The greatness of the Chera dynasty and its kingdom was due to the blessing of its geographical location and the grittiness of its people. Few places on earth are so isolated yet equally important for trading. And it is because of this isolation that the heritage of Cheras still survives. The present-day state of Kerala is the representation of the old Chera kingdom. Aptly, some 2000 years ago people called Cheras, the Keralaputras, meaning son of Kerala.

Before understanding the history of Cheras, it is a must to understand its geography. The Kingdom of Cheras was safely hidden between the mountains of the Konkan range and the waters of the Arabian sea. Fifth century onwards, the west coast of India became a hub for Greek and Roman trading ships. So Cheras built much better and bigger ports than its eastern coast neighbours. They also had the advantage of being the southernmost state of the Indian subcontinent. It meant that any army that wanted to fight them had to battle every other Indian kingdom first. Most of the armies would hence become depleted or tired.

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The initial centuries of the South Indian Kingdoms were known as the ‘Sangam era’. Sangam means unity. All three major kingdoms of the south the Pandyas’ the Cholas, and the Cheras used to live together in peace and harmony. But after this era ended, a power shift happened. The Cholas became much stronger than the other two. From then, an era of war and division started. At almost any time, two of the three states were in alliance with each other and against the stronger third side. This state of violence and dominance led to the Cheras being dormant for 500 years. The Cheras had their revival in the early 8th century. This was a clear example of the resilience the people of this kingdom had.

The biggest contributor to the revival of the Cheras was their economy. They were already earning through the trading business. Then they started harvesting surplus rice, bananas, and coconuts as well. These plants required a lot of freshwaters to grow. The Konkan mountains that protected them also helped in creating rain. The monsoon clouds would be trapped by these mountains, creating a rich monsoon season.

The people that Chera ruled never left the kingdom nor did they change the culture. While they remain the same, it was the family lineage of the Cheras that came to an end. Long years of fighting with its neighbour often left the kingdom in the hands of an inexperienced Chera ruler. Soon the Cheras lost their greatness. The dynasty that once produced the likes of Rajsekhara Verma, Rama Verma Kulshekra, and Goda Ravi Verma, was now in the hands of impotent kings. The last few kings of the Chera dynasty even sold out local lands to European traders.

The kingdom of Chera was protected by the sea and the mountain. People came and people went, some to rule, some to fight, and some to trade. But this dynasty proved that a strong community can withstand any obstacle. They might get temporarily knocked down but they have the courage to rise again. Isolation is never considered good in the science of survival. If a species gets isolated it starts to become weaker and weaker with every generation. But the strength of the Cheras turned this curse into a blessing. Today, the state of Kerala stands as one of the best states in India, making their ancestors proud.

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