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Venad Swaroopam



12th century–1729
Capital Kollam (Quilon)
Languages Malayalam
Religion Hinduism, Saint Thomas Christianity and other religions
Government Feudal monarchy
 -  Disintegration of Later Chera Kingdom 12th century
 -  Formation of the Kingdom of Travancore 1729

Venad Swarupam (Kingdom of Quilon) (Vēṇāṭ, Malayalam: വേണാട്, Tamil: வேநாடு) was one of the three prominent late medieval Hindu feudal kingdoms on Malabar Coast, south India, along with Kingdom of Calicut and Kingdom of Cannanore.

The rulers of Quilon (called Venattadi Kulasekharas) traces their relations back to the Ay kingdom and the Later Cheras (Kulasekharas). The last ruler of the Later Chera Kingdom, Rama Varma Kulashekhara, was the first ruler of an independent state of Quilon. In the early 14th century, King Ravi Varma established a short-lived supremacy over southern India. But after his death, Quilon only included most of modern-day Kollam, Thiruvananthapuram districts of Kerala state, and Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu. Marco Polo claimed to have visited his capital at Quilon, a centre of commerce and trade with China and the Levant. Europeans were attracted to the region during the late fifteenth century, primarily in pursuit of the then rare commodity, black pepper. Quilon was the forerunner to the Kingdom of Travancore.

A new calendar was established by Quilon rulers called 'Kolla Varsham' (Malayalam calendar). The calendar started in AD 825 with the reopening the capital Quilon.[1]


The name Venad is believed to derived from Ay vel (Ay=shepherd, Vel=king), referring to the ancient rulers of Velnad. Sangam literature mentions three sets of seven Vallals (philanthropists). Out of the last set (the Kadaiyezhu Vallals, circa 100 AD), three lived in present-day Kollam and one in the Trivandrum area. Sangam literature also mentions the murder of Pari, ruler of Quilon. Kapila, a poet friend of Pari, married the slain Ay vel's daughters of to the Thirukovilur (Kollam) prince and built a temple for Pari at Parippalli. The places Ayur (Ay), Oyur (Oy) and Kariavattam (Kari) were also named after Ay vels.

The earliest use of the term "Venad" is found in the Tharisapalli plates of 849 AD, which gifted lands to the Assyrian Metropolitan, Mar Sabor, by Venad king, Iyenadikal Thiruvadikal. There are also many manuscripts which support the conclusion that the land was ruled by Vels. Another theory regarding the origination of the name is that, in ancient Tamil, Vezham meant "elephant", so Vezha Nadu meant "Elephant country".


Early history

In the Sangam age most of the present-day Kerala state was ruled by the Chera dynasty, Ezhimala rulers and the Ay rulers. Venad, ruled by the dynasty of the same name, was in the Ay kingdom. However, the Ays were the vassals of the Pandyas. By the 9th century, Venad became a part of the Later Chera Kingdom as the Pandya power diminished and traded with distant parts of the world. It became a semi-autonomous state within the Later Chera Kingdom. In the 11th century the region fell under the Chola empire.[2]

During 12th century, the Venad dynasty merged the remnants of the old Ay Dynasty to them forming the Chirava Mooppan (the ruling King) and the Thrippappur Mooppan (the Crown Prince). The provincial capital of the local patriarchal dynasty was at port Kollam. The port was visited by Nestorian Christians, Chinese and Arabs. In same century, the capital of the war-torn Later Chera Kingdom was relocated to Kollam and the Kulasekhara dynasty merged with the Venad rulers. The last King of the Kulasekhara dynasty based on Mahodayapuram, Rama Varma Kulashekhara, was the first ruler of an independent Venad. The Hindu kings of Vijayanagar empire ruled Venad briefly in the 16th century.[3]

Ravi Varma Kulasekhara

Ravi Varma Kulasekhara (1299–1313) was a feudatory of the Pandya ruler Maravarman Kulasekara Pandyan I (1268–1308) and married one of his daughters. At the death of Maravarman Kulasekhara, he proclaimed independence (1310), staked his claim to the Pandya throne and started issuing records as an independent sovereign. During this period, Delhi Sultanate raided the region and unsettled power relations.

Ravi Varma Kulasekhara, taking advantage of the unsettled nature of the country, quickly overran the surrounding regions (raids in 1314-1316) and brought the entire south India, from Kanyakumari to east to Kanchipuram, under Venad. Sangramadheeran, or Kulasekhara Ravi Varma, crowned himself "Tribhuvanachakravarthi"- ruler of Chera, Chola and Pandya kingdoms in 1312 at Kanchipuram. His inscription is found in Poonamallee, a suburb of Chennai. A scholar and musician himself, he patronised intellectuals and poets during his tenure. The Sanskrit drama "Pradyumnabhyudayam" is credited to him.

Trade and commerce also flourished during his rule, and capital Kollam became a famous centre of business and enterprise.

Later monarchs

In 1314, Kolathiri send two princesses called Attingal Rani and Kunnumel Rani to replace Venad dynasty then ruled by Vira Udaya Martanda Varma (1313–1333), the son of Ravi Varma (1299–1313). The succession has continued in the female line of that family ever since.[4]

After the 14th century, the Venad rulers gradually intermarried with the Namboothiris, and sometimes with the Nairs, adopting the custom of Marumakkathayam - Matrilineal Descendency. Later in the 16th century the Chirava Moopan became the ruler of Kollam (Desinganad) and Thrippappur Moopan became the Venad king.

After their conquests in central Kerala, Calicut probably waged war against Quilon (Venadu Swaroopam) and led a southern expedition. However, some historians reject the whole of idea of the southern expedition by Calicut. According to them, some land and Hindu temple rights were transferred to Calicut during an official visit to Quilon by the ruler of the Calicut.

The nominal reason for the military expedition was to protect the rights of the Brahmins in Quilon. Quilon had earlier opposed the expansion Calicut supremacy south of Cochin (former Perumpadappu kingdom). However, the Calicut forces advanced by Chetwai and Kanhur River, the Zamorin crossed the backwater at Vypin, marching through Chiranganad Karappuram, Payattukad, Alleppey, Trikunnappuzha and Kartikappally, and entered Odanad.

Soon, the ruler of Quilon propitiated Calicut by paying the expenses of the battles, ceding the lands known as Munjiramukkattam (Munjiramukkattam was later transferred by the Calicut to the temple of Padmanabha or to Mathappuram shrine). Quilon also agreed to send annual tribute along with the flag of fealty to Tirunavaya for the Mamankam festival.

During the Madurai Sultanate, Venad paid annual tribute and during the Madurai Naicker period (1550 to 1801), yearly tribute was paid by the Travancore kings to a General of the Nayaks of Madurai, who annually visited the capital Padmanabhapuram.

After Venad

In the 18th century, the newly crowned prince Marthanda Varma (1706–1758), who was in his twenties, defeated the Thampi sons of Rajah Rama Varma and the Ettuveetil Pillamar (Pillai's of the Eight Noble Nair Houses). Marthanda Varma united the kingdom, destroyed other kings of Southern Kerala and expanded his kingdom northward to include half of modern-day Kerala. He named the kingdom Thiruvithamkur (Travancore), after the Thiruvithamkode branch of the Venad royal family from which he came.

Marthanda Varma rebuilt the Anandha Padmanabha Swami Temple in 1730 AD. He defeated the Dutch in the Colachel War in 1741, but maintained good relations with the British East India Company for tactical reasons. Thiruvithamkur, or Travancore, became a subsidiary of the British at the end of 18th century, and remained a princely state with its own government under the Maharaja. On India becoming independent, Travancore joined the Indian Union in 1947 and later became a part of the State of Travancore-Cochin in 1949 which in turn became part of the state of Kerala when it was formed in 1956.

Venad monarchs (till 16th century)[5]

  1. Rama Varma Kulashekhara (1090–1102); mentioned in Rameswarathukoil Inscription as the founder of Venad as an independent state.
  2. Kotha Varma Marthandam (1102–1125); conquered Kottar and Nanjanad from the Pandya Dynasty.
  3. Vira Kerala Varma I (1125–1145); a great religious benefactor, responsible for the rebuilding of Padmanabhaswamy and the endowment of Suchindram Temples.
  4. Kodai Kerala Varma (1145–1150)
  5. Vira Ravi Varma (1161–1164)
  6. Vira Kerala Varma II (1164–1167)
  7. Vira Aditya Varma (1167–1173)
  8. Vira Udaya Martanda Varma (1173–1192); established his seat at Kulikkod and allied himself to the Pandya Kings.
  9. Devadaram Vira Kerala Varma III (1192–1195)
  10. Vira Manikantha Rama Varma Tiruvadi (1195- ?)
  11. Vira Rama Kerala Varma Tiruvadi (1209–1214)
  12. Vira Ravi Kerala Varma Tiruvadi (1214–1240)
  13. Vira Padmanabha Martanda Varma Tiruvadi (1240–1252); The Pandya kings asserted their dominance over Venad during his reign.
  14. Jayasimha Deva (1266–1267); succeeded in bringing the whole of present day Kerala under his control. He esrablished his seat at Kollam, the surrounding areas becoming known as Jayasimhanad (Desinganad). His wife Rani Umma Devi was probably a joint ruler with her husband. He died leaving several sons who quarrelled with his nephews over the succession, causing a long and disruptive civil war.
  15. Ravi Varma (1299–1313)
  16. Vira Udaya Martanda Varma (1313–1333)
  17. Aditya Varma Tiruvadi (1333–1335)
  18. Vira Rama Udaya Martanda Varma Tiruvadi (1335–1342)
  19. Vira Kerala Varma Tiruvadi (1342–1363)
  20. Vira Martanda Varma III (1363–1366)
  21. Vira Rama Martanda Varma (1366–1382)
  22. Vira Ravi Varma (1383–1416)
  23. Vira Ravi Ravi Varma (1416–1417)
  24. Vira Kerala Martanda Varma (1383)
  25. Chera Udaya Martanda Varma (1383–1444)
  26. Vira Ravi Varma (1444–1458)
  27. Sankhara Sri Vira Rama Martanda Varma (1458–1468)
  28. Vira Kodai Sri Aditya Varma (1468–1484); established his capital at Kallidaikurichi.
  29. Vira Ravi Ravi Varma (1484–1503)


  1. ^ Manorama Yearbook, Mal:2000
  2. ^ "Travancore." Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2011. Web. 11 Nov. 2011.
  3. ^ "Travancore." Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2011. Web. 11 Nov. 2011.
  4. ^ [1] Royal Ark
  5. ^ [2] Royal Ark

Further reading

  • Perspectives on Kerala History : The Second MillenniumP.J.Cherian (editor,
  • Zacharias Thundy, (Northern Michigan University), "The Kerala Story: Chera times of the Kulasekharas"
  • Sivasankaran Nair K, Venadinte Parinamam (വേണടിന്റെ പരിണാമം), D C Books, 2005.

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