Kalabhra dynasty

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Kalabhras Empire


Kalabhras Territories
Capital Kaveripattinam
Languages Tamil
Religion Buddhism
Government Monarchy
 •  5th century Achyutavikranta
Tiraiyan of Pavattiri
Pulli of Vengadam
Historical era Classical India
 •  3rd century c. 250
 •  7th century c. 600

The Kalabhras dynasty (Tamil: களப்பிரர் Kalappirar) 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 Sangam, 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. 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 3rd century, viz. the fall of the Satavahanas and the rise of Pallavas, resulting in political confusion in Tondaimandalam.[1] P. T. Srinivasa Iyengar identifies them with the Tamil Kalappalar clan.

Evidence from literature[edit]

The history of Cholas of Uraiyur (Tiruchirappalli) is exceedingly obscure from 4th to the 9th 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 Achyutavikranta of the Kalabharakula, as ruling over the Chola country from Kaveripattinam. He was a Buddhist. Tamil literary tradition refers to an Achyuta who kept the Chera, Chola and Pandya rulers in captivity. On the basis of the contemporaneity of Buddhadatta with Buddhaghosha, Achyuta may be assigned to the 5th 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.

Reasons for the unpopularity[edit]

Kalabhras, by ruling the Tamil country, disturbed the prevailing order. The Velvikudi inscriptions of the third reignal 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). They enjoyed it for a long time. Then a Kali king named Kalabhran took possession of the extensive earth, driving away numberless great kings.

Patrons of literature[edit]

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 Silappadhikaram, Manimegalai 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".[2]


It is known that the Kalabhras patronized the Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.[3]

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.[4] Scholar Alice Justina Thinakaran writes that perhaps they were Shaivite Hindu, Jain or Buddhist.

They are known for patronizing Skanda or Subramanya, the Hindu god. They imprinted his image on their 5th-century coins, especially from Kaveripumpapattinam rulers.[5]

King Achyuta had worshiped Vaisnava Tirumal, and some scholars believe this means that the Kalabhras patronized Hinduism.[6]

Fall of Kalabhras[edit]

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.

See also[edit]

Other sources[edit]

  • The Kalabhras in the Pandiya Country and Their Impact on the Life and Letters There, By M. Arunachalam, Published by University of Madras, 1979[7]


  1. ^ Episteme, V.J. (2007-04-30). "Some questions". Ponniyin Selvan Varalaatru Pervai. Archived from the original on 6 December 2008. Retrieved 2008-12-18. 
  2. ^ "Society under the Kalabhras". Tamil Nadu. tamilnadu.ind.in. Retrieved 2008-12-18. 
  3. ^ P. 146 Kerala State gazetteer, Volume 2, Part 1 By Adoor K. K. Ramachandran Nair
  4. ^ Veermani Pd. Upadhyaya Felicitation Volume By Veermani Prasad Upadhyaya
  5. ^ P. 150 and P. 152 The peacock, the national bird of India By P. Thankappan Nair
  6. ^ Buddhism in Tamil Nadu: collected papers By G. John Samuel, Ār. Es Śivagaṇēśamūrti, M. S. Nagarajan, Institute of Asian Studies (Madras, India)
  7. ^ 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.