repeated throughout all the States under the Great Moghul. In fact never before in the history of India has there been one dominion for the whole of the Indian continent from the Himalayas to the Cape, guided by one policy, owing allegiance to one sovereign-power and animated by one feeling of patriotism to a common country, as has been seen since the consolidation of the British power in India a hundred years ago.


“It is the power of the British sword, “as has been well observed,” which secures to the people of India the great blessings of peace and order which were unknown through many weary centuries of turmoil, bloodshed and pillage before the advent of the Briton in India”.


Neither according to tradition nor in recorded history has such a phenomenon been known before. The ancient epics of India often speak of the kings of fifty-six Rajyams* (States) having been invited for the Swayamvara marriages of Kshatriya ladies or to witness the great sacrifices such as the Rajasuyam or the Ashwamedha-yagam of Yudhishtira. These fifty-six rulers evidently were the Rajahs of note in those days; but to my mind there must have been at the time at least two thousand Princes# throughout the Indian continent more or less independent of each other and ruling over small States aggregating in the main the area embraced by the British Indian Empire of today. In this wise, the existence of a race of Kulasekhara Permnals in independent sway over South Kerala may be taken as an undoubted historical fact.


NOTEs: * These 56 Kingdoms were: 1. Casmira 2. Nepala 3. Kosala 4. Camboja 5. Panchala 6. Simhala 7. Anga 8. Kalinga 9. Kamarupa 10. Sauviru 11. Kuroo 12. Bhoja 13. Videha 14. Valmika 15. Kekaya 16. Vanga 17. Sourashtra 18. Punnadaga 19. Parpara 20. Kuluntha 21. Surasena 22. Danguna 23. Martha 24. Saindhava 25. Purashara 26. Pandhara 27. Saliva 28. Kuduka 29. Nishadha 30. Thoorka 31. Durga 32. Marda 33. Poundra 34. Maghada 35. Chedi 36. Maharashtra 37. Gandhara 38. Karnataka 39. Dravida 40. Kukkada 41. Lata 42. Malava 43. Magara 44. Dasara 45. Ottiya 46. Bachu 47. Yavana 48. Baguvane 49. Konkana 50. Kashyva 51. Dungana 52. Latcha 53. Chola 54. Pandya 55. Chera 56. Kerala


# Mr. M. M Kunte in his admirable Essay on "The vicissitudes of Aryan civilization in India' remarks, "The general tendency of the Kshatriyas was to develop into princes, whose right to the throne was heriditary. But a prince might own only a castle, some land for pasturage, a number of cattle, and some followers, and might rule over a few miles only. Every Kshatriya was a Raja'.




The antiquity of Keralam


Keralam was known to the Aryans from very ancient days. The age of Kerala is difficult to determine, but that it is as old as any of the Puranic kingdoms referred to in the ancient Indian epics is undoubtedly established. After Rama and Sugriva (the monkey king) became friends, the latter sent his emissaries in quest of Sita, Rama’s lost Queen, to search all over India and Ceylon. Keralam or Chera, as it was then called, was one of the kingdoms included in that search. Sugriva commanded his messengers, says Valmiki,


“Seek and search the southern rock and ravine, wood and tree.


...


Search the empires of the Andhras, of the sister nations three,


Cholas, Cheras and the Pandyas dwelling by the southern sea” *


NOTEs: * Ramayana - R. C. Dutt


Again Mahendragiri, a lofty peak in the extreme south of Travancore Ghauts is referred to in the Ramayana as the point of the mountain from which Hanuman jumped over to Lanka. The Ramayana is estimated by scholars to be about 3000 years old, but the exploits of Rama were surely of an earlier date. In popular estimation they are several thousand years older. In the Mahabharata too, which Puranas said to be an earlier* composition than the Ramayana, mention is made of Balarama’s (Balabhadrarama or Rama of the plough) tours to the sacred shrines of Cape Comorin and Janardanam (modern Varkal), both situated in modern Travancore.


NOTEs: * The common belief is that the Mahabharatha is later than the Ramayana, but the opinion of Oriental scholars is otherwise and that is the one relied upon in the text.


The ruler of Kerala was one of the kings conquered by Sahadeva long before the Eighteen days’ war of the Bharata-yudham; the Mahahharata also refers to the inhabitants of Kerala as “forest-dwellers”. In the Harivamsa, a section of the Mahabharata, mention is made of the Cholas and Keralas. Another episode related in the Mahabharata is that of Vishaya and Chandrahasa, son of a Kerala king and ruler of Kuntala which is situated in the furthest extremity of the Deccan, in the country where camphor is collected. Again in the fourth book of Kalidasa’s Raghuvamsha (a book quite as old as the Christian Era), reference is made to a conquering tour by Raghu, remote ancestor of Rama, who is said to have passed from Oudh down the eastern coast to the country of the Pandyas and then returned north by Keralam and the west coast.


Keralam is also mentioned in the Vayu, the Matsya and the Markandeya Puraanas and in Bhagavata, the Padma and the Skanda Puranas. Some of the remarkable vegetable and animal productions of the Malabar Coast have been known to the western nations even at so early a period as the time of Solomon (1000 B.C).


In the Old Testament we find the following: “For the king had at sea a navy of Tarshish bringing gold and silver, ivory and apes and peacocks”; with the exception perhaps of silver, these were all productions of the Malabar Coast and the biblical name for peacock, tuki, is evidently the Tamil - Malayalam, tokai, the bird of the tail. Again Herodotus mentions that the Red Sea trade in frankincense, myrrh and cinnamon and cassia (the two latter being Malabar products) was in the hands of the Egyptians and the Phoencians.


Kerala was also known to Katyayana (1st half of the 4th century B. C.), and Patanjali (150 B.C.), though Panini (beginning of the 7th* century B.C.) does not mention it. The second and the thirteenth edicts of Asoka, which were promulgated in the 3rd century B.C., refer to the realms of Keralaputra. Strabo in 20 A.D, gives an account of an embassy sent by the Pandyan ruler probably from the west coast, to the Emperor Augustus. There is no doubt of the fact that Roman gold poured largely into the country at this time. In the coin collection of the Maharajah’s palace at Trivandrum, three are 9 Aurei of Augustus’ coinage, 28 of Tiberius, 2 of Caligula, 16 of Claudius, and 16 of Nero.


NOTEs: * This is according to Prof. Goldstucker. But Professors Bohtling, Weber and Eggeling assign to Panini the 4th century B.C


Bishop Caldwell writes: —


“The earliest Roman coins found in India are those of the Emperor Augustus. A large number of Roman Imperial auric (gold) coins were found some years ago on the Malabar coast; upwards of thirty types of which, commencing with the earlier coins of Augustus and including some of Nero, were described by me in a paper printed at Trivandrum in 1851 by the Maharaja of Travancore, to whom the coins belonged .” *


NOTEs: * History of Tinnevelly. Page 22


Pliny (1st century A.D). refers to the ruler of Kerala as Calabothros, and mentions Muziris (identified by Dr. Caldwell with Cranganore as his capital. Ptolemy and the author of Periplus also refer to Kerabothros; Periplus refers to the land of Kerobothros as Limurike, and Ptolemy (2nd century A.D) mentions Karoura as the capital of Limurike, which Dr. Caldwell shows to represent the Tamil-Malayalam country. They also mention a district called Paralia on the west coast of India, which Professor Wilson takes to be probably a wrong rendering of Keralia. Burnell and Yule agree in identifying Paralia with Purali, the old name for Travancore, from which the Travancore kings have got the title Puralisa i.e., the lord of Purali. Again towards the end of the 4th century A.D., Kerala is referred to in the famous Gupta inscription on the Allahabad Lat of Asoka, where Samudragupta is mentioned as capturing and reducing Mantara, King of Kerala. Varaha Mihira, the great Hindu astronomer (who lived about the year 550 A.D.) notices in his Brihatsamhita both the country and the people by the names of Kerala and Kairalakas, and mentions Baladevapattanam and Marichipattanam as important towns in Kerala.


Kern, Varaha Mihira’s translator, identifies these places with the Baliapattana and the Muzris of Ptolemy and other Greek geographers respectively. It is known from the inscriptions and copper-plate documents of the Western Chalukya dynasty that almost for five hundred years after this, the Chalukyan kings made temporary conquests of Kerala. In the Mahakuta inscription of Mangalesa (567 to 610 A.D), we are told of the victories of his predecessor Kirti Varma I (489 to 567 A.D) over the kings of Kerala, Mushaka* &c., which Mushaka is identified by Professor Monier Williams with that part of the Malabar coast lying between Quilon and Cape Comorin.


NOTEs: * Indian Antiquary, Vol. XIX. Page 7.


Again Pulakesi II (610-634 A.D.), after conquering Kanchipura, invaded the country of the Cholas, the Pandyas and the Keralas and defeated them. Vinayaditya, grandson of Pulakesi in the 11th and 14th years of his reign, (692 — 695 A.D), completely subjugated the Keralas in the South#.


NOTEs: # Ibid Vol. VII. Page 209.


Vinayaditya’s grandson, Vikramaditya II (whose reign according to Dr. Burnell began in A.D. 733), claims to have fought with the Cholas, the Pandyas and the Keralas, and reduced them. By the grant dated 758 A.D. of Kirti Varma II, son of Vikramaditya, we see that he resided at a place called Jayamambha situated on the shore of the southern ocean, after “withering up Pandya, Chola, Kerala, Kalbhra and other kings.” +


NOTEs: + Ibid Vol. Yll. Page 23.


A certain king called Govinda VI of the Rashtrakuta dynasty claims to have conquered the Keralas. He reigned about A.D. 803 to 814-15*. Again Bilhana in his Vikrama Deva Charitam says, that Vikrama, who reigned between 1008 and 1018 A.D, first marched against the Keralas and conquered them.


NOTEs: * Ibid Vol. II. Page 61.


Early European and Mahomedan travellers give also accounts of Keralam and its people.


The Phoenicians visited the coast of Malabar in 1000 B.C. in quest of ivory, sandalwood and spices.


The Greek ambassador Megasthenes in his account of ancient India refers to the Nayars of Malabar and the kingdom of Chera. He also speaks of the fact that female sovereigns ruled the southern people.


Eratosthenes, who lived in the 3rd century B. C, is the first foreign writer who mentions Cape Comorin.


St. Thomas one of the Apostles came to preach the Gospel in Malabar in 52 A.D.


Kona Thoma (Thomas Cana) a missionary, is said to have visited the coast in 345 A. D.


Zera Jabus, the Nestoriau Patriarch who died in 660 A.D., speaks of Quilon and in 824 A.D., two Nestorian Persians settled in Quilon with a large following.


Omitting details of accounts on the later history of Travancore of which due mention will be made in the next section of this chapter, these references will, I think, suffice to show an almost unbroken chain of authorities proving the antiquity of Kerala.


As regards native chronology, said to be so proverbially inaccurate, it need only be stated that local traditions of the oldest portion of Chera Mandala or South Travancore make the Dravidian dynasty of that country coeval with the origin of the world. Tradition apart, according to Rev. William Taylor, the nearest conjecture that can be formed regarding the age of Parasurama is that he lived some time within the thousandth year after the flood. He thinks that there must have been a great retiring of the mass of waters from the Northern Hemisphere during the period within 500 to 1,000 years after the flood, and a similar retiring of waters must have taken place at the same time in the west coast also, the low lands of which had evidently been missed from beneath the sea-level by subterranean forces.+


NOTEs: + Translations of Historical Manuscripts, Vol II Page 65


The Sanskrit Puranic writers and the Ceylon Buddhists and the local traditions of the west coast, all indicate in different ways a great disturbance on the point of the Peninsula and Ceylon within recent times. The date of Noah’s deluge has been given by English theologians as 2348 B.C, and that given by Ceylon Buddhists to the latest submergence in the region of Ceylon is 2387 B.C. The two results could not have been hit at by mutual knowledge. So according to Rev. Taylor, the latest date of Parasurama’s reclamation of Kerala will be about 4,200 years ago. Even this of course is too recent a date in the estimation of orthodox Hindu tradition.


Hindu scholars incline to the belief that the Vedic Aryans must have had a wonderful era of peace and security from foreign aggression for about 5,000* years before the invasion of India by Alexander of Macedon. This gives a period of about 7,600 years to the first Aryan colonisation in the north-west of India. It appears to me that western scholars often err in their calculations about Hindu dates, relying solely on copperplate documents and stone-inscriptions, as if the peopling of a kingdom or a continent went only pari passu with such symbols of later civilisation as copper-plates or stone-inscriptions.


NOTEs: * Address by Mr. M. Rangacharya M.A on 'Indian Loyalty'


If we note the marvellous progress in the colonisation of America since its discovery by Columbus in 1492 A.D., which period of about 400 years is only a speck of time according to all known calculations of Hindu chronologists, and if we also note how quickly population has pressed and squeezed itself within the last half a century into all available nooks and corners of India in the mad desire to possess land, making one fear that one’s grand-children may scarcely have elbow-room to stand upon, it is not a bold statement to make that within a thousand years after the first Aryan set his foot in the Punjab, the whole continent from the Himalayas to the Cape must have been more or less peopled. The fact has nothing to do with the dates when the oldest Indian Epics were written or when the feats of Rama and Krishna recorded therein took place. I would therefore give Kerala an age of about 6,500+ years at least — an inference which should incline one to a greater belief in the oral traditions extant than in the learned deductions of scholars.


NOTEs: + The age of Kerala herein fixed is, if at all, far below the mark, for a Nambudri friend of mine 76 years old and a well-known Adhyan of Vaikam Taluq in North Travancore tells me that his Illam has stood there for about 2000 years. They had originally settled near Guruvayur before they came to Vaikom and he cannot say how long they were there. Thus it is clear that the peopling of Kerala could not have been on this side of 6500 years.




Concluding remarks


It is not at present possible to say how much of the foregoing narrative may be relied upon as perfectly authentic. The following facts however are generally accepted.


The land of Kerala was within historic period reclaimed from the sea; probably the upheaval was due to volcanic action. The Keralolpatti mentions the quaking and shaking of the land and the quaking is said to have been stopped by Parasurama’s divine powers. Apart from the legend that surrounds the great Brahmin hero, Parasurama was undoubtedly the leader of the earliest Aryan colony into South West India.


He created a separate military caste from among his Brahmin colonists and ordained them to rule his new land; when they found they could not, he helped them to secure one or two Kshatriya rulers from the other coast. The necessity for division of labour, which all authorities agree was the main basis of the caste distinctions in India, thus showed itself in ancient Kerala as it did more clearly in later times. There was evidently good authority for Parasurama’s Brahmins receiving instruction in the arts of war and bearing arms, “if we only remember the fact that both Viswamitra and Jamadagni were Vedic Rishis; and they bore arms and composed hymns, when Kshatriyas and Brahmins, as such, were unknown.”


As Mr. R. C. Dutt observes, a great historical truth underlies the story of Parasurama killing whole families of Kshatriyas, thus confirming the spirit of rivalry which seems to have existed from times of yore between the priestly and the warrior classes, the first indications of which are observable even in the Upanishads.*


NOTEs: * Ancient India, Vol. 1. Page 212.


After Parasurama, the Brahmin colonists tried several devices at government. At first a form of republic among themselves was adopted, then an oligarchy, then a rule of elected Protectors chosen from four of the premier villages, then a series of foreign princes known as Cheraman Perumals brought to rule over them for cycles of twelve years; and then a permanent ruler was made of the last Cheraman Perumal so brought, before whose time, however, had already come into existence the race of Kulasekhara Perumals in Travancore.


The Aryan invaders from the north-west of India had by this time advanced considerably into the interior parts of the Peninsula, migrating into distant Kerala also where they had mingled with the first Dravidian inhabitants of the east coast. But these Dravidians themselves had already come under the influence of the serpent-worshippers of the north.


Then came the Jaina and the Buddhistic waves of evangelisation that have left lasting traces all over South India. There are Buddhistic temples in Travancore, now converted into Hindu places of worship. Buddhism itself having been entirely absorbed by the Brahmins into their own faith. At a much earlier date the Brahmins had peopled Keralam and acquired sovereign powers there, as they did in all the other places of the continent they had passed through.


Next came the gigantic Saivite movement propagated by the Tamil saints and latterly by Sri Sankaracharya himself. Lastly came the early Christians and the followers of Mahomet. These successive waves of religious colonisation probably account for the different versions given of the conversion of one of the Cheraman Perumals, for every proselytising religion was responsible then, as now, not only for the quantity of its conversions but for the quality as well of its converts — by which standard was often judged the value of the work done by its propagandists. But Hinduism is still the dominant faith in Travancore, in spite of its being the only mass material in the country for the promulgators of the different religious persuasions to work upon.


The law of nepotism, the system of hierarchy well defined, the perfect cleanliness of the places of worship and the rigidity of the caste-scruples observed in them, the peculiar institution of marriage allowing considerable freedom to both parties in the choice and change of partners, the superior educational status of women. the scrupulous neatness and attention paid to all matters of personal hygiene by the true Malayali population, the proud Jenmi-tenure of the Brahmins, the living in isolated homesteads with extensive premises round them, respect to elders and to authority more formally expressed, less loquaciousness as a race, the front tuft, the wearing of the cloth and the nature of the cloth itself both among men and women, the altered language and scores of different Acharams, are all landmarks still distinguishing the colonists of Parasurama from the inhabitants of the old country beyond the Ghauts