Mushika Kingdom

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Mushika kingdom
c. 6th Century BCE (conventional dating)–1940s (Twentieth Century)
Capital Ezhimalai
Languages Tamil
Religion Hinduism and others
Government Monarchy
 -  Established c. 6th Century BCE (conventional dating)
 -  Disestablished 1940s (Twentieth Century)
South India in first century AD, showing Puzhinadu

The Mushika Kingdom (also called the Ezhimalai Kingdom, Puzhinadu, or Mushaka Rajya) was an ancient kingdom of the Tamil Sangam age in present day Northern Kerala, India, ruled by a royal dynasty of the same name. Their dominion was the strip of land between Mangalore in the north and Vadagara in the south. It was one of the three kingdoms of the Sangam Age in the Kerala region, along with the Chera kingdom, and the Ay kingdom. Ezhimalai Nannan was the most powerful ruler of Ezhimalai. He expanded the kingdom to Wynad, Gudallore, and parts of Coimbatore. With the death of Nannan in a battle against the Cheras, the kingdom was absorbed by the Chera kingdom.

The Mushika royals, later known as the Kolathiris and the Chirakkal royal family, may have been the only one, or one of the twelve Velir families of the Tamil Sangam era. Over the millennia they frequently intermarried with the Cheras, the Pandyas and the Cholas, and may also have given rise to the royalty of the Lakshadweep, the Maldives and Sri Lanka. They have also had matrimonial alliances with the Chedis, the Somas, and the Yadavas.[1][2] The Arakkal and the Nileshwaram Royal Families are both branches of this Royal Family, having branched out from them, over the centuries.[3] A Southern branch of this family ruled over erstwhile Venad and was better known as the Thiruvithamkoor or Travancore Royal Family.[citation needed] The Mushika Royal Family has found mention in surviving ancient Indian texts like the Vishnu Purana[4] and also in Greek accounts like that of Strabo.[5]

Referred to in the epic Mahabharata, over the millennia, Ezhimalais have also been known as Kulyas, Kolis and Kolwas as well as the Velirs, Ezhimala (also written Ezhimalai), and the Nannans. Later they were better known as the Kolathiri or the Chirakkal royal family of Northern Kerala. Their last and erstwhile capital was in the town of Chirakkal to which they moved around 850 AD.[citation needed] The word "Mushika" also means "mouse" in Sanskrit. Ezhimala, where they had their capital earlier than at Taliparamba and Chirakkal, literally means "Rat Hill" in the local Malayalam language as well as in Tamil.

Ezhimalai, the ancient capital, as seen from train

Map showing Musi, in Dandaka Forest

Some old maps depict present day Hyderabad as Mushika and as mushika nagara in some research papers. There is a river named "Mushika" in the city of Hyderabad Deccan (Andra Pradesh). The name later changed to Musi.

Over the millennia, their kingdom roughly covered present-day Kasaragod and Kannur districts in Kerala, South India, along with some adjoining areas of Northern Kerala and Tulu Nadu, and in some periods parts of Tamil Nadu, Kodagu and Mysore as well.[citation needed]

The best known king in the recorded history of this dynasty and kingdom was Udayan Venmon Nannan also known as Nannan or Nandan.[1][2] Documented records of the rule of 118 kings up until Srikanta at the start of the 11th Century CE have been compiled in the Sanskrit text known as Mushikavamsa, in reality a poem composed by the poet and historian Atula, who was one of Srikanta's courtiers. The territories they ruled over were known as Kolathunadu or Kolathirinadu. The Kovilakam (meaning Palace in the local Malayalam language) of the Kolathiris was located in Chirakkal where it still stands. The Mushika Royals were responsible for building many of the existing ancient temples of Northern Kerala and adjoining areas, besides forts like those at Bekal Fort, and major ports like those at Valapattam.[6] The Arakkal and Nileshwaram Royal Families are both branches of the Kolathiri or Chirakkal Royal Family. The southern branch of this Family ruled over Venad and is today known as the Travancore Royal Family.

Ezhimalai Nannan[edit]

Ezhimalai Nannan (ഏഴിമല നന്നന്‍) (approx. 3rd century BC, sometimes approx 1st-5th century AD) was a South Indian ruler of the Mushika kingdom and was a suspected contemporary of Mauryan emperor Bindusara, in the Sangam Period. Ezhimalai Nannan, a celebrated hero in the Sangam literature, is famous for his military expansions and battles against their powerful neighbors, the Chera kingdom.[7]

Ezhimalai was a flourishing seaport and center of trade around the beginning of the Common Era, it was also one of the major battlefields of the Chola-Chera Wars of the 11th century. Mooshika Vamsham, written by Athulan in the 10th century, throws light on the history of the Mushika Royal Family in particular and of North Kerala in general.[8][9][10] The first recorded king of Mooshika Vamsham (the Mooshika Dynasty) was Ramaghata Mooshika, and his capital was Ezhimala.

Under Nannan, an able military commander also, Mushika kingdom transformed into a force in South India, and stretched into Wynad and Gudalur Districts in the foothills of the Western Ghats, and the northern parts of present day Coimbatore district, Tamil Nadu. Eager to expand his kingdom, Nannan waged war against the Cheras, and successfully defeated the Chera commanders at the Battle of Pazhi.

It is believed that Nannan buried an immense treasure of coins in the foothills of Ezhimalai. Sangam literature gives us a vivid picture of the life of people at Ezhimalai. Paranar, the court poet of Nannan, describes the victory of Pazhi in his works. The victories of Nannan over the Cheras and other neighbouring chieftains are alluded to in the Agamnanuru, Nattinai and other works.

But the Chera king, Narmudi Cheral, defeated him at the Battle of Vakaipperum Turai and consequently the Mushika kingdom passed into the hands of the Cheras.[11][12][13][14]

Kolathiris of Kolathunad traces their ancestry back to the ancient Mushika kingdom of the Tamil Sangam Age. After king Nannan of Mushika dynasty was killed in the Battle of Vakaipperum Turai against the Cheras, the history of the dynasty is obscure. However, it is generally agreed among the scholars that Kolathris are the descendents of king Nannan, and later literary works point towards kings such as Vikramaraman, Jayamani, Valabhan and Srikandan from Mushika dynasty. Kolathunad was the northernmost province of the Later Chera kingdom and had considerable autonomy during 12th century.