The Cheras, also known as Keralaputras, were an ancient Dravidian dynasty of Tamil origin, who ruled parts of the present-day Tamil Nadu and Kerala state in India. Together with the Chola and the Pandyas, it formed the three principal warring Iron Age kingdoms of southern India in the early centuries of the Common Era. over a wide area comprising Venad, Kuttanad, Kudanad, Pazhinad, and more. In other words, they governed the area between Kanya Kumari in the south to Kasargod in the north. This included Palghat, Coimbatore, Salem and Kollimalai. Their capital was Vanchi, which the Romans who actively traded with the Cheras knew as Muzris.

By the early centuries of the Common Era, civil society and statehood under the Cheras were developed in present-day western Tamil Nadu. The location of the Chera capital is generally assumed to be at modern Karur (identified with the Korura of Ptolemy). The Chera kingdom later extended to the plains of Kerala, the Palghat gap, along the river Perar and occupied land between the river Perar and river Periyar, creating two harbor towns, Tondi (Tyndis) and Muciri (Muziris), where the Roman trade settlements flourished. 

The Cheras were in continuous conflict with the neighboring Cholas and Pandyas. The Cheras are said to have defeated the combined armies of the Pandyas and the Cholas and their ally states. They also made battles with the Kadambās of Banavasiand the Yavanas (the Greeks) on the Indian coast. After the 2nd century CE, the Cheras' power decayed rapidly with the decline of the lucrative trade with the Romans. 

The Tamil poetic collection called Sangam literature describes a long line of Chera rulers dated to the first few centuries CE. It records the names of the kings, the princes, and the court poets who extolled them . 

The Chera kingdom owed its importance to trade with West Asia, Greece and Rome. Its geographical advantages, like the abundance of exotic spices, the navigability of the rivers connecting the Ghat mountains with the Arabian sea, and the discovery of favourable Monsoon winds which carried sailing ships directly from the Arabian coast to Chera kingdom, combined to produce a veritable boom in the Chera foreign trade. 

The Later Cheras ruled from the 9th century. Little is known about the Cheras between the two dynasties. The second dynasty, Kulasekharas ruled from a city on the banks of River Periyar called Mahodayapuram (Kodungallur). Though never regained the old status in the Peninsula, Kulasekharas fought numerous wars with their powerful neighbors and diminished to history in the 12th century as a result of continuous Chola and Rashtrakuta invasions. The Chera dynasty was supported by Tamil warriors such as Villavar, Vanavar and Malayar clans. 

The Chera rulers of Venadu, based at the port Quilon in southern Kerala, trace their relations back to the later/second Cheras. Ravi Varma Kulasekhara, ruler of Venadu from 1299 to 1314, is known for his ambitious military campaigns to former Pandya and Chola territories.