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By EnbhaPublished about a year ago 7 min read

Throughout history, there has been only handful of people admired as the Emperors who had earned the true love of their citizens across generations. King Raja Raja Chola I is one such rarest of rulers in South India who is still remembered even after thousand years of his reign.

The regions along the bank of River Cauvery is the Chola base from where the rulers of the great Chola Dynasty emerged and established the great kingdom who have left their footprints strongly in the history in the form of temples, reformation systems and even the life styles of

the people in that region. Historians record that the parts of South India had

witnessed tremendous advancement across all verticals during the rule of

Ancient, Medieval and Later Chola Dynasties. Large number of temples, excellent

water management systems, advanced irrigation techniques, infrastructure like road and buildings and mainly preserving, maintaining and improving of the ancient art forms are the milestones of the Chola Kingdom. Out of all the

Kings, Raja Raja Chola is the successor in the Game of Thrones who has won the

hearts of his citizens and also kept expanding his territories.

The most significant achievement of Raja Raja Chola is the Big Temple situated at Tanjore, which was the then capital of Chol Kingdom. The fabulous architecture of the temple makes everyone awestruck with its grandeur and it is an engineering miracle that the structure has crossed all the vagaries of time over one thousand years and still standing as a testimony to the craftsmanship of the yesteryears. For the unrivalled architectural elegance, the temple has been acclaimed as Great Living Chola Temple and is listed under the World Heritage Monuments.

The huge linga idol, the monolithic statue of the huge bull facing the sanctum, the monolithic stone weighing eighty tonnes placed atop the tower, vast precincts altogether acclaim this temple as Big Temple, as everything in this temple premise is so magnificent that it is beyond the

perceptions of any common man.

King Raja Raja Chola I have other names called Arunmozhivarman and Ponniyin Selvan. With the able guidance of his elder sister Kundhavai, he was keen to bring in more and more advancements to his country. The naval base of Raja Raja Chola was so astonishing that no one could even imagine such things centuries ago and with the naval force, he was consistently conquering the nearby regions. The epitome of his victories was that he established his kingdom in Sri Lanka. With the philanthropic attitude, Raja Raja was fair enough to all the religions though he was an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva.

There were many temples for Lord Vishnu and monasteries or stupas for Buddhism built during his period and he was very passionate to impose the communal harmony among his citizens using spirituality as the best avenue.

The life of King Raja Raja Chola was with full of glowing victories and unbelievable achievements. On the contrary, the ending

episode of his life is still a mystery that his cemetery is believed to be an

unfinished structure without any proper maintenances. It is so disheartening that the final resting place of such a phenomenol icon of South India is in such an unattended condition, needs some reforming, of course.

Raja Raja was the third child of Parantaka Sundara Chola and Vanavan Mahadevi and his birth name was Arulmozhivarman, popularly called Arulmozhi. He came to the throne at the death of Uttama Chola after a long apprenticeship as an heir apparent.

Raja Raja built the magnificent Brihadisvara Temple in Thanjavur and through it enabled wealth distribution among his subjects

During the lifetime of his father Sundara Chola, Arulmozhi had carved a name for himself by his exploits in the battles against the Sinhala and Pandyan armies. Sundara Chola’s eldest son and heir apparent Aditya II had been assassinated under unclear circumstances.

Uttama, as the only child of Gandaraditya, wanted the Chola throne as his birthright. After the death of Aditya II, Uttama forced Sundara Chola to declare himself heir apparent ahead of the popular Arulmozhi. Uttama made a compromise deal with Sundara Chola that Uttama will be succeeded not by his son but by Arulmozhi.

“Having noticed the marks (on his body) that Arulmozhi was the very Vishnu, the protector of the three worlds, descended on earth, [Uttama] installed him in the position of Yuvaraja (heir apparent) and himself bore the burden of ruling the earth …” says the Thiruvalangadu inscription.

Military campaigns

When Raja Raja came to the throne, he initially campaigned against the combined Pandya and Chera armies. However, there is no evidence of any military campaign undertaken by Raja Raja until the eighth year of his reign. During that period, he engaged in organising and augmenting his army and in preparing for military expeditions.

The campaign in the Kerala region in 994 AD marked the first military achievement of Raja Raja’s reign. His early inscriptions use the descriptive ‘Kandalur salai kalamarutta’ referring apparently to his destroying a fleet in the port of Kandalur, situated in the dominions of the Chera King Bhaskara Ravi Varman Thiruvadi (978–1036 AD).

According to inscriptions found in Thanjavur, there are frequent references to the conquest of the Chera king and the Pandyas in Malai Nadu (the west coast of South India). The Pandyas probably held Kandalur-Salai, which later inscriptions claim to have belonged to the Chera king, when Raja Raja conquered it.

In the war against the Pandyas, Raja Raja seized the Pandya king Amarabhujanga and the Chola general captured the port of Virinam. To commemorate those conquests, Raja Raja assumed the title Munmudi-Chola, (the Chola king who wears three crowns – the Chera, Chola and Pandya).

In a battle against the Cheras sometime before 1008 AD, Raja Raja stormed and captured Udagai in the western hill country. Kalingattuparani, a war poem written during the reign of Kulothunga Chola I, hints at a slight on the Chola ambassador to the Chera court as the reason for that sacking of Udagai. Raja Raja’s son Rajendra served as the Chola general leading the army in that battle. The Tamil poem Vikkirama Cholan mentions the conquest of Malai Nadu and the killing of 18 princes in retaliation of the insult offered to an envoy.

Victory over Lanka

Raja Raja invaded Sri Lanka in 993 AD. His powerful army crossed the ocean by ships and burnt the kingdom of Lanka

To eliminate the remaining actor in the triumvirate, Raja Raja invaded Sri Lanka in 993 AD. The copper-plate inscription says that Raja Raja’s powerful army crossed the ocean by ships and burnt up the kingdom of Lanka. Mahinda V had been the king of Sinhalas. In 991 AD, Mahinda’s army mutinied with help from mercenaries from Kerala. Mahinda had to seek refuge in the southern region of Rohana. Raja Raja utilized that opportunity and invaded the island.

The Chola army occupied the northern half of Lanka and named the dominion ‘Mummudi Chola Mandalam’. Anuradhapura, the 1400-year-old capital of Sinhala kings, perished. The destruction was so extensive that the inhabitants abandoned the city. Cholas made the city of Polonnaruwa their capital and renamed it Jananathamangalam. The choice of that city demonstrates the desire of Raja Raja to conquer the entire island. He also built a Shiva temple in Pollonaruwa.

The Ganga country

Before the 14th year of his reign, in 998–999 AD, Raja Raja conquered Gangapadi (Gangawadi) and Nurambapadi (Nolambawadi), which formed part of the present Karnataka state. The Cholas never lost their hold of the Ganga country from the efforts of Sundara Chola, facilitating that conquest. The invasion of the Ganga country proved a complete success and the entire Ganga country came under the Chola rule for the next century.

In 998–999 AD, Raja Raja conquered Gangapadi and Nurambapadi, which formed part of the present Karnataka state

An inscription of Raja Raja dating 1003 AD asserts that he captured Rattapadi by force. Rajendra led the Chola army against the western Chalukyas. According to the Hottur inscriptions of Satyasraya, dated 1007–1008 AD, the Chola king with a force numbering 900,000 had ‘pillaged the whole country.

Raja Raja’s inscriptions indicate that the Chola army’s elephants wrought havoc on the banks of the river Tungabhadra. Raja Raja failed to capture the western Chalukya capital Manyakheta. Though overwhelmed by the strength and rapidity of the Chola advance, Satyasraya soon recovered and, by hard fighting, rolled back the invasion.

Victory over Satyasraya

Raja Raja evidently attached much importance to his victory over Satyasraya, as he reportedly presented gold flowers to the Rajarajesvara temple on his return from the expedition. At the end of that war, the southern banks of the Thungabadhra river became the frontier between those two empires.

Raja Raja, who aimed at capturing every province that had ever been held by Parantaka I and extend the empire still further, sent a northern expedition early in his reign. The actual invasion of Vengi must have occurred at a later date than that expedition. Perhaps the interference of Satyasraya in the Vengi kingdom provided the trigger."WITHLOVE:ENBHA"


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  • Carlos Crossabout a year ago

    Such a amazing and interesting story. Thanks for the posting informative post. Keep sharing more post like this one.

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