Manaveda in a broad perspective


It is interesting to look at Manaveda and his contributions in a broad socio-political, historical, and cultural background of both Kerala and India.

Indian Cultural Background

The general cultural background is given by Prof. P.C. Vasudevan Eleyath in krishnattapravesakam in his malayalam translation of Krishnagiti as follows [1]:

In AD 16th and 17th century, as a result of Vaishnava religious renaissance, many forms of performing arts originated and propagated in different parts of India. Especially the royal families of Mathura, Nepal, Assam just like the Samutiris (Zamorins) of Kerala took great care in the patronage of performing arts related to Vaishnava cult. Many artists created new art forms, for example, Sanakaradeva in Assam. Among these art forms, a sanskrit poem named Krishna Lila Tarangini by Sri Narayana Tirtha in Tamil Nadu deserves special attention. It is said that Krishna Lila Tarangini used to be performed at Varahur on Krishnashtami Day. Krishna Lila Tarangini has similarities to Krishnanattam. Both originated around the same time. Thus Krishnanattam is one among the many art forms which originated as a result of a strong inner flow of cultural renaissance all over India.

Landmarks in Early Malayalam Literature

Malayalam begins to develop as an independent literary language (with written books) around the same time that Kolla varsham, the Malayalam Era begins (AD 825). Tolan who is thought to belong to 9th century wrote Attaprakarams for Kutiyattam. These are some of the earliest examples of Malayalam literature. Between 9th and 12th centuries, Manipravalam, a mixture of Sanskrit and Malayalam, dominates the scene. Famous Ramacaritam which deviated from Manipravalam belongs to 12th century. 15th-17th century saw the great works that belong to the Bhakti movement. This was inaugurated by Niranam poets (15th century). Cherusseri who wrote Krishnagatha also belongs to this era. Ezhuthacchan belongs to the later half of 16th century and first half of 17th century. Incidentally Melputtur who wrote exclusively in sanskrit also belongs to this era. Puntanam(1547-1640) also lived in these times. Manaveda completes Krishnagiti in 1654. Kottarakkara Thampuran who inaugurated the Attakatha sahityam belongs to the later half of 17th century and first half of 18th century. Kuncan Nambiar belongs to 18th century. Thus it is interesting to note that two great works in Sanskrit, Narayaneeyam and Krishnagiti were written by poets from Kerala at around the same time that Malayalam Language in the present form was originated.

Manaveda's famous ancestor, King Manavikrama

King Manavikrama ruled as Samutiri in the 15th century from 1466 to 1471[2]. Portuguese have not yet set foot in Kerala. He wrote the commentary Vikramiya vyakhya for the famous sanskrit poem Anargha Raghavam by Murari. The famous patinettara kavikal (Eighteen and half poets) adorned his royal court. Punam Nambutiri who chose to write in Malayalam was the arakkavi, the half poet! Famous among the eighteen are Uddanda Sastrikal, Kakkasseri Damodara Bhattatiri, Cennas Narayanan Namputiri and the two Payyur Bhattatiris (Maharsi and Parameswaran). Kakkasseri Bhattatiri is the author of the sanskrit play {\it Vasumati-Manavikramam}, whose theme is the marriage between King Manavikrama and Vasumati, daughter of Mangattaccan. Cennas wrote the authoritative Tantrasamuccayam.


Manaveda was born in 1585 (ME 760) and passed away in 1658 (ME 833) at the age of 73. In 1643 he completed a work in sanskrit called Purva Bharata Campu. He completed the sanskrit work Krishnagiti in 1654. He ruled as Samutiri from August 25, 1655 to February 15, 1658. He prepared for war with the Kochi Raja but did not live to lead the attack[3]. From Krishnagiti, we find that Manaveda was the nephew of King (Mana) Vikrama. Manaveda's successor, another Manaveda, was also a scholar. He wrote a commentary called Vilasini to Lakshmidasa's Sukasandesam.

Manaveda's Contemporaries

This information is taken from Ref.[1].
The scholar Narayana Panditar who wrote commentaries on Raghuvamsa, Kumarasambhava.
The poet Rudra dasa (Uzhutra Varrier) who wrote the poem Manaveda Sattakam which has the imagined theme of marriage between Manaveda and the princess of Anga Kingdom. In the preface to this poem there is a (prose) portrayal of Manaveda.
The poet Divakaran from Chola desam. Wrote Lakshmi-Manavedam natakam. The theme is the marriage between Manaveda and Rajalakshmi (Kerala), daughter of the Ocean.
The poet/scholar Melputtur Narayana Bhattatiri(1560-1646) who wrote Narayaneeyam in 1587 when Manaveda was three years old!
The sage Vilwamangalam who used to reside in Vrindavan and frequently visit Ambalappuzha and Guruvayur. This sage who figures in many legends associated with the Krishna temples in Ambalappuzha and Guruvayur, incidently is different from the famous sage Vilwamangal who wrote SriKrishna Karnamrtam.

Major Historical Events

Under the rule of Samutiri, Kozhikode becomes a strong political entity in the 14th century. Vasco da Gama arrives at Kozhikode in 1498. Beginning of 15th century, Samutiri becomes the leading force against the Portuegese expansion in Kerala. Udayamperur Sunahados in 1599. On 1604 November 11, Dutch East India Company signs an agreement with Samutiri. Kunankurisu revolt in 1653. Manaveda completes Krishnagiti in 1654. Dutch captures Kollam in 1658. In 1663, Dutch captures Kochi.

[1] P. C. Vasudevan Elayath, Krishnanattam(Krishnagiti), published by Guruvayur Devaswom, (1985).
[2] A. Sreedhara Menon, Keralacharitram, published by Sahitya Pravarthaka Cooperative Society Ltd., Kottayam, India (1967).
[3] Martha Bush Ashton-Sikora, Krishnattam, published by Oxford and IBH Publishing Company Pvt. Ltd. (1993).

compiled by A. H dated 2004
The photographs are that of Manaveda Monument in Guruvayur. Photos taken by A. Krishnadas on July 21, 2004.