Religions of South Asia, Vol 5, No 1/5.2 (2011)

Ravivarman Kulaśekhara the Yādava and Sagara the Son of Yādavī: Real and Ideal Kings in Matrilineal Kerala

Christophe Vielle
Issued Date: 23 May 2012


This paper deals with the historical figure of Ravivarman Kulaśekhara (c. 1266–1317 ce), a king of southern Kerala and for a while emperor of South India, who claims in his inscriptions to be a yadupati like his father, and at the same time appears to be genetically a Yādava by his mother, according to the matrilineal system of inheritance through the sister’s son (marumakkattāyaṃ) that was prevalent in pre-modern Kerala among non-brahmins. Moreover, in taking over the Cera imperial heritage in accordance with the solar aspects of his kuladevatā (Viṣṇu Padmanābha), Ravivarman pretends to assume a solar dimension compatible with his lunar-family origin by claiming to be nāmāntara-karṇa
Karṇa being son of the solar god through the Yādavī Kuntī). The Jaiminīyasaṃhitā of the Brahmāṇḍa Purāṇa, an epic probably composed in Kerala under the reign of the same Kulaśekhara (there is an obvious reference to this text in one of his inscriptions), tells a unique story about the brahmin (first) wife of King Sagara, and also emphasizes the role of Sagara’s mother who is a Yādavī queen, as if the famous solar king Sagara served as a model for Ravivarman. The paper compares and discusses the genealogical narratives of the epigraphic testimonies and the Purāṇic accounts, and analyses their symbolic value in order to understand the royal ideology expressed according to the Brahmanical tradition within the peculiar socio-cultural context of Kerala.

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DOI: 10.1558/rosa.v5i1/2.365


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