Maravarman Kulasekara Pandyan I

Maravarman Kulasekara Pandyan I (Tamil: முதலாம் மாறவர்மன் குலசேகர பாண்டியன்) was a Pandyan king, who ruled regions of South India between 1268–1308 CE.[1] His death lead to the Pandyan Civil war of 1308-1323 CE.


Accession and shared rule

Kulasekara Pandyan I acceded to the Pandyan throne in the year 1268 CE after his father Jatavarman Sundara Pandyan I. During the middle part of the 13th century, Pandya kingdom was ruled by many princes of the royal line. This practice of shared rule with one prince asserting primacy was common in the Pandyan Kingdom.[2] The other princes of the Pandyan royal family with whom Kulasekara Pandyan I shared his rule were Jatavarman Vira Pandyan I (1253-1275 CE), his brother Maravarman Vikkiraman III (acceded 1283 CE)and Jatavarman Sundara Pandyan II(acceded 1277 CE).[3] Marco Polo refers to him as the "eldest of five brother kings".[4]


Wars against Cholas and Hoysalas

Kulasekara Pandyan presided over the second Pandyan empire at its height of power and extension. He warred against the Hoysalas under Ramanatha and the Cholas under Rajendra Chola III. He defeated them both in 1279 CE and ended the three century long Chola rule. The defeat of Ramanatha ended the Hoysala control of Tamil Nadu. He also fought a war in Kerala near Travancore and captured Kollam.[5]

Invasion of Sri Lanka

Kulasekara Pandyan sent an expedition to Sri Lanka under his minister Kulasekara Cinkaiariyan Aryacakravarti in the late 1270s, defeating Savakanmaindan, a tributary to the Pandyans on the Jaffna kingdom. This expedition plundered the fortress of Subhagiri (Yapahuwa) and returned with the Relic of the tooth of the Buddha.[6] This expedition took place near the end of the Sri Lankan king Bhuvanaikabâhu I's reign (1272-1285 CE). Bhuvanaika Bahu's successor Parâkkamabâhu III went on a personal embassy to Kulasekaran's court and persuaded him to return the tooth relic. Sri Lanka was under Pandyan Suzerainty for the next twenty years and only regained its independence during the Pandyan Civil war of 1308-1323 that followed Kulasekaran's death.[7]

Rule, titles and patronage

Kulasekaran's long rule of about four decades was one of peace and prosperity according to the foreign travelers who visited the Pandyan country during his reign. The Persian historian Abdulla Wassaf of Shiraz describes Pandyan country under Kulasekaran as the most agreeable abode on earth and the most pleasant quarter of the world. He also claims that an Arab Muslim named Takiuddin Abdur Rahman, son of Muhammadut Tibi was appoonted by Kulasekara Pandyan as the prime minister and adviser. He was also bestowed with the coastal cities of Kayalpattinam, Fitan and Mali Fitan for his services to the crown.[8] Wassaf's accounts which refer to Kulasekaran as Kales Dewar say he ruled for forty and odd years and during which time neither any foreign enemy entered his country, nor any severe malady confined him to bed. and treasury of the city of Mardi (Madurai) had 1,200 crores of gold not counting the accumulation of precious stones such as pearls, rubies, turquoises, and emeralds.'.[9] The Mahavamsa while describing the Pandyan plunder of the tooth relic, describes kulasekaran as like a sun expanding the lotus-like race of the great Pandyan kings.[10]

Marco Polo visited the Pandyan country during his reign and wrote about the wealth and social customs of Pandyan people. His accounts refer to Kulasekaran as Asciar or Ashcar. Marco Polo describes the Pandyan port city of Kayal as it is at this city that all the ships touch that come from the west, as from Hormos and from Kis and from Aden, and all Arabia, laden with horses and with other things for sale. And this brings a great concourse of people from the country round about, and so there is great business done in this city of Cail..[11] He also wrote about the pearl fisheries, horse trade, Sati and devadasis.[12]

Kulasekaran built the Manivanneswaram temple in Tharangambadi.[13]He also built the outer wall of the Thirunelveli Nellaiappar temple. He was given the titles of Kollamkondan(Tamil: கொல்லம் கொண்டான்)[14] meaning "Conqueror of Kollam" and Konerinmaikondan(Tamil: கோ நேர் இன்மை கொண்டான்) meaning "King without equal".[15] Except the Alwar Thirunagari inscription, all of Kulasekaran's inscriptions do not contain any Meikeerthi. The Alwar Thirunagari inscription from his fourth year of reign (1272 CE) praises him as Sri Ko Maravanman Thiribhuvana Chakravarthi Sri Kulasekara Devar (Tamil: ஸ்ரீ கோ மாறவன்மரான திரிபுவன சக்கரவர்த்திகள் ஸ்ரீ குலசேகர தேவர்).[16]

Death and civil war

On the death of Kulasekara Pandyan I in 1308 CE, a conflict stemming from succession disputes arose amongst his sons. Jatavarman Sundara Pandyan III the legitimate & younger son and Jatavarman Veera Pandyan II, the illegitimate older son (who was favoured by the king) fought each other for the throne. Accounts of Muslim historians Wassaf and Amir Khusrow say he was killed by Sundara Pandyan in 1310 CE.[17] This led to a long protracted civil war. Madurai, the Pandyan capital was subjected to repeated invasions and plunder by Delhi Sultanate's armies under Malik Kafur in 1311, Khusrau Khan in 1314 CE and Ulugh Khan in 1323 CE. Pandyas were reduced to minor princes and Pandyan country came under the rule of Madurai Sultanate ending 1600 years of Pandyan rule over south Tamil Nadu.


  1. ^ Sethuraman, p124
  2. ^ KA Nilakanta Sastri, p196
  3. ^ Narasayya, p41
  4. ^ Aiyangar, P.65
  5. ^ KA Nilakanta Sastri, p197
  6. ^ Kunarasa, p.66
  7. ^ KA Nilakanta Sastri, p197
  8. ^ Prashant More, p.9
  9. ^ Aiyangar, P.96
  10. ^ Aiyangar, P.58
  11. ^ Aiyangar, P.55
  12. ^ KA Nilakanta Sastri, P.202-03
  13. ^ Tarangampadi shore temple awaits renovation
  14. ^ Narasayya, p44
  15. ^ Aiyangar P.56
  16. ^ Aiyangar, P.222-223
  17. ^ Aiyangar, p.97


  • Sastri, KA Nilakanta (2005) [1955]. A History of South India (Paperback ed.). India: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-560686-8. 
  • Sethuraman, N. The imperial Pandyas: Mathematics reconstructs the chronology. India: Kumbakonam. 
  • Narasayya. Aalavaai: Madurai Maanagarathin Kadhai (Hardback ed.). India: Palaniappa Brothers. ISBN 978-81-8379-517-3. 
  • Kunarasa, K (2003). The Jaffna Dynasty. Johor Bahru: Dynasty of Jaffna King’s Historical Society. p. 122. ISBN 9-55-8455-00-8. 
  • Aiyangar, Sakkottai Krishnaswami (1921). South India and her Muhammadan Invaders. Oxford University Press. 
  • More, JB Prashanth (2004). Muslim Identity, Print Culture and the Dravidian Factor in Tamil Nadu. Orient Longman. ISBN 8125026320. 
Preceded by
Jatavarman Sundara Pandyan I
Succeeded by
Pandyan Civil war of 1308-1323

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