Annadatri-carita (study)

by Sarannya V. | 2020 | 34,082 words

This study analyzes the Annadatri-Carita: an epic poem connected with a regional history written by Prof. K Balarama Panicker. The plot of the drama is based on a Sangam period myth connected with the epic Mahabharata. The author introduces Utiyan Ceralatan as Vancishvara, an ancestor of the last Travancore ruler named Chithira Thirunal Balarama Va...

Ancient Kerala was under the rule of different dynasties like Ay[1], Chera and Mushika[2], though Cera had a prominent kingship. The Chera dynasty of Kerala was consisted of two phases: the ancient Ceras and the later Ceras. The period of ancient Ceras was at the Sangam (Cankam) period, in third century BCE to second century CE and the later Cera dynasty ruled approximately from the ninth to twelfth centuries of the Common Era.[3] Most of the available details of the ancient Ceras were found out from the Sangam Literary sources. At that time Cera, Pandya and Colas were the prominent strengths of South India especially in the ‘Tamilakam’ region. Among them, the Chera dynasty might be the ancient and the first strength of south India.

In the first five centuries of the Common Era Kerala was a part of the ample “Tamilakam”province.At that time it was considered as an alliance of five regions, i.e. Venatu, Kuttanatu, Kutanatu, Puzhinatu and Karkkanatu.[4] Even though, the boundaries of each of them cannot be assume exactly, the Sangam literature provides some references about these territories.[5] The present Thiruvananthapuram district and some regions of the Kollam and Pathamnamthitta districts were known as the Venatu region. The term Venatu was derived from the word “Vel natu”(the land of the Vels). The term “Vel” is stand for the “land lords”. Present Ernakulum, Kottayam, Idukki, Alappuzha districts and some regions of Kollam district were wellknown as the “Kuttanatu”. The “Kutanatu” region was in the Northern side of Kuttanatu and it occupied the area of present Thrissur, Palakkad, Malappuram districts and some parts of Kozhikkode district. The word “Kutanatu” means the “western land”. “Puzhinatu” was identified in the parts of Kozhikode district, coastal area of Kasargod and Kannur districts. The eastern side of Puzhinatu, was known as “Karkkanatu”, which means “impassable kingdom”. Present Wayanad and Gudallur hill areas were included in this area. The names Venatu and Karkkanatu were developed after the Sangam epoch.

In the Sangam period, the South India was under the control of three prominent kingdoms, the Chera, Cola and Pandya. Ancient grammarian Katyana (B.C.E 4th Century) mentioned these dynasties in his work.[6] The first power among this trinity might be the Ceras. Historians have different observations about the origin of the primitive Ceras. Obviously they were not the “Kshatriyas”, but possibly from an aborigine clan in the South India.[7] Not only the Ceras, but the Cola and Pandya clans were also not belongs to the Kshatriyas. On the other hand, the Kshatriya community was not existed in the south India at the time of Purananuru and Patirrupatt. The different views about the period of Primitive Ceras, some discussions are given below.

Attoor Krishnapisharody states that Ceras were the successors of the prominent Puranic Asura emperor Mahabali and his son Bana[8]. They ruled ancient Kerala and “Trikkakara”was their capital city, which located in the present Ernakulum district of Kerala. Afterwards, another king namely “Chera” shifted the capital city into “Tiruvancikkalam”. Later, this place came to known as “Tiruvancikkulam”.Gradually, the kingdom flourished under the governance of emperor Cera and consequently that land became famous in the name “Ceranatu”(land of Cera) and in later period it abbreviated into “Ceram”. The kings of Ceram were acknowledged as“Ceras” and “Ceraman”. The land of Ceras again transformed into the name“Ceralam” and it again converted into “Keralam”.[9]

But several historians are not accepting the story of Mahabali’s paternity to the Ceras. Some of them connected the ancient Ceras with the term“Keralaputra”mentioned by the Maurya King Ashoka and the reference about the “Cerobotras” by Plini in his travelogue.[10] For instance, K. Sivasankaran Nair connects the primitive Ceras to the Keralaputras. According to his opinion, the indications in the different Rock Edicts of Ashoka from Girnar (Ketalaputo),[11] Shahbazgarhi (Keradaputo)[12], Kalsi (Kelalaputo)[13] and Manshehra dictums (Keralaputa)[14] are mentions the ancient Ceras. Like that Pliny, the Greek author of the book Periplus of the Erythraean Sea (Cerobotra) and the Egyptian traveller Ptolemy (Kerobothros)[15] etc. also point towards the same person or clan denoted in the Ashoka dictums. All of these notations indicate the sophisticated form of the words “Ceraman” or “Ceramakan”[16].

Meanwhile, some historians discarded this argument and connecting it with the later Ceras. For instance, Kaviyoor Murali comments that the terms like Keralaputra and Cerobotras are denotes the later Cheras after Sangam age. The establishment of Cera dynasty was very much before than the King Ashoka and Plini not able to even assume it.[17]

In the 4th century BCE, Megasthenes[18] mentioned that, the poorer king of the Charmae has but sixty elephants, and his force otherwise is insignificant.[19] This reference about “Charmae” by Megasthenes belongs to the Cheras. They were also noted in the Ashoka’s dictums and the Hathigumpha Inscription of Kharavela.[20] From this, the Cheras was existed before the Maurya period, but they might be not the same Ceras of Patirrupatt[21]. The Musikavamsha of Atula frequently mentions the name king “Keralan”and it might be denote about a particular Cera king or the clan of Ceras. The Mushikas sometimes made marriage relationship with the Keralas; sometimes they fought with each other. The depiction of their joint attack against a common enemy was also available in the Mushikavamsha.


This verse mentions about the joint attempt of Mushikas and Ceras to defend the attack of a Cola ruler. Here the Musika ruler Ramaghata Mushaka sent his son Valabha to help the king Kerala to defend the attack of Colas.

The Sangam works like Patirrupatt, Akananuru and Purananuru etc. were supported to gather information about the ancient Cera rulers. With the help of these works, historians constructed a genealogy of ancient Ceras. The text Patirrupatt contains the admirations of ten Cera kings, using ten songs (Patikam) attributed for each king. The first and tenth “patikams” are not yet available. The available text starts with the ballads of the second Cera Emperor “Imayavarampan Netum Ceralatan”[23]. He was denoted as the son of Utiyan Ceralatan in the text. From these references, historians assumed that Utiyan Ceralatan was the establisher of ancient Chera dynasty and he might be the hero of the unavailable first “Patikam”[24].

The genealogy of the ancient Cera-scan be divided into two divisions. They are Atan Shakha or Vanavarampan Shakha and Irumporai Shakha.[25] The Atan Shakha includes Utiyan Ceralatan and his successors while Irumporai Shakha consists of Antuvan Ceral and his successors. The Irumporai Shakha might be originated from the “Porai” clan of south India.

Both divisions are represented as follows:

1. AtanShakha (VanavarampanShakha)

  • Perumcorrutiyan Ceralatan
  • Imayavarampan Netum Ceralatan
  • Palyanai Celkezhu Kuttuvan
  • Kalankai Kanni NarmutI Ceral
  • Katal Pirakottiya Velkuzhu Kuttuvan (Ceran Cenkuttuvan)
  • Atukotu Pattu Ceralatan

2. IrumporaiShakha

  • Antuvan Ceral
  • Celvakkatumko
  • Perumceral
  • Ilamceral

Footnotes and references:


The Ay kingdom ruled the Western Ghat region covering from Nagarcoil to Tiruvalla as its south and north borders respectively. Ptolemy (A Greco-Roman Astronomer and Geographer) used the term “Aioi” to refer the Ay Kingdom from riverBaris” (Pampa) to Kanyakumari. Their capital city was Aykkuti which was located in the “Potiyil malai” (the Sahyadri part of “Aruvamozhi” to “Palakkad”). They became a prominent kingdom before the strengthening of the ancient Ceras. The Sangam works refer three prominent kings of Ay dynasty-“Ay Antiran”, “Titiyan” and “Atiyan”. They occurred as a buffer state between the Cera and Pandya kingdoms.


The Mushikas ruled the northern region of Kerala. Ezhimala was the capital city of Mushikas. ‘Nanna’ was the famous and the strongest king of Mushika dynasty. His attempt to expand the kingdom led in an enormous war with the Ceras. Story of the Victory of Nanna against the Cera Commander Aay Eyinan occurred at ‘Pazhi’ was praised in the Akananururu and Purananuru. But his life ended in a defeat by another Cera ruler Narmuticeral. The Sanskrit Mahakavya, Mushikavamsha describes the history of Mushika Clan.


R.K Majumdar and A.N Srivastava, History of South India (Delhi: SBD Publishers” Distributors,1999) 60.


A. Sreedharamenon, Keralacharithram, (Kottayam: DC Books, December 2011),75




Kaviyoor Murali, Purananooru Oru Paddanam, (Kottayam: DC Books, 1999), 67.


Ibid, 75.


Attoor Krishnapisharody, Kerala Charithram (part-1), (Thrissur: published by the author, 1932),8.


Ibid, 9.


Plini was a Greek scholar and author of the book Periplus of the Erythraean Sea. His reference about ancient Cheras (Cerobotras) is as follows: Tyndis is of the kingdom of Cerobotra; it is a village in plain sight by the sea. Muziris, of the same, kingdom, abounds in ships sent there with cargoes from Arabia, and by the Greeks; it is located on river, distant from Tyndis by river and sea five hundred stadia, and up the river from the shore twenty stadia. Nelcynda located distant from Muziris by river and sea,about five hundred stadia, and is of another Kingdom, the Pandian. This place also situated on a river, about one hundred and twenty stadia from the sea.—The Periplus of the Erythrean Sea by Plini, Tr. From the Greek and annotated by Wilfred H. Schoff, (New York: Longmans, Green and Co., 1912), 44.


Ye Ca anta ataChoda, Pandiya, Satiyaputo, Ketalaputo, Tam bapanni, Antiyogonaama, Yonalaja.... (Girnar Rock Edict, stanza II, Brahmi script).—Translation: Everywhere in the conquered dominions of king Priyadarsin, the beloved-ofthe gods, and the dominions on the boarders as those of the Choda (the Colas), Pandiya (the Pandyas). Satiyaputo (The Satiyaputras) and the Ketalaputo (the Keralaputras), as far as Tam bapanni (Tamraparni) the Yavana king named Antiyogonaama (Antiyoka) and the other neighbouring kings of this king Antiyoka.


Sav[r]atravijite [De]va[nam]priyasaPriyadrashisa y[e] cha [a]mtayatha [Choda] PamdiyaSatiyaputro KeradaputroTambapamni…, Second Rock-Edict: Shahbazgarhi.


Sav[a]ta vijitsi Devanampiyas[a] Piyadasis[a] lajine ye cha amta [a]tha Choda Pam[di]yaSatiyaputo Ke[lala]putoTamba[pa]mni.. Second Rock Edict: Kalsi


[A] sa[vatra vi]jitasi Devanapriyasa Priyadrashisarajine ye cha ataatha [Choda] Pa[mdiya] Sa[ti]ya[p]u[tra] Keralaputra [Tam]bapani…, Second Rock Edict: Mansehra


The Capital of Limeryca was Karur, on the Kaveri where resided Kerobothros, i.e., Keralaputra, the Chera King. J.W. McCrindle, MA, M.R.A.S, Ancient India as Described by Ptolemy, (London: Trubner& Co., 1885).


Sivasankaran Nair K., Prachinakeralathinte Charithram, (Kottayam: DC Books, July 2017).81 and 82.


Kaviyoor Murali, Purananooru OruPaddanam, (Kottayam: DC Books, 1999), 68.


Megasthenes was an ancient Greek historian and diplomat. He became an ambassador of Seleucus I Nicator of the Seleucid dynasty to the royal assembly of Chandragupta Maurya of Pataliputra approximately between 302 BCE-298 BCE. His work Indica is about the India in the Mauryan period. Even though the original book was lost, but its fragments and quotations from it are survived throughthe later Greek literature.


McCrindle J.W., M.A, M.R.A.S, Ancient India as Describe by Megasthenes and Arrian, London: Trubner & Co., 1875147


[...] [...] His majesty shattered the territorial confederacy of the Tamils having populous villages, that was existing since thirteen hundred years. The Hathigumpha Inscription, 11th line.[...] The Hathigumpha Inscription (Elephant cave inscription), from Udayagiri near Bhubaneswar in Odisha is a source of information about Kalinga ruler Kharavela. This inscription contains 17 lines written in Brahmi Script of the first century BCE. It scripted on the overhanging brow of a natural carved cave in the southern side of Udayagiri hill.


Kochu K.K., Kerala Caritravum Samuharupikaranavum, (Thiruvananthapuram: Keralabhasha Institute, March 2012),


2Dr. Raghavan Pillai K, Musikavamsha with Malayalam Translation, (Thiruvananthapuram: Publication Department, Univrsity of Kerala, 1983), 284.


Netum Ceralatan was the son of PerumcorrutiyanCeralatan and Nallini. He was wellknown in the names “Vanavarampan” and “Imayavarampan” (Imayavar-Anpan). The Sangam works refers the history of NetumCeralatan. The “Smritimanjaripart, its fourteenth Sarga of the Sanskrit historical kavyaKeralodaya elaborately explains the history this king.


Sivasankaran Nair K., Prachinakeralathinte Charithram, (Kottayam: DC Books, July 2017), 101.


“AtanShakha” or “VanavarampanShakha”is consisting of PerumcorrutiyanCeralatan and his successors. The “Irumporai shakha” was originated from the “Porai”clan which includes MantaranCeralIrumporai and his sons.

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