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Chera Ruler
PredecessorNedum Cheralathan[1]
FatherNedum Cheralathan

Imayavaramban Vel Kelu Senguttuvan Chera (ca. 2nd century CE) was a prominent ruler of the Chera dynasty of the Sangam period in ancient Tamilakam. Vanchi was the Cheran capital city during his reign. He ruled for 55 years and was known as one of the greatest warrior-kings of the Sangam period and as a patron of arts, letters and commerce.[3]

Early life[edit]

Senguttuvan was the elder son of Chera king-father Imayavaramban Nedum Cheralathan and mother Sonai/Nalchonai of the Chola dynasty. His younger brother was Silappatikaram author Ilango Adigal. An astrologer at the court of Nedum Cheralathan predicted, that Ilango would become the next king, which angered his elder brother Senguttuvan. In respect to Senguttuvan's ambitions Ilango chose to renounce his claims to the throne and live a life of an ascetic.[4] Ilango moved to the city of Kunavayilkottam, where he wrote the story of Silappatikaram. Senguttuvan ascended the Chera throne after the death of his father Nedum Cheralathan.

Tamilakam hegemony[edit]

Senguttuvan's military success story began with the intervention in the Cholan succession war after the death of Kariakala Chola between Cholan princes Nedunkilli and nine other princes, where he took side with his brother-in-law Nedunkilli, who ascended the Cholan throne.[4] The rebel leaders were defeated in the battle of Nerivayil, south of Uraiyur. Later he successfully attacked the capital of Pandya commander Palayan Maran in Muhoor, who ill-treated the chieftain Arukai.[5] Constant land and naval battles took place against the allied Kadamba-Yavana forces. Senguttuvan was able to defeat them in the battles of Idumbil, Valayur. He attacked the Kodukur fortress in Kongu Nadu where the Kadambas took shelter, but their army was defeated. Later the Kadambas supported by the Yavanas attacked Senguttuvan by sea, but the Chera monarch destroyed their fleet.[4] Sangam poet Paranar praised Senguttuvan naval powers "Kuttuvan not finding an enemy worthy to fight with became angry, with martial might besieged the sea and with magnificient spear drove back the sea whose wave rose high". His navel strength led to the often used title Kadal Pirakottiya, which translates to "one who controls the sea and ensures that even the sea is not a sanctuary against his might".[6] Paranar also praised Senguttuvan's military power "Kuttuvan of the gold garland, whose army destroyed the beauty of many lands, till the noise rose loud of the drums used in numerous battles with the monarchs of the country between Comorin on the south and Himalayas, the mountain that rises high as the northern boundary."[4] Senguttuvan was thus also known as the Red Chera.

Himalaya campaign[edit]

Tamil epic Silappatikaram, written by Senguttuvan's brother Ilango, tells the story of Kannagi who has lost her husband Kovalan to the Pandyan court of Madurai. Kannagi cursed Madurai and returned to the Cheran kingdom, where she died. Senguttuvan's wife Venmal was moved by Kannagi's story and wanted her to be worshipped as a goddess. Senguttuvan agreed and asked his court for advice, which suggested to carve out a statue of a stone block from the Himalaya mountains. The king then ordered the march to the Himalayas by the royal sword and umbrella pointing northwards.[5] They first travelled to the Nilgiris mountains of Odisha by sea, where Senguttuvan was welcomed by Sanjcharya, a general of Magadha.[5] Sanjcharya informed Senguttuvan, that he was sent by Nuruvar Kannar to inquire about the needs of the Cheran king for the Himalaya campaign. Senguttuvan responded, that he needed ships to travel through the Ganges river. Using Sanjcharyas ships they sailed to Magadha, where they were received by the Magadhan king.[5] The journey ended at Uttarai, where the Aryan princes led by Kanaka, Vijaya and allied princes Uttara, Vichitra, Rudra, Bhairava, Chitra Singha, Dhanuttara and Sveta encountered Senguttuvan with a prominent army. After a long battle, the Aryan alliance was defeated by Senguttuvan's Tamil army. Kanaka and Vijaya were caught and brought back to Magadha, where Senguttuvan honoured the warriors of the battle. 32 months after his departure Senguttuvan returned to Vanchi, where the temple for Kannagi was consecrated.[5] The Kodungallur Bhagavathy temple is claimed to be the temple mentioned in Silappatikaram.[7]


After the death of Senguttuvan, Mantaran Cheral Irumporai took over the throne.


  1. ^ Menon, A. Sreedhara (1987). Kerala History and its Makers.
  2. ^ The names (both birth names and regnal names) and regnal years of the Chera rulers of this period are a matter of tentative and recent research.
  3. ^ A Survey of Kerala History by A Sreedhara Menon
  4. ^ a b c d Menon, A Sreedhara. Kerala History and its Makers.
  5. ^ a b c d e Kanakasabhai, V. (1989). The Tamils Eighteen Hundred Years Ago.
  6. ^ Nair, K. K. (2012). By Sweat and Sword: Trade, Diplomacy and War in Kerala Through the Ages.
  7. ^ Shulman, David (2016). Tamil.


Ancient India : RAM Saran Sharma