|-||?||Tiraiyan of Pavattiri|
|-||?||Pulli of Vengadam
|Historical era||Classical India|
|-||Third Century||circa 250|
|-||Sixth Century||circa 600|
The Kalabhras dynasty (Tamil: களப்பிரர்) ruled over the entire Ancient Tamil country between the 3rd and the 7th century in an era of South Indian history called the Kalabhra interregnum. The Kalabhras, possibly Jain, displaced the kingdoms of the early Cholas, early Pandyas and Chera dynasties by a revolt. The Kalabhras put an end to the brahmanadeya rights granted to the brahmans in numerous villages across southern India.
Information about the origin and reign of the Kalabhras is scarce. They left neither artifacts nor monuments, and the only sources of information are scattered mentions in Buddhist and Jain literature. The Kalabhras were defeated by the joint efforts of the Pallavas, Pandyas and Chalukyas Badami.
The identification of the Kalabhras is difficult. The chieftains of this tribe mentioned in Sangam literature are Tiraiyan of Pavattiri and Pulli of Vengadam or Tirupati. Romila Thapar claimed to have proved that Kalabhras were from Karnataka. The Kalavar must have been dislodged from their habitat near Tirupati by political events of the third century, viz. the fall of the Satavahanas and the rise of Pallavas, resulting in political confusion in Tondaimandalam. P.T Srinivasa Iyengar identifies them with the Tamil Kalappalar clan.
Evidence from Literature
The history of Cholas of Uraiyur (Tiruchirappalli) is exceedingly obscure from fourth to the ninth century, chiefly owing to the occupation of their country by the Kalabhras. Buddhadatta, the great writer in Pali, belonged to Uraiyur. He mentions his contemporary, King Achchutavikranta of the Kalabharakula, as ruling over the Chola country from Kaveripattinam. He was a Buddhist. Tamil literary tradition refers to an Achchuta who kept the Chera, Chola and Pandya rulers in captivity. On the basis of the contemporaneity of Buddhadatta with Buddhaghosha, Achchuta may be assigned to the fifth century. Thus, after the Sangam age, the Cholas were forced into obscurity by the Kalabhras, who disturbed the placid political conditions of the Tamil country.
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Reasons for the Unpopularity
Kalabhras, by ruling the Tamil country, disturbed the prevailing order. The Velvikudi inscriptions of the third regnal year of Pandya ruler Nedunjadaiyan (c.765 – c. 815) say that Pandya ruler Mudukudumi Peruvaludi gave the village of Velvikudi as brahmadeya (gift to a Brahmins). It was enjoyed for a long time. Then a Kali king named Kalabhran took possession of the extensive earth, driving away numberless great kings.
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The period of Kalabhras was marked by the ascendancy of Buddhism, and probably also of Jainism. It was characterized by considerable literary activity in Tamil. Most of the works grouped under the head, 'The Eighteen Minor works' might have been written during this period as also the Cilappadhikaram, Manimekalai and other works. Many of the authors were characterised as belonging to the `heretical' sects (meaning Buddhists and Jains). However, the great Tamil lexicographer Vaiyapuri Pillai had ascribed later dates to many of these works. This theory would undermine the link between the Kalabhras and the Eighteen Minor works.
It is known that the Kalabhras as patronized Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.
The late Kalabras appear to have been Shaivite and Vaishnavite. Scholar F.E. Hardy traced the palace ceremony to a Vishnu or Mayon temple to the rule of the Kalabras. Scholar Alice Justina Thinakaran writes that perhaps they were Shaivite Hindu, Jain or Buddhist.
King Achuta had worshiped Vaisnava Tirumal, and some scholars believe this means that the Kalabhras patronized Hinduism.
Fall of Kalabhras
The rule of Kalabhras of South India was ended by the counter invasions of Pandyas, Chalukyas and Pallavas. There are other references to the Kalabhras in Pallava and Chalukya inscriptions. They were conquered by Pallava Simhavishnu and Pandya Kadungon.
- The Kalabhras in the Pandiya Country and Their Impact on the Life and Letters There, By M. Arunachalam, Published by University of Madras, 1979
- Episteme, V.J. (2007-04-30). "Some questions". Ponniyin Selvan Varalaatru Pervai. Retrieved 2008-12-18.
- "Society under the Kalabhras". Tamil Nadu. tamilnadu.ind.in. Retrieved 2008-12-18.
- P. 146 Kerala State gazetteer, Volume 2, Part 1 By Adoor K. K. Ramachandran Nair
- Veermani Pd. Upadhyaya Felicitation Volume By Veermani Prasad Upadhyaya
- P. 150 and P. 152 The peacock, the national bird of India By P. Thankappan Nair
- Buddhism in Tamil Nadu: collected papers By G. John Samuel, Ār. Es Śivagaṇēśamūrti, M. S. Nagarajan, Institute of Asian Studies (Madras, India)
- Arunachalam, M. (1979). The Kalabhras in the Pandiya Country and Their Impact on the Life and Letters There (Original from the University of California, Digitized Jul 30, 2008 ed.). University of Madras. p. 168.