We are proud to announce the publishing of Calicut Heritage Forum's President, Prof. MGS Narayanan's classic work, Perumals of Kerala. This was originally his doctoral dissertation submitted almost 40 years ago. A few copies of this were published by his students and circulated among the researchers but no effort was made to reach this remarkable work to the general public all these years.
Remarkable because he virtually reconstructed the Chera history of the 9th-11th Century which was largely based on myths and legends, unsupported by historical evidence. He took off from where his mentor Professor Elamkulam Kunhan Pillai had left off. But he transformed current scholarship on Chera history in Kerala through his meticulous re-reading of available inscriptions and discovering new ones in the course of his investigations. How extensive was his investigation is evidenced by the fact that he has used inscriptions from Pullur in Kasaragod district in the north to Tirunandikkara beyond the extreme southern border of Kerala.
Even as a thesis, his research was trail-blazing, as testified by the great Indologist Prof. A. L. Basham, author of the classic Wonder that was India, who was one of the external examiners. His comments on the dissertation by MGS are worth quoting:
'...one of the ablest and most thorough Indian theses that I have examined,...the thesis forms a very thorough survey of the subject... All ... sections are excellent, but the candidate deserves special credit for his detailed study of the political history of the period, for which he has utilised all the available material including a great collection of inscriptions, many of them unpublished.
(This work) should certainly be published, and I look forward to seeing it in print. I would ask that the candidate be warmly congratulated on my behalf'. -A.L. Basham
He marshals arguments based on sound epigraphical evidence to disprove the existing accounts of a hundred years' war between Cheras and Cholas which led to the disintegration of the Chera dynasty and the rise of smaller principalities. He re-examines and re-interprets the Keralolpatti chronicle which was once accepted as history and then rejected as nonsense. He discovers sufficient epigraphical and other evidence to support "the Keralolpatti legend about the last Perumal's partition of Kerala and conversion to Islam. However, there is a vital change regarding the date of this event - the popularly accepted date was 825 AD but the new date is 1122-24 AD. The 'Partition of Kerala' is found to be the transformation of districts of the Chera kingdom into independent principalities". (page 20)
This new finding explains the so-called dark age in Kerala's early medieval history between 9th and 11th Centuries. As MGS explains in this book, far from being a dark age, this period was one of vibrant social and cultural transformation brought about by the rising trend of Brahmin settlements which he finds to be a post-Sangam phenomenon. This gave rise to a unique system of governance which he describes as 'Brahmin oligarchy and ritual monarchy'.
While most of what MGS argued in his work four decades ago stands unchallenged, more recent scholarship has added new details, particularly to the section 'West Asian colonists' (pages 277-284). The discovery and deciphering of the Genizah documents has revolutionized our knowledge about trade relations between the West Coast of India and West Asia/Middle East and the Levant. We had in one of our earlier posts referred to the vibrant community of Jewish traders in Malabar during the 11th-12th Centuries, and their networks based on evidence from Genizah fragments. We hope the next edition of this book will update the current research on this and other topics.
We wish to compliment the publishers Cosmo Books (email: firstname.lastname@example.org) for the quality of the publication. (pages 512, price Rs. 1395)
The Hindu had covered the release of the book by Sri M.T. Vasudevan Nair at a function held on 15 July 2013 at Calicut.