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Kalabhras

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Title: Kalabhras  
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Subject: Tamil Nadu, Middle kingdoms of India, Silappatikaram, History of South India, Pandyan Dynasty, Pallava dynasty, Simhavishnu, Madras Presidency, History of Chennai, Indian nationalism
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Kalabhras

Kalabhras Empire

250–600
 

Kalabhras Territories
Capital Kaveripattinam
Languages Tamil
Religion Buddhism
Hinduism
Jainism
Government Monarchy
Maharaja
 -  5th century Achchutavikranta
 -  ? Tiraiyan of Pavattiri
 -  ? Pulli of Vengadam
Tirupati
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 6th century in an era of South Indian history called the Kalabhra interregnum. The Kalabhras, possibly Buddhists, 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.

Identification

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. 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.[1] 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.[2]

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.

Patrons of Literature

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.[3]

Religion

It is known that the Kalabhras as patronized Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.[4]

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.[5] 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.[6]

King Achuta had worshiped Vaisnava Tirumal, and some scholars believe this means that the Kalabhras patronized Hinduism.[7]

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.

See also

Other sources

  • The Kalabhras in the Pandiya Country and Their Impact on the Life and Letters There, By M. Arunachalam, Published by University of Madras, 1979[8]

References

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