India • 05 • Chera dynasty

  • Dates : -300 / 1102

The Chera dynasty was one of the major Tamil dynasties that ruled over South India from the 3rd century BCE to the 12th century CE. The Cheras were known for their important role in the region of Kerala, as well as for their rich cultural heritage, maritime trade, and diplomatic relations with other regions.


Origins and expansion

The origins of the Cheras are uncertain, but it is believed that they emerged from indigenous tribes of the Kerala region. They began to expand under the reign of King Kuttuvan Cheralathan, who ruled in the 3rd century BCE. The Cheras continued to expand under the rule of subsequent kings, establishing alliances and making military conquests.


Maritime trade

The Cheras were known for their thriving maritime trade, establishing commercial relations with far-off regions such as Southeast Asia, the Mediterranean, and East Africa. They also used their geographical position to establish trade relations with the Romans. The Cheras exported products such as spices, pearls, precious woods, and textiles.


Religion and culture

Religion played an important role in the lives of the Cheras, and they were known for their religious tolerance and patronage of the arts and literature. The Cheras also made significant contributions to the classical dance and music of India, developing a unique style of music called the music of the Cheras.


Government and society

The government of the Cheras was organized as an absolute monarchy, with the king at the top of the hierarchy. The Cheras also established a system of local government, with local officials called Naduvazhis. Society was divided into castes, and the caste system played an important role in daily life.


Decline and end of the dynasty

The Chera dynasty began to decline in the 8th century CE, due to the rise of the Pallava and Pandya dynasties. The Cheras were eventually defeated by the Cholas, another South Indian dynasty, in the 12th century CE. However, the rich cultural and commercial heritage of the Cheras left a lasting mark in the history of India, particularly in the region of Kerala.


NB: The Perumal dynasty is generally associated with the second Chera dynasty or the Chera Empire of Kerala which flourished between the 9th and 12th centuries CE. Thus, their reign would be in the medieval period. However, it should be noted that the precise dates may vary slightly depending on historical sources. 


The first Chera dynasty, which preceded the Perumals, existed between the 3rd centuries BC and 3rd centuries AD, thus during the ancient period. The Perumals, or the second Chera dynasty, succeeded this first dynasty after a period of historical obscurity and ruled the present region of Kerala. 


It should also be noted that the history of South India is complex and periodization may vary depending on historical sources and interpretations.


India • 03 • Chera dynasty: map

This map illustrates the maximum territory that the Chera Dynasty had reached at its height, covering the current regions of Kerala, Tamil Nadu in India. Its main purpose is to provide a visual aid to understand the geographical extent of this dynasty. However, it's important to note that the contemporary borders of these regions may not necessarily coincide with the historical territories.

Geographical extension

The Chera dynasty ruled over a large portion of the southern region of India, particularly in the Kerala region. The Cheras also had influence in neighboring regions, such as Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. They had trade relations with various regions, such as Southeast Asia, the Mediterranean, and East Africa, and exported products such as spices, pearls, precious woods, and textiles. The Chera dynasty also had diplomatic relations with neighboring kingdoms and dynasties, including the Pallavas, Pandyas, and Cholas. Despite primarily focusing on South India, the Cheras had a significant impact on the culture, trade, and history of the region.

list of rulers

Uthiyan Cheralathan (c. 1st century BC)
Nedum Cheralathan (c. 1st century AD)
Senguttuvan Chera (c. 2nd century AD)
Perum Cheral Irumporai (c. 3rd century AD)
Chenguttuvan Chera (c. 4th century AD)
Kulashekhara Varman (c. 8th century AD)
Rajashekhara Varman (c. 9th century AD)
Sthanu Ravi Varman (c. 9th century AD)
Rama Varma Kulashekhara (c. 11th century AD)
Ravi Varma Kulashekhara (c. 11th century AD)

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