A definitive and detailed study of the history of Kerala in the age of the Cera kingdom of Mahodayapuram or Makotai (800-1124 CE), this work is a pioneer in historical writing of Kerala. Replacing legends on the one hand and inspired guess bordering on fiction on the other, this monograph based on the Ph.D dissertation of the author makes a thoroughgoing analysis of the epigraphically and literary sources from the period, many of them discovered by the author himself and used for the first time here, with absolute professionalism, and presents a clear picture of the political, social and cultural processes in Kerala in simple and elegant language. Informed by a sound theoretical perspective and the historical developments of other parts of India in general and South India in particular, this is a must read for all students of Indian history, generalists and specialists alike. A comprehensive Index to Cera Inscriptions adds immensely to the research value of the book. A glossary of technical terms and two maps of Kerala showing the administrative divisions and important Aryan Brahmin settlements are incorporated.
Professor M.G.S. Narayanan (b.1932) was educated in Calicut, Feroke, Trichur and Madras. A first in first in M.A. History (1953) from the University of Madras, he took Ph.D from the University of Kerala (1973), taught in the Zamorin's Guruvayur-appan College, Calicut, University of Kerala and University of Calicut, from where he retired as Professor and Head of the Department of History. He spent a year as Commonwealth Academic Staff Fellow in the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London (1974-75), and has been Visiting Fellow in the Institute of Oriental Studies, University of Moscow and Leningrad (1991-92) and Visiting Research " Professor in the Institute of Asian and African Languages and Cultures, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, Tokyo (1994-95) and Visiting Professor in Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam and Manga-lore University, Mangalore. Proficient in Tamil, Sanskrit and Hindi apart from English and Malayalam, he is also a trained epigraphist. He has been closely associated with professional bodies like the Indian History Congress, South Indian History Congress, Indian Epigraphical Society, Numismatic Society and Place Name Society of India. He was the first Member Secretary and later Chairman of the Indian Council of Historical Research. He was also Director General, Centre for Heritage Studies, Trippunithura, Cochin.
The object of the present study is to provide for the first time a systematic analysis of the history of Kerala under the Ceras of Mak&Lai (Kodungallar) between the 8th and 12th centuries of the Christian era. The secrecy, inaccessibility and obscurity of contemporary records, found in difficult scripts and languages and preserved in different places, made such a task uninviting, with the result that the key period of Kerala history, which gave a distinctive character to the society and culture of this region, remained largely unexplored. The hurdles are not fully overcome and there is no claim of completeness or finality but care has been taken to make the best use of available material in order to reconstruct the past and make it intelligible.
Some technical details deserve mention here. The majority of Cera inscriptions in Vatteluttu script and Early Malayalam language, which form the chief source material for the study, have never been properly deciphered and chronologically arranged. Even among the published records there are variations in the texts and interpretation. Uneven quality in decipherment and the need for correction here and there make uniformity of reference impossible. Moreover, there are also 28 previously unpublished records which the present writer deciphered from originals or stumpages and 11 previously unnoticed ones too. Therefore, an 'Index to Cera Inscriptions' had to be prepared separately, giving details of place, materials, date, contents, publication and remarks about corrections and historical importance. This index is presented as a companion volume. All Cera inscriptions are indicated in the present study by their index numbers and a list of Cera inscriptions with index-numbers may be found at the end of the present volume. Even such a device does not solve all problems arising out of difference in decipherment and interpretation. Therefore, in many parts of the text, where passages from inscriptions are referred to, the actual reading adopted has been given in endnote. The authorship and date of literary works attributed to the Cera period are not free from controversy. They have been discussed earlier by many scholars but the results were inconclusive. However, with the reconstruction of Cera chronology from inscriptions, many of them automatically fall into place and reveal the sequence of their composition. Even where some doubts remain, the approximate date is available. Therefore, these works also have been used for clarifying the history of ideas and culture, and when a particular view about the date or authorship of a work is adopted in the study, the arguments in support of the choice are briefly indicated.
In the case of Cera monuments, they are mostly destroyed or renovated and only foundations of temples and fragments of sculpture exhibit the original character. These have not been properly surveyed, listed and photographed before. The two maps (p.179 and p.434) will give an idea of the Cera territory and administrative and social centers of the Cera period in Kerala.
This is the occasion for me to turn back and make a few acknowledgements. I owe a permanent debt of gratitude to the mature wisdom and unfailing generosity of Prof. V. Narayana Pillai, Retired Principal and Professor of History and formerly Dean of the Faculty of Arts in Kerala University, under whose supervision the present work was done. I am also grateful to the University Grants Commission for the three-year research fellowship which made the present study possible in the first instance. Facilities for research were provided by the libraries of the Guruvayurappan College, Calicut; Kerala University, Trivandrum; the State Department of Archaeology, Trivandrum; the Department of His-tory, Calicut University; the office of the Chief Epigraphist to the Government of India, Mysore; and numerous temples and institutions which I visited to collect, decipher or verify the source material. I am thankful to the authorities of all these institutions. My special thanks are due to Dr. G.S. Gai, Chief Epigraphist to the Government of India, K.G. Krishnan, Assistant Epigraphist, Dr. K.V. Raman, Assistant Super-intendent, Southern Circle, Archaeological Survey of India and N.G. Unnithan, Director of Archaeology, Kerala State, for extending to me the privilege of using facilities at their command.
It is to Professor Elamkulam Kunjan Pillai, Trivandrum that I am obliged most as an individual for training in Vatteluttu and Early Malaya-lam language and the many delightful and useful hours of discussion which I had spent with him over several years. In one sense the present study is a continuation of his pioneering work in the field of Kerala history and, therefore, it necessarily means that his hypotheses are questioned and reassessed in the course of the work in the light of fresh evidence. The differences between us in approach and conclusion are obvious but they do not in any way diminish the magnitude of his contribution to the field or lower the merit of his inspiration and pa-tronage.
My colleagues in the Department - Dr. T.K. Ravindran, Dr. M.P. Sree-kumaran Nayar and Mr. K.K.N. Kurup - have helped me in different ways by placing their time and resources at my disposal. Dr. Nayar has also gone through the whole text and offered constructive criticism at every stage. I have received expert aid from Dr. N.P. Unni, Curator, Manuscripts Library, Trivandrum, in the study of Sanskrit sources; Mr. Elaya Perumal, Lecturer, Tamil Department, Kerala University, in the study of Tamil sources; Prof. P.E.D. Nambudiri, Head of the Department of Malayalam, M.E.S. College, Mannarghat, in the study of linguistic aspects of inscriptions; and Vidwan M.R. Raghava Varier in the decipherment of inscriptions. Dr. S. Velayudhan of the English Department, Calicut University, has kindly touched up the language in this text. Secretarial assistance was provided by my wife Mrs. C.M. Premalata and Miss K. Girija. I am indebted to Mr. K. Janardanan and Mr. N. Ussain for technical assistance.
The Indian Ephemeris of Swamikannu Pillai has been extensively used as the basis of astronomical calculations for determination of dates. The chronological frame-work of South Indian history is adapted from the works of K.A. Nilakanta Sastri unless otherwise stated. Several works on Tamil history and culture, not always mentioned in endnotes, have been consulted for clarifying the background of ideas and movements which affected Kerala in the period under study. Similarly, general works describing the milieu of Hindu life and thought, like History of Dharmasastras by P. V. Kane, have been utilized without specific reference. Diacritical marks are employed for non-English names and words wherever possible, though well-known words like 'Brahmin' and 'Kshatriya' are left as they are and some old spellings are also retained for the sake of convenience.
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