Senguttavan Chera is considered the greatest king of the Chera dynasty. He came into power during the Sangam era of the dynasty. Though it was a time of unity and peace among the Southern kingdoms, Senguttavan fought and won many battles. Some of them were to expand towards the north, while others were to defend. Senguttavan was brilliant on both the land and the seafront. He was known for his emphatic speeches and personality that rallied his men. That is why he was named Senguttavan, the one that unites the army.
Senguttavan had a knack for beating the odds. This started very early in his life. Senguttavan was in his teens and his younger brother, Ilanka, was 3 years younger than him. One day the royal astrologer declared that the next king should be Ilanka. According to the movements of stars, if Senguttavan was to be made a king, he would die at a young age.
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Over the next few years, both brothers fought side by side, helped the ministry together, and visited the folks of the kingdom together. Ilanka could not bear the fact that his elder brother won’t be the next king. After all, he had all the right attributes. So Ilanka decided to take matters into his hands. He declared that he would take the path of a Jain monk and denounced the throne forever.
One brave little decision by Ilanko was enough to change the course of history. Senguttava not only lived long, but he ended up ruling for 55 years also.
Senguttavan became the king in his early twenties. It was a period when foreign forces were trying to infiltrate the Chera kingdom through the sea. Senguttavan started his life as a king by winning many wars in the sea. His fleet of ships was both strong in numbers and had better speed. Anyone who wanted to attack them had to travel a lot. So the ships of his rivals were made for durability and not speed. They used thicker woods, carried more men and rations, and hence moved slower. Senguttavan simply outspend his enemies.
Any ship of that period can only attack from two sides. Senguttavan used a triple synchronization technique to drown a ship. His quick boats surrounded the enemy boats from three sides, leaving them vulnerable from at least one side. The efficiency of this technique was so high that people back then didn’t believe in it. Many folklores depict Senguttavan as having special magical powers. Powers that could slow down the waves of the sea. He became famously known as ‘Katal Pirakottiya’, meaning the one who lagged the sea behind.
Such a reputation was enough to ward off his enemies. No one dared an attack from the sea until Senguttavan ruled. In this period of peace, Senguttavan started developing his kingdom. He was famous for building dams and irrigation canals. He also paid special emphasis on the advancement of its ports. He imported special rocks from northern India to build special temples and statues.
Senguttavan Chera was one of its kind. He had the royal blood of two great families running through them. Her mother was a Chola princess and his father was a Chera king. In the later years of his rule, he started expanding towards the north. He had large artillery of elephants which helped him win many battles. After every victory, he would melt the crown of his enemy king and make it into a necklace. He wore them as a sign of his greatness.
Though his greatest strength was his ability to change his own mindset. He grew up fighting wars, became a king, and fought more wars. Many kings before have done this but few are able to control their lust for more war. But Senguttavan did. Winning wars made him great but choosing to focus on the peace afterwards makes him the greatest.