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Ancient inscription throws new light on Chera history

Abdul Latheef Naha

Provides proof to establish rule of first Perumal of Mahodayapura

Photo: Special Arrangement

Giving the exact date: The inscription found near Areekode in Malappuram. —

MALAPPURAM: An inscription that could prove to be a landmark in the history of Chera rule in South India has been found at a temple in Kurumathur, near Areekode here.

Epigraphist M.R. Raghava Varier, who deciphered the inscription, said the epigraph provided the first objective and direct proof to establish the date and rule of the first Perumal of Mahodayapura (Kodungallur).

The inscription, unearthed during the renovation of the Kurumathur Vishnu temple, gives not only the date of the first Chera king but also his name in full. It validates the inferences made by historian M.G.S. Narayanan about the name of the first Chera king.

The inscription, engraved on a granite slab in the Pallava Grantha script, is in the form of eulogy or “prasasthi,” praising and legitimising the rule of King Rama Rajasekhara of Mahodayapura.

Composed in Sardula Vikridita metre in Sanskrit, the three-stanza inscription says that King Rama Rajasekhara's glory be spread across the oceans. Even when connecting the ancestry of Perumals to the epic hero Sri Rama, the inscription gives May 24, AD 871, as an exact regnal date of Rajasekhara Perumal in the form of a “kali dina” chronogram. “You will get this exact regnal date if you decipher the chronogram with the help of Swamikannu Pillai's ephemeral calculator,” said Dr. Varier.

This was the first record to give an exact date of the first Chera king, he said. So far, historians were dependent on the Vazhappalli Copper Plate found near Changanassery to link the Chera rule to the ninth century.

According to Professor Narayanan, who studied extensively about the Chera rule, the Vazhappalli Copper Plate mentions the 11th regnal year of a Chera king.

Professor Narayanan, after referring various supplementary records, had inferred that King Rajasekhara's first name was Rama. The Kurumathur inscription has validated his finding.

“This inscription has proved to be the earliest document of Chera Perumal. It demands some revision in the existing chronology of the formative period of Kerala history,” said Dr. Varier.

Professor Narayanan, a former Chairman of the Indian Council of Historical Research, congratulated Dr. Varier for this “valuable discovery.” He told The Hindu that he concurred with the decipherment, but felt the dating of the inscription needed further investigation.

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