Sanskrit sources of Kerala history

by Suma Parappattoli | 2010 | 88,327 words

This study deals with the history of Kerala based on ancient Sanskrit sources, such as the Keralamahatmyam. The modern state known as Keralam or Kerala is situated on the Malabar Coast of India. The first chapter of this study discusses the historical details from the inscriptions. The second chapter deals with the historical points from the Mahatm...

This book contains Sanskrit text which you should never take for granted as transcription mistakes are always possible. Always confer with the final source and/or manuscript.

8. The Catakasandesa (composed in Thirumandhamkunnu)

Catakasandesa[1] is a work of the Sandesakavya type in form though different in content[2], in that it is a prayer for financial assistance made by a Namputiri Brahmin of Tirumanthamkunnu [Thirumandhamkunnu] in Malabar to Kartika Tirunal Ramavarma Maharaja of Travancore through a Cataka bird[3].

When Tippu Sultan invaded Malabar in 1787 a poor Brahmin took refuge in Travancore ruled at that time by Kartika Tirunal. Later due to a sudden illness he returned to his home without formally taking leave of the king. There he worshipped goddess Kali at Tirumanthamkunnu. One day, he inform his hardship to his former protector and chose a Cataka sitting in a garden, as his messenger. The bird is asked to go to Trivandrum with his message of entreaty for financial help[4].

Places, rivers, temples etc.

Several rivers places of cultural interest are mentioned in the course of the poem. Duties of the temples of Camravattam, Tirunava, Trichur, Peruvanam, Urakam, Irinjalakkuda, Kotunnallur, Trippunithura, Vaikkam[5], Kalarkotu, Ambalappula and Haripad are referred to in worshipful terms. Rivers like Bharatapula and Periyar are crossed by the messenger who also passes through places like Cennamangalam, Cempakasseri, Kayamkulam, Krsnapuram, Quilon, Karamana, Neyyatinkara, Parasala and Kulittura.

Although this poem has been brought to highlight as a good source of historical knowledge, in reality it does not make any substantial contribution for the history of Travancore. The poem describes extensively a large number of towns in Travancore ending with Padmanabhapuram. These descriptions are too general and their historical worth is meagre. (In addition to three places, the king has also been described, but that lacks specific references.) Still, a few interesting pieces of information could be gathered from them.

The city of Trivandrum was in those days rapidly rising to prominence, and the heirapparent of the kingdom used to stay in ‘Sripadam palace[6]. The Padmanabhaswami temple in a flourishing state[7].

The Maharaja had his residence at Padmanabhapuram which he relished much.

asti prācyāṃ diśi khalu tataḥ padmanābhālayākhyam
sahyaprasthe sakalavibhaveḥ pūritaṃ rājaveśma |
yasmin vāsaḥ kila sumahatīṃ prītimasya prasūte
yatprāsādapravara vasatiḥ prekṣitobhūnmayā ca

At Trivandrum, there was the system of ringing the bell at each Nalika as indicated by the Ghatikayantra[9]. The karamana gramam was a centre of adapts in music and Samaguna. In short the poem gives some useful account of the Travancore state of the 18th century.

Kings and other reputed persons

Among the celebrities of the period Paliyattau Komi Accan and the reputed physician Cirattaman Mussatu are named by the poet. The great Divan Kamayana Dalawe (the minister) is also mentioned Kartika Tirunal the illustration ruler and patron is eulogised in several verses[10].

Footnotes and references:


Vinjanadeepika IV -Pp 74 -117


Instead of Vipralambha srngara one finds the declination of the sentiment of Danavira here for the first time in a poem of this type.


Kerala Sahitya Caritram, Ullur Vol. III -P 501. The importance and excellence in this work were highlighted for the first time by Ullur through a paper pub. in Sahityaparishat Traimasikam, which was in due course included in the Vinjanadeepika


Kerala Sahitya Caritram, Ullur Vol. III -P. 501


The well known Vaikkom feast has been mentioned, Keraleya Samskrita Sahitya Caritram Vol. IV -P 214


Vinjanadeepika IV -P 102


Ibid Pp 104 -105


Vinjanadeepika IV -P 105


Ibid P 106 tadanu khaṭikāyantrakhaṇṭarāvaiśyā


More details see—Historical and cultural gleanings from Sandesakavyas of Kerala (PhD Thesis, Uty of Kerala, M.T. Muralidharan 1994), Sandesacatustayam—A study -M Phill Thesis -M.T. Murallidharan


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