Ravivarman Kulaśēkhara

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Ravivarman (1266–1314), complete royal title Rāja Śri Ravivarman, Kulaśēkhara Perumāl, Samgrāmadhīra, Trkshatra Cudāmani, Vēgavati Nātha[1]) was the ruler based in Vēnāṭu (Quilon), southern India between 1299-1314. He was a descendant of the Cēras (Perumāls) through his father Jayasimhadēva and was the son-in-law of the Pāndya ruler of Māravarman Kulaśēkhara.[2] Ravivarman controlled large parts of south India for short period (1311-1314) by skilfully taking advantage of the weakening of the Pāndya kingdom and the Khaljī raids. Ravivarman paid a particular attention on the improvement of the port city Kollam/Kolamba (modern Quilon).[2][3]

He is the last Vēnāṭu ruler came to the throne according to the patrilineal system of royal succession, for from the accession of the next ruler till the time of the last ruler of Travancore the matrilineal law of inheritance decided royal succession.[4]


Vēnāṭu is the region lying between Trivandrum and Quilon in present-day southern Kērala with its capital at latter place. It emerged as an independent kingdom after the decline of the Cēra (Perumāls) power in early 12th century.[4]

In the 13th century, the Pāndyas of Madurai established their hegemony over Vēnāṭu Cēras. Pandya rulers such as Māravarman Kulaśēkhara (1268-1310) seem to have led a military expeditions against Vēnāṭu and captured the capital city Quilon.[2] The ruler of Vēnāṭu (under the Pandyas) during this period was Jayasimhadēva (Dēśinga) (fl. 1266-67). He probably expanded his kingdom to the whole of present-day Kērala. His queen Uma/Umma Dēvi, of the Kūpaka (Attingal) family, was a joint ruler with her husband. His son, Ravivarman succeeded him to the throne of Venatu.[1][2]

According to the Sanskrit inscriptions (in Grantha characters) at Ranganathasvamy Temple, Srirangam Ravivarman was born in the Saka year 1188 (as given in chronogram dehavyapya) corresponding to 1266-67 AD.[5] Ravivarman, the son of Jayasimhadeva and Uma Dēvi, was a major contender to throne after the death of his father. Like other princes in the royal family, he was educated privately. He was adopted by the childless queen Āvani Amma of Āttingal.[1] Ravivarman came out successful in the civil war and ascended the throne of Quilon in 1299 (at the age of 33). For more than a decade, he ruled as a vassal under the Pāndya ruler Māravarman Kulaśēkhara, as is evidenced by the Trivandrum inscription in which he uses the Pāndya title Māravarma along with his name. He is also known to have married a daughter of the Pāndya ruler.[2]

Raids to Madurai and Kānci[edit]

When Māravarman Kulaśēkhara died in 1310, Ravivarman "declared" independence from the Pāndyas. He also began to count his regnal years afresh from 1310. Thus the Tiruvati inscription of the Kali year 4414 (1313–14) may be seen to coincide with the fourth regnal year of Ravivarman. The civil war between princes Sundara and Vīra Pāndya (legitimate and illegitimate sons respectively of Māravarman Kulaśēkhara) and the confusion created by the Khaljī general Malik Kāfūr’s south Indian expedition (1311) helped Ravivarman in his ambitions. The distracted political conditions in Pāndya kingdom gave him an admirable opportunity to plan raids to territories east of the Western Ghats.[2]

He raided the Pāndya kingdom and defeated the armies of prince Vīra Pāndya twice, assuming control over his realm. He also defeated the brother of Vīra Pāndya. Soon the entire Pāndya regions came under Ravivarman. The military garrisons established in the region by Malik Kāfūr were expelled by him in the process. He established supremacy over most of the region between Cape Comorin and Madras, and as far north as Nellore.[1] He performed his coronation at the Pāndya capital Madurai (1312) and then continued his triumphant march, reaching Tiruvati in December 1313. He is also known to have performed a second coronation at the Cōla capital Kānci in the early months of 1314 after defeating the effete Cōlas (at the age of 46, as per the inscription at Varadarajaswami temple, Kanchi). He crowned himself as the Tribhuvana Cakravarti - the ruler of Cēra, Cōla and Pāndya kingdoms.[2][6]

But, Ravivarman's hold over Kānci was only short-lived and his aggressive activities were arrested by the Kākatīya ruler, Pratāparudra II. The Kākatīya army under the command of Muppidi Nāyaka (Dēvari Nāyaka) marched to Kanci, and captured the city. The Cera ruler ceded some of the conquered territory to the Warangal. The Kakatiyas penetrated to further south and probably in alliance with the Hoysalas, defeated and reduced the last remnants of the Pandya power. There is also assumption that Kanci was captured from the Chera ruler by the Pandyas, before being defeated by the Kakatiyas.[3][7]

There is a Telugu inscription (in Grantha script, dated in Saka 12) of Kākatīya king Pratāparudra Dēva in Śrīraṅgam. It states that while Pratāpadēva was ruling from Oruṅgallu, his commander Dēvari Nāyaka marched with an army to the south against the Five Pāṇḍyas, defeated Vīra-Pāṇḍya and the Malayāḷa king [Ravivarman] Kulaśēkhara at Tiruvadikuṇḍram and established Sundara-Pāṇḍya at Vīradhāvaḷam. The village Tiruvadikuṇḍram may be identified with Tiruvadikunram in the Ginjee taluk of the South Arcot district.

Ravivarman died in 1314 at Quilon due to natural causes. He was followed by his nephew, Udaya Marttānda Varma (1314-1344), who seems to have ruled only in Travancore.[4] Soon after Ravivarman's death, Kērala became a conglomeration of warring chieftains, among which the most important were Calicut (now Kōlikkōṭu) in the north and Vēnāṭu in the south.[8]

The Sanskrit-Tamil inscriptions of Ravivarman can be found at Kanchipuram, Tiruvadi (South Arcot), Srirangam, Thiruppankili (Tiruppaṅgili in Trichinopoly district), Poonamallee near Chennai, Salaigramam in Trivandrum.[2]

Cultural contributions[edit]

Apart from his military brilliance, Ravivarman is also noted for his services in the field of religion, arts and trade.[2] His court attracted scholars and authors such as Samudrabandha (the commentator of the works of Alankarasarvaswa) and Kavi Bushana. He also claims to be a talented musician and author. He wrote the famous Sanskrit drama Pradymnabhyudayam specifically for the purpose of being staged in the Sri Padmanābha Swāmi temple in Travancore. His devotion to his Tutelary Deity, Sri Padmanabha, is clear from his title 'Sri Padmanabha pada kamala paramaradhaka' (Worshipper of the lotus feet of Sri Padmanabha).

Under Ravivarman, his homeland Vēnāṭu attained a high degree of economic prosperity and social progress. The famous port city Quilon developed into the premier port on the west coast.[2]


  1. ^ a b c d "The Royal Ark (Travancore)". www.royalark.net. Retrieved 2012-08-24. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j A. Sreedhara Menon A Survey of Kerala History National Book Stall, 1967
  3. ^ a b The Cambridge Shorter History of India. Volume I (To 1526) J. Allan, T. Wolseley Haig, H. H. Dodwell.
  4. ^ a b c A. Sreedhara Menon. Kerala History and its Makers. D C Books, 1990
  5. ^ It records that the king set up an image of Ranganatha, celebrated the festival of lights and provide for payment, on the day of Shatabhisha in the month of Kanya, i.e., Purattasi, of 100 panas each to 50 learned men. The inscription in verse, is said to have been composed by poet Bhushana.
  6. ^ Sri Varadarajaswami Temple, Kanchi: A Study of Its History, Art and Architecture K.V. Raman. Abhinav Publications (2003) p. 24
  7. ^ History of Ancient India Rama Shankar Tripathi. Motilal Banarsidass Publ., 1942. p. 491
  8. ^ William A. Noble. "Kerala (state, India) : History - Britannica Online Encyclopedia". Britannica.com. Retrieved 2012-08-24.