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Kulasekhara Alvar

Kulasekhara Alwar.png
A modern depiction of Kulasekhara (19th century)
Vanchi (Kodungallur)
Notable work
  • Perumal Tirumozhi
  • Mukundamala

Kulasekhara (Tamil: Kulachekarar[1]) (fl. 9th century CE[2]), seventh of the twelve mystic Alvars, was a bhakti theologian, devotional poet from medieval south India. Scholars identify Kulasekhara with royal playwright Kulasekhara Varma and Sthanu Ravi Kulasekhara, one of the earliest Chera/Kulasekhara kings of Kodungallur (Mahodaya Pura).[2][3] The Trikkulasekharapuram Vishnu Temple, then known as the Meltali, in Kodungallur was founded by the Alvar.[3]

Kulasekhara Alvar is considered as the author of Vaishnavite poems Perumal Tirumozhi (Tamil) and Mukundamala (Sanskrit). The Perumal Tirumozhi, whose second decade is known as Tetrarum Tiral, is compiled as a part of Nalayira Divya Prabandham. Chera/Kerala king Kulasekhara Varma is known as the author of two plays called Tapatisamvarana and Subhadradhananjaya and the Sanskrit champu kavya Ascharya Manjari.[4][5][6]

Kulasekara's poems are devotional in nature, being dedicated to the most prominent avataras of god Vishnu - Rama and Krishna. He identifies himself with several roles in the events of their lives.[1] A devotee of god Rama, he considered the painful experiences of Rama or his aging father Dasaratha to be his own. He is therefore also known as 'Perumal', meaning 'the Great' – an epithet for god Rama. His devotion was so intense that he worshipped the devotees as forms of Vishnu. In one song, he identifies himself with Devaki, the real mother of Krishna, from whom Krishna was taken away to Gokula where Nanda and Yasoda, the foster parents, looked after him. Kulasekara expresses Devaki's desolation at being separated from her child and for union with him.[7][8] In some poems, Kulasekhara also identifies himself with a gopi in love with god Krishna.[1]

Vaishnavite authors describe Kulasekhara as a king of the Chera royal family.[3] There is also the tradition that Kulasekhara dedicated his daughter to the Srirangam Temple as a dancing girl, and the shrine of Chera Kula Nachiyar within the temple complex is believed to commemorate her. Kulashekhara is thought to have died at Mannarkoyil, where there is a temple called Kulasekara Alvar Koyil. The inscriptions there informs that the temple was consecrated to his memory by Vasudevan Kesevan of Mullappalli, Malai Mandalam (Kerala).[9] It is known that Perumal Tirumozhi was recited in Srirangam Temple in 1088 CE.[3] A 13th century Tamil inscription from Bagan in Mandalay is prefaced by a sloka from Mukundamala. The inscription describes the construction of a mandapa for god Vishnu and the endowment for a lamp by Rayiran Chiriyan Kulasekhara Nampi from Makotayar Pattanam in Malai Mandalam.[3]

As per native sources, Kulashekhara was born on the banks of Periyar to certain Drdhavrata.[10][11] The traditional birth-year for Kulasekhara is the 27th year after the beginning of the Kali Yuga (i. e., 3102 BC), thus 3075 BC.[12][6][13][14][15]


  1. ^ a b c "South Asian Arts". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 23 November 2018.
  2. ^ a b Noburu Karashmia (ed.), A Concise History of South India: Issues and Interpretations. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2014. 143.
  3. ^ a b c d e Narayanan, M. G. S. Perumāḷs of Kerala. Thrissur (Kerala): CosmoBooks, 2013. 65-66, 95-96, 383-5, 436.
  4. ^ Lochtefeld, James (2002). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Hinduism: A-M. The Rosen Publishing Group. p. 337. ISBN 9780823931798.
  5. ^ Ishwarananda, Swami (2013). Mukunda Mala. Mumbai, India: Chinmaya Publications. p. 2. ISBN 9788175975699.
  6. ^ a b Dalal 2011, p. 214
  7. ^ V. K., Subramanian (2007). 101 Mystics of India. New Delhi: Abhinav Publications. ISBN 81-7017-471-6.
  8. ^ Varadpande, Manohar Laxman (1982). Krishna Theatre In India. Abhinav Publications. p. 87. ISBN 9788170171515.
  9. ^ Raja, K. Kunjunni, The Contribution of Kerala to Sanskrit Literature; University of Madras 1980; page 2.
  10. ^ Das, Sisir Kumar, A History of Indian Literature, 500-1399: From Courtly to the Popular, p. 29.
  11. ^ Srinivasachariar, M. History of Classical Sanskrit Literature, p. 277.
  12. ^ M. Srinivasachariar (1974). History of Classical Sanskrit Literature: Being an Elaborate Account of All Branches of Classical Sanskrit Literature, with Full Epigraphical and Archaeological Notes and References, an Introduction Dealing with Language, Philology, and Chronology, and Index of Authors & Works. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 278–. ISBN 978-81-208-0284-1.
  13. ^ "Mukundamālā", p. 16, by K. P. A. Menon
  14. ^ "A History of Ancient and Early Medieval India: From the Stone Age to the 12th Century", by Upinder Singh, p. 55, ISBN 9788131716779
  15. ^ The Indian Historical Quarterly, Volume 7, Issues 3-4. Ramanand Vidya Bhawan, 1985 - India. p. 645.

Further reading

  • Perumal Tirumozhi, (Ed. by M. Raghava Aiyangar, Ceraventar Ceyyutkovai, Trivandrum, 1951)
  • Mukundamala, (1, Ed. by T. A. Gopinatha Rao, Travancore Archaeological Series, II, II)
  • Mukundamala, (1, Ed. by K. R. Pisharoti, Annamalai, 2. Ed. with commentary by V. V. Sharma, Trivandrum, 1947)
  • Tapatisamvarana, (Trivandrum Sanskrit Series No. 11)
  • Subhadradhanjaya, (Trivandrum Sanskrit Series No. 13)

In popular culture

The name of the British rock band Kula Shaker was inspired by Kulasekhara.


  • Noburu Karashmia (ed.), A Concise History of South India. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2014.
  • K. A. Nilakanta Sastri, The Colas, (Madras, Revised 2nd ed. 1955)
  • Narayanan, M. G. S. Perumāḷs of Kerala. Thrissur (Kerala): CosmoBooks, 2013.
  • S. K. Aiyengar, The Early History of Vaisnavism in India, (Madras, 1920)
  • R. G. Bhandarkar, Vaisnavism, Saivism and other minor Religious systems, (Poona, 1913).
  • A. S. R. Ayyar, "Kulasekhara Perumal", Travancore Archaeological Series, Volume , II.
  • K. R. Pisharoti, Kulasekharas of Kerala, Indian Historical Quarterly, VII.
  • K. G. Sesha Iyyer, "Kulasekhara Alvar and his Date", Indian Historical Quarterly, VII.
  • Kerala Society Papers, Volume I (Trivandrum, 1928-32)
  • S. V. Pillai, History of Tamil Language and Literature, (Madras, 1956)
  • K. K. Raja, The Contribution of Kerala to Sanskrit Literature, (Madras, 1958)